Revenge of the Ankle Bully

Have you ever heard of the ankle bully? The old people say he stalks all the basketball courts in Harlem looking for easy prey. I even heard Ms. Jerry from the 4th floor saying he was born with the appetite for ankles, she thinks he eats them. Some say he is a myth, a story told to kids at campfires, but actually his name is ZRC which stands for Zahir’s Ridiculous Crossover and he’s from the Bronx. 

It’s 5pm, friends Zee and Kele meet at 135th street off the 2 Train. They are going to play basketball.

“What’s up bro?” Zee asked. “I got your text.”

 “Nothing much,” Kele said, “I was just thinking about going to the park on 145 and Lenox, we always beat those kids.” Zee shook his head. 

“Nah man. We should go to the Cage to get worthy opponents.”

 Cool! Let’s go!

When they got there, they saw a figure making people fall and cameras recording him. Kele is a big man with locks and Zee is a shooting guard that can shoot, dribble, pass, and dunk. Kele is a big man that can dunk and make flashy passes, but can’t shoot or dribble. They walked up and they got a clearer image of the ankle breaker guy and they saw he was light skinned and was about 6’3. He was fast and had a galaxy headband that made people look at the stars when he crossed them and he got into a lot of fights because people’s homies were getting crossed. 

They walked up to the sign up for the tournament and the guard asked,

“Are you guys signing up or spectating?” The friends said they were playing and they put their names on the sign up sheet. After signing up they noticed signs around the park that said “WARNING: The ankle bully is here and you’re going to play against him. When you play him, he will embarrass you and it will be recorded.”

“Yo Zee I can take him I’ll just post him up I see all handle no skill. 

“I know but he could just shoot your eyes out and cross you up without you touching the ball. 

“I know but he’s probably just a fake ankle bully, one of those imposters AMONG US.  

“Let’s just see.”

They went inside the cage and saw all types of people sitting, cheering on bleachers. chairs, etc. It was so loud in there it sounded like if 10 speakers were on blast in one room. Every time someone scored, people started cheering. 

“We got next for the duo tourney.” 

And everyone got hyped and started placing bets because the duo tournament was about to start. The first two teams were these two tall guys versus a tall guy and a point guard.

The first people to score were the tall team because they just kept posting up, but when they lost the ball game they just got flat out embarrassed and they raged, cursing, fighting, throwing balls at people. Someone even pulled out a gun before they were removed. Zee and Kele were up.

They were up against a team with two small forwards and they could both dunk. Looked like one was a park player. The other was a high school prospect that could dunk like he was doing in the warm ups and shoot. He was the real problem. His teammate was a park ball player. They came on the court and started hyping  people up and getting the ball ready for tip off to see who got the ball first, even though it was half court. They tipped it and Kele kinda has hops, but not that much. Their big man, the park player, is a pro dunker so obviously he won. They got the ball and the high school prospect, HP, shot the ball from deep mid range and scored 1-0. They’re going to 10 soon. The dunker got the ball, jumped over Kele, and dunked it. The score was 3-0. For the bonus dunk they had to come back. The dunker went up for a dunk and when Kele went up to get it, he changed his position and tried windmilling it, but Kele head hit the ball with his big head and they got it. Finally, a chance, but of course they knew what to do. Zee got the ball, drove to the basket, went up for the lay then kicked it out to Kele for the drive layup, but instead he went with his weakness and shot the three and missed like always but Zee was there for the rebound. He drove back out, did his little in and out behind the back snatch back and shot it. He almost missed, but Kele tipped it in and it counted as a point for Zee. They got it and Kele threw an oop to Zee and Zee threw it back in the air for a slam dunk. A double oop that gave them extra points and the score was 4 to 3. Kele and Zee were up. Kele wanted to make himself seen because right now he looked kinda dog outta water. So he skyrocketed for a dunk and tried jumping over the dunker, but he flipped over and threw the ball in the air and out of luck, it went in. 

Zee stared at Kele and said,

“That was a horrible shot. If you take that shot again, I will hit you with the 300 Mac truck deluxe ReSpEcTfULLy! Then you’ll really be feeling like a dog straight out of water.”  Kele knew he was wrong and said,

“Sorry, I’m rusty Zee.”

“Yeah okay buddy. Just don’t sell.” They got the ball and Kele went for the easy lay, but the dunker was not having it and he blocked Kele and then passed it out to the HP. He swished the 3 and said “All net.” The game was 5 to 5 and if someone made a half court shot they got five points, full court is automatically a win. The HP scored two easy buckets. One was a dunk, the other a mid range pull up. They were losing 7 to 5. The dunker got the ball at half court and did the iconic Jordan dunk over Kele and he got two points and it was game point with a three or a cool finish. The HP brung the ball up the court and sauced up Kele and put it behind Zee’s back. Then he went for the layup, but Kele blocked it, brought it back, and shot the 3 and it did a swirl around the net and finally went in. The score was 7-9. Zee brought the ball up, did a professor move, and then bounced it off the dunker’s head. He pulled back, shot a half court, and looked away looking like Curry. He made it, but it bounced out and went to the top of the backboard and then went in and everyone went crazy, even his own teammate.

“I told you dont sell! If they come back I’m quitting and I’ll be mad at you.” 

“Sorry I just got overwhelmed and did the wrong thing.”

“This is the game plan. Steal the ball, pass it to me, and I’ll fake shoot and dish it in for the easy dish.”

They got back on the court and took the shot. They missed. Zee got the rebound instead of Kele and passed it out to Kele. Kele took the fake shot and passed it to Zee inside, except Zee was on the outside and he passed to the HP and he took the dunk and started celebrating, but then remembered you have to take the ball out and by that time the friends Kele and Zee were trotting away with a win, waiting for the next round. They watched the round for a little, then went to go get a drink and bumped into a 6’5 guy that was dribbling a ball while walking. He had a neon hoodie with a galaxy headband and was kinda buff, but everyone was backed up because they did not want their ankles broke. Anyone that was near him when he was dribbling was now on the floor in shame or holding their ankle. 

Kele walked up to him and said,

“Hey, you that ankle bully guy?”

“Yeah,” said AB.

“I’m bout to put you on the menu when I pull up to the court and end you.”

“I don’t think so but we’ll see because you don’t know me and I don’t know you. I’ve never had an unknown person challenge me sooo. I crossed up LeBron James, that’s what got him motivated to be the best. I taught LeBron and now you’ll see the resemblance.”

With that, they got on the court and AB and his little sister who was 10 and bad at basketball were on a team while Kele and Zee were on a team. They battled it out and until the last points, it started getting interesting. They were going back and forth, both Kele and Zee glowing blue while AB was glowing red. They made a force field that was so big and their energy was so high that they broke the building around them and then Kele went for the dunk. AB tried to steal it, but tipped the ball instead. Zee caught it, passed it to Kele at three, and Kele spawned the three so hard it made the Splash Brothers look like a desert and he baca with the ocean and the ankle bully started fading away and with every other follower. He passed out and became a normal human and said,

 “Where am I? How’d I get here?”

Opal Shore

“You’re going to be late for work!” 

I pull up my swim trunks and pat my hair, as if that will keep it down. I’d hardly call my job at the Opal Shore Beach Club a job at all. I’ve been a member since before I can remember. Our family has been members for decades. Generations. My grandfather obtained one of their ultra-exclusive memberships back in the 60’s. He passed it along to my parents in the 90’s. One day, probably within the next ten years, my dad will pass grandpa’s membership to me and my siblings, and we’ll continue going with our children. So on and so forth.

Today, I work as a lifeguard, but rarely act like one. I basically get paid to sit in a high chair, get tan, and ogle girls in bikinis.

My mother’s in the kitchen wearing an apron. Her cheeks upturn into a radiant smile when she sees me coming down the stairs. I grab the lunch she made for me, kissing her on the left cheek, as it glows like a sunbeam. 

“Don’t forget your pendant,” says mom, as I leave the house on another sun-splashed day for work.

But first, I untuck the chain from my shirt so mom can see it. The gold cross is an unofficial uniform at the club.  Opal Shore is all white and Christian. I kid you not. And, my town is equally segregated. Sure, private clubs can choose to accept and reject anyone they want, but it’s odd that every member of Opal Shore is a rich, white, Anglo-Saxon protestant. Just saying.

So, I get in my car, and drive out of my garage onto a street lined with identical houses with spacious, elegant lawns. My car was gifted to me a year ago on my 16th birthday. What’s even more cliche is that every family on my street lives in carbon copy homes, with carbon copy cars, kids, even dogs. I pull into a parking lot chock full of luxury cars, many sporting MAGA and NRA stickers. Opal Shore wasn’t the Hamptons, but we’re pretty close; albeit seventy or so miles west. And, the people in both communities act the same I guess, except for my mom. Today at Opal begins like any other. I make my way down to the shore, drop my stuff at the lifeguard tower, say hi to my boss, and flex at some girls. Working at Opal has gotten me a nice tan. Plus, I need to stay fit for football season, which starts in a month. Everyone at the club knows one another, and, like me, the other lifeguards play on the football team. A few have graduated from high school and attend college.

I watch the waves crash through my sunglasses, while working on my tan. I can tell the members apart since I’ve been an Opel member all my life. However, if you were new to the club, everyone looked the same. The male members sit in lounge chairs by the ocean drinking beer, while the women gossip. Young children build sandcastles or swim in the ocean. Honestly, this job is pretty boring. I’ve only “saved” one person the whole time I’ve worked here, and they weren’t even drowning. To pass the time, I usually ogle the pretty girls when there aren’t many people in the ocean. Yeah, OK, maybe this sounds a bit cliche, but what else can I do? 

Everything was same old same old until I noticed a girl I never saw before. She’s wearing a polka dot, two-piece with frills tied at the sides. She’s striking, with long black hair that coils up, bouncing when she walks. To get a better look, I lower my sunglasses to the bridge of my nose. Club members were staring at her and her family. I was pretty pleased by the sight, but no one else seemed to be. The drunken laughter and gossiping from the adults completely stopped, with all eyes on this girl and her family. They weren’t actually on Opal’s property, but on the fringes of the club adjacent to ours.  Honestly, I don’t get why everyone was giving them the stink eye. They were just enjoying the beach like everyone else.

Boss drives up on his beach motorcycle seconds later, a vein popping from his forehead. Someone must have called him, and he hates getting called. He walks up to the lifeguard’s chair. 

Although I wasn’t the youngest lifeguard at Opal, Boss and the older lifeguards still call me “Junior.” When I was 14 and started lifeguard training, I was short, scrawny, and willing to do anything asked of me. I was naive and went with the flow. My mother always told me to form my own opinions, but the moniker stuck.  So, unfortunately, I’m still Junior. 

“Hey, Junior. Do you see those people over there?” Boss Langdon says, his voice low and scratchy. 

Mr. Langdon moved to our little town on Long Island from Manhattan, and his uptight accent stuck. He points to the family having fun and minding their own business.

“Them being here is going to be a problem, Junior.” 

I didn’t really understand, so I just nodded. I didn’t want to get fired. Boss grips his lanyard, while disgust strains his face. 

“These Jews come around here, disrespecting the Lord’s name, wearing them damn six- pointed Jew-stars around their necks.” 

Boss’ voice grows louder. He doesn’t care that others overhear him. A couple of white guys with beer bellies within earshot mutter anti-Semitic slurs. It’s not like I haven’t heard them before in jokes, just never directed at people. 

I notice the riptide pulling this family closer to our shores. This was actually fine, as the law clearly states that the ocean is everyone’s property. So, Opal Shore doesn’t own it; just the sand on our beachfront. Even so, our members aren’t happy. The more this family drifts toward us, the angrier our members get.

The striking girl with the polka dot bikini, as well as her mom and dad exit the water, while a little boy, whom I assume is her brother, remains in the surf. He’s scrawny, and his swim trunks are several sizes too large. And, while I don’t think it’s smart leaving him alone in an ocean with a splash of riptide, I say and do nothing.

A little later the surf gets rougher.  Opal members take their children out of the water. But, the scrawny little boy remains.  By now, the tide has pulled him in front of my chair.  For a moment, I doze off, having nothing important to do, or girls to ogle.

Suddenly, I’m awakened by the voice of a screaming child. 

“Hey, mommy look, look!” 

I perk my head up to see what’s happening. I spot the little boy, the riptide pulling him farther out than moments before. He’s clearly struggling, with arms flailing. I look for his family, finding them tanning and chatting. His mother is walking in the opposite direction.  I look at our club members. They should be helping, but no one is moving. They’re ignoring him! I realize my time as a lifeguard has come. But, for some reason, I freeze. All my training has led to this
moment. My swim trunks remain glued to the lifeguard’s chair. 

A beach motorcycle rides up behind me. Great timing. 

“Junior, tell me why I got another call?” 

Boss puts his hand on his forehead, casting a shadow over his eyes. 

“Junior, that’s the Jew kid, right?” he says while squinting into the sun.

“You have no obligation to get him, Junior.” 

He puts his hand on my shoulder. I swivel toward him, surprised and aghast. On the one hand, I knew I didn’t have to save anyone who wasn’t a member of our club. On the other, wasn’t it basic human decency to save any drowning person, be they a stupid member or not? 

“Junior, you look like you’re about to stand up, don’t even think about it.”  His grip on my shoulder tightens.

I look back out, scanning the ocean. The young boy appears and disappears, bobbing up and down beneath the waves. His tiny lungs prevent his screams from reaching the shore. I once again look at our club members. They’re listless, uncaring, unbothered, disinterested, and heartless.

Boss glares at me. Everything is happening lightning fast, but to me, it’s all in slow

My hand holds the rescue buoy without feeling it. My brain frantically races from the drowning boy, to my heartless Boss, the other lifeguards, club members, football, school, home, and my mom —

My mom. She always saw the best in this job, and in me. She was so proud I’d be saving
people, even though I saw lifeguarding as an excuse to get tan and watch girls. Mom would want
me to do what’s right. Still, if I lost this job she’d be so disappointed.  We didn’t need the money,
but it wasn’t about that.

Screw it!

I grab the buoy and stand up. 

“Junior! If you go out there, you come back without a job!” 

I throw my sunglasses in Boss’ chest. 

“God, will you please shut the hell up?” 

I run, dive into the water, and swim out to the boy. His head pops up less often, as the riptide pushes me away. I keep swimming until I reach him. 

“Grab onto this, buddy,” I say, as I push the buoy into his hands.

The boy’s grip is weak, but he holds on while coughing up a ton of water. 

Towing the boy, I swim back to shore, ignoring the piercing, furious stares of my Boss and Opal Club members. The kid’s family thanks me profusely.  I dismiss it, patting the kid on the shoulder. I’ve never seen the Boss so mad. 

“You’re fired, Junior. I’ll be sure to tell your mother about this.” 

“Fine,” I respond.  “But, know I’d rather lose my job than disappoint my mom, and myself
by letting someone drown. Isn’t that what lifeguards are supposed to do?”

I return the buoy, grab my shirt, and start walking toward my car. 

“Yeah, keep walking, leave the club, and don’t come back,” members murmur amongst themselves. 

So, I drive out of the club’s parking lot, likely for the last time. Of course, I’m scared what my mom will say when she learns I got fired. But, I have a feeling she’ll understand. No one else would, of course. Mom was always the exception. I turn on the radio, flipping the control until I hear a song everyone my age was listening to. 

I suddenly relax and smile as I drive home in my generic car, past the generic houses and lawns, with the generic adults, kids, and dogs. 

I smile, because my mom is no longer the one exception in town.


(Italics are Jesse’s out loud thoughts while reading the essay.)

(Bold is the stage directions.)

Jesse is writing their college essay to the admissions officers of their dream college. They’re sitting on the campus of the college they’re hoping to get into called UCLA. They’re typing on their computer that is set up on the grassy dirt.


From the start, I didn’t know where the hell I belonged. I probably should delete “hell.” I don’t think the admissions officers would appreciate my steller word choice. From the start, I didn’t know where I belonged. Now the sentence is bland, but I’m not using any cuss words just in case the officer reading my essay is ultra-Catholic or something. 

(Jesse stands up with their laptop clutched to their chest and starts to type more aggressively as they stand on the grass.)

I kept walking back and forth over this invisible line from the girls, who at that time were all obsessed with colored powder and sticky stuff you put on your lips for fun, which I never understood; and the boys, who would do very repulsive things like punch each other until one of them bled, and tackle each other over an oddly shaped ball (which I later found out was a football). I never understood that because if you liked someone and wanted to hang out with them, why would you want them to bleed? Why would you want to see them hurt? 

(Jesse starts pacing around the field/campus, still with the laptop clutched against their chest.)

Not everyone at my school was like this, but the people that would catch your eye in the hallway did those things and persuaded everyone around them to follow their lead and be part of their clique. I won’t name names since I’m not using this essay to tattletale. Rather, there was one person that led the clique with not an iron, but a gold fist. He or she, because it was only he or she, I guess loved to be and act old fashioned since all he or she wanted was “normalcy.” The last four years I’ve been asking, what’s normal? What is normal? I’m genuinely curious to see if anybody or anyone has an answer to this. A legitimate answer. If our teachers were really trying to teach us that everyone is different, then how come the word “normal” even exists? If everyone said that they were a genderless blob, would that be considered “normal”?

(Jesse stops pacing.)

 To be clear, practically all of my grade was one big clique of people that dressed in clothing I couldn’t afford and acted in a repulsive manner. They just didn’t seem to have any care about the people that didn’t fit their “ideal style,” whatever that meant. I spent most of high school pretending I was talking to some friends on the phone, reading numerous gender studies books like In Their Shoes by Jamie Windust, and desperately trying to find clothes that wouldn’t make me look like a girly girl or a jock. In my school at least, there was no in-between. The in-between was something I was trying to create, but no one was joining me because my bet was that they were scared of everything besides the status quo. 

(Jesse’s voice gets louder with more passion to it and they put down their laptop and walk to a nearby rock that’s on the field/campus and climb on top of it.)

I knew I had to do something. Not for me, not for my friends, but for the people out there who had similar feelings as me. Who had similar thoughts and desperately wanted change. On the very last day before spring break, (I’m currently writing this during break), I stood on the wobbly cafeteria table and asked the question to everyone who would listen, “Who am I?” One responded that I was a loner, one said genius, one said try-hard, yet no one said I was a man or a woman. I took note of that and responded, “No one here has said I am a man or a woman. I was expecting someone to mention what my gender or sex might be but no. 

(Jesse’s voice gets even stronger and louder with more passion and they start pointing at the invisible people in the crowd from the rock they’re standing on.)

None of you said anything about that. I was expecting someone to say I’m a guy for the way I dress or I’m a girl for my hobbies and interests. I believe the reason none of you mentioned that is because deep down you all know that everyone deserves to define themselves how they want to. Everybody. Every BODY. Who you are is who YOU are and not who somebody else is. Someone else is a woman, someone else is a man, some go by she/her/hers, some go by he/him/his, and you want to know who I am; what I go by? They/their/theirs, I am them. Respect that and I’ll respect you.” 

(Jesse walks back to their computer, stretches their hands and back, takes a big sigh, and sits down comfortably. Jesse’s voice softens.)

The amount of love and relief I felt afterward was tremendous. I felt more relieved than after I took the PSAT! One single moment I’ll forever remember and cherish is when that person with the gold fist looked up to me, smiled, nodded, and clapped along with everybody else. I knew right then and there I made at least some change, a good change. I didn’t fix the world, I didn’t fix everything, but what I did do was make a small yet huge improvement in my community that will very much spread to other communities and places around the globe. 

(Louder typing sounds.)

To whoever is reading this essay, thank you. Truly from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Whether I get into UCLA or not is honestly not my number one priority. My forever number one priority is inclusivity of every single body. Thank you.

Jesse hits the submit button on their laptop and gives themselves a round of applause as they stand up and take a deep breath. They did it. 

The Eve of Eve

It was the morning of Christmas Eve as Eve woke up. A cold breeze tickled her face and her eyes fluttered open. Outside her window, snow as white as her bedsheets covered the ground, causing Eve to smile and jump out of bed. It was 6:00 A.M., so Eve knew no one would be awake. She tiptoed down the stairs to the kitchen and started making breakfast. Eve was amazing at cooking, so she had her own recipes. She decided on making gingerbread pancakes for herself and her family. 

As she flipped through the book to find the ingredients, another recipe caught her eye, elf sugar cookies, and Eve saved the page with a bookmark. She got out all the ingredients, and started to bake. Around 6:52, she finished making breakfast and decided to make hot chocolate and coffee. She made two hot chocolates and two coffees. She put the food on four different trays and started up the stairs with her parents’ breakfast. She put the trays on their bed and shook them awake.

They almost yelled at her, but then smelled the delicious aroma of gingerbread and swiveled their heads around. They saw the pancakes and hugged Eve and proceeded to scarf down the pancakes. Eve then decided to wait a bit longer to wake her older sister, she hadn’t gotten enough sleep lately since she was studying. She walked back to the kitchen and cleaned everything up, and made sure Julia’s breakfast was on the table. Then she scarfed down some pancakes as well, feeling satisfied with her cooking. 

She ran back up the stairs and skipped to her bedroom. She laid out some comfy clothes and ran into her bathroom. Eve turned on the hot water and let it run for a bit until getting into the shower. When she was done, Eve went to her desk and did her makeup, seeing as a lot of people were coming to her house later for dinner. She ditched the comfy clothes and got out her favorite dress, it was a satin red dress with spaghetti straps.

Her parents were cooking dinner by the time she got downstairs, and it was only 7:36 A.M.! “Why are you guys already cooking?” Eve asked her parents, confused. 

“We need to prepare since we are having a lot of people over, and we’re cooking a lot!” her dad told her as he put the chicken into the oven. Eve’s mother was preparing all the vegetables and dicing them into a salad. 

“Can I bake dessert?” she asked her parents.

 “Yep,” her parents said at the same time, completely focused on the food they were preparing. Eve opened the cupboard with all of her baking supplies and reached for her cookbook. She flipped through until she found a gingerbread spice cake. She gathered all the ingredients needed, scouring the kitchen for some extra nutmeg. She started by mixing the dry ingredients, then the wet ingredients. She then put everything in her family’s black KitchenAid mixer and added spices while mixing.

When her batter was done, she poured it into three circular stainless steel pans, and slid them into the heated oven. She put a timer on for twenty minutes, and ran up the stairs to her room.

Once she got to her room, she sat down at her desk/vanity, and started getting ready. She styled her hair into a braided bun, weaving a red and white ribbon in the braid before pinning it up. Once she had perfected the bun she got out her makeup bag, her other passion. She started with a bit of foundation, bronzer, blush, and highlighter. She made sure to match her skin tone to look natural. She got out some red and white eyeshadow, and did a fade-out from red to white on her eyelids. She topped everything off with some black eyeliner. 

Eve ran down and checked on the timer, two more minutes! She decided to start preparing the frosting. In the middle of gathering ingredients, the cake was done! She checked to make sure the cake was fully baked through, and then put it in the refrigerator to chill. She checked up on the frosting ingredients and started mixing them all together. She decided to keep the frosting white but took a bit to color red and green, for some decorating. 

The cakes were ready to be decorated, and Eve started right away. She did a crumb coat to catch the crumbs, then chilled that, and then slathered on some frosting and smoothed it out. She got the piping bags ready for her red and green frosting. She piped some swirls onto the top and finished decorating. Her parents came over, looked at the cake, and complimented her, and then took it to be put on a tray, saved for tonight.

Eve’s parents told her they had invited her grandparents, her aunts and uncles, and some other family members. She was really excited to see her cousins, especially her cousin, Riley. Riley was her favorite cousin, and she had a lot of cousins. Riley was just super fun to be around, it was like she had positive energy surrounding her everywhere she went. Riley and Eve had a lot of sleepovers in the past, and still do have a lot. They shared a lot of common interests, like makeup and baking. Obviously, Eve was a bit better at baking, but Riley was better at makeup so they were equal.

Eve went upstairs to her room to get everything ready. Once everything in her room was organized, and not a speck of dust remained, Eve got to work. She started vacuuming the whole top floor, her sister doing the bottom. They decided to both clean everything other than the kitchen, since her parents had that covered. Eve left no spot untouched, except for her parents’ closet. It was so disorganized it gave her the creeps whenever she saw it. It wasn’t like anyone was even going to go into their bedroom anyway.

Once Eve was done, her sister was just finishing up. The whole house was super clean, even her little brother’s room, which is surprising since it was usually overflowing with garbage and random toys. Her sister’s room was clean, it was usually just a little disorganized so it wasn’t much of a difference. Eve’s room could be super messy, or super clean, depending on her mood. Her parents were still cooking so Eve had a little free time, so she went into her sister’s room. Her sister was there sitting on her bed, so Eve sat down as well. They both just chilled there for a while, not saying a word to each other. They were just on their phones.

At 2:00 P.M., their parents finished the majority of the cooking, now only making sauce for the turkey. Both sisters had to take out the trash. They got up unwillingly and trudged towards the trash bags they had to take out, and walked out the door towards the “bigger trash cans” as Eve called them. After they did that, they got back inside and their parents started ordering them to do all sorts of things like setting the table, putting even more Christmas decorations up, and other random things. 

Eve’s parents were sure they had finished the food and made it delicious. Eve’s dad let her try some of the turkey… and it was revolting. The turkey had molded or something! She started gagging and almost threw up. Her dad was very surprised by this and tried the turkey himself, he had the same reaction. The turkey had been cooked for three hours! How would they redo their turkey with only two hours until the guests came?! 

“What’s wrong with it?!” her mom yelled frantically.

  “It tastes moldy,” Eve said.

“What do you mean, moldy?! We spent hours on that turkey!” her mom yelled as she grabbed the fork from Eve and tried some. She vomited in the kitchen sink.

“Do you guys still have the turkey packaging?” Eve asked her dad.

  “Yeah, I think we do, it’s right there.” 

He pointed at the counter, the packaging said it hadn’t gone bad.

“It hasn’t gone bad, now what?” Eve grumbled. “Wait a second…” Eve peeled off the label, and underneath, there was another which indicated it had gone bad two days before.  

“What kind of joke is this?!” Eve’s mom yelled, frustrated. 

“Maybe the store made a mistake?” Eve said, trying to appease her mother. 

“Yes, there had to be a mistake,” her father soothed quickly, catching on to Eve. Her mother did not calm down, so she left the room. Eve and her dad knew they had to do something but didn’t know what they could do. 

“Wait, can’t we just get a chicken since sometimes they take shorter to cook?” Eve asked her dad.

 “Good idea! Tell everyone I’m going to the store.” With that, her dad ran out of the kitchen to go to the store.

Eve knew she had to do something while her dad was out, so she got a good chicken recipe, and started making the sauce for it. Her dad came home a few minutes after she was done, and the oven had been heated. They exchanged very few words, just working hard to make a good chicken since their family was coming in an hour. Once the chicken was in the oven, she and her dad just high-fived and cleaned up. Eve called her mom downstairs.

Her mom moped down the stairs, clearly thinking they didn’t have the best news. As she walked into the kitchen, her eyes lit up and a smile formed across her face. “You guys got more food ready?! When was this? How did you manage?!” Her mom bombarded them with questions, Eve and her dad smirking at each other. 

They all decided to try a bit of the chicken to make sure it was fine. Her dad took the first bite and he put a thumbs up, indicating it was good. Her mom then decided to take a bite to try it too, Eve didn’t wanna already be full so she passed on the offer. About 20 minutes later, her mom rushed to the bathroom, clutching her stomach. Seconds later they heard retching noises, and possibly vomit. Eve and her dad rushed to her mom’s aid, not expecting to just see her projectile vomiting.

Eve and her dad didn’t know what was going on, until her dad ran to one of the other bathrooms, sick too. It was clear to Eve that this was food poisoning, but she didn’t wanna get near any of her parents cause she has emetophobia. Eve sprinted towards the medicine cabinet in her parents’ master bedroom, trying to find the right one. One time, her mom had gotten food poisoning and her dad gave her a pill and she was fine in about 30 minutes! Eve had searched the cabinet for a solid 3 minutes, but then on the way back, she saw the little container. 

She grabbed the little pill container and ran downstairs, getting two glasses of water for the pill. She ran to her mom and gave her one while trying not to look. Her mom took it and gulped it down in a matter of seconds. Eve then ran as fast as she could while holding a glass of water, and gave her dad a pill and the water, almost getting sick herself from the sight of vomit. She then got to the kitchen and gulped down some water so she wouldn’t get sick. Her sister came running down the stairs, “What happened?!” her sister shrieked as she caught sight of some vomit. 

“The chicken apparently wasn’t good enough,” Eve said, pinching the bridge of her nose. 

“What happened to the turkey?” 

“It was expired.” 

“Can’t we just order Chinese food?” 

“Why would we do that?!” Eve huffed on edge. 

“Well everyone is coming in about… 40 minutes.” 

“OK, YEAH, LET’S GO ORDER IT!” Eve yelled sliding towards her laptop.

 “Ok, we need a lot, 4 white rices, 3 basic noodles, 2 fried rices, 3 serving of spring rolls, and some shrimp?” Eve’s sister listed. “I’m gonna add some spicy chicken, and a serving of some normal chicken.” 

Eve shut her laptop right as they finished paying. “When are they coming?” Eve asked, turning her head towards Julia.

“In about fifty minutes I would say, not quite sure though” Her sister replied, tilting her head. 

“Ok I guess that’s enough,” Eve said, nodding her head. 

“I’m gonna go clean my room some more, you should do the same,” her sister yelled from halfway up the stairs, Eve just nodded knowing her room was perfectly clean. The food was supposed to be arriving in about twenty minutes, enough time to get here before all of their relatives. Eve could hear her sister trying to speed clean, since they didn’t have a lot of time.

Eve was sitting on the couch when the doorbell rang, she rushed to get it crossing her fingers that it was just the food, and not every relative she had. She opened the door already not sure who was outside. Thank God. It was only the delivery guy with three bags of Chinese food for them. She took the bags inside the kitchen and heaved them all up onto the counter. Her sister was already at the bottom stair running to come help. The two of them worked together to get everything plated on platters. Eve got her cake and put it in the fridge so it would still be fresh when they ate it for dessert. Eve’s parents came into the kitchen, feeling better, and helped them set everything up. 

Everything was ready and Eve’s mom started making some pasta for her little brother because he didn’t like Chinese food. After a few minutes, the doorbell rang again, and her parents went to get the door. They were greeted by hugs from everyone, and everyone was there. They all just chatted until it was time to eat, and everyone seemed to like Chinese food. The night ended up being amazing and everyone complimented Eve’s cake. Christmas Eve was Eve’s favorite time of the year because she got to be with her family. 

How To Persevere

Perseverance is something that everyone should want or have. It helps us reach our goals. But it’s not that easy to just start to persevere. In this short article, I hope I can teach you more about perseverance and how to implement it into your life. 

First, what does it mean to persevere? Who perseveres and how? According to, perseverance means to have a “steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.” It is a quality that most “winners” and successful people must have. For example, let’s say you are taking a really hard test in school, and you forgot to study the day before. You keep going and keep trying even though your work isn’t great and you will ultimately fail the test. You keep on going and trying your best, even though the test might be challenging. You try to keep away your thoughts of how you will do on the test, and just keep trying and not giving up. 

Frontline workers, especially now, must persevere a lot through their work. If they do something wrong or if they are treating a challenging patient, they must persevere and not quit during the most challenging events. They need lots of motivation and perseverance to do their jobs. As previously mentioned, it is a quality that most “winners” and successful people must have. The most successful people such as Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, etc., also need lots of perseverance in their jobs, too. If something went wrong, or if something was challenging, they didn’t just end and quit there. They kept working towards their dreams, towards what they wanted, and never gave up. If they simply gave up, they would never be the famous successful people they are today. 

Now, let’s answer the question you all were waiting for. How do we teach ourselves to persevere? How do we implement the ability to persevere in our lives? First, you should encourage yourself. One of the cancers of progress is negative thoughts and negative self-talk. Negativity wants you to feel sorry for yourself and doubt your abilities to succeed. Think of yourself and your work positively. Never follow the path of, “If I failed one part, I failed the entire thing.” Nothing will ever get done on this path. Another piece of advice I can give you is to identify your goal or your “why.” Know why you are going for this goal and how it benefits you or others. Make sure the goal is meaningful to whatever you are doing. When starting a new project, know what you will do, what your intentions are for this, what you want to finish, etc. Finally, and this kind of goes along with negative thoughts and self-talk, don’t think negatively of the past or the future. Don’t let your past mistakes stop what you’re doing now. Live in the present. Try not to think of the future as a bad thing, too. Don’t get attached to what you do. This makes you have a greater fear of losing it and makes you doubt yourself more. 

All in all, perseverance is a very important quality to have and also may open up new opportunities. It might be hard to persevere at first, but I hope these few tips helped you to teach yourself what perseverance is and how to use it.

The Facility


John has always been a curious person but now he has gone off the rails. Follow John and his two friends, Ash and Echo, into the world of horror…


*Crack* Twigs snap under my feet, lightning cuts through the sky, rain pours down, drenching me in water. My friends, Ash and Echo, stand under a tree. John, Echo, and Ash have known each other for years and will stick together no matter what, or so it would seem… 

“Are you sure about this?” says Ash. 

“It could be cursed… ” says Echo. 

“*Pfft*, it can’t be cursed, I’m sure that it was a glowing red crystal,” I say, annoyed. 

“Yeah, bu — ”

“No buts, ands, or whos,” I say, frowning.

“Alright, let’s just do this fast, okay?” squeaks Echo as we walk into the cave. The stalactites make the cave look like a monster with big fangs. I walk in first and inside is a gleaming crystal. 

“Wow!” I say, shocked. I walk over to it gingerly, almost as if it can disappear. I touch it… 

Suddenly, I hear voices, my body starts to shake violently, and my mind goes blank… 


“J-John, are you okay??” I say, frightened.

“The John you know is dead and now I am born anew,” says John, the crystal now implanted in his chest. “HAHAHAHA,” laughs John menacingly, and as quickly as it all started, John lunges forward with such inhuman speed. Ash doesn’t even have time to scream. John grabs Ash by the legs and pulls him farther into the soot-black cave as the screams of Ash slowly fade away…

I stand, frozen in place in pure horror… I blink and I go sprinting down the cave.


“Ughhh…” Why does my body hurt so much!!! I open my eyes. I am in some kind of large tube and in front of me is John.

 “John, why are you doing this!!!” I yell. He does not reply. 

Instead, he says, “In a few seconds, I will fill that tube with liquid nitrogen and you will slowly freeze to death or drown. I wish your insignificant friend luck for he will not make it far, HAHAHA!!!” The liquid nitrogen slowly fills up the tube until it gets to my waist…


*Huff* huff* Where is he?! I think, wildly running down the hall. I turn the corner and the walls are a stark white like a hospital or a facility… I slowed. Why is there a facility here in a cave?! I think, confused. I start running again, then I come into a room full of these big tube thingamabobs (Thing-a-ma-bobs) and there is Ash in the biggest one! He is banging on the glass and yelling something but it’s muffled but I can tell it’s something bad because his face is all scrunched up. “Don’t worry, Ash, I’ll get you out of there in no time!!” I say, more sure than I feel. I look at the keyboard next to the tube.

 “Uhhhh… ” I push a big red button in the center and suddenly a hole opens up in his tube and he gets sucked in. “ASH!!!” I yell, but a hole opens up in the ceiling and he falls on top of me. 

 “Oof!” says Ash. 

“You’re okay!” I say happily 

“You should not have done that,” says Ash.

“What?!!” I say, mind blown. 

“Because Johns here… ” Ash says, pointing out a shattered glass window at a glowing red light around the corner of the hall, slowly getting closer. “Quick, hide!” says Ash as we hide under the table. 


My heart is pounding so hard you can probably hear it from a mile away. John opens his hand and a giant sledgehammer appears in it with a smaller crystal in it. “You cannot hide!!!” John says like a psychopath. He brings down the sledgehammer to the table with such strength that it shatters like glass… time seems to slow, shards of wood cut through my clothes and into my skin, then it comes down on my head, the sledgehammer, and my mind goes blank…


My body hurts so much and my vision has become blurry, but then I focus. I see Ash crumpled on the floor, a puddle of blood getting larger around him. I turn to see John. He smiles so evilly, the corners of his lips almost reach his ears. I stare, horrified, as he laughs deeply and coldly. 

“What has happened to you, J-Jo?” I can’t even say his name anymore after what just happened.

 “I will spare you for now,” he says, then walks away. I slowly crawl out from under the rubble. I look at what remains of Ash. 

I will finish this, I think with a sudden feeling of power… I yell out a name, John.


I run down the seemingly endless corridors. “Which way is the exit?!” I say aloud, my voice echoing down the halls, but then I see the unforgettable cave entrance where it all started. It has only felt like a couple of minutes but with the golden light of day beaming through the teeth-like opening.

I sprint at full speed. I run and run with all my memories gushing past me — John, Ash, and me playing basketball in the park. I run all the way home. I kick open the door but then when I open it, there is only the cave. I run in, not looking around and when I do I realized I am trapped in, looking behind me as the mouth-like cave entrance closes, shutting me in. Then I see the glowing red light of a crystal as the thing that John once was brings the hammer careening down onto my skull as everything goes black. 

To Be Continued… 

Fast Forward

One day, there was a little boy who was playing computer games with his brother. He saw a clock on the computer, and he said, “What’s this?”

His brother said, “I don’t know, you should press it.”

He pressed it and the computer started glowing. When their mom said, “Thing 1 and Thing 2, the food’s ready,” they said,

“Coming, Mom.”

They ate and they were eager to get back to the computer to figure out why it was glowing. When they got back upstairs, they saw a glowing beam that had numbers on it. He looked at the computer and saw a timer. He and his brother saw 10, what is this?! 9, what’s going on?! 8, 7, oh no! I don’t like this. 6, 5. “Make it stop!” his brother pleaded. This is cool, he thought. What if it puts us in the game or something? 4, 3, 2, 1. There was a big boom and their whole room and everything inside of it was floating including them!

They yelled for their mom, no answer. They noticed a globe and it showed their mom and them playing video games but on their watches and phone it said 10:00AM but the globe said it was 1:00AM so they thought, how could this be? Either we’re in a dream or we’re in the future. They were very confused. 

The brothers were arguing over what happened and who was responsible for the time warp. The boys went to their phones and they checked where they were on Google Maps. They were in Australia! Their family didn’t live anywhere near Australia; they lived in the United States. The older brother said, “What if we got transported to a different state?” Both checked their calendars. It wasn’t 2021 anymore, it was 3031! They freaked out and then calmed down and said, 

“We need to get back.”

Drew, the younger brother said to CJ, the older brother, “this is so cool!”

CJ was trying to act cool and stuff so they tried to get in a glass prism but it did not work. They tried kicking the glass, punching, breaking the globe, but nothing worked until the floor started to crack from all the jumping! Both looked down. Once they realized what they were falling into, they were as still as a dead mouse! CJ said, “Don’t move a muscle.” But then the glass was still breaking slowly. The glass could not hold their weight any longer. 

Praying and hoping it was not what they saw, they were falling into a big pile of lava!!! They were screaming, “Mommy!” All of a sudden, they heard a very loud noise and then saw an Air Force plane, what a miracle! The plane picked them up and dropped grenades into the lava. 

At the moment the brothers wondered what they were doing, a lava monster named Corrupt was going to war with a supernatural lava monster. So far, he’d done a lot of damage. He blew up a few towns and flooded a bunch with lava. So far, those were the towns that he’d tried attacking. Some towns were surrendering. That was why the lava monster wanted to rebuild his community. 

The plane landed and they hopped out and said, “Gentlemen, please state your position.”

The brothers said, “We were doing fine.” 

The soldier asked them to confirm their division. The bros said, “We are from Division 1.”

They said, “Oh, so you guys are from the O.G. Division? You are so young,” the soldier said in a daring but cautious tone. 

The bros said, “We are from the past and we’re 30 years old. The O.G. Division made a time travel machine to stop the lava monster. Trial tests showed that it worked.” 

The soldiers allowed the boys to pass. The boys finally located their house and went to it, but when they got there, their house was one of the houses that had been burned down and destroyed and the only thing left was the bro’s room, a tv, a couch, and a couple more pieces of furniture and accessories. They stared in shock as they watched the lava monster burn and destroy another house. 

K was the first bro and J was the second and their last names were Day. Together, they were K.J. Day. The lava monster was at least 30 feet high and had lava spitting out of him.

When the monster tried speaking, he sounded like a swerving car. The lava monster was so strong and powerful that he lured 13 men and women army people and he himself killed them all but left one to live so he could tell the tale. That night, he went to his house and burned the building down.  

They went to their couch and sat down and tried thinking about their house, and slowly things started appearing so they thought harder and everything was there. They heard their mom yell, “Kids, time for dinner.”

Shocked, they could hear C.J. Day stutter and yell, “C-c-c-o-oming.”

Later that day, their alarm went off and they said they did not set alarms. What’s going on? 

“The alarm said it’s your gaming time!”

They responded, “Okay, hold on. Are we back home?” To confirm, they checked the time. They were in 2021 and back home. 

The next day, they saw some of their friends looking at them weirdly like they should not be there. They said, “What’s going on? What happened? You guys are not supposed to be here.” 

They whispered, “You got into a car crash the other day and are supposed to be in the hospital recovering.” 

After school, their friends went to show them their room and they saw people who looked exactly like them and everything. They thought they were cloned in 3030. When they approached, their clones turned into 2 small lava monster pets! They wondered if they started the lava monster war! Then they heard them saying some weird words that sounded like: sacrifice the hot water! Sacrifice the hot water!

The bros saw something red start to come out of the bed and there was a portal that looked like it was from the future. Lava monster was in his cave attacking just like in 3030. What if the monsters were from the future? Running to their house, they started game planning. While planning, they started getting off track and playing video games. Their access line was suddenly cut off! The United Forces came on the screen and said, “Evacuation is mandatory! Leave the city immediately! We will compensate everyone for everything they have lost in the evacuation. You can’t bring anything but family and friends.”

Hopes and Dreams

We, the successors of this country

Are grateful for being born in a country

Where there is freedom and democracy 

Where anybody can become president

Where you can be

My hopes and dreams are to become a president

Of a free country

Where you can say what you think

This country is not perfect of polished

This country is not striving

But is moving forward blindly

I hope this country will 

Accept people from different countries and cultures

People with different backgrounds and beliefs

We still have miles to go

Before we are perfect

But we are not trying to be perfect

Nothing is perfect

We should welcome people

But right now we aren’t

We have to start a new chapter in our lives

We have to treat everyone like Americans

Storytime with Beanie — Halloween Edition!

          Welcome to the first story of Storytime with Beanie, this story is: HALLOWEEN EDITION!!! The way things work in Storytime with Beanie is I’ll read some stories from my storybook that I wrote and you can pick some you want to read, (or you can read all of them ;)). BEWARE, these are all real and you can come sit down on the couch if you dare to have a chill down your spine… >:)

1.  Night of the Living Grogush 

This story begins on a happy sunny day. A comedy duo was playing at the town hall, they were the best of the best, Gary and Grogush. Gary was a well-known man who had a fun, bubbly sense of humor. Or so people thought. Grogush was an unappreciated doll who people thought was controlled by Gary. Gary used Grogush to earn money and fame. Grogush was a living doll who was plotting his revenge day by day. At Gary and Grogush’s performance, they began to do their famous ventriloquist act. Things were going well until the end. 

“What do you call an ugly animal?”

“You!” Grogush responded.

They did a few more jokes and got a lot more laughs. Gary tried to take Grogush off his sweaty hands to take a bow, but he wouldn’t come off. Gary tugged and pulled. 

“HEHEHEHEHEHEHE!!! YOU STUPID STUPID PEOPLE!!!” Grogush screamed, his terrible noise bouncing off the walls in an echo. “SOOOOOO STUPID.” 

Gary tugged some more. “CAN’T YOU SEE THIS GUY IS ONLY IN IT FOR THE MONEY???!!!” 

“Dhfgfcvhhljvnmhgfd!!!!” Gary wailed, now jerking his hand like a lunatic. He fell into a ladder and bonked his head, finally letting go of Grogush. The audience was terrified and this probably ruined their experience in a theater. Grogush sat on the wooden stage in the empty auditorium rocking his legs back and forth. 

“This is only the beginning.” he whispered to himself, adding a slight chuckle. 

A police investigation has begun on Grogush to find where he is, and what he’s doing. We think he now spies on people to get information, he usually spies on people who don’t appreciate their children, then he steals them and feasts on them. Here is a letter from a recent victim. He claims to have bought an action figure for his little boy. 

HeLlo HuMAn, IF YoU ARe WORryInG aBouT YoUR SON, doN’T WoRrY, hE Is GOnE NoW, I HoPE YOu ArE HaPPy, A FeW DAyS AGo YoU WErE COmPlAINIng ABoUt HoW TiMOthY WAs SuCh A HANdFuL, SO  I SUcKed HIs  BlOoD ANd FrOZe HiS vAinS UnTiL ThEy WeRE COld AS IcE. I DId ThE JOb FOr YoU. IF YoU wAnT ME To dO IT tO VeRONIcA I WoULd Be HApPY To, TImOThY WaS a FEaSt, WhO KNEw tHE KiD HAd sO MuCh FaT!

YOU’Re WeLcOMe, 


Oooooh, wasn’t that spooky? It wasn’t? Well then, maybe this one will be better.

2. Twisted

On May of 2018, I was 11 and a half years old when this all started, IT started. Oops, I almost forgot to introduce myself — hi, I’m Amanda McDiggarty and I live with my mom in a tiny home. My dad left when I was 4 and I don’t exactly remember what he was like. Mom says that’s a good thing. My best friend is Martha-Anne Scuerts who bosses me around and acts like she is the superior. But she stands up for me and supports me when I need it, so I call her my best friend. One day, she was acting, strange. Stranger than she usually is. When I went to school, she was quiet. She didn’t shout out any answers like she usually does. She didn’t sit at our regular lunch table, she didn’t sit with me on the bus, and she didn’t BOSS ME AROUND. Something was fishy. After school, I followed her home, for good and curious reasons. She went into her backyard and I went into the bushes to sneak a peek at what she was doing. She. Was. Summoning. Something. What? I have no clue. She drew some random symbols in the sand and took out a book from her backpack. She then put three shiny crystals down and read from the book. This was the first time I’ve heard her speak all day, and it sounded weary and raspy. 

“Come out, come out, oh mighty lord, from wherever you’re hiding or have been stored! THE PEBBLES ROCK MIGHT SKID THE WATER!! KILL THE SHEEP FROM THE SLAUGHTER!!!” 

What was she talking about? She sounded like she got those lines from a nursery school. Well, I guess it worked because the next second was me looking at my life flashing before my eyes. When I opened my eyes, everything was the same. Well, I thought everything was the same. There was fog everywhere and Martha’s high ponytail and big Crocs had been turned into revolting creature. It twisted and turned with its body, the color of my aunt Tina’s pea soup. She had bags over her sleepy eyes like she had not slept for years. 

“IM FREEEEEEEE!!!” screamed this mushy, yucky, DiSGuStiNg thing!!! That was not my friend!!!

I looked out the bushes finally and saw a bright light sucking up this monster into the clouds. I ran towards it after the monster had been sucked up already and hopped on. I felt light and free like a feather. I felt like I had no worries and that everything was going to be alright. I fell asleep… 

I woke up after a few minutes realizing I HAD A MISSION. I walked weirdly to what seemed like their base and opened the door. I was amazed at what I saw next, millions of buttons lined on walls and at the center of it all, Martha-Anne Scuerts. She was frozen in an ice chamber. Martha had wires connecting to the buttons. Each of the buttons said a simple task and under, it said: “under construction.” I wanted to run to the ice chamber and hug it when I heard a voice. I quickly scurried underneath the table. I heard a bunch of gibberish and nonsense from these walking jellies. “Adddfghjkiuygtfdsxcfghjkjhgfdsfghjikoiuhygfdsxdfghjklkjhgfc,” they confidently stated. Martha’s monster form walked into the room and dropped Martha’s backpack near the table I was sitting under. I grabbed the backpack to my chest and held it tightly. The three alien monsters jiggled away. When I felt they were gone, I grabbed the plastic table and tried smashing it into the glass-ice chamber. The glass was resistant and held up. I put the table on the floor and started looking at the buttons. There was nothing that said self-destruct or open the ice chamber. I looked at the wires next and found a wall in the alien base that was uneven. I pulled the square out and found the button to open the ice chamber. I pressed it and saw some dramatic fog come out of the chamber. Martha’s eyes flew open. “Oh, hi.”

 I hugged her. 

“Listen,” she said. “I have a lot of things to tell you.”  

“I met a girl at summer camp, she was funny and sweet and we became friends. Her name was Mia. A few months ago, I had a sleepover at her house and found her talking to her parents. They turned into jiggly monsters and I screamed very loudly. They made an agreement to have me never speak of them and they wouldn’t hurt my friends, family, and me. Long story short, they thought I would snitch on them and took over my body anyway.” 

“You, Martha, have done a lot of weird, funky things in your life but I was surprised to hear that you made a deal with literal demons!” I whisper-screamed. 

“Hey, it was either: don’t tell anyone about us or die. Take your pick.”  

“Good point,” I said. 

“Okay, enough bickering, we need to find a way to defeat these alien people,” Martha said with her determined face on. I could always never tell if she had a determined face on or if something really stank. 

So she said, “I know the aliens’ worst enemy, fear. It sounds weird, but if we scare them out of their pants they wo — ”

“Orrrrrr… We can cast a reverse spell in the book I have.” 

“Hmmph, I guess that could work, too…”

“Great! Now we just need to cast the spell.”

I grabbed the book out of Martha’s Alien’s bright red bag and heaved it out onto the floor of the “lab”. I checked for the reverse spell and found it quickly. I pulled the table I threw onto the floor before and hid under the cloth again with Martha. I took a deep breath. 

“WHEN THE MOON GOES DOWN, THE SUN COMES UP, LET THIS BE REVERSED — ” I heard the aliens running to the room to see what all of this commotion was about. 

“Keep going!!” Martha said. 

“LET’S NOT CALL THIS DAY HARMONY, REMOVE THIS ONGOING CURSE!!!” My eyes glowed wide open with my eyeballs forming a pitch black hole as if you were seeing into the mysteries of the universe. My body levitated into the air and wind started forming around me, I could see a glimpse of Martha, and the aliens’ eyes wide open, afraid of what I had just done. I felt like I could see into every moment of the past until everything stopped. I was placed into time and saw Martha running towards me. I felt like something important had just happened to me but I wondered what. It was as if a memory had been plucked right out of my head. 

Martha finally said, “Do you believe in aliens? I don’t.”

What, what! Didn’t think that was going to happen, did yo — okay, I’ll stop. But I have to warn you, the next one is a looooooonnnnnnnggggg one. 

3. Little Dead Riding Hood

You might recall the story of Little Red Riding Hood. The story of the sweet little girl who was about to deliver goodies to her grandmother. She was stopped by a greedy wolf who wanted the goodies all to himself. He dressed up as the grandmother to eat the goodies, he locked the grandmother in the closet while he ate, and he was about to eat the grandmother too, when a man with an axe came to save the day! He saved the grandmother and the sweet little girl, and they lived happily ever after. This story has many versions, and this is one of them. In the real little Red Riding story, it wasn’t a happy ever after.

I’ll tell you the real Little Red Riding story, here it goes. Beware, this story doesn’t have a happy ending.

Once upon a time, there was a bratty little girl named Mary, who was a rebel. But despite her reputation, she lived in a tiny little cottage house in a tiny town called Once Upon a Time town with her mum, who worked tirelessly to take care of her daughter. But Mary had no pity for her poor mother.  She never listened to her and always stayed up late. One fine morning, she was going to deliver her sick grandmother her special, homemade, burnt biscuits. 

“They look worse than ever today,” she confirmed. 

There, she went into the edgy woods, all alone. No matter what time of the day it was, the woods were always dark, with only a little sunlight poking through the trees. The animals were peacefully resting in the woods, well, until Mary came. She started kicking pebbles and the animals started to flee. She soon bumped into a wolf lounging on a tree, almost like he was waiting for her the whole time. 

“So I hear you’re a rebel, Mary,” the wolf said with a small grin. 

“Yes, I am,” Mary said happily. Finally, someone understood her. 

“Come this way to deliver bissssccuits, the quickest way,” the wolf said intently. He put his head in the basket and sniffed the burnt biscuits while licking his lips. 

For once, she actually doubted herself. Should I really be trusting a wolf? She thought about her cousin James who passed away because he was being mischievous, and pranked the village a few times but then he really did get eaten by a wolf and no one was there to help him. She also thought about the three little pigs who almost got eaten by that terrifying wolf, but then her instinct kicked in. Wait a minute, why should I be afraid of a silly little wolf? I’m a rebel, and rebels can do anything they want to do.

“Okkkkkaaaayyy?” Mary said, her eyes darted from left to right. She then skipped down the way. The wolf told her to and started kicking pebbles again. 

The animals whispered to each other, “Only the dumbest would go that way.” 

A few minutes, and what felt like hours to Mary later, she arrived at her grandmother’s house. She dearly loved her grandmother but she needed to keep her reputation of being a rebel. 

“Hello, dear grandmo — ” Mary dropped her burnt biscuits. She took a good look at her grandmother, who was sitting in her plaid white and pink bed. “Wh… What big e… eyes y… you h… h… have.” She was shaking and trembling.

  “To look at my beautiful granddaughter with.” 

“Wh… what a… a b… big n… n… nose y… you h… a… ve.”

“To sniff my wonderful garden outside my house.”

  “W… what a… a… a big m… m… o… uth y… you h… a… ve.”

“To eat my Granddaughter’s wonderful burnt biscuits with.”

Mary took a good look at her “grandmother.” There was something so strangely familiar about her grandmother but she couldn’t put her finger on it. “Um,” Mary said. Her “grandmother” was sweating intensely. 

“I’ll help you pick out your clothes.” 

Her “grandmother” took a sigh of relief. So, she was about to open the closet when, “Don’t open it!” She was walking away from it when she realized her grandma wasn’t the boss of her. Her body, her rules. She then yanked the closet door open. 

“NOOOOOO!!!” Her “grandmother” screamed. 

Mary stood there in disbelief, she was looking at her grandmother, her real grandmother, who was suffocated by ropes in the closet. She was dead. Was it because of how long it took to figure out that the lady there wasn’t her real grandmother? But then Mary realized something, if that wasn’t her real grandmother then who was tha — 

She turned around to the bed where her “grandmother” was sleeping. No one was there — of course, the wolf! How could she have been so dumb this whole time! She ran outside her dead grandmother’s house and tried to find him, but he was already there in her grandmother’s, ready to pounce. She saw the wolf, and the wolf saw her. Mary ran, faster than she ever ran before. Mary didn’t care about her reputation anymore, all she cared about was running for her life. She was running and running and running. So was the wolf. He wanted supper and she wanted to go home. She just wanted to be in her safe little cottage with her mum. 

She screamed, “HELP HELP!! A WOLF IS CHASING ME!!!” 

A lumberjack heard her nearby and attempted to throw his axe at the wolf, but he missed, hitting Mary. Blood splattered on the pathway. The wolf really did have supper and ate well that night, as for Mary’s mum, she searched everywhere for her daughter. Even though Mary might not have been a good person, she was still family to her mum, and the only family she had left. So that was the story. Please don’t be alarmed, but unfortunately the wolf went unharmed, so though it was dark, it was hard and true that the wolf that night had Red Riding Hood stew. 

4. Mary, Mary.

Mary Mary was a talking doll. Much like Grogush from the 1st story, she lured her victims in. 

I ran with my mommy to the toy shop and found a baby doll!! She had wide eyes and curly hair, and the minute you pulled a string, she blinked her eyes and said, “Mary Mary wants to play with you!” 

The Cashier had a slight smile on his face as I ran out of the store with Mary Mary. When I got home, I put Mary Mary on the counter. We ate dinner and I looked for Mary Mary. She wasn’t on the counter anymore, she was in my bed. “Awwww,” I said. Mary Mary wants to go to sleep! I slept for about 5 hours when I heard a noise. I couldn’t make out what it was. I usually don’t like danger and often run away from it, who wouldn’t! But this time, my curiosity led me walking down to find what this peculiar noise was. I walked and walked through the apartment until I could hear it clearly. I heard a soft female voice singing, “Ring around the rosie.” I kept walking through the empty dark hallways of our apartment building, until I got to the courtyard. It constantly felt like someone was whispering this eerie song in my ear. I walked through the patches of grass covering my ears. Then I saw it. I saw her. Mary Mary sat there feeling the blade of the knife through her tiny hands. She kept singing. I felt like running, but for some reason, I did not. 

“Ring around the rosie, a pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes.”

She grabbed me and pulled me toward her blade. I could feel her tiny hands holding my neck hostage as I tried to squirm away. 

“We all — fall — DOWN!” 

She sliced my head off.

Narrator: The next day, this young lady’s family tried to find her. When they walked in the courtyard, they found the poor girl with her head chopped off. They also found a bloody knife and a note that said, “Mary Mary wants to play with you… ”

That one was probably inspired by Gabby Gabby from Toy Story 4. Except creepier. (And maybe a bit of Coralline :D.)

I hope you enjoyed Storytime with Beanie — Halloween edition! I had a really fun time coming up with these spooky stories and trying to make them a bit ridiculous too! I hope you have lots of questions and a bunch of conspiracy theories but the real question is…

What did we learn today!? Uhhhh, I have no idea! 

It Might as Well Have Been Winter

The air was cool and the winds were strong. Below me, I could see hues of scarlet and shades of golden, with a handful of orange. Buildings were scattered around, some lights on and some lights off. The sun had barely risen.

It was so frigid outside, it might as well have been winter.

We stood there in silence for a long time, in thick scarves and puffy jackets. 

“Why have you brought me here?” Cersei asked, her voice painted with curiosity. She was in awe of the view, you could see it in the way her eyes glittered as she admired the horizon in front of us.

“I just wanted to talk,” I mumbled.

But really, I didn’t want to talk.

I wanted revenge.

And a tall mountain was the perfect place to take it.

“Talk about what?” she asked. Was she oblivious of everything she’d done to me? Was she completely unaware of the crap I’d put up with all this time?

“Why did you do it?” I asked her flatly. She furrowed her eyebrows and took a deep breath.

“I’m not sure what you mean…” 

I was just about ready to slap her, if that’s what it took to get an answer out of her.

“What do you mean, you don’t know what I mean?! How can you not know what I mean? After everything you’ve done, how can you not know?” I accused, and Cersei gave me a stare that was almost psychotic.

It was like, all of a sudden, the cold air had gotten colder.

“Your money?” she asked, and then she laughed out loud. “It’s all done and over with, why worry now?”

“I will worry now, because it was you who ruined my life! You’ve always ruined my life, Cersei, and I never took note of it!” I exclaimed.

“I want something, I’ll get it, Freya. I don’t think you’re in any place to confront me about what I’ve done. You know how important the money was to me, how desperate I was for it. How can you be so selfish?!” Cersei spat. I inhaled deeply and stood up, Cersei following along.

“You’re right, it is in the past, Cersei! Silly me, I shouldn’t have even brought it up. Let’s enjoy the view,” I said with a smile, and she nodded in satisfaction.

“Good girl.”

I fidgeted with my coat, and looked around quickly.

“I’m queen of the world!” Cersei yelled in joy, and she spun around in front of the view.

This was it.

This was the time.

Do it, Freya.

Do it.

The Candy Fairy’s Skateboard

My life story, or at least the part of my life story you’d be interested in, begins where a tragic story might end — with the digging of several holes. Before we continue, I will assure you that this story is nothing like that, but if you’re looking for a story with that kind of drama and sadness, please ask your librarian to refer you to the tragedy section. With that out of the way, let’s get back to the story: I ran frantically around our miniature backyard, waving and digging with my plastic shovel like a maniac, my brain bubbling full of hatred and loathing for my older brother. Although this may seem like a funny anecdote from your end, I can promise you that it was a horrendous experience, for me, at least. A week ago, Ben, my older (and devious) brother, told me that if I buried my candy in the ground and dug it up again a week later, a majestic candy fairy would exchange it for money. I thought this was an extremely clever plan and did exactly what Ben told me to do. I even put a card in the hole to tell the fairy how much I charged for the licorice. However, after I dug the loot back up, all I found was the card. On the back, in my brother’s handwriting, read:

Sorry, but I’m not very liquid right now, but tHAnks for tHe cAndy! – C.F 

Now, after completely destroying the backyard, I finally had to accept the truth: the whole thing was a huge scam! I sat down on the now ruined lawn and began to cry. Like a guardian angel, who can sense sadness and despair, my mother came flying out the back door to comfort me. It was only until she dried my tears that she noticed the wrecked backyard. 

“Goodness me, Marley! What in heaven’s name happened to the backyard?” she exclaimed, as she scanned the destruction. The flowerbed was half crushed, the grass was nearly all torn up, and the cherry tree in the corner, the only nice thing in the entire neighborhood of bleak houses and cheap grocery stores, had a groove in its trunk, most likely from my shovel. 

“Ben happened!” I pouted, waving my shovel and breathing heavily in the humid summer air. I told my mom about the whole ordeal, expecting her to grow angry at Ben for teasing me, and unleash her whole sympathetic lecture about how her older siblings teased her when she was a kid. However, to my astonishment as well as disgust, she started laughing. At first it was a small snort, then a giggle, and all of a sudden she was laughing so hard that she pressed her hands to her stomach and doubled over, giddy tears streaming down her face.

“Mom!” I exclaimed, shocked and feeling extremely betrayed.

“I’m sorry, honey, but you have to admit, it was kind of funny.”

“What???” I said, in complete disbelief, “I thought you were on my side!”

“I am, Mars. Here.” She reached for my hand. “I’ll prove it.”  

She grabbed my hand and helped me stand up. 

“Where’s Ben now?” she asked.

“At the pizza place with his skateboard,” I said, “He was going to head to the park afterwards.” 

“Good,” she said. “Let’s catch him there before he goes to the skateboard rink.” 

I followed my mom with a new bounce in my step. As we walked through the neighborhood, I thought of the ways Ben would get punished. Maybe he’ll get grounded, I thought hopefully. Or no candy for him for a whole month! The pizza place was probably the nicest thing around our neighborhood, besides the park. And even then, that was saying a lot. By the looks of the paint job and the dirty tile floor on the inside of the shop, you could tell it hadn’t been cleaned in years. When we got to the pizza place, instead of finding Ben prancing around eating pizza, we saw him sitting dejectedly at one of the tables, his arms wrapped around his skateboard, his pizza to the side, forgotten. When he looked up at us, I saw something in his eyes that I had never seen before. Tears. My mom rushed over.

“Sweetie, what happened?”

Ben wiped the tears from his eyes, “My skateboard,” he said, holding it out to us. “It broke.”  

My body was shaking with rage. Mom had promised that she would punish Ben for using me, but now she was comforting him, drying his tears. The only thing that stopped me from throwing a full on tantrum was the skateboard. I loved fixing things, and recently I had been breaking things on purpose to put them back together. (The last time I did this was on the vacuum cleaner, and I lost the airbag, so now we don’t have a vacuum cleaner anymore, as well as something for me to fix.) My curiosity took hold of me, and before I knew it, I was bending down to have a closer look. I winced. One of the wheels was almost torn off, hanging by one measly nail and a whole lot of hope. 

“Dad would have been able to fix it,” Ben spluttered. “He made it himself, but now he’s gone… ”

“It’s okay,” my mom tried. “We can get a new one–”

“No! This is all I have left of him, I won’t throw it out, broken or working.” Ben hugged the skateboard to his chest, still crying. I felt like I had just been punched in the gut. What was I even doing? Would Dad want me and Ben to fight each other?  I looked down at my feet. 2 minutes ago, I was all for seeing Ben down in the dumps, but now I could see that he was just like me. He missed Dad as much as I did… 

  “I-I think I can fix it,” I said, surprising myself. I always had the innate ability to fix things, and in the hot summer days it was hard getting through all of the boredom. My only friends were the nuts and bolts in my toolbox. When Dad was still alive, I spent a lot of time with him in the workshop, and hopefully I learned enough to get the wheel back in place. After walking home to our run-down neighborhood, I thought about the tools I would need. I thought of it as what Dad would have done. Though as I slowly made progress on the skateboard, I later had to begrudgingly admit that it had been fun. A day later, I handed the cherished skateboard back to Ben, grins on both of our faces. Ben took the skateboard gingerly, turning it over in his hands. Then he looked back up at me. 

“I have a thank you gift,” he said, looking back down at his feet. 

“You do?” I said, my heart pounding. Maybe he’ll apologize. Or he could buy me a slice of pizza. Or he could let me have a go at his gaming computer!

“Your licorice was delicious,” Ben said with a smirk. “I have to go meet my friends at the park sooooooo… bye!!!” And with that, he retrieved a bunch of black licorice wrappers, stuffed them in my hands, and ran out the front door before I could even react. I stumbled back into my room, numb with anger. I felt like punching Ben in the face. After all I did for him, and he couldn’t even give me a simple thank you? Throwing the useless wrappers into the trash can, I turned around to collapse on my bed. But I couldn’t, because there was already something on it. A kit to build your own bicycle. To the left was a note.

I staShed my emergency supply of licOrice in your desk dRawer: you aRe going to need a lot of energY to build this thing – C.F 

P.S  AND did you know THAt if you doN’t rub your Knee a thouSand times your nose will fall off? 

Before this story ends, I would like to inform any youngsters who are reading this that if you don’t rub your knee a thousand times, your nose will not fall off. However, I will point out that burying money instead of candy will grow a money tree, which will give you far more profits than exchanging candy for money. With that said:



If there were a choice that could decide the fate of your loved ones, and whether or not you were put in jail for the rest of your life, would you take it? Of course you would, without hesitation, or at least I did. My name is Evner Dubs. Fourteen years ago I was put in prison for the murder of my girlfriend, Lea, and my best friend, Dexter. We were a merry band of friends. Well, three of us were. I was always the dour one but the others were happy. Lea was the ever-loving sunshine of my life; Dexter was quieter but he laughed when it counted. Of course, the last member of our party whom I have not mentioned yet is Felix. He was always the happy to my morose, loquacious to my taciturn, energetic to my indolent. On top of all this, he was Irish, meaning he had the creative cursing skills of a drunk pirate. I had not been out long before I went to see him.

It was a stormy evening, and, as the moon rose, I shouldered my way past the heavy front door of the “Osrí ar Meisce.” This was the bar Felix owned; apparently, the name of the pub was “The Drunken Oyster,” but seeing as I didn’t know Gaelic and I was too lazy to learn, I had always taken Felix’s word for it. 

As I crossed the threshold, I was warmly greeted by the smells and sights of this familiar place. It smelled of good beer and fresh velvet. The tables all had chairs lying face down on top of them, and the booths lining the sides were just as I had remembered. Each had a different member of The Beatles on a poster under glass table tops, all surrounded by iconic settings from their songs. Strawberry Fields, Abbey Road, an entirely yellow submarine, and a church, (presumably the one where Eleanor Rigby was buried). I had never been able to tell, but I don’t know what else in their songs it could be referencing. It had to be said, Felix certainly did have a taste for decoration. 

Behind the bar was the man himself, Felix Gallagher. He was using a rag to clean out glasses, methodically holding the rag up to the inside of the glass and twisting until it had gone the circumference of the glass three times over. The rhythmic squeaking from the inside of the glass was almost a testament to how many times Felix had performed this action over the seventeen years he had owned this place.

“We’re closed. Go home.” He did not look up from his action for about thirty seconds. When he realized he hadn’t yet heard the door open and close a second time, he looked at the offender. “Oh… Dubsy, I would think you’ll be needing a drink.” He smiled with that patented Gallagher smile. I could still remember the first time I saw that smile. It had been when Dexter first introduced us.

“Evner, never heard that one before,” he had said. “Does anyone call you Dubsy?” I shook my head. “Great, I’ll be the first.” Then, he flashed that smile. He had called me Dubsy ever since, and that smile never got old.

Felix stopped his robotic cleaning and poured me a tall pint. He knew what I wanted.

“Do you think I did the right thing under the circumstances, taking the plea bargain?”

“I think it was the only thing you could’ve done. Nothing would bring them back, and that was the simplest way to minimize further damage.”

“I was just trying to do something good for once; to be a hero for someone.”

“Oh, Evner,” he sighed. I realized that this was the first time in a long time he had called me by my first name—he didn’t use it lightly. “There are no heroes, Evner. There are only people. You should know that.”

“I suppose I should.”

We sat in silence. Both of us knew I hadn’t killed Lea and Dexter, and now that I was finished paying for a crime I didn’t commit, we could finally be honest about it. Ironically, now that we could talk, we said nothing. What was there to be said? We lived happy lives, he and I, and stayed friends through all of it. I gave a eulogy at his funeral, and when I die, I like to think I’ll get to see him again, one last time.

Here lies the mortal remains of Evner Leroy Dubs


Thought to have killed his best friend and girlfriend, new evidence comes to light after his death that suggests the perpetrator was in fact a man currently on death row for numerous other crimes. This is just one of the new charges surfacing against him.

Dubsy will be missed.

The Medic’s Son

Charles Smith was born in 1898 in Bath, England, and usually went by Charlie. Charlie’s father had died of Tuberculosis by the time Charlie was two. Charlie had very little memory of his father, and although it was an inconvenience to his mother, it never was a terrible inconvenience to Charlie other than his mother taking up whatever extra jobs she could find. Even though she had to work a lot, Mrs. Smith always found time to play with her son and was, overall, a very loving mother.                                                     

Charlie was a very active boy and was always going on adventures around whatever town they were in. He had always wanted to be a knight; rescuing a princess and fighting a dragon all sounded quite fun to him. So by the time The Great War broke out, Charlie had decided that he was going to be a soldier and that was that. The day he turned seventeen, he signed up for the war, and the doctors decided he was in perfect health. 

His mother had admonished the idea and thought that it was very dangerous but could not stop Charlie. 

She knew what wars were like because she had been a medic in the Second Anglo-Boer War and had left Charlie at her mother’s house, and she did not want Charlie to go through a similar experience. She had tried to tell Charlie that she needed him at home to take care of her, but he only responded that he would be home soon enough once he won the war. 

Seeing that he was so optimistic to the point of delusion and that nothing she could say would make any impact whatsoever, she signed up to be a medic, even though it brought back some bad memories, so that she could keep an eye on him. Charlie had no problem with that as he loved his mother dearly and wanted to go to war. He thought she would make a great medic, as she would always clean his wounds when he got hurt on his adventures.

Charlie was made private, was given a gun, taught how to fire it, and was sent off to the trenches.

When Charlie looked around the trenches, he saw that it was not a fairytale. Dirt and mud threatened to overflow the wooden walls; gunshots filled the air; men sat down with weary expressions; blood dripped onto the wooden walls; the sky was a dark grey, even though it was only 3:00; lanterns flickered and shook; and yells pierced the air.

Although Charlie was experiencing horrors, they were nothing compared to the horrors that Mrs. Smith was facing. Bandaged limbs still oozing blood, countless bodies covered with sheets, men begging for death, bombs heard as though they were right outside, and the worry about her son. She would look very closely at every face to make sure that it wasn’t her Charlie. With every gunshot or bomb that she heard, she wondered where Charlie was, and if he was safe.

The next day, Charlie was woken up, or would have been woken up if he had gotten any sleep, by the sound of a bomb crashing nearby. He scrambled out of his bunk and curled up into a ball. 

As soon as he calmed down, he changed back into his smeared uniform and grabbed his gun. As soon as he exited the bunker, he was startled by a large crashing sound called war. He was ordered to go to the wall and “empty his ammo,” or whatever that meant. Charlie started firing into the opposing trench and watched as a soldier fell and did not get back up. A sick feeling filled his gut as he wondered what his mother would say.

His mother, in fact, was charged with being the medic, wandering around the trenches and dragging the bodies back to the bunker. Seeing these horrors and wounds of war made her yearn for news of her son.

Just then, as she gazed out into the patch of light surrounded by smoke which was her sun, a bullet struck her and she dropped to the ground.

She woke up in the very bunker that she was in yesterday, although she felt something was wrong. She looked down and saw that she was bleeding quite heavily from her abdomen. The tray beside her had tongs and a bloody bullet. She could piece together what happened and knew that she didn’t have much longer left. At this moment, she was only thinking of her son, Charlie.

She found a pen and paper lying on the nightstand next to her, for notes on the condition of the patient, and started writing a note to Charlie. 

“My Dearest Charlie,

I am so sorry that I have to leave you in this world all alone. I love you so much, and I hate to leave you. Please try to remain safe, my son. Live your days fully, and enjoy your life, for it ends too shortly. So do not grieve knowing that I am exiting in peace with thoughts of you. Life is too short to be sad. Goodbye, my dearest.



That was how the nurses found her a few hours later, clutching her last words that she had written for someone who she held dear. The nurses took pity on her and sent out that letter to Charlie.

Charlie had just sat down to a game of cards with some of the other fellows when a very tired-looking soldier came up to their table and asked if there was a Charlie Smith among their group. At this, Charlie stood up and replied that he was in fact the boy in question. The man handed him a piece of paper and left the bunker, back out to where the world was tearing itself apart. 

Charlie decided to take the note back to his bunk so he could read the contents in peace. 

As Charlie read his mother’s final words, tears made tracks down his grime-stained face and onto the paper, blotting the page and cleaning his face. He felt numb to the sounds of war. 

His mother, the calming presence that had always kept him safe, was gone, and it was his fault. He had insisted on going to war so he could be like a knight and save some sort of princess and fight monsters. He had been so foolish and childish without any real notion of what the world was like, and he had led his mother to her untimely death which he would pay for for the rest of his life. Charlie started to cry in earnest and buried his head in his pillow and fell asleep.

The next morning, people could sense a visible change in Charlie. He was not the same boy who wanted to rescue princesses and kill dragons; he was a man, in the middle of a war, with no parents, fighting for revenge. 

They stationed him at the wall again, Charlie had a different plan. He and some other men had decided to sprint to the other side to try and kill as many of the Germans as possible and most likely die trying. 

Charlie gave out the signal and they all ran out of the trenches with the other soldiers screaming after them, and charged to the opposing trenches with hate in their eyes. They had gone about three meters when the Germans shot a bomb at them. Charlie had just turned around to see the bomb land near his friends and him before he was blasted back into the bloody grass.

Charlie woke up in the hospital and looked around and only saw crimson flowing from missing limbs as screams of agony mixed with the sounds of gunshots from the trenches filled the air. Charlie looked around at his friends, lying limp with glassy eyes, and watched as the nurses covered them with blankets. Tears ran down his dirty and bloodstained face and dropped onto the grimy cot. Charlie thought of not only his missing legs, but his fellow soldiers, and his beautiful mother who were all gone because of this god-forsaken war. He had been so foolish to do this, he had killed everyone he held dear. His mother and now his friends.

Blood was still oozing out of the bandages that covered the stumps that were now his legs. He knew he would die soon so he just waited for the reaper of death to take him and all of the other lonely souls that were lost because of the war.

When death finally came, as light through the door of the bunker, Charlie saw that it was not a skull figure in a dark hood, but his own loving mother, still wearing her bloodied medic scrubs and her dark brown hair tucked beneath a white cloth, holding out her hand, with a sad smile on her face. Charlie took her hand and she gently carried him away from the war and out of sight.

Like Living Creatures

Music. It’s what keeps us entertained, it’s what people have in common, it’s what genres we listen to, it’s what cultures we spread, and what languages we speak. Music is all around us. It is what makes my life so special, both now and when it first inspired me. In every way, shape, and form, it is the instruments that truly make music come alive. 

Music, and the instruments it is played on, have been a part of my life ever since I was little. The first time I was inspired to play music was when I listened to a popular classical piece by Ludwig van Beethoven called Fur Elise. The different techniques used to play this piece captured my imagination and showed me so many new possibilities: how fast the fingers moved, how loud or how soft it was played, how fast or slow different parts of the piece were, and what notes were played with. The moment I heard and experienced this piece, I knew that I wanted to start playing the piano. I never looked back, nor do I regret it. 

Beside the piano is one of the places where I feel the happiest. It makes me come alive. The keys on the piano make me feel so free. Every single black and white key located on the piano has a different tone and pitch. You can play two notes at once and they will sound different. The moment I touch the piano, I let out all my emotions and just focus on the beautiful instrument in front of me. Piano is also what inspired me to start playing the violin.

I prefer the violin over the piano because the violin has a much more pleasing and delightful sound. Like the notes on the piano, each note on the violin brings its own unique sound. Each string on the violin is a different thickness and texture. The lowest string on the violin, the G string, is a lot thicker than the E string, the highest string on the violin. Violin requires you to have diligent and concentrated fingers in order to successfully execute the violin. Every single technique used to properly execute the violin requires concentration and diligence. 

Of course, concentration and diligence mean nothing without lots and lots of practice. You cannot expect to be perfect all the time, or right away. As the famous violinist Itzhak Perlman says, “One must always practice slowly. If you learn something slowly, you forget it slowly.” When I first started playing, it was a nightmare. My violin sounded terrible, my notes were all out of tune, my bow sounded scratchy, and I had poor knowledge of where the notes were on the violin. It was not a very pleasant experience. A scratchy bow on the violin with out-of-tune notes is equivalent to the sound of a dying goat. Not a very delightful and pleasant sound. 

 But I practiced, I had lessons, and over time, my playing got much better. Before playing the violin, I had no idea that composing music, and not just playing it, would be life changing. I discovered a new passion that I had no idea I loved so much. I also gained new friends because of orchestra and got to experience what it is like to play in a full orchestra. Playing as part of a full orchestra is an entirely different and fantastic experience. I got to be surrounded by the music in a way that felt entirely different from just playing by myself in my living room. 

My piano is located in the living room of my house. There, it sits waiting for me to warm it up and move around its keys that are getting older day by day. Everyday, it waits for me to sit on its seat and put music on its stand, and flip the pages of its music books. Every hour of every day, it sits in agonizing silence, waiting and waiting and waiting. I look and walk past it everyday in my house. My violin sits in a case in the family room of my house. In its case, it is nice and snug, sitting in the right environment to keep it from breaking or cracking. Everyday, it sits cozy in its case while waiting for the right time to be used. When it is time for it to be used, its strings prepare to make beautiful sounds, and its bow prepares to produce the beautiful sounds that come out of the violin. As every minute, second, hour, and day goes by, it loses the beautiful pitch and tone that it makes, gradually growing old, and eventually unusable. Instruments are like living creatures. Without the right care and nourishment, they will quickly rot and eventually die or become unusable. The longer they are in use, the slower they will break and become wasted. Music and my instruments is what keeps me engaged, dedicated, and passionate. Without music, I may not have discovered my true talent. I cherish every part of my music journey. 

Music brings me joy, happiness, peace. I hope by describing why music makes me happy, it will show how important and meaningful it is to me. Not just because of the way I play or what sounds come out, but because of the way it allows me to express myself without actually having to say words.

PERSEPHONE / Wake of A Dark Rose


A tendril of a person, wrapped around a bruised finger.

An obsession, as you’ve said before.

Problems and struggles and flaws and fault

When really, 

What is fault, when everything has two sides? 

Not two dimensional, so deep,
So rooted into the pure

Existence of something so realistic

You and me, but that’s not what it was anyways

That’s how they describe normality 

Not like we ever fit that anyways.

Dial the pinned number on your phone,

Cry and scream and kick long limbs around like it’ll fix things.

But those scars came from cuts;

Cuts that healed over time and bandages made of paper,

Paper that was bound to end in flames.

Homes in each other,

Homes made of sand and salt flakes that make my head hurt,

Built up galaxies that were always bound to crumble.

Like you, like how you are, 

Collapsing on yourself like a brittle shell,

A white globe descending through time.

For it’s so easy for those

Numbers, gliding through zeros and stages of life.

Because that’s what life is;

Are you what life is? 

A number and some vertical ovals on a page, 

A ripped-out love note on a paper, 

Discarded into the speeding archway path of what you’re going through? 


A thorned, romanticised flower, 

An elusive figure in the distance that never got close enough to be tangible, 

A figure that left her keeper

Nipping at shadowy, aching heels 

While you kick dust into the air behind them 

And I inhale it, over and over again, 


I do it for you.


I make mistakes, 

and you

Claim that I challenge you, but really,

Do I scare you? 

Are the cuts on your upper arms fears, 

Engraved souvenirs of the past that are just starting to fade? 

Will you tell people that they’re my fault? 

Or are you just afraid of being wrong? 

Or am I just afraid of being wrong?
Or are we just afraid of being without the other? 

Really, I’m the we that’s afraid, 

Because the other is you.
And in our reality, 

I’m just facing the elephant in the funhouse mirror, 

And realising that I’m not sure what to do without you. 

Beowulf, the Real Antagonist

In the book, Beowulf, Grendel and his mother are the main antagonists. From Beowulf’s point of view, Grendel basically marches into his hall, massacring many of his men, until Beowulf can pin down Grendel and rip off his arm; Grendel then runs away and dies. Later on, Grendel’s mother wants revenge on Beowulf, so she sneaks into Beowulf’s hall, retrieves Grendel’s arm, and abducts one of Beowulf’s men. So Beowulf goes to her lair, defeats her, and lives happily ever after until the dragon kills him, but that does not affect this essay. 

From Grendel’s point of view, it is revealed that Grendel only starts attacking Beowulf’s hall because of the loud clamor and noise that disturbs him every night. After trying and failing to reason with Beowulf’s men, he decides to take action. But when he moves to attack, he’s ganged up on by a group of warriors. The text reads: 

“But Higelac’s hardy henchman and kinsman

Held him by the hand; hateful to other

Was each one if living. A body-wound suffered

The direful demon, damage incurable

Was seen on his shoulder, his sinews were shivered,

His body did burst.” (Beowulf, XIII, lines 21-26).

Here, we learn that Grendel was unfairly outnumbered by all of the men. It also shows that this wound was “incurable”, meaning that Grendel wouldn’t have been able to use his arm again. At that point of the battle, there was no reason to kill him. In the book, the henchmen and kinsmen have successfully restrained Grendel, so capturing him should have been enough. 

After that, Grendel slinks off miserably to die. And, it is reasonable that Grendel’s mom wants to retaliate. Retrieving her only son’s missing arm is justified, and attacking one of Beowulf’s men is also fair — one for one.    

She would’ve left Beowulf alone and lived without causing any more trouble, but of course Beowulf decides to hunt her down. She is caught by surprise, and after a short battle, in which Beowulf steals a sword, is killed.

So Grendel’s mom dies at the hands of Beowulf while trying to avenge her only son, who was also unfairly teamed up against, and is killed by Beowulf. Beowulf finds that Grendel’s mother took his body. We see later in the book that Beowulf knows Grendel is tired of conflict, his joys seizing from him. 

“When he saw on his rest-place weary of conflict

Grendel lying, of life-joys bereavèd,

As the battle at Heorot erstwhile had scathed him;

His body far bounded, a blow when he suffered,

Death having seized him, sword-smiting heavy,

And he cut off his head then.” (Beowulf, XXIV, lines 30-33)

And yet Beowulf still cuts off Grendel’s head and takes the sword that he killed Grendel’s mother with for no other purpose than to use them as trophies, without any guilt of the deaths that he was responsible for. Beowulf’s subsequent death by dragon? Instant karma. 

Works Cited

The Musical Connection

Music is a force that connects us all and that is an essential part of our communication with other people and with our inner selves. People have made music for thousands of years, every culture making its own special kind. Even after the original foundation of music, it still grows and changes, along with humanity, bringing to life different styles and feelings. In just about every person, you will find that music has made connections and bonds, even if you don’t realize it at first. Music is an extraordinary thing that feeds our minds and memories and is a crucial part of both the personal and public worlds.

Music works as a stimulant for memory. You know that one jingle that you can never get out of your ear? That was done on purpose, just to make you remember that company or brand. Memories are stirred with music. Even if a song is playing faintly in the background of an event, hearing that same song later will cause you to remember that event. Certain songs make us nostalgic for the past, reminding us of days long gone, just as a photograph does. Songs are tied to places, people, and things with an invisible bond that can never be erased. A certain song that used to play on the radio might make you remember sitting with old friends listening to the songs one by one, dreading the imminent repetition of the playlist, or some other memory, both notable and forgettable. Songs make us remember certain feelings, especially the feelings we experienced in the event we associate with the song. For example, whenever something is taking a really long time or you are waiting for something or someone, the iconic Jeopardy theme song just comes into your head, just as it plays when the audience is waiting for the contestants to answer the final question. Songs associated with memories also can connect us to people with those same memories. Perhaps there was a song you always played with your family or a song from a television show you watched with your family. You would associate the people with the song and the song with the people, singing along together as a unit. Music and sound is an important part of our memories.

Our own emotions are connected to music. As well as being connected to memories, music connects with our deepest psyche, giving a feeling that is hard to describe. Some of us have an absolute favorite artist, or multiple favorite artists, and others have favorite songs scattered among the millions of artists that exist. Each person has their own taste in music, which is different from, even if similar to, everyone else’s taste, and with the myriad genres and artists to choose from, or even just to stumble upon, it’s only a matter of time until you find something you like. When you do find that special song or special artist, it is hard to stop listening to them, and your life becomes infatuated with music. Even as a singer and musician, I didn’t really have a favorite song or artist until a year or so ago, and when I did, it was like a whole new world had moved in next door and invited me in. 

I have found lots of songs that I really enjoy listening to, some of which really strike a chord that seems to be of the very essence that I am made of. Two of the songs are written by the same artist, Amber Liu, and they are “Love Run” from her first mini-album as a solo artist in SM Entertainment, an agency in South Korea, and “Need to Feel Needed,” a single. She has other songs that I really like, and her voice just really resonates with me, as well as the visuals in her music videos. I also found a group that I really love now, called 볼빨간 사춘기 (Bolbbalgan Sachungi), usually shortened to just Bol4. Bol4 is a South Korean band that makes Indie K-Pop and folk rock music. The group originally debuted with two members in 2016, Anh Jiyoung and Woo Jiyoon, but Jiyoon left the duo in the spring of 2020 due to concerns about her career, leaving Jiyoung as a soloist still under the name Bol4. I think that their songs are so cute and soft, and I feel as though I am surrounded by soft plush and all things nice when Jiyoung’s honey-voice melts all around me and Jiyoon’s soft guitar fills the space. They have a lot of songs that I really enjoy listening to, some of which being: “Galaxy” (Red Planet), “To My Youth” (Red Diary Page. 1), “Tell Me You Love Me” (Red Planet), and “Stars Over Me” (Puberty Book I), as well as a lot of others that I haven’t mentioned. Some miscellaneous songs that I really love and wanted to mention are: “Don’t Wanna Cry” by Seventeen, “Make It Right” by BTS, “Psycho” by Red Velvet, “Oxygen” by Twice, and “Hip” by Mamamoo, all with different vibes but nonetheless with a reserved spot in my heart. There are, of course, hundreds (and I mean hundreds) of other songs that I adore that sadly can’t be mentioned right now because it would take up pages, but there are many more songs that you can find just on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, and other streaming platforms to find what you like and how many songs you will find yourself falling in love with. These streaming services have really helped me find music to listen to, and they will suggest songs to you based on what you like and listen to. The internet has opened a world of music that just about anyone can have access to, giving people the opportunity to find and listen to music they love.

A big part of finding music you like and being comfortable with your music is the community you share it with. Whether it is just a few friends or your whole family or even just the people in the comments section of the YouTube video you’re watching, the community that comes with music is crucial. Feeling that sense of belonging and acceptance is part of listening to music, even if no one you actually know listens to the kind of music you do, and this is such a large part of how you feel about music and how you feel when you listen to music. The feeling of home your favorite song or artist gives you is unmistakably comforting, and it is a feeling we want in our lives all the time, which is why we listen to music. And the same can go for being with people you like when you listen to music. You can be listening to songs you really hate and still be having lots of fun if you are with people you like. Listening to music with friends, even if you don’t like the music, is something that is enjoyable. Music is something that can unite the world and bring those listening onto the same wavelength, even for just a moment.

Music is an invisible, but not inaudible, part of life that shapes our memories, emotions, and relationships with others. Finding your own preference of music can be difficult at times, but the options are endless and somehow in the midst of everything else in the media and on your phone, you can find something you like. You don’t need to go hunting for music or an artist in search of music to listen to. Be open-minded and ready to try listening to music you may not be familiar with as it might be something you really vibe with. Get suggestions from your friends, what is popular, or what is on your Recommended. Look up random artists you see online or expose yourself to many different artists and genres. Finding music you really love can take time, and there is no need to rush. Preferences can change, so playlists can change too. My friends are the ones who introduced me to much of the music I like, and some of my friends became my friends because I liked the same music as them. The music world is ever-changing, so go explore what is out there. It may just change your life.

The Terror

One day, a terror was arising in the city of Flow. The city was being attacked by bandits. The bandits took control of the food and the water supply and tripled the cost so people had to pay more for water and food than usual. 

Le said as he sat on his couch practicing his speech to the world in sign language, “Hi, my name is Le. I have been living in the city all my life. The city is my home. I am very disappointed whenever the city is in trouble like now. It is a troubling time, and they need a hero, and they have one — everyone, give it up for Super Le! 

“Okay, that’s not going to work, I need to be the best hero.

“Oh, by the way, I can see through walls and I have one of the best superpowers ever in my opinion — I have telekinesis, the power of fire and the best appearances on camera. I need to be the next superman — oh, I got it! I know my superhero name is Le Pow. So far, I have a butler and my dad’s rich because of me. I saved the mayor and everyone important in the city from dying from a bomb. I’ve known my job is to try and save the city from this terror. I’m going to try to fulfill my dream and be a hero to my city.” 

He walked outside. Le was a joke person and he liked to joke around and sometimes at the wrong time. While Le was outside, he saw his guy, Sammy. He called Sammy and came over and Sammy said, “I can’t talk now, my mom is expecting me home.”

“What, you’re never home early! When did that change? I feel like you’re lying.”

“I would never lie.”

“Let me see the text that says so.” 




 Le had enough. He raised the phone up with his telekinesis and saw a message that said, “Meet you at Bob’s at 10:00 for the party.”

 “You’re going to a party! So you lied! Now I’ve had enough! Let’s fight!”

 Sam said, “Okay, let’s go.”

 Le said, “Just kidding. I wanna come.”

But by that time Sam was mad and he was running full speed at Le. Le went flying. See what I mean? Le is a jokester at the wrong time. He walked away bruised up, went upstairs, got cleaned up, and looked for crime to fight. 

Suddenly, he bumped into his brother — a bandit! He said, “Why did you turn on us? Why?” 

His brother just walked away, saying it was for the best no one liked Le. Le changed then his assistant drove him around the city when he saw bandits robbing a store and he got out and lifted them all up then threw them against the wall. He got the bags of jewelry and he hand-signed his assistant to say the thing and he said, “Looks like you had trouble shopping. Good thing I was here to help you.”

They went home but they got stopped by a press conference and his assistant said, “We’re only taking 5 questions.”

“What were you thinking going up against 5 bandits?” 

“We thought we were doing the city a favor and doing that is one step in the right direction.”

“When are you going to fix the city of the bandits?”

“We will do the best with maintaining the little stores, next we are going to try and take the water supplies back.”

So then he said that the bandits had control over the radios and that Le would not be doing that because he was a threat to the new community.

“I will have to take force.”

Two choppers pulled up and started shooting and almost hit Le when he used his telekinesis to bring the chopper down and he set it on fire. They hopped out. He lifted them up and went full rage mode and tried to speak but he could not. He then realized why he couldn’t speak —  he was afraid of things he might say wrong. He tried speaking again but it did not work so he too threw the bandits out of town but there were still hundreds of bandits to fight.

He went home and saw on the news it said, “We may have a cure for these sickening bandits then: TINY. Tiny is a small person, about 5”5, and has the power to make explosions with his mind. He is a heartless person that only likes to conquer cities. He is white and his henchmen carry him. He has about five cities under his control and is bald. Tiny took over the city.”

Tiny came on and said, “Le, if you’re out there, you don’t have a voice so just back down. You can’t speak so just save yourself from a lot of hospital bills and suffering and surrender this city by this time.”
He could hear everyone in the city going crazy, seeing if their savior was going to back down. He said, “No,” and his assistant said,

“Hello, is someone there? Le, get here now, we need to leave here.

Le said, “You leave, I’ll stay here and blow them up. I’m getting angry.”

His assistant said, “Did you just speak or did I imagine that or was that actually you, sir?”

“It’s me.”

“Le, you can speak now, but how?”

“Just get out of here. Meet you at the warehouse, send me the addi.”

The bandits came bursting through the doors as Tiny came with two henchmen and he made everything explode near him and Le was trapped. Le said, “Flamio, hot men!” then jumped out the window and used his fire to push him up and tear the place apart and kill 30 of Tiny’s henchmen. 

Tiny jumped off the window and rolled onto an airship and yelled, “I’ll get you one day.” 

Le was on his way home when he started to get dizzy and his head was hurting then he realized he had metal from the explosion in his body that was slowing him down. I think the whole purpose of the attack was to poison me but how did they poison me with metal? Yes, I guess every superhero has weaknesses so this is my weakness. With that, he passed out. A few hours later, he woke up to Bob, his assistant, bending down to see if he was still alive. 

Bob then gave Le water and Le took a bath and went to his map of the city. It was showing a bunch of criminal activity near the bay. He dressed up and his assistant drove him over and he got out and he made a big firebomb and blew up the bay and the bandits were not there, it was just a big explosive that went booooooom and obliterated the whole bay. He was kinda sad but he remembered that he blew up the bandits’ supply — their weapons and their food money. 

Le went home and saw there were more evil warehouses but these had people. He got excited because this was his first good jump, and if he got lucky, he could take down Tiny and he could take back the city so he would be the famous hero that took down Tiny the conqueror of cities. 

He jumped into his suit and told his butler aka assistant to drive him to Hartfield Park and bring the bombs. When they got there, they saw that there was no base there but they heard yelling and machines. He thought maybe they could be underground. I don’t see them here or above me, the only other choice is underground. So he tore the field open with his telekinesis and found an elevator and he hopped on top of the elevator so he would not be seen and let it go down and saw this was their headquarters. Tiny had to be here so Le mad a fireball and blew up the base, making it impossible to escape, and searched for Tiny. When he found Tiny, he was climbing up the elevator cord escaping and the elevator cord was about to snap.

Le yelled, “Tiny, come down, you’re going to fall and hurt yourself!”

But Tiny did not listen. Then the cord snapped and he fell 50 feet. He was about to hit the ground when Le had a moment and he caught Tiny, and in a swift moment, put him in a headlock and made him promise to never do any form of evil as long as he lived. Le put him in handcuffs then Le said, “Tell your men to stand down. You’ve lost.”

A few months later, Le had the whole city number so with one call, they got saved. Le was on a vacation with his new family, his wife, his kids, and they had a great time at Disney and a hotel off the beach. At Disney, they were going on rides and met the infamous Mickey Mouse. 



Chapter 7

School goes on like this for another month. A pair of monstrous Mr. Sulskys, a jolly-like Mr. Smith, and overboard excitement from Mrs. Watkins. The school days drag on, and I find myself behaving like a white person. Jeremy and Matthew are always with me on the bus ride to school and during lunch. So far, they are still my only friends. And I have learned the school better. Apparently, the boys on my basketball team from gym class are known as the bullies in the grade. Of course, they aren’t very bright. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were failing every subject in school. My mind is always wandering during class, thinking about what I’ve been through. I’m technically a normal kid, albeit a kid who is undercover in a white school under the penalty of severe prison time or even death. 

The Mr. Sulskys are very obnoxious. First of all, though they teach different subjects, they act like the same person. Boring, gray, and unenthusiastic. I’ve managed to withstand a solid B in English, yet a healthy A in history. (But then again, an A in history is probably the equivalent of a B in English.) Many of my fellow students have been unlucky. Jeremy makes no secret of his distaste for school, barely managing C’s in every subject. (Except gym, of course, where he has an amazing A+, due to his baseball skills.) I’m sitting at my wooden desk in English class, daydreaming, while Mr. Sulsky is giving a lecture about “the great and influential poets of the twentieth century” when he says something that catches my ears. 

“There will be a poetry contest for this month,” he is saying, and I hear the tiniest sliver of excitement in his voice. “It will last for two weeks, starting from today to October 17th,” he continues.

I look at the other kids. They seem to be extremely bored, while I seem to be the only one excited. 

“The poem may be about anything, except for violence, vulgar language, and inappropriate content.”

This provokes some vulgar language and inappropriate content.

“That is all. Now have a good day,” Mr. Sulsky says, and a second later, the bell rings. The students scatter out of the classroom, while I’m the only kid in the class who pauses to look at the competition details. As I head to History class, I wonder what I should write about for my poem.

I spend the next two weeks writing my poem. I try to think of something happy, as I’m a person who has infiltrated a school, posing as a person who I’m now and surrounded by people who would happily arrest me or worse if they found out who I really was.

In the end, I write the standard happy poem about spring.

I write about all the happy stuff (which wouldn’t be that interesting for my fellow students, but very interesting for the teachers). 

The day before the poem is due is October 16, the Friday before the weekend. In first period English, I hand in my paper to the basket marked “Poems” (which is empty besides my poem). A few students also hand in poems, but they’re all grumbling that their mothers forced them to. 

At the end of the day, when I return to Mr. Sulsky’s class, the basket is barely full, not even a quarter full. As I walk out of the classroom, I hope for good luck and that I win.

On Monday when we return to school, I decide to go to school a few minutes early to see if I won the competition. I enter English class to see a bored-looking Mr. Sulsky glancing at the poems and sipping coffee from a mug that says, “World’s best English teacher.” 

“Ah, Noah,” he says, looking up from his desk even though he couldn’t possibly see me since his back is turned to me. “I wanted to have a little chat with you. It concerns the poem that you wrote for the poem competition.”

“And?” I ask nervously.

“You won,” Mr. Sulsky finishes, with the tone of someone who just had a good breakfast. “Nicely done.” He turns to face me. There’s a trace of a smile on his face.

“I very much enjoyed your poem,” he continues. “In fact, it’s probably one of the best poems one of my students has ever written.”

“Thank you, sir,” I say happily.

“I think I should call your parents and let them know what a nice poem you’ve written.” The smile on his face grows bigger, and it’s the first trace of emotion I’ve seen from him in the last month. 

“Thank you, sir,” I repeat, though I don’t mean it. If Mr. Sulsky looks into the address book, he won’t find my address, as we aren’t in the white community. I force myself to paste on a happy smile, which more looks like a crooked line. Mr. Sulsky seems to not sense it.

“Ok, then,” he says. He lugs out a thick, white, ancient book from out of his desk. It’s coated with dust. Hasn’t been used in a while. He plops it on his desk, which results in a loud slam! He flips through a few pages until he reaches the BE section. Then the BEC. Finally, he narrows it down to the BECKET section. There are only two names. James and Martha Becket, a couple.

He takes out his phone and dials the number besides the names, then calls. I hear the ringing of the phone as he calls. Then I hear the obnoxious beep! as the call is received.

“Hello?” The person on the other end asks.

“Hello, sir.” Mr. Sulsky says. “Are you the Beckets?”

“Yes, we are,” the man replies. “May I ask who you are?”

“I am Fred Sulsky, the teacher at Winters Academy.”

“All right,” the man says. “May I also ask why you are calling?”

“Yes,” Mr. Sulsky states. “It concerns your son, Noah. He’s recently done quite an astounding — ” 

“What?” the man asks, confused. “We don’t have a son named Noah, and he doesn’t go to this school. Have you got the wrong number?”

“I don’t think so,” Mr. Sulsky says, looking a bit suspicious of me now. “Is this 662-693-0492? Becket residence?”

“Yes, it is,” Mr. Becket says. “But we don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“All right, then. I’m terribly sorry for interrupting your day. Please do forgive me.”

“Apology accepted,” Mr. Becket says. “Just be careful about who you call.”

I hear the faint click as the call ends.

Mr. Sulsky looks at me, trying to figure out what’s going on. He thinks for a few moments, and then the spark of realization hits him, dead-on. Even though I’m not a mind-reader, I know what he’s thinking.  He eyes my skin suspiciously, trying to make sense of it. His confused expression goes to a face full of understanding. And then he begins speaking.

Mr. Sulsky looks up from the address book, stunned. His eyes are as big as dinner plates. Then the stunned look on his face quickly turns into a crocodile grin. “Well, well, well,” he snarls devilishly, looking at me the way a lion looks at a baby antelope. Then he cocks back his head like a werewolf and yells, “Hey! This kid’s a — “

Only he doesn’t get to finish the sentence, because I stomp on Mr. Sulsky’s foot and bolt out of the room. 

As I emerge from the hallway, I see puzzled students and teachers approaching me. Though that quickly turns to excitement from the students and panic from the teachers as Mr. Sulsky shouts some words that kids shouldn’t hear. The students hurry to Mr. Sulsky’s room, wanting to see what caused such language. I take advantage of the opportunity and dash towards the stairs, where more students are coming. 

Mr. Sulsky seems to have recovered from the pain of my toe stomp, and he rushes out of the classroom, determined to pound me to pieces. He steps into the hallway, only to be flattened by a mob of students. He screams as a kid steps onto his toes again and then howls as a kid flattens him like a bulldozer on a human pancake. Mr. Sulsky screams again, but I don’t know if it’s out of rage or pain or fear of being run over again. Luck finally seems to be on my side, and I’m just about to emerge when the worst thing imaginable happens. The other Mr. Sulsky is there, hustling through the door with a mug of coffee, which says, “Best Science teacher ever.” He looks up, startled to see me, then his eyes go wide with fear as I bowl over him, scrambling to get to the front door. He screams as the hot black liquid splatters onto him like a caffeine shower. Mr. Sulsky bolts to the bathroom for paper towels (in his haste, he accidentally enters the wrong one, which results in a shriek by the girl inside the bathroom). 

Meanwhile, I’m out of the front door, and the fresh, cold, air hits me like a car. Some school buses are still departing the last students, while some are empty because the drivers needed to take a bathroom break. Without knowing what I’m thinking (or even thinking at all), I leap into an empty bus, commandeer it, step on the gas pedal, 

and drive out of school.

Up until then, I’ve never driven a bus before. Not even a car or any type of vehicle. (Unless you count the rusty, old tractor my grandfather used to own and I drove it for fun on his farm, but even then he didn’t let me drive for fear of headplanting into the barn.) But I figured I could make an exception this time.

I try to head toward home because it’s practically the only area in the city where I’ll be safe. Fortunately, the bus route is pretty simple. I just have to follow the road I’m on and stop left and right occasionally. In the distance, I can hear police sirens roaring at me. I look back to see that they are only a block away from me. I return my attention to the bus, only to find that while I was distracted, I must’ve hit a switch that turned off the steering wheel! Fear suddenly grips me like a terrible nightmare. I can now feel the police cars bumping into the bus. One exceptionally aggressive police officer tries to slam me into pieces. Startled by the hit, I accidentally bump another switch that breaks the steering wheel! Now, I can only go straight. Up ahead, I can see the dot of my house. I’m relieved to see home, but it instantly changes to terror as I realize the river that leads to a waterfall is right ahead as well. The policemen also share my thoughts. I can practically hear the cars screech in terror as they slam onto the brakes. At least they’re safe, but I’m not.

The river grows bigger and bigger as I get closer to my doom. My mind rallies through everything I know about escaping a car that’s about to plunge into a waterfall. Not surprisingly, I barely know anything about the subject. Most spies would’ve had this sort of situation everyday, suavely jumping out and landing into the water. But I wasn’t a spy. My entire espionage experience was watching James Bond movies at Matthew’s house and reenacting scenes on the playground during recess. (At which Jeremy commented that I looked like a frog skydiving.) So when the bus hits the water, I leap out of it like a skydiver. The bus plunges into the water and a gust of water explodes out of the wide river, like a death charge. I doggy paddle toward the shore, also known as my backyard, also known as a patch of weed-infested grass with cheap furniture scattered around like a tornado had organized it. 

With a grunt, I grab onto the yard, leap over the fence (so flimsy a cat could’ve knocked it over), and rush to the back door where my parents are looking at the chaos, aghast. The police cars screech to a halt, inches away from the raging river, where the remnants of the bus are flaming like it’s trying to set the river on fire.

Dead meat.

On the Multi Regional Theory of Human Evolution

Nowadays, researching is a walk in the park compared to what it used to be like. Instead of having to go all the way to a library to find books with limited information on a subject, the seemingly endless expanse of information on the internet is at our fingertips. However, researching online still can be difficult, especially if you don’t really know what you are doing. A ton of things can go wrong, from using an unreliable source to not being able to access files, to just not asking the right questions. Personally, I think I am decent at finding information online — I generally check the sources I am using and I can make my questions specific enough to get fruitful results — but sometimes, I can get downright stumped on a topic; for example, when I tried to understand the Multiregional Theory of Human Evolution (MRE).

I tried to research MRE to write an essay about it (and, of course, because I was curious to know what it was). I could have chosen literally anything in the world and I decided to choose something that I knew absolutely nothing about. This obviously made the topic all the more irresistible to me, though. I had originally thought about writing the essay on ancient China, as ancient civilizations are just so fascinating. During my research into this topic, I stumbled upon the mention of a small ancient primate found relatively recently in China that gave some evidence for a theory of regional evolution (which could very well be different from MRE), and somehow found that the most interesting factoid in the article (again, probably because I knew nothing about it), after which I decided I would write about this rather than ancient China. I am sure that, even though there would be more articles with more information than MRE, a paper on ancient China would have been very involved and confusing too. The idea of a different theory on the evolution and migration of modern humans was intriguing to me. Of course, I understood that there were multiple theories on the topic (as there are on every topic) but I hadn’t ever explored an alternative to the Out of Africa Theory of Human Evolution (OOA). The OOA was taught at least every year of the three years of middle school, if not more, at the very beginning of the social studies curriculum, and is the generally accepted theory. I find it’s important to keep an open mind to new theories and ideas, as our understanding of the natural world can drastically change at any time. It also allows us to expand our thinking, keeping us away from the mental box that contracts thought saying, “This is the only way.” Keeping an open mind could lead to new, more accurate hypotheses, furthering scientific knowledge in general. Keeping an open mind in everyday life is also important. One must be able to try to understand and accept different viewpoints and opinions, even if they don’t match up with one’s own ideas of the world. Learning about MRE would increase my boundaries of understanding human evolution, and science in general.

Based on my understanding, MRE is an alternative theory to the evolution and migration of modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) to the more widely accepted OOA. It originally stated that humans (including archaic, meaning old, hominids and modern humans) did have some common ancestor, but evolution into modern humans existed when they were separated in various regions of the world. In other words, different groups of hominids evolved into modern humans simultaneously. In this theory, Africa had no specific role in human evolution. This theory was revised several times, eventually, agreeing with the Out of Africa Theory that Africa indeed did have an important role in human evolution and that Homo erectus (an earlier version of H. sapiens) evolved in Africa, migrated to various areas of the Earth, and then the various groups evolved into modern humans simultaneously. While OOA has the most support and evidence of these kinds of theories, MRE has an increasing amount of fossil and genomic data as supporting evidence.

Finding this much information was not exceedingly difficult, but diving deeper into the topic proved much harder. The only source that gave extensive information about MRE that I could actually understand was Wikipedia, and that isn’t really a great source. Anyone can post on Wikipedia, and, while it is good for getting the general idea of a topic, it’s not an appropriate source to cite for an essay or project. However, Wikipedia does give a useful place for sources, but those that I found from the multiregional theory page were hard for me to use. Some were books that one had to purchase and look through, some were PDFs with extremely small writing, and some were just too complicated for me to understand. Other sources were limited and were also hard to understand. In addition, I was often unsure if I was reading outdated or untrue information. MRE had been revised several times in the past, and I wasn’t quite sure how the theory had gradually evolved (even though I did know the general starting and ending ideas). I had also read in an article of complaints that science reporters had misinterpreted MRE when it had originally come out, so that furthered my skepticism of the articles I was reading. Because my grasp of the concept was so limited, I couldn’t know if I could trust what I was reading in the articles.

I should have known that attacking this difficult concept would be challenging, possibly too challenging because of the way I attempted to understand it. The easiest way, and possibly the only way, to learn something new and complex is to utilize the ever-useful method of reductionism. Reductionism is basically taking apart a complex idea or machine, learning how the smaller parts work, and then putting the smaller parts together to understand the larger concept/machine. Instead of using this method to understand MRE, I tried to figure it out all at once, which spelled disaster from the very beginning. First, I should have elaborated on what I already was relatively familiar with: OOA. As previously mentioned, this theory is the more accepted theory explaining human evolution and migration and is taught in schools. I would have to understand evolutionary genetics enough to understand the “Mitochondrial Eve,” a common female ancestor of almost all of humanity. She is hypothesized by scientists to understand the similarity of human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). I would have to understand morphological and osteological differences among hominids, primarily between modern humans and other hominids. I would have to understand different archaic and modern hominids (not in very much detail, just what they generally looked like, where they lived, and how they interacted with humans). Of course, to understand all of this I would have to go through more reductionism for each topic, which would take a lot of time and effort. To get a better understanding of what each theory actually is or isn’t, I would have to get at least a basic understanding of multiple theories, including MRE, OOA, the hybridization model, and the assimilation model. To the average onlooker, these models may seem more or less 99% the same, and, to be honest, some of them are very similar. However, even knowing all of these things would not give me all the information there is to know about MRE and other theories on the same topic.

I was unable to understand MRE to the extent that I wanted to, but I don’t regret trying. Staying curious allows one to be open to new ideas, which is beneficial to both the scientific world and the world in general. Gaining knowledge opens us up to more areas of the world and allows us to make connections among things. Being able to properly research something is an important skill that everyone should be able to use, especially in this day and age. In addition to the multitudes of factual information found on the internet, there is probably an equal amount of incorrect information. Knowing when to be skeptical of and when to trust a source prevents one from believing untrue things. From attempting to research MRE, I learned the hard way that you can’t just understand a topic, particularly a hard one, if you don’t know its basics and that you should be prepared to put a lot of time and effort into learning about it.

After PBJ

Hi. So this is what happened AFTER I finished making my PB&J sandwich. Okay, I bet you have NO idea what I’m talking about, so let me tell you EVERYTHING. Okay, so anyway, I love PB&J sandwiches. And last year, I wanted to make one. And it was super hard because someone stole my peanut butter, and I lost my jelly and bread, AND I didn’t have a knife! So I had to go get a computer and find the person who stole my peanut butter, eat a bug so the cops would get out of my way, go to a murder scene to get a knife, and get locked in a trash can to find the jelly. 

ANYWAY, I found the person who stole it and I took it from them. And they got REALLY mad, like actually REALLY mad. They came to my house and they started yelling at me, but THEY were the one who stole it FIRST! So I don’t know what their problem was. Anyway, I just shooed them off my lawn and went back to sleep. But, when I woke up, I SAW HIM STANDING RIGHT ABOVE ME, AND HE WAS SMILING LIKE A CREEPY CLOWN. I’m now wondering how long he stood there, smiling at me sleeping. Anyway. 

Right next to me was my leftover sandwich, so I took one last delicious bite, and then THREW the sandwich at him. Then he was like, “Blah blah blah, you got peanut butter on my shirt!” And he stormed out.

Then, a few hours later, he was back, and this time he had a shovel, and he started digging my lawn. Like, who does that?! Who digs out someone’s lawn!? And so I went up to him and I said, “Sir, this is my property, get out now.” And then he said, 

“Well, that’s my peanut butter, so give it back now!” And I just shooed him off again. 

And THEN he came back because the door was accidentally unlocked since I was binge-watching anime and didn’t have time to think about the door. And when he came back, he quickly put a sack on my head. And maybe he’s a pro or something, because in like two seconds, he trapped me in the sack! So that’s where I am right now, in a sack. So I heard some rustling going on around me, and I’m pretty sure he was looking through my stuff to find the peanut butter. And then I chuckled, I would NEVER leave my peanut butter out in the open after what happened last year. The peanut butter was actually in my pocket.  




It was 8:00 pm. The sun had already set, and cool shadows masked what was happening below. They stood there, in the shadows of the bridge, watching something happen below. 

 A small rowboat, with one young man standing in the center, slowly drifted to the middle of the big waterway. The man’s shoulders were shaking slightly. He was sobbing, fighting back tears. As if he were afraid of something, someone. 

He continued to row down towards the city. His feet were chained down to the bottom of the boat, the metal glimmering in the faint moonlight. In the back was a large metal irregularly shaped sphere, and it brought down the back of the boat by a great amount. He reached the city. The figures watched from the distance as he slowly picked up the heavy-looking object and held it to his chest. Looking back once more at the two on the bridge, he outstretched his arms, tears streaming down his face, though a calm look present, as if he had accepted his fate. The sphere blew up into fire and smoke and pieces of metal flew everywhere. The sound of the explosion seemed to go off after it blew up, but it screamed in their ears, even from the distance. The railing vibrated uncontrollably. A large chunk of metal flew from somewhere in the dark smoke and clanged against one of the stilts of the bridge. The explosion from the bomb in his hands had covered most of the city, and London blew up and perished in black smoke and fire and heat. The taller of the two on the bridge grinned. He turned around and leaned on the rail. He took out a knife and started carving a stick. 

“And that’s how you do it, brother.” The shorter brother stood stiffly, staring into the black smoke. There were faint screams and sirens. The sky turned into an orange-red color with dark clouds rising into it which blended nicely with the color of the destruction happening below. The taller paused his carving and put a hand on his brother’s shoulder. He shrugged it off and left him. He seemed uncomfortable. The taller brother sighed, shook his head, and continued to carve his stick. When he finished, he dropped it in the water and left the bridge too, going after his brother.

In the water sank the articulately carved stick. It wasn’t actually a stick, it was two sticks that had been bonded together. It had four sharp ends and cuts that made it look like some sort of symbol. It was shaped like a plus sign, but wasn’t exactly a cross. There were sharp lines and edges, but through it all, you could see the two distinct letters. R//V. It fell to the bottom of the waterway, and folded into the darkness.

The Watchers in the Shadows

Chapter Three of The Watchers in the Shadows

Will slammed the locker door. My head felt like hot iron rods were searing into my brain. 

“Will,” I groaned. “Do you have to be so loud?” 

He grinned and he ran his fingers through his hair. “It’s not my fault that you’re hungover. You know we aren’t supposed to drink when we are on a mission.” 

I massaged my temples. “It’s been five months. That’s like five years of intense agony for even a high functioning alcoholic like me.” My stomach lurched as I reached for my hairbrush. I ran toward the trash can and started puking my insides out. My throat was covered in what felt like liquid fire. 

“Good, get all that poison out of your body before our shift starts,” Will called out from the lockers. “Nova, you know this is a good lesson for you. It’s better just to not drink at all than feel horrible in the morning.” 

I wiped my mouth and rolled my eyes. “Well, not everyone is a goody two-shoes like you. Just because you are allergic to fun doesn’t mean everyone else is.” 

Will grasped his heart, pretending to be hurt. “I have fun. Like work is fun, the kids are fun… I have fun!” 

I snorted. “That doesn’t count. Plus, you really think this is fun? We have been on standby for months now. Everyone else gets fun assignments, and we are stuck babysitting a cold case.” 

I buttoned my uniform and reached into my locker for my gun. 

“Maybe, if you followed the rules more, then we would get a cooler assignment,” Will replied, tying his boots. 

I raised an eyebrow. “Following the rules is boring. Plus, you do it all the time and you still got this crummy assignment.” 

Will sighed. “Yeah, I guess that’s true, but they wouldn’t have given us this mission if it wasn’t important.” 

I checked my watch, 12:31 A.M. “Hurry up. Our shift started a minute ago.” Will stood next to the door. 

“I’m waiting for you, not the other way around.” Will grinned as I playfully punched him. 

“Come on, loser. Let’s get to work”. 

We walked out of the locker room and made a beeline for the entry corridor. The sounds of our footsteps echo off the smooth white walls. Before we even turn the corner, I could smell the distinct scent of her watermelon bubble gum. Great, it’s Kair and Reynolds. 

Will shot me a quick grin. I frowned and mentally prepared myself for our shift. If there was one thing I couldn’t stand, it was those two. 

As we turned the corner, Reynolds grinned, her bubbly pink hair ending in spikes. “Hiya! It’s been too long since we’ve had a shift together. Aren’t you pumped?” 

“Not long enough,” I muttered under my breath. 

Reynolds tilted her head toward me. “Didn’t catch that but I’m sure you’re as excited as I am!” 

I winced. Her high pitched voice was hell on my hangover. Kair stood in the corner, one fist clenched and the other right above his holster. 

“Will you shut up for once in your life, Reynolds?” Kair snapped. His permanent frown deepened.  

Reynolds let out a high pitched giggle. “Sorry about him,” she pointed at Kair. “Someone didn’t get their morning coffee.” 

False. They were always like this. Reynolds’s high energy levels matched with her bubbly personality was a bad match with Kair’s anger issues and introverted personality. How these two ever became partners was a miracle to me.

Kair slammed the wall. “I told you to SHUT UP!” 

Reynolds looked concerned. “Are you okay, Kair? It looks like you need a hug.” She reached her arms around him, and then he smacked them away. 

Will laughed. How he could find this entertaining was beside me. It was just plain annoying.  

“AHem.” I turned around to see The Lady standing there. Her face stretched out thin, like paper. She tapped her clipboard with her pencil. “Kair, Corrin; and Reynolds, Nemphis, your break is over, prepare for your second shift.” She turned her gaze toward me and Will. “Thorn, Nova; and Porter, Will, your first shift starts now.” She then proceeded to stiffly walk down the same hallway, her high heels tapping softly. 

Reynolds rested her arm around my shoulders. “Yay! Time to work!” Her voice was tinged with that signature excitement of hers. Her bubble gum scent was even stronger now. The artificial, sweet watermelon was starting to give me a headache. 

 I peeled her arm off of me. “Alright, let’s not do that again.” 

She grinned. “‘Kay!” She skipped off into the front. 

We walked off to the staff door in a group. Our footsteps and Reynolds’s constant streams of excitement echoed through the normally eerie quiet. My headache soon died down to a constant, numb pain, and finally, I could think clearly. Time to get to work.

“Uh, hey, Reynolds, did they ever figure out what happened to that redhead girl?” I slipped in casually, keeping the tone nonchalant. 

She stopped for a second to think. “Hmm. I don’t think so. Oh god, I haven’t thought of her in a while. Hope she’s okay! Oh, and you can call me Nemphis! No need to be formal all the time.” She flashed me a quick thumbs up and went ahead, skipping down the hallway. 

Will shot me a nasty glare, and shook his head slightly. I opened my mouth to argue. Will pointed his chin slightly toward Kair. He looked more aware than usual, his eyes though, still pointed toward the ground. 

I clenched my jaw. We would finish this conversation later. 

We reached the staff door, a large hulking slab of grated metal. Reynolds was waiting patiently; well, that was an overstatement. More like she was doing this awkward little jiggle. Better than her usual racket, but still as annoying as ever. I looked over my shoulder at the others. 

“So um, who has the key?” I asked. Reynolds popped her gum loudly. Will twirled the keychain around his finger. “I do, cause unlike someone, I remember my responsibilities,” Will replied. 

I crossed my arms and rolled my eyes. “Oh whatever, just open the door.” 

He walked over and the door opened with a click. We walked through the doorway and entered a long hallway. 

“So, who wants the southside and the northside?” Reynolds asked, her big, doll-like, blue eyes sparkling with excitement. 

Will’s eyes met mine. “Uh, we’ll take the southside, if that’s okay with you guys,” I spoke up. 

Kair shrugged and Reynolds gave me a toothy smile. She clapped her hands with excitement. “Excellent! We’ll meet you after dinner. Have a nice day!” She then proceeded to skip down the hallway. Kair slouched and followed her. 

I massaged my temples. God, those two were insufferable. 

Will chuckled. “Those two are great.” 

My left eye twitched. “Are you kidding me? Those two are the most annoying human beings to ever exist.” 

Will laughed. “They truly are the best.” 

We turned the corner. This was one of the new hallways. 3sw, if I wasn’t mistaken. 

“So how many renovations do you think there’s going to be? I mean, it’s been at least three in the past week,” I asked.

Will turned to face me. “I’m not sure, but I think they’re planning something big.” 

“Why’s that?” Odd of Will to do this type of thinking. He was more one for thinking in the moment. 

Will raised an eyebrow. “There’ve been 16 big renovations in the last month, 32 minor renovations, fewer and fewer kids are being brought in. How could something big not be coming?” 

I shrugged. He wasn’t wrong, of course, but it was just hard to believe that something around here was actually going to happen. 

We turned the next corner. Oh, it’s her. In front of us stood the girl. Her blond locks were as pristine as ever. Those cold, dead, blue eyes seemed to stare into my soul. 

She quickly tucked something into her blazer as she saw us approach. She smiled, not an actual one. It didn’t reach her eyes, the type that only she could pull off. 

“Hello there, can I help you?” Her motions were stiff, as if her joints and bones were made out of metal. Creepy. 

Will cleared his throat with a sudden cough. “No need, we are just passing through. Carry on.” 

 She relaxed her smile, a look of relief washing over before she could contain it. She walked swiftly past us, her shiny blonde curls bouncing behind her. 

I shivered. Something was off about that girl. She may look normal to the glance, but that was just an act. She lacked qualities that made someone human. Her eyes dead-looking, her motions always calculated, never reactive, and, of course, never a hair out of place. A husk of a person. 

Will shook my shoulder. “Hey, come on, let’s get out of here.” 

I snapped back into reality. “Oh… yeah. It’s just that girl… there’s just something off about her,” I stuttered. 

Will snorted. “You know you say this every time you see her. Every single damn time. And I’ll tell you again, the same thing I tell you every time. Stop it. You’re freaking me out.”

I relaxed as a tightness left my chest. I squeezed my palms. “Alright, let’s go. But I’m seriously considering investigating that girl. 

Will muttered under his breath, “Every single damn time.”

I elbowed him. 

He laughed.  

Approximately three minutes later, we reached our destination. I locked the door as we walked into the common room. I leaned against the door as Will cleared the cabinets. 

“Weird. The books aren’t in the same order as I left them.” Will pointed to a stack of books in the corner. 

“One of the kids probably shuffled it up when they were looking for some light reading,” I responded. Will gets like this sometimes. His detective mood, as I like to call it. He gets overly cautious or suspicious over the smallest of details. Never leads to anything, but it is entertaining at the very least. 

“That’s what I thought too, but none of the books are missing.” Will scratched his cheek, deep in thought. 

I shrugged. “So? Maybe they just didn’t find anything good to read.” 

“Hmm. I guess so,” Will mumbled. He didn’t look convinced. I tugged his sleeve to get him back on track. 

“Hurry up before someone wonders what we’re doing here.” He nodded quickly, and started to carefully remove the rest of the clutter. 

There it was, glued to the cabinet panel. The shining yellow button, right out of grandma’s sewing kit. Will pressed down on it, and with a click, the trapdoor opened. 

Below the keypad, the screen displayed today’s motto: Only the strongest prevail. 

I winced. Why this one?

Will clenched his jaw. His face stiffened and cast hard shadows. He quickly typed in the answer: Auckerman.  

Should I talk to him about it? No, we had more important things to worry about right now. 

Will crawled through and leaped down into the tunnel below. I followed after him. We walked in silence, our footsteps echoing through the dark tunnel. I twiddled my fingers nervously. Will looked okay, for the most part. He wasn’t talking or anything, but he wasn’t having a meltdown either. 

We turned the corner and I reached for the metal wall. 

Will grabbed my wrist. “Wait, someone’s been here.” He pointed at a scrap of paper on the floor. Will reached for the slip of paper, and read its contents. 

“Meet me in the attic, 12:00 P.M. Don’t be late.” He crumbled it up and slipped it into his pocket. 

Wait, what? Why would someone make contact now? Especially now? More importantly, who? 

Will looked equally as shell shocked as I was. Five months. That was how long it took for this assignment to get interesting. If this were a mountain, this would be the peak. And well, it would only go downhill from here. 

Will looked deep in thought, his eyes glazed over as he muttered something unintelligible under his breath. 

I waved my hand in front of his face. “Hey, snap out of it. Let’s get into the lab first, before you start doing any deep thinking.” 

He nodded in response and stepped back. 

I took a deep breath and focused. A deep tingling shot through my left arm, and my right arm numbed. I bent my left arm’s fingers to test it out. Power coursed through my veins. Excellent! I dug my hand underneath the metal plate, the pads of my fingertips pushed against the width of the metal. I flexed my fingers, the metal slab driving effortlessly into the groove above. 

I flashed a smile at Will. “After you.” I gestured to the now revealed room. 

Will mocked a bow. “Of course my lady,” he said with fake graciousness. He walked into the room.

 I giggled. Will could be fun when he wanted to be. I shook the tingles from my left arm, my right one regaining movement. 

I walked into the lab. Various handbooks were stacked in the corner, and two well-worn swivel chairs were placed in front of a long desk and monitors, some relaying information, others just displaying camera feeds. A lit lantern hung from the ceiling, and our gear was piled in a corner. 

Will sat down on his chair, his eyes glued to the communications monitor. 

“Something wrong?” I asked. Will usually wasn’t this attached to communications, mostly because he didn’t really have any friends, at least none that he was particularly close to. 

“Uh, no. But that’s just the thing. Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing about this new message sender,” Will replied, he sounded utterly confused. 

“Should we tell HQ about the message?” I said. I mean, I had no idea what to do. Surely, HQ would have answers.  

Will paused for a second, thinking. “No, I don’t think so, if this was an enemy then why wouldn’t they just stake it out and ambush us. But it also doesn’t make sense that HQ didn’t tell us about it either,” he said thoughtfully.

“Maybe,” I started dramatically, “someone’s gone rogue.” 

“Actually, that would make sense. I mean, it’s simply obscure for someone who doesn’t already know about this place to find it. Plus, there’s the passcode at the trapdoor. They obviously either couldn’t open the last door, or didn’t know there was more,” Will replied, taking my response seriously. 

I checked my watch, 12:30 We would have to hurry up here before someone noticed we were missing.

“Hey.” I nudged Will’s foot. He looked up from the monitor. I tapped my watch. “Dude. hurry up, we gotta go do our job.” He nodded, and quickly sent a message. 

“What did you send?” I asked. 

“Just asked HQ to send a message to make sure our receiving systems are working. Just to confirm this mysterious note leaver isn’t working on HQ’s orders.” 

  “Oh, okay,” I replied. “Are you ready to go?” He nodded again. 

We walked out of the room, and with a gentle nudge, the metal wall came crashing down. 

I inspected it for a moment, looking for any signs of strain or cracks. As perfect as ever. I flashed a thumbs-up to Will. He turned away, and started walking back up the tunnel. 

I grabbed his shoulder. “Hey, wait, we never finished talking about what happened back there with Kair.” 

He looked disgruntled. “You already know why I reacted that way. Do I really have to elaborate?” 

I balled up my fist and gritted my teeth. “Actually yes, do tell me why what I did was so wrong.” 

Will opened his mouth, “One, this is a reconnaissance type two mission, we aren’t permitted to investigate. Second, we are to report any unusual activities, which we did. HQ didn’t permit us to move forward with anything. Third, I’m in charge, not you. Fourth, on top of breaking the rules, you jeopardized our position by asking such blunt questions. If it was anyone but Reynolds we’d probably be captured, found out, or worse.” Will raised an eyebrow. “Explain to me how your actions weren’t wrong.”  

“But… but I just know there’s something deeper to this! I don’t care what HQ said, this is important,” I replied in protest. 

I mean, how could he just let an opportunity like this slide? A girl mysteriously disappeared from a virtually inescapable house. Any sane person would want to know what happened to her. Even if it did break some stupid rules. 

“Hey!” Will raised his voice, the tone angry. “We were given orders and we will follow them. Even if it goes against your hunch. Understood?” 

I looked at my feet. “Understood.” 

We walked in silence through the tunnel. The rest of the day passed at a snail’s pace. My nerves increased the closer it grew to 12. 





I looked over my shoulder at Will. He was standing in the corner fiddling with his gun. I tapped my watch slowly. 

He looked up at me. “You know there’s no use obsessing over the time. All we can do is wait.” 

“Well, we could get a headstart, scout out the attic, maybe a little bit of investigating. What’s the point of just sitting here, let’s put our time to use, even if at the end of all of this it turns out to be pointless,” I suggested. 

Will shook his head. “No, if this mystery person was smart enough to find the tunnel, they wouldn’t be careless enough to leave anything to chance,” he replied, deep in thought. 

“Alright, if you say so.” I wasn’t convinced, but I trusted Will’s judgment. It has saved me plenty of times before, and I’ll count on it again. 


I tapped my watch again. Will was walking down the hallway before I could say a word. 

I speed-walked after him. “Hey, at least give me some warning next time,” I whispered into his ear. 

“Oh, um, yeah, sorry about that. Just had a thought though,” Will started. “Well, what if this mystery person slipped in recently? That would explain why we haven’t had any contact before. And, well, do you remember what Reynolds said at lunch today?” 

I blanked. “Uh, no. I tend to tune out whenever she starts talking.” 

Will ignored my comment. “Well, she mentioned this new kid, about 17. He was brought in earlier in the morning, before our shift.” 

It started to click in my head. “Wait… isn’t fieldwork permitted at 16? It could make sense that he would be the mystery person we are looking for.”

Will grinned. “That’s what I’m thinking! It didn’t click until now, but when Reynolds told me his name, I thought it sounded familiar.” 

“What’s his name?” I asked. 

Will smiled again. 

“Braylon Kramer.”

Lost at Sea


Hiding from that terrible woman was what we did every day. Hiding in a pocket of darkness, wrapped around each other. I would say something stupid, she would giggle, and I would use her silky, pinkish-tinted blond hair to cover my red face. She didn’t mind, it would only cause us to become more entangled in one another. That was our thing. Our daily routine, you could call it. 

Being in the foster home for as long as we had, it was hard to feel loved, so when you had a friend, you would never let go. But we were different. We were closer than just best friends, choosing each other over getting chosen. 

In an orphanage, Emy would be the obvious choice. She was tall, blond, pretty, and shy to the bare eye. Once you got to know her, she would reveal her feistiness and confident nature to you. 

I reach out my hand and sweep the precious strawberry golden locks out of Emy’s soft, olive, freckled skin and prompt her chin up. She shyly looks down at the base canoe and giggles to herself. When she looks back up at me, I smile to let her know that she is safe with me. She bites her lip and for a second, I regret making the first move until she smiles back at me with the warmest smile I’ve ever seen. The crystal clear sea sparkles with manta rays and dolphins swirl around us as we lean in.  

Her soft lips gently press against mine as the warmth from the sun makes it seem like we will float on the playful waves forever, as her tongue brushes against my teeth and slips in as she puts her hands on my neck and pulls me closer to the point where I can feel her heart race. I grab her waist as she tugs tenderly at my collar, she wraps her legs around my body and I sit down, still holding her waist with one hand but put the other hand on the bench so I don’t fall over. We sit there with the sparkling waters, kissing as we continue to melt into the sunset.

Chapter One 

Emy pulls away and gazes into my eyes only a few inches away from my face as I take a breather. I only half get my breath back before she runs her fingers down my short, deep brown hair and places her hands back on my neck, she pulls me off the ledge I was sitting on, to the bottom of the canoe. I look up at her as she slowly squats down. Our eyes are locked as she sits in a W stance on my lap. In this moment, she looks so beautiful that I can’t move or even breathe. She slowly pushes me down with her palm in the middle of my chest. In a movement, she now has her hands on both sides of my head, she leans forward, hopping onto her knees, coming into an adapted plank. 

In that moment, as we stare into each other’s eyes, and our body heat keeps us warm under the ever-darkening sky above, I am glued to the ground, and her arms locked in place. 

Until she does move. And yet again I am scared she has begun to regret this. She then starts laughing, and I feel relieved, but then concerned. Finally, I realize how strange this situation is, and how stupid my face must look. I also loosen up, and begin to laugh with her.

Emy lowers herself to kiss my cheek, and I pull her into a hug to safely plop her down next to me. We giggle, and look up at the stars. As Emy tries to point out constellations, I think about my life. Better yet my future — with Emy of course, she is my life. I think about this moment. When we go back, will we forget this? If we go back, will we be transported back in time, to before we had experienced this feeling? Do we have to go back?

Of course, we do. I’m not stupid, we don’t know anything about the real world. We would completely start over, a clean slate, you could say. But maybe that’s not a bad thing. Starting over. A life with her. Nothing could be more perfect. Nothing.

I quickly shove the idea out of my mind, and try to think of the present. And what I can do to make clear to her that this date isn’t an experiment, or a summer fling, and that she is my everything, and I want to be her everything. Before I can think of what to say next, my heart has beat me to it. I sit up, and Emy looks at me, a tad bit confused.

“Emy,” I say, barely a whisper. Emy senses something off, so she also sits up. I look away, embarrassed, and I almost can’t continue. She puts one hand on my shoulder and uses the other to hold my hand that I am not leaning on. We lock eyes and share a small smile. The warmth flows in from her kind touch, and I now don’t see a reason to not say it. 

“I love you, Emy. I have for as long as I can remember. And not just as friends or family, my love for you goes deeper than that. You are my life and have been, always.” She releases from me, and looks shocked. She seems like she is about to say something, but I guess I will never know. Because right there and then, the canoe is flipped over, and I hit the water with a smack.

~ ~

The water isn’t clear anymore, the tide seems high when it is only deeper from an essence, pushing the sand around, so it is blurry and there is a shadow cast around us. 

Wait, us? Where is she? I open my eyes wider, the burning sensation where sand and saltwater mix up in your eyes covering up the feeling of something coming up behind me. 

There is a minute where I see her with her precious golden locks floating in the water, and her eyes are closed while sharks circle around her, giving me only a few glances at her. All of a sudden, she opens her eyes. The sharks dash away, as I look closer, I see she is looking slightly over my shoulder with a blank expression other than a slight look of anger, and a bit of evil in her eyes. I flinch, and a little bit of air escapes me, but I stay calm. I look closer, her eyes normally ivy green are now a deep magenta, I rub my eyes, not believing what I’m seeing. I open my eyes, hoping that it was just a mind trick because of all the sand and seawater, and that she would be her normal self again, but when I open my eyes, I don’t see her. I look all around but I can’t find her anywhere. 

Where could she have gone? Suddenly, something warm and furry brushes my neck. Could Emy be playing a trick on me? I turn around, hoping to laugh it off, pull us up and figure out what happened. 

The smile fades from my face as I see a slimy tentacle that is connected to a much bigger, bulging figure with rows and rows of jagged, rusting, moldy teeth that has deep, red blood gushing out of its mouth, making the water around me darken as the blood flow starts to pull me towards the monster. It takes me a second to figure out what I am going to do, but when I figure it out, my petrified state only leaves me spazzing out. 

Without warning, the tentacle latches itself to me and squeezes almost all the air out of my lungs, its nails claw at my bare skin, leaving bloody bruises all over me. 

I still can’t see Emy, so with the last of my breath, I yell for her. Still no sign of her, and that is the last bit of oxygen inside of me. With the water filling my lungs and pumping the last bit of air out of my system, I go limp, and my world starts to blacken…

Chapter Two

I awake with a squeak. Sitting up, looking in all directions, not knowing where I am, my familiar den with dark purple curtains on the moldy window that looks out into a brick wall (beautiful view) has been replaced with dim crystals and rocks to create a shaded cave which I am in. I have been washed up in this cave, it is clear to see, the only question is… how?

Clearly, I came in somehow, but where could I have come from? I look around, seeing no obvious exit, and wonder if there was no exit where I could have entered. I slowly put my shaking hands on the ground and push myself up, removing some of the excess dirt and sand from my clothes that smell heavily of seawater. I touch my fingertips to the edge of the wall that I am closest to, and start walking around the perimeter of the spacious cave, feeling all around to make sure a hidden door is somewhere around here.

Halfway through, I start to get really bad headaches, they start getting so bad that I collapse to the floor, hands clenching my head, screaming so loudly that some crystals fall off the ceiling, but I can’t hear, having this migraine hurts so bad that I can’t hear anything. It starts getting so bad that I keep starting to blackout, but have it pass just as I start to faint. Then, as fast as it comes, the brain-crushing headache finally passes for good. I let out a sigh of relief and unclench my hands from my head revealing blood, (yikes). I quickly wipe that on my shirt and get up and cautiously start tracing the walls with my fingertips again. Soon after that, I fall unconscious as memories flood back. I start to remember what happened on the previous night, the ride, the kiss, and the monster. I now also remember small memory clips of how I got here. I see myself rising and then falling, and then another clip where I scream, and then the echo of my voice causes rocks to rain on me. That’s probably why I fell asleep. I look on the ground, yep, these are the rocks that hit my head. I look back up, must have been a nasty fall, sharp boulders, and slimy moss surround the opening of the cave which would make the attempt of my escape fairly brutal.

  Once, twice, five times, I try. There are blisters, bruises, and cuts all over my body, making the purpose of climbing halfway up and then falling down because my arms are about as thick as a stick, then brushing myself off and giving myself a pep talk, saying that I am going to get all the way up and that I am not going to give up halfway, but of course, I would manage to give up.

On the sixth try, I hear a neutral-toned voice say, “Oh, you should probably give up, you’re never going to get out anyway.”

“Well, I think I will with love as my determination,” I manage to grunt as I pull myself up to a rock that I didn’t see before.

“Well, it’s your fault we’re in here,” she snarls. For some reason, that freaks me out and I fall to the ground. Brushing myself off (again!). 

“C’mon, man, I was farther than I ever went before!” I mutter, still not turning around. “I mean, I was right there, I could have reached up and — ”

“Carna,” she whispers. The only person who calls me by my real name is Emy. I whip my head so fast around that my neck starts to hurt.

Chapter Three

“E-Emy? It’s really you? Oh, Emy, are you okay?” I exclaim. ”I’m so sorry,” I whisper, coming closer to her. I reach both my hands behind her neck and pull her even closer for a kiss. Only for her to push me away and flash her magenta eyes at me and say, 

“Stop being so nice like you were to my mom when she didn’t expect you to be gay.” Her eyes look into my soul. It is that moment when something inside of me sinks. Just then, the ceiling comes crumbling down. 

“Emy, what’s going on!?!” I breathlessly scream through the pile of deadly sharp boulders that have come down and just barely missed me. The rock rises and scatters across the walls and the empty space that used to be the ceiling. “E-emy. Emy, please, j-j-just tell me what’s g-going on,” I whimper. She just makes a half-hearted attempt of laughter.

“Hahaha, ha. That’s like what your mother said to me when you didn’t have the guts to tell her that you were lesbian, instead, you ran off like a little baby and hid in some shelter or some crap like that, leaving me to lie to your helpless mom, making me seem like the bad guy when you’re just sitting around doing who knows what, having me do all your dirty work,” she screeches in my ear with a look of either pure disgust, or pure hatred, maybe both.

“Em, I — ” I say with all intentions of apologizing, until she cuts me off.

“Oh don’t ‘Em’ me,” she scoffs as the rocks that I totally forget are there start flying across the cave with a flick of her wrist. “You are the one who convinced me to steal my dead parents’ boat just to have it flung around in the open ocean.” Then, as if I were mad at her, I yell back at her, hopping around trying to avoid the flying rocks.

“You did not steal the boat, you borrowed it.” Realizing how wrong I am with every word I say, I hesitate, allowing one of the rocks to knock me off my feet.

“Oh really, taking it against my mother’s command and then trashing it would not be considered stealing?” she squeaked, her hand now throbbing back and forth, sending boulders smashing into the walls, making everything fall on us.

“Emy, you’re right, I shouldn’t have done that, or anything else. I shouldn’t have been a baby, and hideaway, I should have come clean to my mother and told her I was gay, but that doesn’t mean you should make this whole cave come down on us.” Emy doesn’t stop. 

“Emy, please, I-I-I love you.” Emy falls to the ground and the rocks drop. “Emy, are you back?” I whisper, shaking as I carefully step forward. She rocks back and forth and starts shrieking. While the color drains from her face, a ghost-like figure starts to separate from her face, but just as the demon is about to leave, it gets sucked back in her, giving the color back to her face.

“No!!! Emy will never come back! She is mine forever. She willingly gave me her body,” The demon snorts. “And now I will destroy you.” Emy’s body starts glowing brighter and brighter until she is blinding me. I close my eyes as the cave goes down.

Chapter Four

As soon as I open my eyes, I see that I survived another rock attack, by jumping in a crevice right before the walls come down on me, but what about Emy? Sure a demon that wants to kill me is possessing her, but I still care about her. Would a human body survive if a demon is possessing it? I don’t need the answer ‘cause little do I know I will be finding out soon enough. It starts with a low rumble, and as it gets louder, the rocks start shaking, Then it starts to get to the point where the noise becomes screeching, and the rocks fall out of place. Soon, the location where I am standing becomes discovered by the demon, and the treacherous sea monster waiting to feast on my flesh.

“Hi?” I whisper stupidly, hoping to make up with the monsters. For a second, nothing happens and I think that it is over. “Oh good, I thought I was going to die for a sec — ” 

First, I feel it, another burning sensation, except it is on the outside, then I see it, the flaming red fireball melting anything around us (even the rocks). I panic as my skin starts peeling upwards and the ground starts to suck me in.

“Ahhh!!!” I yell as I jump away from a drop of boiling rock liquid from the raging fire that makes holes in the ground bigger than me and Emy combined. What to do when standing in the middle of a burning fire under a pile of melting boulders? Then I see it, the small opening created by the screeching noise would be the perfect hideout. I crawl through only to remember that is the only way out, and the only way for the fireball to get in, so I am going towards the threat with my near red skin that is still on fire… oh well, can’t go back now, the fire still in there has melted the rocks over the hole and now has solidified. Great.

Before I know what to do, I am whisked up into the clouds by the easily recognizable barf-colored tentacle. Only this time, if I don’t get out soon, my ribs will probably crack. “Please don’t do this. Please don’t kill me, I know that I have been a terrible person while I have been trying to keep my life together, Emy has helped me see the error of my ways, and I hope to change for her and for the better of me.” The monster’s grip on me loosens. I try to shoot a hopeful glance at Emy, but she has disappeared. I look at the creature’s black shadow of a body, and stare dead into its beady red eyes as its glow fades slightly. “Please, I don’t want to die here, I want to be at home with Emy by my side when I finally nod off. Don’t you?” The last thing I see before I fall to my death is the red glow coming back to its eyes.

When I open my eyes again, I am in Emy’s bruised arms at a nook in the still-standing section of the cave, the crystals shine against Emy’s soft smile, forgetting whatever demon was inside her for a moment or two.

“How long was I out for?” I whisper, brushing a golden lock out of her scared face.

“For only a few seconds,” she replies, holding my hand to her face. I pull her into a tight hug. Realizing that I just fell from the sky, I panic and pull back.

“What’s wrong?” Emy asks, loosening her grip on me.

“How am I not dead? Am I dead?” I yell.

“What? No, you’re not dead, why?” she questions, looking concerned.

“The fall. When I fell, wait, did you catch me?” I exclaim. She smiles at me warmly. “Wait! What about the demon, did it leave you alone? Did you defeat it?” I ask, hope in my eyes, while also pushing away as far as I can still being in her arms.

“Well, not — ” Emy cuts herself off, 

“Exactly,” the demon voice finishes. She falls, dropping me. She holds her head in a circling motion.

“Emy, pull yourself together!” the demon voice inside her screeches, making her shiver uncontrollably.

“No! I will not give in to you!” Emy yells, trying to separate herself from the demon. Seeing this, and not knowing what to do, makes me hate myself, it is horrible watching this, but I can’t just leave her to fend for herself, what type of heartless monster would do that?

With this destruction, whooshing noise becomes louder from a small section of the cave, but I don’t turn because I am too busy trying to figure out what to do.

Then, something starts illuminating the same dark and damp part of the cave that is not destroyed by the demon. Abruptly, white flames erupt from the illuminating section of the cave, blowing up the whole place and leaving rusty white spots in that area. Ouch, that must hurt insanely. From the dust comes the terrorist sea monster, which has a look of hunger in its eyes. I guess it has come to take my soul, too. 

I watch, petrified, in fact too much so I can’t even hear the constant battle between Emy and the demon. I look down, sensing a tickle that is constantly getting worse. I realize that the fire has gotten to me and my skin has been rotting for at least five seconds because the fire has some sort of acid chemical reaction that is eating at my skin. If I didn’t feel it before, I definitely feel it now, the pain of it tearing through my skin, even muscle is too much for me to handle, even with it slowing down, it is eating at me pretty quickly. With some muscles gone, standing is not an option, I fall back, hitting my head, hard.

“Uhhnn!” I moan, rubbing my head. “Ahhhhhhhhh!!!” I scream, the pain of my muscles overwhelm me with absolute and utter pain! If that isn’t enough, the Kraken-like creature is now charging at me. I try to get up, but all I can do is sit still. Sitting stiller than stone, wondering what to do with my seemingly last few moments on Earth. I build up the courage to say my last words. 

“Through everything we have gone through, we have stayed together. I have always loved you Emy, even before I knew I did. Through thick and through thin, you have always been there for me, and I love you for that but I’m just sorry that I have not been the best to you these past few years, and I’ll understand if you don’t forgive me for that, but I just wanted to let you know that I love you!” I cry as life fades away from me. With that, I close my eyes, hoping my death will be an easy transition to Heaven or, more likely, Hell. Lying, running away from home, and making my girlfriend do all my bidding for me will not get me into Heaven.

Chapter Five

Thump thump, thump thump.

Is all I hear.

 My heart beating, everything else is silent.

 Scared to open my eyes. Cold all around me, I shiver. 

Scared to open my eyes… I do anyway.

Chapter Six

Slowly, my eyelids open to see my bare, scarred feet, drenched with blood. Confused, I quickly look up and see the same cave I was just in but only, the creature is leaving the cave, looking satisfied. Maybe the shot did hit me and I’m dead. That would make a lot of sense, and why is Emy sleeping? Nothing really made sense. If I’m not alive I wouldn’t get the honor of Emy in my living Hell, unless I got into Heaven. (But we all know what the chances of that would be after all that I’ve done.) On the other hand, I would still doubt that sleeping is the last thing she would be doing while she tried to battle the demon. 

I walk over to her, and look down, seeing a big tear of fabric near her torso. I feel my jaw drop when I can see deeper than just her skin, but before any sounds can come out, I feel the warm, heavy breathing of something behind me. The moistness, and height of where it came from make me freeze. I gather up courage and slowly turn around.

The Kraken thing looks at me as if it were grinning. I feel as if there were something building up inside of me. To my surprise, it doesn’t feel like fear, it feels more like anger. A deep rage burns hotter and hotter inside my soul. Suddenly, I do not think that Emy is sleeping anymore. I don’t feel like she is safe.

And I have a strong feeling it has something to do with the Kraken. I feel it with each heave of its breath, and every time a basketball-sized glob of drool falls to the stone floor we are both standing on. I sense that it knows something I don’t.

In the moment of stillness, the Kraken suddenly gets impatient for a reaction, and it swings at me. Somehow, I manage to dodge the attack as if I know it will happen ahead of time, and with even more anger fueling my actions, I charge at the oceanic beast, and manage to throw it across the cave in one fell swoop. 

As soon as it hits the ground, it vanishes in a cloud of dust. I don’t even take the time to process how in a flurry of wrath, I have not just lifted, but thrown the foul creature who had probably weighed about a ton all the way across the cave.

Not even a little bit. The first thing I do is check on Emy. Being able to take a closer look, I realize how much damage was actually done.

Chapter Seven

“God! Emy, this is bad. This is really bad!” I panic. She then wakes up, and looks at me with a sad smile, as if she has already accepted that there is no hope. 

“But…” I speed up, trying to put on a brave face. “If we get you home now, we can patch you all up, and we will be alright! I-I-I mean you will be alright.” 

I start to pick her up, but I stop when I realize she feels very limp in my arms as if she were barely even there, but she is there. All the way there, so I try again. This time, I try to ignore the emptiness within her and get her out of there as soon as I can.

I stop when I feel her small, stone-cold, hand against my arm. I look down to see her warm eyes politely asking me to put her back on the ground, so I do. How can I deny my dying girlfriend’s request even if it means a zero percent chance of her survival?

NO! There is no way she would have me stop trying to save her. She knows what would happen to me if she stops breathing, she knows how much she means to me… but does she? 

What am I even thinking? Of course she knows. She also knows what I could do to save her. That’s why she stopped me, she has a better way to save herself, a faster way to secure her survival.

“Okay, so what do you want me to do?” I ask, energized. She looks at me as if I had asked her if she wanted to do jumping jacks while fighting a bear. “You know… to save you and all?” I feel my voice get all scratchy, and I swallow hard to push down the bad feeling that has started to arise. She opens her mouth to say something, but without even realizing it, I cover her mouth.

I have just asked a question, but I don’t let her answer. I don’t even know why.

Yes, I do. I don’t want to hear what she has to say. I know it will be something bad. I KNEW IT THE WHOLE TIME! Ever since I saw her there, I’ve known she is losing to the universe, I’ve known she is slipping away, I’ve known she is almost gone, I know…

… she is almost dead.

Chapter Eight

Her eyes are wide but understanding as I release her mouth from my tight grip. My hands go up to my face and I rub my eyes. Hard. It hurts, but I hope I will see a different image when my eyes defog.

“Hey!” Emy tries to yell, but fails due to lack of breath support. Her failed attempt causes another wave of emotion that blows through me. I can see her readjust as she looks at the pain on my ever dampening cheeks.

“Hey,” Emy whispers this time. “Don’t do that.” She gives me a partially disapproving look. I look at her, confused, and she removes my hands from my eye region. I sigh, a bit relieved knowing that she still cares about me even during what could be her final moments. She also sighs, and brings my trembling hands to her face. I restabilize, as her warm breath slowly comes in, and out, from her subtly parted lips, onto the backs of my hands. Which she has placed on her cheeks to which her slightly pointed nose pokes out in the gap between them. It is slightly uncomfortable, but I don’t really notice. How am I going to get through her eventual departure?

“Carna?” she whispers into my hand.

After this, Emy and Carna share a moment where Emy tells Carna that she loves her but that she has to go on without her and, with that, Emy dies. Carna then finds some wood on the beach that she pulls together and puts a sail on and has to find her way home from being on this island in the middle of nowhere. I guess you could say that she was lost at sea 😉

Ott: Part One

Chapter 1

Lunging, leaping over logs and trees, the pitter-patter of light footfalls was eerily absorbed by the misshapen flora. Something was running. A huge noise sounded behind the runner, a noise reminding the four-legged runner of the danger. A huge golem-like pillar of stone and crystal, quickly folding its form into a shape that’s strange, and yet relatable to a tiger. The runner was interested, and yet terrified. The runner then made a decision. Veering from its path, it went to an area. Here, the trees seemed to take all hope from most creatures, and the area was forever coated in a thick, sickly green mist. He had spotted it earlier, and had quickly sketched a design on a special medallion that all tribe members took as a precaution. It looked akin to a piece of amber, its center now shining. The golem creature stopped on the edge of this patch of woods. Its bright eyes blazed, a beacon of golden light, with a hint of aqua blue and red, before it padded its way back into the woods.

Ott, for that was the four-legged runner’s name, stopped on the far side of this evil patch and thought about his life. Before he became a fully fledged member of his tribe, the Amberpatch tribe, he had thought of its scout option as perilous, but thrilling. Ott loved what he did, of course, but things certainly weren’t easy. Especially for his species. They were the kornads, and, while very much sentient and intelligent, they sometimes felt out of place. Were the small, weak kornads really supposed to be here? Ott often pondered this question. Now his primary thought was, What was evolution thinking! (Of course, he didn’t think in English. It would be silly to believe that kornads, a species from another world, would think in a language they had not ever heard of. No, the kornads thought ((and spoke)) in the aptly named language kornadin, which will be translated.) His second thought was, I need to get back to the grus (village). Indeed, he did, for he was in uncharted waters, so to speak, and was in serious trouble unless he could get back to the Amberpatch village (grus). Ott knew this full well, and began to navigate homeward.

The sky was pale blue and had a fluffy aspect, and judging by the cloudless sky, nobody would have guessed that the day could have taken any bad turns. A pale orange was peeking over a now purple sky when Ott finally settled down. Climbing up a now not so foreboding evergreen, he thought on the events of the previous week. They were tracking a malfunctioning shape golem. These creatures were ‘tamed,’ so to speak, by the Amberpatch village, by feeding them a magical amber-like substance they called ‘thren.’ This put them into a state of pacification, which was mutually enjoyed. The shape golems loved thren, and could develop bonds with the Amberpatch tribe, and the Amberpatch tribe loved the comforting presence of the giant pillars of earth, and could also bond with golems. The comfort of the golems was normally understandable. The bonds between golems and Amberpatch were often so strong, that they would defend each other with their lives (or for golems, spirits), thus it was obviously comforting to have a friendly, extremely powerful, ever-shifting, mound of minerals and stone, from ages gone by in the bowels of the earth. There were, however, exceptions, occuring before the bonding of golem and kornad. One such exception fled from the Amberpatch village, into the woods. The elders of the village (as well as the inhabitants formed a democratic/oligarchy hybrid government) turned from hope that the golem went to a watchportal (a rift usually leading to the Deren mountains) or ran across a boundary bordering a neighboring village’s territory, to fear of the golem that replaced the peace. Ott and the other master scouts had been sent to monitor the golem. In his nook in the evergreen, Ott now wished he had his golem. Understand that golems are not comforting for no reason. All respectable full members of the tribe had golems, and they are extremely strong, capable of deadlifting over 300 times the weight of the evergreen that Ott was now sitting in. They are only truly destroyed if their heart of thren is removed, this being the reason that they consume so much. The bigger the heart, the stronger the golem (an interesting tidbit could, and will, be inserted here: if a golem reaches a certain age, possesses certain traits, and has a big enough heart, it can ‘ascend.’ This turns the golem a bright amber color, with a tinge of color based on the traits that it ascended with. Only two cases have ever occured where a golem has ascended). Also, their heart can only be accessible if the golem’s body is utterly destroyed, and its traits are somehow reversed. Anyhow, Ott was wishing for an incredibly fast mount and companion, and this was ideal for his golem. Called Goran, Ott’s golem preferred (remember, they are shape golems, they can be whatever shape they are inclined to be, but everybody has their favorites, and golems are no different) to be a huge bird, incredibly quick with the ability to send an electric pulse (Goran was made of a special electrical ore found deep underground) into things he pierced with his talons or formidable beak. He was always shining with a comforting glow, which was, though Ott was denying it, very vital. He was not afraid of the dark. 

This, however… this is nothing natural, he thought somewhat wryly, on an occasion when he almost succumbed to this dark, halfway through the night. He was far too close to the evil, hope-sucking glade. Touching his amber necklace, a gift from his family, he drew hope from it, even as it grew warm and started to glow. His thoughts unclouding, he shook the last strands of drowsiness. He began moving away from the glade, back toward his village. The darkness drew back, surprised that its prey had not succumbed, and realizing that it never would. Then that malicious presence fled back to the evil places of the world, having come to the conclusion that it had no power over Ott. Ott realized, as the presence was lifted, that he had won a small victory. He also realized, somewhat discouragingly, that he had still not attained complete safety. Complete safety would only be attained when he made it back to his village. Poor golem, he thought, remembering the chase that led him into the glade. What a great honor it had attained, but so lost. He remembered its coloring. It let me go. I know it’s an ascendant, it let me go.

Chapter 2

Thinking about the rank of the golem, he suddenly felt saddened. Based on studies of golems, he agreed with most of the Amberpatch scientists that an ascendant golem with no kornad bonded to it was incredibly sorrowful, and as shown by its behavior, would flee, becoming aggressive toward all creatures. It only wanted kindness, but when finding none or little, it became enraged. Ott, once or twice in the night, thought he faintly saw a golden glow, and a glint of aqua blue eyes. He had already thought about bonding with it, however, it was very rare that anyone could have 2 bonds. They were called the golem-loved, and by the nobles of the kornads, were thought of as greedy. Nobody really thought of the nobles well, as eventually most of their golems turned orange with an access of exposure to its master’s powerful greed. However, the nobles somehow managed to retain power, and often doubled as famous merchants. This was most likely why they were tolerated, thought Ott, as the sun began to glimmer through the dew laden forest. His kornad eyes noticed the beauty of the sight, and he made a decision. He drew out a large portion of thren from a nearby crystal using a pick that all scouts needed in order to provide for their, in this case nonpresent, golems. He delicately broke the slightly cylindrical golden substance in two, then cut (yes, cut, with a knife he had on him for precaution, thren is of the consistency of gold, and can be cut) it into smaller pieces, spending hours carving them into snowflakes, and leaves and drops of water as well as other nature related objects he could recall from memory. This was for two reasons. One, golems perceive time and effort, as well as emotion, as caring and happiness. Two, golems always want a specific shape. This is a way they learn, and there will always be at least one emotion (or element, the two are interchangeable when it comes to the heart of golems) that the golems will have at any one point, and they enjoy canceling it out, as it gives them peace. Ott carved an access of snowflakes and mini fires. He did this for a reason, too. He felt that anger and sadness could be combated with ice and fire. He faced toward the last position he had seen the ascendant golem, and layed out the pieces, making sure to put the fires in the back. He didn’t need an ascendant following him that was angry. After laying them out, he continued his journey picking up a few more bars of thren (thren, unlike gold, is very light. Also, if you were thinking he was foolish to add weight to his pack, then hush yourself. Remember, Ott is a professional. If you ever doubt him, try not to, as there is an equal chance for you to be wrong as to be right).

Over Ott’s next few nights, he felt the golem following him even more closely. He kept feeding it and he began to feel its anger lessening. As he neared the mountains (Ott was too far away from his village in order to go back the way he came, and therefore, went to the mountains in hopes of finding a watchportal), he felt the air becoming frigid, and a layer of frost began to coat the rocks and the wind started to pick up. He now had a requirement for fire.

On one of his firewood-gathering expeditions, he saw something gold glint in the trees. He went stiff, not sure whether to expect caring or another chase. The ascendant golem walked close to him. Unsure whether to run, he put an extra bar of thren in front of the tiger-like golem, the golem merely nudged it back to him with it’s tiger-like head. Returning to his senses, and realizing it did not mean harm, he drew a few large snowflake shaped pieces of thren. He had spent an entire day on it, ending up leaving behind only two. It nudged his hand and his hand tingled with heat, and an electrical feeling filled them. He fed the thren carefully to the huge tiger of earth and a sound not too different from purring rumbled from its throat. He wondered if his doubts about forming a bond with two golems were well-founded. From that point forward, the golden golem came closer and closer to his campsite, and by the time he reached the base of the huge mountain, covered in dark green forest that faded to a pearly white snow, with blotches of orange and brown from the softly curving rock formations lining the peaks, the golem was staying in his campsite. He fed it thren, and whenever he fell asleep he could feel the now calming warmth of the ascendant golem, and a soft buzzing filled the air (akin to bees, but not quite as violent). This humming and waves of heat coming from the pines and sturdy aspen (though not of the species of earth, mind. Remember – different planet, different plants, you get the idea) around his fire and shelter. Also, Ott excelled at shelter building in the wild, only using natural resources. Here is a description of a more long term one. He took a piece of a crystal (not thren, and yes, the crystal was on the ground, and the base is only shale, a fairly brittle rock, and easily broken) and flintknapped (to put it primitively, banged rocks together to make sharp rocks) a long slice out of the sturdy crystal (called yunzite) and cut (with his knife, the knife is very well made) wedges out of the slice, and attached it to a stick, making a saw. Then he cut down the aspen (different genus!) nearby to make the base of his structure. Then he laid more logs on the base (he pounded the base in upright) to make an elevated structure to which he added fern walls and a roof. He headed along the base of the mountain range until he figured he was in the middle. He then made a more elaborate structure, a small log cabin, using tools he made out of kunzite. He was, however, worried. Extremely dangerous things that had no name, or were too dangerous for their name to be used casually. Things that could easily tear through 12 feet of metal, much less 10 inches (or 30.48 centimeters, or 18 olges, which is the form of measurement in Ott’s world) of wood. At least, he thought, I have a golem around my campsite, and an ascendant golem, no less

On the 7th night into his wait for a watchportal, he heard an unearthly gurgling outside his cabin. A rumble shook the structure. Ott went outside through the back door, and as he prepared to peer around the side, another gurgle came from whatever was outside and a snort, a short ragged one. When his eyes almost peeked around the wall, he heard another snort and was pinned to the ground. A nameless fear overtook him as a giant shape slithered out and distinct fangs began to draw closer to him. He surely would have been finished if not for one factor. A golden glow began to shine, quickly coming closer, and the dark shape turned and lunged at the light. The light grew almost blinding and Ott could make out the shape of a golden tiger, or something that looked like one at least, slashing at the dark shape. An unearthly howl arose from where those awful fangs were and the shape went limp as it was blasted across the campsite. Ott, reeling from the light, approached the dead creature. He had a vague memory of seeing one before. It had killed the golem it was attacking. It was one of the few things that could truly kill a golem. This golem defeated something that nothing is meant to defeat.

In the next few days, he allowed himself to be outside at night, recognizing the danger was removed. This allowed him to gradually improve his shelter, until the point where it felt like a cabin in the woods. He made a small shelter near the edge of his camp, which was now well defined, and used it as a place to make and store food for the golem that was always nearby. It occurred to him on the 12th night that the golem was developing a bond with him. He did not feel bad about it. His other golem, Goran, back in the Amberpatch village, was of an accepting type, and as he began to discover traits of the ascendant, he learned that they were similar in more ways than he first thought. Goran and the ascendant would be close friends, that much was apparent. In the evening of that day, he heard the humming associated with watchportals. The ascendant golem’s golden ears (or what looked like ears) perked up and he bounded forward, curious. Ott followed him. When Ott caught up, they began a small hike to the source of the humming. As they passed through the trees, Ott thought it would be alright to tell the golem about Goran. As they came closer to the humming, Ott realized something. 

“I just now realized something,” he said curiously. “I’ve never asked what your name was.” 

Gradually, the golem responded, “Roont.” 

The golem said this cautiously, as if these were his first words. 

“Roont,” Ott responded, trying to hide his moderate astonishment. He was not too surprised, as he already suspected strongly that he had bonded to Roont. However, only golems with bonds can speak, and only with the kornad they had bonded to. This was his final proof that Roont had bonded to him. Coming upon the watchportal, he noticed something strange about it. The land beyond it looked unfamiliar. Putting this off as simply distortion, he walked through, Roont trailing behind him.

To Be Continued…

Some Dumb Stuff I Made Up

Once there was a 21-year-old dude named Jamie and he really wanted to go to the movies with his friends, but his dog AJ ripped up all of his money. This wasn’t something AJ usually did, but it was bad timing because that morning, Jamie and his friends were going to go to the movies. 

So he had to go ask some random dudes on the street for some cash. 

“Could you spare a dollar?” he asked every person who walked by. 

They all gave him a dollar each so he had 15 dollars and the ticket cost 17 dollars.

Just then, it started thundering outside. Jamie tried to come up with a strategy to come up with those extra two dollars. His favorite video game was GTA 5, which gave him an idea. He had to rob a bank, and steal two dollars. 

So he went home and got his airsoft gun and he went to Wells Fargo. He was really nervous because he was afraid to get caught, but the bank was practically empty when he got there so there wasn’t a lot to worry about. He robbed the two dollars from the bank. He ran home because they were going to see the movie at 6:30 and it was only 2:30 so he needed to kill some time before the movie. 

He fed AJ and gave him some water when he got home. He forgave him because he knew the dog didn’t know any better. 

Then he met his friends Johnny, Billy, and Timmy at the movie theater in Manhattan. And then he realized that before he robbed the bank, he texted his friends and already told them that he didn’t have enough money, so Johnny said that he would pay for his ticket, and that was when he knew, he got a free ticket. “Thanks, my boy,” Jamie said.

“No problem, my g.” 

The banker was so shocked that Jamie robbed the bank for only two dollars that he didn’t even do anything about it. Jamie learned to be patient and not be in a rush all the time.

Ally and the Broken Wing

Ally is a bird. Ally wants to fly, but her wing is broken.

For almost all her life, Ally has tried to fly but fell each time she tried. One day, she felt like she would never be able to fly again. On that day, she decided never to practice flying ever again. A week later, Ally saw a boy whose legs were paralyzed, trying to walk across the Beluga Bridge, which is as long as a real beluga!

That’s impossible! Ally thought. He can’t do that. His legs are paralyzed!

Ally was curious about what was going to happen next, so she continued to watch. The boy started walking, but fell on his third step. He hurt his face and was about to cry. But something changed. He looked different. He looked determined. He continued walking across the bridge. Even though he fell and was as slow as a turtle, he still kept walking.

Why does he continue to walk? Ally thought.

Once he got to the end of the bridge, a crowd of people hugged him and told him, “Great job.”

When they were praising him, a woman said, “Why did you do this? We thought you couldn’t!”

The boy replied, “At first, I thought the same thing. I fell every time I tried to walk, and it felt like I couldn’t do it. But then I noticed a quote in my hospital room. It said: never give up. I read the quote and decided not to give up on walking. Then, I read in a magazine about the Beluga Bridge, and decided to walk across the bridge. The first time I fell, I felt like crying and giving up. But then I remembered the quote. That quote was the reason I got through and was able to cross the bridge.”

Never give up, Ally thought. That day, Ally walked away with that quote in her mind. The next day, she decided to practice flying again. She practiced and practiced until her red wings became so wet. While she was practicing, a veterinarian saw Ally. The vet thought, That bird has a broken wing! I should fix it! And so the vet did! Ally was so happy that she cried tears of happiness!

“Thank you so much!” Ally said with her fixed-wing. And for the first time, Ally flew faster and higher than the other birds.

Leslie for President

I was made for this moment. Two days ago, I never would have thought that I would have the guts to do this. Just the thought of all my classmates staring at me sent shivers down my spine. The announcer called out, “Leslie Gellerstien, please come up to the podium.” I stood up, clutching my paper, and marched up to the front of the room. I can do this, I thought. 

Walking up to the stage, I saw Emma out of the corner of my eye. She waved and gave me an encouraging smile. Actually, she was the reason I was here in the first place. I made a tiny wave back.

Running for student president was a big move for me. I was known as the quiet girl who got good grades on tests, but not in participation. My competitors’ faces faded away and I floated up the steps to the stage. I could do this!

What happened next was extremely random and weird. First, the ground started shaking. Then, everybody started freaking out because it was actually a very big tremor. Outside, we also heard people panicking and cars beeping their horns. Suddenly, part of the roof fell down into the top balconies and a creature with a lion head and the body of a bird came crashing through the ceiling. It was very bizarre, and for a moment everybody was frozen in shock. Then the thing roared and everybody started jumping out of their seats and pushing each other to head towards the exit. 

I, however, stayed in one place and stared at the creature as if he were a misbehaved kitty wrecking a glass vase. Eventually, he met my eyes with his own. They were gold and red with little orange specks all over them. I made my gaze fiercer and fiercer. On the other hand, his gaze seemed to be getting weaker and weaker. I kept wearing him down like that until he slowly started to back away. With my eyes, I tried to communicate to him to go or else. I didn’t know what would happen if he didn’t go, but I was assuming it wouldn’t be good for me so I kept staring him down. Suddenly, he opened his yellow wings and flew away into the sky. From then on, I wasn’t known as the quiet girl anymore. I was the girl who saved everybody’s lives.


I woke up to find Otis staring at me.  “Are you ready for your ‘check in’ today?” Otis’ simplistically announced reminder rendered me a little startled, for I had forgotten the events of the day. “Perhaps you will be granted your surgery today,” he pointed out. “Then you’ll be better once again.” 

I was supposed to go to the hospital to have a, what they labeled for the more timid kids, “check in.” On these monthly dates, my school schedule remained unchanged, per usual. The minor difference of where I would go after school was the only change that took place.

“It’s hardly frightening,” I said.

“Shall I go down for breakfast, or are we not hungry this morning?” Otis asked.

“I don’t think I wish to eat this morning, but of course you have the bowl,” I said while pointing towards the golden bowl, which was originally room decor but was now filled with chocolate Easter bunnies that Otis had brought with him and eaten when he did not share a meal with me. He now rummaged through the bowl, looking for the one that first drew his attention. I finished dressing for school while he did this, putting on a pair of light wash jeans. I added a belt I received from my mother yesterday, which was new and just unwrapped from its packaging. Once I slid the belt through the last loop, put on my usual black high top sneakers with penguin socks, brushed my hair, and grabbed my also penguin-themed backpack and lunchbox, I helped Otis get ready for school. I grabbed his black backpack and metallic lunchbox. Today I packed him a chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookie so he wouldn’t squirm under the irresistible want of cookies when they were just laying on the kitchen counter. I could hear them rattling in their foil wrappers, stuck inside the metallic prison. While they rattled, I let the box fall into his backpack, empty except for a chocolate bunny he had grabbed just now, his mustard yellow backup beanie and a folded piece of paper that appeared to be garbage, although this one was folded into a perfect square.

Otis and I left the large brick house and admired the reflective dew placed on the petal of each flower in our front yard. Our gravel path from the house to the sidewalk was wet, and disagreeable weeds were bursting through exposed patches. Gravel was dispersed across our grassy yard, usually of a vibrant green color in the sunlight. Otis didn’t arrive with shoes, and standard pairs don’t come in ovalular shapes. Therefore, Otis now suffered the painful task of trudging barefoot down the path in question. My father was in the car already, prepared for his daily task of driving Otis and me to school. We approached the silver Toyota and could already hear the music my father practically professed love to. While he played his favorite songs, I announced that Otis and I were, as my father liked to say, “buckled up and ready to go,” and we drove off to school.

School days tended to be normal, though the first school day I shared with Otis was of an opposite atmosphere. My teachers and peers had been notified of my penguin friend, or what they referred to as my “situation.” That day I was stared at by all. Even by the group of seven year olds that claimed they didn’t care about any matter except for those relating to them personally. My teacher’s attitudes shifted drastically and were overbearing and tentative, the qualities a worrying mother holds. I sat in the back of the class due to the shyness that emerged whenever I had to sit in the front row of a classroom. The teacher that morning had created a scene while dragging a heavy desk and letting it rest beside mine. This seat had been established as Otis’ seat. Periods of learning were seemingly normal, but the interactions between the beginnings of classes were displeasing. During recess I received countless invitations to partake in lunch and activities with kids who had the word pity clearly written on their eyes and face. I refused the forced offers with a stern, “No thank you.”

 I sat with Otis at a green table adjacent to the sandbox, which I soon hoped to introduce to the penguin. Once I flaunted the magical sandbox to Otis, we quietly gazed at the individual grains of sand, and watched them fall from shovel to bucket. The 40 minutes of time permitted for recess ceased eventually and academics resumed. My father and mother accompanied Otis and me on the car ride home that day. During the meager five minutes we spent waiting for them, he and I sat on an artificial patch of overly green grass, under a weak and small tree, and we stayed silent, but in an enjoyable way.

Today my father insisted on playing his music throughout the ten minute journey to school. The roads had small chunks of ice placed on curves and street corners, and most of them were half dirt and sewer water. The view was unpleasant, but the car was warm, filled with music, and smelled of cinnamon and hot chocolate. Otis and I sat in the back of the car on the grey cushion that was home to stains of brown, green, and purple. Now I felt free to talk to either Otis or my father whenever the opportunity pleased me, however I was rarely in a talkative frenzy. On the ride to school today nothing varied in my usual manner, so I thought about the “check in” and possible surgery. I could picture my calendar, existent for only a month, with very few dates marked and holidays yet to be acknowledged. I knew, though, that I had marked this date as the day of surgery, and I trusted the permanence of the black sharpie I used would rub off on my chances of surgery today. My head then manifested certain ideas, such as images of sharp metal tools poking at my brain, like how a curious child would use a stick to poke a dead squirrel. While thoughts of such things were present in my mind, the car had pulled up next to the new strip of sidewalk separating school and vehicles. I felt no rush as I slung my bag onto my back and helped Otis do the same. “Thanks dad,” I blurted out after I had already swung the heavy car door open and, with Otis, stepped onto the ice cold pavement. 

We walked confidently, or maybe it should be described as a walk that didn’t show any signs of fear, for confidently was far too strong and adjective to apply with such ease. I watched the parking lot of the Jones School, which we had now managed to reach, stab Otis’ unarmored feet. I also perceived that his face was still pleased and his current disposition unchanged. I then brought my gaze to the American flag on our school’s rusting pole, thrusted around by a strong and sudden wind. There was no urgent need to describe the school day today, for as I mentioned previously, even on a day involving hospital matters, school remained quite bland and redundant. Even the presentation I looked forward to had been postponed 24 hours. Until Wednesday I would have to wait to give the gift of my eloquent speech, and surely my audience would have to wait for me. For every normally scheduled class, Otis and I took our seats, as each student must do. During recess, Otis and I enjoyed the presence of each other in the sandbox. Previously, Otis had thanked me for the cookies that had been rattling in his lunch box all day, and he finished them both shortly and without creating any crumbs. We had lessons about our universe and solar system during the period assigned to science. I knew that I would never wish to traverse the vast Milky Way but instead wished the teacher knew that not all students have a vocation to be an astronomer or astronaut. Most periods consisted of this same pattern: a lesson taught and aspects of said lesson thought of as useless or uninformed. My criticisms may seem harsh, and they truly are compared to the fact I originally endured each lesson with a fake smile plastered on my face. But to argue in favor of myself, humans evolve, and therefore I have acted knowing that it was a mere repercussion of that piece of information. 

After I saw the silver Toyota emerge from the street corner, I felt apprehensive. Otis placed his wing on my clammy and sweating disaster of a hand while I gazed at the vehicle that could possibly be driving me to my death. If I failed to mention before, the surgery had a high fatality rate and therefore a low percentage of survival. During the time they announced all statistics to my already rotting brain, I hadn’t had the option to save them for later use. While I fretted, a playful pair of siblings were horsing around on their way to their car, their mother joking with her two strong and healthy offsprings. Superstition has no home in my heart, but maybe this meant I was to leave the hospital, surgery accomplished, ready to horse around with Otis (I had no siblings to do so). I was sure that I was just irrational, for I had never seemed so close to insanity than I was then. The Toyota slowly glided into the spot right in front of me, and stopped driving. Otis glanced at my entire body and turned his head down to look straight at my face. I took a step closer to his body, emitting warmth and kindness from its large figure. I wrapped my arms around him as far as they could reach, my fingers never meeting each other, and Otis and I molded into one. I leaned on the supporting figure while he employed his strength to push me towards the open car door. I slid into the backseat with cold feet, in the figurative way while it was also true in literal terms. I let Otis plop, which was the best word to describe the bounce he applied to each move, into the seat beside me. “Hi,” I said, addressing my parents and their phony, drawn on, smiles.

Pediatric wing hospital rooms don’t change. Yes, the peculiarly placed cartoons differ in rooms, but the idea of a stereotypical pink image plastered on one wall and some form of action movie hero or machine on the opposite wall remained the same throughout. It would be strange for any child to announce that they have a fondness for room 310 yet not room 306, due to the fact that each room was an unexciting replica of the other. I sat now in room 316, staring at a much too large image of Batman in the middle of realizing this action was wasteful and frankly dissatisfying. I turned away from the agitating sight, knowing very well I didn’t want to turn the other way just to see another particularly galling image displayed of a perky cartoon princess, who apparently had a dress code that stated they must wear a pink gown on all occasions. You could already see a dilemma had arisen and was now inducing inactivity, therefore I let every part of my anatomy fall into the slightly comfortable hospital bed. I had become accustomed to the features present in each hospital room, so I rolled over, after only being bored for a modest time of five seconds, and seized a long black remote control. I then turned to Otis, sitting in the region of chairs designated for family members of the sick patient, and asked him, “SpongeBob?”

“Whatever you feel suits this situation,” replied a happy, and faintly smiling, Otis. I communicated my wants to the television, hung up next to cobwebs on the corner of the right wall, and it flickered from black to an underwater reality where sponges may speak if they wish. 

I watched SpongeBob for the timelapse of an hour, not including the intrusions and disturbances, which caused me to pause on several occasions. These occurrences were commonly periods of five or 45 delaying minutes, and consisted of obtrusions by my parents or doctors coming in or my departures for various medical tests. Otis, however, always remained seated in the room while I was about and speaking to the adults that currently dictated my life. I attended to his needs while doctors tended to mine. Dr. Roberts would come in and demand my presence, and for me to cease my current activity. I was prepared to do so, but then I would hear Otis utter words such as, “If you leave the show playing while you leave, I will be much obliged.” I would then repeat his words to Dr. Roberts, and he would either agree to the simple request, or on other occasions he might claim he didn’t wish for any energy to be wasted by the continually running television. These moments of argument, obtrusions, and departures plainly summed up every aspect of a “check in.” The only part to ever be frightened of was if your doctor affirmed that the tests showed no progression, meaning that your sickness had worsened. In my experience that day and in the past “check ins,”  the situation in question had never been mine. 

It had been a three hour “check in” that day, most likely due to the fact that I might be rushed into surgery the second I was noticed again, and therefore the tests done on me needed to be extensive and certain about my capability to have the surgery. The night sky was darkening rapidly, and the sun was falling like a large and fiery stress ball from its high point in the sky. The hospital room was almost completely engulfed by darkness, and I was only partially sure that the surgeons had enough light to operate during this dark hour. The sound effects of SpongeBob were likely quite audible to the patients of the rooms near mine, yet I refused to turn down the volume of my distraction. I had pestered my mother about five minutes earlier to fetch some chocolate items and drinks from the vending machine down the eerie looking hall. She would squarely refuse each time I begged.

“Please mom, I’m sure it won’t harshly influence my health!” I had pleaded. My father, a less overbearing parental figure, announced that he would bring me a singular chocolate bar for me to feast on. I didn’t bother to request one for Otis because I knew he always had  a chocolate bunny, or even one in bar form, at hand. My mother accompanied my father on the short journey even though it required only one being, but still I had been left in the dark room with Otis. The flickering TV was the only light shining on our complexions, for none of us took the liberty to turn on one of the lamps on the Ikea nightstand. I had not seen Otis rest yet, but he stood beside me for quite some time, proving his steadfast loyalty. He still stood, unwavering. 

My father and mother returned with a pea sized chocolate almond, a large disappointment compared to my hopes of a king-sized Hershey bar. I scowled at their failure to meet my needs until I noticed three other people making an entrance. One was Dr. Roberts, and it wasn’t a very shocking sight for he came and went as he pleased, but he was accompanied by two other young and quite timid looking doctors. I could now understand that my parents had been bombarded on their way to the vending machine by these doctors, and I could see that they knew further into my future than I did. They had a faltering smile on their tired out faces, and I recoiled from the disgust of the fake happiness they put on display just for my benefit. Otis had backed away into a chair without me noticing his movement, and he sat there now, staring at the scene that unfolded in front of him. 

“Am I having the surgery today?” I asked while quivering, just so I could get the thought out of my head and into the room. I was somewhat annoyed that these grown adults chose not to disclose this information yet, allowing it to be much more awkward for the child in the room.

“You are, Bella, but don’t freak out kiddo,” Dr. Roberts said while attempting to be humorous. He clearly did not know my prior hatred of the degrading word “kiddo,” but I let him continue. 

“We don’t think you’re going to die Bella, I mean we can’t promise life of course,” he continued while I thought, So he’s basically assuring my death. I suppose I was just indignant that he mentioned that he couldn’t promise life to an eight year old girl. Of course she was going to interpret that she was going to die. I hardly listened to what he half told me and half told my parents about the way the surgery would work, and the confusing and unpronounceable medical terms. I now stared back at Otis, noting earlier that he had still been staring at me. He got up, unnoticed by the adults of course, and handed me a chocolate bunny, similar to the time I had first been in his presence. I was in no mood to eat, so I rested the bunny on my nightstand, ready to eat and enjoy it with Otis, post-surgery. For now I let the muffled noises of speaking be mere background noises, and I stared at the TV that was still, now quietly, playing season one episode three of SpongeBob.

Shortly after the time spent talking over the surgery, I was to prepare for the event itself. If I am to speak candidly, I had still not quite accepted the fact that I would soon be the dead squirrel poked by a stick, but I supposed at least the poker knew what they were doing. The two young doctors did not seem like highly competent surgeons. They were both much too clumsy, and shuffled reluctantly to my side. They began a painful and maddening process so I could go into surgery shortly. I felt like the turkey on Thanksgiving day, being prepped and touched by others. I was handled and medicated, and grabbed and poked, and I was stared at by my blood relations, and by my penguin friend. A rather embarrassing thing for them to do in this scenario. My mother and father stared and yelled lines of what they thought of as encouragement. If you compared them and Otis, Otis would seem quiet and bad tempered. However he was quite the opposite. My parents constantly repeated things such as, “It’s ok honey!” and, “You got this, it will be alright,” but Otis knew to sympathize, not encourage, and to do so whenever I flinched or quivered. He would then say cooly, “I understand it’s frightening.” I wished for him to embrace me once again, but he hadn’t the chance for I was now being lifted, similar to the first scene in the Lion King movie, by the three doctors in the room. I strained my neck to glance back at the TV which no one had turned off. I didn’t wish to lose my spot in the show. While I did so, Dr. Roberts practically let me fall onto a new and uncomfortably hard cot. My parents dared not to hold back their tears, and they looked as if they were already mourning my death. Otis stood unharmed by any trauma, and he just stared with sympathy as they rolled me away from him. 

“Bye,” I whispered to Otis, hoping to make it out of the surgery to see him once again. I then turned to the humans who created me. Our loving family, I could tell, would likely not be complete without me to look after. “I love you both very much,” I cooed, calming my parents down instead of the opposite. I had now officially been rolled out of my hospital room, and I felt dizzy while I stared down at the moving nauseating green tiles of a long hall. I tried to look back, to see Otis, to hear the ending credits of SpongeBob, to see how dark the room had gotten, to eat the chocolate almond, to hug a penguin. I was slipping away from the friend that cared about me the most, and I nearly screamed. The doctors pacing in front of me burst open a set of double doors, the same dramatic way they did it in TV shows. My parents were pushed back, not allowed to go any further into the sterilized room where my mind would be opened up to the world. I hoped my thoughts of contempt against the doctors stealing me from Otis would not escape in my weak moment and reach their ears. I eagerly wished to see if Otis was there, right next to my parents, wishing me luck. I was quite indignant at that moment and wanted to yell at the doctors, but instead I was instructed to count back from ten, “nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three…” I trailed off. That is all I remember.

I was extremely warm. My mind immediately asked the question if I was being eaten up by a raging fire or being burned by a dying out candle. To find the answer I had to see what was happening to my body. That’s why I opened my eyes. Contrary to my predictions, I was under three layers of heavy blankets, and I felt like the bottom layer of a piece of lasagna. I wasn’t sure what to do with my limbs, and I felt uncoordinated as I tried to move and failed in the process. My legs had been immobilized from the pressure of these blankets, and my tongue had never been so dry, and my eyes never so heavy. I tried to open my eyes, to rest them on the world, without using my fingers to prevent my eyelids from falling and hiding my sight. I gazed around as long as my exhaustion would permit. I let myself feel numb and morose for yet another moment, until my slow-moving mind undertook the reality of the situation. I was briefly paralized by the shock surging through my now profusely sweating body. I was alive, and from what I could tell, I was also healthy. I had the inclination to burst from my restraining sheets, but It was doubtless that there was certain medical equipment attached to my body. I imagined I had survived my brain being removed and then placed again in my head. To be frank, I knew that was most likely not the case. However, I could still claim I had survived a surgery, counting on the fact I wasn’t dreaming of life in this current moment. My face now swelled with pride. I was beaming, a fact I knew without needing a mirror. I soon thought of not myself but my loved ones. I could let myself relax now that I could keep the promise I made of eating that final chocolate bunny with Otis. I gave myself the courage to finally cease the resting of my limbs and to move around. I suppose I had been quiet while I pondered my mortality, for I now noticed my mother and father sitting in a chair, simply staring at their brown shoes. The awkward moment refused to pass, therefore leaving me to start a conversation. “Hi,” I croaked with my raspy voice. 

As basic and cheesy as it sounds, my parents looked as if they had seen a ghost in their presence instead of their once sickly child. My mother had a thing for the dramatics, and her reaction proved this statement far better than I could. She choked on tears as they rapidly streamed down her face, and she contorted her face during this period of carrying out and what I thought of as a celebration. My father simply swallowed, in a very exaggerated way, and tapped his foot repeatedly on the tiles beneath him. Shortly after I spoke, my parents both tightened their arms around my fragile and weak waist. I flinched for a moment before I enjoyed their loving embrace of affection. I too hugged them with the best of my ability, for my hands were too small and their bodies too large. We sat for moments of tranquility, until my mother felt the need to explain the fact that I was still alive. 

“The surgery went great!” she boasted, “You’ve gone from a pale ghoul to my lovely daughter.” Yes, that was a truly kind sentiment for my mother to speak, however no tears rose to my tired eyes just yet. After the strong feelings of reunitement subsided, I longed to meet Otis once again. I hadn’t been able to scan the room for the presence of the perpetually quiet penguin. I did so now, and returned with frustrating results. Otis did not appear to be in the white hospital room currently, an odd occurrence for the clingy penguin. 

“Do you happen to know Otis’ location?” I asked my euphoric mother. She bit her lip as if it wasn’t obvious for me to take that as a sign of worry. “Mom,” I said flatly and quite frustratingly. I thrashed around my bedding for some time until I was able to free my puny arms. I panted like a dog in hot weather after my draining struggle. Next I looked on the fragile nightstand for the Easter bunny chocolate I had left behind, part of my promise to Otis. I threw my head from side to side,with my eyes now wide open but still glazed over. I looked at each parent as they avoided my gaze. “Is this the same room I had before?” I quickly spat. They took quite a while to submit a valid response, but my mother answered with the short word, “Yes.”  

“Did they throw away the chocolate by chance?” I asked with the hope I could still indulge in eating. My father chose to chime in this time, with another one syllable, depleting word.

“No,” He murmured. 

I meditated for minutes trying to figure out how the chocolate did not sit before me and where Otis might be. During this exasperating period, Dr. Roberts chose to make his entrance. Poorly timed, but crucial. He entered with a lively attitude and did a strange and horribly executed dance on his way towards my bed. 

“There’s my number one patient!” he squealed like a schoolgirl. “How are you feeling today Bella? I’m sure your parents announced that we removed all tumors and you should be strong and healthy in no time.”

“I’m feeling fine Dr. Roberts,” I replied, contradicting his happy demeanour with my sullen one. “Yes, I have been notified about my current state of being.”

He then proceeded to flip through what I have identified as my chart, ask a few more questions, and speak to my emotional parents. They, like most times, left the room during this conversation. They all soon re-entered, coming back to my side clearly not as high-spirited as they were a mere one minute ago. 

“What?” I said in an angry tone, but with a slight quiver in my voice. 

“We were just wondering if Otis has interacted with you this morning,” Dr. Roberts said, addressing me, yet looking at my parents. He most likely intended the question to be smooth and calm. This dear doctor failed in that case. He scratched his head and couldn’t keep his sight in one direction for more than a moment. 

“I haven’t seen him yet,” I answered quite indignantly towards my nervous doctor. Dr. Roberts apparently felt no need to respond to my snappy remark, and he tripped towards the wide-open door. My parents took whatever signal he had made, and sat next to me. I wished they hadn’t. For the bed was too small for a group of three. 

“Bella, we’re really sorry…” my mother began but could not complete. She had unplugged whatever was keeping the dam together, and the tears appeared once again. 

“Honey,” my dad cooed, taking over for my saddening mother. I felt the redness in my cheeks, and from my current state of feeling I could tell they were the same shade as a ripe tomato. My nose soon became a peach-like color, and rain from my fading blue eyes watered the peach and tomatoes. “We don’t think Otis is here, anymore.” my dad finally finished. I watched as my statuesque father let rain onto his face as well. It was surely a rainy day for the Court family. I was no idiot, and I could easily put two and two together. I would not protest Otis’ disappearance. I would not argue with my father and mother, for I had no case. Calm, collected, accepting. These words did not describe my presence. The drizzling rain turned into a flood, and the dam was crushed into pieces. I forced my hand to reach the nightstand. My uncut nails yelled while they were pushed into the chipping paint, and they tried to grasp the form of an abandoned bunny. My beady eyes saw no presence of a black backpack and metallic lunchbox, no beanie left in the hallway, and no penguin asking for SpongeBob. My parents backed away, and now they really saw a ghost in me. I screamed for my neighbors to hear, for them to feel my pain. I thrashed around, pulling my hair, until the loudspeaker announced my room number. Blackness. 

I was Bella Court. Today I turned nine, and my mother bought me red wallpaper.

The Woman in the Moon

Some dare to love the night. They wax poetic on the velvet warmth of the air wrapping around them, write odes to the nightingale and to the bright stars that twinkle and provide only a smudge of light

—a lit candle in a yawning abyss—

—a campfire that casts as many shadows as light—

—a crystal sewn into a wedding gown’s silk for color—

Light. But swallowed up by darkness.

Of course, you wouldn’t find those kinds of people around here. And of course, I am not one of those people. I wish I were back in bed right now, but instead, I am stumbling through the woods at midnight. 

I squeeze the stone The Goodmother gave me at dinner.

—well dinner is a bit of a stretch isn’t it—

—but The Goodmother knows best—

Normally, I’d take dinner with the other acolytes in the Hall’s dining room; this last week, I have been cloistered in a room of my own, carrying out traditional penance and Purgatory, preparing for tomorrow. 

I found the stone tucked underneath the pannikin of gray mush on my dinner tray. On it is a painted map of the Hall of Golden Fire and its surrounding woods. I could smell the ground charcoal, still fresh, in the ink tracing my path to the lake in a nearby forest clearing, and could easily detect The Goodmother’s strong, forceful handwriting, present in all my textbooks, in the strokes of the one character painted on the stone: you must seek

My thin cotton dress snags on a spearlike tree branch. I huff and jerk away from the offending branch, wincing as the fabric rips free: The Goodmother may be censuring this voyage, but she will not approve of sloppiness. 

Serves her right, though. Only the heroines in fairy stories ever actually trip over their dresses, get stuck on a low-hanging vine, and such. I am hardly the type of person who would make a good adventuress, and yet here I am, in the middle of the night, stumbling my way through a dense forest in hopes I’ll find the place to practice my magic. 

My toe, encased in a rather feeble cloth slipper, stubs on a thick root, and I bite my lip to swallow my yelp of pain. Most definitely not a good adventuress.

—what am I thinking I’ll be mauled to death by a bear—

It’s been a long time since I actually read a fairy tale, or any kind of storybook for that matter. What I can remember is the memory of what The Goodmother told me in my first lesson as a fresh acolyte in the Hall: people like us are not heroines. We were not born golden-haired and apple-cheeked with flowers and silver spoons in our mouths. No, The Goddess chose us to act on the sidelines as witches. 

Maybe as the evil witch who decorates apples with poison. Hopefully as a good witch, who provides an invisibility cloak with which to spy on the twelve princesses who revel ceaselessly through the night. Perhaps both. 

A pretty picture, a pretty story. I smooth a curl of black hair out of my eye. I remember sitting at the feet of The Goodmother, one fist clenched on a cloth bundle of clothes that I suppose my parents gave me before abandoning me on the Hall steps. 

The Goodmother’s eyes twinkled kindly at me as she asked, “Do you understand why you are here, dear?” I nodded, jiggling my chin as fast as I could, to show her just how much I understood. I wanted to be that romantic, shadowy figure hovering around the edges of a story, the most talented kind of weaver who could smooth out the rumples of life. If being a witch only required determination, I would have been inducted that very day.

A breath of wind curls around me, its fingers stabbing my shoulder blades and massaging them into a shiver. I again wish for my bed, and my soft blankets, far more comfortable than a mantle of night air. But I am out of time.

When I was younger, I watched The Goodmother and the other mistresses command air with a deft twitch of the fingers, fling fire onto faraway candles with a bronzed flash of their eyes, and coax water to envelop them in skirts of blue sheets by casually waving a hand. It’s been ten years, and I cannot do the same. 

Maybe this is Anli’s gentle nudge to quash my hope and find some other job outside of the Hall before I am expelled. Expulsion would make me a pariah. I can sew beautifully, and I know all the secret recipes for the vividest dyes, but expulsion would steal any future I have. 

No one would want me. 

But try as I might, I cannot summon my power. Tomorrow is the capstone of my Purgatory. My eighteenth birthday, my Ceremony. I’m not sure what it requires, but it is my final chance to prove I have some calling in magic and some—any!—ability. So here I am, practicing at midnight. 

I shove my shoulder through the final barrier of stubborn brush and burst into the clearing, Lake Anli lying ahead of me. I suppose it’s foolish to name a lake after the sun Goddess when water is the domain of her brother, Azyan. But after all the trouble I’ve taken to sneak out and practice my spells for the Ceremony, I’m counting on any luck I can find, even if it’s simply finding a lake named after the One who is supposed to fuel my magic. 

Any scrap of luck.

—this is pathetic Su-enna, you’re more rational than this—

—you could run away, already halfway—

The lake looks astonishingly peaceful; I expected more pesky possums to be frolicking around. The moon looms large and heavy in the sky.

—shards waiting to break—

—a giant pearl weighting the center of a necklace—

—a pregnant belly, cradled and treasured for the potential inside—

—a compass? a wheel of time—

—a spinning wheel creaking above and below the water—

The moonlight sings strong and bright over the entire clearing. I wade knee-deep into the water. My nightgown flows out in tendrils, like the hair of a mermaid, and sends ripples across the lake, fractures the moon’s image into vaguely circular waves and enjambed parts.


I wade purposefully, if such a thing is possible when water pushes against me and whispers to slow down, toward the moon floating restlessly on the surface. Just a few hours siphoning its energy should be enough—morphing a toad or two into doves, healing the pinkish scar on my knee. All very easy, beginner’s magic that I probably should have performed years ago. I know the technique, at least. 

Strengthen my core. Dip my head forward in reverence. Gather power by thrusting my hand into the image of the sun . . . well, the moon will have to do. It is a disrespect to Anli, but

—one celestial object is so like another—

—no time to worry, I’ll pray forgiveness later—

Surely The Goodmother would not have aided me if she did not allow me this indiscretion. My fingers tremble, an inch away from the surface of the lake. I take the plunge before my thoughts can hunt me down.

And the yellow moon, so invariably round, disappears, dissolves through the cracks and calluses of my fingers. 

—yellow stardust—

—is this magic?—

My palm fills with golden powder. 

—did I just scoop it out of the water?—

The moon glows, alight with fire, above me. 

—a paper lantern, finally lit—

The scar on my knee seals itself. Was it ever there?

—this is magic—

The air seems to quiver around me, to glow with the light of midday. And the glow snakes in, coils around my insides.

—magic is a drink of silken water after wandering for years in the desert—

—a tree that has burst from an acorn—

—a blinding light after days of slumber—

—it is me, I am magic—

It is terrible. Who am I? 


I gasp and cry the tears I stored inside when I 

—summoned no spark of power at any end-of-year examination—

—was shooed away from the seamstresses’ hall with flicks of their glowing fingers—

—couldn’t succeed—

Well, I am no longer a failure. The Goodmother will be proud when she sees my performance tomorrow.

—or will she?—

A crack echoes, jerking me out of my stupor. It’s the unmistakable noise of a person stepping on a twig, which means someone is here, not fifty paces away from me.

Me, as in I, I who am breaking a law and a handful of Hall rules by cavorting in the darkness—the ultimate disrespect to Anli.

The warmth that was inside me just a few blinks ago fades into a whisper, waiting but out of reach. I can’t possibly expect to escape—it’s nearly as bright as day. We have learned about the perpetually full moon, but never had the chance to see it. No moonlight filters through the gaps between the walls’ bricks. 

—no sunlight either—

—heavens above I have to hide—

I have nowhere to hide. As I turn in the water, running critical eyes over my surroundings, a figure marches out of the trees, gently coaxing a fussy horse. Its back is turned to better administer to the horse, giving me a few precious seconds to send up a prayer to Azyan and dive underwater before I’m seen.

Bubbles rush around me and fill my nose. I paddle backwards with frenzied, weak flaps of my hands toward the other side of the lake. My feet scrabble the ground for footholds, but the mud is soft and cloudy and doesn’t provide much to push off of. 

It’s a small lake, barely larger than a pond. Something thick and solid bumps against my back—I’ve reached the opposite shore. I plant a hand behind me and turn to face the earth, digging my toes into the slightly-less-soft mud here and shooting up to the surface with a bounce of my knees. Air sticks to my face, and I suck it in with eager pulls. That’s when I look across the lake and see the figure brought friends.  

The gods are well and truly laughing at me: after all my careful rule-following and toeing the line, my one night of adventure teeters on implosion. I will be expelled. I will be thrown into prison for an amazingly long time for my crimes. I will have no future. No future, and no life. What starts as a yawn, a gap in my chest, races into my throat as a sob.

—but there’s no one to cry for—

—no one to see and no one to care—

—not a person worth caring for—

I am mourning my own death, and realizing I have not had a life. 

A voice cuts across the clearing; I squint, and guess that it belongs to the first person, with the horse. “Did you all get the plan?” It’s a husky voice, with a slight magnetic pull. The timbre of charisma—I’ve heard it in The Goodmother’s voice. 

And it’s a man’s voice. It must be. At least, I think so, I wouldn’t know. If The Goodmother were here, she would sniff and say, “and a good thing, too.” No boys allowed in the Hall of Golden Fire, because none have ability anyway.

Some of the other figures must be men, too. I hear more than one deep voice in their collective response. The first figure—the leader? I wonder—steps back and brandishes a club in the air. “We ride tonight, Shadows! We fight the powers that be!” 

A raucous cheer explodes out of his followers. I compress my shoulders and flatten my palms against the bank of the lake, making myself smaller around their noise, which will surely have them caught and thrown in cells before long. The Goodmother will know, and she will come find them. 

These rebels, or whatever they are, are not my problem. They are so wrapped up in their own sacrilegious mutterings they might not notice me.

—little old me—

This same time tomorrow, I may well find myself in the same woods with nothing but the clothes on my back, never mind any kind of future. But for now, at least, I have a home to go back to. 

I hoist myself out of the water so that I’m sitting with my feet in the water and begin charting a route home in my head. The moon has almost set: when I called my power it was directly overhead, shining clearly onto the lake, but now it is sunken and pale as it sinks in the west. If I’m careful, I might be able to circle the clearing all the way to their side before going back through the woods to the Hall. 

Mindful of the moon shining on the left side of the lake, I creep into the trees on my right, holding my breath to make less noise

—any scrap of luck—

and dart from tree to tree, pressing myself into each trunk and inhaling the moss and rough bark for a full ten counts while I peer at the group, checking that it remains oblivious to my presence.

I’m only a few paces from the trail The Goodmother indicated to me when two hands clamp onto my left and right shoulder. My reflexes kick in—hand-to-hand combat was one of the few classes at the academy that I could do just fine in, without adding a magical component. From the angles of the hand on each shoulder, I figure that I have two attackers. I place my arms diagonally across my chest, pinky to shoulder and other thumb to hip, and whip them around in the way I was taught. One arm coils back to my hip, my elbow jutting behind me. The person on my right lets go of me with a quick huff of pain. I don’t have time to dwell on my victory, once  I break free of these people, I’ll have to rush back to the hall if I can hope to attend my Ceremony in time. I swing my left arm down and strike my fist against a tender pressure point on the side of my other attacker’s leg. But he or she does not let go. Instead, I’m pulled back into the clearing and forced to face a dozen moonlit, weathered faces, wearing a range of emotions, from shock to anxiety to sour hostility. 

I exhale shakily. “Let me go. We can forget this ever happened.” 

The Shadows’ leader steps forward. “You know of our existence now, maybe even our plans. You’re coming with us.”

I raise my hands and pray for strength, for a miracle, for some kind of shield. None comes. I stare at my stupid, powerless, pointless hands, clench them

—it is not too much to ask, to be loved—

and I think of the moon,

—glowing bright and soft and hot—

—hot, hot, hot, I feel it—

feel the moon. And my hands flame. The light illuminates the Shadow leader’s green eyes, etches his fearful expression with shadows. He stares. “You’re one of the witches.”

I nod impatiently and creep toward the trees. 

He bars his teeth. “Then we’ll return you to the Hall, poor lost lamb.” 

As if I would ever give help to rebels. But the sky is turning rosy, meaning I need to be back in bed right now. I send up another prayer of forgiveness to Anli,

—lots of praying tonight—

and lift myself onto a horse, imagining all of The Goodmother’s disapproving expressions. 

But when the Shadows dump me on the front steps, no surprise or disappointment flits across her face. The Goodmother is as old as she is wise, with snowy white hair hanging down her back and her fingers warped by arthritis from years at the loom. Her face is a map of wrinkles: here is a dimple, showing only in true smiles, and there is where her jaw clenches when she is angry. Lines revealed when she worries, fumes, or laughs. As I stagger up to the door, she doesn’t blink—merely says, “Ah, Su-enna. We shall ready you for the Ceremony.” 

I bathe with hot water, a luxury required to purify me to the Sun’s exacting standards. Then I dress in pure white and stick buttercups in my hair, bursts of sunlight in my dark tresses. Two sisters ride with me to the River Azure, which cleaves our country in half, and force me to the very center. 

I’m trembling now. The Ceremony is a mystery, as unknown to me as men’s voices. I do not know if I will be flayed alive or asked to display my power. I lift my chin and wait for The Goodmother to explain. I see the image of my trembling fingers in the water, and I clench them out of sight, into fists. 

“To please Anli and be accepted as a sister in the Hall of Golden Fire, you must prove your worth.” The Goodmother’s voice is high and clear and keen. “The water will wash away any sins you carry. To balance water is his sister, fire, and She will test you.” 

—wait what—

She cups her hands over her mouth and hurls a bloom of fire at me. 

—too late to close my eyes—

—death by a bear would have been mercy—

I am not burned. The fire spreads over me, sliding butter in a pan. My hair is burning away in a thousand pinpricks, the buttercups wilting. But my face feels no warmer than a blush. My fists flame. I welcome the fire, but what now?

—banish the orange beast—

—do something—

—the moon—

My closed lids flash soothing yellow. The fire dies. I feel my scalp prickle in relief.

Then I feel The Goodmother’s slap. “Foolish girl! Irreverent girl!”

—well what should I have done—

“What did I do, Goodmother?” I lower my eyes. 

“You should have waited,” she snaps, “for the fire’s color. Black for evil magic. White for Anli’s approval. But for you . . .


My heart clenches. “But I am magic!”

“Such audacity!” she squawks. “Magic is divine. You may receive the gift, that is all. And your magic . . .” She straightens. “Impure. You worship the moon, not the sun. Ultimate betrayal! You are dark. You—” her withered lungs wheeze. She points across the river, away from the Hall. “are not wanted here.” 

“Where can I go, Goodmother,” I plead, “If I’m unwanted?” 

She shrugs. “Join the rebels? They’re so desperate for any leverage, they’ll harvest you and your power happily.” She climbs out of the river with a splash. 

—the slap of rejection—

I sink onto my knees and stay there. My face wavers in the water. When the tears come, it’s so easy to turn them loose, after years of suppressing emotion. They drip down my face and into River Azure’s steady current, a cycle returning to the water, where the salty drops instantly melt into a home. 

—o to be gathered up as efficiently, lovingly—

It’s so easy to stay there, swaying in the river, curled over to keep my heart inside my chest. It’s so easy to accept this fate. I’ve always felt 


Eventually, my hair dries; so does my face, sticky but warm. When my stomach rumbles, I finally climb out and walk, finding some berry bushes. 

The sun is setting when I hear the clop of hooves along the bank. I peer out from behind the bush I’d picked to sleep under and see a band of people dressed in black, led by a familiar green-eyed man. 

The Shadows. 

—I’m desperate and cold and aimless—

“Wait!” I implore with an outstretched hand, stumbling forward. “I can help you!” 

The leader halts, signaling the others to do the same with a jerk of his head. “Explain.” 

I’m in too deep now.

—jumped off this cliff a while ago—

“Whatever you’re trying to do . . . ” I pause. “My magic can help. I can summon rain, wind, fire—make plants grow, anything.” 

—nothing left to lose—

“You want to overthrow the government? I can burn it all down,” I rasp. 

The leader frowns. He turns to a fair woman just behind him and whispers hurriedly. She nods eagerly, casting hungry eyes over me. Finally: 

“We can use you. My name is Kai, and that’s Rafiya.” A nod toward the blond woman. “Welcome to the Shadows.” Rafiya helps me onto her horse, settles behind me, and whips us into a gallop. 

We ride north, hugging the river, for most of the night. I don’t know where I am going, and I don’t care. The grim black sky and stinging wind blind me

—and my judgment—

but I keep up with the group. I’m wanted here, maybe for all the wrong reasons, and it is enough. They promise me a roof and a bed, companions to chase away my loneliness, so I’ll do anything they ask. 

—morality has stolen too much of my life for me to heed it now—

When the sun rises, it does so over a ramshackle village and, not too far off, a large, tall building of white stone, boasting turrets capped with gold. Clueless about any geography outside of the Hall, I raise my eyebrows at Rafiya. 

“It’s the Governor’s palace.” She leans closer and whispers, “You’ll kill her. We have a few things to teach you first, but if you do this for us, we will officially accept you as a Shadow.” I’m dazed but weary, so I nod. 

The Shadows have been scouting the palace of the current Governor, Nette Flysalle, for weeks. Their planted agent lets me into the kitchen through the palace’s back door, along with the local baker when he makes his daily bread delivery. He whispers hurried instructions to me as he stirs onion soup—how many lefts and rights I must make to reach Nette’s receiving room, where she will be alone and ready to receive petitioners. He slips me a maid’s uniform, which I pull over yesterday’s white robes. 

I’m counting my left turns as I scurry down the plush carpeted corridors when someone pokes me in the shoulder. Whirling around, I see Rafiya in a costume similar to mine. She presses a finger to her lips and taps her dagger at her hip, mouthing just in case as she follows me. I contemplate whether the dagger is for Nette or for me as I race around the last turn and ease open the waiting red door

—why is the goodmother here?—

“Where is the Governor?” I scan the room frantically, noting possible escapes: there are no windows. There is a skylight, but the ceiling’s too high to reach. 

The Goodmother laughs. “There is no Governor. We at the Hall are blessed by Anli Herself. Heaven would not want any other ruler of this country.” She steps toward me, poised and calculating. “I’m only telling you all this because you’ll soon have no one to tell except your fellow inmates in Hell.” 

I press a shoulder against the doorframe and gesture with my hidden hand to Rafiya. I hope I correctly make the shape she taught me a few hours ago: a warning to hang back, and get help. “You’re sure I’m going to Hell?” I toss out, listening for Rafiya’s footsteps to fade away. 

“I have sensed something off about you since your childhood. As you grew, that manifested as a nocturnal sleep cycle, a fascination with the library’s moon myths. An irreverence for Anli, and for my authority. Oh yes, you tried to hide it! But I knew you failed your magic classes because you had the wrong kind of magic.” 

Maybe before I would have cared. Now her words are rote, targeting the approval-seeking person that has slipped farther and farther away from my consciousness. I walk toward her and snarl, “If I can’t kill you, maybe they will.”

With beautiful timing, Rafiya, Kai, and the other Shadows appear in the doorway, knives gleaming in different parts of their clothing. “Finish it now!” I hear someone crow.

The old woman changes tactics. “You know you want to belong. Come home. Only I understand you. These rebels only want to use you—I sent you to them so you could realize this. Kill these rebels to show your loyalty, and we can overlook your taint.” 

She has set up this whole situation—my encounter with the rebels in the woods, my flee to them after the Ceremony, my presence here to kill a nonexistent Governor. 

—the most skilled weaver—

—engineering us all into place—

I turn to the rebels. Kai says impatiently, “It’s not true. You’d rather be with us than this manipulator. We don’t believe in rejection. Now kill her.” But his eyes are wide, and Rafiya’s knuckles are white. They fear me. 

I step back, so I can see both sides at once. My heart squeezes and prompts me to imagine, just once, what life as a Hall inductee would be like. I’d finally be able to join in on games like flip the coin, where one had to do so only by controlling the air around the coin. I could live and die cushioned inside that community. 

—they would never accept me—

—even with the Goodmother’s sanction, all of them will always distrust my power—

What about life with the rebels? With one killing blow, I’d win their approval. They have already welcomed me. I could put my fighting skills to good use, help them end the Hall’s iron-fisted reign over the land. We might go hungry, but always together. I may not grow old, living in such danger, but I would live fully. A hardscrabble life softened by company. 

—if I were powerless they would eat me for breakfast—

—they don’t even know my name—

If I kill the Goodmother, I choose the Shadows. If I kill the Shadows, I choose the Goodmother. The thought spins in my head.

—simple math—

“I choose the good and righteous side. For all that I’ve railed on morality, it still lives inside of me,” I say, as much to myself as to my audience. “I’ll kill nobody.” 

—the shadows aren’t heroes, nor is the goodmother—

—my life is not black and white—

—my life is not a fairytale—

—my life is Mine.—

I stop speaking, but my thoughts are pounding-loud, reverberating in my head. 

I choose my side. I don’t care if I’m alone. My conscience can keep me company. And I choose not to be lonely, but happy.

“I choose myself.”

The skylight glass shatters, revealing the pale dawn sky. The moon and the sun twinkle in tandem, in this intermediary between night and day. The forever-full moon calls to me once more.

I let myself answer.

I dissolve out of my worldly body and reach the moon.

And that’s why the moon has phases. 

Oh, did I skip ahead again?

And that’s why people see a man in the moon. It’s actually me. The moon seems a cold place, but it’s quite warm up here. Perhaps a bit pale and empty, but it’s not so lonely. 

I am not unwanted either—rather, quite in demand. The witches distrusted my power, while the rebels lusted for it. Either way, they urged me to hoard it and hide it. But the ordinary people, the ones who seek a pinch of magic in small miracles—

I help them. My magic melts off the moon in small bits and pieces. Every time my territory melts away completely, their faith in the power of the moon—

—light in the darkness—

Restores it. Mortals are a thankful lot, even for the little help I can give them: in puzzle pieces with corners broken off, in small drops of magic swirling down different drains, in wrinkles ironed out. In broken shards reformed into souls.

And these souls may grow old and grey, but they will always understand the Moon. And me, Su-enna. I will be here for them. I will still be here for the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren, who have heard the stories. 

Now I watch. I wait. I feel. 

—I give myself away.—


Editor’s Note: Content warning for subject matter related to eating disorders

Script: This script is meant to be read in podcast format


Statement of Ichika Payne, regarding her time as an employee of Kenley Design Company.

Original statement given 10th of January, 2006. Audio recording done in 2020 by Katherine Adamos, head archivist of the Lampert Institute, London. Statement begins.


My eating disorder developed as most do. I don’t really want to dwell on that, because I do not feel like explaining my life story to someone who is not my therapist, as that’s not what I’m here to talk about. But I will say that from a young age, I’ve experienced… real hunger. The deep, deep ache in your stomach when it’s truly empty, and it feels like a black hole inside you. It’s almost like a high, a weird feeling of purity.

I work as a designer. It’s ironic, as the fashion industry is known for being problematic in terms of body image. I’ve always loved fashion though, dressing up, going shopping. But it was never so much about how I felt in the clothes. It was more like… how I felt when people noticed me in them. My parents always told me that I was a sucker for praise, but I don’t think they knew just how right they were. As a child, I was constantly craving attention. Not in an obnoxious or over the top way… just, doing what I could to make people notice me. For example, being the prettiest, being the smartest. Things like that.

I suppose I do have a weird sort of fear surrounding… bodies. Meat, in general. My mother received liposuction when I was six. I had asked her where what they took out would go, and she told me she didn’t know. Even now, I can remember my six-year-old self picturing that bloody fat and flesh, still warm from my mother’s body, swirling down a hospital drain, smeared on white tile.

I apologize for the tangent. In the summer of 2005, I was fresh out of college, and looking for somewhere to start my career, preferably a smaller company, as I wanted to work where there was a good chance of my clothes being made and put on sale. I lived in Bristol at the time, and it wasn’t too hard to find a recent startup brand. Kenley, they were called.

I had submitted some of my winter designs online, and went in for an interview only a week later. According to their website, I was looking for a woman named Patricia. No last name or anything. Just Patricia.

She was a strikingly tall Turkish woman, gaunt, and had the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. The same opaque sky blue a colored pencil might be. She was so thin, so angular. Her bones looked like they could cut. She must have been in her mid-forties, but it was… hard to tell. Upon meeting her, I automatically felt a sense of respect for her. She exuded the confidence of a leader, even though she was only the supervisor of the fifteen people who worked in the studio.

The interview went well enough, I suppose. The building I would be working in was a nondescript two story brick building somewhere downtown. She asked me a few questions about previous work I’d done, what my goals were, that sort of thing, all the while twirling her thick, bleach white hair around a long, thin finger. Looking back on that moment, I feel as if I should’ve known something was wrong when I observed how… sharp her nails looked. Long and pointed, as an acrylic nail would be. But those nails weren’t fake.

I got the job fairly easily. I take pride in my work, and I’d like to say that I got in based on skill alone. But… now I’m not so sure.

The environment there was fairly quiet, only the sounds of graphite moving against paper and the whir of a slightly dented space heater in the corner. The floors were a grey tile, and always sparkling clean. The smell of bleach was quite pervasive.

I didn’t talk to my colleagues very often, aside from idle chat at break times. Any conversations we had were… stilted, as well. Like it was difficult for them to remember the right words to say. Like they hadn’t used their voices in a while. I ignored this well enough. I had barely any friends outside of work, so I took what interactions I could.

Lunch was an interesting matter. The first day I got there, I expected my colleagues to leave their desks and head for the break room at noon, the scheduled time for lunch. However, no one moved. They just all kept their heads bent over their desks and… continued working. I never saw a single person there eat.

At first, I thought I was just among hard workers. It was almost a relief, to be honest. I didn’t have to go through the trouble of excusing why I wasn’t eating lunch, or carrying around an empty lunch bag for the appearance. No one would bat an eye if the only thing I consumed was tea with metamucil stirred in, they were so focused on their work.

But, as time progressed, I started to feel a bit… suspicious? Of my colleagues. They were diverse enough, mostly Malay women, a white lady with red hair whose name I could never remember, and a few men. Whenever I chatted with them, they clearly didn’t keep up with any of the news or popular culture. And of course I can relate to that, I’m not the most updated person but. At least I vaguely knew what was going on in the world. At least it seemed like I checked my phone once in a while.

And the way they were so focused on their work. Constantly at their desks, sketching and sketching and sketching. (pause) I never once saw any of their designs, as they never got published or created. I’m not sure if what they were designing was clothes at all.

Patricia was much different from them. Comparing her to my colleagues was like… comparing a child’s picture book to a novel. She always wore sleek black pantsuits, white coils down to her shoulders, and those nails. Always painted a bright neon pink, and sharp enough to cut. I was more than a little enamored with her, in the way a student might crush on her professor.

She was everything I wanted to be. Often, during the lunch breaks, I would go to her office, she would pull out two Diet Cokes from her mini fridge, and we would talk. About nothing in particular. Fashion, I suppose. I can’t really remember. Her presence was a bit blinding, and I always felt oddly nervous, or giddy, going to talk to her. I suppose maybe that’s what muddied my memory. I’m usually very collected, but I couldn’t help but just… want her praise. I wanted her to like me. She was… ethereal.

We never discussed… eating issues or the like. But there is one thing I distinctly recall her saying to me. I hesitate to call it a memory. It felt almost unreal, like an echo of a conversation.

That day Patricia had seemed more… aggressive. Her usual elegant demeanor replaced by something more (pause) ravenous, though I could see her quite obviously trying to suppress herself. During our usual time together she seemed almost… impatient with me, as if she were talking to a child.

For me, one of the worst feelings in the world is being unwanted, especially from this woman, this role model of mine. I made up some excuse and stood to leave, saying I needed to finish one of my winter designs.

As I reached the door, I felt one of her hands close around my wrist. She had been all the way across the room, and it startled me at how fast she’d closed the gap between us. Her sharp nails were digging into my skin, and for how thin she was, her grip was strong, unnaturally strong. I don’t doubt she could have crushed my hand.

Fear pulsed through me.

There is not enough meat on your bones.”

Now, people have said that to me plenty of times. A casual joke or a knowing look from a professor. 

But she growled it at me. The black hole where my stomach used to be sobbed in hunger, and all I could do was stare into her shallow, sky blue eyes.

She released her nails, and I ran.

When I left her office, every single one of my coworkers had their eyes trained on me. At the time I thought it was just because I’d made some sort of commotion. 

Looking back, I’m fairly certain I was the only one in that room breathing.

I knew I had made a mistake. I left work five hours early, and all my papers and supplies were still on my desk. The deadline for submitting a line of dresses I designed was next week, and I desperately needed to work on them. 

My heart pounded with anxiety and panic, and I paced around my practically empty apartment, feeling cold with horror and a bit of embarrassment. I decided I would go in once the work day ended, grab my things and go. Then, come into work the next day, pretend nothing happened, and keep living my life.

So, at 8 pm, I took the bus back downtown, plugged in the code to unlock the front door, the smell of bleach and floor cleaner not quite as potent as it usually was, and carefully walked up the stairs to the second floor. I’d never been in the building this late in the evening, and the pools of darkness where the setting sun didn’t reach gave me terrible unease.

It felt oddly warm in the building. I was wearing my fall clothes, and sweat was slowly dampening my turtleneck. I was too scared to turn on any lights, and I didn’t know if anyone was still in, so I walked with light footsteps. I noticed a sticky substance on the floor, causing my boots to create an ugly suction sound. I kept walking, the steps getting stickier the more stairs I climbed, and the usual clean smell fading.

I will try my best to describe what I saw when I pushed my way through the door.

My colleagues were there. Still sitting at their desks. Not scribbling on paper, but just… sitting there, eyes wide open, facing forward.

However, there was a yellow-ish oily substance slowly dripping from their legs. As if the bottoms of their feet were removed, and they were left to drain. The murky white completely flooded the white tile of the room, and it smelled awful. It smelled of fat and of rot and infection.

And Patricia. I could see her standing casually at my desk, leaning on it, nothing covering her upper body, and covered in large stripes of red. Heat was radiating from the spot she stood in, and I could see the steam hovering around her. 

She extended one arm, bicep facing up, and used one of those bright, pink nails to slowly saw through her flesh, the same way one might carve a piece of meat. She peeled it off with a sickening rip, and flung it to the tile.

I watched as that same substance seeped from her, trickled down her forearm and legs, her trousers soaked to her thin, boney calves.

I vomited.

And funnily enough, my first thought was that I ruined a pair of £70 corduroy pants.

Sixteen pairs of eyes turned to leer at me, but none of them were human. Not anymore.

I made a brief moment of eye contact with what used to be Patricia. Her smile revealed a set of sharp canines dripping with what I can only assume was blood. 

I saw her mouth form a word, a question.


I tripped while sprinting out of the building, even though there was no one chasing me.

I never went back to work. I simply… packed up and left the city. I’m currently staying with my parents in Leeds, and have started receiving clinical help for my disorder. I’m not sure if I’ll ever receive any answers for what happened at Kenley, and I’ve decided that’s for the best. I just… needed to tell someone. Do what you will with this information. Thank you for your time.


(sigh) Statement ends. As this Patricia was not described to have any last name, I can assume that Ms. Payne encountered the entity formerly known as Patricia Yilmaz. We believe it is now working for either the Corruption or Viscera. There are no details concerning the address or location of Kenley Design Studio, other than sparse descriptions of downtown Bristol. When research was done online for the company, a website did pop up, but had been deactivated two months ago. Figures. When I sent in Tom to do a bit of reconnaissance, he found a multitude of two story brick buildings, none of which had any signage to distinguish between them. 

When we contacted Ms. Payne, she refused to disclose the location of the studio, and had no new information for us, other than the fact that, about a month ago, a bill with no forwarding address was sent to her new home in Munich, charging her 87.56 pounds, the exact price of 44 cans of diet coke.

Recording ends.

End audio

Drifting Apart

The only place where I felt truly safe was at the beach. If it was raining, it didn’t matter. There’s a blizzard, you say? Then we would still go to the beach. I know it’s odd, but my grandma and I, ever since I was a child, had always gone there when we needed to talk, I mean really talk. But today was different, I knew that after I told Grandma what I had done, she wouldn’t love me the same.

“Grandma, can I ask you something?” I asked, trembling.

She looked worried, as she should have been. “A-anything, Jessica. What’s the matter?”

“Well, there isn’t any easy way to say this, but I might have done something to betray Sam’s trust.”

Samantha was my best friend, we’d known each other since nursery school and we had never gotten in a fight, ever. After my parents got divorced, I started spending a lot of my time with my grandma. She really understood me, in a way that no one else did. 

She really had to think about this. “Samantha, your friend from nursery school?”

“Yes, she asked me to keep a secret and I told the teacher. She doesn’t know, though.”

“What — what was the… nevermind. Well, you have to tell her at some point. If you tell her what you did, at least she will know. If you don’t tell her and she finds out one way or another, it won’t go down well, trust me.” 

She was suspicious, I understood why, but I wasn’t going to tell her the secret, it wasn’t any of her business.

“But I’ve known her all my life,” I said, sighing. I knew she was right, but I still didn’t want to face the truth. I held on to my hat, the wind was aggressive this afternoon. It was as if the wind were trying to tell me something. Sam was my best friend. If she found out that I had lied to her, I might not have a best friend anymore.

“It’ll be ok, I promise. If you ever want to talk about anything, I’m here, sweetheart.”

“I know.” 

That night, I couldn’t sleep, although my eyes were heavy and I was all snug in my bed. What if Sam hates me, what if she never wants to talk to me again? No. I have to tell her, just like Grandma said, she will find out one way or another. All the secret was was that she had copied off someone’s paper during our geometry quiz. That’s no big deal… right? My mind was racing, I couldn’t stop shaking. I heard my heart beating, I thought there was a chance that it would jump out of my chest. The palms of my hands were sweating, I tried to wipe the sweat off on my pants but the sweat somehow just kept crawling back to my fingertips. 

Maybe about one hour later, I somehow drifted off to sleep. 

Buzz, buzz. My alarm went off. Ugh, time for school. My eighth grade teacher, Ms. Summer, was so sweet and cared for everyone and I say this truthfully, the only reason I told Ms. Summer Sam’s secret was because I knew Sam was beyond capable of doing the test all by herself. Without cheating.

Mom dropped me off at school that morning and when I arrived, I saw her. She was looking so happy, which only made me feel worse. How could I tell her what I’ve done. It will ruin her day. 

“Heeeey, Sam,” I said awkwardly, as if I had never talked to her before in my life.

“Hi! What’s up, you seem a bit… tense.”

“Hehe, do I?” What was that, Jessica, “Do I?” Ugh.

She looked confused. “Um, yeah, you do. I know you pretty darn well, what’s up?”
“The sky?” Jessica, are you serious right now? Just come clean, you’ll feel better.

“Fine then, don’t tell me.” She huffed off in a hurry.

Well, I might have just missed my only chance to tell her what happened, no big deal… no big deal.

We got to our first period class, and of course, our assigned seats were right next to each other, great, just what I needed. 

“Good morning, class!” Ms. Summer said, almost singing the words.

“Good morning, Ms. Summer,” the class chanted back to her.

I nudged Sam. “Can we talk after class?”

She didn’t answer. Her eyes didn’t even move off of the chalkboard.

“Sam?” Ms. Summer asked as she came closer to our table. “Can I see you for a minute? Privately,” she said, looking directly at me, almost through me.

My heartbeat quickened instantaneously, I started to pant. I couldn’t see clearly, my head was pounding. What was she telling Sam? Was she going to tell her what I had done? Was she going to hate me?

Only a couple of seconds later, the door opened, and I was suddenly very confused. Sam was smiling like she had just won the lottery. What had Ms. Summer said? I wanted to ask her but that would be impolite. I looked over at Ms. Summer, and she smiled and gave me a wink. I was almost frustrated now, I didn’t know what had happened in the hallway, I probably still had to tell Sam that I told her secret. This was a complete disaster. 

After school ended, I walked over to my best friend and I gave her a look saying, “We need to talk.” She nodded her head silently, and we sat down at a bench near the school’s entrance. 

“I need to tell you something and I don’t want you to get mad, can you promise me?” I pleaded.

She giggled.  “Well, when you put it that way, I can’t promise anything!”

I sighed. “Fine. I-I-I don’t like what you’re wearing today.”

You could imagine what happened next, she was confused, I was confused, and then we both went home wondering what had just happened!

When I got home, I plopped myself on the couch, propped my elbows on the edge of my legs, and my hands covered my face. The tears burned my eyes, I couldn’t tell if it was sad or angry tears. Maybe it was a bit of both.

I was currently living with my mom in this small apartment in Ohio, so there wasn’t really any way I could hide from her.

“Honey, what’s wrong? I know a sad face when I see one.” She looked at me and gave me a sad smile.

I wiped my tears off my face with the back of my sleeve. “It’s a long story.”

“Well it’s only 4:00. I’ve got time.”

“I want to talk to Grandma.”

She looked disappointed. “Oh, ok, I can drive you to the beach if you want.”

I texted Grandma, and I’m not kidding, within 15 seconds, she responded! I met her at the beach, it was windy again but I didn’t mind.

“Hey, sweetheart. What’s bugging you?” She gave me an empathetic smile.

I stared blankly at the ocean, the waves crashing against the golden sand. 

I told her how Ms. Summer took Sam out into the hallway and she came back to the classroom smiling. And I told her that I hadn’t told Sam yet. And that I didn’t know why I had so much trouble telling her.

She looked disappointed, but not at me, at what I had done. “Maybe if you tell me what the secret was, I can understand the situation better.”

I knew I was going to have to tell her at some point, I just didn’t want to. I thought that was a perfectly good reason not to tell her, I just didn’t want to. But I knew that wasn’t really an option so I took a deep breath, “She cheated during a geometry quiz. I told the teacher because I knew she was very capable of doing the test without looking at someone’s paper.” In my head, it just sounded like a jumble of words, but I could tell that Grandma understood. The truth was I actually felt a lot better saying it out loud. Maybe it wasn’t too late to tell Sam what had really happened.

“Oh.” She looked like she had been expecting something worse. “That isn’t so bad, is it?”

“No, but if I tell her the truth, I’m afraid she isn’t going to want to be my friend anymore.” I blinked at least a dozen times in a row to stop the tears from escaping.

She looked perplexed. “Are you sure this is about being afraid of not having a friend? I think that maybe you’re afraid that you’re not going to have as tight a bond as you have had your entire life.”

Those were true words of wisdom that I had never actually thought about before until now. Maybe she was right. Maybe we would still be friends, but would it be the same?

“I don’t know.”

“And you have the right not to know. But we will figure it out, Jess. I know we will. Your mom said that she’ll be here in a bit. Do you want me to stay here with you until she gets here?”

“No, it’s ok. You can go. I’ll see you later.”

“Ok, good luck.” She walked towards the parking lot near the beach and she was soon out of sight.

I gave a shy smile to myself. I have a secret. Sam copied off my geometry quiz. I could have stopped her, but I didn’t. I’m the one to blame. I told the teacher because I wanted to get back at her. I wanted to get back at her because she had been avoiding me for the longest time. I know I should have talked to her but our relationship doesn’t really work like that. I wanted to tell her the whole story but she would have wanted to hurt me. I mean if I was her and she had done that to me and then she told me everything she had done all at once, I wouldn’t know what to say. Or feel. I was also worried about how Ms. Summer had taken Sam out into the hallway, I didn’t know what she was saying. I thought she was revealing my secret. I shouldn’t have told her. I shouldn’t have told anyone. I was angry and I wanted revenge. I didn’t think about what I was doing until after I did it. I am going to tell Sam about this.

That night, I tried extra hard to let my mind relax. For the longest time, I’d had trouble falling asleep. It isn’t the slightest bit fun because being tired and not being able to sleep are one of the most frustrating things ever. 

When I woke up the next morning, I realized that Grandma was the only person I actually trusted. It was quite a sad thought so I didn’t spend much time thinking about it or else I would have started bawling. I ate my breakfast cereal so slowly it became soggy and mushy, disgusting! My mom drove me to school as always because her job was never in the morning as an interior designer. 

“Have a great day, sweetie!” She blew me an air kiss from the car window and I, unenthusiastically, pretended to catch it.

I felt like a nobody, knowing that the only person I had to talk to was my grandma. That’s pretty pathetic, if you ask me! I had a huge unsolved problem, no friends except for Sam. The only problem with being friends with her at the moment was that we were on no speaking terms. I wouldn’t exactly call that a friend… 

When it was math class, I decided I needed to have a talk with Ms. Summer, I mean, she was a big factor in my anxiety right now.

I sat down next to Sam and I gave her the biggest smile I could possibly give without looking like I was up to something.

“Good morning, class,” Ms. Summer said, partially sitting on her desk.

This time, I didn’t say good morning back, because it wasn’t a good morning at all.

Ms. Summer, quiet as a mouse, crept up to our table, again! Are you kidding me, this seriously can’t be happening.

“Ms. Davis.” 

My head perked up, she had never said my last name before.

“Yes, Ms. Summer.”

“Can I see you in the hallway please?” She didn’t look mad, she just didn’t look like her usual bright and cheerful self.

I nodded.

“What is up with you, Jessica? You’ve been acting very strange lately. First, you tell me that Sam cheated and then you don’t say good morning. I don’t want to even start to talk about the grades you’ve been receiving from my class. Could you explain to me why all of this happened, just out of nowhere?”

“Um, sure. You know, Sam and I have been friends forever and lately she’s been avoiding me so I wanted to get back at her, she cheated on my test.” I sighed, I couldn’t take it back now, “I could have told her not to but I didn’t. I told you because I wanted to get her in trouble. I know it seems really bad but I had good intentions.”

She covered her mouth with her hand. “Those don’t seem like good intentions, Jessica.”

“I know. I knew she could do the test without cheating so I told on her.”

“Then which one is it? You let her cheat on purpose or you told me because you knew she could do the test without cheating?”

“Take a guess.”

She looked really disappointed in me. I’ve never seen a teacher look this way before.

“Let’s go back into the classroom, shall we?”

“One more thing, Ms. Summer.” She turned around intrigued by my words, “I know it’s none of my business but what exactly did you tell Sam yesterday that made her so happy?”

She giggled. “You’re right, it isn’t any of your business at all. But I will tell you that I won’t tell your little secret, you have something special, kiddo. Don’t let this one time get the best of you. Everyone has a downfall at some point, you’re lucky that you have a friend as good as Sam.”

“But then why does she keep ignoring me?”

She looked like she knew something that I didn’t. “Try talking to her again, see what happens. If it doesn’t go as planned, I’m here. Okay?”
I looked down at my feet. “Okay. I’m sorry for everything.”

She didn’t say anything after that, I was kind of hoping that she would have told me what had happened in the hallway, but I still had hope that Sam and I would continue our friendship.

That afternoon, while I was working on my math homework, a lightbulb went off in my mind. I suddenly had a brilliant thought and I didn’t know why I had never thought about it before. It was so simple, yet it made so much sense. I could still be friends with Sam, but friends drift apart and then new people come into our lives. Maybe someone new would come into my life. I’m not saying I wanted to get rid of Sam, I’m just saying, maybe I could make some new friends. I felt so smart, but not because I was doing math homework, because I was actually making sense to myself. 

“Hi, Sam, I know we haven’t been speaking much but — no, that doesn’t sound right.” I kept trying to write my little “I’m sorry” speech, but I couldn’t get it to sound right. 

“Hi, Sam, I have something big to tell you. No, that’s a little obvious.” I sighed, I’m never going to be able to do this. But I have to. Just stick to the plan and you’ll be fine.

When I got to school, I was confident, but when I saw Sam, my confidence level went down a few notches. You’ve got this, you can do it.

“Hi, Sam, can we please talk?”

She shrugged.

I took that as a yes. “First of all I want to say I’m sorry. I’ve been a really bad friend lately and I need to tell you the whole story. This time you can get mad, you probably will get mad. I completely understand if you do.” Get to the point, Jessica. “First of all, when you copied off my math test, I didn’t tell you not to and I told Ms. Summer about it. I did it without thinking, I wanted to get you in trouble. Only because you had been avoiding me and I was mad at you.” 

And then I told her about how I was so nervous when Ms. Summer took her out into the hallway. After I finished speaking, she looked shocked. 

She gulped. “Why didn’t you tell me any of this sooner? I would have explained myself.”

“Well, I hope it’s not too late. Can you explain yourself now?” 

“First of all, there was a flood in my house and we had to move out this week, of course, all of our stuff was damaged so we didn’t really have anything to move in with. That is what Ms. Summer was talking to me about, she was offering my family some new clothes and bed sheets and stuff like that.”

How had I not known about this? “I’m so, so sorry. I had no idea. I would have done the same, I still can.”

“My parents said I shouldn’t tell any of my friends about it because they didn’t want you to be worried. I think you’re worried now, so I think that was a good call. I’ve been avoiding you because I wanted to tell you about it so badly but I couldn’t. I’m sorry.”

“You shouldn’t be the one apologizing. You actually had a good reason for doing what you did. I didn’t. I want to still be friends with you of course but… maybe we could take a break from each other for a little while?”

“That sounds good.”

“And one last thing, we need to promise each other that if we make new friends, we won’t be too jealous,” I said even though I didn’t think I would be making new friends very soon. But it was nice to know that Sam was there if I needed someone. I didn’t only have Grandma now, I had Samantha as well.

I wanted to go to the beach one last time this week, but I couldn’t go by myself.

“Grandma, can I ask you something?” I asked, grinning.

She smiled. “Anything, Jessica. What’s the matter?”

Here I was, sitting calmly on the warm sand next to my favorite person in the entire world, at the only place where I felt truly safe. I was having one of many heart-to-hearts with my grandma, she really understood me, in a way that no one else did. My rosey cheeks were warm to the touch and my eyes were a hazel brown with a hint of blue from the waves that I was watching in the distance. I have known Samantha since nursery school, I thought quietly to myself, but that won’t stop me from making new friends. I stared into my grandma’s beautiful eyes, wanting every single inch of me to be exactly like her when I grew up. 

Why Do We Dream?

We dream because we all have some sort of imagination. Usually, dreams aren’t exactly what we want to dream about. People say we can control what we dream, but actually, we can’t. Dreams come unexpectedly and randomly. Sometimes we don’t have a dream at all. I have an imagination but that doesn’t necessarily mean I have a dream every single night. Some nights I do, but forget about them, other nights I have but remember them.

When we don’t have a dream, we are usually in the dark until we wake up. This can cause people to oversleep. It’s happened to me many times within time, you will wake up. Don’t worry too much about not being able to get out.

Sometimes our real-life expertise comes through to us in our dreams meaning some of these dreams are connected to our real-life (mostly thoughts buried in our head). Others are just uncommon and unexpected but most of the time, you dream about things you keep buried in your head. You can inflate your dreams by knowing you control what you do in this world. You may not be able to control your dreams but you can control what you do. You can also do abnormal things in the dream world that can’t be done in the actual world.

People stumble in the dream world a lot because it’s not what’s expected for certain people. Some people may think the dream world is like the real world but it’s not, even if they have dreams that could actually happen in real life. You can also confuse your real life with your dream if you dreamt about something that could’ve happened in the near future.

Many people in dreams give themselves the opportunity to look for love and decide to take their dreams to the next level: making out with someone in their dreams. It can get real horny and I’d like to warn people in advance but it wouldn’t be fun to wake up with a wet bed, just sayin’.

You can be a candidate for whatever you want in the dream world since it’s not like the normal world. It won’t affect your work routine in the real world. Dreams don’t make people tired unless they’re a nightmare and terror drains their energy. People usually feel fresh in the mornings after their dream and usually happy because something they’ve always wanted happened in their dream.

In conclusion, I’d just like to say to not be scared of what you dream of. Flow with it if it’s a good dream and take the opportunity to enjoy it. If it’s a bad dream, try to stay calm for if you wake yourself up, you’ll know it’s fake. However, real-life nightmares can occur and can scare you for a while. Good luck dreamers, don’t let your imagination run away with you!

The End

Keys on the Keyboard


Sometimes I am lucky,

Everything going my way

Other times my soul feels like

It’s being sucked away

Butterflies in the sky

Then stormy weather, don’t know why

World is changing, all around

As fallen soldiers hit the ground

Making things all tangled up,

Like drinking poison from a cup

God please help me, hear me pray

Or save me once, just once today

Make some bodies come to life,

Save an innocent person’s life

Life is precious, not to waste

But some devils just need one taste,

Of blood so sweet,

So please let’s find a place to meet

If you save my life, I’ll be kind,

So save my superstitious mind

A Poem I’ll Write Someday.

Some time,




A poem I’ll write someday.

A magical,


Miraculous thing.

A poem I’ll write someday.

Maybe ‘bout some guy’s


A poem I’ll write someday.

Not now,


Never in the decade.

A poem I’ll write someday.


I am from waves crashing against the shoreline,

Clouds floating with the breeze.

You drink me, use me every day,

I’m used to water your leaves. 

I flow down mountains low and high,

Fill zig-zagging streams.

Some laugh, some cry, some smile with pride,

For I’m their hero, their savior.

To some, all I am is tainted waste,

Not good to use or drink.

Their sad faces stare at me,

Reflected on my surface.

I can only do so much,

Try to help but fail.

I save some lives but not enough,

When people die, we have to be tough.

Slowly I flow through the canyons,

Threatening, any second to dry.

Birds drink me with their beaks,

I give them the energy to fly.

Many thrive around me,

I’m the center of them all.

What will become without me?

Will humans still be here at all?

Blackbird Pie

Fields of people,

Each one a flower.

Looking for a chance,

To escape.

From this green field,

Looks good to you,

But a jail for all within.

Leaves and seeds,

Blow past from the east.

Birds come in,

From the west.

For years the flowers

Come and go.

Life and death,

Just part of the flow.

No one escapes from the

Grassy field.

Guarded day and night,

By soaring birds.

Shadows in the dusk,

Always back at dawn.

In uniforms,

A blackbird’s best,

Letting no one through.

These black shadows,

Flying high,

Mockery to all below.

Blackbirds let

No one through.

Even when,

The sun’s

Baking hot,

Like the fires in their eyes,

When they’re ripped from

Their kith and kin,

Not knowing when

They’ll see them again.

To perfect the


Made for generations.

To make



This is the

Blackbird pie.

Luca’s Timer

Luca rubbed the timer imprinted on his wrist. It was currently April 7th. 


It was stuck at 312 hours. 312 hours. In 312 hours, it was his birthday. So what was this timer, you may ask? Well, this timer was not for his birthday, that’s for sure. This timer actually had nothing to do with Luca at all. This timer was for his soulmate. Kai White. But don’t tell him about the timer. He can’t know about that yet.

Luca was completely aware that Kai was his soulmate. The only problem was that Luca didn’t love Kai. Luca loved someone else. But that can’t be, you might be thinking. Soulmates are soulmates forever, through thick and thin, and life and death! That’s what you were told, at least. Luca Davis is in love with another person. Will King stole his heart. Or, he thought so.

Will was his favorite person to be around. Not so much anymore though, but I’ll get into that later. They spent many long, beautiful nights together under the stars and shared many important moments. Luca used to not care about Kai in the slightest. Or before, if he did, he showed no sign and put it in the back of his head to where the thoughts he had about Kai could get lost forever in the hormonal world of his mind.


Kai was suffering from one-sided love. He knew Luca would never love him back, and he gave up trying. 


You might question the fact that the timers on each other’s wrists were so different. The reason for that is quite simple. But I’ll leave you to figure that one out. Because the reason is vital to the ending of the story, and I can guarantee it will not be a good one. These boys are very different, but oh so similar in so many ways. Kai just loves to stare at Luca during class, when the teacher is distracted, he can get into the foreign jungle of tangled daydreams about him and his soulmate. 

This whole soulmate thing is a sick and twisted ideal. Especially when your soulmate loves someone else. Kai’s heart aches whenever Luca shows affection towards Will. He feels like a piece is missing. But he tries to not let it affect Luca’s relationship. Because if Luca’s happy, he’s happy. 



Luca noticed the time on the timer was suddenly different. This is not the first time this happened, as Luca has had this timer on his arm since he was little. It was always counting down, and he could do nothing but wait until time’s up. It seemed an hour had passed since he last checked. It was the only mysterious thing about his explosive personality. He took it upon himself to google it.

What happens in 311 hours? 

The answers he got were no help at all. They were things like, ‘Dial 311 for NYC tax service!’ or, ‘The state of New York, 311’. Besides his birthday, he really couldn’t think of anything at all. Luca called Will in hopes of the redhead being in some help to this mystery. Alas, that was not the case.

“What happens in 311 hours, babe?”

“I don’t know, what happens in 311 hours?”

“Do you think this is a joke?”

“Is it?”

“No, I’m dead serious. What happens in 311 hours?”

“Oh. I don’t know. I can look it up for you.”

“I tried that already.”

“Why is 311 so important?”

“It just is. Nevermind.”

“Alright. I love you, Luc.”

“I love you too.” Saying that felt weird to Luca. It felt forced, like he no longer meant it but he had been doing it for so long that he couldn’t stop. Like a drug almost, except without the feel-good part. Luca hung up the phone and sighed. He loved his boyfriend, yes, but recently he seemed to have… fallen out of love? 

Is that the right mix of words?


Kai noticed sometimes that Luca likes to tuck a strand of hair behind his ears. Kai wonders how that is even possible, considering Luca’s hair was short. Kai knows that even though Luca will probably end up getting a soulmate reassignment, he’ll probably never find another soulmate. Or maybe he will, but the chances of that are really slim. Especially since he lost the love of his life so young, he is 16 years old. But just seeing that Will can put a smile on Luca’s face makes his heart drop to his feet. It’s been picking away at him slowly. It’s unclear how much more of it he can take. He doesn’t worry though, he knows everyone will have a happily ever after. But that’s not how life works. Everything can change. His whole life could turn upside down, and he’ll never be the same Kai and he knows it. But fate chose not to do that to him yet. So he’ll just have to wait everything out and see what happens.

To be continued…


As I looked out the window, the 6 train was getting close to my stop, 77th street, with the usual EEEEE OOOOO sound. Getting off the train always made my heart race because I thought of it as the “critical moment.” In order to be ready to go to the main world, I looked at myself in the mosaic-built number: 77, and smoothened my hair down. Next, I gently tucked in my shirt, so that the coffee stain was not visible, and again flattened my messy, morning hair. “Decent,” I whispered under my breath, and walked up the subway stairs onto the sidewalk. Walking on 77th street always feels like paradise. As I look into the stores’ windows, I see shiny coats, bright-colored lipsticks, pants with big fancy logos, and many other flashy, Upper East Side items. I always dreamed of having a fancy wardrobe, I would be a whole different person, I would feel different, but as I walked closer and looked inside the window my jaw dropped. 

“$203.99 for a pair of shoes?” my inner voice exclaimed.

Looking at my watch, I realized that it is already 8:15, school started in 5 minutes and I had 6 more blocks to walk! I rushed up East End Avenue and ran as fast as I could possibly run, not letting anything around me make me stop. In the corner of my eye, I saw a big black van, it did a sharp turn my way. Looking up, I saw a red street light, my vision started to blur and blood started rushing to my brain, I suddenly lost control of my body and didn’t know where I was. “Probably will be marked late,” I thought.

I woke up to a loud beeping noise, it hurt my ears, so I tried getting up, but I couldn’t, because I couldn’t feel a single part of my left rib cage. I looked around.

“Where am I?” I called out. 

Managing to turn my head, I saw my mother and father sitting on a bench next to me. I had never seen them like this before. Mom’s face was swollen up and her eyes were red, like they were when grandma had died. Dad was holding mom’s hand, and as manly as he was, I also saw a worried look on his face.

“There’s been an accident, Kiki. Are you feeling alright?” said my dad in a soft and gentle voice.

“Thank God you woke up!” exclaimed mom, crossing her hands over her chest.

Suddenly, I started remembering: the black van, the red light, the shoes, East End Avenue. It was as if the puzzle pieces were somehow coming together to create a picture, a memory. I  laid back down onto the pillows. The pain in my side started to grow again. Through the glass door, I saw a man in blue scrubs and a white doctor’s jacket. He seemed very busy and sleepy, but once he opened the door into my room, he put a bright smile on his face.

“Kiara, how are you feeling?” inquired the doctor.

“Fine,” I answered as energetically as I could.

“You did great in the rib cage repair surgery this morning! The nurse will check on you again tonight, but it looks like you can be discharged soon!”

Surgery!? Ribcage repair!? I suddenly felt trapped. 

Get me out of here! I yelled inside my head, knowing that if I actually yelled, I would probably be brought to the psych wing of Lenox Hill instead of being discharged. Again, I started to feel weak, and giving up on my thoughts and worries, I closed my eyes. 

It was a normal morning, I was sitting in the kitchen biting into my morning toast (slightly hot with melty butter). 

“Time to get going, Kiki!” said my mother, sitting down at the kitchen table, putting down my jacket and my backpack on the chair next to me.

“I’m not 6 anymore, but thanks, Mom,” I responded, picking up my bag and jacket. 

Like always, I walked on the dirty, gum-covered sidewalk of 34th street and entered the smelly, underground world in which I traveled every day to get to school. There I sat, thinking about nothing at all because, well, it was the morning and I am NOT a morning person. When I arrived at 77th Street,  I quickly looked into the numbers, checking out how I looked today. I was my usual morning self, my curly hair poofing out of my head, my eyes still sleepy. I quickly fixed that up and began trotting to the place I was intending to go.

I opened the heavy, early 20th century doors of my school, entering the massive building embellished by a green sign, Chapin.

“Hi, Kiki,” said my friend Lili, greeting me in the lobby.

“Hey,”  I responded, stepping closer to Lili and walking up the stairs to the 5th floor with her. As usual, it was torture, because we weren’t allowed to take the elevator, and it was even worse in the morning, I was never up for this physical challenge. As we entered the 5th floor I saw the usual group of girls talking by their lockers, in other words, my friends. We smiled at each other, because even though it was morning, we were always glad to see each other.

“Where did you get that shirt? It’s super cute,” asked my friend, Sammy.

“Well, sorry, I don’t reveal my secrets,” replied Lili, making all of us laugh.

I lifted my head from the laughter and was ready to go to class. I looked around to say bye to my friends, and to my surprise, saw Sammy making a weird face. She was looking somewhere near me and seeming as if she just ate the grossest thing in the world.

“Ewww, Kiki, what is that on your shirt!” she exclaimed, pointing down to my waist.

Shoot! I completely forgot about my stain! What was I thinking?!

“Ewww,” agreed Lilly.

The other girls joined in and laughed, pointing at me as if I were a circus animal.

I wished that I disappeared. How was I not paying attention in the subway?! 

Suddenly, my vision started to blur and I saw the black van, the red light…

I woke up breathing hard and sweating. I still heard their “ewws” echoing in my head.

“Is everything alright, honey?” asked my mom gently, leaning towards my hospital bed and touching my hand as she would always do when there is something going on. 

I was not in the mood for talking, but I was glad that there was someone to comfort me after the nightmare. The thoughts of it still couldn’t come out of my head though. I couldn’t bear that feeling of shock, of being scared of nothing, when there were actual things to worry about. The pain in my side was like sticking a knife in my body every time I took a breath. I tried to take shorter breaths, but that only made it hurt more. 

As the doctor planned before, the nurse came in and checked on me.

“How is everything going?” asked the nurse politely, leaning over my hospital bed.

“She has been in a lot of pain,” replied my father, worrisomely.

The nurse gently touched the area around my left lung. I grunted from the pain. It was as if there were a million guns in there, shooting me.

“Don’t worry, everything will be fine, I will just quickly get Dr. Firn, who was on your case from the very beginning,” the kind nurse assured us.

Dr. Firn came into my room and examined me yet another time. After a while of feeling different spots, and asking me where it hurt, it seemed as if something was on his mind.

“Kiara, unfortunately, I have to tell you that there was a complication from the surgery. Since you had a severe rib injury, now you have developed pulmonary contusion,” said the doctor, informing my parents and me. He seemed very nervous and unhappy to break us the news. The clipboard he was holding was shaking the slightest bit and he began to bite his lip. I always thought being a doctor was hard. How hard is it to tell your patient that something is terribly wrong with them, that they are going to die?

I cried out, but that caused me a lot of pain. “There is no way this is happening to me,” I thought, “this is all a dream.”  But unfortunately, this was nothing like a dream, it was reality, I had a pulmonary contusion. What on Earth even is that? Beside me, Mom was on the verge of crying. I knew she didn’t want me to see her weak, to see her in pain too, but she couldn’t help but let some tears out.

“I know this is very hard to hear,” said Dr. Firn compassionately. “Since Kiara’s condition is basically a bruise in her left lung, right now, all we will do is wait for it to heal, and in the worst-case scenario, use a ventilator if she is short of breath,” he informed us.

“About when will it heal, doctor?” inquired my dad in a slightly shaky voice.

“It depends on how the process will go, but your daughter will probably recover in 5-7 days,” he replied, handing me a bright red lollipop. I know the doctor was trying to make me feel better, but, I’m sorry, that was the least I needed right then, especially with this lung thing I had. 

I felt like an animal in this hospital, all I did was sleep, grunt, listen, and eat nothing but strawberry flavored Jell-O. My parents always wanted me to be a good student, to be wise academically, and in life, right then I felt like I was doing the opposite. I felt useless! I understand now why everyone was feeling so bad for me, maybe I should have even felt bad for myself.

At the hospital, time seemed to pass very fast. My theory is that if all you do is eat Jell-O, take painkillers, and sleep, time is nonexistent: no worries, just lying down in a stupid hospital bed. 

5 days later, a different nurse came in. This time she was not so smiley and gentle, but after examining my lung, she concluded that I could be discharged. Even though I still had some pains in my side from time to time, I still wanted to end my long visit at this zoo. I could finally go back to normal! Go back to the place I was raised in, the place I belong!

Riding home from Lenox Hill gave me extreme deja vu. It seemed as if I had already been on that specific train, and sat in that specific seat. I was creeped out by how visually it reminded me of somewhere I’ve definitely been, and the spooky part was that I didn’t know if I actually had been there.

When I entered my apartment, I could already smell the scent of spices and carpets. Even though it usually didn’t occur to me as the best smell in the whole world, right now it was what made me happy.

“Kiara, since we know there has been a lot going on, your father and I have bought you a surprise,” said my mom, taking my hand and bringing me into the living room. What could it be? I thought to myself. I was intrigued, but knowing that my parents usually get me lame stuff like books and pencil cases, I didn’t keep my hopes too high.

On the couch in the living room, lay a box. It was neatly packed and lined with a fancy red rope.

“Thanks, Mom and Dad! You really didn’t have to do that,” I thanked them before opening the box. They smiled, and I was glad that I made them happy. I gently untied the rope and opened the box. My breath stopped. Inside lay something I didn’t expect at all, the reason for my injuries. I couldn’t stand on my feet anymore, and collapsed onto the couch. “The shoes,” I whispered.

Corry’s Dreams

Dream #1

Test Subject: Corry J. Bolns 

Age: 13

“Wake up.” A lady leans over and kisses a boy’s forehead. Her eyes have no pupil or iris but seem to be able to see. The boy sits up and hits his head on a sheet of glass. Through the glass, he can see a woman and what seems to be her dog walking over the glass. Her dog begins to scratch at the glass and its owner pulls it away. The boy rolls off of his bed and begins to fall. He lands on a chair where a plate of eggs and waffles are waiting for him. He eats them and falls backwards off of the chair. He then lands in a swing in a playground. Someone pushes him from behind and he flies upwards towards a ceiling, he hits his head. 

End of Dream #1

Corry Bolns was 13 years old when this experiment started. He was taken into this facility against his will and was put into what seemed to be a coma. He was not completely conscious but was somehow able to dream. He was asleep for 3 years. He had exactly 13,140 dreams. We recorded all of them. I will not include all of the dreams in this short pamphlet. I would like to state that I do not think that they should be using these children as their test subjects. I, however, do not have the authority to change, tweek, or stop these experiments. This facility is run by the government and is in an undisclosed location. 

Dream #879

Test subject: Corry J. Bolns 

Age: 13

“Mrs. Banaldi, I forgot my homework at home.” The boy says while fidgeting with his fingers. “That’s the 3rd time this week, Bolns!” The teacher throws an apple at the boy’s forehead. It hits him in the nose, making an apple-shaped indent in the center of his face. The boy falls backwards, splatting against the ground. His body begins to sizzle and bubble, the teacher runs away into the school building. But all of the students have turned into the boy. They say hi in unison. The teacher falls backwards. She wakes up in a bed where she is surrounded by apples.    

End of Dream #879

Corry is hooked up to a device, whenever he has a dream it shows on a monitor. His body still needs water and food. So there is a tube attached to his stomach. He also has a tube attached to his bladder. Some type of pill is fed to him to keep him asleep. Whenever a dream ends, the monitor goes blank. 

Dream #4198

Test subject: Corry J. Bolns 

Age: 14

“Please! Please, Mom, please!” A boy is being pulled away from his mother, and is being shoved into a car. His mother is screaming and struggling but her husband is holding her back. She punches him in the nose and he lets go. She runs toward the car just as it starts to leave. She grabs on to the door. It drags her along. Her knees bleed and finally she lets go. The car drives off and the mother sits in the street bawling as her child bangs on the window of the car.

End of Dream #4198

This was the saddest dream that Corry has had. It is a dream of how he wished his mother had reacted. Instead, when they came to take Corry away, she and her husband stood in the doorway waving goodbye. I don’t understand how anyone could watch their child being taken away and not try to do something about it. I think his parents were very horrible people. This was a recurring dream. He had it over 100 more times. Sometimes his father and mother went after him, but he never got out. 

Dream #8354

Test subject: Corry J. Bolns.

Age: 15

“I’m going to puke,” A boy leans over a toilet. He starts to vomit and then passes out. The boy literally pukes up his guts. His stomach is floating in the liquid along with his intestines. His stomach pops, splattering blood and stomach acids all over the bathroom. The boy is still unconscious but has creatures crawling out of his eyes, mouth, ears, and nose. He begins to tremble. And then POP! 

End of Dream #8354

A lot of Corry’s dreams are gross and bubbly. I think it’s because Corry has seen some pretty traumatizing things in his life. When he was 8 years old, his big sister spilled boiling hot oil on herself. She got terrible burn scars, lost eyesight in one of her eyes, and she had to get a face transplant. She died two years later when she got into a horrible car crash. Corry and his family went to visit her in the hospital, she passed away a day later.

Dream #12063

Test subject: Corry J. Bolns 

Age: 16

“Get up!!” A lady shakes a boy.

His eyes slowly open.

“What’s happening?” he says groggily.

“There’s a fire!” she yells. His room is slowly getting warmer. He runs to the door but the doorknob is too hot to touch. He tries to kick the door open, but he passes out from inhaling too much smoke. His fingertips begin to melt and his body makes a puddle on the floor. 

End of Dream #12063

At first glance, Corry’s dreams don’t seem to have much meaning behind them. I never understood what we were trying to figure out. What the point of this experiment was, I still don’t understand to this day. Sometimes I think the point of these experiments is to torture these children. But for what? What did they do? Most of them have horrible parents or one horrible parent. So are they getting punished for being born into horrible families?

Dream #13140

Test subject: Corry J. Bolns

Age: 16

A boy opens his eyes. He begins to sit up but he is pushed back down by a man in a suit. He looks confused. He tries again. But is pushed down once more. He starts to struggle. But the man grips his wrist. More men in suits show up. The boy tries to go back to sleep. 

End of Last Dream

Before experiment

Interviewer: “What is your name?”

Corry: “Where am I?”

Interviewer: “What is your name?”

Corry: “Where am I?” 

Interviewer: “Name!?”

Corry: “Uh, Corry.”

Interviewer: “Full name?”

Corry: “Corry Jack Bolns.”

Interviewer: “How old are you?”

Corry: “13.”

Interviewer: “What is your date of birth?”

Corry: “Please, where am I?”

Interviewer: “Date of birth?”

Corry stands up, but a guard grabs him.

Corry: “Don’t touch me!!”

Interviewer: “Don’t be stubborn kid, what is your birthday?!”

Corry: “February, 12, 1977.”

Interviewer: “Please fill out this form.”

After experiment 

Interviewer: “What is your name?”

Corry said nothing, he simply sat staring at the interviewer.

Interviewer: “Kid,” he waved his hand in front of Corry’s face.

Interviewer: “Alright, your name is Corry Jack Bolns, can you say that?”

Corry still stays silent.

Interviewer: “You are 16 years old. You were born on February, 12 1977 in upstate New York. Your parents are Jeana and William Bolns. Ring any bells?”

Corry: “Mama?”

Interviewer: “Yes.”

Corry: “Where is Mama?”

Interviewer: “She is at your home with your father.”

Corry seemed scared at the mention of his father.

Interviewer: “Do you remember any dreams?”

Corry: “Mama!!” Corry begins to sob. I don’t understand why he misses his mother so much, she seems like a horrible person, but she must have done something right. 

Interviewer: “That’s all we need.”

Me: “Where are you taking him?!”

Interviewer: “Home.”

When Corry arrives at his old home all he does is stare for the first 15 minutes. He then goes up to the bright red door and rings the doorbell. His mother opens the door and shuts it the moment she sees her son. His father opens the door only to shut it once again. Shouts can be heard from behind the front door.

“I thought he was dead!”

“Why would you think that?!”

“You made it sound like he was dead! I cried for two years straight!”

“Don’t exaggerate Jeana! We are not taking him back.”

“Why wouldn’t we Bill? He is our son!”

“NO! I am in charge here!”

“Says who?!?!”


“You never loved me or our children!”

“You think I married you because I loved you?!?!”

Jeana Bolns slaps her husband in the face. She then goes upstairs, fills her suitcase with all of her stuff, and walks out of the door. She grabs her son by the arm. She buckles him into their car and drives off.  I am not sure exactly what happened to Corry after that. I have a hard time believing he lived a good life. His mother’s parents were rich and they supported them. I did visit them at their home a year later. Corry’s mother smoked the whole time and she kept telling me that they were trying to erase all of the bad memories. So I wasn’t allowed to talk about the facility. I didn’t learn anything. I was on my way out when Corry’s mother stopped me.

“Why would you let them do this to my son!?!?”

I left without saying a word. I guess I do feel guilty. But this is not about me, this is about Corry, Corry J. Bolns, Corry J. Bolns’ dreams.


He stares at the painting, in a state of awe. I’m confused. What’s so magical about a painting? He’s saying something about how labor intensive it must have been to make a painting like this. How wonderful it would be to live in the painting. 

“It’s just a bunch of dots,” I say pointedly. “There’s nothing wonderful about it.” He just smiles, amused. 

“You have to look at it like it’s a window. Like it’s giving you a clear view of another person’s world.” He waits for my response, but it doesn’t come. I tap my foot against the concrete floor. The rest of the gallery is just as boring, and we’re here for at least an hour longer while Mom finishes up her shift. It couldn’t hurt to try. 

“Well…” I begin. “I… guess the white, yellow, gray, and blue make the sky look… sort of real.” 

“Yeah,” he says. I expect him to start yammering on about the feelings looking at the clouds give him, instead he looks at me again. “What else?” 

My ears feel hot, I can hear my heart beating in them. I look down at my scuffed up sneakers. I try to avoid eye contact by rubbing them against the ground. 

“I — ” I swallow my pride. What good is lying now? “Hadn’t thought of anything else… ” 

He doesn’t get mad. I can feel him smiling at me. A beam of light shining down on me just as the light shines down on these three people in the painting. 

“That’s okay.” 

I look up. 

“Really?” I smile back at him, confused. 

“I’d prefer to continue our discussion, but if you’re really stumped… ” I cross my arms.

“You’re really trying to take me on a guilt trip?” 

He smiles. A wide grin that succeeds in making me laugh. Dirty looks from all around the gallery find their way to me. I mumble an apology to the angry museum visitors.

A minute later, he asks me, “Did you think of something else eye-popping about the painting?” 

“Eyes popping?” I ask, excited. “Like in that video where they cut the lady’s eye open? But it’s ACTUALLY a SHEEP’S EYE?” 

He laughs. “That’s not what I meant!” He messes with my short hair, like I’m a dog. 

“I meant what comes to your eye first?”

“Oh,” I laugh. “I guess, those three people in the light.” 


“Yeah,” I respond. “They look like the only people in the world.” 

“I get that,” he trails off. 

A scratching sound takes him back to the real world. A crow is dancing on top of the skylight. The skylight is right above us. Looking up at the light, shining through the dim gallery, I finally understand what my brother meant by the word “window.” 

Maria Merian: The Butterfly Woman

“Art and nature shall always be wrestling until they eventually conquer one another so that the victory is the same stroke and line: that which is conquered, conquers at the same time.” – Maria Merian

“Where do the silk moths come from?” and “Where do the caterpillars go after they are in their pupae?” were questions that people had to ask themselves in the seventeenth century, because the answers to these hadn’t been discovered, yet. One woman answered those questions just by using her artwork, at a time when nobody thought women could do so.  Her name was Maria Merian, and she not only changed science, but she changed the way I want to be in the world.

Maria Merian was born in seventeenth century Germany and was fascinated with two things, bugs and art. Her father was a printer and publisher and her stepfather was an artist, so he helped her build her skills. Later on in her life, she made several books that changed the way people looked at science, such as Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium. She figured out these concepts at an early age. Imagine a young girl figuring out how the life cycle of a caterpillar works when nobody else knew about this! Of course, there were some theories, but they were very wrong. Some didn’t even include the butterflies or moths!

When you are very young, you learn about the life cycle of a caterpillar. Maria helped us figure that out. In many of  her paintings, she shows how the cycle begins with the eggs and it ends with a moth or a butterfly. According to the Atlantic, she would say things in her journal like, the pupae looks like a “date pit.” You would think that she would make these discoveries in her later life, but no! As a child, she figured them out. Maria kept the caterpillars she collected for her stepfather’s art. She kept the silkworm in a box and watched them grow and drew every little thing that she saw during the process. She did this all at a time when women couldn’t use certain papers, paints, or other important materials and on top of that, she could have been seen as a witch. Maria also left a marriage at a time when women weren’t to do that. But these stereotypes didn’t stop her.

In the seventeenth century, women weren’t allowed to leave a marriage. She rebelled against what was “proper.” I think that is amazing. She also came up with a good paint that women could actually use! I think it is unbelievable that women couldn’t use something as simple as a piece of paper, or glob of paint! Now we live in a world where anyone can do anything, but we still have a lot of work to do because some groups of people aren’t as equal as others. Back to Maria. First she gave some big questions some big answers, only as a child, and then she started to become more and more of a great female role model. That is incredible! 

That is very encouraging. It makes me feel like I can do anything even though I am not an adult! She must have had a lot of patience, for she waited and waited for these caterpillars to grow into beautiful little butterflies. Since there would be no photography until almost 200 years after, she couldn’t just take pictures of the bugs. Just imagine sitting and waiting for something to happen, and then having to draw an intricate drawing of it very quickly. She had to sit and draw every little detail! It makes me stop and think about how much we take our technology for granted.

I am very thankful for what she did. Even though not many people know much about her, she made a big difference in our world. I would like to be like her. Her life story inspires me to want to use my creativity to change the world. I hope to use my work to speak up about equal rights for everyone, because, like I said before, even if the Declaration of Independence says that all men are created equal, some people are treated unfairly! Even in a time where there is advanced technology and brave activists, I feel like I can make a difference. Like Maria, I might not be recognized for the change that I am determined to make, but if I can do something, I will know that I have done good. 

I think that people should learn more about her because she is a great role model. If she can inspire one person, I think she could inspire the world!  Imagine living in a world where people use their talents and differences to make the world a better place. That would be great. We need more people like her! We can accomplish this by not letting stereotypes get into our heads and by always having our creative minds with us. We can also conduct our own projects and draw, write, or make music about them. Maria Merian inspires me to want to make a change and I hope others feel the same way!


  • Sidman, Joyce. The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science. Boston, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018.
  • Wulf, Andrea. “The Woman Who Made Science Beautiful.” The Atlantic, 2 Aug. 2016. The Atlantic, Accessed 23 July 2020.
  • Campetella, Florencia. “The Butterfly Woman.” Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecolog. Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Accessed 23 July 2020.

I Didn’t Mean to Kill Her

I didn’t mean to kill her…. Tuesday, October 8th, 1963. I woke up that day with a sharp pain in my head. The night before, me and the “gang” hung out. I probably fell or something. Suddenly panic ran through me: I remembered. 

It was now five A.M. I sat up in bed and jumped out. I landed with a thud. I had forgotten I was on a top bunk. I got up then tiptoed to the bathroom. I took my “things” and hid them where they wouldn’t find them. Then I tiptoed back to the beds. As I started to climb up the ladder, I felt someone’s hand on me, then I winced. Emely grabbed my night shirt and pushed me to the ground. I blink away tears. 

She said, “They’re coming soon, be ready and alert. And remember they’re like wolves; if they see a weak link they’ll come for you.” Emely said.

“I know, thanks.” I said.

I sat on the floor for a second, then got up to wash my face again. My lip had started to bleed when I hit the concrete. When I came out, Emely had gotten dressed, and she was sitting against the wall. Emely… I liked to think of her as family. Although we had just met, I felt a bond to her. Then she motioned for me to come over. After all, I was new to all of this.

“You should’ve figured this out by now.” She took a pause.

“When you wake up, wash your face, then come and sit on the wall, no blankets covering you. Just you.” Emely said.

“Sorry. Since I’m new here I just thought that–” I was cut off
“Shh,” Emely said

Then I realized why Emely cut me off. Loud footsteps were coming closer and closer to our door. Then I heard something like a bat hit the door. I flinched then closed my eyes. Emely punched my shoulder. I opened them and saw four large and angry looking people standing right in front of me. I didn’t know what to do. Luckily I didn’t have to do anything, except for cooperate.

“Stand UP!” one of the men said.

So I did. They went into my bunk bed and looked around. Then in Emely’s. I didn’t mind, just as long as they didn’t find the picture. As I expected, they didn’t find it. They left after looking around, and threatening us. Now I know why parents always warn you about not committing crimes, and it’s because of prison. I’ve only been in prison for eighty days, and I’ll be here eighty more years. If I survive, and if I behave. I’m just lucky I didn’t get the death penalty. 

It was only two weeks ago when it happened. Cecelia and I killed Natalie. We had been planning for weeks. Natalie was a drug dealer, we had been buying. She had told us that if we stopped buying, she would tell. I was young then, naive. I hadn’t known that her mother was the chief of police. She was the perfect child in her mom’s eyes, whatever anybody said about her that wasn’t amazing was a lie. 

Cecilia and I snuck into Natalie’s house through her bedroom window. We had tape, a rope, and a knife. Cecilia tied her up, and I taped her mouth shut. I took the blade and touched it to her chest, then her eyes opened. I winced as I saw her mouth try to open but it couldn’t, and instead a slow tear dripped from her eye. I couldn’t deal with watching her suffer. I lifted up the blade and brought it back down to her chest. I felt the blade break through her skin, I saw the blood rush out of her body, I saw the last tear she would ever shed, I saw her eyes shut for the last time.

30 years later…

I realize what I did then was wrong. I will now be paying the price for my actions. 

I waved to the man at the desk behind the glass, he didn’t wave back. I looked down, then I sat in the chair. BZZZZZ 

Emely was let out of prison five years after I had come. We said our goodbyes, she had said that she would write to me everyday, but less and less often the letters came. Cecilia had been killed in a stabbing twenty years after we had gotten to the prison. And finally my one prized possession, my picture, was confiscated. It was a picture of my sister, Katherine. She understood me, and she loved me. Unfortunately the police found my picture in a surprise inspection. 

A Story About a Boy Named Oliver

Oliver was always bored. Oliver was always alone. Oliver was twelve. He went to a public middle school. Oliver never got outstandingly good grades, but never got outstandingly bad ones. Oliver was not outstandingly tall, short, fat, skinny, fast, slow, strong, or weak. To put it simply, Oliver was very average. 

As I mentioned before, Oliver was always alone. He was always alone, but never lonely. Oliver liked being alone. He liked thinking, reading, and watching movies. Oliver went to school one day. That school day was very average, very predictable. Oliver went home from school on that said day, finished homework, finished a book, and went to sleep. This said day was almost every single day for Oliver, minus the weekends. (For almost every weekend Oliver would wake up, watch movies, read, and think along with having meals in between, if you were wondering.) 

One day, Oliver went home to his average house, went upstairs to his average room, only to find a very unaverage thing. That very unaverage thing was a thirty-seven year old man named Jack.

“I am thirty-seven years old and my name is Jack. It is a pleasure to meet you, eleven year old Oliver,” said Jack.

“Hello thirty-seven year old Jack,” said Oliver, “Might I ask how you know my name and age?” he asked.

“I know your name and age simply to tell you that the world is going to end in exactly five minutes and thirty-six seconds, and I want to take you to an alternate dimension to save you.”

“What an odd person,” thought Oliver.

“So how are you going to bring me to this alternate dimension?” Oliver inquired.

Jack pulled out a strange contraption out of a fanny pack that Oliver had not noticed.

“Just press this green button,” Jack instructed, “But not the blue or red button. Never push the yellow button, and only press the orange button on alternating Thursdays and the thirty-first of January.”

Oliver was going to push the green button, but he tripped and pushed the blue button, instantly killing both Oliver and Jack.

“Now look what you’ve done!” exclaimed Jack.

Jack and Oliver were in what seemed to be an endless plane of wheat fields.

“Where are we?” said Oliver.

“Well the afterlife, of course!”

Oliver considered himself an atheist, so he was surprised that the after-life existed.

“So where is God?” asked Oliver

“What is that?” responded Jack.

“It is something people think exist,” said Oliver.

“Well then they’re wrong.” said Jack.

“Are you sure?” questioned Oliver.

Jack stopped and thought about Oliver’s question for a moment before responding with a simple, “No.”



“Didn’t you say that the world was going to end today?”

Jack checked his watch.

“In exactly thirteen point forty-six seconds,” said Jack matter-of-factly.

Exactly thirteen point forty-six seconds after Jack said that, seven point eight billion people along with billions of animals and other organisms spawned into the afterlife. Exactly two point four seconds after the world ended, Jack started to walk off in the midst of the confusion. 

“Where are you going?” asked Oliver, catching up with Jack.

“Well, I’m off to see if this God character is real,” said Jack as if Oliver were to take that for granted.

“Would you mind if I tagged along?”

“Nobody is stopping or forcing you to do anything at all,” said Jack.

And that is where a frightfully unaverage adventure began.

Jack and Oliver walked for about three months, and had grown quite used to each other. The three months they had spent together were very uneventful and dull with little to no conversation—not anything Oliver wasn’t used to. One slightly less uneventful day Jack and Oliver stumbled upon a grand fortress consisting of several gargantuous medieval-style castles surrounded by awesome cobblestone walls that they should have been able to see kilometers away, yet still seemed to appear out of nothingness into somethingness. Oliver would have been flabbergasted but nothing seemed to startle him any longer. Jack and Oliver went to the walls and the entrance of the kingdom to find a doorbell. Oliver rang the doorbell and the gate swung open crashing into Jack and Oliver. When the two got up they were almost surprised to find a muscular child, not much older than Oliver opening the gate.

“Salutations,” said the child, “I am Steven.”

“Why are you so young but so…” began Oliver

“Muscular?” suggested Jack.

“I’ve gotten this body from hundreds of years of training. I do not age because I’m dead, but I can still get stronger,” said Steven, in a seemingly offended tone of voice.

“May we come in?” said Jack

“Absolutely not!” exclaimed Steven.

“Why not?” asked Oliver.

Steven remained silent, staring at Oliver.

“Fine!” Steven shouted, letting Oliver and Jack in.

“What an odd person,” thought Oliver followed by a feeling of deja vu.

Inside the wall, there was an entrance to the first castle. Oliver was about to ring the doorbell to the gate when it swung forward, crashing into Oliver and Jack. Behind the door was another Steven.

“But you were just…” Oliver began.

“I am Steven’s twice-removed great uncle,” said Steven’s twice-removed great uncle.

“But you’re so young!” exclaimed Jack, “And you look exactly the same as Steven.”

“I jumped off a bridge when I was eight, and then my sister went on to marry somebody, and Steven-having been born four months prior to my sister’s wedding became my twice-removed grandnephew,” said Steven’s twice-removed great uncle.

There was a brief moment of silence before Jack and Oliver abruptly dashed into the castle. The castle itself was filled with a grand, rich town with beautiful buildings, awesome towers, and gorgeous citizens.

“Welcome to the Kingdom of Solitude and Ending!” exclaimed Steven’s twice-removed great uncle.

“What a terrible name for such a beautiful town!” thought Oliver.

But as he walked into the town, he could see people’s eyes, filled with boredom and nothingness. He and Jack walked around asking for somebody who knew about any God character for hours on end until one depressed sounding lady suggested asking the King of Solitude, Benjamin The Conqueror.

“Well where do you find this Benjamin guy?” inquired Jack.

The woman simply pointed up.

Oliver could never have explained what happened in the entirety of his death, he could never quite grasp it, but he saw colors that were impossible to see, sounds that were impossible to hear, smelling smells that were impossible to smell, feeling sensations that were impossible to experience. But it was almost like it didn’t happen at all, because after that Oliver still couldn’t quite grasp how he felt, saw, heard, or smelled anything that had happened, but this is all irrelevant, because at this point in the story Jack and Oliver were sitting in front of Benjamin the Conqueror who was currently explaining that he would accompany the two on their way to God.

“There are two paths to get to God. The Road To Imminent Doom, Danger, and Death, or the Everlasting Road.” said Benjamin, “The latter option takes infinite time to travel across to reach God whereas the first option will lead to imminent death to reach God.”

“Both sound equally as terrible and impossible as one another,” remarked Jack.

“Nothing is neither possible nor impossible nowadays,” replied the king dreamily.

“I choose the first option,” said Oliver abruptly.

Jack and Benjamin looked at Oliver surprised.

“Fine by me,” said Jack after a brief pause.

“Ditto,” seconded Benjamin the Conqueror. 

And so the trio went out of the fortress, down to the Road of Imminent Doom, Danger, and Death, in search for a mysterious religious figure named God.

It took about four days until the three reached the road, and about another week until they reached living (if you can really use that word anymore) beings. It was an old merchant. The merchant was sold out. Out of the Road of Imminent Doom, Danger, and Death, out of the afterlife, out of anything really, as long as you brought the Out to God. 

“So God is real?” cried Oliver.

“No, not to my knowledge,” said the merchant, “But others would disagree, claiming he’s just down the road,” said the merchant, gesturing to the seemingly never-ending road, “Others have and will always disagree.” He sighed.

“Well could we purchase an Out?” said Jack.

“Sadly, I’ve sold out. I’m just on my way to replenish my stock,” replied the merchant.

“Well how long will it take for you to return?” asked Benjamin.

“It could take up to infinite years,” said the merchant.

Unfortunately, the three did not have infinite years to spare. So they continued down the Road of Imminent Doom, Danger, and Death. Along the way, Benjamin the Conqueror decided to tell the story of the Road, the Kingdom, and God.

“When I was alive, in a time before records, I had conquered land from Vrehnguard to as far away as Blaqtek and Garn’s Sea.”

Oliver didn’t seem to recognize any of these places, but continued to listen as he had nothing much better to do walking down a road that led to imminent death in search of God. 

“Nothing stood before me besides terminal illnesses which ended my life twenty-three years into my rule. After I passed, I joined fallen brothers and comrades, rebuilding my kingdom, Aapq. Time passed. The living kingdom fell, and the citizens came to join the kingdom, spreading sadness and despair. People began shutting themselves off from the outside world, they began, with lack of a better word, stopping. I forget how it happened, but the kingdom’s name became what you know it as now-the Kingdom of Solitude and Ending. People began seeking what the Kingdom once was. A semi-small group went on a search for God. Eventually, the party split into two groups. One of the groups was almost entirely driven to death, while the second one got lost in Infinity, giving birth to the Road of Imminent Doom, Danger, and Death and the Everlasting Road.”

“That reminds me…” began Benjamin,  “Oh well, would you look at that! A motel!”

There was indeed a motel. The motel was named Imagination, Oliver imagined. The three walked into the motel, and a man welcomed them in.

“Welcome to the motel, Imagination,” Oliver imagined the man exclaimed.

Oliver imagined that a series of events unfolded that led up to him getting a room for the night to himself. Oliver couldn’t fall asleep. He got off and wandered throughout the motel getting lost in Imagination. He began to picture lions with several heads, gods with two faces, infinite money, inumerous wonders. Oliver finally wandered so much that he found that he was in a new land. It was tiresome to walk through, he could barely stand it. It was almost as if all the dopamine was drained from his brain. There was blackness, numbers, facts, letters that Oliver couldn’t place together. He wanted to, he needed to break free. But he didn’t know what to break free from. He couldn’t kill himself. He didn’t want to kill himself, but he didn’t know what else to do. He collapsed onto the floor. He was crying. He didn’t know why. There was no point to crying. No point in doing anything. But he still wanted to find God. He didn’t know how it would turn out. Oliver didn’t care. He wanted to see how it would turn out, and if he didn’t like it, he was going to be doomed and die anyways. Dopamine returning to Oliver’s brain, he found himself back in his motel room. It was late morning already.

When he went back into the lobby, he saw Jack.

“Where’s Benjamin?” Oliver imagined he said.

“Oh, he killed himself,” Oliver imagined Jack replied.



So the duo continued on their perilous journey.

Walking down the road, Jack and Oliver found a very interesting part of it. Various animals were running about the street, selling numerous drugs with absurd names, and Oliver found himself in a manfight. Chickens and dogs betting on which human would kill the other. Seeing this, Oliver tried to escape, but it was futile. Jack and Oliver were thrown into a cage by two large, muscular dogs. The two were about to fight when the chicken police ran into the facility, shooting down all the chickens and dogs. None escaped. Jack and Oliver were released.

“What brings you to the road of Imminent Doom Danger and Death this fine, fine day?” inquired the chief police chicken.

“God,” said Jack.

“Oh… You’re one of those ones.” said the chicken chief.

“Gabriel!” the chicken man shouted.

An insane looking, ragged old man that was a chicken stumbled up to them.

“God!” he squabbled, “God! This way! God!”

“No,” said Jack, repulsed by the disgusting chicken man, “I’m not sure if I believe in God, I just want to see if he exists.”

“Ohhhh, well you shoulda just said that to begin with!” exclaimed the chicken man chief police, “Come right along with me! My name’s Robert, by the way. Nice to meetcha,” he said charismatically, holding out his wing.

“My name’s Jack,” said Jack, shaking Robert’s wing.

“And I’m Oliver.”

Robert brought the two to a police car.

“My police car goes infinitely fast, so we can arrive at the end of the road in infinitely minimal time,” explained Robert.

Oliver, not knowing what else to say, simply said, “Okay.”

And then they were there.

At the end of the road there was a man. The man lead them through infinity and back, reaching the stars, reaching Heaven, coming back to Earth, finally back to the realm of the dead. And then there was God. An old man, completely still, completely silent.

“Are you God?” asked Jack in awe.

The man turned to Jack, who repeated his question.

“I don’t know.” said the old man.

“Does God exist?” asked Oliver.

“I’m not sure.”

“Who are you?” asked Robert.

“I—” but the old man couldn’t finish the sentence, for he collapsed onto the ground, dead.

“I still don’t understand how people die in the afterlife,” remarked Jack, four point sixty-seven seconds before Robert, Oliver, and himself died of abrupt heart attacks.

Best Friends Wait What!!!

Ludovico Cordara’s POV 

It is the year 2034 and it is a rainy Sunday night in my Chicago penthouse on the top of the Sears Tower. I wake up and do my usual 20 pushups and I run on my treadmill. Then my kind maid cooks me imported and sweet Belgian waffles. As always, I am super hungry so I eat 3 entire waffles. Eventually, I am done eating and I go to my room and I pick my fanciest suit because today is a super important day. Today is the day where I graduate from Harvard Law School where I am a graduate with two S.J.D.’s 

I am incredibly proud of myself. My parents are there and they surprise me with a courtside game of the San Francisco 49ers against the Kansas City Chiefs. It looks like a copy of Super Bowl LIV. 

Nick Bosa’s POV

It is a super bright day and the rays of the sun are blazing through my window. I wake up and run to take a boiling hot bath because I have an incredibly momentous game coming up. The Super Bowl. I am super agitated, but at the same time, I am calmer than ever. After my bath, I go to my kitchen where a fantastic breakfast is prepared. It is composed of a bowl of organic fruit from my garden, a bowl of raw oats, and 7 scrambled eggs. I divulge it all in a matter of 20 minutes. After that, I meet with my parents and we go to watch a movie at my parents’ private movie theater. The movie is about this astute lawyer named Ludovico Cordara. It tells us all about his background and how he graduated from Harvard and in all the photos, we see 49ers merch, which makes me feel good. After the movie, I go to Levi Stadium with the coach and my teammates and we started stretching and practicing. We need to practice because in a week, I will be playing the most important game of my life.

Ludovico Cordara POV

I go back to my house and I can’t wait to go into my Anti-Gravity room in my basement. As soon as we get there, we put on helmets and a specialized platinum suit. I’ve done it before, but most of my friends haven’t and I remember my first time doing it and it felt like being awake while sleeping. It’s such a fantastic and weird experience that I don’t even know how to describe it. I invite all my friends and we have an intense game of dodgeball. I am so electrified that I finally get to play with all my friends. Afterwards, we go and relax in my pool. Then I go with my very best friend Guglielmo and we have a lot of fun watching a movie. The movie we watch is called Bad Boys. It is hilarious. Will Smith, who is one of my close friends, comes over and we have a classic battle of ping pong. I am exhausted after our thrilling game which was, unfortunately, a debacle in my aspects. Eventually, I go into my heated water bed which feels like you’re riding waves without ever getting wet and being so close to the sun as you could grab it without ever being hot. It is the perfect combination of sleeping.

Nick Bosa POV

As soon as I get to Levi Stadium, Coach yells at me and tells me to run 5 suicides. 

I reply, “ Coach, I’ll run 10. I need to be ready for our game.”

Coach says “That is exactly why you are my captain and this team’s leader.” 

After 3 hours of practicing, I go to the weight room and I start doing my daily exercise which is composed of 20 pushups and 30 situps plus 30 bench presses. After practice, we all go into freezing cold and glacial cold tub. After we have cooled down, we relax and take a soothing hot tub and massage. Finally, it’s about 7;00 and the team and I go out to dinner at a famous steakhouse in San Francisco called Strip Steak. The steak there is more than fantastic, just tasting it gives you a rapturous feeling in your body. After the fantastic day, I’m still a bit sad because no matter how much I love football, I just feel like I have a different calling. Well anyway, I go on my customized German mattress. 

Ludovico Cordara POV

I finally wake up and I instantly go to the kitchen and grab a banana and run to take a shower. My alarm didn’t work and I am late for work, and listen to this, I’m defending the freakin’ president. This might be the biggest cause of my life. I can’t believe that there is no time to take a shower. I put my clothes on in a hurry and my maid is cooking me breakfast really quickly. The breakfast today is a buttermilk pancake with no butter and some diced strawberries on top. I drive my Lamborghini as fast as I can, and by the time I arrive, I’m too late and the president is really mad at me. I decided I’m tired of being a lawyer. I go to meet my friends from the 49ers and we talk about the game strategy over sushi. I ordered a spectacular green dragon roll and a plate of Japanese Chirashi which was amazing. Afterwards, I go back on my super fast car and all of a sudden, a dim light bulb crashes into me and I am knocked out.

Nick Bosa POV

I wake up at 6 and I run to my massage place where my doctor is giving me a soothing and relaxing back massage before my big game. My whole body feels like a temple, I am hyped. Afterwards, I go to practice and my coach tells me I might not be able to play in the big game. I am desperate when I hear the news and I decide to run out of practice and drive all the way to my house, but while I am driving, my car stops and a truck rams into me.

I am unconscious.

Ludovico Cordara POV (really Nick Bosa)

I wake up and for some reason, I am 6 ft 4 inches and I am extremely buff and strong. I go look in a mirror and I am freaking Nick Bosa. The doctor comes to check on me and I notice that it is an impostor because the doctor’s eyes are blinking, his heartbeat is very high, and his pulses are sweating, and I might add the fact that he has a gun in his hand. My body starts panicking and I run at him and I tackle him in a way that I could have never dreamed of.

I am finally dismissed from the hospital and I go to a gym to see how strong I am. It turns out I can bench press 524 pounds. Afterwards, I open my phone and I call my massager and tell him if he can give me a message because my back is swollen. I am starting to enjoy being super strong and fast. Unfortunately, I now live in San Francisco instead of Chicago.

Nick Bosa POV (really Ludovico Cordara)

As soon as I wake up, everyone is asking me if I’m okay. And I have never seen this many people care for me. And then the doctor comes in and says, “Sir Mr. Cordara, how are you?” I freak out because I just realized that I am super rich and super smart. I command the doctors in a slightly volatile voice and tell them to release me at once, the doctor does so. I go into the garage where I see my Lamborghini and I think, “oh hell ya.” I drive super fast and as soon as I get to my house, the press is right outside. I don’t know what to do until 15 super buff security guards come and save me and clear the way to my building. When I enter, the 7 maids 9 cooks 4 butlers, 3 coaches, and 6 personal trainers, all tell me “How may we help you, Mr. Cordara?”

Nick Bosa POV

Since I am now in San Francisco, I decided to go to a famous steak house called 5a Steak House Lounge. The steak is freshly made from the rugged mountains of Kobe beef in Japan. As soon as you taste the amazing meat, it would melt in your mouth like a snowman in summer. Then the intense sapor of the steak gets to your brain’s neurons and instantaneously attacks your taste buds and gives you a sweet aroma of juicy and croquet taste. Afterwards, I ask for a gold plated chirashi with salmon imported from the smooth beaches of the rugged coastline of Japan. The gold is found in the harsh and poor mines of the caves in Kenya. Afterwards, I call my driver and tell him to drive me home.

Ludovico Cordara POV

Seeing all these people makes me feel anxious. I normally see this many people at a game, but not at my house. All these people greet me super politely and they are awkwardly kind. It almost feels as if I were dreaming. Well anyway, I’ve decided I’m going to sleep. As soon as I enter my room, the butler says, “Mr.Cordara, would you like a Swedish massage on your back and relaxing Shiatsu on your shoulders and neck?” 

The massage is so invigorating and invitational that after the session is over, I ask for more. The massage is so relaxing that I almost fall asleep. He gently massages back and forward on my spirit gate on the inside of my wrist and cracks my back like an experienced chiropractor. He cracks every single rib and soothes it later with a great massage. Eventually comes supper and my chefs have prepared an assortment of food composed of fruits, vegetables, sushi, steak, burritos, and many more tasty goods. I devour it all instantaneously and I’m still hungry. It’s like my chef read my mind and makes me a brand new plate of lasagna, which eventually quenches my hunger for the next week.

Nick Bosa POV

It’s finally a bright summer day and I have decided that I’m going bowling with Coach to talk about our game plan. When he comes, we decide that we run Tampa 2 cover 1 robber press. Which refers to the defensive line piercing through the middle, the cornerbacks playing man, and the safeties on the zone. The linebackers alternate depending on if they are running a slot option or simply RB FB Tight End blocks. Coach and I eventually go to meet the rest of the team and he says, “Run 30 suicides.”

I stop and complain, “30, are you crazy?”

He looks at me in a befuddled fashion, and exclaims, “What the hell, Cap! I thought you liked running.” But since I am not actually athletic, I am deadass exhausted after only 3. I tell Coach I just have a sore stomach.

Ludovico Cordara POV

When I wake up, I have a severe stomach ache. It is so weird. I’m assuming it’s from the ton of lasagna from yesterday, but I’ve never had a bad reaction to lasagna so I’m a bit befuddled. Well, who cares. I have a court case today and I’m working for $500 an hour. Which is a lot. I am super afraid I will mess up. If I win this case, then that means that the law firm will be entitled to my name. Which means I will make over $700 million dollars a year. If I get all this money, then I can retire and just be the rich owner who doesn’t do anything but can still relax, which is my main mission. It’s time the case is about to begin. As soon as it starts, I instantly get contradicted and don’t know what to say. I’m panicking. My client looks at me with fear. I freak out and say something smart but off-topic. The opposite lawyer who has been my archenemy since we were kids is against me, he knows my every move, and well if I was Ludovico Cordara, then I could have known his every thought. I’m in a bad position so I slam my head against the table. And everything is black.

Nick Bosa POV

The referee blows the whistle and it’s the defense’s time to shine. I call a hike, and I sprint but get knocked out at the first play.

Ludovico Cordara (OG)

I wake up from my brain trauma and I see I am back to being myself. I am so happy that I yell let’s go. Then I look around me and I see that the court case hasn’t started yet. I am extremely relieved. As soon as my opponent comes in and so does the judge, we begin the debate. The debate is over after 5 minutes. I already defended my client successfully and the judge’s official decree was “not guilty.” I am so soothed.

Nick Bosa OG

I wake up and hear, “Hike, hike!” I follow my instincts and charge through. I force a fumble. Every single play, I force a sack except for the last play where I get razored to the ground and I am in extreme pain. We have already won the game. But unfortunately, the doctor said I tore my ACL which will take 6 months to heal. I eventually go with my buddy Ludovico Cordara and we go to the Los Angeles 49ers house and we chill in the jacuzzi. As we are relaxing, we see Guglielmo Cordara and Deforest Buckner, my old companion, arguing. We are so tired we are about to sleep in the hot tub. And the last thing we hear is, “ I WISH I WERE YOU.”



The following is not a true story, but it includes murder and cannibalism. Reader discretion is advised.

(It is horror as well as comedy. There will be funny parts throughout the story in hopes to cheer you up. This also takes place in the 1800s, which will be useful information to know. It’s also really weird. Like, really, really, really weird. If you don’t condone weirdness, don’t read this.)

My dearest Theodore,

I am afraid I will not be able to complete the task. I have recently been cursed. Do not worry, I have not been harmed. This may sound weird, but every knife I slice with now screams “FLOOF!” I know that floof is not a word, but it may be in many years, as it seems that the witch who has cursed me may be a time traveler. I know those are fake, and science fiction, but this witch was not dressed in black, as most are supposed to be. She had small, blinking machines surrounding her. When I saw her, she had almost flickered into existence. The fact that she managed to curse me is proof in itself. I have reason to believe she was a time traveler, as I have just explained, but that is beside the point.

I cannot complete the task due to this. I am afraid you will not receive your meal on the twenty-first, as you have specified. I will find someone else to finish the task, and swear them to secrecy. They shall send the meat to me, and I will give it to you in person. They shall think I am the one asking for this, and I shall pay them myself, do not worry. No suspicion will ever be pointed at you, all will go towards me. You will get it as soon as possible, but that will not be tomorrow, or the twenty-first, I am afraid. I love you, as always. Give my baby Mary my hugs and kisses, and tell her it was from me, her dearest, Elizabeth Johnson. I have the honor to be your obedient servant.

E. Johnson, 1800

That was the letter Elizabeth sent to Theodore on December 19, 1800. It was sent the day before, at 11 o’clock precisely. It arrived at his house at 3 o’clock. Theodore’s response was simple, sent at 4 o’clock.


Get it to me on the twenty-third at latest, or you will be next.

T. Wilson, 1800

Elizabeth was rushing when she received the message (8 o’clock). It was the 21st already! Who would she hire?! Looking up, the witch flickered into existence once again.

“You…” Elizabeth glared. “Get away, cruel beast!”

“Deal with it…” That was all the witch said before leaving the poor woman.

“Deal with it? That must mean I might go through with my project and succeed! Thank you, mysterious witch!”

A letter was immediately sent to Theodore, of course.

My dearest Theodore,

I am letting you know that the meat may be ready today. I will try not to disrupt anyone. My neighbor, Ryan Robbins, will be assisting me, as you might say, in my project. The witch visited me again, and said, I quote, “deal with it” so I shall. You may get your wish earlier than recently thought. The wedding will happen tomorrow, and I shall enjoy it. I love you, as always, and am awaiting living with you. Tell Mary I send her warm wishes. I have the honor to be your obedient servant.

E. Johnson, 1800

Theodore received the letter, and a slight smile snuck into his eyes, though his mouth stayed firm. He erased it once Mary started crying, and burned the letter, just like the rest. No one could know the undergoing process.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth was knocking on Ryan’s door. Her foot was impatiently tapping, waiting for him to come out. His house was huge, and he only lived with his parents (Yeah, he still lived with his parents at the age of 35. I know, right?), so he was the perfect person—not too old, not too young, and an easy victim, despite the noise. No one seemed to be home. She decided to wait until nighttime.

At home, Elizabeth was reading. Well, trying to. At least the book she was reading was on cannibalism, right? But she was too nervous to focus. She thought it would be easy, at least for the person she loved most, but her heart started racing. She closed the book, and the title flashed in her eyes—Fables, Ancient and Modern. She was so out of it. The book wasn’t even on cannibalism! She decided to change into a black dress, to be ready for later. Sighing, she looked out at the sun. It had hardly been an hour, the sun just peeking into her window. She wanted to visit Theodore and Mary, she really did, but she knew he would be mad to see her.

I can imagine it now, she thought to herself. “You should be ashamed of yourself! You aren’t providing the food for your fiance like you should be! Where is the ‘Ryan Robbins’ you talked about? He should be ‘assisting’ you right this very second! Leave!”

She saw her fiance’s quartz complexion, baby Mary’s slightly darker skin behind, pointing at her olive self. The dimly lit room, so much detail as to the rain drizzling out the thin glass window. Elizabeth felt a tear slide down her cheek, followed by more. How real this was, she realized. Did she really love him?

“No.” A voice said.

Elizabeth’s head snapped up, “Who was that?”

“Just the ‘witch.’ You don’t love him, but you’ll do ‘it’ for him anyway. Yes, before you ask any questions, I can read your mind. Yes, I am a witch. Yes, I am a time traveler. Yes, I know what you’re going through because I’ve gone through it before. Yes, the exact same thing including killing someone for cannibalism. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I want to help you so you don’t make the same mistake.”

“Who?” Elizabeth wiped her tears away, embarrassed.

“I’m sorry, what?” The witch stepped closer.

“Who did you do it for, who did you kill, who are you?”

“I did it for my wife, I killed Ryan Robbins (a different one), and I’m Rayne.”

“You had a wife and you’re a girl?”
“There’s a thing called gay, you only like your gender. I’m gay. Well, technically pansexual, but I won’t get into that. I’m also non-binary, so not in the gender binary, aka not male or female. Anyway, back to you. No matter what I say, you’re still gonna do it. So come talk to me after. I’ll be here when you get upset.” Rayne put her hand on Elizabeth’s shoulder.

“Were you cursed with floof?” Elizabeth sniffed, and Rayne stifled a laugh.

“Yes. Someone centuries ahead of me did the same thing. It almost stopped me, but… well, I thought like you, but slower. I hesitated more. And the messages were faster. Like, automatic. But, pretty much the same. I thought it would work better on you, but it didn’t. I’ll have to change my tactic.” Rayne sighed, and opened her mouth to continue, but Elizabeth interrupted.

“Sorry to interrupt, but… who was your wife?” Elizabeth started to feel more confident.

“Her name was Rose. She wasn’t as harsh, and she just wanted to kill him, not eat him, but it was a big mistake. On both of our parts. Yes, he died, and no, neither of us got in trouble. But she’s probably talking to your husband right now. She’s asking him to stop, like I’m asking you. It’s our job now.”

“I’m doing it. Like you said, I’m still killing Ryan. I… I think I love Theodore, so I’m going through with it. If I’m going to, I have to go now. The sun has almost set, and I need to strike, no matter the floof.” Elizabeth stood up, slipping a small dagger up her sleeve.

Almost immediately after she did so, she heard a knock on her door. A man stood there, looking tired. He handed her a pamphlet, and spotted Rayne in the back. He explained that he was openly campaigning, and gave a summary of the pamphlet. Leaving, he said, “It’s 1800, ladies, tell your husbands, ‘vote for Burr!’”

Elizabeth, walking behind him, shouted, “No, thanks! I don’t care how approachable others say you are, Theodore’s going to vote for Jefferson!”

“Lady, then, tell your husband!” Aaron Burr turned around.

“I’m not a lady! There’s a thing called non-binary in the future! Where people decide to not be male or female!” Rayne shouted, trying to act angry while stifling a laugh.

“Good riddance,” Elizabeth muttered under her breath, knocking on the door of Ryan’s house (well, technically his dad’s house, but same thing. He would inherit it, anyway. That is, if he wasn’t a total failure in life. He was, though, so his dad would probably give it to literally anyone but him…). Anyway, no one answered, as Elizabeth had suspected. His parents were out, and she could tell because their carriage was gone. Locks didn’t exist in the 1800s, as some of you readers might know, and you might just say to yourself, “robbers are gonna get caught, so they’re safe anyway,” but, unluckily for Ryan, that wasn’t the case. Elizabeth opened the door, and calmly walked inside. She was wearing the black dress, one she had from her mother’s funeral. It was tight fitted, but still the best thing she had to sneak around the house. Her frilly dresses would definitely not work, with all the bright colors and sound. Anyway, she walked in, and immediately blew out all the lamps in sight. She couldn’t be seen by Ryan, otherwise he would… scream for the nearest house? There weren’t any for miles, so, he wouldn’t really do anything. But Theodore told her that he likes the taste better when they were taken by surprise, and she wanted the best for her love.

She crept up the stairs, where she heard Ryan snoring loudly. It was so loud, it covered up all the creaks as she climbed up the steps slowly. She reached his door, which was already open, luckily for her. Walking in, she saw he was turned away from her, his short brown hair in a mess, although it was super short except for the top (Elizabeth couldn’t tell if it was supposed to be a super short mohawk, or just was supposed to look really weird).

Good, she thought, and tiptoed closer, pulling her knife (pronounced ka-neef-ay) out of her sleeve. She somehow heard the rustle over his noise, so she thought her senses were on high alert. But then she realized that his snoring had not only quieted, but changed in sound. Was he smart enough to know she was there? Elizabeth didn’t think so, but she wanted to be careful anyway.

She crept up to his bed. He was covered in silk. It would be such a shame to ruin this, she thought, but it was too late to turn back. Besides, she couldn’t not do it just for silk. Her life was on the line! She smacked herself in the head. Why had she not told Rayne that? Rayne would have understood better if she had! Ugh! And then she almost smacked herself again. Ryan was staring at her and her knife (still pronounced ka-neef-ay), eyes wide.

“WHO THE F*** ARE YOU‽” He screamed. Loudly. Like, really loudly, louder than his real and fake snore combined.

“You were supposed to not know I was here! Ugh. Can you turn around and pretend like I’m not here? I’ll wait until you’re asleep. Or until your parents are coming back. You need to be taken by surprise!” Elizabeth said, in a rush. I mean, what was she supposed to say?


“Look who’s talking,” Elizabeth muttered under her breath.

“What did you just say?” Ryan was suddenly angry, but in a different way than before. His voice was (somehow) really deep, and his face was all squished up. It looked uglier than before, which seemed impossible to Elizabeth (and me).

“You are 35, and still living with your parents. You must be stupid. Also, why are you cursing? It isn’t proper.” Elizabeth kept going with insults. She had just remembered that Theodore could never tell the difference between a surprised meal or an angry one.

“Cursing isn’t proper? You’re coming to kill me, and you’re telling me that cursing isn’t proper?” Ryan smirked with disbelief, even while he was about to be killed. He’s crazy, right?

“Well, I’m not saying killing is proper, because it isn’t, but cursing isn’t either. Anyway, I’m going to kill you now. Also, I didn’t think it was possible for you to be uglier, but with your face all scrunched up like that, I was clearly wrong.” Elizabeth pointed at his face in a disgusted manner, and walked towards him, knife (ka-neef-ay) pointing towards his chest.

Ryan got really, really angry at that, and jumped at Elizabeth. He was obviously stupid, because he forgot about the knife (ka-neef-ay), and jumped right onto it. Needless to say, not only was he angry, but he was also taken by surprise, making Ryan taste the best for Theodore. The knife (ka-neef-ay) also said “FLOOF!!!”

Ryan saw her smile as he died, and said, “I have the honor to be your obedient servant… R dot Rob—” through gritted teeth, but his voice died off as he did. It was to annoy her, because he knew how many letters she sent (a lot, most to Theodore, and some to Theodosia, her friend), and thought it would annoy her, but it just made her smile more.

Bowing, Elizabeth sang to him (like the way it’s sung in Hamilton) “I have the honor to be your obedient servant! E dot John.” Elizabeth only said the first syllable of her last name to match Ryan, and because it sounded better. She cut him up quickly, forgetting about Rayne entirely. The knife (still ka-neef-ay) sounded not like a lot of loud floofs, but like “F-F-Fl-Floo-F-F-Floo…” because it was getting interrupted.

She wrapped him up in the sheets quickly, ignoring the silk. She tied the top, and brought the bloody pieces over to her house. Rayne was waiting there, along with who Elizabeth assumed was Rose, and Theodore. Rose had long, blonde, curly hair, and was wearing the same sort of gadgets as Rayne.

“You already did it?” Theodore asked, stepping forward.

“Yeah, you a**hole. Here’s your ‘food,’ you monster.” Elizabeth stopped smiling, and threw Ryan’s remains at Theodore.

“I shouldn’t have done it. I—”

“You what? You love me? You want the best for me? You shouldn’t have f***ing threatened me?! Well, guess what? You can get out of my f***ing house, turn yourself into the police, and leave me alone! Give me Mary, too! Or did she die?!” Elizabeth threw up her hands, flooded with emotion.

“Yes. She’s de—”

“Of course! You took everything away from me for your stupid ‘meat!’ I don’t want to see you ever again! Get out of my house! Now!”

Theodore turned away, and started towards the door. “I’m sorry…” He whispered.

“I don’t f***ing care! Get the f*** out! And take the rest of Ryan with you, too, you cannibal!” As Theodore left, Elizabeth let out a sigh of relief.

“You didn’t have to do that…” Rose whispered.

“I did. And I did it because of you two. Thank you.” Elizabeth turned towards Rose and Rayne.

“I’m sorry this happened to you,” Rayne stepped towards Elizabeth.

“I am, too. Theodore was more messed up than me!” Rose said, making everyone smile, even if just a bit.

“Goodbye,” Rayne said.

“See you on the other side,” Elizabeth replied, and with that, Rose and Rayne flickered out of existence.

Do I Really Have to Play Soccer?

“Do I really have to play soccer?” I asked Dad. 

Dad started, “No—”

I couldn’t hear the rest of his words because of Mom’s shouting.

“Yes, absolutely,” Mom cut in. “It’s necessary for your health. You haven’t done anything athletic in years! You’re even having trouble picking up your laptop! If you don’t play soccer, what else are you going to do?”

I thought, sleeping, or reading, or doing anything else rather than play a sport! I still vividly remember baseball, and then said, “I’ll figure it out later. Anything is better than soccer! Remember my first game?”

Thoughts of the game flooded my mind…

It was three weeks ago and my team was on the field, in the middle of our first soccer game. Except for me. And my attention.

I was thinking, honestly, I wish I could be sleeping instead of sitting here in this stuffy uniform with all of these shin guards and stuff—

Wham! Someone from the other team ran straight into me, sending my skinny body soaring through the air and landing on the grassy earth with a thud. Looking back in retrospect, I think I might have flown eight or nine feet through the air.

Well, now I know why I need the shin guards, I realized. I can’t believe I’m playing soccer. Maybe if I fail, my parents will think I’m too bad at soccer to keep playing.

I heard the piercing shrill of a whistle being blown.

“Are you okay, son?” the referee asked.

I looked at the ref and slowly realized that he actually wanted me to answer.

“Yup, I’m all right,” I quickly muttered.

I gathered my dignity and stood up, painstakingly slowly. The ref looked around, then blew the whistle right in my ear, giving me more injury than the guy who plowed through me, and the game resumed. The splitting headache and hearing loss didn’t help things either.

Within a minute, I had the same guy who had floored me earlier bearing down on me with the ball at his feet.

He was coming closer. Time seemed to stop. I was so close I could see his bloodshot eyes, counting the viens. What did George Washington or whoever say? Something about the whites of his eyes. Unfortunately, there were no whites in his eyes to look at.

I had to make a decision. I could feel the flabby muscles in my body tense up and…

No way in heck was I standing in the way of that guy! I dove out of the way and the guy went on to score easily on the goal.

I heard a voice say, “Everyone makes mistakes. I’m sure you’ll improve.”

I was snapped out of the past, back into the middle of the conversation.

Dad commented, “I don’t know. He seemed pretty bad—” Mom cut him off with a glare sharper than daggers.

Dad revised his life goals and stammered, “Oh, you can definitely improve.”

I glumly said, “I don’t think there can be much improvement in that area.”

Mom suggested, “Failure is necessary for improvement. You’ve just got to grit it out.” Inwardly, I rolled my eyes. How many times has my mom said this? A hundred? Two hundred? No, at least a thousand times. Grit, failure is good, success, yada yada yada…boring!

I asked, “Uh huh, sure I can. Just like football and basketball and baseball and lacrosse and—”

Mom sternly informed me, “You only had to quit because you got injured. You were on the cup of improvement. I know it!”

Dad said, “On the bright side, you get along well with the other players on the team.”

The memories of the practice after the game seeped into my consciousness…

I stepped out onto the field, where my team was awaiting the instructor for criticism. The team was sitting around in a circle, just sitting and chatting. I inwardly cringed, ready for the upcoming constant bombardment of complaints and angry comments. What I was met with surprised me.

I stepped out onto the field. The entire team simultaneously stood up. This in itself was weird, but wait! It gets weirder! Instead of being bombarded with negative comments, all of my teammates actually crowded around me, giving me encouragement like “You’ll get ‘em next time!” or “Nice try!”

I was so confused. Instead of acting like, I don’t know, rational people, they were being super nice for no reason! I was just standing there confused until the coach blew his whistle in everyone’s ear and I faded back into reality…

I say, “Not really. They were just being nice because I had failed. They won’t be so nice next time.”

Mom says, “I believe that with just a little more time, you can improve!”

Dad glances at Mom with a skeptical expression and I roll my eyes.

I say, “Sure, Mom. I can definitely improve, especially after the Incident.” I exaggerate the last few words and Mom sighs.

The Incident’s memories revived themselves in my mind…

It was the next soccer game and everyone had encouraged me to do better next time. The game was in full play and I really wasn’t paying much attention. To me, everyone was just running around, chasing a ball on the other side of the field—

“Hey! They’re about to score! What are you doing!” the coach screamed at the team.

I blinked and realized the other team was bearing down on me, reminiscent of the last game. They had somehow gotten halfway across the field!

As I scrambled into position, a teammate to my right yelled, “Here’s your change Dillan! We believe in you!”

I thought, just don’t screw it up. Anything but that.

I sprinted towards the ball, hoping I wouldn’t trip over it.

There was someone dribbling the ball towards the goal and apparently I was doing a good job because he stopped and started to move in a weird, squiggly way after seeing me. Having learned from soccer practice, I moved along with him in the exact same way. I was putting up a great fight and then I saw an opening.

I saw the ball.

I kicked the ball.

And guess where it went? Into my own goal. Whoops.

A stern voice pulled me back into reality.

Mom conceded, “Alright, I admit that was bad, but failure is a way to improve from mistakes. Failure leads to improvement, which leads to success!”

I looked over Mom’s shoulder to see Dad, sitting there, with a spaced look in his eyes. I said, “I really don’t think I can improve. I mean, I scored in my own goal! Right, Dad?” I stress to Dad.

Dad snapped his head up and said, “Yeah! Yeah! Whatever he said!”

Mom sighed and glared at Dad, but then, grudgingly, said the words that I had been straining to hear for weeks, “You don’t have to play soccer anymore.”

Inwardly, I cheered. Finally! I won an argument with my mom! She just says, “Because I told you so,” I thought. I wonder what else I can quit next? Maybe gym class? Extra math? Or… how about piano lessons!

The Day the Moon Fell

It was Friday, May 13th, 2017. The day the moon fell.

I woke up in a cold sweat. Something seemed different. Not better, not worse, just different, quieter. And I didn’t know why. I wouldn’t know why until later, much later.

I got up out of bed and got dressed. That’s when I realized it was darker than it usually was at 6:00 in the morning. There was a strip of light beaming across the corner of my room. It was bright and shaped like a banana and looked like I could jump into it and fall into a pit of nothing.

I put on my NASA t-shirt and some jeans. It was time to start my day or, little did I know, my night.

I went downstairs and sat down at the kitchen table. Normally, Mom makes breakfast for my younger sister and me, but that day she wasn’t downstairs. My sister, Sky, wasn’t up either. Neither was Dad.

I suddenly got really confused, why was no one awake? Did their alarms not go off? Or maybe mine went off early? I looked at the grandfather clock we had in the corner of our dining room. Nope, it was definitely 6:00. Something was wrong.

I went back upstairs and knocked on my parents’ bedroom door. No answer. I slowly turned the knob and crept in, being sure not to make any of the floorboards creak.

My parents were still asleep, but my Mom’s phone alarm wasn’t going off, almost as if she had turned it off. But my mother’s never done that, my mother never will do that. What was going on? I tiptoed over to the bed, once again being sure not to make any noise. That’s when I looked over to where my dad usually sleeps, but nothing was there. My dad was gone.

I started to panic. Maybe he had something to do with the fact that my mom’s alarm never went off. Or why it was so dark outside. No, he couldn’t have done that. Only fairies and wizards and demons do that. And everybody knows, fairies, wizards, and demons don’t exist. Little did I know, I was wrong, very wrong.

“Mom! Mom, wake up!” I yelled as I shook my mother left and right. She was definitely alive, her pulse was racing as if she was really scared. But she was asleep.

“Please, Dad’s in trouble!” She didn’t move a muscle. My mother was normally a really light sleeper. Maybe she was really tired, I thought. Maybe she got home late last night or something. No, no, something was definitely wrong.

I ran into Sky’s room and saw her asleep in her toddler-bed we put together a few weeks ago. She loved that thing. 

“Sky,” I whispered. Whenever someone would yell, Sky would cover her ears and scrunch her eyes and dance around in a circle until they stopped. And with everything that was going on, I was not in the mood for one of her tantrums. But if I had known I would never hear her yell again, I would have done it in a heartbeat.

“Sky, wake up!” I said again, this time a little louder. “Please, Sky, you’re the only one left!”

Nothing happened.

I started to panic even more. My mother and sister weren’t awake, my dad was nowhere to be found, and for some reason everything had changed.

I looked back at the clock. I read somewhere that if you think you are dreaming and you look at a clock twice, the clock time should have significantly changed. But no, it was still 6:00 am. It never crossed my mind that it was still 6:00 am.

I looked around a little, trying to find something, anything, that could help me out a little. Even a spider would have been nice. But no, all the spiders that hung out in my sister’s room were standing still next to their webs.

I finally decided to look outside, hoping someone or something was there that could explain everything. I was not prepared for what I was about to see.

Cats were stopped short. Drunk college kids were standing in the middle of the sidewalk, and a plane was still in the sky. The moon was the only thing that looked normal, twinkling as it usually did, and slowly moving west. The sun hadn’t come up yet. No wonder it was so dark.

I turned away from the window and ran back downstairs, not knowing what to do next. Maybe I could run to the neighbors’ house like my parents always taught me to do “if there was ever to be an emergency.” I was pretty sure this counted as an emergency.

I turned the doorknob to go outside, half expecting it to be bright and sunny, the flowers to be blooming, and the birds to be chirping. Little did I know, I would never see a flower bloom or a bird chirp again. But, like I guessed, it was still dark and all the flowers were doing was standing stick-straight up.

I ran outside and pounded on my neighbors’ door, getting more and more worried. What if no one answered? What if it was just me? Maybe I was going crazy? Maybe I had died and this was the afterlife? I asked myself these questions every time I knocked on another neighbor’s door, just trying to get some answers. I wish I had known that one of those answers turned out to be true.

Eventually, I got to the end of Pickleberry Lane and had to take a breather. It all seemed so, what’s the word, unreal. Everything was frozen, and not frozen like snowy frozen. Frozen

I looked up at the moon. You know that feeling? The one where you just need company even though you don’t want anyone to talk to you, but just their presence makes you feel better? It was like that, except with the moon. It gave me comfort. It was the only thing that had stayed the same throughout all this chaos. I wish I had thought about that more, because if I did maybe I wouldn’t be where I am now.

I walked back home in silence. Literal silence. Nothing was making noise, not even the factory on the other side of town that keeps everyone up at night. Not even the crickets or the wind. But I swore I could hear the moon moving. No, that wasn’t possible. Oh, but it was. It definitely was. 

Suddenly, somewhere within the silence, I heard a scream. It was faint, but it was there.

“Hello?” the voice screeched. “Anybody? Please?” She had an accent, British, I think. I didn’t know what I should do. Should I yell back? What if, somehow, I was dreaming and I ended up yelling in my sleep? Sky would never let me hear the end of that. It could help, though. And so I yelled back.

“Hello?” I screamed as loud as I could. “You still there?”

“Yes, I’m still here,” the voice said, this time a little softer. “What’s your name?”

Jackson. Jackson was my name. But I thought twice about telling her. I mean, I knew nothing about this person. Maybe she was some sort of creep, trying to kill me? Or maybe she was my unconscious, trying to lead me in the right path.

“Jackson,” I yelled, lifting myself up onto my tip-toes. “What’s yours?”

“I’m Luna,” she yelled. “Do you know what’s going on?”

“No,” I said. “Where are you? Maybe we could meet somewhere?” It would have been nice to finally see another person, even if I didn’t know her.

“Bloomsbury,” she said. “Where should we meet?”

Bloomsbury? I’d never heard of it. Maybe it was in the rich part of town or something. There was nothing that could prepare me for what she was about to say.

“Which part of Massachusetts is Bloomsbury in?” I yelled. “I’m in Cambridge.”

“Massachusetts? Bloomsbury’s in London.”

London? So this girl, Luna, is telling me I’m hearing voices from London? 

“How am I hearing you?” I asked.

“They think time has frozen,” Luna said, sounding sad. “They say since all the noise is gone, there isn’t any noise to drown us out.”

“They?” I asked. I was so confused. “Who’s they?”

I wish I had known those would be my last words, because if I did, I would have said literally anything else.


I heard a thump. Luna must have heard it too, because she suddenly went silent.

I looked up and saw the moon coming closer and closer, like it was falling to the ground.

“Jackson?” Luna yelled. “Jackson, I just want you to know…”

And then it went black.

So, if you’re reading this, please, if anything seems out of the ordinary, tell someone. Anyone. Before it’s too late. Or you could end up where I am now, with them.

Kind regards, 


I put down my pencil and went to sleep.

I woke up in a cold sweat. Something seemed different. Not better, not worse, just different. Quieter. And I didn’t know why. I wouldn’t know why until later, much later.

Dear Mockingbird

Dear Mockingbird,

Mockingbirds repeat what people say

I guess this is your way to spend the day

What do you do when there is no sound?

Do you just sit around?

When you mock people are you loud?

Does this make you proud?

Do you sometimes hear the same sound?

Do you repeat it or once again do you just sit around?

I ask myself repeatedly why do you mock

Is this the way you talk?

Flu Shot

My mother drags me, kicking and screaming, down the sidewalk. She is taking me to the doctor to get a flu shot.

“Ellie!” she scolds. “What is wrong with you?!” 

People on the street are giving us very strange looks. I don’t care. My mother pulls on my arm and I try to go in the other direction. I am crying loudly. 

I am deathly afraid of shots. Just thinking about a needle in my arm makes me shudder. 

“I… don’t want… a shot…” I wail, but I am so panicked my words get slurred together and my mother doesn’t understand what I am saying between my uncontrolled sobs.

Suddenly I realize we are right in front of the entrance to the doctor’s office. How did we get here so quickly? My mother opens the door, holding me by the wrist, and we walk in.

My sobs get quieter as I take in the familiar waiting room: colorful chairs and wallpaper, some toys and coloring sheets in the corner, and the receptionist’s desk across from us. I think to myself, can it really be that bad?

The peaceful setting calms and distracts me a little. I pick up a crayon and scribble on a coloring sheet while my mother signs in with the receptionist. I hear her say “flu shot” and I bite my nails nervously, resisting the sudden urge to make a run for the door.

A few minutes go by. A young nurse comes into the room. “Ellie Thomas?” she calls.

I jump when I hear my name. Clutching my mother’s warm hand, I follow the nurse into a narrow hallway out of the waiting area. We enter a smaller room that smells like bleach and sanitizer.

The nurse pulls out an alcohol pad and a syringe. Seeing the needle, I panic and start to sob again.

My mother bends down so she is eye-level with me. “Shhh. Ellie, it’s going to be fine. You can squeeze my hand. Don’t look at the needle.”

It takes me a few tries to find my voice. “I’m scared,” I manage to say. 

“Don’t worry,” she reassures me. “It’ll be over before you know it.”

I hiccup and my heart gets caught in my throat. I am rooted to the spot with fear.

I feel the sudden cold sensation of the alcohol pad rubbing against my skin. Wondering when the nurse is going to inject my arm, I turn to look, taking shallow, short breaths. 

Big mistake. In slow motion, I see the needle just as it pierces my skin. I let out a strangled noise as I feel a sharp stab of pain. I grip my mother’s hand tightly.

And then it is all over. The nurse sticks a bandage where the needle entered. Blinking, trying to process what just happened, I lift my arm. It feels a little sore, but that’s it.

Smiling, the nurse hands me a lollipop. My mother gives me a hug and says, “You were so brave.” Relieved, I walk out of the door. Everything is a blur. My mother signs us out and we leave the office. I feel the warm sun on my face. I did it. I survived a flu shot. It really wasn’t all that bad.

Happily sucking on my lollipop, I trail behind my mother and we walk home.


Cool and empty breaths

Leave and return

From my once vibrant colored body.

The warmth that once existed

In the transparent liquid that

Flowed through my veins 

Has now come to a halt.

It oozes and drips

From the rigid and deep wounds

That now decorate my lifeless body.

Though not inflicted these unrelenting lashes

Were obtained and accepted.

Inflicted by the creator of all,


Year after year

The sharper the simmering blade

She used Became.

It’s slick, but yet finely sharpened body

Was inserted deeper and deeper as 

Time moved forward.

Tearing deeper into my flesh.

The more the scars grew 

The more my wounds bled.

The more something within

Began to fade away.

The House At the Edge of the World


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


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

One: a dictionary.

Two: a volume of poetry.

Three: a cookbook. 

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

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

A place called Minnesota. 

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

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

If she was even a person herself. 

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

Soon, she stopped running altogether. 

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

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


Her fingertips were wet. 

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

A slow smile spread across her face.  

She left that same day.  

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

Except for one thing.  

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

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

To Minnesota.   

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

It was her third day at sea.  

The landscape remained empty.  

Nothing around but sky, sea and boat.  

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

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

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

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


That was all there was, everywhere.  


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She was going to have so much fun.  

“Where did you come from?”

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t know,” she said.  

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

She glared at him.

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

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

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

“My… what? Sorry?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She loved it immediately.  

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

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

But first, she needed breakfast.  

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

She tried them.  

They were…odd.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Can’t take what?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

No response. 

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

Dear Claire,

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

The stress of your bad grades, excessive calls from your 

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

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

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

From your mother, 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hi, what’s your name?” we asked her.

“Claire,” she said.

“What’s yours?” Claire asked us.

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

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

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

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

“Claire, is that you?” he asked me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cure


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

Chapter 1

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

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

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

“Everybody get down!” I yell. 

The building erupts into a fiery explosion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I need to think.

Chapter 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 3

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

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

All of us just sit there, stunned. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

32 Degrees


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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

“Thank you. I know.” Do I? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh! Oh, yes, yes, duh,” I said. 

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


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

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

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

“Hi?” I said, unzipping my bag.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I interjected before any fights could start. 

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

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

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

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

They simultaneously scoffed. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s me,” I respond. 

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

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

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

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

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

“Can we sit?” I interjected. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

The Beast

Something was in my room. The wardrobe doors opened and out it came. I froze as the huffing noises grew close. The beast was taller than a bear; its head scraped the ceiling as it walked even closer. I took a deep breath trying to calm myself, only to choke on the horrible odor. I closed my eyes, squinting hard while pinching myself making sure what I was seeing was real. I opened my eyes and there it was, now standing directly over me. Tears slid down my face. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. My dad was home. 

The Monster

The beast’s most striking feature was its sunset orange fur, like flames licking at the sky. The color flickered as it sped past my face. I stepped back, slipping on a cold puddle of gray liquid and falling onto the cold stone floor. The creature, which I am temporarily referring to as a midset, took my fall as an opportunity, pouncing on me and placing its large, circular foot on my chest. 

The midset arched its back, spikes shooting out of the yellow-red hair that extended throughout its body. I wondered if that was to threaten me, or perhaps a hostile indicator that it was preparing to attack. 

There was nothing particularly frightening about its features. It had a long, drawn out nose that resembled something between an elephant’s trunk and an aardvark’s snout. It sniffed at my shirt, giving me a better view of its beady blue eyes, like buttons stitched onto orange fabric. Its pupils were miniscule, and I surely wouldn’t have noticed them if they hadn’t been a sickly, swamp-like green. 

I observed this in about two seconds, shrieking all the while. Startled, the beast jumped up, it’s stomach glinting in the dim moonlight that seeped in from what seemed to be nowhere. It seemed to shimmer, glittering in a way that a cat’s fur would not. Similar to how glass could reflect light. 

The midset pawed the ground, its four stubby legs seeming like they should collapse under the weight of its body. Its heart-shaped nostrils widened, and it let out a scream that perfectly mimicked mine, albeit ten times louder. I writhed on the floor, whimpering, adding to the amplified sound of my agony. 

It bounded towards me, and I jumped to the side, catching only a glimpse of its small tail, sphered, like a bunny’s. It spun to face me with uncanny grace, and my screaming once again filled the cave, louder still. My ears must have been bleeding as I crumpled to the ground. The beast approached me slowly, and I couldn’t tell if it had stopped the horrid sound or if I’d gone deaf. 

In that moment, while I could not hear, I noticed strange things about the midset. It had human ears atop its head, acting like flat horns. They were the only things not covered in that orange fur, and yet, as I watched, that orange fur wasn’t so orange anymore. It deepened to a sudden crimson, then a passionate blue, spotted white. Finally, it turned midnight black, its eyes an ominous lavender. 

Those captivating purple eyes were the last thing I saw of it as the midset disappeared, melting into the cave walls. 

A Question – Unanswered – Solved

Chapter 1~That Feeling

I’m feeling uninspired

I look to my favorite quotes

Today was reading…

…and remembering…

…someone might be feeling 

beautiful in literature

Chapter 2~The Beginning

The pounding in my head

The whisper in my soul

I close my eyes

I roll over

Try to fill the empty hole

The door opens

Tam pokes her head in

She says it’s time

That I should get right out of bed

She knows that I’m missing

The sister I loved

Until she died that horrible night

When she was finally pushed too far….

Chapter 3~Cowardly Me

Tam tells me I need practice

To have courage…

…be brave

But how can I

After a girl was brave

And left so much behind


Life goes on

So I turn to the mirror

I take a breath in and I say to myself

“I am Alex Pander, an author-kinda-and life goes on.“

“I am Alex Pander, an author-maybe-and life goes on.”

“I am Alex Pander, an author-YES-and life goes on.”

I get a questioning look from Tam

But she says no more about it

She hands me my backpack

Opens the door

I walk toward school


My home is out of sight

Then I quickly turn around


Up a tree

I pull out my notebook…

…though it doesn’t look like one

With a yellowing leather outside

Tattered looking pages

It looks more like a box

Chapter 4~Disguised

Disguised as a box

Looking old

Looking real

Though it’s not

Disguised as something to keep feelings in

But really

It’s the perfect way

For me to let them out

Chapter 5 ~Moms

My mom said I would need saving before she grabbed my mom and jumped after

The daughter that they wouldn’t be able to save

That’s right my mom is gay

So is my mom…


I’m adopted from a family I’ll never know

Chapter 6~Messages

I write to my mom, mom, and sister

I write to the family that could’ve been mine

If I stayed with them

I wouldn’t be drowning

In the pain of being abandoned

By the mom and dad that couldn’t afford me and disappeared soon after

By the mom and mom who didn’t stay with me to watch my sister drown

By the sister who was just playing around until playing got her pushed out of life

By Tam, the friend, that still lives today

But I wonder, how much happiness is alive

Chapter 7~The Finding

I write for seconds

For minutes

For hours 


I gather my stuff

I climb down the tree and I think of my life

I live with my bestie who is ten years older than me

She is my guardian although I’m almost eighteen

I know she is scared with my sudden appearance

She plans to send me away for summer

So she can sort out her life

So now

I will be spending two months in a library

I get home and look for my bff

To finish lying an answer to all of her hopeful questions

I find a note on my bed

After five minutes of frantically searching


Ten minutes of staying calm

It says:

Dear Alex, 

Life has always been hard. When you were 2 months old, your parents gave you up…I supported you. When you were 5, you decided that having two moms was normal, I supported you. When you were 8, you had to deal with all of the girls telling you that you that were weird; you should be obsessed with dolls, make-up, dressup, boys, and all that stereotypical “girl” stuff. Guess what, I supported you! And then, you were 13, you decided you were really a boy, so I supported you. Exactly 9 months ago today, your sister, mom, and mom died. I need to support you, but I need some supporting too. While I love you so much, I have plugged in coordinates to your GPS. They will take you to a library where people are waiting for your arrival. Use your phone to call me when you get there. Pack your bags so that you can stay for two months. There will be laundry. Leave by 6:30. You might be scared, but this is the best for both of us. It is not forever. I am not leaving you, or making you leave me. I want to be better for you, and I need time to do this. It is hard for me too. I will not be there before you leave. Do not wait up. I love you so much!

Luv ya, 


PS-I called the school so they know not to expect you tomorrow. They say that they weren’t, you haven’t been to school in weeks, maybe even months. They said that they thought you were sick. We will talk about this on the phone later. Keep me posted! 

Chapter 8~Betrayal

The car rumbles

It groans

It creaks

It treks along

Without much attention

How can I?

I mean…

I just got abandoned

The third time

In seventeen years

By the one I thought I could trust

Why is it that this happens

So what it is a library

My new home

My old sanctuary

So what she thinks this is best

For me

For her

Don’t I know what’s best

For the person who’s been through more

She said it herself

In the letter she wrote

I guess it is fate

That my high

Is my low

Chapter 9~Arrival

It’s modern

But old

Split in half

Like my soul

It’s brick

But stone

Half and half

Like my heart

It’s warm

But cold


Like my life

My thoughts

My emotions

My feelings

My brain

My body

My soul

My heart


Chapter 10~Getting It Over With

So many things happen so quick

A smile

A wave

A kiss

A hug

A ride

A candy

A book

A movie

Even though we try

And try

We try to make them last

The librarian looks

The assistant stares

I realize

In horror

I said it aloud

The feelings I felt

All out there

Not personal

I know I’m blushing

But I need to know more

I take a deep breath

I walk over

The librarian




Keeps it in

Like she notices


Never noticed before

Almost about

The way I speak

And then try to fix it


And then I see her staring

At my deep eyes

That seem to know all

Just how I imagined my dad’s

Beautiful eyes would look

She answers

The silent question

Somehow passed between us

She is Molly

My director

Of her newest idea

She is teaching


About writing


They will room

In the basement

Of the library



I am alone

I am the only one

She gives me the keys

And walks

Out the door

Chapter 11~The Call

I call Tam

But to tell the truth

I’d rather not talk about what was said

Thanks for understanding

I knew that I could always count

On you

To understand…


Chapter 12~Reflection

I know


Alex Pander

Am scared

I have never spent the night



I dream

Of my chance

My hope

Of feeling





Like the author

I wanted


To be

I feel

A librarian

Will know


I feel


I will ask

I will beg for an answer

For my question

I haven’t figured out

Chapter 13~Dreams


My favorite land

The one where I can escape

I slip away

Like a slug

In the rain

Like a speck

In a river

Like water

In my hand

Like my sister

In my our life

I slip

To a place

Where I




A place

I enter


Is wonderful

I fly

With my sister

In my


Coming home

To my birth


With a hug

Then we



To my moms

For kisses



An encouraging


On the hand

From my sis

I see Tam


Aren’t enough

I wake up

Eyes streaming

Knowing that



Is here

To stay

Chapter 14~Questions

They swirl

Through my head



In a storm

Like water

In a river

Like the fireworks

On Independence Day

So bright


So far

The door


It unlocks

It creaks

The clock stops ticking

And the bird

On the cuckoo clock

Stops singing

As a librarian


Her throne room

You can tell

Her power

In just one finger to her lips

You can see her brain working

In charge of all these books

You know she has the answer

You just don’t know how to ask

I will start with the one

That decides it all

Is she wise

Is it fake

Is it worth asking more

I blurt it out

It’s over


She looks at me closely

I know that she’s won

No matter the question

The answer

The explanation

She knows

Just not the way you expect

She opens her mouth












I am going to make you a poem

I gasp

I shake

No one

Ever has made


A poem

Not even a librarian

She tells me to read

For the day

Which is fine

I take the time

To watch

And learn

My poem blossom

Chapter 15~The Fruit

A letter

Has friends

Twenty five of them


Stuck with them


No room

For any


A word

Is made

Out of letters

Forced to be friends

A chance for friendship

If not


A sentence

Made of words

That were made

Out of letters

A chance for a new life

A new meaning

Sometimes good

Sometimes bad

A punctuation mark

Has it worst of all

Forced to end

In a questioning fashion

An exclaiming one

A boring one

Forced to end

A sentence

In which




Doesn’t believe

And yet

They stay

Until someone

Helps them out

Rearranges everything

Until change is needed again


Change is happening

So life isn’t perfect


If life

Stayed the same

It might be worse

But when things stop changing for a little

You will see

That change was hard

But it is nice to be free

You are

Who you decide

To be

And you are

The person

That believes

In what you


That feels

The way

You feel

That looks

The way

You look

That knows

The things

You know

You are you

You will change

You will stay

But no matter what happens

You will always be you

So accept your life

After all

It’s yours

Chapter 16~Crickets

She reads it aloud

In her soothing voice

It’s soft

It’s calm

Like she’s been through my life

She looks familiar

Like someone that looks like everyone you meet

I ask her about her voice

Tell her that it is beautiful

She laughs a tinkly laugh

And says

That it 

Is silvery




She opens her arms

But I turn away

She walks towards me anyway

Her hug gives me power

Her black curly hair


Like strawberries

And is so soft

Her breath is warm

As it hits my cheek

And when she draws back

I wish I could go on forever

Like if I could feel

That warm




I felt just then

Everything would be


Chapter 17~Is This What It Feels Like?

My world is falling

The punch in my gut

The ocean in my head

The ache in my heart

The swaying on my feet

I fall

She falls

We fall

I’m holding on

She’s holding on

Can’t grasp

Life flashes

Is this

I don’t want to know


So fast







Too much DEATH!!!

I need to see

To know

I fall

My eyes are fluttering

My vision works

But doesn’t

One last


Is this

What it

Feels like

To die?

My eyes shut

And nothing else happens for hours

Dreamless sleep

Just sleep

That is all it is




Everything I needed

After such a life

Chapter 18~How

I wake up

She’s doing it

Reading my favorite book

I wonder how she knew

It’s really called:

The Afterlife And How To Get There

But I prefer to call it:

Where Will I go Next


Of focusing


My favorite book

The room



My attention

Like the sun

On glass

In the middle

Of nothing

The wooden floors

With the soft



Rug that

Captures my


I lie

On a couch


A blanket

So soft

And fuzzy

It’s purple

Like my soul

Is what my sister

Would’ve said

In her beautiful way

That makes me love

The one that

I will never again

Get to hold

Chapter 19~Mine

My angel

My master

My leader

My god

My teacher

My guardian

My librarian

I take this


To take

A look

Of my savior

With the black

Curly hair

That smells

Like strawberry fields

That those bugs wrote

A song about


The fruit

Is forever

Where I

Get taken

To strawberry


She has deep

Brown eyes

Which is uncommon

I guess

Not really

But whenever


Points out

Beautiful eyes

They are a


Dazzling blue

But I like brown

So wise

So calm

She has these pink lips

That are pink



Or lip gloss

Or any of that stuff

I despise

That was pushed

On me

Not so long


She has no nose ring

Like the girls

In my school

When I went there

She wears

A sensible


With flowers

The kinda

Thing you expect

A librarian to wear

She is looking at me

As I look at her

And deep in my heart

I wish that she were mine

Her lips move

And yet I hear

No sound

But in my head

I know

That I am in her home

And yet my heart

Feels like lead

I spend the rest of the day

In and out of sleep

Until I wake up in the morning

To the librarian

Shaking me

Telling me

To wake up

We need to go

I get my stuff

Get in her car

Drive 5 minutes

To the library

Where she tells me

To sit

In her desk


I have been


As the new


And she is leaving now

And to read the note

On the desk

Once she has left

She produces

A suitcase

Out of

The desk

And walks out the door



…i guess…

Chapter 20~Notes

My son, 

I’m sorry I left so soon. I do not deserve you, and yet I recognized you right away. Boy or girl, 17 or 2 months. I am your birth mother. I am an illegal immigrant so I could not keep you. It was too dangerous for both of us, but mostly you. Your father is dead, but I keep moving. You belong here, as a librarian. I will visit often. Son, remember who you are. You will find yourself, just try to keep it with you. I am so very proud of you. Writing is important when you are surrounded by it. Remember that. I love you so much. More than you could imagine. More than I can write, and that’s saying something. Write how much I love you for me. It will show me that you love me.
I love you so much, 



All along

It was her

The one

I hoped was mine

So lost

Who found me

She betrayed me

I thought I had

Her trust

But now

I know

That she is there

And yet


Like a mockingbird

Stealing others’ songs


If I could ask

If she came back

I would be fine

But now

I just hope

Nobody else hurts me


The Negative One – Part One: Subservience

June 10th, year L



Everyone was being sent to The Next Place, except me: I was being sent to The Better Place. The Better Place accepts one person from every year, the one person who passed. 

 I passed.

I was the ONE.

I had been raised in dome 20076328, with the rest of 20076328, for 13 years. Thirteen years of pure childhood, of learning, laughing, and smiles. But when I turned thirteen, with the rest of 20076328, we had to face the real world. We had struggled and faced fear our whole lives, but we had never done it without each other. The real world outside our little lives within the bubble of dome 20076328 was exciting until we had to face it. Until our bubble popped and we had real struggles and problems that can’t just be solved by themselves. Children have innocence, they grow up with their head in the clouds and no-ones cares, but when they have to face the real world, they’re just lost in the smoke that was once their cloud. There are 50 children in my year, 20076328, and 49 of them were sent to The Next Place. And I thought that I was sent to The Better Place, to live in paradise for eternity. I thought I could keep my bubble, but I was so clueless back then.

 The powerful sound of the bell rings three times: the train to The Next Place is here. I watch as my friends flee the platform rushing to get good seats, and I watch as the rest of 20076328 board the train. The train has cracked paint, and dirty floors, the letters painted across the side are faded, and the windows are too foggy to see through. Why did the rest of 20076328 have to be sent to The Next Place in this old piece of rotting wood? Its flaws are obvious as if screaming in my face, but no one else seems to notice. To them, it just looks like home, and it looks like home to me too, but I only realized now my new home won’t be like this. I will never fall asleep on an old creaky bed with weak springs, I will never eat from dirty dishes again. I will never wear shirts with holes and stains in them ever again. I try to say this with a smile, but my mouth doesn’t budge. As I say these things to myself, I feel like I’m losing my childhood. I don’t know why this is so hard for me; everyone’s going to a new place too. They seem almost eager to let go, but yet I struggle to cope with this new lifestyle I’m headed toward. The loud whistle interrupts my thoughts, and a large cloud of smoke covers the platform, and I go into a coughing fit. When my coughing finally subsides I blow my hair out of my face and look up, the train is gone. 

With a long sigh, I walk to the nearest bench, smooth out my dress, and sit down in the center of the platform that had only just minutes ago been crowded with children. Children I have known my whole life, children I have spent the last 13 years learning and training with. I couldn’t stand to watch the only family I’ve ever known leave on a train without me, maybe the cloud of smoke was shielding me from what was too hard to experience. I like to believe everything happens for a reason; everything has an explanation. Except for this, why do I have to leave 20076328, or better, why do they have to leave me? Now everything is just silent, a sound I’ve never heard. With the rest of 20076328 silence was just an idea, something guardians dreamed of but never got. But now I experience it. 

That all vanishes when the white train comes into sight. The white train that will take me from the only home I’ve ever known. When it pulls up at the platform, the doors open effortlessly; I grab my bag and walk over to the open door. In front of me is a vehicle that will lead me to the perfect world I’ve always dreamed of, but I hesitate to board. I stand there in front of the door, clutching my bag and waiting for something to stop me from going, but nothing does. So I board the train. I walk in and sit down, resting my bag beside me, but the door doesn’t close as if waiting for me to second guess myself, but I don’t. As if reading my mind, the door closes, and the train begins to move. I slouch and gaze out the window and watch as my perfect, flawed, world fades from view. But I have to remind myself I’m going to a better place, The Better Place. I know this is where I’m supposed to go, this is my fate, my life, there’s no changing that. For the rest of my train ride, I try to cope with this new idea of change, this new idea of a destiny in which I have no control of. 

After hours of trying to cope with my thoughts, I finally arrive at dome #1, The Better Place. I look around at my so-called new home. It’s different than I imagined, the surroundings look just like I thought they would. Uniform houses with the same clean white paint job, and symmetrical trees perfectly spaced apart. But something feels off, almost fake. Maybe it is the lack of color or noise. The train pulls to a smooth stop at the empty station, and I stand up slightly dizzy and stumble off the train unaware of where my own feet are. A cold breeze welcomes me, and a shiver runs down my back. I take a deep breath, smooth out my colorful floral dress encased with roses and thorns, and run my fingers through my tangled hair. I smell heliotrope coming from a nearby garden. I look up at the fragrant purple flowers, the most colorful thing in sight. They look so over-saturated surrounded by all these colorless structures. I continue to look around. The rows and rows of clean white houses go on for as far as see. In the distance I see and tall glass building, The Capitol Building. The Capitol Building is the center of everything, in the center of Dome #1, which is the central dome. Only two things are missing here: colors, and flaws. The definition of perfect is different here, at home perfect was anything that made you happy. But here perfect is predictable, perfect is flawless and artificial.  

I hear another train pull up behind me, but I’m too exhausted to look back. I blink my heavy eyelids over my eyes and continue walking. I look in the windows of the identical houses; each one has one person in them, a perfect person. I walk down the silent streets, a sound far too common here, to the main desk. I stumble a little as I walk for I’m not used to such level streets. To prevent myself from falling I look down as I walk. I study each perfectly placed stone on the flat roads and keep an eye on where my feet go as I walk. My eye catches a bright red rose in the distance. I look up and stare at it. It looks perfect, its stem smooth and strong. As I walk closer to it, it looks just as out of place here as I do. It is the color of red wine, the color of beautiful red rubies, it is the color of warmth and comfort. I continue to walk closer to it, caught in a daze caused by its beauty. As I get closer, the rose changes: I notice thorns as sharp as nettles lining the sides. The rose is now the color of blood, of the look of evil flashing in someone’s eyes, it is the color of anger and fear, of loneliness and rejection. The petals appear to wilt right in front of my eyes. I rub my eyes and try to focus them on the rose. Its petals that once appeared soft look hard and crispy. I stare at the rose. A white vehicle rushes by, crushing the rose into the ground. I rush over to the rose; without thinking I gently pick it up and stuff it in the pocket of my dress. I stand back up, blow my thin blond hair out of my face and continue walking to the office. 

Usually, by now, I would have slumped over and began to complain about the long walk, but who is there to complain to? It feels weird, being alone. I was never alone in 20076328, I was always either with my friends or my guardians, Caroline and William Smith. They were a loving couple, and they treated me well; I remember Caroline’s warm smile, her face covered in freckles, I remember William’s kind eyes and his big bear hugs that always made you feel safe. Life was so easy in dome 20076328; you always had a companion, everyone knew you, your life was already set up and planned, you just had to live it. 

When I approach the main office, I once again adjust my dress and pull my hair out of my face. The building is short, long, and blindingly white, like most of the buildings here. In the building, there is a large screen, opposite to the line of people waiting to be let into paradise. I grip the cold doorknob of the entrance and pull it toward me. I forget to look down, and I trip over the stairs. I stumble into the line of people, and I look up at a large screen on the wall. On the screen, there is a man in a white suit. “Welcome, today one person from 10038344, 55787998, 764646, 1000047, 8574444, 3399292, and 20076428 have joined us in our perfect world. Please wait in line for your tests and background checks,” the man on the screen says cheerily. There is something about his voice, something in his smile that makes me never want to leave this place.

“This is my new home,” I say under my breath. And something about that sentence feels right; it feels true. It feels truer than it ever did in dome 20076328. I never fit in at dome 20076328, even when I forced myself to think that, I always knew deep down that it wasn’t true. But here, in dome #1, it feels like my lips were meant to form that sentence. This is where I’m supposed to be, that’s what the universe wants, and the universe is always right. As I stand here in line, I can imagine myself living here. In one of those small white houses with a perfect, well-dressed family, and kind neighbors. One day, I say to myself, one day soon.

When I finally reach the front of the line, a woman with a kind smile greets me. I walk toward her without hesitation and sit down in a chair facing her desk. “What’s your number, please?” she asks me kindly— her voice, clear and calm, and her smile radiant.

“Girl #767960,” I respond.

She nods approvingly and continues. “Name?” she asks

“Natalie Smith,” I reply slowly.

“Natalie Smith, Natalie Smith…” she repeats slowly looking through her large binder.

I put my hands in my pockets nervously. I had forgotten about my rose. I rub my fingers along the petals of the flat rose.

“I’m sorry I don’t see your name here, what dome are you from?” she says in a concerned tone.

“20076328,” I say proudly.

“Alright, your former guardian’s names, please,” she asks.

“Caroline and William Smith,” I reply in a strained voice, my eyes welling up slightly at the thought of them, and where they could be now.

“I’m sorry no-one from 20076328 is listed here. Our system must have made a mistake and sent you here.” She pauses, and I stare at her in awe. My rose crumbles between my fingers. “I can get you on the next train to The Next Place, at 2:30.” She continues typing something into her computer. 

I just sit there, like a dull rock unable to respond. My once iceberg-blue eyes go cloudy as they fill with tears. A silent rainstorm starts in my eyes and drips down my cheeks. My tears fall down my face and drop on to my rose-decorated dress, turning the once colorful roses to dead, dried up weeds. Before I can stop myself, I push my chair away from the table and run. I run out of the check-in office, and down the rows of houses I saw earlier. I’m running, but I don’t know why. I quickly realize the security guards are chasing me, and now I’m just running from them. I thought I finally found where I belong in this bustling universe, I felt a sense of completion and satisfaction, I finally thought I was home. But it is all just an illusion, I will never be truly happy, I never have been. I run because I’m too scared to stop, too afraid to see what they’ll do to me. I can’t stand to be robbed of another chance for a perfect life. Fearful thoughts race through my mind, as I struggle to figure out what to do next. How could I have been so stupid as to think I belonged here, in this perfect world, where I am the farthest thing from perfect? I ask myself, but it’s not me, it’s this universe, this universe that chooses your life for you before you even get a chance to live it. I run like it will make everything go away, I run like I could just run right off this planet, away from this universe. I’ve always been a subservient type of person and I’m not going to start questioning authority now. I wipe away my tears and stop running.  


PAUL — 17-year-old who lives in East Berlin. His father’s a politician in the communist party. Almost every Friday and Saturday night, Paul sneaks out to the West Side to party. He has a John Lennon poster, but he doesn’t show it to his dad. 

WALTER — Paul’s best friend, 16.5. They have been friends since first grade. They have always been together and Walter was the one who showed Paul how to sneak over the Berlin wall.

FATHER — Volodymyr Voronovich. He is a minister from the soviet union to East Berlin.

ABENEER —  Abeneer Smith, a former wrestling coach whose best friend was Centurion, a pro wrestler that was coached by Abeneer Smith. He is a kind, loyal person who never gives up on his friends. He is now 69 years old and in prison, for coaching Centurion who beat Ivan Drago, a famous soviet union wrestler. Centurion was shot for beating him, and Abeneer was imprisoned for this. 


The year is 1965. John Lennon’s song Imagine is playing softly on the radio of a channel from West Berlin. PAUL has his John Lennon poster above his bed, and PAUL nods his head to the music.


Off stage

Paul! I am meeting Erich Honecker who is the Chief of the Communist Party. 

PAUL quickly switches the radio channel to East Berlin propaganda and covers his John Lennon Poster with his Joseph Stalin, my hero poster. The door rattles and his father enters. (The poster of Stalin should be the Pringles man poster that says Joseph Stalin My hero below it)


Hello, father. 


Doing some homework? 


Yes, father.


Glancing at the poster

Ahh. One of my favorite posters….May I see some of your notes?


Uhh, uhh… Oh, well, look at the time! You cannot be late for your meeting!


Oh dear, you’re right!

Father runs out of the room. 


Through the Walkie Talkie 

Hey Paul. It’s me, Walter. You still have the plans of breaking through the wall?

PAUL holds up the notes he was pretending was homework. 


Yeah. I have them right here. I almost got busted by my dad! 


If that die-hard communist gets his hands on the plans we are walking corpses.


We leave tonight 


Got it.


I can’t believe I haven’t turned this disgusting propaganda off.

PAUL turns off the radio. 


It is midnight, WALTER is waiting by the weak spot they had planned to break through the wall. WALTER is wearing black and he has a black bandana over his face. PAUL walks up to him with his Nike’s and a red shirt and some jeans. 


What are you wearing!?


We are breaking this spot so we can go to Samuel’s party! Not rob a bank!


As you said, we’re breaking in! If something bad happens we will have to go unrecognized!


Off stage

Hey!! Who’s there!


Growls, barks

Landmine in distance explodes


Man, that was close.

Yeah, who knew he would step on a landmine


If my dad catches me he will kill me! You’re lucky your dad doesn’t care about what you do.

Paul and Walter continue to break through the wall



 Off stage

Finally home.

Paul re-enters his house. Lights are off. Lights turn on, FATHER in front of him


As stern as possible
Where were you?


Uhh… I —


It was rhetorical! I know you were in West Berlin, that’s why I brought these two, Andre and Sergey.

Two large officers step forward from O.S.


Take him away.

The two guards slap cuffs on him and take him away


PAUL gets dragged into prison


Wait! Stop, this is a misunderstanding!


Shut up!


Australian accent

‘Ello there mate!


What? Who said that!?


I did, the name’s Abeneer Smith.


You mean the Abeneer Smith, the coach of Centurion, who beat Ivan Drago!?


That’s me 


Where is Centurion now?


The soviet soldiers shot him after he beat Ivan Drago, the soviet wrestler.


What!? He was my favorite wrestler growing up!


Centurion and his other friends, my friends, were all killed. I got put in prison for coaching him.


Hey, you filthy rats! Get onto the prison lawn for roll call.

Suddenly the sound of an explosion sounds from the prison. WALTER comes with his friends, guns blazing, and PAUL’s father. They rescue PAUL and get him out.


Abeneer, come with us!

PAUL reaches for ABENEER and takes him with him.


Get them!! 

Guards open fire, but PAUL and the others escape to an underground sewer.



Dad? What are you doing


Eric Hockener told me to kill anyone caught crossing to West Berlin. When I went to your room because I left my wallet there, I also saw your invitation to Samuel’s party. I knew I couldn’t kill you so instead I sent you to prison and I would break you out later, so I am the chief of the resistance, and here I am now.

Wait wha-


Welcome to the resistance, Paul.


The resistance?


After you 


The Fair Princess

Once, there was a fair princess. People whispered about her, and sang songs in her honor and named their firstborn daughters and sons after her. She was the ruler– of what?

“I was never told, Mama, of what, of what?”

“Sssh, Lucy, you only need to know that she was the ruler. She was lovely and special and important and she was ours.” 

Once, there was a fair princess. They say that when her feet touched the sand, vines grew. They say that she loved her kingdom with the love of a parent for their children. They say she would have died for us. She was never lonely. She had us. We had her.

“But she must have gotten lonely, right Papa?” Lucy inquired, muddy face beaming earnestly up at her father. “I’d get lonely, all alone like she was…” At this, her older brother interjected, face growing red.

“You must never say that, child!” Her older brother admonished, glaring at her, “No, she did not get lonely. She lived in a palace made of diamonds and glass and she was never, never wanting for anything else.” Lucy whimpered.

“Didn’t she have emeralds?” A mud-splattered girl had wandered over. She was a few moons older than Lucy and had recently gone to see the Princess. Jealousy burned in Lucy’s heart– she wanted to see the Princess too.

“No, she did not have emeralds– she would never wear anything so vulgar!” Lucy’s mother snapped, glaring at the girl. “She wore robes of the finest blue. Almost the color of the ocean. I can still see it today…” And she trailed off, lost in her memories of the fair Princess.

Once there was a fair princess, and she issued a decree: when each child turned twelve, they would go and have an audience with the fair Princess. After all, she wanted to know more about her people. And when a child had reached twelve moons, they were deemed suitable to go and see the fair Princess.

“Don’t worry,” her Papa told her, stroking her dusty hair with his calloused hand. “Soon, you will see the fair Princess; in one hour, she will change your life, Lucy. You will love her like we do.”  Lucy looked around. All of the townsfolk were smiling, remembering their time with her.

Even though they wore nothing other than rags, even though children died every year of the Black Plague that brought families to their knees, the fair Princess could make everything alright with a simple smile. They never needed to worry, her parents told Lucy. They had the fair Princess. 

“What if she leaves?” Lucy had asked once, when she was still a tyke and did not know any better. “What if the fair Princess leaves?” This had resulted in a stinging slap from some of the other tykes, and soon they had jumped on her, punching and kicking. If her mother had not happened to have come by and seen the scrum, or heard the cries of “Shame! Shame! Shame!” from the village elders, her youngest would have easily been killed. Later, she had learned that it was considered sacrilege to insult the Princess in any way. Lucy didn’t, and still didn’t, understand why, but the memory of being turned on by the other tykes was more than enough to keep her from doing it again. She shifted on the hard ground as an ugly scene of five moons ago came to her mind. 

Five moons ago:

“Once there was a Princess! A fair one! And she was lonely!” A wild-eyed young woman stood in the middle of the square, shouting lies– or so Lucy had thought. Her father clamped his hands over her ears– her mother got up and started toward the young woman, looking worried. People crept from their cottages and stared, some calling for the Guard. “She was lonely because you bastards”– and here she used a very rude word, one that Lucy hadn’t heard before and didn’t care to hear again– “drained the flipping life from her! You let her die! You took and took and took and even when she had nothing to give!” The color drained from the faces of the townspeople. But then, before Lucy could consider what this stranger was screaming about, they heard the pounding of horse hooves. The Guard had arrived, splendid in gold and red. The woman had stopped yelling. Instead, she turned to face them and very quietly said: “I’m right. And you know it. And soon everyone will know it, and it will be your fault.”  

Lucy’s parents grabbed her and hustled her away, just as a high-pitched scream echoed through the air. She turned toward the square, and the young woman was lying on her side, dark hair spread out across the ground and blood leaking from her body. Lucy screamed. 

“Papa, what did they do to her? What did they do?” She was shaking, eyes tightly shut. She could still see that pool of blood in her mind’s eye, growing larger.

Her father’s hands were trembling as they walked past the Guard. “Nothing, Lucy, nothing, she’s just sleeping, she’s fine.”

As they walked past the horsemen, a Guard reached out and grabbed Lucy’s arm. Not hard, but enough to make her flinch. She showed off her yellow teeth as she grinned at the terrified girl. “Don’t worry, little one; the Princess will wake her up.”

Lucy felt puzzled. Why had she thought of that now? It was only a memory. And the Princess had woken the woman up, The Guard had taken the sleeping stranger to the castle, and the Princess had healed her– no, had woken her up. The woman hadn’t been hurt. She hadn’t needed to be healed. Still, something pulled at the back of her mind. If that stranger was asleep, then why didn’t she wake up quicker? Didn’t she scream? With a shrug, she pushed those disturbing thoughts away. 

“Lucy! Lucy, where are you?” her brother called, glancing around. “Come child, in one hour you will meet the fair Princess–we need to get you ready!” Lucy got up, covered in red dust, and slowly began to make her way towards her cottage, glancing back at the town square. It smelled of blood.

“Now, Lucy, what do we say when we meet the fair Princess?” Her mother quizzed her as her father pulled a brush through her hair. It was customary for villagers to look their best when meeting the fair Princess, and that included brushing, bathing, and smiling. Lucy currently wore the finest red frock that her family owned. However, it had rather inconvenient holes at the knees; she hoped the Princess wouldn’t notice.

Absentmindedly, she responded. “O fair Princess, I kneel before you in all of your glory. Tell me your tale. I will listen.”

“Very good!” her father praised, now rummaging with something in a small velvet bag. “This is for you, Lucy.” He pulled a golden chain from the bag, holding it up to catch the light. “My father gave it to me when I went to go greet the fair Princess, and his mother gave it to him, and so on and so forth.”

Lucy’s jaw fell open. “But why didn’t you give it to Elder Brother? He’s older than me…” Her voice trailed off as he placed the chain around her neck.

“Ah, well, trinkets like these are for ones who deserve it…” she waited for him to continue, but he did not, instead calling her mother and brother forth to look. “Come, you two! Doesn’t she look ready?” 

“You look lovely,” Elder Brother said, but there was a hint of jealousy in his eyes, and he looked away quickly. “I especially like that chain.” She felt suddenly nervous, but did not know why.

“Are you ready?” her mother questioned, moving some of her daughter’s hair out of her face. “I’m happy for you. Meeting the fair Princess will… you will love her. And Eldest Son is right; that chain looks very fetching on you, child.”

“The carriage is here!” Elder Brother was standing by the window, staring out at the red and gold carriage. Two women jumped down and began walking toward the house. “This is it,” he breathed, turning to look at Lucy. “Ready?”

Lucy could not respond, so she simply nodded, eyes wide. “Thank… thank you,” she stuttered, looking around the room. “I…”

Three harsh knocks on the door cut her off. “We are here for the child,” someone called through the door. Suddenly, Lucy’s brother swept her up in a sudden, fierce hug.

“Put me down!” she protested, struggling.

“Don’t look at her face,” he hissed in her ear, so quietly that she barely heard him. And all of a sudden, Lucy’s family was all grins and nods and bows as the Guard walked in, questioning them about her. 

“Is this really the girl? She looks small for her age,” one Guardswoman said, glancing over at Lucy.

“She has always been small, Your Grace,” Lucy’s father put in. “Her brother was small too, if you remember.”

The Guardswoman glared. “Oh yes. Do I ever remember. Hopefully this one will be a little more… compliant.”

“She will, Your Grace,” her mother said, lightly pushing Lucy towards the Guardswomen. Then, turning to Lucy, with a sudden urgency in her voice. “Do exactly as they tell you, and everything will be all right.”

“Hold out your hands, love,” a Guardswoman said, kneeling next to the girl. “This part will be a little… unpleasant, but I promise it won’t hurt for long.” Lucy trembled, but did so. She watched as they wrapped iron chains around both wrists, giving her no room to lift her hands and chafing terribly.

“Chains?” Elder Brother put in, a look of horror on his face. “She is only twelve moons…” His voice trailed off as all of the Guardswomen turned to look at him. 

“Be silent,” the first one spat, towering over him. “Or it’ll be more than just your brat of a sister chained, and, trust me, you won’t be going to visit the fair Princess.” He shrank back against the moldering wall, and she turned to the others. “Get her in the carriage. Now. We’ve wasted too much time on these rats posing for people.”

Two Guardswomen grabbed Lucy by the arms and forcefully lifted her. She didn’t struggle. They sat her down, not removing the chains, and tied another one across her lap. She peeked out the window and saw that half of the town had come out, and that they all wore the same expressions– not ones of pride or joy, but absolute, destroyed horror. Hot tears slipped down her cheeks, and she did not know why. Looking down at the chains that bound her hands, she noted that there were red stains on them, and that her wrists were bleeding as well. A Guardswoman glanced back at her.

“Don’t worry, dear. You’re lucky you’re wearing a red frock– no blood will show.” Lucy bent her head. 

“Thank you, your Grace. You and the fair Princess always know what is best for me.”

The Guardswoman chuckled softly, leaning back against the plush, red leather seat. “Good girl.”

Once, there was a fair Princess. And each year, she summoned children to her castle to meet her. And each year, those children returned, talking about the fair Princess– how good and kind and lovely she was. But one day, a boy did not. He disrespected the throne. He was punished. Hopefully, his sister will be better. We have waited a long time for a girl like her.

Lucy did not know how long it had been since she had been shoved into the carriage. The sky was darkening, and she was so thirsty. She sat uncomfortably on the seats, whole body bouncing each time the carriage bumped. Over a pothole, she assumed. The carriage stopped, and she was suddenly thrown forward, painfully, the chain around her waist pulling her back.

“Get up.” She did, knees and wrists bleeding. A Guardswoman leaned over to unbuckle the chain from around her waist, and half nudged, half pushed her out of the carriage. She stood, looking around herself. About twenty Guardswomen ringed her, all with the same expressions of disdain. And… arrows. They had arrows. A memory pierced Lucy’s mind– of the young woman lying on her back, eyes empty and blank. They killed her. They killed her! They lied, they lied! She gagged.

“Are we sure this is the girl? She’s awfully…” 

“This is the girl. I’ll have no arguments about it. We’ve waited a long time for a street rat like her.”  Lucy curled her lip at the now all-too-familiar insult, but said nothing. The Guardswoman who had threatened her brother walked up, inspecting Lucy. “Move, you little urchin. The fair Princess don’t have all day and neither do I.”

Lucy stumbled forward, biting her lip. I will not cry. I will not let them get the satisfaction of seeing me cry. She lifted her chin, looking at all of them. “Where am I to go exactly? Will the fair Princess come to get me, may her name be praised evermore?”

“No, you hedge-born idiot,” the Guardswoman jeered, raising one arm to point at the drawbridge that loomed behind them. “You are to go there. You are to talk to the fair Princess. You are not to run away. Do as we tell you.”

The drawbridge was dark and ominous– dark water moved slowly under it, as small silver fish flopped belly-up, eyes blank. The Guardswomen shuffled behind her, occasionally kicking her shins to try to make her walk at a faster rate. As they entered the castle, shadows loomed and rats scurried across the floor, picking at the overturned plates of food. The floor was sticky– with what? She didn’t know. 

“Walk down that hallway and knock on the door.” The Guardswoman pointed down a long dark hallway, the gold braid on her uniform gleaming amid the disrepair. What do you get out of this? Lucy wondered, staring up at her strangely blank face. What do you want from me? I don’t have anything to give! Leaning towards her, the Guardswoman unhooked the chains on her wrists.

“Move. Are you deaf?” She did, starting to walk toward the tunnel. As she turned back, the Guardswomen were gone, swallowed up by the darkness. She fought the urge to run. I will not die here today. I swear on every god I know that I will not die here today. As she turned on her heel, the chain around her neck became warm and began to glow faintly. She didn’t notice.

Once, there was a fair Princess. And she was loved by everyone– by her people, who taught their children how to look up to her and adore her, and who taught their children’s children. But the fair Princess was lonely. She did not want to be loved anymore. Children loved her, and she could talk to them, and feel less lonely for a time. But then… one night she left. Her people could do without her, she thought. She would go somewhere where she could be… herself. And not the fair Princess.

Oh, how wrong she was. The same night, the same night that she ran, they caught her. She protested. She would not, she could not stay, she had nothing left to give. So– they killed her, saying that if in life she could not stay, then in death she would. 

They bound her spirit to them. And she searched for the girl or boy who would free her at long last, who would let her go from her decaying body. They had always brought her girls and boys, but the girls and boys all loved her, and could not or would not help her. There had been a boy. Once. But he had been taken by the Guardswomen before he could free her. And as her body mouldered, her kingdom fell into disrepair. The girl is my last hope. I need her. 

Lucy leaned forward and knocked on the door. It was a large, slime-covered door, but no one answered. With a huff, she leaned forward and opened it. Her first thought was that the drapes needed to be opened; the room was much, much too dark. She took a step into the room, noting that jewels littered the floor. A massive gold throne was in the middle with something or someone on it.

“O fair Princess?” she called, taking a step closer to the throne. “I have come. Tell me your tale.” The room was oppressively silent. What should I do? As lightly as a rabbit, she bounded to the throne and leaned over the fair Princess. She bit back a horrified scream, reeling away. Because the Princess was a skeleton. She was dressed in a tattered, blue gown that had what looked like bloodstains on it. Golden chains bound her hands and knees, and a circlet hung off her head. Her body had been entirely stripped of flesh. Lucy had never wanted to run more than she did in that moment. 

“Help me,” a voice rasped as Lucy turned for the door. “Please. Help me.” Although the fair Princess’s mouth did not move, Lucy knew that it was her voice, which was strangely comforting. Almost like her father’s, when he prepared to tell her a story. So Lucy did not run. Instead she walked toward the throne and placed her hand on the fair Princess’s forehead, almost as if to check for a fever.

“…You asked my brother to help you, didn’t you?” she whispered, strangely not feeling frightened. 

“Yes. And he would have. But the Guard took him away, and I have been trapped here for two agonizing years until you came.” Lucy nodded. That was just like Eldest Brother; always trying to help.

“I… I don’t know what I can do,” she murmured, not taking her eyes off the fair Princess. “I don’t know if I can help you.”

The fair Princess seemed to raise a skeletal hand to point at Lucy’s neck, where the golden chain had suddenly gotten much, much warmer. “Yes. You do, lass. Like father, like daughter, I see.” Lucy blinked.

“You want this? It’s just a useless trinket…” The chain was now burning her neck and she tugged at it fruitlessly, pain mingling with surprise.

“Would it be burning like that if it was useless? Nothing is useless, lass.” The fair Princess straightened suddenly, eyes on the door.

“Girl!” The voices of the Guardwomen could suddenly be heard, along with the clomping of their heavy boots. “Girl!”

Make haste, Lucy!” the fair Princess spat, watching Lucy struggle with the chain. Lucy tugged at it harder, and it slipped off her neck, glowing gently in her hand.

The door burst open. Several very angry-looking Guardswomen stood in the door, gaping first at Lucy, who clutched the chain tighter, and then at the fair Princess, who had pushed herself up into a sitting position. “Put the chain down,” one spat, taking a step toward her. “Put it down. Now.” In one quick movement, Lucy swung the chain around the fair Princess’s neck. The biggest of them started toward her. And from that moment on, Lucy remembered


Lucy got up. Her dress was soaked in blood and she hoped it wasn’t hers. She turned to look at the throne from where she’d been bodily thrown across the room. There was no-one on it, only the golden chains trailing off of it.

“O fair Princess?” she whispered, limping across the room as agony stabbed through her leg. “Reveal yourself?” No answer. A hand touched her shoulder, and she flinched, whipping around. The fair Princess was standing next to her, no longer a skeleton. She was every bit as lovely as she had been before.

“Lucy.” Lucy blinked at her, noticing for the first time that the Princess appeared to be melting away, into the sunbeam that she stood in. She smiled at Lucy kindly, draping something around her neck. “Thank you.” 

“Where– the Guardswomen?” Lucy’s hand went to her chain again. 

“Gone. Go home, lass. I never got to.”

Lucy dipped her head. “Where will you go?” 

The fair Princess’s shoulders shook for a moment before she grinned at Lucy, responding. “Wherever I please.”

Once, there was a fair Princess. And she was lonely. But her kingdom could not bear to let her go, so they bound her to an iron throne. And she waited for over one hundred moons. One moon, the right girl came; and this girl was steadfast and true, and this girl freed her. And the fair Princess was no longer lonely. Eventually, the right girl led us into prosperity, and she told us the story of the fair Princess, and that she was lonely. And so we will tell the story of Lucy, our flawed girl and queen to our children. And they will tell it to their children’s children. This is the way it has always been and the way it will always be.

Art School

Ten days. Ten days of having a fire burn through my brain as my teachers go through course expectations and how you’d get a detention if you were late three or more times in a quarter (I really don’t want one). And then there were the early quizzes and the English in-class writings, and, and—

(Breathe, Frances. You’re trying to make art here.)

It’s Friday night, and even though I begged my mom that I shouldn’t, I’m leaving my giant pile of homework for Saturday so that I can “do fun things to calm down my head.” The problem is, how can I calm down my head if I’m a junior now? After all, juniors have much more responsibility than sophomores and freshmen. Maybe the seniors, too. But I did want to calm down my head, though. I’m tired of all the headaches, nausea, and rushed breathing that I’ve been having since I graduated middle school, when not even my good grades could guide me through this anxious new life called high school. I just want serenity to drown my mental fire until it’s nothing but pure smoke. 

So here I am, sitting in front of my desk, desperately trying to keep the Saturday homework shut out from my brain as I think up what to draw. Maybe I could do my dog, Pippin, who’s been so loyal to me in trying to keep me sane all these years. Maybe I could do the sunset that’s sitting outside my window, the pinks and blues swirling together like a peaceful melody trying to calm down all the pain I’ve been going through. With a careful look at the beautiful sky, the small 5% of happiness in my body is flying in all sorts of directions, telling me that this is what I should draw. Yes! This sunset is the way to true peace!

I take a picture of my new peacemaker for reference, and that’s when I begin to create. As the tips of my colored pencils touch the paper, my extremely small happiness grows so big, my brain lights up not in a fire of fear, but in shiny rays declaring to the world, “Frances has found something to feel good about! She’s in her happy territory!” 

And it’s true. I am in my happy territory. Never in three years have I begun to feel so normal. Maybe if I keep fixing and coloring my sunset, all my problems will wash away into the sea and never come back to haunt me again.


I don’t understand why happiness can’t last forever. How can something so beautiful run away from you and be so reluctant to come back home?

It’s already Saturday, and my giant pile of homework is awaiting me on my desk, and I bet you that in just seconds it’ll be ready to tear me apart. But I have my first physics test on Monday that I can’t avoid, and so I have to start studying for that.

It’s when I try to get my index cards from my desk drawers that the fire returns again, this time consuming my stomach until there’s ash inside. And then as I begin writing flashcards, the fire heads up my esophagus and up to my head, roaring in a mighty fury, “You’re a failure! With that head of yours, you’ll never be a success! Hope you’re okay with a D on that test!”

And from the ashes come the nausea. I race to the bathroom, tears and screams just about ready to shoot out of my body. I throw up leftover breakfast into the toilet and flush it down, thankful that some of the pain is out of my system. However, the rest of the pain that’s still there throws me to the ground, and my head spirals and spirals like a rollercoaster until I can’t gain a sense of what’s going on.

It is my mom who eventually finds me. “Sit up, Frankie girl,” she coos to me, wrapping me in a soothing embrace that I wish to stay in forever. Safety wraps me in its warm, soft blanket. “It’s okay. Cry,” it whispers to me. And so I do. 

“Momma, momma,” I whimper, “I’m a failure. I’m gonna fail.”

“Absolutely not,” my mom replies. “Over the years, every single teacher has told me that despite all you’ve been through, you’ve been doing so great in school. You’re definitely not going to fail.”

“But what if I do?” That’s when the tears fall faster and faster like a mighty river. “Then I can’t leave eleventh grade. I’m gonna be trapped here forever.” 

My lungs can sense this fear, too, and they start moving up and down in a frenzy of fear. 

“I need you to take a break, Frances,” my mom continues, stroking my soft hair. “Until your brain calms down. In the meantime, I’ll go make you some chamomile tea.”

I head over to my bed, my overwhelmed body sinking into a sea of pillows and bedsheets. I’m just done. Why does the world have to pile itself onto me when I’m only sixteen and still technically a child? Just that alone makes me want to cry in a dark hole and never come out.

As I’m beginning to adjust myself under the covers, I can see my sunset sitting on the floor next to my backpack, calling my name. “Frances. Come, come. Remember me? I make you feel better.”

“I’m deeply sorry, dear friend,” I explain to my picture, “but I just feel too terrible to get out of bed. I mean, I’ve just had a panic attack for crying out loud!”

“Trust me, Frances. You need to do something to get yourself out of that awful state of yours.”

I think for a little while. I remember all the joy that was exploding in my body as I was scribbling those brilliant colors on the page and how peaceful I felt. How…okay I was.

“Alright, then, Sweet Sunset. I’ll try.”

Slowly, I rise from my bed, and as the sunshine outside encourages me to keep going, my body begins to recover from the wave of anxiety it went through. I zombie walk to my desk and sit down in my chair, the cool wood relaxing my body even further. As I continue coloring, the happiness immediately returns, shouting a quick hello as it walks through the mental door. 

My sunset and I start up a conversation as I continue with my art journey, and that’s when it starts with the questions. “Why are you so scared all the time?”

I sigh. I really don’t want to go through this, but my sunset’s a close friend of mine, so why not? I slowly begin my story.

“Well, I wasn’t always like this. I had friends, I was doing art all the time, and I was just a happy kid. But like, with high school coming, I started freaking out over it. I shooed my friends away and hid myself from the world. I mean, this anxiety came to me naturally, that’s all.”

My sunset brightens in a spark of curiosity. “Are you sure?” it asks. “You look really bad to me. There’s got to be more to this.” 

Oh God. I really don’t want to go further with this. I take a deep sigh, my stomach bubbling up. “Well one day, my dad died in a car accident.” That’s when the tears start flowing out of my eyes. “It was awful when he died. He helped me cope with going into middle school. I try to remember him by sketching his face into my sketchbook. But I just doesn’t look right. It hurts so bad when you can’t remember someone you love.”

“I bet. You loved him very much. When did this emotional stuff start coming?”

I dry my tears until my face is a hot, sticky desert. “Well, soon after he died I became really depressed, and I was even more anxious when ninth grade began. The worst part is, no one except my mom knows about this stuff, because I worry that everyone’ll make fun of me. Like, I do pretty good in school, but it’s really hard when you have to push yourself through all your problems to be successful.”

My sunset appears to darken, feeling pity for what I’ve been through. That’s when it decides to give me an idea. “What if,” it begins, “I can help you be happy in school?”

What? Happy? In school? This doesn’t make sense! How can I be happy when I’ve got so much happening in my life?

“I know. This sounds really weird. But you’re happy with me, right? What if you bring that happiness into your school day? It’s important for the sake of your well-being, Frances. Maybe it can help you with that terrible fear of yours.”

Well, I’ve always wanted to be happy, and my pain has prevented me from doing so. And with happiness comes peace, too, doesn’t it?

Wait a minute, no. What am I thinking? There’s no way I can be happy in school! I’ve got tests and essays and other things going on in my life! There’s so many things to do and so little time to do it! 

“No. No,” I say. “It’ll never work. I’m scared almost every day to the point where I can’t think straight! I can never be happy!”

“Don’t fall for the negativity, Frances! That’s what anxiety does to you! But if you’re positive, it can benefit you exponentially!”

I can feel my sunset reaching for my hand, trying for my trust. “I don’t know, Sweet Sunset,” I mumble. “It might never work.”

“Just believe me, Frances,” my sunset responds. “Let’s just try it. It could work.”

I sit and think for a while. Well, I have been doing well so far this year, and it’s only September. And I do want to be happy. Maybe, just maybe, this could work.

I tell my sunset of my approval for the plan. It lights up in a neon rainbow and reassures me once again that everything will go well. 


I begin my Monday morning rising from my bed, letting the warm sunshine sprinkle onto my face. “Good morning, beautiful sun,” I whisper. “Thank you for making such a gorgeous day.”

I get dressed, fix my hair and brush my teeth with beams of light shining in my brain, further telling me that this day will be absolutely great. And who knows? Maybe this will be a great day! I’ll ace that physics test and continue to bring my can-do attitude throughout the rest of this year!

I continue on through the yellow brick road of felicity as I eat my breakfast and hug my mother goodbye (she looks really surprised with my new disposition) as I grab my backpack and head out the door, greeting the day with a radiant smile that shines onto the whole world.

I skip to my bus stop in glee, where other kids just look at me and then move on with their lives. I don’t really care, though, as I wasn’t always the popular kid. In fact, I’m glad I’m not the popular kid, because I don’t want all my classmates to see me fall apart—

(Frances. You’re supposed to be positive here. Just calm down. Look! The bus is here!)

Once the doors to the bright yellow vehicle open, I’m the first one to head on and quietly say good morning to the driver before sitting in my seat. While we head on our way to school, I try my very best to ignore the screaming and the chitter-chatter that normally pierces my brain. Then I look at the sky, which looks exactly like my beloved drawing, bringing me to a state of serenity. “Thank you,” I tell it.


I walk into class like I’m a physics major, ready to put my pencil onto the test and write down everything from my brain. Nothing much happens during these five minutes as I sit down and breathe, except Kelsey from nearby asks me for a pencil, which I give to her.

And then the big moment happens. Mrs. Shaw begins to hand out the test to every kid in the classroom. I sit up straight in my desk, reassuring myself that I studied basically day and night for this, so what could go wrong?

Before I realize it, it is my turn to get the test. I write my name in my typical curlicue handwriting and head straight for the questions. 

The first portion of the test is a fill in the blank. My mind suddenly freezes at the very first question. “When the mass of an object doubles, the kinetic energy also…”

What in the world is the answer? Does it double? Triple?

I tell myself to calm down and let my brain come up with the answer. I eventually realize that kinetic energy doubles and bubble in the answer.

Then the next question asks me what happens to kinetic energy as an object goes up a hill. Doesn’t it increase since the object needs more energy to go up? No, no, no!

(Frances, just skip it and come back.)

But then the third question is even worse. “Although kinetic energy has been known to exist before 1849, who first came up with the actual term?”

No. No. No. 

Kelvin? Newton? Darwin? (Wait, Darwin wasn’t a physicist!)

And suddenly, the hurried breathing comes back. This—this—this doesn’t make sense! I studied so much! Why is this happening to me? I’m supposed to be acing this! 

My mind starts running in circles, and it takes only seconds before it struggles to breathe, too. And then Mrs. Shaw sees that something is obviously wrong with me and walks over to my seat.

No. No one can see me like this. Absolutely no one.

“Frances?” Mrs. Shaw asks soothingly. “Are you okay? Why don’t you take a quick breather and come back?”

I don’t respond with a single word. I slowly rise from my seat and walk out the classroom door. I sit against the wall and breathe heavily, hot tears ready to fall out of my eyes. 

“Why now?” I mumble. “I’m supposed to be okay. This happiness thing is all a big lie.”

I feel just at the peak of crying, yet I remind myself not to because that will only get in the way of my success (Will I be successful?). Once I calm myself down, I head back into class to continue the test. 

But things don’t continue as swimmingly as I wanted them to be. Each question is only a jumbled mystery in my brain that I can’t unravel, and although I try my hardest to answer them, I can see my success on this test ready to collapse.

Right as the bell rings, I hand in my poorly done assessment. I walk out of class wishing I didn’t have to go to English, even though it’s one of my favorites. The hallways and the kids around me are all nothing but a sea of blacks and grays, and all I want right now is to run outside and just ignore everything around me. 


It is 3:15 when I storm through the front door, completely ignoring my chef mother who’s making snacks in the kitchen. “Hey, sweetie!” she calls enthusiastically. “How’d it go?”

I don’t want to talk to her. Not now, not ever. I just can’t bear to remember the failure I was today, sitting at my desk barely unable to come up with a good answer.

I race up the stairs to my room, where I flop onto my bed and sob so harshly that the sunshine outside my window can’t bring me out of my despair. 

Can I drop out of school? I don’t want to go back there ever again! Heck, can I stay in my own house forever? Or maybe I can run away into the woods and live amongst the creatures so that I don’t have to encounter this evil world. Maybe—maybe—

I can’t. Stop. Breathing. That’s when the screams, the headaches, and the nausea come. I spin around in circles which leaves my head in a frenzy. No. No. I’ll never graduate. NEVER.

And then without thinking, I head to my desk.


I stare at my wondrous friend, Sweet Sunset, who tells me to not fret and that he’ll come help me.

You’ll never be happy. Not in school, not EVER.

Maybe my brain is right. Nothing will make me happy. After all, everything is changing. I’m not a little girl anymore. I’m sixteen years old and am two years away from graduating high school and heading off into the real, terrifying world. If I ever graduate.

I give up. I can’t do this no longer.

Do it, Frances. Do it.

I pick up my sunset from my desk. “You idiot!” I sob. “You never did anything for me! Look at me! I’m a mess! I’M A MIGHTY AWFUL MESS, LET ME TELL YOU!”

I hear footsteps racing through the hall, and I bet that it’s my mom. But before she or anyone can stop me…

I begin to tear my creation apart. I rip it into shreds, little bits of ugly snowflakes hastily falling to the ground.

My mom races through the door and yells at me to stop. “No! No!” I yell back. “I’m a mess! I’m a mess!”

And then before I know it, all the snow is laying on my bedroom floor, every pink and blue hue a sad nothing. 

I stand there, shocked and horrified at what I’ve done. Me, a messy, broken failure. I can barely do anything but stare at my bedroom clock. It’s 3:18. How could something so terrible happen in such a short time?

My mom wraps me in a hug and tells me that everything’s okay. But it’s not. 

The regret seeps into me, black tar trying desperately to poison my body. And it works. I feel so much shame, so many terrible feelings. 

What did I do? What did I do? What did I do?


Almost every single person I know waits anxiously until Friday, when they can choose whether or not to study that day (most likely the latter) and just be a teenager again. Not me, or at least throughout this week. I can’t help but look out at the sky and remember what a horrible fool I am for the mess I made that terrible Monday. Every class and every lunch period involves me sitting in my seat, my eyes staring at a bottomless nothing as the world flies by without me. And whenever I do have time, I hide in the bathroom stall and sink my head down, my heavy brain letting the tears flow until my eyes become a sorrowful, gloomy desert.

Today is the day everyone was waiting for, but I don’t care. I’m sitting alone as I normally do at my typical lunch table when I hear footsteps around me. “Hey, Frances.” 

It’s Kelsey. Oh God. I can’t have her see me like this.

“You okay? Can I sit with you?”

I can’t bear having Kelsey’s kindness bear down on me when I’m such an awful mess. I reply sharply, “Leave me alone.”

Kelsey doesn’t budge. She sits right down anyway, putting her loving hand on top of my shoulder. “You sure? You seem really depressed.”

That’s it. I had enough. 

I throw Kelsey’s hand off my shoulder like it’s a cloth toy and look at her straight in the eye with a face just like the devil. “CAN’T YOU SEE, KELSEY?!” I scream. “I’M A MESS! A HORRIBLE MESS! CAN’T YOU JUST RESPECT THAT?!”

Kelsey appears stunned by my sudden meltdown. “You’re right,” she whimpers. “I’m sorry.” As she stands up to leave, a salty sea of tears begin to form in her eyes.

But just when I’m finally alone again, even more footsteps begin to come up behind me. “Frances? You want to talk?”

That voice sounds so familiar, yet it’s a voice I really don’t want to hear. I turn around and see our school counselor, Mrs. Pugh. But why do I need to talk? All I want is to be alone! Why doesn’t anyone get that?

“I don’t want to,” I reply stiffly.

“You sure? I’m pretty sure Kelsey felt bad by what you said. Maybe we can talk about how you feel.”

“Why do I need to talk about how I feel? She didn’t get that I had to be alone! I had to tell her! I’m a sick monster, after all!”

“Well, whenever you’re ready, my door’s always open. Just try to think about your actions for a bit.”

And once again, I’m finally alone. Thank God for that, because I don’t need help from anybody! Not Mrs. Pugh, not Kelsey, NOBODY! They can’t help me to be okay! I will never be okay! 

After all, if I can’t find happiness, then why do I need help to seek it?


It’s already 3:00, and all I want is to sink into my bed and never get up. 

That’s exactly what I do when I sulk up the stairs and into my bedroom. The sunshine is brighter than ever, yet I don’t bother to give a quick hello to it. Then, when I pass by my desk, I notice something recognizable: a pile of my torn-up artwork—my broken regrets—sitting right next to a note from my mom:

Just in case you wanted to keep it. It’s still beautiful to me.

Love you, Frankie girl.

Mom <3

Who cares? It’s nothing but a shredded mess now, so what can I do about it? All my happiness is smaller than a microbe. 

I head over to my bed and hide under the covers, my black and gray world getting even darker. My brain becomes a thirty-five pound weight, and a raincloud of sorrow ties me up like it’s kidnapping me. It hurts so much to even stare at a wall. When the pain becomes too much, I close my eyes.

But just as I am in the midst of my extreme melancholy, I hear a whisper so tiny not even a person with perfect hearing could listen to it. “Frances. Frances…”

I open my eyes at the sudden recognizing of my dead friend. “Sweet Sunset?” I mumble, just at the point of crying. “You’re still alive?”

“Well, not exactly,” my torn-up sunset responds. “But I can still talk to you, which is still really important. But why are you there? What’s wrong?”

And that’s when I lose it, crying without any end in sight. When I do eventually calm down, I tell it all my regrets and all the horrible events that happened to me since then. 

“Poor girl,” says my sunset in a voice with a melancholy almost as big as mine. “I wish you weren’t so miserable. But even though you can’t change the past, you can always make things better in the present. With that in mind, Frances, you can find happiness.”

“What? But how?” I croak, confused by what I just heard. “I’ve tried, and I failed. I’ll just live and die unhappy, I guess.”

“No, you won’t. Come. Get out of bed and walk over to me.”

I do exactly what I am told to do, even though I am 1,000% sure that I probably shouldn’t be listening to my spirit friend. Has he gone mad? I don’t think he even knows what he’s saying! Happiness doesn’t exist for me anymore!

But here I am, at my desk. Here we go…

“So, what do you want me to do?” I ask.

“Take me and go make something beautiful.”

My confusion becomes so big that it squeezes my brain really hard and latches on to it. I’m still pretty sad, and with a heavy brain, how can you make something beautiful? 

But at the same time, some of the depression has dissipated to the point where there’s some space for trying again, so why not?

I pick up two pieces from my beloved sunset, and as my mind spirals with possible ideas, my depression disintegrates even further to the point where it’s basically nothing.

And then, like a miracle happens, I have an idea. 

I search through my closet for empty hangers I don’t need and take a white one. Then I rush over to my art station in the right corner and picked out some yarn, tape, and my pink scissors. There. Now I have everything I need.

I head over to my desk and begin creating. I snip shapes and tape things onto yarn and hang those yarn pieces onto my hanger. I even smile and giggle while I do so (Isn’t that funny?). And then I finally have a yarn-paper waterfall full of yellow-orange suns, pink hearts, and blue moons. I even added some colored ribbon to it, adding a bright rainbow to my glorious creation. 

I hang my piece onto my closet door and step back to look at my work. And to be honest to you, I’ve never seen anything more beautiful in my entire life. It reminds me of a child’s mind, filled with color and life and silly childish nonsense. And then memories of my happy childhood start running up to me and begging for my attention. I used to keep them away, as I wasn’t the happy kid I used to be. But I think now I can let them in my brain, and so I do.

Wow. Why do I feel so…so…happy

My mom opens the door to my room, and I tell her to be careful. “Why so?” she asks.

I point to my beautiful work on the wall. She gasps as if she’s looking at an Alexander Calder piece, only more innocent than innovative. “Oh, I’m so proud of you, Frankie girl,” she exclaims, hugging me in an embrace that feels like warm joy. “How were you able to do this?”

“Just…creativity,” I respond. And then I suddenly find myself crying tears of joy. It’s so weird, yet I don’t care. “Momma, I want to be happy.” I whisper. “In fact, I will be happy. I’ll try.”

My mom hugs me even tighter, probably as a thank you for what I just said. “That’s all I ever wanted to hear for years,” she replies.


I go to Mrs. Pugh first thing after school Monday. She gives me a warm, loving smile when I go into her office, which welcomes me rather than stabbing me. I sit and talk about all the issues I’ve had ever since the end of eighth grade and how it was wrong for me to scream at Kelsey on Friday. At the end of it all I cry softly to her, “I think I need help.”

Then I sob harder, my regret for hiding my emotions stinging me to the point where I can’t move my body. Mrs. Pugh touches my shoulders and says, “Thank you for sharing that with me, Frances. It must have been so hard for you to talk about your pain, but I’m glad you did. That way I can help you get better.”

Is this what hope looks like? If so, I’m pretty sure I just found it, and I’ve never felt happier.

Mrs. Pugh tells me that she can meet with me Fridays after school from now on, and I happily accept the request. I walk out of her office brighter than I ever felt, hopeful that my terrible emotions can dissipate to a smoky nothingness.

And just as I am about to walk out of school, I see someone familiar by the trophy display: Kelsey. Normally my terrified brain would force me to run out of the building and never look back, but maybe this time I should say something to her. I walk up to her, and when Kelsey turns around and sees me, her face appears stunned at my presence.

“I know, I know,” I begin, “I probably shouldn’t be here right now. But I have to say this. I’m so, so sorry, Kelsey. I really am. Things were going on with me, and that probably made me all stupid. But I would never hurt you, and I feel really bad for that.”

Kelsey gives me the same loving smile she always gives to people like me. “It’s okay,” she replies warmly. “I understand that you may have been having a rough time. But no matter how I feel, I still forgive you. We all have our rough days. Hey, wanna share phone numbers? Maybe we can hang out sometime this weekend!”

Wow. Never in three years has someone been so nice to me like that. It feels so wonderful to be loved. I say yes immediately, and we both decide to meet for smoothies on Sunday.


So many beautiful things have happened these past eleven days. I feel my soul being lifted to substantial heights, and believe me, it’s quite a beautiful thing to feel. I’m no longer a bird desperate to hide in its cage, but a bird who’s really to fly in the sky. I don’t know how the rest of junior year will be, but I know for sure that when a challenge comes, I’ll take it on with might rather than hiding in the darkness.

Speaking of sky, I should probably say something to a very special someone for my sunny disposition. As I walk out of school, I can tell that my sunset can hear me loud and clear. 

“Thank you, Sweet Sunset,” I say out loud without a care in the world. “Thank you for teaching me.”

The End 🙂

Gender Inequality Through Time

Gender inequality has always been a problem. From ancient China to recent years, there have been a lot of cases. They reveal how society thought throughout the centuries, and showed how it hasn’t really changed much. Although many people have been fighting to give women more rights, a lot of people still believe that men are more important than women, or that they deserve more than women. A lot of the time, women are given jobs requiring them to clean up for other people and they either get lower wages or, even worse, they don’t even get any payment for what they had done. 

China has a long history of gender inequality. A lot of families kept having kids until one of them would finally be a boy. This whole process was to carry on their family name. They also wanted the boys to be able to work for the family. During the Bronze age, when agriculture was becoming a necessity in order to keep the family alive, most people at that time needed boys to do the work and hard labor, while the girls would stay at home to do chores. According to an article by Kelly Kasulis titled “The 2500-year-old roots of gender inequality,” diets in ancient China were the same between the two genders until the Bronze Age. This was when domestic animals and new crops were introduced in China. Girls were given wheat and other basic crops, while men could eat meat and more nutritious foods. Scientists were also able to show that men were treated better than women when they dug up graves from the Bronze age. Men were buried with more riches, and the skeleton of the women were notably shorter compared to the ones in the Neolithic ages. This shows that women were given less nutrition during this period, resulting in shorter skeletons and weaker bone structures because of the lack of nutrition from a young age. On the other hand, the men had a balanced diet, which shows the gender inequality during that time period. Even as our world becomes more and more advanced, giving more opportunities to people, there still have been many times where women were not given an equal chance as men. 

Malala Yousafzai is a well-known female education activist. She was born on July 12, 1997. As a girl in Pakistan, her parents knew that she would never be looked at the way a boy would be. Malala’s father, knowing that she wouldn’t have as many chances to experience what a boy could, was determined to give her the life every girl in Pakistan longed for. As a girl, Malala wouldn’t be allowed to receive an education, and no matter how secretive someone is when it comes to giving a girl an education, the Taliban would find out eventually. When the Taliban took over Swat Valley, Malala was unable to continue with her education, and her father’s school was forced to close down. At the age of 11, Malala’s chance of education was ripped away from her, but thereafter, she continued to speak out on behalf of the girls who couldn’t go to school. Malala had said that during the process “this made [her] me a target” (Yousafzai, Malala). Malala was shot on the left side of her head by the Taliban in October 2012, but luckily, she had survived the attack. This event did not prevent her from reaching her goal of giving girls at least 12 years of education, and she continues to speak out for girls around the world. Not only do girls at school have to face this treatment, but women in the film industry have spoken out on the unfair treatment. 

There have also been many incidents where women were being treated unequally in the workplace. Many women have been given lower wages compared to men, even though they had been working the same amount of time. A lot of the time, men would be given a promotion even if the women were better choices for the job. A lot of actresses have been paid less despite having a role of the same importance as a man. In 2015, Jennifer Lawrence opened up about the gender pay gap, “I didn’t get mad at SONY, I got mad at myself” (Lawrence, Jennifer), noting how she had let herself and her hard work get taken advantage of. In 2016, statistics were given that proved what Jennifer Lawrence had said was true. Dwayne Johnson, the top grossing actor in 2016, earned $64 million, while the top grossing actress, Jennifer Lawrence, only earned $46 million. In 2017, the sum of the wages of the top 10 actresses was $200 million, while the top 10 actors had a sum of $450 million. These statistics given by Phineas Rueckert in an article on Global Citizen titled “Emma Stone: Male Co-Stars Have Taken Pay Cuts to Promote Gender Equality” shows how much females are underpaid in the movie industry. In 2018, Benedict Cumberbatch declared that he won’t take a role if his female co-stars aren’t getting an equal pay. This step towards gender equality is very useful, because as a successful actor, many filmmakers would want to hire him, and with this demand, they most likely would give women an equal wage considering how they need to please their audience, and earn money. In addition, some of Emma Stone’s male co-workers have taken pay cuts in order to prevent gender inequality from becoming a worsening problem. This is also a very important step towards correcting gender inequality, because once filmmakers realise the threats from the male actors, they would begin to consider how important it is to give women an equal chance in the industry. 

Gender inequality won’t stop if men don’t start joining in the fight. No matter how many women join forces and spread awareness on this topic, nobody will listen. People will only think that women are asking for too much. But if they get a point of view of a male co-worker, family member, or friend, they will begin to understand the role women play in their lives. And with luck, people will realise that women do in fact work as hard as men, and that they deserve to have the same treatment as men. With more girls who are educated, more people would know how important women are to the world. With more men helping this happen, people wouldn’t take advantage that women don’t have as much of a voice, and would begin to make a difference for all the girls and women in the world. 

Kasulis, Kelly. “The 2,500-Year-Old Roots of Gender Inequality – The Boston Globe.”, The Boston Globe, 4 Mar. 2017,

News, ABC, director. Jennifer Lawrence Opens Up on Hollywood’s Gender Pay Gap. YouTube, YouTube, 14 Oct. 2015,

Phineas, Rueckert. “Benedict Cumberbatch Won’t Take a Role If Female Co-Star Isn’t Paid Equally.” Global Citizen, 14 May 2018,

Phineas, Rueckert. “Emma Stone: Male Co-Stars Have Taken Pay Cuts to Promote Gender Equality.” Global Citizen, 7 July 2017,

Yousafzai, Malala. “Malala’s Story: Malala Fund.” Malala’s Story | Malala Fund,

LA Devotee

A city doesn’t need the sun. Humanity has made so many artificial lights that some might call the one provided by Mother Nature obsolete. Now, the sun gave the living many benefits. But forces were at play all across the world. And beyond. The living were on their way out. A city doesn’t need a sun, and when these forces finally reached their claws up from the mists from which they were concealed, they planned to grab and extinguish the sun. 


On a dark and stormy night in Hollywood, there was an actor named Billy Hart. He sat in his room and cried, for his dreams were falling apart. He just couldn’t keep a role. No matter how hard he tried, he was fired from every one of them. Did he just suck? Was he really that bad? To make matters worse, he knew that his sponsors wanted results. He got a lot of money from them, and they wanted something in return. Something he couldn’t give. As the clock ticked, ticked, ticked, his dread grew and grew. He supposed there was no reason for them to call, but he knew they would. 

Tick, tick, tick, tick. He wondered what time it was. How long had he just been a miserable mess on the floor? He didn’t know if he wanted a break from all of this by fainting, or for the sun to finally reveal itself. It was a dark and stormy night, and he hated that. He wanted more lights than that from the street and the electric sky. 

Bong! Bong! Bong! Bong! Billy jerked his head upwards, looking at the most expensive thing he owned in his apartment: a grandfather clock. He bought it just to feel fancy, one of the few times he could afford it. He had a particularly good part then, and as much as he loved that role, the movie went through production hell and never got released. The clock had been a manifestation of failure in his eyes since, and now it had released a new feeling: dread. The pendulum seemed to move to him with every Bong! like a swinging executioner’s axe. This symbol of fatalism seemed to mesmerize Billy, holding him still. He starred in silent terror for what felt like centuries. 


When the clock finished its ghastly wail, there was a moment of silence. Billy let himself breathe for a moment. Then, the phone rang. It was a much quieter sound, a small little dingle-ingle-ing instead of the thunderous Bong!s, yet they too were foreboding. The phone rattled in its receiver, like a small, scared, trapped animal. Or perhaps more like an undead mummy in its tomb. Like one you’d see in the movies, of course. Mummies did not move. 

It continued to rattle and squeal. Billy was terrified of the confrontation that laid on the other end, and it was not one he wanted to embark on. Yet, he could not stop himself. Both hands trembling, he used one hand to pick up the phone and bring it to his ear, and the other to press the button and then weakly and ineffectively wipe the tears from his eyes. 

“Heh heh heh…” said the voice on the other end. “If it ain’t Billy the Kid!” 

It was exactly who Billy feared it would be. His sponsors. 

“Uh…” Billy nervously began. “Hey, Gianluca…”

“Billy, my fella, I told ya you can just call me Gi! We’re friends ain’t we?” 

“Yeah, friends…” Billy timidly replied. 

With much more enthusiasm, Gianluca responded, “I thought so! Heh heh…” 

Now came the moment Billy was anxious about. “Uh… Gi… there’s… something I gotta tell ya.”

 Gianluca interrupted him. “Ya don’t have to be the bearer of bad news, kid, I already know.” 

Tears began to return to Billy’s eyes. “Gi, I’m trying my hardest, honest! I’m so sorry, man! I really want to pay you back! Heck, I’ll cut out my… other purchases too…” He looked back to the ground, where some leftover white dust was lazily laid out. 

“Nah, I know how you fellas are. Ya don’t gotta stop,” Gianluca responded with what might have been sympathy. He then muttered, perhaps not intended to be caught on the call and heard, “Besides, we’d lose a bit of money if you’d stop…” Gianluca returned to speaking at a normal volume. “Well, Billy, these matters are complicated. I think we gotta talk it out in person.” 

“Oh,” Billy responded. 

“So I should stop at your office when tomorrow?” 

“Actually,” Gianluca replied. “I’m in your neighborhood right now. Can I come on over?” 

“S-sure,” Billy complied. 

“Thanks kid,” Gianluca said in delight. “I’ll be over in five seconds.” He then added, “Heh. Count it, even.” He hung up.

Billy was confused, and slowly put the phone down. The last statement was sarcastic, right? Just a bit of humor that Gi was known for. And yet, Billy found himself counting. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. On “five,” lightning struck and thunder crashed. Billy felt a shadow loom over him. A second of silence, and there was a tap on his window pane. Heart pounding, Billy slowly turned his head to face the window. 

And there he was. Standing in the window, hundreds of feet above the concrete, was Gianluca Hayden. The mouth of Yellow Crown Enterprises, holding a black umbrella, wearing a black trench coat and a black fedora, with a red tie and a white handkerchief in his breast pocket, and a gleaming smile on his face. It was the mouth of Billy Hart’s sponsor. He stood on the tips of his toes on the window sill, and below him were hundreds of feet of nothing until you hit the ground. Behind him, blinding light flashed on a sheet of dark grey. 

With a tip of his hat, Gianluca said, “Good Evenin’ Billy!”

Billy was too terrified to speak. He always knew that the Yellow Crown was not the most trustworthy organization. And he knew that his “buddy” Gi was a bit… eccentric. But what was happening now was too bizarre to explain or deduce. It was otherworldly. 

Billy felt his muscles moving without desire. He slowly began to stand and with his arms out like a zombie from the movies, made his way towards the window. Gianluca held out a single hand, and Billy stopped in place. Then, Gianluca turned his hand swiftly and without explanation, the windows unlocked themselves from the inside and slowly opened. Gianluca gracefully walked into Billy’s apartment, closing his umbrella as he did and flicking his hand again once he was inside, causing the window to close once more, though it remained unlocked. 

“Sorry if I brought any of the rain in, Billy.” Gianluca casually began. “Hey, thanks for letting me come over at such a late hour. I think I work best at this time, actually. The boys and I consider ourselves to be a couple of night owls, ya know?” Making his way to the other room, he exclaimed, “Anyway, let’s talk business.” 

Billy followed, slowly, silently, and still in shock.

Gianluca made himself at home on Billy’s couch. Billy finally worked up the courage to ask something, though it was certainly not the question that was the most important in his mind, for he was too shocked and scared to ask it. “So… you wanna drink?” 

“Heh, nah,” Gianluca politely replied. “I have a… specific preference with my drinks. I plan on catching some of that later tonight, so I’m good at the moment. But thanks for the offer! So how about you get yourself something to drink and I can return ya with another one, eh?” 

Billy did as he was told. Perhaps after a night of misery, dread, and crack, caffeine was not the best choice, but Billy wasn’t known for making good choices, especially on a night like tonight, when nothing made sense and stress was at an all time high. How was this happening? Was he even awake? Was he still high and did he imagine Gi in the window? Did Gi just come through the door? It hurt Billy’s head to think about it. 

Returning with a cup of coffee, Billy sat next to his enigmatic agent. 

“So,” Gianluca began. “Let’s lay down the facts.” 

Billy nervously nodded, taking a sip at his coffee, hoping it would ease his nerves. 

“So you lost the role. Again.” 

Billy sighed. 

“This is fine,” Gianluca assured him. “Really, it is. A minor setback. I can set ya up with another one real quick, trust me.” 

Billy looked up. 

“However, ya still don’t have enough money to pay us what ya owe us. In any capacity.” 

Billy winced. 

“This, too, is okay. Billy, my man, the Yellow Crown is a flexible organization. When we can’t get money, we find more creative and manageable ways to create mutual benefits between us and our clients.” He quickly flashed a smile at Billy. 

For a second, Billy thought he saw sharper teeth in Gianluca’s mouth, but he quickly dismissed this. “What were you thinking?” Billy finally responded.

 “Well,” began Gianluca. “First of all, we might need ya to do a few more… favors for us? Don’t ask me what they are, because nobody knows yet. We’ll reach ya when we need ya. Does that sound good, kid?”

 “Well, if I have no other way to repay you…” Billy warily agreed. 

“That’s the spirit kid!” Gianluca encouraged, slapping him on the back as friends are for some reason known to do. Billy was startled, but he felt he wasn’t in a position to question anything Gi did. 

“But there’s one more thing we gotta do for this bargain.” Gianluca continued. “If you’re gonna help us out on a few more projects, and we’re gonna continue supporting you, you’re gonna need to make a few… lifestyle changes. And I’ll help you out, don’t worry. So you okay with that?”

 Billy was really unsure. He honestly wanted to say no. But he knew where his resources were coming from. If he wasn’t being supplied money or job opportunities from these people, his dreams would fall apart and he’d go broke in no time. He’d have to get a worse job or die on the streets. Probably both. He’d either have to settle later in a much more embarrassing way, or now, in the hands of a successful, albeit shady, organization. 

Billy did not notice, but as Gianluca began speaking again, he subtly flicked his hand. Billy did not see this either, but it caused all the windows in the room to silently unlock and open. Mist began pouring into the room, unaware to Billy. 

“Besides,” coaxed Gianluca. “It’d really improve your life. You’d probably start cleanin’ up your act, doin’ a lot more. It seems all the stress of this whole mess has made you age quicker than you should. We could help ya feel younger. So what d’ya say?” 

Billy sighed. “Sure, Gi. Whatever you think is best.”

“Ha ha, great!” Gianluca exclaimed. “We can start right now, actually. Just let me do something first.” Gianluca turned so he was facing away from Billy. He closed his eyes and put his hands together, and began to mumble to himself. “Thank ya, Lord, for lettin’ me have this one. I promise I won’t fail you.” 

Billy finally began to notice the mist in his apartment, how his couch was now adrift on a thick ocean of it. Everything seemed to have become grayscale. Like so many of the oddities of the foreboding night, Billy was incapable of asking about it. Once again, he responded with the wrong inquiry. “Uh, Gi. Ya prayin’ to God?” 

Gianluca was completely silent for a moment. He slowly began to lower his hand, and then tilted his head up and cackled. He actually cackled. He then slowly turned his head to Billy, opened his eyes, and said quietly, calmly, and maliciously, “Not by a long shot.”

He then pounced at Billy like a predator in the wild. Billy quickly turned his eyes towards the face of his suddenly violent agent and “friend.” The last thing Billy saw before going under was that he was right with his earlier thought; his teeth really were quite sharp. 

Billy felt Gianluca’s teeth pierce the skin of his neck. Billy couldn’t move away as Gianluca held him still with superhuman strength. Billy felt the worst, most excruciating pain he had ever felt in his entire life, of which was soon to end, for exactly 13 seconds, but he could not scream. His bodily functions stopped before his consciousness left. That went alongside his blood. And for a brief moment, the actor Billy Hart was dead and gone. 

Gianluca removed his mouth from Billy’s neck. He took the handkerchief out of his breast pocket and made it match the color of his tie. Then, he knocked Billy off of the couch and onto the floor. His corpse splashed in the surrounding ocean and the mist flew up around him as it briefly parted, before it cascaded back down and covered him. He was now but a dark blot in it. But Gianluca knew what came next. Though he knew he’d risk dirtying the couch, Gianluca stood up, looking down on the corpse of Billy. It began to squirm and writhe. Billy was not awake for what happened next, but he sure as hell did move. 

A loud sound came from below the misty sea. It sounded like a cross between a roar, squawk, a screech, and a moan. Then, the corpse of Billy began to rise, quivering. He was completely changed. All the pigment had left his skin, and he was white as paper. His eyes had already been bloodshot from the stress, but it seemed the blood vessels had all exploded, as they were now completely red and pupil-less. The point of his ears had grown very long, and they seemed no longer able to support their own weight. Every bone in his body could be seen through his skin, including each individual piece of his spine in his hunched back. He seemed to curl himself. His teeth were now similar to that of a prehistoric saber-toothed tiger. His fingers had grown into long claws, which tightly gripped the floor. The tips of his shoulders somehow lengthened into long, bony pillars covered with stretched skin. Growling, Billy turned his tilted head towards Gianluca, and looked at him with a look of pure, concentrated, uninhibited rage and hunger. He barked at Gianluca as he pounced, prepared to rip him to shreds.

Billy was never able to, however, because Gianluca was prepared. He bounced up from the couch and levitated in place, and then twisted his hand once more. The mist rose up and twirled around Billy in midair, and even though mist was in most circumstances not physical, it restrained him. He squirmed in it and howled louder than before. 

A voice spoke in Gianluca’s head. “Is it done?” It said with a thick Russian accent, almost as though it were a thought in his head.

 Gianluca knew better, of course. “Yes, my lord,” he responded aloud. “The neonate is secure. Another to your all-powerful army of the undead, Lord of Darkness, Czar of Malice. I return to you now.” He gave a quick bow in Billy’s direction, though certainly not intended for him. Then, he raised his other hand, and the mist rose and became ever thicker. Now, nothing could be seen in the apartment, for even the two dark blots quickly faded. 

From within the mist, Gianluca could be heard: “Billy Hart, you are invited to the manor of Count Gregor, lord of the vampires, master necromancer, bane of all that’s holy!” 

Soon, the mist let up, and left through the windows where it came from. And not a soul remained in the apartment of Billy Hart, starving artist.     

The End…? 

Across the Galaxy


I can’t believe we were so close to Earth! It doesn’t seem real. After all this fighting and escaping and loss we were finally going to make it. I closed my eyes taking a deep breath, waiting for the pod to say, “Landing now,” or “You have arrived.” I looked to Arin and she was staring out the window. I felt sweat drip down my neck. I started to fan myself all of sudden feeling a bit hot. Soon beads of sweat started to pour down my forehead. My head started to throb from the heat. It was getting hot and my face felt on fire. I held Arin’s hand scared for what could happen next. My whole body was hot and it felt like I was getting lowered onto flames. Something wrong was happening.


This is the moment I have been waiting for for days. Should I believe that it’s happening? Sometimes when you want something for so long or so badly when it actually happens you have no idea how to react. Almost seems too good to be true. Until… it was too good to be true. We squeezed our hands together. My forehead starts dripping with nervous sweat. We were getting hot, like slowly walking near a bonfire. Ava mentions the escape pod might be burning up. I squeezed my eyes tight, I felt like we were so close. Why does this have to happen? We worked so hard it’s not fair. A tear rolled down my cheek. 

“ Oh no,”  I said under my breath.


I got up from the seat in the escape pod and looked out the window flames that were engulfing the windowsill. There was a crash and I jumped back as the window burst shattering glass all over the floor. I slowly stepped back seeing the flames spread throughout the inner wall of the pod.

“WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! EVACUATE! EVACUATE!” the escape pod was blaring red lights but there was nothing to do. We had to wait as the flames crept to us like a wolf hunting its prey. I practically felt the flames leaping at my face, I started to cry my eyes wide as the bright orange flames surrounded my body. Suddenly I lurched forward as I felt a falling motion. We were moving fast and me and Arin hit the wall as we spiralled out of control. I closed my eyes wishing this was all done, that this feeling would go away. Then there was a crash, a big thud. I hit the side of the pod then tumbled out feeling the cool pavement, A dark screen fielded my vision and then everything went black. 


I gradually opened my eyelids. My head felt like it was just hit with a long metal pole. As I slowly tuned in to my surroundings and focused my eyes, I  saw that I was finally not on the toxic planet of Niburus. We have no chains no bandages, we were free. It was getting dark, I expect almost 9:00pm, the sky was grey and a storm might be coming. There were many old abandoned buildings. My knees were scraped from the cracked road. I saw Ava out cold on the pavement. I limped over to her body. This was the closest I have ever been to death, and I have had a gun held up to my head. I felt like my bones were holding on by a thread burning up side my body. I used the last bit of energy and strength to wake Ava up, “Please don’t be dead,” I repeated in my head. I can’t lose someone else.

“A-a-Ava..” I stuttered. I shook her, my muscles tensing up. She coughed and rolled over. 

“Arin, are… you ok?” she whispered. I used all my might to wrap my arms around her scarred body. I gave her a warm embrace after life was almost snatched from us. Sometimes you don’t realize what you have until you lose it, or almost lose it. I just realized how much I needed and cherished Ava. What would’ve happened if we didn’t make it?


I woke up, my head pounding. I looked up and saw Arin. She had a long cut on the side of her face dripping with blood next to her ear. She had a worried look on her face. As I rolled over coughing up some blood I crawled onto the concrete. I tried to stand up but my ankles gave in and I fell back to the ground. I looked at my cut arms and saw goosebumps rise. It was chilly out and the wind snapped at my face.

“Arin… we need to find shelter,” I said, then coughed again. I looked around then saw a sign made of wood and it was slightly tilted to the side, it said, “WELCOME TO THE TOWN OF SIER!”


I agreed with Ava, we needed to find shelter. I looked around, THERE!

“Ava, I see an old shed next to that brick building.” I  pointed out.

“Arin I’m not sure I can make it all the way there, my body is aching,” Ava groaned.

“It’s ok I will be right here to help you.” I lifted Ava’s limp arm over my shoulder and we hopped to the other side of the street. The wind was tugging on our hair, and the grey clouds were passing over our heads giving me chills up and down my body. Once we got over to the shed, we sat down on the rough wooden floor. First we needed sleep so we can rest before we decide what to do. I took off the sweaters me and Ava tied around our waist and balled them up for pillows. Ava’s skin looked pale and she had  bloody deep wounds. She looked terrible. I could tell she was trying to keep her eyes open.

“Sleep,” I whispered into Ava’s ear. As Ava dozed off I looked around the shed. I rubbed my hand against the creaky hardwood floor. There was a cracked window, a broken sliding barn door, three hay bails in the corner… A-are those bodies?


I heard Arin gasp and slowly tap my shoulder, I abruptly sat up. Suddenly the pain came shooting back into my body. I squinted to see in the dark shed but I could make out three figures walking towards us. I tried to shuffle backwards but my ankles still hurt so bad. I sat there waiting for whatever was coming towards us. There was a crack in the roof overtop of us, the moonlight shone down lighting up our face. I heard some toads croaking and the chirping of crickets. I waited as the figures came closer to the light, I waited for them to finally reveal themselves. I looked down as I saw a grey converse enter the pool of light and then the whole person, a raggedy boy with a buzzcut and cold grey eyes. He had dirt and scars all over him and was wearing a navy green T-shirt and dirty beige Khakis. Behind him was a girl. She had long black hair close to her waist, her skin was a light tan color and she had black trimmed glasses. She walked up next to the boy and I saw her jean shorts and yellow tank top. Standing next to the girl was a boy holding her hand. He had golden hair and blue eyes on the side of his arms was a blue tint as well as on his knees. He was wearing a blue shirt and sports shorts. They stared straight at me and Arin, their eyes looked scared.


“Ava, get behind me.” I stammered, staring back at the three kids.

“So clearly your name is Ava, hi I’m Rose, And you are?” The long black haired girl said as she looked at me.

“How do I know to trust you?” I scowled at her.

“I’m Liam and looking at you it doesn’t seem you just strolled in here, where are you from?” The blond hair boy said.

“Why would I tell you? You are nothing more than three strangers,” I said still sceptical.

“We got kidnapped by aliens, though I don’t expect you to believe us,” said Ava.

“I was kidnapped by them too,” Liam said, sighing, “They even put there serum in me.”

“Why aren’t you one of them then?” I asked. 

“It didn’t work fully.” Liam said staring at the ground.

“Ok, so you’re Liam, you’re Rose, I’m Arin and this is Ava, then who are you?” I stared at the hidden boy in the shadows.

“My name is Hunter.” We were all awkwardly standing in the light of the shed all connected in one way but still complete strangers.


“Come here, we have some makeshift beds over there,” Liam said pointing to the corner with the hay bales. Me and Arin walked over to the hay bales and saw a bunch of straw piled to make multiple beds. There were trash bags that seemed to be stuffed with grass which were used as pillows and a bunch of old clothes and rags tied together to make multiple blankets. Next to the bed was an old bag which seemed to be filled up with different foods. 

“Ok, you and Arin can share that bed me and Liam will share that bed and Hunter can sleep in that one,” Rose said.

“I guess they’re dating or something,” I whispered to Arin.


Me and Ava climbed into the pokey hay bed, And I can say that those pillows were not the comfiest pillows I have slept on. I heard Liam whisper, “Night babe.” 

Hunter slowly drifted off to sleep, the moonlight gradually disappeared. The wind was getting softer but the air was getting colder. I took a deep breath and waited for Ava to close her eyes, then I rolled over and released all my stress. 

I was sitting in a cold metal chair. My wrists dripping with blood, bound tight with rope. I was looking down at Ava lying on the floor with Master Malden hunched over her. He was pressing a hot iron rod on her throat, melting her like a marshmallow. She let out a blood curdling scream. 

“Arin, HELP. It hurts so bad…” Her voice was losing power. I tried to break free from the rope but it just burned my wrists causing them to bleed more. I tried to move out of my chair but nothing was working. I-I was trying. Then I heard Ava give a hopeless breath and then, she laid there motionless. 

I shot up in the hay bed panting, I was breaking out in a cold sweat coming down my forehead. It was a nightmare.


I woke up feeling good, that was the first time in a while that I had had a decent sleep in awhile. I sat up and stretched my arms. As I turned around, I saw Hunter looking in the bag for some food. He took out an old bagel as well as some nuts. He started to take bites of the bagel leaning against one of the hay bales. He looked up and saw me staring at him. He quickly looked back down at his food. I shook Arin awake and she looked up at me groaning. 

“What time is it?” She said rolling back around to go  to bed again. 

“Time for you to get up! Come on, let’s get some food.” I said trying to turn her back around. I got up and walked over to the bag and looked through looking for some food. I grabbed a slice of bread and some salami. I walked back to me and Arin’s bed and gave her some of the bread and salami. 

Finally after everyone ate, we all went outside of the shed. I still ached a bit and was kind of sore but I was able to walk outside, and the fresh air felt nice. 

“So what are we going to do…” I said. 

“Hey Ava remember all the other kids, you know there all going to be turned aliens right?” Arin said.

“And…” I said looking at Arin seeing what she was getting to.

“You want to just leave them there,” Arin said staring straight into my eyes.

I looked at her trying to see if she was joking or not. She wasn’t.

“Arin do you really want to do this, you want to go back and save them?”

“Ava, it’s almost our duty to do this if we could escape then we must be able to help them escape.”

“Well then how are we going to get there? The only way back is that escape pod and it’s really broken,” I said as we all looked over to the broken escape pod which was crashed in the middle of the road. 

“I mean if we tried we would probably be able to fix it or at least make it flyable, maybe there’s stuff inside the ship,” Rose said. I forgot that they were all there and didn’t even think about if they wanted to come or not. Hunter nodded next to Rose. I turned back to Arin.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” I said to Arin.

“Yes,” She said. I turned to Rose, Liam, and Hunter.

“I’m in,” Rose said.

“Me too,” Hunter mumbled.

I turned to Liam, he was staring at the ground.

“I know you don’t want to do this because of what they did to you but…”

“Um, I don’t know guys I just… well I just don’t know, I’ll wait to see if you guys can actually fix that escape pod.” 

We all walked over to the ship and started to try and see how we could fix it. Rose was already starting to fix things, she seemed pretty smart and Hunter was listening to her and started reattaching wires. I turned around and saw Liam pacing back and forth looking nervous. Rose noticed Liam and went over to him and started talking, walking off in a hurry. 


While we were all preparing the ship, I saw Rose and Liam walked off. He was yelling about going back to planet Niburus. Suddenly horror struck me. Liam was turning into an alien. A transformation that felt like burning metal piercing your skin. He was bending over seething with pain. Liam fell to the ground, skinning his now bright blue knee’s on the street. His head pounding and melting. He opened his teary salty eyes, seeing his skin bleeding profusely, slowly turning blue. Liam’s eyes were bulging out of his skull. He screamed as loud as he could, “Make it stop, MAKE IT STOP!” He couldn’t hear himself over the buzzing noise, feeling like it was bursting his eardrums. 

Liam didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t make it stop, he didn’t know how to. The pain was like nothing he had felt before. 

“Liam, you’re okay, you’ve got this. You are the strongest person I know. Fight it!” Rose screamed, but still muffled by the buzzing. Liam could see through his blurry vision Rose was sobbing. “Liam LOOK AT ME!” Her voice was trailing away as Liam wanted to tell Rose nothing could make it better.

“Rose, let me help!” I said running over to them.

“No! Let me handle this. I’m his girlfriend, I’m the one that’s supposed to be here for him.” She demands.

“Rose, st-stop, stop trying.. AHH UGG!” he suddenly screamed with a shock of pain

“Liam I will fix it, trust me.”

“Rose help me.”

“ I-I don’t know how, but I’m with you.” Rose was losing hope. “Just hold on to my hand, focus on this moment.” 

Liam took Rose’s hand and held on tight. He looked at her in the eye, and took a deep breath. The pain will go away, she said. She told him to wait. He waited, waited for Rose. He didn’t know why he felt the need to wait, I mean it wasn’t going away. But he couldn’t leave—he couldn’t leave Rose. For the first time in a while, he broke the tough screen he had been hiding behind and cried so hard his eyes couldn’t cry anymore. And all Rose said it’s ok.


Everyday we woke up, everyday we worked more and more on the pod, everyday we went to bed hoping that the next day would be the day where we would finally finish the escape pod, and everyday Liam got more and more anxious of the day to come. 

I went in the straw bed which wasn’t as uncomfortable as before. I laid awake, Rose said that we would be done with the escape pod by tomorrow. I was so nervous, I just couldn’t sleep. What if it didn’t work, or what if we don’t make it and we get lost in space? I wondered what Liam is going to do. I knew how much he doesn’t want to go but maybe he’ll still come, and how are we going to actually save all the children? I forced my eyes closed and waited as the sleep came over me and I finally fell asleep.


The next morning, we all woke up full of adrenalin. Today was the day, we were going to rescue all those innocent kids. You could feel the emotion in the air. We ate breakfast without a word, silently, slowly, nervous tension began crawling through my body. I tensed up and started breathing rapidly, my heart was pounding. Ava put her hand on my back, she knew I was panicking.  

“It’ll be ok, we are safe, and soon those other kids will be too. We are doing the right thing and we are right behind you.” Ava reassured me. We walked out to the escape pod and we all got in. The sky was clear and spotless, not one cloud to be seen. Me and Ava sat in the two front seats controlling the pod, and Hunter, Liam, and Rose sat in the three back seats. Me and Ava squeezed our hand tight together. Rose was leaning her head on Liam’s shoulder, I could tell Liam was choking back tears. Hunter was looking out the window gagging and coughing, he said he has motion sickness. I pressed one button and that was it “Taking lift off, destination planet Nibirus.”


I closed my eyes, hoping this would work. I felt nervous but a bit excited. I clicked the button that said “Lift Off.” We waited a second and we heard the sound of the escape pod turn on and then we shot up into the morning sky. The escape pod had left the ground. I closed my eyes as Arin reached forward to press the “Superspeed” button. I held the chair tight and waited until I felt the jolt forward, and then we were off. A minute later, I opened my eyes and saw the darkness around me. There were bright stars and when I turned around, I could see Earth behind us, it looked like a marble slowly shrinking away. I turned to see Liam and Rose cuddling and Hunter was standing next to the window. He almost looked like he was gagging.

“Hunter, are you ok?” I said. 

“Umm yeah just a little bit *gag* motion sick.” He said then turned and stumbled to the bathroom. I looked in front of me and gasped as I saw the planet of Nibirus approaching. We started to slow down as the surface of the planet became more and more clear. The engine started to decelerate we landed softly on the grass of Nibirus.


One small jerk and we were there. Memories and flashbacks began racing across my mind. Mia, my parents, that little girl behind tortured. Well, this is why we were here, I guess. To save those poor children. We headed straight to the entrance, I whipped out the card that I used a couple weeks ago to escape the building. I locked the door of the escape pod. We ducked over to the door and I swiped my card. Right away, there were two guards. Me and Hunter broke out in a fight. Two minutes later, both guards were down on the ground and I had a bloody nose. Meanwhile Ava, Rose, and Liam were on their way to the kids. Me and Hunter were trying too catch up to them, some more guards at our heels. We only had one key and over 100 children, and barely any time. 


We ran into the lab. There were tons of children and each one looked depressed and cold. Some of them were crying, and some of them were beating on the walls or trying to figure a way out.

“Hey! How did you get out? that’s not fair!” A girl with short straight hair and a gap in her teeth. All the kids turned towards us there faces surprised.

“Shhh they’ll come back,” Liam said.

“Who?” The same girl said.

“The aliens, they’re going to turn you into them you’ll-you’ll turn into an alien… like me,” Liam said as he showed them the said of his arms which were both a light blue color. All the kids gasped as the saw Liam’s arms. 

“Well how are you going to get us out?” asked a little girl with pigtails and two pink bows.

“With this!” I said as I pulled out the access card. I then began unlocking each cage and more and more kids came out hugging each other, and some crying.

“Now what do we do?” a little boy with brown hair asked.

“Well we need to escape, follow me,” Rose said motioning towards the exit.


As we were running to the others, six guards came at once. 

“I got these three you get the other ones!” I shouted at Hunter.

I kicked and punched and ran and jumped. Both sides weren’t giving up. A guard punched me in the gut and kicked my face, blood all over the floor. Hunter’s leg was dripping with thick blood. Me and Hunter went back to back and did one move and took 4 out at once. Only two left. I kicked one’s ankle and punched his nose one out, one to go. I looked behind me and saw Hunter finish the last one off. We gave one celebratory high five and ran straight to the cages where the rest were. On the way there we ran into Ava, Rose, and Liam. They were running back with a bunch of kids behind them. 

“To the escape pods!” Liam directed.  


We burst out of the door and ran towards the market. I turned behind me and saw all the kids running. There were kids of all ages, and we all flooded the streets of Nibirus. Aliens jumped back as kids came near them. I smiled. We were going to make it. Then I stopped, I turned around as I saw Master Maldens personal soldiers were chasing after us. 

“Everyone hurry, were almost to the path and then we can get to the escape pods!” I yelled. We hurried up and made it to the path, the path where Mia died. I held tears back as I remembered when Mia died in the acid, wait that’s it! We have to push the soldiers into the acid. The big doors were ahead of us, we just needed to make it there, then we’d be safe, but no. More soldiers came running through the doors. I stopped frozen.

“Every one on the count of three push them in the acid!” I said loud enough for everyone to hear but not the soldiers.

“ONE,” I yelled.

“TWO,” Arin yelled.

“THREE,” Rose said.

All the kids pushed the soldiers in front of them over into the acid. They began to burn in it and we kept running. Finally we made it to the doors. 


We all burst through the door.

“I have been in this situation here before…” I said under my breath.

“This time we are safe” Ava whispered grabbing me by the hand. We split up everyone in different escape pods. Me and Ava watched everyone safely get inside the pods and wished Liam, Rose and Hunter good luck. They were leading all the escape pods back to earth. Me and Ava will be the tail of the pack, making sure no one will get left behind. As we were getting into our last escape pod, we heard a cold, harsh voice we recognized. Master Malden was leaning on the wall one leg up like a highschool boy on a locker. He was there the whole time. 

“Go ahead, escape I will give you guys a head start,” Master Malden said with a smirk.

“What? Why aren’t you stopping us?” I replied.

“I’m giving you an advantage, I would take it if I were you.” He was slowly walking toward us.

 “Three, two.” He was counting. Me and Ava quickly go into the escape pod. We closed the door.

“ONE!” We were off.


I pressed the “Lift Off” button and sped forward, I looked forward. We were all the way in the back to make sure nothing happened to the other pods. We kept going then I heard a blast, I turned to look behind me. A big ship was behind us, I squinted my eyes and saw standing right in the center window was Malden, and the ship, it was shooting, AT US! We kept going and they kept missing but were getting closer. We got closer and closer. The Earth approaching, as well as Maldens ship. I clicked the “Boost All” button. All the escape pods burst forward, we all burst into the atmosphere. The escape pods were getting faster and faster because of the Earth’s gravity. We were so close I could see our shed, we were finally going to make it.


We were so close. Now was the time, I was shaking. Me and Ava saw everyone else we rescued standing on the ground below us ready for war, weapons, formation, and everything. We quickly approached them and landed on the ground. Goosebumps were rising on my lims. I have never been more nervous for anything. Not even this morning when we were setting free the kids. We rushed to the front of the blob of people. We had the taller ones in the front, shorter in the back. All of us carried weapons we stole from the aliens. Me, Ava, Rose, Hunter, and Liam all hugged as this might be the last time we could hug. Liam kissed Rose on the cheek and shared a warm loving hug (I held back throwing up). Tears were running down all of our cheeks. My eyes were red. This could be goodbye. If this is the end, all we got to, at least we got this far. I had a hole in my stomach, and knew it could only be filled if we won this battle. I was fired up, as determined as a fox about to pounce on a rabbit. We won’t run away, we hide, we will stand here, we won’t move for anything. We saw a big black ship coming straight for us. It was time to fight.

The Septic Eye

Hey my name is Shuji and this is my excellent story about how I got the Septic Eye.

Bye mom, I hope you rest in peace. I am going off to college, I hope I make you proud. I am at my mother’s grave, crying like a wimp. (Well of course I am, it’s my mother. Don’t judge me readers you are not Judge Judy.)

 I walk away with a glum look on my face, sluggish as an obese man that just ran the Iron Man. I pull out my phone and there is a weird Icon on the screen. I look around and think, why is this happening to me? It happens every week, but this time it said we have been watching you for the longest time, I think you are ready.  The confusion on my face then was obvious. A damp white cloth is slapped on my face. Chloroform! THEY WERE TRYING TO CAPTURE ME! I squirmed and tousled but they still got me. You see I’m a strong boy, but not as strong as that beast of a human that had me in his grasp. I got in a truck and I heard movement. 

The leader (Pewdiepie) took off the mask and said, “Welcome to S.H.O. Business.”

“What’s that?” I said with a smirk on my face, trying not to laugh.

“It’s not funny, S.H.O. Sacred Hero Organisation. This is what we do when we aren’t posting videos, we save the world.” 

“Ha HA HA HA HA HA HA. You’re funny”

“Anyways we recruited you because you work out, do parkour, are very smart, and are really good at shooting.”

“But what about college? And my dad is gonna die without me, you can’t take me. I am flattered but I can’t do this”

“Who said you had a choice? Guys knock him out!”

 After that 2 weeks of training blindly of what’s going

“Hey guys!”  I say happily, now that I am finished.

“Hey.” Sean said, “And welcome come to the S.H.O., the Sacred Hero Organisation.” 

“I thought your name was Jack?” I say with confusion.

“No that’s just my user name, Jacksepticeye, it is a very common mistake to make.” 

As I look around I see things that you would see in a movie. Like a supercomputer, images of the world and a weird picture with a floating eye that looks like a Septiceye named Sam. My thinking becomes corrupt and my mind is like a black whole taking away my memories and I feel my conscious walking into the darkest part of my mind. I feel a hand grasping my shoulder and it’s Sean, but he has no eyes, a bleeding mouth and a slit throat. I close my eyes and I’m back into reality. I notice the whole time that the team was shouting my name behind me.

“Shuji! Shuji! Shuji!” They all scream. 

“Get out of there it’s all fake, stop looking!” Markiplier says with a loud voice.

I need to not look at that. But, I think that is what we are looking for so how am I going to do this. Wait I see someone else, who is that? IS THAT?! H2O DELIRIOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!! Wait he has a hockey mask on in real life? And no one still hasn’t seen his face except CaRtOoNz? Why don’t people just try to take it off. That’s insane. What should I do? I should probably ask for our mission because we are all standing awkwardly.

“Hey Sean when is our mission?”

“Uhh, I think they are going to brief us right now.”

“Good morning all you bros!” Pewdiepie says to all of us.

“Our mission, it is very dangerous. We are going to to retrieve the SepticEye Sam!”

Everyone shouts with joy and and screams from the tops of their lungs. I do do the same. 

“Yeah, woooh, wahhhhhhh!!!!” I scream with the others.

“Shuji, Sean and Mark you guys are going to do this ultimate mission. Guys celebrate them, give them energy, they can do this, come on!!!!”

“YEAHHHH WOOO AHHHHH!!!” Everyone screams. “YOU CAN DO THIS!!!!”

I smile with joy, like a boy that just found his lost cat from 3 years ago. I actually feel like I can do this. Well no I can’t, but they don’t know that. All they know is that I am ready. I am not going to disappoint them even though I am scared. Probably when I get there I won’t be like a dog in a thunderstorm. 

“So Sean where are the weapons?”

“RIght here, but I don’t need them because of my power.”

“WHAT?! You have powers?”

“Yeah everyone does Mark won’t need them either. You’ll probably develop them later this week.”

“Wait what? What powers?”

“I don’t know Pewdipie said that you need to see something for you to unlock your powers.”

“Uhh.. I am so confused.”

“It doesn’t matter right now we need to focus on the mission, we can ask when we get back.”

“What? You started the convo…”

“SHHHHHHHH let’s go,” Sean says interrupting me.

I get into the hyper car and zoom off. My stomach drops to the bottom of my abdomen like an anvil falling onto an animated character. I’m surprised because we get to the location super fast. It is a weird lab place. (Cliche isn’t it readers? Spoiler, my friend Sean welp he….) I was right, now I don’t feel as unprepared. I have my 2 guns, a Scorpion, and my TMP. I’m ready to defeat these evil guards with these hollow points. Bullets flying, green magic and some fire. I roll into cover. 

“Shuji cover my back I am standing up.”

“Okay Mark let’s do this!”

We are back to back shooting. Headshot. Headshot. Headshot. We are destroying but where is Sean his magic is not flying through the hair. I only see fire in the hair from Mark. Wait he has a gun to his head. Oh no, what do I do. 

I whisper to mark, “They have Sean, what do we do?

“Just follow my lead,” Mark says confidently.

He walks up to the giant muscular guard with his guns in his hands.



Boom. Sean’s brain blows out into pieces. His brains drop onto the ground and are covered in blood. His body drops and eyes turn black.

The guy who got shot him is the guy from my vision. Bop Bop Bop. Mark shoots angrily at the guard’s head and burns his body to ash. People are dead. Everyone here is dead, OMG, what the hell!

“Shuji go in side there are no more guards but security. DO IT NOW!”

“OK,” I say with a worried voice.

I walk into the lab almost throwing up because of all the blood around me. I see the eye. And walk towards it like a moth to a light, walking through the lasers for the mounted guns while dodging consciously. I am at the tube and, my mind, it’s, it’s in Darkness again. I see things that I don’t want to see. I see death itself. The matted black plague in my mind grows stronger taking away what is good and replacing it with evil. 

The eye says, “Death awaits others, have fun.” (Ohhh reader, I love this part. Read carefully.)

This is what I do. I have fun. Breaking the glass I take the eye from the tube and use my knife to gouge out my eye. With the eye in my hand I slice it. Slice it more and more with anger with blood coming out of my eye socket like a blood waterfall gushing with craziness. As I replace this disgusting eye with the Septic Eye, I feel this power and it’s great. I feel it pulsing through my veins and into my hands. It’s like all I need to do is Kill. I need the KILL! Just KILL! I jump out of the building breaking through the roof and find the car. I see Mark. I think that he is now my new victim. It’s time. Time to let the world know who is king!

Fatal Feelings

The sun can’t make my happiness go away

Shoot that star 

You’re trying to ruin my day

You are not equivalent to my race

Stop trying to change my broken face

I can kill myself

But I’ll do it slowly

My smile is there but fading shortly

Figure out how you wanna write your story

You will never put that pen down

You look at me with raging glory

Fights, fights, fights

Is all we know

And all we ever get into

Is your fake smile and tokens for you.

You are mine

But I can see into you

The blue I saw earlier is 

Spreading through you.

I am suicidal.

Sell me, use me, I am the cycle.

Ancient Eyes

I woke up in a hot sweat. I had heard it again! It was so clear this time, so profound a sensation, I knew it had to be coming from within the room. I bolted upright, shouting at the top of my lungs, “WHAT DO YOU WANT WITH MY BLOODY EYEBROWS, YA GREASY PIG!”

I sat quietly in my room awaiting an answer, when suddenly I heard a low creaking noise coming from the depths of my friend’s basement. My blood went cold as ice as I awaited the coming battle. I could hear heavy footsteps getting closer, closer, when suddenly out of the dark abyss, came a hairy, foul-smelling beast from beyond time!

“What’s the yelling about,” said my roommate Bob.

“Well, for one thing, you need to shower,” I said, wrinkling my nose.

“You had another nightmare, didn’t you,” said Bob.

“Yup,” I replied.

“You have to stop reading Lovecraft before bed,” Bob said with a hint of irritation in his voice.

“I know, I know. It just seems so real to me sometimes.”

“This is the ninth time this month,” Bob complained. “I haven’t gotten a full night’s rest in almost a fortnight.”

I glanced towards the clock. It was exactly 3:33 in the morning, the same time that I had woken up the past couple of weeks.

A pot of tea warmed on the stove as I sat with Bob and discussed how to resolve this problem of mine.

“You could see a therapist about it,” said Bob.

“That’s too expensive,” I replied.

“You could just stay away from anything having to do with the occult for now,” suggested Bob.

“NEVER!” I exclaimed. “And that’s final.”

“How about we just talk about it in the morning,” Bob tiredly replied.

I wandered back to my room in the basement, painfully aware of the cold, dark emptiness of it. I wandered to my bed and hugged my Cthulhu plush. I shut my eyes and tried to go to sleep. No sooner had I shut my eyes than I heard the voice again, so clear, so pungent and robust, and in that moment I knew what I had to do.

Not a bad look, I thought to myself after shaving them off. I had slashed them with such haste that my forehead now had many small wounds upon it (I was never especially good at shaving). Are you happy now, I thought. I heard a resounding, No. I panicked. I ran. I felt my thoughts being scattered across the infinite cosmos. I needed to go somewhere, somewhere where they couldn’t find me! I tripped, skidding across the smooth wood floor and slamming my head against the grand piano in the corner. I could feel myself scattering and flames forming around me and the piano. I looked up and saw nothing more than the great eyebrowed old one looking down on me in shame!

The End… Or is it