Starting School

If you were out in the morning of a weekday, you would see most kids up and getting ready for school by seven a.m. Most schools start at 7:30 to 8 a.m. and this is too early!  Since students wake up early and sleep late, they will probably get tired during school. This will cause them to start daydreaming or even falling asleep during class. This will not help them at school. Schools need to figure out how they can help students get more sleep. One solution is starting school later so then students can get more sleep.

Most kids are already up by seven to get ready for school. In old times, people would get up at six and already be sleeping by seven due to the need of sunlight. But we don’t need to sleep that early now because we have electricity, so the need to wake up early is unnecessary. Today, there are three main reasons why schools start early: making time for after-school activities, leaving more daylight time for kids, and making it safer for teens to walk home after school. But health is more important than school. If you are not healthy, then you wouldn’t go to school in the first place! Therefore, school should start later because sleep will improve health.

You can not focus if you don’t get enough sleep, can you? So that’s why lack of sleep can affect the grades that students get at school. Eight hours is the recommended amount for teens and preteens to sleep, and only about 41% of middle school students and 13% of high school students get that recommended amount of sleep. If you cannot focus on your studies, you cannot do well on exams. According to a study in Harvard (found on, sleep can help your body work such as having better memory and a better focus on learning.  Lack of sleep can also lead students to poor health, and that will cause plenty of absent days in school.

Teens sleep late for two reasons: they can’t fall asleep before 11 p.m. because of their brain shifts and also because of too much homework. Parents think that making their kids sleep earlier will solve the problem of their lack of sleep, but an average teenager can not fall asleep until 11 p.m. (says Dr. Lewin). Since the students are older now, they will get a lot of homework, so that could prevent them from sleeping earlier. According to the National Education Association, the homework time increases each grade by ten minutes. An average twelfth-grader has about 110 more minutes of homework than an average first grader.

Then at the end of the day, most middle-school and high-school students are up doing their homework, studies, and after-school activities. By the time they will be able to go to bed, it’s so late at night! Then they will have less sleep. This will result in accidents, poor health, being stressed and upset, and failing grades. Schools should start later in the day to prevent this and then more students will have more sleep and do better in school.


The Neighborhood Cadaver

When she was twelve, I was fifteen.

She wore a bunny suit. No one talked about it.

Before she was a bunny, though, she was the neighborhood cadaver.

Being of mixed race, and having developmental problems, not very many people knew what to do with Indigo when she was presented to them. Schooling was not something her father found necessary. In the evenings, he would leave for work, and leave her lying in whatever room in the house she’d fallen asleep in, and he wouldn’t return for days at a time. If Indigo wasn’t an independent child, she had no choice but to be.

In the afternoons, after all the other kids returned home from school and dropped their bags off in the mudrooms of their homes, they’d flood the streets and start playing random games they’d created out of boredom and a lack of resources. Indigo would emerge from her sleepy little two-bedroom home on the corner and wander down the road, attempting to find a group of children that would allow her to join them.

She’d always end up at the feet of Finn, the neighborhood ginger, who would say something along the lines of, “You could play the dead girl,” and Indigo, who was just happy to be acknowledged, would nod and wait for Finn to point her to whatever spot it was that she was supposed to go play dead.

She’d spread herself out over whatever portion of the pavement or square of the sidewalk she was instructed to, and the little sisters of the boys out in the street would creep their way up to her corpse and trace her in different colored chalk, attempting to create their own juvenile form of a crime scene. While they did so, they’d ask her questions about her hair, and why she never went to school, and where her daddy was, and why her mommy didn’t exist anymore.

Indigo would just lie there, and after much pestering, would whisper, “Dead girls don’t talk.”

Around this same time, I was sixteen, and the oldest one on the street. My job was to sit on the front porch with R.C. and Drexel, two other older kids, and smoke and play cards and mediate any dispute that arose from their morbid little games. Cops and Murderers, or Who Killed The Gimp, or whatever it was that served as Indigo’s cause of death, and in between to scrawny boys running up to me asking who was out and who was in, I would watch Indigo lie there in the street, being the prettiest dead girl I’d ever seen.

They’d play until their mothers would come to the front doors of their houses and shout for their children to come in for supper. Then, group by group, they’d detach themselves from their morbid little game and go on home covered in dirt and scratches, sweat and youth, until there was only Indigo, and there was only me.

When everyone ran home and left Indigo underneath the heat of a light post, I’d come on over and shake her awake, and she’d thank me before running up the front path of her house and waving at me from the other side of the front door.

When I returned home from the war, she was nineteen and she thought she was dying, and I was twenty-two, and thought I already had.


Vanilla Sugar

I keep three packets of vanilla sugar in my room at all times because I’m the type of person who goes to bed at 3:27 a.m. just because I can, and at any given time I should be able to reach into the mahogany drawer on the left hand side of my bed and pull out a packet of vanilla sugar. And I believe that at 3:26 a.m. I should be awake enough to tip toe to the kitchen and grab a carton of whipping cream and make some of the best whipped cream you’ve ever tasted, because the secret is vanilla sugar, and who cares what time it is?

And right now it’s 12:10 a.m. and I have two hours and sixteen minutes to go but I really want some whipped cream and I can’t wait for every second of those two hours and sixteen minutes to pass because not even I can resist my own whipped cream. And the sky blue of my walls matches the color of my eyes and now that I think about it, that’s tacky. My walls should be light grey to match the color of my eternal need for whipped cream because it’s not with passion it’s with longing, and light grey is the international color of rainy days and on rainy days you long for the sun. But I don’t long for the sun. I like the grey days because then I have an excuse to sit in my sky blue room with an elephant onesie and eat whipped cream with a full packet of vanilla sugar.

It’s 12:11 a.m. and I can see the snowflakes outside my grey window and they just remind me of the vanilla sugar that I want, that I need. I’m covered in a light grey throw blanket and the nest of chargers next to me is the main barrier between myself and my three packets of vanilla sugar and if I don’t get up I’m lazy, but if I get the packet out of my drawer I’ll inevitably tip toe to the kitchen and whip up the fluffy white cream and then I’ll have no self control. But if I sprinkle some raspberries on top…


I’m fine with the reruns of Tom & Jerry; I love Tom & Jerry; Tom & Jerry were the first to make me laugh. Tom & Jerry can keep you distracted long enough to forget what you want for a few seconds because you’re caught in the rivalry that you know is ridiculous but you need some ridiculous mammals right now because ridiculous mammals don’t require vanilla sugar to calm you down. Ridiculous rivalries between ridiculous mammals are all I need right now. Because there’s an envelope from the Harvard Admissions Office on my desk chair and it’s staring at me, looming over me, and it’s been there for two days and I can’t manage to do anything but make whipped cream and stuff my pillow cases with vanilla sugar. Because who needs college, right? And I can’t even see how big the envelope is because I don’t know the difference between big envelopes and small envelopes and everyone knows what a big envelope means, but who got to decide what makes an envelope big? I mean, to Tom, a big envelope is a regular sized envelope to us, and who got to decide that? Who has the right to say, “If you got into our pretentious little academy then you get a nice big envelope filled with nice big forms,” and why should I fall into the trap? Why would I ever want to fill out a nice big form? I hate big forms.

Thirteen days ago, I was the type of person who collected stamps and had an extensive knowledge of psychology and brains and thought that maybe I could work with brains; maybe I could be the type of person who helps psychotic people. Eleven days ago, four point oh average London Harris got her acceptance letter. Ten days and twenty three hours ago, I strolled to the deli half a block away from my house, still calm, and bought my first pack of vanilla sugar. Ten days and twenty hours ago I started noticing that mothers look up into my eyes and reflexively pull their children away. And now, as I’m ready to tear open my two hundred and seventeenth packet of vanilla sugar, I can feel this weird vanilla sugar haze seeping from my brain to my eyes and nesting there, whispering “Packet or letter? Packet or letter? Packet or letter?” And I don’t know what’s better: packet or letter? And then suddenly there’s a devil on my left shoulder and an angel on my right and the angel is dressed in a vanilla packet suit and the devil is wearing a maroon Harvard crewneck. They’re climbing into my ears and one’s yelling “packet!” while the other screams “letter!” and  I’m just sitting there while miniature nuisances kill my cochlea. And it sucks. It really, really sucks, because all I want is vanilla sugar. I don’t even care, okay, I don’t even care about Harvard. I just care about the teeny crystalline balls of magic held within this baby blue, two-square-inch, glorious wrapper with a picture of a sugar cookie on it.

I demand my vanilla sugar in its packet like Monday morning teenagers need lattes with two shots of espresso and fake sugar, because real sugar is only for those who appreciate it. Because people who fake the sugar don’t appreciate it. They don’t appreciate it, don’t appreciate it.They don’t understand the joy that you get with sugar in your blood. Insulin levels, glucagon levels rising, trying to fix you. What is wrong with you? Why are your sugar level so high? What is up with your hormones, why aren’t they filtering it out? What are you doing? Where is your fake sugar, your Splenda, Sweet ‘n Low, but I can’t take my lattes with Splenda. What even is Splenda? I need to take my sugar like my life: with a hint of vanilla, not the fake stuff. Appreciate the sugar, okay. Appreciate it like children minus the ickyness, no boogers in vanilla sugar. There’s no Harvard ink font letter in my baby blue vanilla sugar packet of happiness, but pure bliss like high school drop-out gangsters get from drugs minus all those needles because, ew, ouch, no needles, they make me cry crystalline tears that look nothing like what you think vanilla sugar would look like nothing at all because it’s powdery not shiny and I love it, I love vanilla, I love it, love it, love it, look up to it appreciation at its finest

appreciate the vanilla sugar like catholic school children appreciate God

     sweet crystalline crystalline from sugar cane

vanilla beans like string beans but not green or gross

they make my vanilla sugar packets

vanilla sugar soul packets

vanilla sugar heart packets

not your splenda fake sweetener heaven hidden from the real life society that goes on

inside the walls of vanilla sugar wall veins

   take me into your vanilla sugar arms

and  let me melt into your carbohydrate shell

your glucose and sucrose and all the ose-s

sticky summer vanilla bean ice cream

whipped cream vanilla dreams

baby blue packet

like           baby           bonnets

Nilla Wafers probably have

vanilla sugar

completes my soul like a half-moon penumbra

The Wordwielder

The man we call Wordwielder lives in a curious little cottage, far enough outside of town to eat a whole apple before you arrive. It’s a bit taller than the oaken forest that surrounds it, made up of rickety stories that taper smaller and smaller, up to a tiny little belfry. It’s a bit like a witch’s hat. When I first saw it, I was afraid it would fall over, with the way its different floors cantilever outwards in so many directions.

I know better now, though. I can walk across the little grove, along the cobbled path, up to the stone steps. If I knock three times, not two, or four, but three times — bap bap bap on the door — then the Wordwielder will let me in. Inside, there’s a grand foyer, with a ceiling way above my head with chandelier stalactites. It seems bigger than it should be.

Once when I asked the Worldwielder about this he smiled, gave me a pat on the head, and hinted, “non-Euclidean,” before climbing the great big staircase to the places above. And oh, there are so very many places above. A bathroom like the Romans used to use, with caldarium and tepidarium and frigidarium and all. A labyrinthine library, so tall it echoes. A steamy greenhouse, lush with plantlife. An ornate dining room, with a great big table always laden with every food I could ever dream of and so many I can’t. A dormitory of guest rooms, separated by strange paper doors painted with beautiful scenes. And at the very top, a spiral staircase that leads back outside, to the peak of a minarette higher in the air than a mountaintop.

Sometimes, the Wordwielder sends me on errands. He tells me I should go into the woods and find just the right rock, one I like the best, and take it back to him. He’s never satisfied with the first one I bring though, or the second one, either. Only the third or the fourth will he accept. When he does, though, he lifts it up to his lips, and whispers, “Auriferous” to it like a lullaby. When he hands it back to me after that, it’s much heavier, and shiny, and dull yellow. He tells me to take it to the village’s market, and gives me a list of things to trade it for.

The merchants recognize me – the butcher, the cobbler, the tailor, the farmer and the blacksmith. One of them takes the heavy yellow rock and looks and my list, and talks to the others, and they all give me whatever the Wordwielder asked for. No matter if it’s the meat of the fattest cow, the most ornate silken raiments, the most masterfully forged steel, the best-tanned leather shoes, or the oldest wine. They hand it over with a smile, no questions or haggling. If there’s too much for me to carry, they even lend me a wagon and a horse.

I asked my grandmother why they do that. Whenever I come with her to the market, all the merchants will bargain for hours over the price of something as simple as a loaf of bread, let alone their finest wares. Her answer was cryptid, simply stating that: “With the debt that everyone owes to that man… they’re amazed that he pays them at all. If they gave him their whole stock, a hundred times over… they might just barely be even.”


One day, something strange happened. I left the cottage to run the Wordwielder’s errands, and when I came outside, I found a great formation of knights standing on the lawn, taking up the whole clearing around the house, and filling far into the forest as well. The leader, a fat man with a crown, sat upon a horse, barked at me to fetch my “master.” I started to go back inside, and ran right into the Wordwielder; I stuttered to him about what was happening, panicked, but he only smiled and patted my head in silent consolation, before gently positioning me behind him. The kingly man mounted on the steed addressed him, commanding the Wordwielder to come with them, and be indentured as a warrior in their army. The Wordwielder clearly showed the man three fingers, extended into the air, then curled down one of them, and sung, “Begone.” And so, the knights went away, for the rest of that day.

The next day, however, they were back, and I thought I saw more of them. This time Wordwielder told me to stay inside. No matter – I climbed on up to the greenhouse, and looked down at the scene from above, through its tinted panes. The leader of the army seemed more adamant today, his face growing red as he shouted, but I could not hear what he said. Whatever the conversation was, the Wordwielder showed him the same three fingers, and this time bent down two. Then, he spoke, and I heard through the walls and the air:  “Nosferatu.” With that word an infectious terror gripped the hearts of the many knights, and they scattered and fled away from the cottage.

On the third day, the legion was already there in the early morning, before even I arrived. I could see monstrous catapults and bastillas at the back of the columns, and I was afraid for the Wordwielder. I snuck around the army, taking a long route to approach the cottage from behind. I arrived in time to overhear the bellow of the angry King; “-if you do not help us now, that Nordic bastard will defeat us. And once he does, you’ll be next!” The Wordwielder only raised three fingers to him, and clenched them all down into a fist. “Thermopylae” rang out from his mouth, and a great shade was laid across the whole army. I looked to the sky, to see what was casting it, and saw a swarm of arrows dropping from the clouds, like a rainstorm. They struck the knights, the stallions, and the trees alike – nothing was safe from them. When the last missile had fallen, the Wordwielder’s clearing was a graveyard, and the ground was sewn with broken shafts and blood.

The day after that, it was all back to normal. The corpses, the arrows, all the blood – it was gone, as though it had never been. The Wordwielder acted as though nothing ever happened. Perhaps he thought I didn’t know about the massacre. But I never pressed him about it, never brought it up. I understood better why nobody ever questioned him, from then on.

Time passed. Weeks, fortnights, years. I grew taller, and less naive. I was able to put the incident from that day behind me, to forgive the Wordwielder for what he’d done. I think I pieced together what was he was. A dragon. A dragon who’d gathered together a treasure horde, and who guarded it ruthlessly against anyone who might try to take it from him or him from it. The village, and all the people in it, was his horde. I didn’t like that, at first. I thought his greed was selfish… but, I came to realize that in many ways, it was selfless, too. In the end, I decided I did not mind the dragon who had claimed my village as his own.

That is, until the day another dragon came to visit.

I was in the market, as typical, ordering the typical list of atypical items. It was then that a snivelling young man made an appearance, a mop of snow-fair hair upon his head, and a battle axe across his back. He sought me out in short order, cuffing me about the neck, much the surprise and fright of the other townsfolk. I supplied them with a calming gesture, to let them know everything was alright, but the cutthroat hissed something that sent a chill down my spine.


I felt myself wholeheartedly compelled by the crude command, for I understood at once what he wanted. With a parting wave to my neighbors, I advanced out of the marketplace, beyond the edge of the village, and out into the forest. The Norseman followed, having produced a dagger that he held just between my shoulder blades. We reached the Wordwielder’s cottage faster than I ever remember reaching it before. He was already there, waiting outside it, leaning oh so lightly on an ebony walking cane.

When my captor caught sight of him, I felt an awful excitement grow inside of him, and he threw me to the ground and rushed forwards, towards the Wordwielder. The Norseman roared, “Burn!”, and the Wordwielder burst into a pyre of fire. I screamed in horror, and the Norseman cackled in triumph. My mentor’s corpse collapsed onto the ground, a smoldering husk. It crackled and popped and smoked for long heartbeats… and then, his voice rang out, from the sky and the forest and everywhere else, all at once: “Muninn.” And the world remembered him as he was moments ago, and he stood before us, unharmed and alive, looking displeased.

The Norseman stopped short, eyes wide as saucers – then he recovered, and shoved his hand forwards, and grunted, “Firebolt!” And undoubtedly, a gush of red heat spewed forwards in a wave at the Wordwielder. My mentor shook his head as though to deride his adversary and muttered “Babylon” under his breath, and an unseen wall swallowed the the flames before they reached him. The Norseman squealed in frustration, reaching back to draw his axe. “Sharp”, he threatened to its head, and then charged at the Wordwielder with his weapon poised to strike.

My mentor gave the handle of his cane a twist, and slid free from its shaft a thin, sleek sword, barely more than an overlong pen knife. He lifted it near to his lips and breathed upon its blade, “vorpal”, before drifting his feet into a simple fencing stance. The Norseman took a heavy-handed swing, but the Wordwielder parried it with a simple flick of his wrist, knocking away the axe and leaving a deep nick on its edge. It jarred the Norseman, and left him open for the canesword’s tip to carve a gash in his chest. He grit his teeth and hacked at the Wordwielder again, but a meager lateral block stopped that, and another counter-attack sent him wheeling backwards.

The Norseman shook his head and steeled himself, readying for another charge, but the Wordwielder’s utterance of “coup de grâce” blew him off his feet and landed him on his rear a yard behind, his weapon out of his grip. He groaned as he got back to his feet, then out of the corner of his eye, he saw an opportunity. He saw me. “Captive” was spat from the Norseman’s mouth, and I found myself ensnared by invisible bindings, as he rushed towards me. The Wordwielder realized what was happening a moment too late – he was already putting me in a headlock. I could almost feel him, sneering right behind my ear, flicking his dagger out and pressing its edge against my throat.

Stalemate,” he mocked at my mentor. And just then, I saw something claw across the Wordwielder’s features, something I had never seen before, and which to this day I hope no never see again. Contempt. Pure, utter, hatred, without reserve or regret. That raw fury, it flooded his throat and sank its fangs into his tongue and domineered him to seethe out: “Ibis!

The Norseman’s body began to convulse, and he hit the ground like a sack of potatoes, releasing me. I turned around to see his limbs beginning to be torn off his body at their joints, and rope marks appeared upon his wrists and ankles, as though he were being drawn and quartered. I looked quickly from his writhing form to the Wordwielder, who was scowling at him with scorn. Then, I heard a loud, fibrous ripping sound, and squeezed my eyes shut.

“Stop!” I begged, starting to hear a chopping sound coming from the Norseman’s body. The Wordwielder seemed fixated upon this punishment, almost entranced by it. I grit my teeth and tried to ignore it for as long as I could, the sounds of mortification, of gruesome torture, but eventually, I could no longer stand it. I ran at my mentor, and smacked him across the face. He was caught off guard, teetering to the side, before bracing off his cane and standing straight again. When he looked back at me, his expression was changed completely: a countenance filled with surprise, and partial confusion.

A world away, the Norseman, released from his torment, was gasping, lying on the ground. Despite being half-dead, he managed to choke out, “rejuvenate” to himself, and his shattered body began to mend itself. Before I could confront the Wordwielder about his actions, my mentor was pushing me out of the way to chase after his quarry, for the Norseman had gotten back to his feet, and was beginning to retreat into the woods. When he looked over his shoulder to see the Wordwielder coming towards him, he winced out “winged”, and a bead of blood ran from one of his nostrils, and fluffy wings bloomed from his back, beating the air desperately to get him up, up, and away from this tenacious, powerful foe.

Nevermore”, the Wordwielder decreed, and nightingale wings hugged his back, before unfurling to a mighty span, and bolstering him off the ground with one devastating flap. He shot past the Norseman, opening his wings to glide in place for just a moment, then reigning them in again to dive downwards and joust him with his canesword. The strike diced through one of the Norseman’s own wings, leaving him spinning out of control. The Wordwielder air-braked with a half-flap, improbably graceful, and swivelled in the air to again face his victim. With another burst of feathers, he cut past the Norseman again, and after that the canesword’s bloodridge was wetted, and the Norseman dropped straight downwards, hitting the ground with a thud.

After that day, I did not speak to the Wordwielder very often. I did not speak to anyone very often. I left the village, on a course to the North. I wanted to find the place that snivelling Norseman came from. To deliver condolences or to get answers or to enact vengeance, I didn’t yet know. And I never decided, either–for on the first night of my journey I slipped while skinning some game, and sliced my palm.

God dammit!” I swore. And He did. My knife became briny, crystals spiking out from it at random angles as a cracking sound ripped through the air. I dropped the tool when one grazed my cut, feeling salt on a wound. It broke into glassy shards on the ground.

I didn’t know what to do, but I was scared – terrified – so I clamped both hands over my mouth, and I ran. I ran through trees, across creeks, over stone walls and between hills. I didn’t let myself stop until I’d reached the clearing of the Wordwielder’s cottage. And when I finally got to there my legs were lead and my chest aflame, and I faded to darkness just as my the shadow of my mentor dropped over me.

From then on, I learned. I learned so much that I believe some of what was already there was pushed out of my head, because I forget about what the Wordwielder had done for a time. He taught me the speech of fingers, known only to the deaf and the dumb. He trained me never to talk with my mouth, not ever, not even to curse or to cry out a warning. He made me read – oh, how he made me read – book after book after book. Dictionaries, encyclopedias, poetry young and old, play scripts and novels, biographies and histories. I came to know a hundredfold more about the world than my grandmother had ever informed me.

The Surreptitious Spy

4:09  a.m.— Paris, France

The Louvre

Alfred’s head drooped onto his neck as his eyelids slowly closed. His red alarm clock (which he always kept beside him while he was on watch) read the digits: 4:02 a.m. Soon he was snoring, not bothering to notice that in one of his security camera screens a slender figure had just pressed a clear piece of plastic the size of a credit card against the button, deactivating the many lasers that surrounded one of the Louvre’s most prized possessions: the Mona Lisa.

Quickly, the figure, clad in all black, skillfully weaved his way through the many traps that laid near the legendary painting, waiting for any predator who dared to try to take it, as if the figure knew exactly where they were. In barely five minutes, the person had careened through the exactly 156 traps that were concealed under the polished, gray floors.

Before long, the figure had grabbed the Mona Lisa, not forgetting to put on black gloves (that certainly didn’t stand out compared to the rest of his dark outfit) and then swiftly exited the room. Unfortunately, the thief had forgotten to deactivate the alarms that initiated when someone left the building; as soon as he set his gloved hands on the handle of the doors, a deafening alarm screeched throughout the museum. Obviously, the loud alarm could probably not be tolerated by most people, and especially not by Alfred who just happened to be a very light sleeper. (A significant reason why the museum had hired him, for he would wake up to the sound of very small things, or in this case, unbearably loud things.)

And sure enough, Alfred woke up the second the alarm started blaring through the museum, and scrambled to his feet as he glanced at the security camera video screen. On it he saw the same figure running as rapidly as a cheetah, making his way out of the building, or as it would be called later in the day, the crime scene.

5:47 a.m.— Paris, France

The Louvre

Many men and women rushed around the room frantically, and it seemed like there were a number of secret agents with bedhead and bathrobes. After all, it was only about 4 a.m. in the BIA agent’s home country, Britain.

One red faced man in a blue, teddy bear bathrobe came up to Richard Brown and sighed, “Did you hear that there were two accidents in Paris in just one night? Someone blew up the Eiffel Tower!”

Richard grimaced and nodded, “Of course I have! I wasn’t born yesterday.” He paused and scanned the documents he was holding. “The funny thing is, the two incidents happened just minutes away from each other. 4:07 and 4:09 a.m. It’s like they were connected!”

The man rolled his eyes. “Last time I checked, people can’t be at two places at once. The Louvre and the Eiffel Tower are practically two miles away from each other.”

Richard walked away, full of contempt. He had always hated that man with the teddy bear bathrobe, due to the fact that he always thought he was better than others and was incredibly lazy. But Richard pushed those thoughts aside and called his fellow agents to attention.

“Hello everybody.” He stumbled through his words, the nerves creeping up onto him, “Since James and Julian, the ex-directors of the British Intelligence Agency, retired a few days ago, I am the new director.”

Few people among the many who surrounded Richard clapped. While James and Julian hadn’t been the most popular directors at the BIA, they were well-liked in comparison to Richard, who was always more interested in working than socializing with his co-workers.

“Since James and Julian had already assigned people to missions in certain categories, those same agents will be doing the assignments that had been previously given to them.”

Richard started to read off the list of names that said who was to investigate the Mona Lisa and Eiffel tower incidents. He was surprised to find that James and Julian had assigned the worst agents to those missions, but Richard did not protest. He knew the rest of the agents would want to do whatever James and Julian had said to do for their opinions were valued highly in the BIA.

5:56 a.m.— Lemongene, France

The Lemongene Airport.

Two figures dressed in black sat in the waiting area of the Lemongene Airport for Flight 134. They didn’t do or say much except whisper about their missions to each other and glance around suspiciously at the people nearby them.

“How’d your mission go?” The person on the right asked the person next to him gruffly, after shooting an apprehensive look towards a 2-year-old that had been wobbling over to them.

“Fine. I blew up the Eiffel tower, so, it went very well,” The other man replied with a smirk, “What about your mission? How did stealing the Mona Lisa go?”

“Fine, thanks,” the first man replied cooly, “If all goes well, D.U.M.B.* will give us a pay raise with those gold bars we stole from Fort Knox!”

*D.U.M.B is one of the best criminal agencies in the world. It is also known as: Dark Undercover Masked Badguys.

6:30 a.m.— Lemongene, France

Lemongene Airport.

“Attention all passengers,” the stewardess came up to the microphone at the desk for boarding, “We will now be boarding rows 18 through 9 on Flight 134.”

“That’s us,” said the second man dressed in all black as he stood up

abruptly. Since they were in first class, the two men boarded the plane first, but not before giving hostile scowls at the passengers waiting patiently behind them. They were able to get a very secluded spot on the plane, and spent the time leading up to liftoff murmuring softly to each other.

Before long, the plane had soared into the air, leaving the grey storm clouds that hovered over Europe behind.

2:41 p.m.—Jamaica, New York

JFK Airport.

The plane started its descent, and it emerged from the depths of a foggy cloud, soon revealing the radiant lights of the city below.

“Greetings, passengers,” a flight attendant in a crisp, blue uniform at

the nose of the plane said amicably, “We have just begun our descent to the

John F. Kennedy International Airport. Please turn off all cellular devices and buckle your seat belts. Thank you.”

Both figures clothed in black instantaneously woke with a start after the flight attendant finished her announcement and as they saw the land below them getting closer and closer they grinned.

“Looks like our job is done,” the man in the window seat noted.

The man raised his eyebrows and gave a his partner a curt nod, “Don’t speak too soon, we still have to get to D.U.M.B. headquarters and deliver the painting. You do realize the airport is going to have an abundant number of security guards and police, right?”

“Of course I do! We weren’t trained at D.U.M.B. for 18 years for nothing. Well, at least I hope we weren’t!” The man replied as he clapped his comrade on the shoulder, he then leaned towards the other man and subtly whispered, “We’re the world’s most wanted criminals for a reason, you know.”

3:11 p.m.— Cambridge, England

BIA Headquarters.

Richard Brown slowly sipped his steaming hot mug of coffee as he sat in his office. He shuffled through the documents on his desk— they were all stamped with red print that read “CONFIDENTIAL,” and most included the long lists of assignments that the BIA had gone out to complete.

A few minutes later, Richard heard a knock on his door.

“Mr. Brown, we have urgent news for you!” His secretary said to him in a hurried tone.

Richard briskly stood up, “Come in, Ms. Jones. What is it?”

Promptly, Ms. Jones rushed inside Richard’s office, clutching an iPad to her chest, “There’s something in The London Times that could be related to to the Mona Lisa incident!”

Richard took the iPad and nodded to his secretary, “Thank you Ms. Jones, please get back to work.” She hurried out of the room as Richard scanned the article that was pulled up on the screen. The headline read, “Two Figures Seen Leaving JFK Airport Holding Frame Shaped Bag.” Richard frowned as he continued to read the article. Apparently, the police did not want to make any accusations towards anybody because they didn’t have any evidence to make their claim valid, yet in Richard’s perspective, he thought the police should have at least held them at the airport to question them. The article also included a grainy picture, which was obviously from a security camera, depicting two slender individuals in black attire rushing through the doors of the airport.

Frustrated with the Americans as well as himself, Richard slammed the iPad onto his desk. The men described in the article and shown in the photograph seemed so distinct and familiar to him, but he couldn’t put his finger on who they actually were.

As a result of Richard slamming the iPad on his desk, many of the files that were once cluttered on the desk had tumbled to the carpeted floor. One of which being the identification files for the two ex-directors of the BIA, Julian and James.

Richard bent down to observe the files on the floor and sighed, as he tried to regain his calmness.

“It is essential that I find out who those people are,” he said to himself grimly.

He gazed around at his office, hoping that, by some miracle, it would give him an idea about who those two figures were. He paced around the office deep in thought until he was interrupted by several heavily armed people bursting through the windows of his office, with the logo D.U.M.B. clearly visible on their helmets.

3:17 p.m.— Dumbo, Brooklyn

D.U.M.B Headquarters

James and Julian knocked on the door of their boss’ office.

“Bet you one Crown Jewel that it’ll take five or more knocks for boss to open the door,” Julian said with a smirk.

“Deal,” James replied, confident that his boss wouldn’t take too long to open the door for his best agents who carried probably the most important news that he would ever hear.

And sure enough, after just two knocks, the boss opened the door, Julian stared daggers at James who strode into the room gloriously.

“Sit,” their boss demanded curtly.

James and Julian immediately sat down on two, metal chairs that were also used for interrogations. Though they were a multi-million dollar criminal company, D.U.M.B didn’t like to spend money rashly.

“How did it go?” the boss queried. He sat in a blood red armchair as he stroked his dark black handlebar mustache which matched his slicked back hairstyle that he was well known for throughout the criminal world.

“Wonderfully,” James and Julian replied in unison. They had been on enough missions to know that this was the only answer that the boss needed in order to be satisfied.

“So nobody saw you? Nobody knew it was you?” The boss didn’t usually bombard the duo of criminals with questions, but it was to be expected— this was the mission he had planned for a very long time.

James rolled his eyes, “Please, boss. We are masterminds. We were the youngest co-heads of the British Intelligence Agency, and we were also double-agenting for D.U.M.B. at the same time. If we weren’t such good friends, we’d be offended. Fifty-seven missions we’ve been on for you and you continue to ask us that question. We’re your top two criminals, I would hope we wouldn’t be recognized.”
As if on cue, a frazzled man burst into the room.

“Boss! They were recognized!” he shouted, his eyes filled with fear as he noticed exactly who the boss was talking to at that moment.

“You were noticed!” he shouted, even louder than before, as he pointed his stout fingers at James and Julian.

“What?” the boss yelled at the top of his lungs, as he proceeded to walk towards James and Julian, “SOMEONE RECOGNIZED YOU?”

“Wait, what?” Julian whirled around to face the man who had delivered the news, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” He crossed his arms and stared angrily at the man.

“Yeah. If anybody had recognized us, wouldn’t they have followed us back here, to New York?” James retorted, looking proud of himself for coming up with that stroke of genius.

“They wouldn’t have if they were in Britain and they had recognized you once you were already on the plane back to New York!” The frazzled man retaliated, “You know who our mole said recognized you? Your former co-worker, Richard Brown of the BIA.”

James and Julian looked stricken and all the color drained out of their already pale faces.

“That’s impossible.” James said as he bit his lip, although he knew fully well that it was completely possible.

Their boss marched towards James and Julian, his face filled with contempt for the two men.


Julian gulped and refused to look into his boss’s cold eyes as he felt his heart thumping like a loud drum inside of his body, “We realize that this was important to you Boss.. We tried our best..”

“WELL YOUR BEST IS OBVIOUSLY NOT ENOUGH! You underestimated Richard.” His boss snapped back, “I must get vengeance for how the French stole the Mona Lisa from my ancestor, LEONARDO DA VINCI!”

“But sir..” James hated to interrupt his boss’s temper tantrum, but he couldn’t resist, “We did avenge him.. We took the Mona Lisa AND blew up the Eiffel tower!”
“Well you two obviously weren’t clever enough to make sure nobody found out about you, didn’t you?” their boss replied, his icy voice was so cold, James swore the temperature went down a degree or two, “Take them to the dungeon!” he commanded the two guards that had appeared at the door.

“NOW!” he demanded, noticing how the guards weren’t making much haste to get to James and Julian.

7:41 p.m.— Dumbo, Brooklyn

D.U.M.B. Headquarters.

Richard struggled in the itchy sack he was being dragged along in. His mouth was taped closed with duct tape, so his screams barely traveled out of his mouth.

He had the feeling that they had reached the lair of the criminals, for the men dragging him were slowing down their pace.

“MMMMMHN NAYAKDSSSS!” Richard yelled, and although his screams weren’t very articulate, the guards got the message that he had one too many bruises from the rough way they were handling their prisoner.

Five minutes and a whole lot of black-and-blues later, the guards stopped dragging Richard and came to a curt stop.

“No way he can blab to the whole world about the mission in here!” Richard heard one of the guards snicker to the other, “Boss spent, what? Two or three million dollars on this security system? Almost as much as that security system at the place where James and Julian stole the Mona Lisa!”

And of course, that’s not exactly what you want to hear when you’re about to be locked into the prison that this mysterious “Boss” had spent two to three million dollars on.

But, there was no way Richard could stop the events that followed from happening. So of course, he was shoved into a dimly lit cell where he tumbled onto the bare, cold floor.

Suddenly, a familiar voice interrupted Richard’s thoughts as he laid on the floor, his chest rapidly filling with despair, “Nice seeing you here, Richard.”

Spinning around briskly, Richard was frightened to see his two ex-coworkers, James and Julian, grinning at him evilly.

Clumsily, Richard barely managed to pick himself up and stumble towards the thick bars of the dungeon, the deadly click of a lock echoing through his mind as everything went completely black…


Joe stumbled into the alleyway. His head was pounding, he could barely form a conscious thought. His vision blurred and tunnelled, focusing on only the cowering man in front of him.

“Joe- Joe, stop-” Billy shakily commanded, panicking. Joe ignored him. He didn’t even register Billy had said anything. He slowly reached into his back pocket and pulled out something long and shiny.

Billy’s already scared expression changed to terrified as he took in the six inch long hunting knife in Joe’s tightly clenched fist. He began to whimper pathetically, pleading for his life. Joe ignored him once again. Before Billy could even attempt to escape, Joe was in front of him, holding the serrated blade at the ready.

Joe stared at Billy for a fraction of a second. There was no dramatic speech, no yelling, no crying on either end. Billy was frozen still, and Joe simply said one word in a flat, monotone voice.


The blade flashed and buried itself deep inside Billy’s chest. He screamed, the sound echoing off the walls of the empty alleyway. Joe turned and walked away without looking back, leaving the knife, the growing pool of blood, and the slowly dying body of his once best friend.

Billy’s body had gone numb, and he could feel his life force draining away, his heartbeat slowing, his vision dimming. Through his half-closed eyes, he made out the figure of someone previously unnoticed detaching from the shadows and running over to his mutilated body. He heard, rather than saw, the pitter-patter of her sneakers hitting the pavement. He tasted her salty tears on his face as she sobbed piteously like a newborn baby taken away from his mother. And he felt her arms around him, holding him tightly as his last breath left him, and Allison collapsed over a lifeless corpse.

Criminally Unjust: A Tale of Two Justice Systems

Sometime past three o’clock, on a warm July afternoon, Eric Garner stood in front of a Staten Island beauty supply store allegedly selling what are commonly referred to as “loosies” – untaxed cigarettes usually sold for between ten cents and a quarter.  Hulking, black, with a broad chest, the 43-year-old grandfather was often described by friends as the “neighborhood peacemaker”; an amiable giant endowed with a generous, congenial attitude.  With his back arched against the store’s window, he is swiftly circled by a band of NYPD officers. At first the interaction remains unremarkable; one officer, as the video reveals, can be seen indifferently chewing gum as Garner explains the predicament to the small congregation of cops. Ardently waving his arms, a frustrated Garner tells the officers, “every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I’m tired of it. Everyone standing here will tell you I didn’t do nothing.” To be clear, this story of dogged police harassment is one shared by many black men. Garner himself was arrested 31 times since 1980 – with only two charges yielding convictions. If his past history was any indicator, he indeed likely “didn’t do nothing.”

Yet, the exchange takes a hasty, tragic turn; what begins as a relatively peaceful discourse devolves into an Orwellian display of brutality. As Garner continues to complain, officers from both sides of the ring suddenly grab his shoulders, attempting to arrest him — notably without evidence of the so-called “loosies” they were originally seeking. He flinches in surprise, attempting to evade the officers’ forceful grasp. Yet rather than de-escalating the conflict – or giving the visibly shaken Garner a chance to regain composure – Officer Daniel Pantaleo’s muscular arms lock his neck in a chokehold.  Pantaleo constricts him with the authoritarian zeal of Judge Dredd, despite his desperate pleas for air. “I can’t breathe…I can’t breathe,” Garner begs, his consciousness slipping as the officer ceases to relent. For another 23 tortuous seconds, even after Garner falls to the ground, the officer continues to clench his neck, squeezing the life out of a man who two minutes prior was quietly idling in front of a store. When the officer finally subdues his boa-like constraint, the severity of Garner’s condition becomes evident: he lays lifeless on the sidewalk, prolonged oxygen deprivation having caused a massive heart attack.

The events of the now infamous video have evolved to become a symbol of police brutality; a rallying cry for those disaffected with our justice system.  Garner’s last words: “I can’t breathe,” have been adopted as the mantra of recent demonstrations. More importantly, unlike the shooting death of Michael Brown, whose case was enshrouded in a fog of conflicting witnesses and forensic reports, Garner’s death serves as an irrefutable, visceral testament to the violent excesses of law enforcement. Although the Grand Jury investigating Pantaleo’s conduct ultimately acquitted him of wrongdoing, much to the chagrin of civil rights activists, most who watched the video agree, at best, his behavior was an incompetent display of force. For others, the chokehold was a malicious tool of murder, driven by a more sinister undercurrent of racism. Even conservative commentator, Charles Krauthammer — not particularly known for his civil rights bona fides — noted that the grand jury’s decision was “totally incomprehensible.”

For most, Garner’s death has become a lesson in police brutality. Or the need to weed out bad cops. As   New York Police Commissioner, Bill Bratton, said in response to widespread demonstrations, we must remove officers who are “poisoning the well.” Body cameras, demilitarization, and increased regulations are all similar conclusions that have arisen from recent demonstrations and events. But largely absent from the outcry of protesters and public officials, has been the broader context; “the big picture.”  In a frenzy to vilify police officers, we have forgotten that they are not the enemy. Rather, we must acknowledge that bad systems make bad officers.

While it is quite possible that Pantaleo’s chokehold was the product of some sort of primordial sense of racism, it is equally, if not more likely, that his lethal use of force was the result of greater broken systems and broken policies.  We must treat Garner’s death not as the disease, but as a symptom of a broader justice system which increasingly equates poverty with crime.

One must understand that as our nation’s economic inequalities grow, so do the inequalities in our justice system: increasingly, race and class are determinants, not just of one’s income, but of one’s judicial treatment. On the surface America maintains the hallmarks of a healthy democracy: the right to vote, the right to a jury, and the right to an attorney. But underneath this glimmering sheen of equitable justice lies a dark labyrinth of policies and bureaucracies which ensure that we live in a nation of two justice systems: one for the rich and one for the poor.

To understand the magnitude of our increasingly fractured justice system, one does not need to prod particularly hard into the nuances of police behavior and government policy. In fact, many of the most egregious disparities between the treatment of the wealthy and poor are codified directly into our laws; a self-evident reality of our own legal existence.

On one end of the spectrum are crimes linked to poverty. These offenses such as drug possession, jumping turnstiles, loitering, and petty theft are non-violent misdemeanors primarily committed by those in poverty.  Often, these are crimes perpetrated out of necessity and generally have minor, if not negative impact on society.

Take drug possession – by far the most common source of non-violent crime.  In many disadvantaged neighborhoods, the selling and purchasing of drugs is a casual source of employment, where economic and educational opportunity otherwise remains low. Since many low-income households have little access to treatment programs and family support, rates of addiction also remain much higher. Therefore, it would seem that impoverished communities do not have a problem with crime, but rather with social and economic dysfunction. Yet in our near-dystopian penal code, drugs, as well as other non-violent crimes, are not viewed as a multidimensional symptom of entrenched poverty, but rather a scourge of society which must be “cracked down.” Confirming this, the United States Sentencing Commission released a report stating that “in 2012, the average federal prison sentence for a drug offender was almost 6 years.” Perhaps more disturbingly, there are over 2.8 million individuals convicted of non-violent crimes currently incarcerated, heavily skewed towards the poor and minorities.

Yet the draconian gavel of our justice system is not limited to drugs, either. For most poor offenders — whether it is three days or thirty years — their prison careers begin with the most minor offenses conceivable. Imagine being jailed for loitering? For stealing a two dollar can of beer? Or how about swearing in public? Recall Eric Garner: the infraction provoking his death was ultimately the selling of untaxed cigarettes to support himself financially. We must ask ourselves, in a fair and just society, should six children be left fatherless for what amounts to a minor, victimless offense? Can we tolerate a society in which the punishment is no longer reflective of the crime?

For many impoverished communities, the harsh penalties and enforcement of non-violent crime is only the beginning.  When an individual is convicted of a minor poverty-related crime, they are more likely to commit more severe crimes and less likely to find employment after imprisonment. In the violent, gang-ridden albatross that is our prison system, a minor drug offender may quickly become a hardened criminal. In other words, by aggressively prosecuting non-violent crimes, our justice system is effectively sanctioning a sort of vicious prison-poverty feedback loop: poverty leads to minor offenses which leads to imprisonment which in turn leads to greater level of poverty. In Daedelus, sociologists Bruce Western of Harvard and Becky Pettit of the University of Washington concluded that “once a person becomes incarcerated, the experience limits their earning power and their ability to climb out of poverty even decades after their release.” But the mass incarceration of poor, non-violent offenders also irreparably damages future generations.  Recent surveys indicate that “children of prisoners are more likely to live in poverty, to end up on welfare, and to suffer the sorts of serious emotional problems that tend to make holding down jobs more difficult.” In its zealous, authoritarian pursuit of minor crimes, our own justice system is keeping millions of destitute Americans in a state of perpetual suffering, destroying communities and bolstering social dysfunction; the criminalization of poverty.

On the other side of the equation, in the realm of the wealthy, the justice system fails to penalize crime, instead immunizing success and wealth.

At some level, we all implicitly understand that the wealthy will inexorably fare better in a court of law; with a vigorous legal defense team and other resources, one would assume that cases are naturally easier to win. Yet the inequities in our justice system are far more entrenched than merely the quality of legal counsel. As money increasingly dictates politics, the wealthy have built a layered bureaucracy and legal structure designed to insulate their harmful, yet massively profitable, financial practices from the rule of law.

The legal biases inoculating the wealthy are apparent in all stages of the criminal justice system; in arrest rates, convictions, and sentencing, the rich face a system entirely different than their poorer counterparts.  One now infamous Philadelphia study conducted in 2008, revealed that “of 3,475 juvenile delinquents…police referred lower class boys to juvenile court much more often than upper class boys, even for equally serious offenses with similar prior arrest records.”

With sentencing, the Dickensian inequities are equally alarming. Take, for example, the three crimes of robbery, larceny, and burglary; all three, in varying degrees of severity, involve illegally siphoning property from one person to another. Next, take fraud, embezzlement, and income tax evasion; again, all “white-collar” variations of theft. But despite their inherent similarities, one convicted of the former three offenses will, on average, receive twice the sentence of one convicted of the latter three offenses.

The most egregious example of our justice system, however, is in its handling of large corporations. Although it has become cliché, not a single executive of any Wall Street firm, has served or is serving time in connection with the 2008 financial meltdown. Many politicians, commentators, and President Obama himself have justified this by suggesting the offenses of corrupt corporations are merely ethical violations – minor missteps undeserving of prosecution.

But these so-called ethical and “minor missteps” are neither legal nor minor.  The crimes committed by large firms and their employees include concealment of financial transactions aiding terrorists, as was the case with HSBC, the blinding of criminal assets, deliberate tax evasion, large-scale fraud, and sub-prime mortgages, rivaling only the Great Depression in financial damage.  In the wake of the 2008 financial collapse, over 40% of the world’s wealth was lost, crippling the global economy and the American middle class.

Yet not a single prosecution.  A contingent of wanton, avarice-eyed executives single-handedly implode our economy and collectively receive a smaller punishment than a poor man stealing a can of beer.  If the purpose of our justice system is to “seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans,” as Attorney General Eric Holder himself wrote, then not only has it failed us, it has embarrassed the sanctity of justice itself.

The American psyche has long revered the justice system, at least symbolically, as a bastion of morality; an impartial arbiter of innocence and guilt. It was the justice system, after all, which desegregated our schools, ended interracial marriage laws, and protected freedom of speech. However, the harsh criminalization of poverty and the inoculation of the wealthy force us to reconsider this unwavering reverence. As impoverished teenagers serve draconian sentences for rolling a marijuana joint, wealthy bankers revel in a binge of unaccountability, demonstrating that the ideals of justice are often a facade for a system dictated by class. Tragically, our justice system has devolved into a virtual caste system where punishment no longer reflects the severity of the crime.

These dangerous trends can no longer be ignored. As the deplorable death of Eric Garner indicates, the stratification of our justice system is a national crisis for which blood is being shed. Garner’s daughter said in response to her father’s death, “justice, to me, is basically doing what’s right.”  With millions of Americans still protesting, and the inequities of our justice system increasingly evident, we must too ask ourselves: “Do we have the will to do what’s right?”


It’s Saturday morning and I wake up to the smell of blueberry pancakes from the kitchen. I yawn, and get out of bed and head towards the bathroom. I look at myself in the mirror, see my eye bags, and sigh. I wash my face and greet my mother with a “good morning” and a hug.

“Can I have two pancakes? I’m really hungry.” I ask as I pour myself a cup of milk.

“Yeah. I have to run some errands; I’ll be back soon.”

I stack the pancakes and pour over some syrup. Once I finish, I look around to see if there are any fruits on the counter. I don’t see any. Guess I have to go get some later.

As soon as my mother leaves, I call my best friend, Lily.


“Hey Lily. What are you doing today?”

“Nothing much. Why?

“We should go shopping.”

“Sure! Does an hour sound okay?”

“Yeah. See you.”

I quickly get dressed and place a few dollars in my pocket, along with my grandmother’s purple crystal. I grab my coat on the way out and lock the door behind me. I breathe in the crisp morning air and walk down the street to the corner store. When I enter, the bell rings above my head. I pick up two apples, a few pears, and a bag of grapes. I take them to the cashier, pay for them, receive my change, and place the coins in my pocket. I say “thanks” and go to the back, where the bathroom is. I get out my small notebook from my pocket and tear out a page from it, seeing that it’s the last. I put the empty notebook back in my pocket, not entirely sure why. I write, “do more of what makes you happy.” on the slip of paper, and leave it on the side of the sink, hoping that someone will see it later in the day, and smile. I leave the bathroom and make my way out of the store, hearing the bell ring once again. When I check my phone, I see that I received a text from Lily 3 minutes ago. I open it and read:

“i’m running late. hav some things i need 2 do.”

I text back, saying,

“no prob. c u.”

I go home and pack a small bag with my wallet, another small notebook, and a pack of gum. I catch up on Pretty Little Liars while I wait. I hear the doorbell buzz and I let Lily in.

“We need to see what the new clothing store sells,” I start. “I’m looking for a dress.”

“Okay, I need a skirt anyways since it’s getting warmer out. It’s not far, right?” she questions.

“No. Walking distance.”

We go out, and on our way to Topshop, Lily nods towards a sign that says “FREE SAMPLES – TAKE ONE!” and a basket of little soap samples in front of Sabon.

“Can we stop and see?” she motioned.


I take one that has a pretty blue-green color, only to see Lily stuffing her bag with a handful.

“Lily! What are you doing?!” I whisper, as I look around to see if anyone saw.

“Jeez, no one else’s taking them.” Lily rolls her eyes.

We continue our short walk to Topshop, and once we get there, we start our hunt of finding clothes we want. After an hour of rummaging around the sale rack, Lily pulls out a black, pleated skirt and I find a pastel blue, flowy dress.

“Aha!” Lily and I yell in unison. We turn to each other and giggle.

“Let’s go try these on.” I take Lily’s hand and pull her towards the changing room. I go in first, and as soon as I put on the dress, I feel like it’s summer. It fits nicely, and when I checked the price tag, I couldn’t believe my eyes. $20!! Something like this would usually cost me much more. I take out the notebook from my bag and write “you look beautiful!”. I tear out the page, and stick it on the mirror. I change back into my regular clothes, and send a signal to Lily that it was her turn. A few minutes later, she comes out, looking unsure.

“What’s wrong? Did you not like it?” I ask, pointing at the skirt.

“Oh, no. I’m not going to get it.” Lily replies. “It’s just that.. nevermind.”

“Just that what?”

“Nothing. Forget it.”

I pay for my dress, and as soon as we get outside, Lily exclaims,

“I have to go. I forgot about this thing I need to do today. I’m really sorry. I’ll see you on Monday.”

She ran off before I could reply. Confused, I turn back and head home.

The next afternoon, I emptied out my bag from the day before and realized that my grandmother’s crystal was gone.  I searched everywhere – my bedroom, my closet, my bathroom – but it was no where to be found.

Frustrated, I texted Lily.

L, i can’t find this crystal. its purple, have u seen it?

I get a reply quickly:

  1. do u want me to come over & look w/ u?

I respond happily.

yeah. thanks.

I continued my search as I waited for Lily to come. My face lights up when I hear the doorbell buzz. I let Lily in, and she starts looking in the living room. Where could it be? I thought. I’m pretty sure I took it with me when I went to the store and shopping. Maybe it fell out of my pocket.

I look at my grandmother’s picture and frown, angry at myself. I couldn’t lose the crystal – it’s one of the few things I have in memory of my grandmother before she died last year. I was in school; a regular Tuesday afternoon. I get called down to the office and see my mother sobbing, and that’s when I found out that my grandmother had died. The small crystal was given to me from her on my 12th birthday two years ago.

I move to the entrance to see if I might of dropped it there. Nope. I check my coat pocket, and feel something heavy. I pull the object out to reveal the sparkling crystal.

“Oh! There it is! Li-” I stop. This isn’t my coat pocket. It’s Lily’s. I walk over to the living room, crystal in hand, where Lily is busy searching under the couch.

“Hey. Any luck?” I ask calmly. Lily pops her head out, and shakes her head.

“No, sorry.” She immediately sees the crystal in my hand, and her eyes widen. She continues shakily, “Y-you found it!”

“Yeah, in your coat pocket. Why would you take it?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She avoids my eyes.

“Lily, do you know how important this is to me?”

“It’s a stupid crystal. Calm down.”

“It’s not stupid. It’s my grandmother’s.” Tears well up in my eyes. I see Lily’s face soften.

“Juliette, I’m sorry. I really am. I didn’t know it was her’s.”

“What were you going to do with it?”

“Um, I was going to take it to the jeweler’s and have it smoothed and carved so I could give it to my mom on her birthday.”

“But you knew it was mine. Is that why you needed to go suddenly yesterday?”

“Yeah. I found it in the changing room. But I didn’t know the crystal was special. My mom just lost her job, and-”

“Wait, what? She loved her job! How come you didn’t tell me?” I interrupt.

“I know. I haven’t told anyone. And her favorite color is that shade of purple. I wanted to save up my money to get it done, so I could give it to her.”

“Hold on.” I take out my phone and dial my mother’s number. After two rings, I get a faint “hello?”. I explain my situation, and receive silence.

“Mom? What should I do?”

“Honey, that crystal is very special, but it’s your decision. Do what you think is right.”

I turn around and see Lily on the couch. I look down at the crystal and say,

“Lily, I want you to have it. But please don’t carve it or anything.”

She stands up and hugs me.

“But I think you should go… I need some time alone.” I added.

“Yeah, of course. Thank you though. For this.” Lily lifted the crystal.

As soon as the door closes behind her, I fall back on the couch and sigh.

That night, I get a text from Lily before bed.

“J, me and my mom wanted 2 say thnx again. ily”

I respond with,

“ofc! hope everything turns out well <3”

But half of me still wished I had kept the crystal. I fall asleep hoping I made the right choice.

Assassin’s Greed

Jenna climbed through her window. She spent three minutes lying on the floor, trying to pull herself together. That was the most fun she’d had in a month! She was also getting paid twice as much as she ever had been. 20 thousand dollars! For one guy! She pulled herself off the floor — she was exhausted from running from the cops in her high heels. Maybe she should change her footwear — or maybe she shouldn’t. It was so much easier to beat up guards in high-heels than in sneakers or any other type of shoes. She pulled off her suit, then her mask, then her shoes. She climbed into the bed and she fell asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.

Jenna was a selfish person. She didn’t care what anyone else needed. She didn’t care what people thought of her. She stole from people, she killed other people, she acted like a child, except when she had to act like an adult. She did her job, came home, ate candy, played video games, and read kids’ books. Those were fun, and they took her mind off things. The things that scared her the most were the people who tried to tell her to change. She was scared she would listen. She knew what she did was bad, and she knew she was a bad person, but she didn’t want to be a good person. If she became a good person she would have to care about other people. She hated other people. Other people had killed her parents. Other people had made her this way. Sometimes she would curl up on her bed and pretend she was 14 again, before her parents died. She would pretend they were outside the door, talking about how their little girl was ‘growing up so fast.’ They didn’t know how fast.

She taught herself to shoot a gun and fight, in the foster home. The people in foster care hadn’t wanted her to, so they were her first victims. She needed money, so she used her talent to make money. Killing gave her peace, and it was fun. She loved to have fun.

Jenna woke to the sound of a loud jackhammer drilling into the sidewalk. Her sidewalk. She would have thrown a knife at that ***hole, but too many people were watching. They would call the police, the police would arrest her, she would end up in jail, and she would have to spend however long in a cell with other people. And she wouldn’t have her weapons to kill them with. If she had to share a cell with a man, he would probably try to ‘impress her’ by being strong. He wouldn’t understand how strong she actually was. Then one day she’d kick his *** and he’d get mad and attack her. She’d then kick his *** again, then break his neck. And she’d enjoy it.

She stood and stretched. She was getting paid today. First thing she’d have to do was buy more bullets for her gun. Then some more knives, then food. Work always came before personal needs. What she wanted more than anything was to buy her own little island and live there with no one but one servant. Away from all the other people who hated her and wanted her dead just like her parents.

She walked out of her room to make breakfast for herself. She turned the TV on. She always enjoyed watching people react to her jobs.

“Last night, Matthew King was killed as he lay sleeping in his bed. His children, 15-year-old Annie, and five-year-old Jason, found him this morning when he wouldn’t come down for breakfast. Who killed Mr. King? Wherever you are, I hope you can’t sleep at night with what you’ve done.” Jenna had had enough. She changed the channel to the Cartoon Network. One of her favorite cartoons was playing — Adventure Time.

She never really paid attention to family of any of her targets. If the person had 50 kids that all needed him or her, Jenna didn’t care. This was mostly because a lot of her targets didn’t have kids, only spouses, and sometimes siblings. This was probably the first time her target actually had a family.

She didn’t care. The other people hadn’t cared, and neither would she. It wasn’t her job to care, it was her job to kill.

She heard knocking at her door. As fast as she could, she turned the TV off, and was at the door. The man standing outside had a smile on his face.

“Thank you, Ms. Johnstone,” he said, reaching out a hand to her. She shook it and invited him in.

He declined and took out a nice leather wallet.

“Your money’s in there. Check if you want. I know you can find me and I won’t try to cheat you out of your money,” he said with a smile on his face as she reached her hand into the wallet and counted the 500 dollar bills that filled it.

Exactly the right amount. She put the wallet on the table right by the door, shook his hand again, and said she hoped to see him again. She was lying. She hated the man — she hated everyone.

She closed the door behind him and locked all ten of the locks she had installed. She fell onto her couch, smiling. She turned the TV back on. She laughed along with all the characters as they made awful jokes with their stupid humor. They were funny to her – it didn’t matter what anyone else thought of the show. If she liked it, she would watch it.

She heard screaming coming from outside. At first she ignored it — people were always screaming outside. It would stop eventually. But the screaming didn’t stop. It just got louder and louder until Jenna couldn’t hear the show anymore because of all the noise.

She paused it and ran to the window, throwing it open.

“Shut the f*** up before I come out and murder you myself!!” she yelled angrily at the men under the window.

“S-sorry Miss.” They looked like they were trembling.

She had scared them. That was the first time she had scared anyone when not wearing her suit. It felt amazing. She placed a threatening smile on her lips and they trembled harder.

“If I hear you again, I will come out there and break both your necks,” she said darkly, with the same smile on her face. She then slammed the window closed and continued to watch her cartoon.

This episode was about Finn and Jake finding a scavenger hunt that Jake’s father had left behind for them. Jake’s family had taken Finn in when he was a child. This episode made Jenna think.

What she had done last night felt like this episode. Two kids, one adopted and one genuine. She had taken their father from them. She was just like the other people — the people who had taken her father. She had done the same thing to two kids, one who was only five years old.

For the first time in six years, Jenna started to feel something other than sadness, or hatred, or the cold fun that came from killing. She felt regret. She was a murderer. She had ruined a family just like her’s. Maybe they weren’t exactly the same, maybe the Kings were rich and only had one parent, but they had still been a family. And she had ruined it.

She turned her attention back to the cartoon, but it didn’t make her feel happy. It made her feel worse. She changed the channel to Boomerang. Yogi Bear was playing. It didn’t cheer her up. How? She loved Yogi Bear. It just made her feel like a kid.

She wasn’t a kid, was she?

She certainly acted like a kid. She felt like a kid. She did things little kids do. She ate too much candy and got stomach aches, she read picture books, she played video games, she watched cartoons. The only difference she could find between her and a normal kid was that she didn’t have parents to tuck her in at night, or read the picture books to her, or tell her to turn off the TV, or to stop playing video games, or to tell her not to eat so much candy.

Annie and Jason King had that, until she showed up.

She had been paid 20 thousand dollars to destroy a family. And she never failed her jobs. What was going to happen to Annie and Jason? Would they be separated? Were they going to a foster home, just like she had? Would they run? Would they end up like her? Looking for revenge, and enjoying hurting others? She didn’t want that.

She quickly changed the channel back to the news.

“Matthew King left it in his will that his children will stay with their butler. They will be taken care of, and kept safe until Annie grows old enough to inherit her father’s money,” the announcer said.

Jenna gave an audible sigh of relief. They weren’t going to foster care, and they weren’t going to run away like she had. People in foster care rarely cared about the children they had taken in. At least the Kings wouldn’t end up like she had.

She didn’t want anyone to end up like her.

She was a monster. All the people who had told her that she didn’t have to hurt them — they had been right all along.

And she had just realized it.

Happy Face

I was a happy faced girl. Too happy, or not happy enough.

I never really knew how I felt.

I kind of just pretended, not knowing what to feel, crying on birthdays, laughing at funerals. Getting weird looks for my outbursts of emotion,

Like I was the only troubled one.

Except…I knew I wasn’t. Everyone was programmed to a certain extent, but I wasn’t.

I was to live my own life and feel my own way.

People were told how to feel in different situations – sad, anxious, depressed, or happy.

I was the only one who could feel my own way, be my own person, go a different way.

Left if right. Right if left.

A ratio of emotions, that no one…not even I could control. My mind and body would free themselves and feel what they wanted.

I would never be tied down to humanity’s prefixes of an average girl.

I know I’m not the only one…

but for now I will be a happy faced girl, too happy, or not happy enough.

Till The End

I’m falling into the blackness, the blackness surrounding me and engulfing me like fire when it’s engulfing you with flames. I’m falling and I’ve been falling for hours, or that’s what it feels like, but let me start from the beginning of my childhood before I was in a world filled with war and death.

I was born on Earth in 1989 in upstate New York, where I was raised by my father and mother until my mother caught a sickness that was unknown — a sickness that nobody had ever had.

This is the story of me trying to find the source of the unknown sickness.

I was ten when I learned that my mother’s sickness could not be cured. I was heartbroken, but the day that she died, a miracle happened — something impossible — something humans do not believe in. “Aliens.” I had ran out of the hospital when my mother died. I ran straight out of her room and out the doors of the hospital, nobody stopping me. I fell down into the grass crying, my face in my hands, then all of a sudden the darkness of the night is replaced with light. I look to see what it is, and see a ship with blue light hovering over me. “No, it can’t be,” I say to myself. Before I can think anymore, I black out…

I wake up inside of a large area on a very comfortable bed or couch. I try to sit up but see that I’m strapped to the plush seat. I see a room, and a little farther away from me I see another room, and in that room I hear a lot of voices. I call for someone and hear silence overcome the room in front of me. Someone comes out — an alien girl or woman. She has a blue face with brown hair. She comes over to me and says, “You’re up, young one.” I’m very surprised that this thing, this alien, is speaking a human language.

“Where am I?” I ask with a slight sputter.

“You’re in space, young one, but we will land soon.”

I wait for an hour or so and fall asleep, and when I wake up I’m in a shipyard on this sand planet. I try to sit up and see that I’m not strapped to the bed anymore. I get up and jump onto the ground, immediately feeling pins and needles. I walk to the door where the aliens were before and see that nobody is there. I go inside the room and see that the walls are covered with guns and other weapons of all sizes. I grab a pistol and a handleless blade of some kind and put them in my pockets. I creep to the exit of the ship and see that nobody’s there. I push a button, opening the door. The shipyard has many different types of ships, some very different from the one that I had been in. I carefully creep out the door and jump onto the sand. “Wohh,” I say. It feels so different walking on a planet that isn’t earth. I walk behind ships, making sure nobody sees me. I walk through the shipyard and into the city. The city’s buildings are very different from the buildings on earth. These buildings are made completely out of diamond and other very different materials. I walk through the city seeing many different beings. I feel like they are all watching me because I’m a human, something they are not. I walk into an alleyway into a set of houses and see that it’s a dead end. I turn around to see a gang of aliens with guns and knives. Oh no, I think, do I really have to die today? The aliens come toward me, teeth showing. Then a miracle happens — the alien girl from the ship comes out of nowhere and slices the alien’s necks.

”You ran away,” the alien says.

“Ya,” I say. ”I didn’t know who you were.”

“Perhaps I should have explained to you who I am. Come with me — I need to take you somewhere safe.”

So I go with her to a small building in the corner of town. She explains that she is here to protect me from the aliens that had cornered me in the alleyway. She explains that they are the aliens who know about the sickness that had killed my mother, and they might have been the aliens who had killed my mother. I now know the alien girls name — it’s Nishinida. I now have a friend — someone that will help me find the sickness. We leave in the night to go get food and other materials. We stop at a grocery store of some kind. The grocery store has many different types of foods that I’ve never seen before. The fish are very creepy they have three eyes or two heads. Nishinida gets one of those three eyed fishes and some weird long reptilian-looking animal that is still flipping around when the fish guy gives it to us. As we leave, Nishinida tells me that we needed to make another stop. I follow her to a clothing store. “If you’re going to stay, you’re going to have to stay in fashion,” she says.

I go inside and see what she means. The clothes here are nothing like the clothes that I am wearing. I grab a sheath from a rack holding weapon accessories and show it to Nishinida. “You need clothes that fit this galaxy, you can have the sheath but clothes will help you blend in and make it hard for the aliens to find you and kill you,” she said. I walk around, trying to find something that fits, trying on big clothes, making me feel stupid and awkward. I finally find something that I like that fits — it’s a green jacket with gloves that have knives that come out of the knuckles, kinda like wolverine from the X Men. I settle with the outfit and take it to Nishinida. She stares at it for a little while and then takes it and puts it on the cashier’s desk. We leave the clothing store with my new outfit and go to the small house.


I wake up with my face on the floor and my legs in a chair — a very awkward pose for sleep but I guess I haven’t ever really slept in a chair. I smell smells coming from the kitchen. Nishinida’s making breakfast. It makes me think of my mother’s cooking. She’s probably making some alien breakfast and I’m hungry but I have no idea what the food tastes like so I’m not that interested in eating. I walk into the kitchen and find that she’s not making an alien breakfast — she’s making pancakes.

“Yum,” I say when I walk over to her.

“You’re up.”

“Uhh, ya,” I said.

“Well, breakfast’s ready.”

“K.” I sit down and eat my pancakes when I suddenly ask Nishinida how she knows that my mother is dead. “Some things you don’t want to know, John, but I can tell you something — the aliens are after you cause you have a power to destroy their kind and they think you want to.”

“Holy ***, me? How do I have an alien power?”

“You’re the alien, John, not anyone else.”

“Whatever,” I say.

“They killed your mother for the same reason.” I look at her like she’s crazy because my mother died from a sickness, not because of some crazy gang of crazy aliens.

“What are we going to do today?” I ask.

“I want to investigate where the aliens’ hideout is.”

And that’s what we did. We went into the city to try to kidnap the enemy aliens. We went into the city and stayed in the most well-known spots so the enemy aliens would come at us. We went to at least five different places before we actually realized that the aliens were following us, but when we realized we made sure that it looked like we didn’t know that they were following us. We went into a dead end so we could fight the aliens. Sure enough, the aliens were following us. They cornered us in the alleyway, their guns pulled out. We pulled our guns out too.

“Don’t kill one,” Nishinida whispers to me.

I grip my pistol tightly and press my finger against the trigger. The bullet speeds towards one of the aliens’ heads. It goes through the head, making him drop to the ground dead. Nishinida has killed at least two aliens while I killed that one, leaving two left. I shoot the alien on the right. Nishida jumps on the other alien and puts the alien’s hands on its back. She grabs handcuffs from her pocket and puts them on the alien’s wrists and throws him in a chair. She speaks in an alien language to the alien while she grabs a knife from her belt. She questions the alien about many different things and in the end she lets him go.

She says, “The hideout is 100 miles away from this planet.”

We run to the ship and jump in it, the employees of the shipyard trying to stop us from taking off. We get through all the craziness and we are in space. I see that the hideout looks like a giant metal planet in space. As we get closer to it, I see how big it actually is. It’s two times the size of the planet we were just on. We fly to the top of the hideout and land there. We jump out and a bunch of aliens come at us and start shooting us. I shoot back at them, killing one, but there are maybe ten or so. Nishinida throws a grenade from her belt, killing all ten of the aliens.

“We have to blow up the hideout,” Nishinida says, and she hands me a giant explosive.

I put it on the opposite side of the hideout from where I am, and then I see Nishinida’s ship lifting up off of the planet with Nishinida in the ship just as I start the device. I run as far away from the explosive as I can waiting for it to explode. Booom. I get pushed into space at the impact and this is where I’m falling into nothingness, into blackness, into the darkness of space.


In the gymnasium, I’m barely breathing in the thin air. I’m next, I’m next, I’m next, I’M NEXT!!! That’s what’s going through my mind, mostly because I’M NEXT. When I hear the whistle blow I take my time moving through the cones, slowly. The stick between my fingers feel like it’s melting but it’s glued to my hands. Almost there, 3, still going, 2, you can make it, 1…I made it!! Yes, and I got 100. I run to go sit down and give my friend a high five. As I watch everybody else take their test I’m on the bench with my legs crossed. I ask to go to the bathroom but Mr. Roman tells me that there are three minutes of class left.

He says, “C’mon, Unique, you can hold it.”

“Okay,” I respond.

We are lining up to go into the elevator, now I’m in the back struggling. Then I hear wires shrieking, and everybody’s chatter.

My friend Alicia asks me, “What happened?”

My response is a shrug. The teacher calmly informs everybody the elevator is stuck. Everybody starts to chatter again, so now the elevator is filled with a bunch of 7th graders talking. It’s like we’re standing in the middle of the Sahara desert and they talk and talk and talk and TALK!!!

About five minutes later everybody pulls out work and the loud talking turns into a loud whisper.

Me and my friend are in the back doing math homework. The best part of it is the answers are in the back. While the teacher was on the phone with another teacher, we peeked at the answers in the back of the book so I’m 100% sure I’m correct. As this happened I was distributing gum to the back row. Later the idiot boy that stuck his pen into the side of the button (that made the elevator stop) came over to me and Alicia.

“ Can I have gum and what’s the answer to number 4?” he asks flipping pages.

“So you get everybody stuck in this hot, smelly, stinky elevator and you have the nerve to come over here and ask for the answers!”

He looks embarrassed so I feel bad so I give him gum and tell him the answers are in the back. Then he gets a little smirk and starts to blush. I roll my eyes and smirk.

It feels like years, but sadly its been minutes. My friend and I are having a little argument about what the correct answers are for English. We ask Emily, the girl next to us, what she got for the answer. Emily and I got the same answers.

“Ha, told you,” I tease.

“Sometimes you can be a real pain, Unique.”

“I know that’s one of the many reasons people love me,” I stick out my tongue at her and she sticks hers back a me. Then we start to laugh.

For a moment the elevator is completely silent, so silent you could hear a feather drop.

Then everybody hears jingling of keys outside the elevator. Everyone packs up so I do the same. Then the elevator doors open. Our jaws DROP!!


The teacher stepped out then back in. Everybody was confused. The P.E. teacher pushed his hand out into the other world. His hand turned orange, everybody slowly backed away from the elevator doors.The teacher calmly put one foot out, then the next.

The hallway is no longer a hallway. It looks like we’re in the middle of a meadow. But it’s weird because the leaves aren’t green they’re blue, the trunks of the trees aren’t brown they’re yellow , the grass isn’t green it’s pink and the sunflowers aren’t yellow they’re purple!! The sky was the only normal thing about it. The aroma fills the air smelling of lollipops, gummy bears, gum drops,  sprinkles, candy canes, caramel, and CHOCOLATE!!!

As I ran out Alicia yelled my name and reached for me. It was too late. My body lunged into this unknown world hoping there was a bathroom near…but I guess not. I stood in the middle of this world and it spun around me slowly but yet quickly.

My entire outfit changed, my pants turned into a white jumper with a skirt, and I had on brown and white stripped knee high socks with a brown shirt.

“You look so pale! Are you okay?”Alicia asked me as she walked out the elevator and her outfit slowly changing.

“Yeah I’m fine. I’m just shocked by this world.”

My entire class walked out one by one, slowly.

“Tell me about it. I mean there’s nothing here. No food, buildings, service, PEOPLE!!!” Alicia said with a pouty face

“I know and are these outfits serious? I mean I look like an oompa loompa.”

“Yeah but seriously what’s with the two pony tails. My hair doesn’t even reach up to my elbow. I mean what am I three?”

“Yeah, thats not the worst part.”

“ What do you mean,” Alicia said with a puzzled face

“I mean the elevator doors are gone, our bags disappeared, and no phones anywhere to be found. How will we get out of here?”

“I don’t know,” Alicia said with tears in her eyes.

“I hope it’s soon because I really have to pee.”


I walked away and trekked up to Mr. Roman. He’s a tall, young teacher that can be funny sometimes but serious other times.

I tapped his shoulder three times gently. He didn’t respond. Again a little harder. Still no response. Finally, a lot harder, Mr. Roman whips his head around so quickly that his neck looks as if his head would snap.

“WHAT,” he says with his face reddening.

“Whoa! Calm down.”

“Oh I’m sorry. I was lost in my thoughts.”

“It’s ok,” I said.

“Well hey. What’s up?”

“I was going to ask how we are going to get out of here.”

“Oh, well that’s what I was thinking about. Do you have an idea?”

“Me?” I said with a shocked face

“It was just a thought.”

“Ok,” I turned around and walked back to Alicia. She turned to look at me with a perplexed face.

“So, what did he say?”

“He has no idea. He practically spat in my face.”

“Wow, well guess we’re stuck here,”Alicia said rolling her eyes.

“I guess so.”


Soon everybody turns their head to a loud horn sound. Then birds fly out from the trees in a distance. Mr. Roman tells everybody to find a partner, stay close, and to follow him. Alicia and I connect immediately, then I feel an extra arm attach onto mine. I look to my left and there he is– Zayne. He looks at me with a big cheesy smile showing his perfectly white teeth.

“Let go of me you neanderthal.”

“Wasn’t ‘idiot’ bad enough?” Zayne said, putting his hands up in defence.

“Well, not if you’re both,” I said, sticking my tongue out.

“Hey. Why are you so–,” He stopped as he saw something in the distance. As I looked in the same direction as him and I saw what he saw. It was unbelievable, I never saw anything like it in my life. He looked at me and I looked back at him, everybody is looking at this unknown creature.

I saw an over-sized emu bird, that was maybe bigger than an elephant. Its colors were unusual. At about 10ft tall this bird had cerulean and electric lime brightly colored feathers.

“Do you know what that is?” he said breaking the long silence.

“No, what it is?” I said, with a sarcastic face.

“That’s an elephant bird. It went extinct in the 17th century. Their closest relative is an ostrich. They were only found on the island of Madagascar. They’re up to 10ft tall and can weigh up to 1,100 pounds!”

“Whoa! How do you know all of these facts about the bird?”

“My dad has been an archaeologist for 7 years and you learn a few things when that’s all he talks about,” he said and we both laughed.

“And your mom?” I asked.

His face got sober and so did mine.

“My mom died 3 years ago in a car crash. Me and my dad survived but she didn’t. We pulled out of the driveway and she was just reaching for her seatbelt. A drunk driver was going super fast and her air bag didn’t inflate in time.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” he said quickly.

“Oh yeah, let’s go back and find Alicia and the group.” I spun around so quick that the scent of my hair filled the air. “Where did our class go?”

“They were here just a second ago.”

We both ran around the field, to the edge of the woods, and down the hill to a yellow pond with purple ripples and they were nowhere to be seen.




We’ve been walking for about an hour and I felt that we passed the same tree about seven times already.  I was hungry, my feet hurt, and there was an annoying buzzing sound that was driving me crazy. We passed the same tree an eighth time around, suddenly the air started to smell of sweet, fluffy, cotton candy. A magical bright pink fruit appeared on the tree. I watched more fruit grow. A wooden post on the tree said a “EAT ME”. I turned around and Zayne was gone. I looked back at the tree and saw Zayne reaching for the fruit. I ran over to him and slapped the fruit out of his hand. The ground began to shake when it fell, it sank deep and a headstone popped up. ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Peach R.I.P’ it read.

“Look what you did!” yelled Zayne.

“What are you doing?” I screamed.

“I’m just hungry and there’s nothing to eat–unless you have something to eat and you’re not sharing.”

“Why do you always think I have something? What am I a store?”

“Every time at lunch you have like a chocolate bar or some kind or candy.”

“You’re so smart,” I said sarcastically, “don’t you think if I had something to eat I would’ve probably ate it already?”

“Yeah but you have sharing issues. You could of eaten it behind my back and I couldn’t of known. Ever since I met you you never gave me anything.”

“Everyday you always ask me for my stuff and I always give you. I’ll admit I hate sharing but I do it anyways.” I said getting frustrated.

“No, you don’t. What have you ever given me?”

“I gave you gum in the elevator,and at lunch I gave you Starburst, Gushers, Kit Kat, Skittles, Nerds and a piece of my Hershey bar.”

“Oh whatever. I’m still eating the fruit,” he scampered to the tree, grabbed the fruit, and took a big bite.

He had a savory look on his face, like he took a bite out of heaven. He watched me and and I watched him take another bite, then another, then another. He spat out the pit of the fuzzy wuzzy peach. The seed sank deep into the soil, a mini storm cloud appeared and started raining on the pit. A pink leaf popped out of the ground and slowly grew into a tree.

I walk away from him so he sprints over to me and I roll my eyes.

“Unique? Unique help me,” I turn around and see no one. Once again I hear my name

“Unique!” I look up to see Zayne slowly floating up.

“This isn’t funny!”

He grabs onto a tree and I start laughing. However, this tree doesn’t look like any ordinary tree that you would normally see back in the city. Its big like a skyscraper and it looks kinda perfect. The trunk is smooth, like a goldenrod color with no bumps or branches. The trunk is the size of the elevator in Barclays Center, the leaves were as thick as a Narnia book.

“Ok. Well instead of staring at this tree, can you help instead?”

Suddenly I see a head pop out of the tree Zayne is holding on tightly to. I look more closely at it, but it disappears.


“What are you looking at? Can you please help me?” Zayne says screaming, breaking my thoughts.

“Sorry. I thought I saw something.” I looked around to see if I could find a vine of some sort to pull him down. I looked under a bush to see if any vine was there, then looked behind a tree, and in a burrow.

“Look under the bush,” Zayne yelled.

“I looked already,” I hollered back

“Just check again maybe you missed something.”

I rolled my eyes and stomped over to the bush thinking about how arrogant he is. I bent down again, there it was…a rope. A golden orange rope that looked short and wouldn’t be able to reach Zayne.I picked it up, showed it to Zayne, and yelled, “It’s not long enough.”

“Just throw it and I’ll try to catch it,” he yelled.

My first attempt was not successful. I tried two more times and every time it was a fail.

“It’s not working. You don’t listen at all, all you do is bitch. You think that you’re better than everybody else and can do whatever you want. Sometimes it’s not all about you.You should consider–”

“Shh.” Zayne says putting his index finger up to his lips.

I rolled my eyes, “Who are you talking to, this is exactly what–”

“Shh.” He says in an intense voice as if he’s getting agitated.

I gave him that ‘I’m gonna kill you look’. He then pointed at the tree and I see a pair of bright blue eyes in the tree, staring at us, listening to our conversation, and watching our every move. Zayne slowly crawls the tree branch, then he falls flat on his face about five feet onto grass. The bright blue eyes suddenly disappear.

“Great, you scared it away,” I said resentfully

“How about a ‘Zayne are you okay?’” He said lifting up his head. I chuckle and run over to help him up.

“Hmm, must of wore off,” he says examining himself.

When he’s up on his feet we both stared into the fascinating tree that has a magical creature living in it. Suddenly I see a tail that is about one foot long with a poof the size of a baby’s fist at the end of it. Then we hear mumbling, and I nudge Zayne in the side and point over to the tail. The tail suddenly disappears behind the magical tree. Zayne and I approach the tree slowly and quietly, then we here more mumbling. I motion Zayne to stay here and I walk slowly over to the tree. I jump out where I heard mumbling and so did this mysterious creature, we then both leap backward with a shocked look on our faces.

I got a closer look at the creature, those weren’t the eyes I saw in the tree. This one had electric lime colored eyes. I stared intensely into them. Then the creature spoke:

“Who are you? What are you doing here? How did you get here? Why are you invading our land? You don’t belong here.” The creature went on and on with more questions. Suddenly another one appeared, this one didn’t look as bad as the first. This one had bright blue eyes, I’m positive these were the eyes I saw, they were bright blue eyes that could hypnotize you if you stare into them too long. They looked the same except their eyes. They had an orange-yellowish color with a high tabletop hair cut. They were only about three feet tall, and skinny legs with three toes. The creature that was asking me all these questions stared at me like it was looking for answers.

I felt like I was standing there a bit too long. All of a sudden I got this weird feeling like I had to let something go. Then I remembered I have to pee!

I feel my warm face turning cold like a pale color. I asked if there was a restroom near. The creature pointed to box the size of a porta potty maybe three times bigger, that wasn’t there before. I stared back at the creature like he was crazy.

“What is that?”

“A bathroom” he said with a straight face and a Scottish accent.

“So, you’re telling me I have to go in that?”

He nodded, “It looks better on the inside, than the out,”

I walked slowly to the porta potty. I walked in and it was the most amazing bathroom in the world (bathrooms aren’t really that big in my house). It wasn’t just a regular toilet. This toilet hung on chains. The toilet paper was glowing like a glow stick that you buy at a carnival, and the holder was a skeleton that matched the toilet paper.

Using the bathroom just came naturally to me. I didn’t have to think about anything else. Only that was on my mind. I had a little fun on the toilet when I started to use it the toilet started swinging back and forth. Finally, when I had my fun I went to wash my hands. The water was fine at first, then it became scorching hot so I rapidly pulled my hands back, putting them to my sides. Soon the water started turning grey, then black. The water wasn’t water anymore, it became a figure. It slowly creeped out of the faucet as I backed away. I tried pulling open the door, but it was stuck! I pulled harder with all my force. A big black monster appeared from the sink and stood before me. He was about seven times bigger, wider, and stronger than me. Again I tried opening the door, but instead of pulling I pushed, it still didn’t work. I let out a colossal scream so loud the monster had to shield its ears with his hands.

The black monster grabbed me and yelled, “What are you and what are doing in my world?” That word stood out to me, ‘my world.’ Was it really ‘his’ world? Was he just saying that to scare me? I could hear Zayne knocking on the door and yelling my name. I tried to move quickly to the door, but the monster grabbed me again. I felt like a hamster being squeezed by a one-year-old baby. All of a sudden, I see a white figure creeping on the monster’s shoulder. My eyes suddenly shift over the monster’s shoulder and I see a small white cat, about the size of my palm, watching me with its huge eyes.

“Meow, who are you?” the cat said with a sweet baby voice.

My eyes suddenly grew as big as the cats and I watched the cat yawn and its eyes focused back on me and the cat spoke again.

“Meow, do you speak English?”

“Uhh, yes.”

“Meow, then answer me.”

When I heard a louder knock, my head quickly shifted to the door, Zayne came bursting in shouting my name. He hurtled toward me and the monster who held on to me so tight. Zayne hopped upon the monster’s back and tried to take him down. The monster dropped me onto the hard marble floor. I realized the cat jumped off his shoulder and was looking at me from under the sink. I thought about how close the monster was to his cat (it was a cute cat). I crawled over to the cat, snatched its small body, and grabbed it by its paws so it wouldn’t try to scratch me. The cat gave a loud cry and the monster snapped his neck so hard he fell onto the marble floor.

The cat’s eyes suddenly grew bigger and bigger as he realized the monster wasn’t moving. The room grew dark, abruptly a portal showed up. It wasn’t a regular portal, it looked like a black hole. It looked liked the milky way galaxy all swirled into one hole. It was really pretty.The cat quickly jumped out of my hands and onto the monster’s huge chess. He meowed, and meowed, and meowed. Zayne walked slowly step-by-step to the portal. I nabbed his upper arm and yanked it so hard he tripped backward.

“What are you doing?” I said with an annoyed voice.

“What if thats the way home?” he said with a little innocence on his face.

“Yeah, but what if it’s not?”

“Then it’s not,” he said walking closer to me. Unexpectedly he grabbed my face and his lips met mine. I didn’t realize it at first, but he was kissing me. It lasted about ten seconds, he then picked me up and jumped into the portal. The trip was about three minutes of screaming and flailing. Then, by surprise, we both rolled onto the grass. When I stopped on my back and was breathing hard, I quickly realized where we were. We were back in New York, specifically in Central Park. I look at Zayne and he was laying there on the ground daydreaming. A dog jumped on me and started barking at me and licking my face. I became conscious of whose dog this is. It was Alicia’s, I quickly jumped up and saw Alicia running toward me. I ran to her as well. We gave the tightest hug we possibly could.

“Oh my gosh! Where were you? The class went bonkers looking for you guys.” There was a pause. She pointed at Zayne “What’s wrong with him?”

“Honestly, I really don’t know.”

“Where’s the rest of the class?”

“Do you know what time it is?” She pulled out her phone and showed me the time. It was approximately 6:00pm.

“Oh. Well I just want to go home and sleep.”

I was back in my regular clothes, my black pants, a white and red shirt, and my red sneakers. I pulled out my phone to text my mom. Alicia walked toward Zayne and I heard everything they said.

“What’s wrong with you?”

Zayne took a long sigh. “I kissed her,” he said with his eyes staring up into the bluest sky, with his hand resting on his stomach.

“Oh wow.”



The road is dark. But the bright headlights light up the road. Or, you know, the part of the road I can see. There are patches of crumbling asphalt, and parts of rocky gravel, and strips of dusty sand. All I can see are tumbling rocks to my left. All I can see are crumbling rocks to my right. The open window lets in the cool night air. The headlights light up the pear cactus, and as I pass them, the shadows follow in the opposite direction. The scraggly landscape of the Texas hill country goes on for miles and miles until it goes so far into the dark that I can see no more.

I drive into a patch of fog. This is what the people warned me about. The fog blocks my view, as if it was out to get me. It’s staring at me, using the light of my headlight to see. But maybe the fog is too thick. At least I can hope so. I’m not scared, I tell myself. I keep repeating it until it’s finally true. But the seed of the fear just keeps coming back, growing stronger as that fog gets thicker.

The windy road continues uphill. The gravel under the firm wheels of my car make a rumbling sound. The crickets chirp and the katydids trill. The chorus of the night time swells and then lingers, but soon the sounds swell again.

The further I go, the darker it seems to get. If that’s even possible. Just when I feel like I can’t stay here any longer, trapped in this car, the headlights illuminate a little wooden house. It looks…somewhat inviting. I guess? I had expected something more supportive for an actual visitor.

I park the car a couple feet away from the front porch. There are two deck chairs with beaten down cushions, and an old rocking chair that is falling apart. It’s missing a couple of bars in the back and a patch in the seat. I sling on my backpack and walk around to the back of the car. I pop the trunk and heave out my old suitcase. I drag it up to the front porch. I stick my hand into the biggest pocket of my green cargo pants, and I find an envelope that reads To David, Love Mom and Dad. I rip it open and grab the little key. I jam it into the lock on the door, but the force of the my arm into the door makes it open anyway.

I step inside, and a storm of dust immediately hits my face. I brush it off and continue into the room. I flip the switch on the wall to the right of me, but the light doesn’t turn on. There is a fireplace on the wall of the main room. I step onto the porch and grab the loose pieces of the rocking chair. Once I’m inside again, I toss them into the little fireplace. But I need some dry kindling. There is a pile of newspapers next to the fireplace dated as old as 1984. I strike a match and coax out the flames from the dry paper. A flame bursts into light and illuminates the room. Now I can see.

There is a closed window on the far wall, and I walk over and open it for some fresh air. There is a couch that has moth-eaten cushions, and a little armchair with a sunken seat cushion. I sit down in it, and it collapses below me. The wind is knocked out of me, but when I regain my breath I sit up and wander around the room. It’s small and maybe it used to be quaint but it seems like now the inviting element of it is drowning in a tangle of cobwebs and dust. The mantle is empty except for a lonely, bent nail. There’s a beat up gas stove in the corner of the room, next to a porcelain sink that’s in desperate need of a wash down. I reread the letter from my parents. It says:

Dearest Darling David,

So sorry to kick you out. We hope you enjoy this little getaway! Give us a call! Love you.

Love, Mom and Dad

So this is a getaway. I had achieved a getaway from my mom and dad, thankfully. But now I would like to get away from this getaway that I had used to get away. It wasn’t always this bad. I used to be optimistic and cheerful. But after New York, that all went downhill.

I had just moved into a little apartment in New York. It was a nice little place, small rooms, small furniture, a small bed, but the rent was small too. I had always dreamed of being an author, and I got an amazing publishing offer from New York. So I packed up my home in Houston,  Texas, and moved to the Big Apple. But then the publisher dropped me because I was writing memoirs and that’s not what they were looking for. I couldn’t pay the bills for the apartment. I booked the next flight back to Houston, and drove down to Galveston, where my parents had a little beach house. But then they had just decided to take off to Paris for a vacation, and they started renting out their beach house. Which meant that I had to leave. At least they left me with a week in this house. So I left Galveston and drove into the night. And here I am. I had anticipated some nice, peaceful cabin that I could stay in. And now I am left with just a little shack that will collapse with the push of a finger.

I sit up. A yawn escapes my mouth, and I realize how tired I am after driving all night. I wander through the door closest to me, right next to the fireplace, and it’s a little bedroom. There is small iron cot with a thin mattress and tattered sheets. Moth-eaten curtains billow in the soft night air. The moon and a million stars wink at me through the window. Maybe this is a peaceful getaway after all.

I change into pajamas and slip into bed. It’s a good thing that it’s summertime, otherwise the thin sheets wouldn’t be enough. The drowsiness washes over me the second my head hits the pillow. But sleep does not come.

15 minutes, and sleep does not come. 30 minutes and sleep does not come. 1 hour and sleep does not come. No matter what, I can’t sleep.

So I surrender to the only thing I can: reading. I stand up and hobble over to my backpack. I rummage around for my book, but I can’t find it anywhere. I look in my suitcase too, and finally I give up and assume that I left it at Mom and Dad’s. Maybe there’s a book somewhere in the house that I can read.

I scurry up to the main room, and search for a book. The first one I see is sitting alone on the mantle above the fireplace. I pick it up. The dusty, red leather cover is faded and worn, and I read the title. But it is so faded that I can’t make out any words.

My desperation to end the boredom overpowers me, and I lift up the book and carry it to my room. I lay down on my couch, and the rusty springs sigh below me as I settle in. I crack the spine of the book and flip to the first page.

The road is dark. But the bright headlights light it up. That is, the parts of the road that David can see. The broken up road guides David through the hill country.

David drives into a patch of fog. His breath becomes fast, his heart skips a beat. I’m not scared, David tells himself. He keeps repeating this. And finally he believes it’s true. But he could not be more wrong.

I must be imagining this. It’s just my mind playing tricks on me. This can’t be about me. It’s just another David, another person driving at night…in the same place…with the same name. It’s not probable. Not possible. Right?

David arrives at the little cabin his parents had rented for him. It is small, and he begins to feel disappointed. He starts a fire in the living room. That holds it off. For now.

My heart stops beating in my chest. My short breaths come through loud and wheezing, and the sound pierces the silence of the night. This story is about me. But I have to keep reading. I flip to the next page.

David looks over the house, and becomes tired. So he lies down in bed. But the spirit is keeping him awake. Of course, he can’t see it. And David has no idea that it is the one keeping him up. But it plants itself in his subconscious until he is unable to fall asleep. David tosses and turns until he decides to read a book.

What spirit is this book talking about? A feeling of fear creeps through my body, speeding my heart beat, making me shake all over. This simply cannot be happening. It’s not possible.

David creeps up to the large room and picks up the closest book. He opens it up. And after the first sentence, his face drains of color. He realizes that this book is about him.

I start shaking wildly. Maybe this is just a dream. I flip the page.


David turns the page. He feels a chill creep up his spine, and shivers until it is gone.

I instantly feel goosebumps popping up on my back and arms. My blue flannel pajamas are thin, and they can’t protect me from the cold. I close the window and grab my jacket. I stoke the fire, and start to feel a little warmer. I can’t read anymore. Because whatever happens in the book actually happens in real life. If anything bad happens in the book but I don’t read it, maybe it won’t come true. But what if that’s not the case? What if it will happen anyway? I finally decide to keep reading, because if it will happen anyway, it’s best to know.

David sits up. He had closed the window, but that doesn’t stop him. No, the spirit will always come back to haunt this house anyway.

What? What spirit? Is it the same spirit that supposedly kept me awake?

David has no idea of what he shares this house with. It is something that has been here in this house for years, rooted in the dirt beneath it, howling in the wind around it, shining in the moon above it, part of the very bones of the house itself.

David reads on, unaware of what his future holds. David–

No. I can’t read anymore. I don’t know what this is, or if it’s even real. I just don’t know anymore. My brain is tired, my stomach is growling, my head is throbbing, my heart is pounding. I never should have opened that book.

I stand up and stretch my arms. I need to do something to get my mind off of the book. So I grab my backpack from the corner of the living room and lift it onto the table. I unzip it and search through it, past my red composition notebook, laptop, wallet, water bottle, and finally locate the peanut butter and jelly sandwich that was in a ziplock bag. I devour it in a second. But I’m still hungry. I search my bag for anything else I might be able to eat. But there is nothing.

There are so many things I can do to pass the time. Maybe I can write, plan out what I would do when I left this house, even just look out the window at the stars. And yet everything feels useless, everything, that is, except reading the book. It seems to be pulling me in, dragging me by an invisible rope that I can’t seem to sever. So I just give in to reading it.

David tries to keep his mind off of the book. It scares him. It is everything that he fears. He values being alone, and the idea that something has been watching him just scares him to death. The book draws him in by a force that can be explained by nothing else except the close relation that he has to it. And it is closer than it seems.

I can’t read this anymore. I just can’t. I slam the book shut, and throw it into the smoky embers of the dying fire. I am too tired to do anything else. At least the book accomplished that. I walk into the bedroom and the most ghastly thing meets my eyes.

There’s a creature. It’s sitting in the chair, hunched over the desk, it’s head resting on a notebook, open to a page of messy writing. His hand is holding a pencil, whittled down to no more than a piece of lead. I can’t explain it. It looks…human. But it is like a human that’s been sitting at that desk for years, hunched over so much that it’s spine had stayed that way, and it had never stopped to eat anything or to even stretch since the moment it sat down. Its skin is grey and covered in wrinkles, as if it’s a shirt that was carelessly shoved into the back of a drawer. He has a tangled mess of white hair sitting atop his almost bald head. He is wearing blue flannel pajamas with various holes in them, and covered in spots. But the back of the pajama shirt is almost white as if the sun has been beating down on it for years.

My heart beats. Why is it wearing my pajamas? I must be imagining this. This whole night, the book, the creature, has all just been a dream? And yet…it feels so real, so vivid, that I can’t imagine it being something created by my mind.

I turn on my heel and the floorboard creaks below me. The man-creature-thing hears it and looks up. His sagging, long head turns and he faces me. His face is the scariest of it all. He has milky blue eyes, like beads. His eye sockets are deep, and the shadow makes them feel like an endless black hole. The bags under his eyes are dark and droopy, as if he hasn’t slept in days or longer. He stares at me for a while and then groans. It’s loud and deep. The sound gets louder and louder, and then it stops. And the only thing that I feel I can do is walk over to him…it…whatever it is.

I walk over to it, slowly, treading carefully so that I don’t startle it more. I hold it’s gaze, milky blue eyes locked in mine, a staring contest for the record book. I am closer to it now, an arms length away. I could touch it. And now I see the details in his face, wrinkles on his forehead from years of worry, a hairline so far back that it disappears behind his head, white, chapped lips that haven’t seen a bite of food in ages. And I hold his gaze, steady, personally, as if I’m looking at myself in a mirror.

Questions race through my mind. What is it? How did it get here? Why does it look as if it hasn’t moved in years, but it wasn’t here when I arrived? And what is it writing?

The only thing I can do is just move closer, and closer, until finally I am near enough that there is no more than an inch between us. I grab the closest thing I can to me, which happens to be the key to the house. It is sitting on the desk, and I can reach it if I stretch. I lengthen my fingers and flick the key into my hand, never breaking the gaze of the creature. I toss the key to the other side of the room, and the creature’s head whips around to find the source of the noise. And I use that fraction of a second to grab the notebook from below it’s head. It starts moaning again when it sees that the book is gone, and I dart out of the room and close the door. I sit on the couch and look over the notebook. It’s a red composition notebook, and on the cover it says Property of David Lancaster.

No. Not again. I can’t have more of this. I have no idea of how it all got here, the book, the creature, now this, and I’m not willing to take on any more. But I know that there’s no way I can just look over this book and then set it down. I have to open it up. I have to. So I open it and begin to read.

“The road is dark. But the bright headlights light up the road. Or, you know, what part of the road I can see. There are patches of crumbling asphalt, and parts of rocky gravel, and strips dusty sand. All I can see are tumbling rocks to my left. All I can see are crumbling rocks to my right.”

Somehow, for some reason, I knew it was going to say this. So I skip ahead to the part that I know I will find.

“I lay down on my bed, and the rusty springs sigh below me as I settle in. I crack the spine of the book and flip to the first page. The road is dark. But the bright headlights light up the road. That is, the parts of the road that David can see. The broken up road guides David through the hill country. David drives into a patch of fog. His breath becomes fast, his heart skips a beat. He tells himself that everything is okay. I’m not scared David tells himself. He keeps repeating this. And finally he believes it’s true. but he could not be more wrong.”

I know who this creature is. He was just someone who had had a terrible experience in a new city. He stumbled upon an old home, just trying to take some time where there would be no stress, where there would be no trouble. He stayed at the house, but trouble was the only thing that came. A book began to mimic his life, and he was left in fear, never leaving the house. And this notebook…it’s…it’s the man reciting his story. It’s David revealing the details of what happened that one night in that little house.

I grip the notebook as I slide back to my room. But the creature is gone. I sit at the desk with nothing to do. But an idea pops into my mind. I could…write my story. So everyone would hear. I could even publish it in New York! So I heave a sigh, grab a pencil, and start writing in my little red composition notebook. I had a strange feeling that I wouldn’t stop to stretch for a while.



How odd it was

her skin growing hollow

a sheepskin drum

hungry in the night.


And the days were hers alone.

Days of quiet

steps along hardwood.

Days sprawled across her funeral pyre

shielded from the dull morning light,


clutching her lover’s knife

as she watched the ships set sail.


Her hands fumbled with one another curiously


Her back pressed against the cool glass


wandering across her island prison

feeling the sand between her toes


Her hair fanned out about her head

She stood.

Her toes pressing against the porcelain floor


rising from the sea

sheathed in ivory foam.

How odd it was

That Something I Thought Was Worthy

“This is the time to fight for something. While you are in my class, you will have to work your butt off trying to show me what you can do…the world what you can do. For this year’s project, note that I said year, you will have to find something that you want, and write to me on why you believe you want this thing. Now, let me tell you, this will be a huge project, and you are going to receive a huge grade that will change your life! Do not let me down!”

The bell rings, and Mrs. Olsen nods for all of us to get lost. I honestly find this project ridiculous. I mean, what is something I would want that badly? I mean, Martin Luther King wanted voting rights. That’s something huge. Me, I fight for what color shoes I should wear each day.

But that’s not the worst part about it. I expected to do amazing. My family, all of my family never let their parents down. My mother went to Harvard, and now she’s a lawyer. My dad went to Princeton, and he owns a business. My big brother yearns to be an engineer, and he already has some scholarship money for MIT.

Who will I be? What will my parents say if I get a thirty on a quiz, or a sixty seven? Will I be ashamed? Will I hate myself forever? Will I want to be a foster kid? I don’t know.

I have to do this project and I have to show that I can be my mother or father, or brother. I have to continue this legacy. I can’t “ignore the beautiful potential that I have.” I imagine mom inside of my head, smiling at me, and rubbing my back.

Walking home, I feel like an inspector, waiting for the next wrong move. My eyes grow huge with every falling leaf on the floor.

I am finally home. I knock on the door, and see my Mom on the other side. I smile, and go inside.

“What happened at school today?” Mom asks.

“Nothing. Just a project,” I say.

“Mmm. Well, I trust that you will do amazing. Not good, or great. Amazing.”

“Thanks, Mom.”She smiles, and goes to the kitchen. I follow her. I sit at the table, and watch her cook. I happen to look out the window. I see my mom’s old plant. It looks like it’s wilting. Mom completely ignores it. It’s as if it could survive on its own. No one to hold. I go to the window, and touch the plant. It’s not dead yet. It’s almost dead, but not quite. Mom is cooking with all of her kitchen stuff. She has an apron, a hat and everything. She stands up straight, and walks only when she has to. Unlike me, when I see a burning stove, I run to that stove and try to solve the problem. With mom, she know how to do everything, and nothing ever goes wrong. I feel like the opposite of what she is. She knows what to do, and knows that it will never go wrong. With me, I have to hope it never goes wrong.

I eye the plant more closely, and I see something. It’s will to live. I see how hard it tries. I touch it’s rough surface, and see how hard it is to pick its little leaf up. I see the brown-black edges of the leaf, and I see how old the soil looks. I want to help it. I can help it. With my history project. This is what I was meant for. I look at Mom.


“Hey Mom, do you need this plant?” I ask.

“No. Why is it still there? I told Thomas to throw it out,” Mom says.

I am hurt. I’m glad my brother forgot to throw it out.

“Teresa? Dear, why do you look hurt?” Mom asks.

“Why would you ever think of throwing it out?” I ask.

“It’s about to drop dead.”

“But it’s only wilting. Don’t you see the potential it has? Don’t ignore it.”

“Teresa, take the stupid plant if you want to, alright?”

“Thank you. I will make this a beautiful plant. You’ll see.”

I walk to my room, and I hear Mom sigh in the background. I will prove my mother wrong, and show my family how good I am. I stomp into my brother’s room, and go inside. I look at all the awards he has gotten from his engineer stuff. He basically has his future planted out. I look down at my plant, and smile.

“What are you doing here, Teresa?”

I turn around, and see my brother with a friends, and they both look at me. Thomas. He just has to ruin everything.

“I asked you a question,” Thomas says, with anger.

“Um, I need paper,” I answer.

“Go to the printer room.”

“There is no paper in the printer.” That’s a lie. I filled it this morning.

“Liar. We were just there. There’s a whole stack of paper.”

“Ooh! Right. My bad. Well, can I get paper?”

“Ugh, fine! Just get out of my room!”

He hands me paper, and takes my arm and tries to pull me out of the room.  I lose balance, and I feel the plant almost falling down. No! I have to save the plant. It can’t die now. I take my right arm, and punch him in the arm. That was really his face. Uh-oh.

“Ow. Ow. Why did you do that?” Thomas screams, and closes his door shut. I look down at my plant. The plant is the only thing that matters now.

I run to my room, and close the door. I place my plant on my desk, and sit down on my chair. I try to find some way to make the plant unique. A name! Perfect, a name. George. George. That’s a cool name for a plant. I’m hoping. I run to the sink, and see my brother at the sink with a napkin to his nose. Great.

I walk past him, and open a cabinet for water. I use a nearby marker, and label it ‘George.’

I fill the cup with water, and I walk back to my room.

“You are weird. You know that?”

I am sitting down in my room, when I see my brother’s friend in the doorway.

“Um, what do you want?” I ask.

“That plant pot. It has a name,” he says.

“Yeah, okay.”

“Plants don’t have names.”

“They can have whatever they want to have. Stop being a jerk. Why don’t you go check on my brother’s broken nose instead of on my plant, okay buddy?”

“Alright. I’m sorry. My name’s Frank.”

“Well Frank, next time pick on something breathing like you.”

“What are you-”

“Leave me alone.”

“Okay, weirdo.”

He just called me a weirdo. For loving plants! Well, if weirdos care for all of the world, then yeah, I’m a weirdo.

The windows turn dark, and George looks tired. I smile at him one more time, and climb into bed.

When I wake up, George isn’t here. I get up fast. Where is George?




I run to the kitchen and see a plant by the window. George. Thank goodness.

I go to the window, pick up George, and sit down.

Mom shakes me awake. I’m on the kitchen counter. I hold George in my hands.

“Teresa? What happened?” Mom asks.

“I don’t know,” I say.

“You were sleeping with a plant.”

“Oh, George? He doesn’t mind.”

“George? Are you going through a mental state?”

“No. Why would you say that?”

“Doesn’t matter. You will have to have breakfast at school instead. I’m running late for work.”


I go to my room with George in my hands. I wear sweats and go to get my bookbag. I get my coat, and walk out the door. George still in my hands.


I’m finally in school. I see my friend Laura. She smiles.

I go to her and sit at the table for breakfast.

“So, what’s new?” She asks.

“Nothing much,” I say.

Laura smiles, and pulls out a container of salad. I freeze. Salad. That’s a plant. Why are we eating plants? Lettuce. How could she?

Laura takes a fork and grinds the lettuce. A murderer. My friend?

She holds her fork, and picks some lettuce up with it. I take my hand and knock her fork down. She jumps and looks at me with a startled expression. I look at her and give a nervous smile.

“What was that for?” Laura yelled.

“Um, you can’t eat plants. You were killing that plant,” I said.

“You can eat lettuce, Teresa! They are given to us by grocery stores! You can buy them to eat! Why are you suddenly this care-for-the-plant girl?”

I take off my bookbag. I open it and see George falling apart. One leaf fell off. I gasp. Laura looks at me. She walks over and looks at my plant. She rolls her eyes.

“Seriously?”  She says.

“Um, yeah. Hello, plants are people too,” I say.

“No, they are not! Do they have legs?”


“Then they aren’t people.”

“Laura! I don’t think I know you anymore. I think we need a break.”

“Are you serious? Teresa, you’re crazy.”

I’m crazy. I’m crazy, and she just said plants aren’t people. Yeah, okay Laura. Two can play at that game.

“I’m not crazy,” I start, “You’re just too selfish to look around at the beauty all around you.” I pull my plant out. “This poor thing can’t survive on its own.” I suddenly looks down, and notice how it looks worse. “Oh no. Give me water, now!”

Laura looks puzzled.

“Don’t just stand there like a statue! Help me!” I yell.

“I-I don’t know…” Laura starts.

“I said help me! What don’t you understand Laura?”

She goes in her bag, and gets some water. She holds it to herself.

“Laura, my best friend. Give me the water,” I say.

She shakes her head.

“Ugh!” I say.

I reach across the table, and grab the water bottle. Laura looks a little mad. I uncap the bottle and pour it on the plant. The soil gets wet, and I sigh relief. Laura grabs the water bottle from me, and walks away.

I think I might have lost a friend.

I think I really hurt my brother.

I think I freaked out his lame friend.

Just for wanting to save a plant.


Mrs. Olsen looks happy. I never know why. I take out my plant. I get the weird stare.

“Aww. Teresa has a plant as a friend since there are no humans who want to be her friend.”

I look behind me, and Maya Maystein laughs. I roll my eyes.

Mrs. Olsen says, “Everybody, half the class work on the year project, and half the class work on the actual lesson. Work!”

I get out some paper, and look at George. I write some details on how I will decide to save George. Mrs. Olsen looks at me. Then she walks to me.

“Hello, Mrs. Olsen.” I say.

“What are you doing, Teresa?” she says.

“Oh, I am writing about how I will save my plant from dying.”

“That is something revolutionary?”

“I believe so. Saving an organism-”

“That is not a real person, not something MLK would have fought for, dear.”

“But death-”

“That is not a person you are trying to save.”

“Mrs. Olsen-”

“Teresa, find another project.”

I am shocked. Saving a plant is a big deal! That woman!

“I believe this is a good project, Mrs. Olsen” I say, standing up.

“Then you can write how in detention,” she says.

I put my head down. I feel tears in my eyes. Oh, brother.


I walk into the room. Dread is running through me. The walls are cracked. The chairs are old. The tables have eraser shavings all over them. The walls are painted blue, a sad color. Depression. A kid picking his nose. Ugh! I can’t do this. I cannot.

The teacher opens eyes wide. Yeah, I haven’t been here. Ever.

“Um, Teresa, are you sure you’re in here?” the teacher asks.

“Y-yeah. Mrs. Olsen,” I say.

The teacher checks her lists, and sees I’m in the correct spot. I wished those blue eyes would tell me to leave this room.

The teacher is on the phone contacting my mother. She looks at me. The gets up and walks out the room. She comes out five minutes later.

In five minutes, I hear my mother yell in the hallway.

“This is unbelievable! I want my daughter…yes! I’m getting her, okay… okay.”

I put my head down. Oh, mother. She comes into the room. Did I pack George? Yeah. He’s in my bag. I stand up. She glares at me. Great. The face of shame.


“I cannot believe you screwed up your project. I told you to do amazing, but-” Mom starts. We are in the kitchen. I sit on the table. As long as I listen, she doesn’t really care what I do.

“Maybe you’re setting too high a bar,” I said.

She’s puzzled.

“Too high a bar? Your brother already has money to go to MIT. It’s humanly possible, Teresa!”

“I get it. Thomas is this big shot. But do you ever think of helping me?”

“I never got helped. It was me, or fail.”

“Yeah, yeah, the world sucks. I know.”

“Teresa, you better look me in the eye and tell me you don’t care, if this is what you


Bam. She shot me. I end up becoming silent. I do care. But Mom doesn’t get it. She never did. I guess she wants me to be the next huge thing.

I look at her. I jump off the table, and get my bag and get out to go to the hallway. I open my bag. I forgot George. I forgot George. I forgot him.


“Teresa, are you okay?” Thomas says, peeking out of his room.

I hadn’t realized I was on the floor leaning against the wall.

“What do you care?” I mumble.

He chuckles.

“I care about my sister. I do.”

I look at him. I motion for him to sit next to me. He pretends to think about it, then sits next to me.

“So, how does it feel to be the next big thing?” I ask.

“Ugh, awful. Mom and Dad are always on my back. ‘Not good, not great, but amazing!’’” Thomas says.

I laugh.

“Yeah. I went to detention. My history project sucks.”

“Oh, then you are already dead.”

I look down at the ground.

Thomas lightly hits my shoulder.

“Hey, that’s a joke,” Thomas says.

“No, it’s true,” I say.

“Just do a better history project. Show Mrs. Olsen that Teresa can take a punch.”

I look at him. He’s right. Mrs. Olsen hasn’t seen the last of Teresa.

“You’re right,” I say.

“Yeah?” He asks.

I look at my hands. I stand up. I hold out my hand for Thomas to get up. He takes it and stands up. I smile. Teeth showing and everything. George is just a plant. I have more important things to worry about. Bad things happened because of George. I need to break free. I will break free.

“Yeah,” I finally answer him. I hug him, and run to my room.

My computer is opened, I’m typing. Typing. Finding something new. Going somewhere else. Finding the something that’s worth obsessing over.

Especially Not You

Alaina Wynn remembered the last time she was really, actually happy. It was because of a vague and distant memory, of an eight-year-old girl and an eight-year-old boy.

It was Alaina and Bear, and it always had been. Forever, Alaina and Bear, Bear and Alaina. They spent every summer at Bear’s house in Essex, NY, a tiny town in the Adirondack Mountains, and at the end of the season they would go their separate ways— Alaina to Manhattan, and Bear to his home in Pennsylvania.

There was a field, and it was a field was full of wildflowers, yellow and purple and white clouds on a sky of tall grass. Bear’s family never tended this field, and the children liked it that way. They would lie there for hours, but that night, in Alaina’s memory, there was a storm, and Alaina loved storms. So she took Bear by the hand and led him into the field, and they lay there, holding hands. The rain started, and the thunder, and even the lightning, but they didn’t move a muscle, counting the seconds between the thunder and lightning. When their parents found them in the morning, frantic and scared, the wildflowers had all wilted. It might have been the heaviness of the rain, or maybe lightning had struck, but they never grew back.

Neither Alaina or Bear remembered the first three summers, nor did anyone expect them to. Their moms, Georgia and Sasha, met while pregnant with the both of them. They both had strange urges to bet money— and how many pregnant women can you spot at a casino? So they became friends, bonding over their mutual love of cats and 80’s pop. They both gave birth June 25th, in the same hospital. They knew at that moment that their children would be best friends for life. They were big believers in miracles. Alaina turned out not to be.

The families spent every summer after that in Bear’s parents’ country house in the Adirondack mountains. The children were summer friends, never managing to keep in touch over the year. There was a magic that only existed in the woods behind the house, and the field in front of the woods. They would stay up late whispering every night, telling stories about their school years. Bear talked more, Alaina listening in silence. He told her about his friend Thomas, and how they always ate lunch together by themselves because no one would sit with them. Alaina was always a mystery to Bear. He knew her best in the world, and somehow didn’t know her at all.

This went up until the twelfth summer, when Sasha — Alaina’s mom — decided it would be better to have the two sleep in separate rooms. Georgia — Bear’s mom — was completely against it, but Sasha always won, so Alaina left the little room with the blue walls and the two twin beds and moved down the hall to the guest bedroom, with the yellow walls and the one queen bed. Bear missed waking up and seeing the black curls on the pillow next to him.

For the next four summers, everything changed. Braces went on and came off, awkward stages came and went. Bear and Alaina drifted far, far apart. When they were thirteen, Alaina went to summer camp for the entire summer. It seemed to Bear that she didn’t care anymore, that their summers didn’t matter to her. So summer fourteen he decided to bring along his one and only friend, Alex. He wished that Alaina would come, that she could see that he wasn’t alone without her.

And she did come. Her eyes were black all around, a mess of charcoal eyeliner, a black chaotic blur. It contrasted with the deep green of her eyes, making them brighter and yet masking them. He saw her ripped shirt and tiny shorts, her army jacket and combat boots. It was a change he didn’t expect from such a happy person. It made her look dark and sad. He wanted to hug her and tell her all his secrets. He wanted her to tell him everything, too. But she didn’t talk to him. She didn’t even look at him.

“ALAINA!” he wanted to scream, “IT’S ME, BEAR!” But he didn’t. He ignored her right back, as hard as it was. Anyway, he had Alex. Alaina spent all her time in her room. Sometimes he saw her curled up with a book. He often took walks alone in the woods, revisiting the trees he climbed with Alaina, or the rock clusters they had explored.

One time he came back and saw Alaina and Alex sitting in the living room, laughing. She didn’t even have her book. Bear didn’t think anything of it— in fact he was glad that his two best friends were bonding. But for some reason, when he came in, the laughing stopped. So, seeing he wasn’t wanted, he left. Twenty minutes later, his mom called for dinner, so he went to find Alex and Alaina. They weren’t in the living room, so he checked the field.

“ALAINA!”, he called. “ALEX! he heard shuffling in the tall grass about 20 feet in front of him. He ran to it, hoping to see his friends. And he did. He saw Alex, with lipstick on his mouth and face, and he saw the shadow of a girl he once knew running into the woods. He ran as fast as he could after her, flashing Alex the most scornful look he could muster up as he went. He ran purposefully, knowing exactly where to go. He ran down the path until there was no path. He ran until he reached a large rock, covered in moss and fungus. He stopped all of a sudden, knowing she was there but still somehow surprised to see her.

“Do you ever think about this rock?” she asked.


“Do you? I mean, we spent our childhood on this rock. We don’t even know its name! We never even asked.”

“You’re insane,” he told her.

“No, I’m not. Just curious. Like, come here,” she grabbed his arm and pulled him down next to her. They lay on the rock, face to face. Bear felt her breath brushing against him.

“You see this mushroom? To someone, this mushroom is a tree. And this is their grass, and we’re killing it. Did you ever think about that? We’re so oblivious to everything around us, that we don’t even realize that we’re destroying an entire ecosystem.”

“Alaina, stop,” Bear insisted, sitting up.

“I didn’t mean to,” she said, still talking to the space next to her.

“Don’t give me that. You knew what this would do to me. You know how I feel. Why? Why would you do this to me?”

“You don’t love me, Bear.”

“I do, Alaina. You really think he loves you and I don’t?”

“He doesn’t love me. I don’t love him. I kissed him, that’s it. You don’t need love to kiss someone.” Her head was down, but she didn’t seem ashamed.

“You really think that’s the point here?”

“No, Bear, that’s not the point here. But you don’t know what love is. I love you because you are summer, and innocent and kind. But you can’t love me. No one can love me.”

“I do love you, Alaina. Why don’t you believe me?” he pushed.

“What do you know about me? You know me here, and here I am not me. You don’t know me at all,” she said, sitting up suddenly.

“You’re my best friend. I know everything about you!”

She laughed. “Wait, you’re serious? What do you know, tell me, if we haven’t had a straight conversation since I moved out of the room. No one knows me, especially not you.”

He paused, realizing how true this was. She was a mystery to him, and yet he knew that he loved her like he had never loved anyone before. She stood up and walked away, her bare feet skipping gracefully and purposefully over twigs and rocks, leaving him to murder the tiny mushroom people alone.

Shadow To Your Silhouette

You stood with your back to the sunset

Your bold silhouette cutting a piece of color from the brilliant blood orange sky

I snapped a picture, the one behind the shutter

I was the shadow of your silhouette

Then the sun slipped into the simmering sea

Like a delicate egg being hardboiled

And we became crepuscular

The twilight blended my shadow and your silhouette

Almost as well as photoshop blended your face into the background

Why can’t photos fade along with memory?

Slicing deeper than papercuts when they spill from dusty boxes

Deeper than the scars running like pale pink lace across your wrists

You fall with your back to the ground

Your broken silhouette cutting a piece of color from my life


A Concentration Camp Poem

They shove hundreds

Hundreds of us onto a train

A train that leads us away

Away into the darkness.


The ride lasts days

Days that are filled with horror

Horror of slowly dying

Dying on the train


We arrive in the cold

cold except for the fire

fire and the smell

the smell of burning bodies


I stare at the people

people with guns

guns that glint from the light of the moon

the moon that shines down on us


Men to the left and women to the right

right to the front of the right line

the line of hundreds of us

of us humans, just like them


10 more people until me

me, little me, just 14 years old

old and young stand together

together in the darkness


I stand in front now

now I wait to be sorted

sorted by these men

these men who took me away


He flicks his baton, and they take my shoulders

my shoulders sting from their force

their force that pulls me towards a building

a building that can mean no good things.


I wait on another line,

a line to get my head shaved

shaved of my red curls

curls that I’ve grown to love


I’m tattooed

tattooed a number sequence

a sequence that will be my name

my name that isn’t what it was


They drag me to a bunker

a bunker where I will stay

stay until I die here

here in this place where I will die


I sit on a bunker as a boy walks in

into this hell hole and he gets pushed on my bed

my bed that I will be sharing with so many others, and this boy

this boy who blinks and tries not to cry


The nakedness does not bother me at all

all of us are naked, but they give us uniforms

uniforms that fit me, but are too big on others

other people’s uniforms are too small


They tell us to sleep

sleep is out of the question

so I question the boy about his life

his life that was taken from him


I ask what color hair he had

he had quiffed brown hair that he loved

that he loved as much as I loved my red

red blood drips on the floor as we talk


The boy asks my age

my age that was taken away

away from all of us

us here in this awful place


We get split up during the day

the day of labor

labor almost too hard

too hard for someone like me


I carry bodies

bodies of the dead

dead people that could have been me

me or anyone else who survived


At night I talk to the boy again

again we share our pasts

our pasts that we miss

we miss our lives


I could die today

today anyone could die

dying isn’t scary anymore

anymore time here will kill me


I spend all day working

working to keep alive

alive, but I’m slowly dying

dying all alone


I tell the boy we can’t be friends

friends will give me weakness

weakness I cannot risk to have

to have here in this awful place


He says that we are not friends

not friends just acquaintances

acquaintances we will be

be wary here in this place of death


We awake to hear the screams

screams of so many like us

like us they suffer

suffer and die alone


I know that I will die soon

soon enough I will starve

starve to death slowly

slowly isn’t the way I want to die


I am getting thinner every day

days and days pass by

by and by I grow weak

weak and sad all alone


People keep leaving

leaving and never coming back

back here into this hell

hell is not enough to describe this


I am working when they kill the boy

the boy who I have grown to know

knowing that I cannot cry for him

for him I make a grave


I sit with many others on the bed

the bed that is missing my friend

my friend who I lost today

today many people died


Should I kill myself I wonder

I wonder if this will ever end

end of all inferiors will happen

happen here today


I am piling up burned bodies

bodies that I recognize

I recognize the boy’s brown eyes

eyes that I close with my fingers


I know what I have to do

doing this will end my life

a life I have grown to hate

hate as much as the men who did this


The boy has reminded me

me, I am me, I can do this

this thing that will cause my death

death to be by the side of my friend


A guard tells me to work

work is something I won’t do now

now as I deny his orders

he orders another man to shoot me


I take the bullet willingly

willingly ready to die

dying will be peaceful

peacefully I fall and close my eyes


Darkness is all around me now


I open my eyes

my eyes adjust

adjust to the light

light that shines

shines through the eyes


the eyes of the boy.

Love Letter

To my dear Venice, from a lonely suburban town,

My bones are bare ivory, decorated with pastel paints

and freshly painted shingles like an old lady’s dentures.

My intestines are winding roads, half-paved gravel, tire marks

scraping up the chiseled green grass like alien marks–

but no one believes in aliens here.

My muscles are public schools with bowling alley gyms, coffee shops

where the milky lattes are more water than zest,

flat sidewalks, dusty chalk, dull blue skies.

My skin is prim, buffed until all the callouses have chipped away,

gilded like my eyes, my straight locks, my button-nose.

But, my dear, there is a loneliness in polite. A void among the dyed roots.

A core like a dilapidated creature, made of polished metal, with a coating

of rust that lies beneath it all.


But you – you’re an ethereal being.

Skin like ancient stones, carved with Roman secrets in code,

waterways, arches, locks that seal love from long ago.

Your muscles are the Italian Romance, the way

Shakespeare’s Verona sounds on the tongue,

the light of the stars glistening on gentle waves,

open windows, stray dogs, sparklers thrown into the abysmal sky

like a flare shot into the night.

Your intestines are the meandering footsteps, the music,

possessions floating through your roads, lost to the world, finding

a new home somewhere across the city. There’s a magic in the air,

and no one can deny it, no one can deny the way you glisten,

an alien sent to teach us earthlings what it feels like to be alive.

And your bones. Your bones are the people,

the ones who spin gelato, who say nocciola in the right way,

the builders of St. Mark’s Clock and the Bridge of Tears.

They listen to the hum of the air, the movement of dancers

with toes off the edge of a gondola, the stripes of shirts and

the shimmering jewels on a mask. They understand

what it means to be ethereal. They understand what it means

to let your grass grow uneven, to let your hair fall in loose curls, to let your skin

toughen up with bruises and cuts. Your soul, my dear, is a vision.


I’d like to visit you one day.


Forever yours, a lonely suburban town,


Their Beloved

The moon is just starting to peek out over low-rise denim horizon and the sparks from the fire pop and crackle near my feet. Her knees are bruised and knobby, pulled up to her chin like an old blanket. The spiderweb of her hair waves in the soft breezes that blow off the ocean that I like to think are made from sailor’s salty tales and mermaid’s murderous secrets. She isn’t looking at me so she doesn’t notice me writing poetry about her and taking her all in like my eyes are at an all-you-can-eat buffet and she is the meal. If she were to catch me I think she’d scold with her brown eyes shining like fresh gingerbread and then lean back and laugh so the world would listen in that great booming way of hers. She drags a creased hand across her calfs and chews on the inside of her cheeks like gum. You should see the cavern of her mouth, it’s all ripped and rugged like a torn muscle. The stars overhead are reflected in the dancing water that sprays us after the waves bounce. She grins and I can see her small jewel teeth and then she grabs my hand and pulls me to my feet. Her hands are calloused and rosy from the nighttime cold and she rubs them on my arm and pleads me to come with her. She sprints down the muddy sand and trips on the footprints that sink and fade with the outgoing tide. She kicks off her sneakers and pulls her knotted hair from its braid where it still held saltwater and pink morning air from the first swim of the day. She turns back to me and her eyes are polished pennies dropped out of a tourist’s pocket, out of place on the dirty sidewalk. Her grip is strong but sweet and she holds me like you would hold someone after they cry and pour their heart out, careful but hard so as not to let them slip away. She stops at the edge of the black water and cries out when it reaches her toes. I laugh with her and let the sea numb my feet and ankles. She spins like a broken carousel until she falls lazily into the shallows. She pulls me down to sit beside her. Oh, but when she looks at me I feel like a prize. The water is cold and goosepimples my arms but I never want to leave her side.

Andrea Perspective

Our king is growing old, like the pale yellow flower that used to grow on my bedroom windowsill. I pay close attention to our king. I can do that because he is also my father.

Choosing Day is less than a month away, the sacred day when our king will choose which of his children will take the throne once he has passed away. My father is named Benjamin. My name is Andrea and I was born two minutes after my brother Serious and three minutes before my sister Sae. We are triplets.

Tonight will be the Feast of June. Every month we have a big feast, just us four. We only get to have that on these special days. We catch up on our lives. We barely get to see each other during normal days. We do have to run a palace after all. Our kingdom is obsessing over which one of us triplets will be chosen to wear the crown at the coronation celebration.


Our red-carpeted stairwells are wide, with solid gold banisters and steps. That evening I rush to get to the Feast of June in time. I run from my bedroom to the stairs while pinning my long brown hair back on the side of my head. I reach the the stairwell and stop to make sure that the pin is secure in my hair. I’ve never really walked down the stairs— I usually slide down the long gold banister. It is easier (and way more fun). Without a moment’s hesitation, I jump up onto the railing and slide quickly down. I can see Sae sliding down the banister ahead of me, her black braids flying out behind her.

“Beat you!” a shout from below calls. I recognize it as my brother Serious’s voice. He wants to win everything.

“I’ll get you next time,” says Sae. They must have been racing each other. They do that often.

Finally I reach the bottom and I jump off the railing to an extraordinary sight. The table has the greatest amount of food that it has ever had. My favorite part is the huge chocolate fountain in the middle of the table. The table has a green silk tablecloth that magically cleans up any mess that is dropped or spilled on it. I sit in my place next to Serious and across from father.

“We have much to discuss, my children,” says father, his eyes never leaving his plate. He is a very tall man with a long beard and a silky purple robe.

“We always do,” says Serious.

“This is more important than usual,” says father. “As you know, I am growing old and I must decide which one of you is to take the throne when I am gone.”

He sucks in his breath at this moment, like he is afraid of what will become of the palace once he is gone.

“So…” says Sae eager to find out what Father will say next. I glare at her.

Father glares at her as well.

“So,” he says. “I have arranged a competition over who will get the throne. You will each get one apprentice of your choice to help you find the most valuable thing in the world.”

“So,” Father continues. “By tomorrow you must choose your apprentice. You will leave at noon and must be back on July 8th, the day before Choosing Day. If you do not return by then we will assume that you are…dead.” Father pauses and laces his fingers together. He looks down. We all do.

Finally, he says, “Does anyone have any questions?”

“What if we want to do it alone?,” asks Serious.

“That would be fine,” says father. “But you might want some help.”

“What if we can’t find the most valuable thing in the world?” Sae asks.

“Remember it doesn’t have to be a thing,” says father.

Serious rubs his black goatee. We eat the rest of our dinner in silence. When it is time for the chocolate fountain, I grab a strawberry in each hand and dip it inside the fountain. Chocolate covers my hands. I rush upstairs. Sae follows me upstairs. When I reach the fourth floor, I go to my bedroom. My bedroom has light green walls and a bed with a purple lace canopy. I lie down on my bed and eat my strawberries, then lick my fingers. My flowy white dress feels uncomfortable but, I am too tired to change clothes. I have too much to think about. Who will I choose to be my apprentice? What the heck is the most valuable thing in the world?

I don’t know.

My servant and friend Serenity comes into my room with two glasses of orange juice. She takes one and hands it to me. Then she sits down next to me.

“I was exploring the sewing room. There was a roll of fabric that had hundreds of pictures of you on it. Isn’t that cool!” Serenity finishes off her orange juice and then looks at me closely.

“Hey, are you alright?” Serenity asks.

I can’t hear her words. Exploration, fabric, faces, me? Then I sit up straight in bed knocking over my full glass of juice.

“Serenity, how would you like to go on an adventure?” I ask with confidence, hoping secretly that she will agree.

“An adventure, what kind?” Serenity peers at me from behind a lock of curly blond hair.

“You’ll find out,” I grumble, suddenly angry at father.

Father puts my life in danger and then he puts my best friend’s life in danger, along with my brother’s and sister’s lives, and he doesn’t care. I hope my face isn’t getting red because that would be embarrassing but I feel that way. Anger is boiling inside me like the boiling tomato mushroom bisque my beautiful Mother used to make before she left me and Sae and Serious when we had just turned five. I cry because I want the competition to end and I cry for my mother who would never ever put me in danger like this. Father is just greedy— that’s why he wants us to risk our lives to find him the most valuable thing in the world. There is only one problem— I want the crown. Serenity watches me carefully.

I hop out of bed and motion for her to follow me. I grab my bow and high five knives and Serenity’s dagger. Then I grab my magical cornucopia and throw it all into a neon blue duffel bag, along with some clothes and two winter coats. Finally, I grab a map of the world and hand the duffel bag to Serenity. We walk out of my room. I know that I have to leave to go on the journey now. Literally now, because I can’t stand to be in the same house as Father any longer.

“We are going to get an early start on the journey,” I say. I scribble a note on some old stationary that Father gave me years ago.


Dear Father,


I am leaving early for the journey. Serenity is coming.


Don’t worry about me,


P.S. I am taking two horses.


I am scared. I can’t hide how I feel as Serenity and I walk through the dark, empty halls. I scan the halls, hoping that no one will find us. In the Apothecary I grab a bag full of healing medicine and two blankets. One is thin, made from wool and the other is thick with cotton. They are both brown. Good camouflage colors. Finally, I reach the stables. Beyond the stables are the woods. That is where I must start this hazardous journey. Woods surround all of the castle so I have no other place to start.  I coax Ginger, the horse, out of her stall. She climbs out without fighting and I motion for Serenity to climb on. I hand her the duffle bag. Then, I coax another horse, Chip, out of his stall and I climb on. On our way out I get two hay stuffed pillows from the corner and a bag of horse feed. I follow Serenity into the forest. Her horse, Ginger, is the color of the ripe peaches that Mother used to plant in our orchard. Now that Mother has left us there are no more peaches in our orchard, only the dry, hard apples that I always forget to pick. I stop to pick a bag of them to feed to the horses. Then my black and white horse carries me away.

While we are riding, I explain the whole idea to Serenity and thank her for not asking questions while I was packing up. I slowly start to get tired and I find a nice clearing that Serenity and I can spend the night in. We set up the sleeping bags and pillows and tie both horses to a big brown oak. I feed the horses an apple each and then fall asleep.


I wake up to the sound of birds chirping. Serenity is already awake. I see that she untied the horses. I reach into the duffel bag and pull out the cornucopia. I raise it into the air and it barfs out four pieces of bacon and two waffles and a spray can of ReddiWhip. I pull out two plates and put the food on them. The food tastes really good.

Soon after we eat, I get on Chip’s back and tie the duffel bag around his neck. Serenity climbs on Ginger and we set off.

We follow a narrow path that goes into the woods deeper and deeper. I don’t know what I am searching for. I don’t know if I will find anything.

“Any ideas?” I asked Serenity.

“Not really,” she says.

All of a sudden, we hear a crack, and a trio of monsters comes running out of the woods. I recognize them as Grougs. Serious hunts them in the woods all the time. They all have green skin and silver clubs with spikes, their orange hair braided with weapons.

Serenity screams. We jump off our horses and draw our weapons. Serenity’s is a faded grey dagger with the symbol of our land on it. Mine is my bow and arrow. I step forward to stab the first Groug in the stomach while Serenity takes on the second one. I lunge at the Groug. It throws a handful of copper knifes my way. I cry out and back away. One of the knives brushes against my fingers. A burning sensation starts in my fingers and runs throughout my whole body. I have never told anyone this but, I have a terrible weakness. Any time copper touches my skin it burns my blood. I almost fall back but, stand my ground. I set my bow with a death arrow and shoot it into the Grougs stomach just as I fall back onto the dirt floor. The last thing I hear is Serenity’s wail before I pass out.

I immediately start to have a vision. I am sitting at my place in the dining hall at the castle. My father and brother and sister are there, too.

“I’m trusting you with the last of my transportation coins,” he says. Father has never mentioned those before. He hands each of us two faded gold coins. I take mine and roll them around in my hands.

“When you need them most, you can transport yourself or someone else to the castle or somewhere else as long as you think of the place in your head,” says father. I can barely think about that when the dream fades and I wake to find myself laying in the dirt. The transportation coins are in my hand but I don’t care much about them because Serenity is next to me and blood is pouring out of her. She is about to die.

I know that I have to act quickly. I grab a bandage from the apothecary bag and slide it over the tremendous hole that has appeared in her stomach. I wrap it around several times and hold it against her stomach. I check her pulse; fading but still there.

“Serenity,” I breathe softly. She can’t hear me. I look around. The Grougs took everything except for Chip the Horse and the apothecary bag. And to make it even worse a slow rain has started.

We have to find shelter.  Someone must live around here. I slowly lift Serenity up and slide her onto the back of a horse. Only then do I remember the transportation coins. Where are they? I search the grounds and find them hidden by a large orange leaf. I take the coins and the leaf and sit on a large rock. I must write a note to father. I take the cool black sap from a large tree and draw with my fingers a note to Father on the orange leaf. The writing is shaky but, readable.


Dear Father,


Take care of Serenity. I am okay.


See you soon,



Then I slip one of the transportation coins into her palm and she fades away into the shadows.

Without looking back, I climb on Chip and ride deeper into the forest and away from where I hope Serenity will end up. Then I think of food. How am I going to eat without the magical cornucopia? The only other person who has one in the world is my mother but, I know I’ll never see her again. I tug on Chip’s saddle, forcing him to move forward farther into the woods. I stepped hard on a piece of wood and it made a loud snapping sound. I know that I might have alerted any nearby wildlife but, I don’t care. I suddenly feel so alone in this world. I thought Serenity was just slowing me down but I didn’t realize how much I actually needed her to help me with this quest. I wonder what day it is because I want to know how many days I have left. I feel the circular transportation coin in my jean pocket as I walk along the forest path. I wonder if I will ever make it home to the castle. I just have hope that the transportation coins actually work because I would feel even worse if I had done my friend wrong as well as myself.

Chip neighs loudly and stops abruptly. Then, I see why. We have come to a perfect square clearing. There are no trees. Just a perfect little cottage with a stone path and ripe peach trees surrounding it except for the path. Then I see her. A beautiful young-ish woman with a flowing golden braid and a white dress that sparkles in the afternoon sun. She has a basket around one of her arms and is picking yellow peaches off branches in her orchard. When she sees me she disappears into her house and slams the door. There is something about this woman that seems familiar and I know immediately that she is someone that I know.

“Ma’am!” I call out. “Hello, ma’am!”

I tie Chip to one of the largest peach trees and walk up to the door. I knock gently, crossing my fingers. Maybe this woman can help me and get me food. Maybe she could… My thoughts are suddenly interrupted. The same lady swings open the door and starts shouting at me until a girl’s soft voice stops her.

“It’s okay, Mother,” the girl’s voice says behind the woman. “This one is a friend.”

I do not know how to react to this until the woman with the golden hair suddenly grabs me hardly and pulls me into a tight long hug. When she finally looks up her eyes are streaked with tears and her smile is bigger than ever. I finally realize who it is. I can’t believe it. Just when I thought I would never find her, I know who this person is.

“Andrea?” my mother asks. “Is that you?”

I can barely choke out an answer. Then my mother invites me inside and I see who the girl is. Black braids and all with her brown oak bow slung across her back.

“Thank you Sae,” I tell her as I move about the kitchen.

“It’s my pleasure,” Sae says as she follows me into the kitchen. A flat circle of dough lays underneath a pink faded rolling pin on the dining table. The kitchen is very neat with blue and yellow wallpaper, striped.

“But I have news to tell you sister… it is just us now,” Sae says.

“Father?” I ask, feeling lightheaded all of a sudden.

“No, Serious. He cursed at a hawk so the hawk stabbed him through the neck.”

I put my head down and shed a few tears, then I remember that now we have less competition. I tell this to Sae.

“I have been thinking of that as well. I think we should take our Mother back as the prize and rule as siblings in cohorts.”

“That could be a good idea— Father won’t object as long as we are safe.”

Mother comes into the kitchen.

“So, it’s settled,” Sae says. “ Mother, we are bringing you back to the castle.”

Mother sucks in her breath. “I don’t know if I would like to go back to the castle. I might want to stay here in the peace and quiet. Of course, I would love some company so, if you want to stay with…” Sae cuts Mother off.

“Sorry,” she says. “Andrea and I have to do our duty at the castle so, you either come with us willingly or we shove you into a cloth sack and drag you.”

We all stare at Mother. I know Sae was kidding. We would never do that.

“How will we even get to the castle?” Mother asks, doubting us.

Sae says, “No idea” the same time I say “Transportation coins.”

“What the heck are transportation coins?” ask Sae and Mother at the same time.

I feel light-headed again. “Sae, you didn’t get them?”

“No I did, just joking,” she answers. At least now we have a way to get home. Sae and I go back to staring at Mother expectantly.

“I will have my answer by morning,” says Mother. “You can spend the night.”

“I lost track of time, so what day is it?” I ask. “Do we have enough time?”

“Yeah, today is July 6th.”

Sae gives me a tour of Mother’s house while Mother speaks gently to the cornucopia that she will need extra food because she has guests.

There is one bedroom, a cozy living room, the kitchen, and a small basement. Behind the house there is a large lake that I never noticed.

“I’ll show you my mad rowing skills after dinner,” says Sae.

I can hear the cornucopia in the distance. It is spitting out food for dinner.

“Great,” I say to Sae. “But, think about it. What if Mother doesn’t want to come with us?”

“She will.” That is Sae’s only answer. I still have doubts.

Before I know it, Mother is calling us for dinner. It is delicious— duck with peas and carrots. I try to bring up conversation but we’ve all had a tiring day so it doesn’t work.

“Make sure you have a decision by morning,” says Sae as Mother ushers us out of the living room and into the basement where there are sleeping bags set up, “Because Andrea and I—” she smiles at me her biggest smile, which is very unlike her. Suspicious even. “—have to go back to the castle!” Sae smiles again and goes to the basement.

Now I am scared because I have a feeling that I know what Sae is going to do to me. These will be her steps to ruling the kingdom:

  1. Leave in the middle of the night for the castle without me or our mother.
  2. Once she gets to the castle she will pretend that I am dead so that she can take the crown.
  3. Then she will kill Father so he can’t change anything when I come back to the castle with mother.
  4. She will rule forever and break into our life lasting potions so that she can live forever.

That would be very bad because we are only supposed to take a teaspoon of life lasting potion every five years so we don’t go crazy. The last dose I had was when we were fifteen. If we do not get killed we should live to about 690 right now. Who knows how long when we take another dose at 20.

I swallow hard. Then I stop freaking out. This is Sae I’m talking about! The same Sae that stood guard while I stole Reddi Whip from the castle kitchen. The same Sae that spent hours with me in the huge tree house that father’s handyman built for us so we could play games. The same Sae who always wins when we have “who can slide down the rails the fastest” challenges. I fight back a tear. The same Sae who was my loving sister before Father broke us apart in this terrible battle for the crown.

I realize that I am still standing in the middle of the hallway and quickly and quietly go down the stairs to the basement. I see that Sae is getting settled in her sleeping bag. I crawl into mine next to her. I would like to stay up and ask Sae about her plan but my tired eyes fail me. I am asleep in seconds.

I jump immediately when I hear a rustle in the sleeping bag next to mine.  My eyes open and Sae is not there. I run through the fields near mother’s house around to the lake and back up the valley. The cold night air stings my arms and legs but, I can’t stop. I have gone about a half mile before I collapse onto the grass, panting hard. I try to get back up. I need to do this for Sae. I grasp strands of grass and push myself forward.

“Sae,” I  whisper into the cold night air. “Sae.” I scream it this time. I am sure that I have gone insane.

“SAE!” I screech. Then I am running. I am running to the castle to find my sister and bring her back and—

I stop myself. Then I reach into my pocket and get a transportation coin. Now I have a plan. I will transport myself to the cottage to get Mother then I will transport both of us to the castle to get Sae. That is of course, if Mother agrees to going to the castle.

I hold out the transportation coin and think “Mother’s cottage” in my mind. Then before I know it I am gone.

I arrive back at the house. I am about to rush into the house when I hear a loud splash coming from the lake behind the house. I went around back.

And I had to start crying because there was Sae. There was Sae in her dark blue pajamas swimming in the lake. She smiles and I dive in to join her. I splash her and she splashes me back and I tell her how worried I was and for once she listens. You know those moments that you wish could last forever? Yeah, this was one of those. As I swam around in the lake with Sae I forgot about everything that really mattered and just swam and laughed. Sae was my sister and I thought that she had taken the dark side.

“I love you, Sae,” I say.

“I love you too, Andrea,” says Sae.

As we hug, a sharp arrow skims the side of my ear and I jump to attention. I regret the decision I make to look where the arrow came from.

There is Father up atop the hill with all of 50,00 troop lined for battle.

“Where is Serious?” Father looks concerned.

“He’s dead,” I explain to him.

“What!?” Father looks astounded. “You know he was my favorite! He had to rule!”

Fathers words sting me as they hit my ear. Then Father raises his bow.

“You killed him.” Father accuses us. I am surprised that he is crying. “You killed him!”

“Father, no,” Sae can barely correct.

There is no mercy in Father’s eyes as he yells to the 50,000 troops, “CHARGE!”

I can barely think or speak or anything when Sae is pulling me out of the lake to the dock. Then we ran away from the lake and the forest until Sae mutters one single word.


Then we run back to the cabin because we must save Mother. I close my eyes and power through the strong July wind. I am only about 30 feet from the cabin when I realize that the cabin is on fire. The beautiful peach trees go up in flames and all of Mother’s things are being thrown into the lake while a handcuffed Mother is being pushed onto the front lawn. Mother looks very calm. Sae and I are hiding behind the last peach tree. I grasp Sae’s hand.

“Aaliyah,” says Father. “It’s nice to see you.”

“Benjamin,” Mother says, copying father’s calm tone. “I am glad that you could make the trip.”

“I am so terribly sorry, Aaliyah,” says Father. “But, I am going to have to kill you, because you assisted my daughters after they killed my favorite child.”

I gasp loudly and Sae covers my mouth with her hand.

“If that is what’s best,” says Mother still calm. “Then by all means, kill me.”

This seems to catch Father off guard.

“Then I must kill you,” he states.

Father raises a long shiny silver sword and is about to stab it into Mother’s heart when Sae jumps forward and kicks his chin. Sae nods to me and I jump to action. I remember the Kung Fu lessons that Mother taught us when we were three. I side kick Father in the leg and he falls to the ground. Then I slam my foot as hard as I can into his nose.

“Don’t hurt me!” Father screams. “If you kill me, the whole kingdom will riot!”

“And why is that?” asks Mother.

Father hesitates a little but, then says, “Because I am their rightful leader.”

“Their rightful leader, eh?” I wonder what Mother’s strategy is. None of us can argue that Father isn’t the rightful leader because he was born into the position.

Mother is screaming now. “You married into the throne. I WAS THE RIGHTFUL LEADER!”

I gasp again. Mother?! So Father was never the ruler of our land. He never had the right to send us to find the most valuable thing in the world. He is the cause of his favorite child’s death.

Mother speaks again, quieter this time. “The only reason you married me was so you could be royalty, and look what you’ve done to your kingdom. You’re not a leader. You’re a coward. And we have the power to kill you more than you have the power to kill me.”

I stand behind Mother on one side and Sae takes the other. The troops march to stand behind all of us.

I don’t want to see Father die. Then again I would much rather not see him live. So Sae pokes the pressure points that make him freeze up and we throw him into the lake.

“We did it,” says mother, breathless from the exciting events. The morning sunrise is a gorgeous orange color. We are united, a whole. We are fighters and Kung Fu artists and strategists. And we stand together in the sunlight watching the sun set over the lake.

EPILOGUE— 3 years later

The hot sun beats down on my neck while I unload a large box of purple paint.

“We didn’t order that much!” Sae complains.

It is three years since the death of our Father, and we have turned the castle into a sleepaway camp for village children. Each of the bedrooms serve as bunk cabins and the kids can play in the field and eat s’mores prepared by our kitchen staff. Sae and I are the head counselors. We decide what campers do during the day. Today, the main activity is painting a garden scene. However, we are afraid that we ordered too much paint.

“You’re right,” I said. “We only said one box of lime green.”

“We’ll manage,” says Sae.

We finish unloading the paint and carry it to the backyard. The village kids are already waiting to paint when Sae and I get out to the garden. I set up an easel for each of them while Sae passes out brushes and palettes.

While they paint, Sae and I talk.

“Do you ever miss Father?” Sae asks me.

“No,” I snap. Sae gives me a curious look.

“Fine,” I say finally. “I do. But only sometimes. Most of the time I am totally fine without him because he said that Serious was his favorite and he let Serenity die!”

It’s true. When Serenity got back to the castle with the help of one of my transportation coins, Father ignored her and focused on getting in contact with Serious. At least I still had Sae and Mother.

When everyone was finished painting we sent them to their cabins for Shower Hour. Then they would go to lunch in the palace dining room. During the afternoon, we take them to swim in Mother’s lake. Sae and I drove early to go to see Mother and set up for swimming. As we drive, Sae and I talk.

“I can’t wait to go swimming!” said Sae. I smiled.

“Yeah, me too.”

Hemorrhaged Hope

I wanted to live wrapped in a box

locked away from jigsaws and buttons

doors that slam and peppers that burn

I wished I would find appreciation in the veins

of leaves

of the ice on my sleeves when I walked

streets of blackened snow

I fancied I’d look up one day

and see orbs that shined brighter

than electrical lampposts

I had the will to cut away the pavement

that made my feet hurt as they pounded

hurtling me past figures that leeched eagerness

I tried to see past metaphysical maybes that

made my head burn and cry out strings of lost thought

lost imagination

lost longings

It all came crashing down on me

and everything unfurled and churned

and spun up a storm of failure and



lust for clear skin

need for praise

eager for approval of yesterday’s French braids

agile ankles

longer lashes

I left my mind in a maze

and reality in bed

because of what she said

I ripped off my braces because they didn’t match

my painted nails

I tied my shoes with one loop because two

had less finesse

And I forgot that people are animals

and I didn’t know what I was

and I should have

but I didn’t care because

she said I didn’t have to

I still wanted sweet peppers

and puzzles

and the intricacies of leaves

and celestial somethings

I just got distracted for a while

Food Entry 5

Food Entry 5:

On the second weekend of May, my mom and I ventured downtown to have brunch. Eating out with my mom is a pretty rare occasion because 1) my mom loves to cook and 2) our schedules completely clash, so when we do have the chance to eat together, I try to make the very most of it. Saturday was the first day I really felt like spring had made its transition into summer, even though it was only May. I had woken up with my hair plastered to my face and a dampness that seemed to surround my entire room. Shorts weather had come upon us and with it, the use of Air Conditioning. As my mom and I exited our building, steam clouded my glasses and the air felt as if it was trying to push me down onto the burning hot concrete. I squicked as I sat down on the hot black seat of my car, and immediately lowered the windows down, all the way. I decided that I was in the mood for a good iced tea. The nice thing about my neighborhood is that it is filled with trees that provide a good amount of shade, but as my mom and I got closer to our destination, the only thing that shaded us from the scorching sun were scattered buildings.

Shortly after finding a parking space, we headed to Jack’s Wife Freda, a small restaurant with a really big line. While we waited in line my mom and I chatted about school, the weather, and our summer plans. A good thing about my mom is that she is never lacking in conversation. Even if she has nothing new to say, she manages to find a subject, relevant or not, to discuss. That day the topic landed on Greece. Every summer since I was little my mom and I have gone on trips. This summer the destination was Greece and I was more than excited to venture there. My mom told me that the island of Santorini had the most beautiful sunsets in the world, and that the city’s architecture was also amazing. I was daydreaming of our trip when “Young, table for two” was called from the hostess and we then shortly entered the restaurant.

Filled with only a couple of tables, Jack’s Wife Freda was as homey as I had expected AND even better…it was air conditioned! I looked at the menu and ordered a large iced tea and eggs with mixed vegetables. My cold drink arrived, brimming with ice cubes and raindrops of water dripping down the side. As I brought the drink to my lips I felt a cool trickle of sweet tea run down my throat, refrigerating my body. I smiled and looked down at my newly arrived eggs, with a beautiful array of vegetables sitting by their side sparkling with carrots, spinach, tomatoes, green and yellow peppers, all the colors I hoped the Santorini sunset would hold. As I bit into my eggs, steam clouded my mouth, but instead of being annoyed by the heat, I devoured it. Every bite of egg was followed with a cool sip of iced tea, the perfect combination. As the iced tea washed a smile onto my face, I realized I had finally found the perfect spot to cool off from NYC’s summer heat. There are a couple ways to make New York bearable in this season that I’ve picked up over the years: Good food, shade, and dreaming of a far away place.

After finishing my meal, every last bite, my mom asked for the check. We soon rose up from our table and took a step from the cool room into the sticky outside. I could feel the cloud of heat hanging over my head, but this time a slight breeze whistled through my hair, cooling my brain and making me think about the island and those Santorini eggs.

Home Is Where The Family Is

I yelled and screamed as the police clung to my arms, dragging me into the orphanage. We stopped at a rustic wood desk. A lady wearing cat-eyed glasses perched behind it.

“What’s your name?” she snapped.

I had seen the movie Annie twice before, but I had never imagined a real-life Miss Hannigan.

“Carrie…Carrie Shaw,” I replied.

I was sent to a white-walled room with chipped paint and a sign smack in the center that stated “San Diego Harbor Orphan Care.” I was scared— no, scared would be an understatement. I was terrified, confused, and the worst… alone. Alone without my mom, who had been my everything. The one who surfed with me, loved me, and bought me a charm for my charm bracelet on every one of my birthdays. I glanced down at the silver bracelet on my wrist. I had a total of twelve charms. I flicked the small surfboard charm that lay on the inside of my wrist. Suddenly the door to the white room open and feet approached. A woman came up to me.

She was wearing ragged clothes, but her eyes looked sincere. The police told me I would be living with her. I guess they needed the money. The car ride took us four hours, and when we passed a sign that read “Barstow,” I couldn’t help but wipe a small tear from my eye. I was being torn away from San Diego, my home. In Barstow there was no beach, no friends, and no Alana Shaw.

Alana Shaw, my mother, had died June 3, 2015. We were on our afternoon surf when she hit her head on a rock, disappeared, and then died in the freak accident. I got sent to an orphanage, and was now going to be fostered in a small town where I would never be able to surf again. That was all there was to it.

When we arrived at the little hut in central Barstow, I grabbed my suitcase containing the following items: three sun dresses, two bathing suits, a framed photo of mom and I in Hawaii, my hairbrush, and some surf wax. Still in shock from the events in the past nine hours, I uncomfortably shuffled into the house. Once I entered the house, I noticed a man sitting at a table with a little girl who looked about five. The man walked up to me and introduced himself. I found out his name was Phil and the little girl’s name was Emma. Phil gently touched my back and took my bag down the hall. My foster mom Karen offered me a PB and J sandwich, but I wasn’t in the mood to eat or, frankly, do anything. Karen and Phil were kind, but nobody could replace Alana Shaw. Exhausted, I walked into the miniscule room they had set up for me and lay down on the fluffy cotton bed.

The next day was just as confusing as the day before. I woke up to find Karen and Eric screaming with joy.

“What happened?” I mumbled.

Karen wrapped me in a tight hug while balancing Emma at her hip. I struggled to escape.

“We won the lottery! We won, we won!” exclaimed Karen.

“Looks like you’re our good luck charm… Lucky. We picked up you and 400 million dollars in twenty-four hours,” Phil joked.

“Haha,” I laughed sheepishly.

Karen ran off to her room and returned with a large red-wrapped box that had medium-sized holes poked into the top.

“Phil and I thought you were feeling a bit lonely.”

I opened up the box and a golden retriever puppy was nestled in the corner.

“I’ll call you Bali,” I said. My mom and I had traveled the world for surf competitions. We were heading to Bali for Nationals. Bali would have been the most exciting trip yet with snorkeling, tubing and all the adventurous things my mom would plan. Tragically, Bali couldn’t happen, but I promised myself it would.

I spent the next few weeks adjusting to my new life. Karen bought a new home a couple blocks away which we would soon be moving into (due to the lottery win); Phil took Bali, Emma, and me to the parks on Sundays; and Emma attempted–and failed–to make brownies in her Easy Bake Oven. Even though I missed my old life, I was starting to get used to my new life, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d expected.

“Lucky, come down. I want to see your dress!” Emma called from downstairs.

“Be right there,” I shouted back.

That name’s always struck me as ironic. I’m not Lucky— my mom’s dead, I’m in foster care, I haven’t been in the ocean in six years. But it could be worse. My foster parents and little Emma are loving. Things just aren’t the same as they used to be.

I flipped through my high school yearbook, my mind wandering off in dismay, as I realized my mom wouldn’t be attending my high school graduation.

Emma helped me snap back into reality. “Lucky, come on down here!”

I scurried down the spiral staircase, my perfectly curled hair bobbing up and down as I went. Karen and Phil greeted me with a hug as I strolled into the kitchen. Then Emma came up to me and hugged me. I hugged her back, but quickly pulled away. I wished I could love her like a sister but… I couldn’t. Em is twelve years old. The age I was when Mom died. Emma has had her life handed to her on a silver platter. She has everything I could only wish for when I was twelve.

When we arrived at Barstow High, all the seniors celebrated with a pre-graduation cake that had obviously been over-frosted and read “ConGRADulations!” Students went up in order of last name, and when Shaw was announced, I got up to the stage and shook hands with our principal, Mr. Turtle. It’s not that I wanted high school to end; it’s just that after I got my graduation money, I’d finally have enough money to put my escape plan into action.

Five years ago, on a day I was upset and stuck in a ditch of sadness and misery, I flung myself onto my bed and felt a tear run down my cheek. I remembered myself saying, “I need to get away from these people, they aren’t my real family, I will never call this monster my mom.” I needed to leave and go to a place I felt most united with my mother. I couldn’t bring mom back to life but I could bring back our memories.

I would miss Riley and Ashleigh, the few friends I had, but other than that I was excited to start at the University of Washington after summer, but for summer… my plan of action. I went home to find the last $100 I needed from Karen and Phil. I took all of the money I had saved in a mason jar and counted it. $3,768. Babysitting had really paid off. $3,000 was the amount I needed for a plane ride, a ten-day hostel stay, street food, and, of course, a surfboard for the place I had always dreamed of: Bali. I stayed up late that night planning, booking, and more planning. I would tell Karen, Emma, and Phil, but I knew they would want to come with me, and this was something I needed to do alone.

I wrote a note for Karen, Phil, and Em telling them I’d be leaving for a bit, then headed off to the airport. The plane ride was nerve-wracking. I was excited to be in the place Mom and I had dreamed of going, but confused, since I was going to a new place, and sad to be leaving home. The lady sitting next to me and I chatted, and my heart started to ache when she claimed to be a runaway herself and told me how her whole family had died in a fire while she was gone. She advised me to go back, but this having been my dream for so long, I reluctantly refused. I wanted to go home, I wanted to see Em, but most of all I needed to surf and go to the place my mother and I dreamed of.

When we finally landed, I grabbed my luggage and took off for the Kayun Hostel.  I was onto my biggest life endeavor yet. I set my bags down on the bunk bed and stared at the serenity of Bali’s gorgeous beaches. It was about one in the afternoon, so I decided to try surfing for the first time in a while. I paddled out and for the first time was anxious about something that I thought was basically my second home. However, when I caught my first wave, it felt like I had surfed just yesterday, an amazing feeling. I finally felt like I was connected with my mom, doing the thing we had both loved to do. I felt independent like my mom had been, and I was proud of reaching my goals and tackling the thing I’d set my mind on doing.

The next day I walked to Warong Legong, a restaurant a few blocks away from our hotel. I ordered the green papaya soup, and for the first time on the trip I felt sad and didn’t enjoy sitting alone. A piece of me was missing. My family was missing. My mom and I had been close, but I had a new family now. Phil was funny. He could always make me laugh, even on a bad day. Emma was sweet and gentle. She looked up to me as a role model and always tried to help me. She’d never been mean to me like most siblings. And Karen was always so genuine and comforting, no matter how irritating she was. Although Karen wasn’t my birth mother, she had done a pretty good job taking care of me and transformed me from a scared, shy twelve year old to an independent and kind eighteen year old. I missed them… a lot.

Once I finished eating, I headed back to the hostel, climbed into my pajamas, and fell asleep.

I stood on our Barstow lawn, puzzled because the street was empty, which was unusual. The smell of ashes and smoke tickled my nostrils. Suddenly it hit me. I spun around. Em, Phil, Karen, and even little Bali were all in our burning house. “No… no!” I screamed, filled with terror, sadness, and panic. Flames burst from the house like exploding fireworks. I darted towards the house, attempting to rescue all of them, but instead found myself smashing into a glass forcefield, unable to reach them.

“Help me, Carrie, help all of us!” Emma wailed.

I found a neighbor’s scooter and tried to break the glass. It broke, but I was far too late.

I heard Karen let out one sharp shriek, and everything was gone.

I woke up gasping for breath, dried tears on my face. I attempted to slow my pounding heart down as I realized it was only a dream. Still, I had a horrible premonition that something bad would come out of this trip. I loved my family, Karen, Phil, and Em. They needed me and I needed them. I should have appreciated them more while I was with them. As much as I loved Bali and the connection with my mom that came along with it, I loved my family more, and decided to return home early.

Rushing to the Ngurah Rai international airport, I asked the customer service representative if there were available flights to Barstow, CA.

“Yes, the cost is $2,800 if you want to get a flight this late.”

“Umm…I don’t have that much, sir,” I replied.

I silently tilted my head to the left, shocked to see the lady from the earlier plane wearing a camouflage turban and waving a one way ticket to Barstow in her left hand.

She walked up to me and said, “Here take my ticket, sweetie. See your family and don’t worry too much.”

“Thank you… How did you know I would be here and was going to see my family?” I questioned, still contemplating whether or not I should agree to take her ticket.

“Everything happens for a reason,” she eerily said, her voice shaky, then turned away and disappeared into the crowd of people.

Still, I couldn’t turn down a free plane ticket to go home, so I hopped onto the flight and wished more than anything my family would be ok.

Once we finally arrived at the Barstow airport, I called an Uber to come pick me up and take me to 18461 Olive Drive, Barstow, California. The Uber driver dropped me off at the house, I paid him, and Emma emerged from our patio with an odd, neon pink cast wrapped around her skinny arm. I raced out of the car to hug her and let her know how much I loved and missed her and all the crazy dreams and beaches I had seen in Bali. But before I could say anything Emma started the conversation.

“Where were you? What happened? All we got was a note, no phone call or anything! We were so worried about you! Anyways, I’m glad you’re back, but I don’t know how pleased Mom and Dad will be about this,” said Em.

“Em, I missed you, too, but what happened to your arm?”

“Oh I just fell off my electric scooter, no biggie. Let’s go inside and tell Mom and Dad you’re back.”

“Ok,” I replied, as we approached the door.

When Em flung open the front door, we both yelled with surprise to find our parents standing at the door with their arms crossed, waiting to punish me. Or that’s what I thought at least.

“Carrie, we understand you took this trip to get closer with your mom, but why didn’t you let us know you were leaving?”

“I wanted to have alone time with my mom, and I thought you guys would want to come if I told you, so I didn’t.”

“We love you very much and are happy for you to be home, but promise us you will never leave like that again.”

“Of course, Mom.”

Yellow Paint

When I was assigned to do a report on Vincent Van Gogh for school, I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy. Then, I started to research him.

Turns out, the old dude ate yellow paint because he thought it would get the happiness to be inside of him. Yellow is a happy color, and it always has been. He thought that eating the paint would make him happy.
You obviously must be desperate for happiness to do that because the paint can damage your insides, instead of making them happy. But if you want happiness so badly, you’ll do anything. He ate the toxic yellow paint, only to have it hurt him and not help. It’s really not that crazy if you think about it. Back then, they didn’t know as much. Yellow is linked to happiness, so why wouldn’t eating yellow paint also be linked to happiness? It makes perfect sense.

I’m sure everybody has been at the point where they wanted to eat yellow paint, or their version of yellow paint.
Think about how depressed you’d have to be to swallow poisonous paint. It almost seems unreal that someone would put that kind of thing into their bodies, hoping it would make everything better, but really digging a hole so deep no ladder could help get them out.

The yellow paint – he wanted it to help him, but it did the opposite. Some might say it’s his own fault, but he wanted happiness. Can’t blame the guy for wanting happiness.

Muddy Eyes

I put the key in the lock, my cracked and bloody knuckles shaking as a cool shiver went down my spine. With one hand I twisted the dull brass edge of the key, the other quickly brushing thick red hair out of my eyes. I could feel my breath in my chest, like a balloon near bursting-point.




I heard a low ‘click’ as the bolts locking the steel door to the two-by-two box retreated. I slid the door to the side, and grabbed a flashlight from a pack strapped tightly to my back. Shining the light into the box, I saw the silver flare of the handle of the pistol. Jackpot.

I slowly drew the gun out, the weight odd in my hands. This was nothing like the high-tech, aerodynamic models we trained with in school. This was heavy in the back, and seemed to resonate with pure physical power. There were no settings, no long-range or short-range dials. Just a Flick The Safety, Point At Target, And Shoot kind of gun.

I examined the chamber, and to my relief there were four golden bullets. My hands stopped quivering at the sight of them, as if they were a drug and I the low-life druggee.

All at once, while staring entranced at the bullets, I became aware that I was not the only person in the weapons chamber of Hartsdale’s Laboratory. I heard a low exhale of breath, followed by a quiet rumble emanating from my mystery man’s throat. I lifted my head slowly, attempting to conceal my presence, as I clicked the chamber shut and flicked off the safety. My eyes narrowed, and I straightened my spine, the seams of my dark navy jacket thankfully silent as my neck craned upward, then to the right, then to the left.

At the very edge of the room, half-hidden behind a row of test tubes and layers of petri dishes, I saw him: a masked figure with an inhumanly long arm at its side, half of it the same metallic silver as my gun. The figure raised its arm and I heard a high-pitched wind-up, like the sound before a doctor’s report, or the withheld breath of the dead – the sound that we all attribute to silence.

On instinct I dodged to the side, agile and swift, living up to my nickname of “The Red Fox” given to me by my professor of Ancient Assassinations, period seven, three years in a row. A bullet narrowly missed my head, a millimeter away from skimming my ear. I cursed under my breath, and lifted my gun. Without blinking I clicked the trigger, once, twice, three times, and on the third the golden arrow made contact with the figure’s mask. My orders were clear; a headshot was to be administered for anyone who stood in my way.

“Jesus, Alice!” The figure cursed, and my hazel eyes widened with surprise as his mask came flying off. I saw his deep chocolate skin, and beautiful muddy eyes, rimmed with a scar I gave him from training two years ago. My breath stopped short, as if I were suddenly smacked in the chest, and I managed to whisper his name before my common sense kicked in.

But in that narrow lapse between my astonishment and my knee-jerk reaction to shoot him in the heart six times, he raised his gun and fired. A stinging pain ricocheted through my shoulder, throwing the entire left side of my body backwards and sending me crashing to the cool tile floor.

I shrieked, and pushed myself to a sitting position with my good arm. I raised my gun, though my shoulder felt as if it were on fire, and slammed my finger on the trigger.

I was just able to see the cold fear in those muddy eyes before the bullet drilled into his forehead, and he flew backwards, slumping against the wall.

Panting, I pressed the palm of my hand into the sticky wound on my shoulder. I would never hesitate to shoot again.



School. Lots of stories have been written about school. Lots of kids do not like school. Few do. Teachers give orders. Students listen. If students don’t listen they are either chastised or warned not to do whatever they did again. If they do do it again, they are sent to the principal’s office. The principal is feared by all in the school – by teachers, students, and even kitchen staff and maintenance. But what if, just what if, a kid was sent to the principal’s office, and didn’t listen or show respect. Then who would the principal tell? What would he/she do? They would probably call the child’s parents. That would be the end of that. The child would be taken home, yelled at, and probably harshly punished. But what if the child didn’t listen to his parents? Bad things would happen to the child.

Now forget everything I just told you for one second. How do armies win wars? Yes, guns and armor, and bases, and strategy, and heart, and all that. But besides heart, and guns, and strategy, you need numbers. Yes. Even though the Spartans only were 300 and the Persians were many more, the Spartans still put up a good fight. Now I don’t mean to give you guys a history lesson but what I’m trying to say is that they lost because they had every requirement but one. Numbers. Numbers cost the Spartans the battle. My point is numbers wins.

But remember those school kids? How come they are losing the battle if they are far ahead in numbers? Something’s not right.

Chapter 1

Here is an example of what I mean. In an unknown town in NJ, there is a school. 217 kids, 10 teachers, 6 maintenance people, one P.E. coach, one music teacher, a drama dude, one assistant principal, and one principal.

Here is an example of a class. Ms. Kqwedvbbcvcd3sdfhdv, Ms. K for short, teaches the students in room 309. 1 teacher, 21 kids. The kids are Tamry, Ben, Tim A, Tim C, Ivy, Lil Mike, Christopher, Mason, Ethan, Emily Q, Emily P, Juan, Alberto, Madison, Alex, Ava, Prudence, (Prude for short,) William Febloquentz, Laury, (Pronounced Looouuury,) Olivia, and, Gertrude.

Now, don’t you think that’s a lot of kids for just one Ms. K?  But, before I get into the story, I have to catch up on the drama.

So, for starters, Juan got into a fight with Tamry and Christopher, Laury and Emily P still have their ongoing feud do to the fact that Emily P spilled her milk on Laury’s “best piece of art ever,” during free time, and even though Emily P says it was an accident Laury “knows” that she did it because Emily P wants her to eternally suffer, and Alex and Prudence are still mad at Alberto and Madison for stealing their ideas in the make your own holiday project back in October. Lil Mike and William are still upset because they think Gertrude cheated them out of their victory at the science fair because Emily Q paid her to make sure her and Ivy would win no matter what she did. And there’s a rumor that Ben is with Olivia.

Now that we got that stuff out of the way, let’s get down to business.

Chapter 2

So, it’s a Monday morning. Bell rings at 7:57, to give the kids a couple minutes to get to class. Class starts at 8. Our story starts at 7:55.  Ben is flirting with Olivia, Emily P and Laury won’t stop fighting, (“You hate me!”) Tamry is fighting with Christopher, and of course Gertrude got into another fist fight with Lil Mike. After all this, it’s 8. Bell rings. Prude manages to break up Gertrude and Lil Mike’s fight. Class starts. They all sit down despite their conflicts. Ms. K comes in and says, “Settle down. Alright good moooorning class.”

“Good morning, Ms. K.”

“So class, was homework easy or what? I tell you kids I’m always right!”

“Actually Ms. K, no one’s always right,” said Lil Mike.

“Lil Mike, I was being SARCASTIC. By the way, what happened to your eye?”

“Well, why don’t you ask Gertrude!”

“Oh shut up, it was Emily Q!”

“Don’t you go blaming me!”


There was suddenly silence. The silence was broken when Lil Mike said, “Stupid girls.” Unfortunately Gertrude heard this, stood up and practically yelled, “Oh shut up, boys aren’t better! At fighting at least.”

“THAT’S IT!” Lil Mike jumped up from his seat but before he could get to Gertrude, Ms. K intervened.

“ENOUGH!” This time she yelled so loud everyone froze in their spots. Gertrude and lil Mike sat down. Everyone thought the same thing. “Uhhh, not again. Ms. K is so annoying.”

Chapter 3

RING! RIIIIIIIIING! RING RING RING! Finally! Everyone thought. Lunch!

Everyone went down to lunch, rushing past each other as if in the lunch room was Babe Ruth giving out free autographs. When they got there they all moaned. A huge line AGAIN. All the other classes beat them there. Ms. White’s class, Ms. Nolan’s class, and of course, Ms. Robertson’s class were all in line. Finally Ms. K’s class got to the front. Chef Brett said, “Late again!” in his smiley doesn’t-really-mean-it voice. Then, similarly to the way Lil Mike said “stupid girls,” he said, “Losers.” Mason and Lil Mike both looked at each other and gave each other the “I wanna kill this guy” look. They would’ve killed him if he wasn’t bigger, smellier and more powerful than them.

Mason and Lil Mike sat down together.

“Don’t you think it’s not fair the way she treats us?” said Lil Mike as he stuffed a hamburger in his mouth.

“Yeah Gertrude is such a j-”

“No, not her, even though she can be a jerk-”

“THANK YOU!” Lil Mike yelled. “Thats exactly what I’m saying. Wait,” said LM, “Then who’s the she?”

“You tell me!” said Mason.

Lil Mike took a second and then said, “Oh. Ms. K. I hate her too. You know, why don’t we do something about her. She’s so mean, and just makes our problems worse, and while she’s not doing that, she’s yelling at us!”

“Well maybe you’re right – maybe we should do something about it. I mean, if we really needed to, there are way more of us than her, so if we REALLY needed to, overthrowing her would not be a problem.”

Lil Mike then had that look that people get midway through TV shows implying that a mystery has been solved. Then Lil Mike said, “Let’s do it!”

Mason then said, laughing, “I wish,” as he took as sip of his lemonade.

“What! You said it yourself! If we could do this the right way, no one would ever know! We would have the best day-”

“Day! Year! We could do it to all the teachers as long as we have enough people.”

Lil Mike grinned. “We must gather the army.”

Chapter 4

The army started with Lil Mike and Mason. Then William F joined due to his everlasting friendship with LM, and then came Ben, who shortly was followed by his GF Olivia. Now there were 5. They needed at least 10 from each class. After that they would hope others would join. Some would oppose. More would accept. Alex, Prude, Juan, Emily P, and Alberto made it 10. That was enough for them, because they knew 75% of the grade would accept, as I already said. I was just reviewing for those of you that don’t really pay attention or just skim over my story.

After lunch was recess, and after recess was history. Now personally I like history, but it’s hard to like history when your teacher isn’t exactly “into” it. If you don’t get what I’m saying, Ms. K hates history, so it’s SO boring. The ten students had a plan. They were just waiting for the perfect time.

Chapter 5

(This is the one y’all been waiting for! Hopefully…oh look at that – it wasn’t!)

“Alright class, the following packet has questions from the reading that you were supposed to have read.” She gave Tim A a stare. “You read it right?” she said with an evil grin.

“Yes ma’m,” he said in a serious way.

Then as the children were working she said “Ok kids, so behave I’m gonna go use the restroom, now don’t you go causin’ any trouble, got that?”

“Yes Ms. K.”

Ok, pause. Why do teachers always say restroom? Just say bathroom, cause restroom sounds like you’re going to a room where you take a nap. When I was 6 my teacher said she was going to the restroom, and I thought she was going to a room where a bunch of teachers take a nap on the colorful round chairs, kinda like a teacher’s lounge. To this day when someone says restroom, that is what I think of – my first grade teacher sitting on that colorful round chair.


When Ms. K left, the class waited a moment and then… BOOM, constant talking.

“So did you see that post Emily Q made…”

“And like the homework last night was so confusing.”

“OMG, who is going to eat those hamburgers like what if Chef Brett just pooped and then put it on a hamburger bun!”

“I read that’s what they do at Burger King on Wikipedia!”

Lil Mike shot Mason a look. They were both considering if they wanted to do it now, or not, and if so, how would they “execute their plan,” to get Ms. K out of their lives and freedom into them. William F gave LM the same look. LM got up, gave both of them the “follow me to the front of the classroom” look, and they did. At the front of the classroom LM said to both of them, “If we wanna get this to work, we need to get her at a time where she’s acting like the bad Ms. K we know she is. Cause if we do it now, less people will get on board, plus we won’t really be AS into it as we know we can be.”

“Point,” said William F.

Mason then said “But I wanna do this soon! I mean you’re right, now’s not the time, but let’s aim for by the end of the week at least.”

“Done,” they both said.

Chapter 6


Now it’s Tuesday. Yay. We are one day closer to the REBELLION, even though, for all you know it could be today (Tuesday). Notice I said you, because I know when it will be, or at least I can decide.

Bell rings.

Everyone goes in. For some reason it was one of those blehhhh days where nobody had energy to do anything, including work or talk. One of those days where you just watch a couple episodes of a show or a movie, and then take a long nap. But instead it’s a Tuesday, so you gotta go to school. Ms. K obviously wasn’t feeling like the students were.

“Ok class, are we all settled?”

“Well I wanna go back to bed and-”

“That was a rhetorical question, Alex,” Ms. K said in a don’t-get-me-started way.

After a horrific first period full of yelling, it was off to music, which kind of made everybody’s day a tad brighter because like who doesn’t Mr. Freedberg? But it didn’t last long, because guess what was next? HISTORY. Uhhhh. That kind of cancelled out the funness of Mr Freedberg (if you know what I mean) and sent everybody back to the blehhh mood. Periods four and five were just like period one. Boring and long. Lunch was at 1 instead of 12:30 because of a lunch swap, and this made everyone starving.

During period 6 Mason, LM, and William F had an emergency meeting.

“What’s this all about?” Said William F.

“Should we do it now?”‘ Said Mason.

“Do wha- oh. Maybe.”

“Think about it” Said LM.

“Everyone‘s hungry. People can do crazy things when they’re hungry, like beat up teachers and put them in closets.”

“Good point.” Said LM.

Mason nods.

The decisions is made.

They will do it now.

Chapter 7

The act

“Little Mike, could you please sit down,” said Ms. K. “You too Mason, and William F please sit down.”

As Mason and William F went to sit down, LM put his arm out, as if restricting them. He gave them the I-got-this look.

“No Ms. K, I refuse to sit down,” he stomped.

Ms. K looked furious, “William Jason Feidelberg, you sit down RIGHT NOW OR SO HELP ME!”

Little Mike’s face turned an extremely dark shade of red. “No I will not listen to you anymore! I am sick to death listening to teachers! My parents and mentors have always told me to, but they are wrong. I will not take orders from some frauds! You think you know how we feel but…”


“NO YOU SIT DOWN! I WILL NOT TAKE ORDERS FROM YOU! Think about it. There are more of us than you. A revolution could happen any second now. You teachers are just lucky we waited this long but now the time is upon us! PUT HER IN THE CLOSET!”

“Mike, there isn’t a closet,” said Mason in a lowish voice so only the three of them could here. “

Then tie her up and put her on her desk!”

At least 6 students got up and charged at her, only to realize there wasn’t much to tie her up with, so they just made a big dog pile with her on the bottom. They then put duct tape on her mouth, and had people guarding the door, so everyone couldn’t hear her yelling and misery. They then hit her head on a chair to knock her out. The revolution had begun.

This was War.

Chapter 8


After LM took in all this, he asked the people at the door, so he could “take care of some business.”

LM went down to the cafeteria, wear other kids were eating, and he found Chef Brett.

“Hey shortie, how’s it been?” he said with one of those evil smiles.

LM responded by pulling out a yard stick from behind his back and saying “Your food sucks!”

Then he whacked him in the head with the yardstick various times until he was on the ground. After Little Mike was done with his beating, he ran upstairs, and told his army the news. They were amazed.

“Kids, can you quiet down! I can hear you from the 5th floor!” said Mr. Roberts, an eighth grade history teacher, known for his dreadful ‘Roberts’ stare. So LM smacked him in his belly button with the yardstick. Then they threw him in the room and shut the door. They tied him up next to Ms. K using duct tape they stole from the art room. They stole Ms. K and Mr. Robert’s phones so that A: they couldn’t call the cops, and B: so that the kids could play with awesome smart phones.

LM had an idea that he told Mason and Will F. You’ll have to wait and see what it was.

Across the hall was room 304. If there was ever going to be a room that would find out about this, it was 304. As Mason and Will F walked behind him into 304, LM kicked open the door like in all the movies and it was awesome! He walked in, interrupting their math class. Ms. Beomonte gave him the “Who do you think you are!” look.

“You teachers have bossed us around for two long! This ends NOW! Charge!”

LM pointed to her with his half meter stick. The 304 kids piled on her and the next thing LM knew she was tied up back in 303 (their homeroom.) So now Mr. Roberts, Ms. K, and Ms. B were all tied up, and Chef Brett was on the kitchen floor. Speaking of Chef Brett, LM knew Chef Brett wouldn’t be knocked out forever.

Time to bring him up to the third floor.

Chapter 9: Special delivery

LM and a couple other kids (not Mason and Will F. because they were left in charge of 303), went down the stairs to carry Chef Brett into the elevator, and then up to 303. If they ran into any teachers in the elevator, well…let’s just say they brought the duct tape. The trip downstairs went smoothly, but when they got to the kitchen Chef Brett had gotten up and was talking to Mr. Drozlesfinklesteinelzstrerererdythe, Mr. Droz for short.

“So, I tell you, this kid in Ms. K’s class, Michael I think, comes up to me and whacks me in the head with a half meter stick!” Chef Brett was practically jumping up and down in fury and shock.

“Listen Chef,” said Mr Droz, “I think, you’re crazy. You’re telling me a little kid beat a 36 year old with a half meter stick? I think you slipped on some of your sauce, banged your head had some crazy dream, because apparently 36 year old chefs have crazy dreams! Now I have a class to teach!”

“But wait, really, I’m not lying! Really!”

“Bye Chef.”

Chef Brett then sat down on his little chef dude chair.

“Looks like no one believes you, Chef.”

“You! You little rascal! Imma teach you a-” BANG.

Gertrude hit Chef Brett in the back of his head, and then tried to spit on him but some how failed and made this weird gagging noise and kind of regurgitated some mucus.

“Good job ‘Trude. Why don’t you go find a garbage can.”

Then ‘Trude ran towards the can and puked some more. Then LM and the Tims’s dragged Chef Brett into the elevator and went up to the 3rd floor to add him to their collection.

Chapter 10: We Shall Learn

Now kids, what you just heard is not a true story.

Because if it was we would be in a free kingdom of glory.

But since it’s not we’re stuck with this.

A crazy old world keeping thoughts in the air, waiting for someone to take a deep breath.

Asleep in School

“Why did you fall asleep in class?” the teacher asked.

“I’m so very tired, you see,” he replied.

“My pages of homework just keep piling and piling, they utterly flooded my room!”

“Why were you dozing off in class?”

“I’m so very tired, you see.”

“You must be punished for this behavioral act.

Why were you dozing in class?” the teacher exclaimed.

“I’m really, exceptionally quite sorry, sir!”

“You! You must be punished for this behavioral act!

Why were you distracting my class?”

“I’m really, genuinely quite sorry, sir!

I just thought you would appreciate the kind gesture!”

“Why were you distracting my class?”

“My pages of homework just keep piling and piling, they utterly flooded the classroom!

I merely thought you wouldn’t disparage the gesture!”

“Why did you fall asleep in class?” the teacher asked.

Into The Green

I drink in my surroundings, hot

Like earthy green tea.

The mountain dips, cradling me

In its valley, wood-whistlers rustling

Above my head.


The forest is in a daydream,

Bathed in a bitter juice

Sucked from the base of a stem.


Into the green I go,


The chimes of late summer announce

My arrival.

I’m forty years older than when

I last traversed these trails.


I pause to sit on a craggle croak,

My hiking boots shift the

Riverside soil.


These woods have bewitched time.

The trees and knolls and rocks,

Statues of their former selves.


Why have I changed so?

Yet you, wild nature,

Remain ageless and ancient at once?


I regret now those lost years of turning rigid

Routes, encaged in narrow steel confines,

And following streets with meaningless names.


I came back here to find some tangible truth,

A reason for all this that could infuse

My being with peace.


But epiphanies don’t come to those who look for them.

Even I know this to be true.


I stand and turn round back my way.

I’ll bring my kids here, yes,

I will bring my kids into the green,

So they can find

What I have lost.

Just One

The bed is green, dark green.

Thread and cloth, pillows and me.

I am a pillow too.

Squeeze me, lay on me.


His eyes are more animal than human

And his breath is hot.

I feel hot too

But I’m not under the blankets.

Comfy is better than uncomfy,

he says.

I’ll keep it on, thanks,

I say.


Arms, legs, fingers

Mouth turns up at the corners

Green, green, green.

Green thread, green walls.

Skin is pink, delicate but powerful.

Pushing further than I am wanting.

Further than we said.

I remember my words,

My mouth, my words.

Say no.


Come on.




Backing down now,

Coming down.

Side by side,

King took off his crown and came back to the green sheets

With me.

Still warm, breath has slowed.

So has my mind.

It walks in the hot summer sun with his.

Then we are there and it is distant.

Let’s give it some time.


“When I was your age…”

There are few words more hated

Than these

Because a rant always follows.

Generations are different, for God’s sake!

Maybe you walked everywhere

And had to research things in books, for real

But technology isn’t so easy either.


Did it ever occur to you that we can’t just

“Put down our phones and come to dinner”

Because we are making plans

Or working out a situation with a friend?

Or–God forbid–finishing the level of a game!

We understand it’s not a good use of time

But if you break it down far enough, nothing ever is.

And it promotes happiness!


Also, we always have to listen through the adult conversations

About conservative vs liberal viewpoints

And there it is again,

“Why don’t you go play outside?”


We can talk about stuff too!

Religious beliefs

Moral ethics


Whatever floats your boat!


And how come we have to just wait around

While you talk to all your friends?

It’s so frustrating!

I bet your mom didn’t talk so much

That’s why you don’t even bother to understand.


And you force us to be social

When obviously we’d rather watch Netflix on a Thursday!

And then we have to spend time with you

Kids hate their parents! Accept it!

Dear Bully

Dear Bully,

Thanks for ruining my life.

No, really. Your two-year incessant torment of me has done a lot to make me who I am now.

I suppose that was your plan all along, wasn’t it? You wanted to make me a better person, didn’t you? When you called me an idiot in front of a class of thirty, you were trying to teach me that I wouldn’t always be the smartest. When you pulled the chair out from under me, you were showing me how to recover. When you spent whole class periods insulting me in multiple ways, that was to teach me to be able to grit my teeth and get through things like that. When you literally stood in the path between me and my goals, you were preparing me for other obstacles. When you were racist, and sexist, and every other kind of prejudiced, you were showing me examples of the worst kinds of people in the world.

I didn’t know, back then, that you were trying to teach me. That’s why I cried every night. That’s why I dreaded going to school each morning. That’s why I desperately wanted to be someone else. Everyone else had already learned these lessons. That’s probably why they all told me I was overreacting.

You were truly my best teacher.

Remember when I nearly pushed you into the pool? That was me taking your lessons and teaching them right back to you.

Dear bully, I hope you read this someday. I hope you know that I know that wasn’t your real plan. Your plan, if you had one at all, was to make a lonely, lost girl even more lonely and lost. You enjoyed watching the tears I shed almost daily. My stress was your de-stresser.

Even though you didn’t plan to make me a better human being, you did. I’m braver now, and stronger. Most importantly, I’ve learned to do the one thing you wouldn’t and be kind to others. I am enjoying a life where I, for once, control it. Not you.

What I’ve also learned is that I’m not the only one who’s had to go through this. Hundreds of thousands of people across the world go through the same thing you put me through. Now I know what bullying is, and what it can really do. I’ve experienced it myself.

And I want you to know right now that because of you, I will now stand up for every single one of them. Bullying is a problem. I know just how much that’s true. We need to stop it, and I will be the very first to put my life and soul into helping others that have had the same problems as me.

Dear bully, I will say the words you want to hear least–thank you.

And dear bully, I hope you can see how I’ve risen above you and will help others do the same.

I hope you can see how I won’t be hurt by you ever again.

And in the peculiarly accurate words of the All-American Rejects: when you see my face, hope it gives you hell.


Yours not-truly,


A Victim

St. Mark’s Place

Everyday after I come home after school, my mother always asks, “Any new grade to show me?” She never seems to understand that I would have to hand in a paper in order to get a grade. My mother is completely immersed in my academic life. She is always eager for my next A or waiting for my teacher’s latest comment on my essay. She checks my grades every night on the computer and talks to me about the A- that I received on a test, telling me to study more or to ensure that my grades would not continue to drop below a 95. Although I am still only a freshman, she countlessly reminds me that I should aim for valedictorian for my senior year and to think about ways to get into Harvard. This year, she tried to enroll me and my friends into multiple summer programs, which included a medical sleepaway camp and community service programs. My friends, thankfully, were not too excited about that idea.

My mother sees my friends as more of a hinderance to my academic life. She seems to think that they do not care about their future simply because they do not put in extra effort to get straight A’s. On the other hand, my friends would probably say that my mother is too strict and absolutely crazy. They describe her as one of those stereotypical Asian moms. My friends are the type of people that enjoy going to parties, being on their own, and, in general, doing things that their parents would not approve. In a sense, they’re what every other teenager aspires to be. They’re confident, bold, and independent, and those are only some of the qualities that I admire about them.

Many times, my friends and I would fantasize about getting piercings and tattoos and dyeing our hair crazy colors. I remember numerous text messages we sent of photos of only people with our desired look: gauges, facial piercings, a mix between adorable and edgy fashion. On Tumblr or other social media, I often find myself wanting to dress like these other girls and making them my style, but I always feel the need to hide my clothes from my parents. It’s not that I’m showing too much skin or that I simply look over the top. I’m really more concerned with how everyone, including my mom, always thinks that I want to copy my friends or that they have changed me negatively. Even though we continuously want to change our image, we could never go through with our plan because of our parents.  If we dyed all of our hair, the result would be too obvious to hide, and we were not willing to completely disobey our parents with tattoos, so my last option was to get a piercing.

I thought about the piercing for weeks. I was worried about how much it would hurt, whether or not it would heal in time for me to play volleyball and softball, but most importantly, how long I would be able to keep the piercing a secret from my mom. My friend, Lily, had already explained to me how much her cartilage piercing hurt during recovery, and pain was my biggest fear. Before getting the piercing, I thought a lot about how I might need my mother’s consent. I read numerous articles about St. Marks and underage piercings, so I wasn’t sure if I could even get it done. My friends and I even thought about going with Lily’s mom, so we could tell the piercer that I was adopted. I have always envied my friend for having one of those “cool” moms. She can talk to her mother about her boyfriends, parties, and fashion. Her mother even went to the piercer with her daughter. My mother, on the other hand, made fun of the idea of having multiple piercings. She believes that I should look more ladylike and less crazy. She says that she only let me dye my hair and go to parties so I wouldn’t do the same in college. I guess she thinks that if I have all my experiences in high school, I won’t need to have any more in the future.

On this day, Lily and I met up with our friend Nick. I told my mom that I was going to a Key Club event so I could be sure she wouldn’t call. I looked up multiple times the directions to St. Marks and for awhile, even got a bit lost when we exited the station. The street immediately made us feel apprehensive, especially when we stepped in front of the piercing shop. The clothing shops had the look of abandoned factories, and the workers all had either tattoos, huge gauges, or dyed hair. The three of us paused, waiting for someone to make the first move and go into the store. I was mostly afraid of looking like a poser since I felt that I didn’t belong at such an edgy place. I mean, all around me were six-inch platform creepers and leather chokers with spikes. Lily seemed to feel more at home at St. Marks. She wore clothes from Trash and Vaudeville and looked like the type of person that would fit in; multiple people have even mistaken her for Avril Lavigne. However, when it came time to actually get the piercing, she was as intimidated as I was. This first place we visited agreed to do it at first, but the piercer rejected us since I didn’t bring an ID. Disappointed, we walked further down the street in hopes to find another place. Luckily, as I was talking about the piercing, a shady man on the street jumped out from his small store to call me over. He was completely bundled up from head to toe in winter clothes. I couldn’t even tell where he was from because of his accent. It definitely wasn’t American though. He was willing to pierce my ear without an ID. I didn’t trust this bundled man at first, but in the end, agreed to let him pierce my ear since I felt that it was only option.

As I sat in the chair, I looked around to see dozens of photos of the people the bundled man had pierced before. His shop was tiny, probably even smaller than my bedroom. Lily even had to sit on Nick, sharing a single chair. There was no front desk or display case like the first store we went into and for heating, the bundled man worked around a small portable heater. He pulled out a couple studs for me to choose the design I wanted, but when I asked if I could get a ring, he strangely refused and tried telling me that using the gun piercer was better. (It wasn’t.) It seemed as if he wasn’t qualified to use a needle, so I didn’t mention it a second time. I thought about backing out multiple times. However, I couldn’t after dragging my two friends into the city. The bundled man was already marking my ear with a sharpie, and I was too afraid to even tell him to stop. I looked over at my friends, who were busy filming me for Snapchat, as I was experiencing the greatest fear of the entire trip. I thought over my decision multiple times in the short moment the bundled man was preparing to pierce my ear. Before I knew it, it was done. Strangely, I no longer felt worried about the pain or hiding the piercing from my mom. All of a sudden, the piercing wasn’t a big deal to me, and I even decided to get a second one.

After I got it done, I came back home confident that my mom would never see my piercing. In the first couple weeks, I had to cup my ear whenever she hugged me in case she would hit it in the process. She did that twice until I learned to protect it. I specifically got the piercing on my left ear since my hair would cover it. However, sometimes I even forget that it’s there, and I have to quickly take my hair out of a ponytail when she walks into the room. (The only person in my house that knows I have a piercing is my sister. She tends to keep all of my secrets and normally doesn’t judge the things I do, even if she thinks that they’re mistakes.) With my friends, I tend to show off the fact that I have multiple piercings by getting a matching earring with Lily and having my friends wait longer because I have to take out six earrings before the softball game. With them, I don’t have to worry; I simply get to be myself.

The Journey (Excerpt)

Prologue 1:  The Book

In NYC on April 13th,  2250, a man sat down on a park bench.

He had a book.

It was old.

It was from a museum.

And he had stolen it.

The book was dug up by an ancient book collector. His collection was a museum. The man had stolen from the museum.

The book had a title.

“The Book of Nick the Prophet.”

Inside a pouch, the man felt a crystal. He pulled it out and then the explosion happened.


Prologue 2: The End

At every nuclear facility there was an error. All bombs were set off.

Radiation was everywhere.

75% of the world died. Others were mutated.

Shaqueesha-lina had been released.

250 years later…


Chapter 1: Lawrence the teller

Ten-year-old Gale Hersh sat down during Teller Day. Every month, the kids of Park Valley had to go learn what they needed to know from Teller Lawrence. It was the most boring day of the whole month.

Gale spent the rest of his days doing his chores or playing around or hanging out at the orphanage. His job was to help the mayor. He served him food did chores and comforted him.

Gale considered himself lucky that he was not born a big person. The big people were born in the form of flying beasts. They had their wings and tails cut off. They were given special therapy that turned them human. Most of the people were normal height. Some said all humans used to be big people. And, the big people were not always born with wings and tails. People said that it was bad air. Some called the air: radiation.

“And,” continued Lawrence, “You should not be curious about the outside. Any fool who does that will die of the dangers.”

Gale stood up. Anger rushed through him.

“My father was not a fool!”

“Y0ur father’s curiosity is what killed him and your mother,” Lawrence said with a harsh stare.

Gale sat back down. When Gale was only two years old, his father fell in the lake. But then, his father learned how to swim. He tried various ways of doing it. Then he decided to show it to Gale’s mother. When they left to go, they never returned. Everyone said they drowned.

Gale lived at the town orphanage. He was not very lonely. He had his best friend, Damon Spikes.

But Gale was haunted by living without parents. He had a huge fear of water. But he never really knew them, so it did not really matter. He had always pictured his father being a very wise and brave man.

And Teller Lawrence was not going to change his opinion.

Chapter 2: The mayor’s guest

Gale sat next to the mayor’s daughter, Anastasia Gutentag, during tea time. Gale had no chores to do around the mansion, so he was able to join the mayor for tea. Technically, this was the reason why Gale had picked the job.

The mayor was one of the big people. People referred to the bigger people as draco magnus. In fact, the name for the people his height was magnitudine exiguus. The mayor’s daughter was also a draco magnus. Anastasia was tall with hair so dark that it made Gale’s blond hair look white.

The mayor burst in. His big belly was right in front of him. Behind him was another draco magnus. He had black curly hair and big bulging muscles. Gale shivered a little at the sight of him. But the look in his eyes was very friendly.

“Anastasia, Gale,” said the mayor in his booming voice. “I would like you to meet Carter Carlston. He was on his own in the woods, living in a hut. Last night, he happened to come upon our town. He will stay with me for now until we find a place for him.”

A sudden question burst into Gale’s mind.

“How big is the park?”

The mayor stared at him for a while, and then added, “Too big for us to know.”

Two and a half centuries ago, the ancestors of the town escaped the cruelty of the world. They fled to the park and settled down.

Gale looked over at Carter. Carter smiled at him. It was hard for Gale to imagine what life would be like without the straightness of the town.

Maybe that life wasn’t so bad. But Gale wasn’t going to be interested anytime soon.

Chapter 3: The Familiar Eyes

Gale hobbled back to the orphanage where he ran into his best friend, Damon Spikes.

“Hey,” Damon said.

Gale suppressed a smile and went to bed with no supper and passed out. He was exhausted from a big day.


That night Gale dreamed that a man was talking to him. He couldn’t make out the features that well. He seemed familiar.

He was saying one sentence.

“I am coming.”


The next day, Damon shook Gale awake.

“You have to check this out,” he said.

Gale yawned and followed him outside. The whole town was gathered around a man. He had brown hair so bright it was almost blonde. He had a big beard that went to his chest. He had a gray cloak and a big tree branch for a staff. Gale wondered why he had a staff when he did not need one. But his eyes, they were so familiar. But Gale could not remember where he had seen them before.

“SILENCE!!” cried the mayor. Then he turned to the man. “Speak.”

“I am Admiratio,” said the man. “I have come with an offer. I know the way out of the park.”

“Nonsense!” cried the chief of the guard. Right next to him was his 11-year-old daughter, Ashley Jakes.

“But, I have been outside,” Admiratio continued. “And I will take anyone who wants to go with me.”

“You have no right to say that to my people!” shouted the mayor. “I make the laws!”

“Only an idiot would go with you!” shouted Teller Lawrence.

“Then I am an idiot!” shouted Anastasia. She stepped forward. “I would like to come.”

“Me too,” said Carter. He stepped forward. “Anyone else?”

A bunch of people stepped forward. Gale found himself walking towards the man, too.

Part of him thought, What am I doing? but the the other part was ready for an adventure.

Chapter 4: Taking The Leave

Gale sat down in his bed while Damon bragged about going on the trip. Actually, the only people who were staying were the orphans besides Gale and Damon, two families, the chief guard (even though his family was going), the mayor, and Lawrence. Everyone else was coming. Gale was already starting to regret that he wanted to go. But, he wanted to learn more about the Admiratio dude.

He decided to rest on it.


Damon shook him awake at 5:00.

“Dude, they are leaving,” he said in a hushed voice.

Gale thought of turning down. But staying was not an option anymore.

Gale took a pack and stuffed some useless things. He did not have anything to use to sleep on, so he hoped that the ground was soft. He already had a list of what he had packed.

  • Two canteens of water


  • A picture of his family


  • His dad’s old clothes

It wasn’t much, but Gale thought it was enough for him. He followed Damon to where the group that was leaving was.

He looked over to the big huddle of people. He squeezed in.

Admiratio was standing at the edge of the road. He bonked his cane into the ground five times.

“Attention please!” he shouted. “I know this this has come quickly, but we are going to leave. I cannot guarantee all of your lives. This will be a brutal trip. And once you leave, there is no coming back.”

There was some noise in the crowd and Gale stood on his tiptoes to see the man. He fell down onto one of the girl scouts. They were three sisters, Whitney, Britney, and Mary. They were orphans but stayed with Fisher Joe’s wife. All they did was go around selling cookies. They were kind of wimpy in Gale’s opinion. He doubted that they would last the journey. There was also Fisher Joe’s family, Grocer Tom’s family, Farmer Frank’s family, Baker Bob’s family, Blacksmith Ivan’s family, Butcher Biff’s family, Alistair, who was the brother of the chief of guard and his family, Doc West, Old Man Flounder, Anastasia Gutentag, Carter Carlston, Gale, Damon and Admiratio. Gale looked around for the kids. There was him, Damon, the girl scouts, Grocer Tom’s kids, Hazel and Don Kotouc. Malcolm, Fisher Joe’s nerdy son and his two rhinoceros shaped siblings Butch and Butchina, Joey and Johnny, Alistar’s sons, Ashley Jakes who was with Alistar, Bo, who was Baker Bob’s son and his baby brother, Bobby Perkinson, Butcher Biff’s son, Griff, and Blacksmith Ivan’s little brother, Harry.

In other words, there were a lot of people coming. Gale watched as Admiratio led everyone down the road leaving the town. He followed. This was his last time seeing the place he called home.

Chapter 5: Carter

Gale stayed close to Damon as the huge group marched down the big paved road.

He was being squished by the crowd. He tried to push out, but it was impossible. He had no strength. He was the weak kind of kid.

Someone tapped Gale on the  shoulder. It was Carter.

“Hey,” he said with a gentle smile.

“Um….hey.” Carter was about two times the size of Gale. It was like comparing yourself to a statue.

“So, I realized you and your friend hadn’t brought something to sleep in. I thought I might invite you two into Anastasia and my tent.”

Gale did not know what to say. He wasn’t good with talking. He smiled and gave a thumbs up.


That night, Gale and Damon huddled in the sleeping bag. It was draco magnus size, so there was plenty of room for the both of them. They played cards in the tent while Carter and Anastasia were deep in chatter.

“Where do you think that weird dude is going to take us?” Damon asked.

“I don’t know,” Gale replied.

“What do you think the outside world is like?” Damon asked again.

“I don’t know,” Gale replied again.

Gale curled up and put his head down on the pillow. Homesickness was barking at his feet. He wished his father was with him.

But I am, a voice replied.

Gale looked around. He must have been seeing things.

Chapter 6: The Butcher’s Fall

The next day, Gale and Damon kept close to Carter. He felt like a big brother to Gale. Anastasia had her arm around Carter. Was it just him, or could Gale see something coming between them?

Gale walked and looked around at the trees. They were walking down the same boring road. Gale hoped that it would end.

After a while they came to two men standing by a path that led off the road. The first man was man made out of clay. Literally made completely out of clay. The next one wore spandex that stretched over his bulky muscles. The words “I am Batman” were written all over his clothes. He was wearing a biker’s helmet. And he had no face. Just a big black pit. They were very mysterious looking.

Admiratio walked right up to them. Everyone gasped as he shook hands with them. He turned around and smiled.

“I know you are all shocked,” he said. “These are my…well…you could call them my colleagues. They would not like to reveal their names just yet.”

He smiled again and then gestured to the side path.

“This is the way out,” he said and then smiled for the third time.

Butcher Biff cut in.

“Now wait a minute. That path does not look very safe.”

Biff had a point. The side path went along a steep ridge. It was made out of sand and had little shrubbery. At the bottom of the ridge there was a cloud of gases.

“The only unsafe part is those gases. They are full of bad chemicals,” Admiratio said, looking annoyed.

“I don’t beeleev nuttin,” Biff said, crossing his arms.

“Then maybe you should test it out,” Admiratio said.

“Shu,” answered Biff. He walked over to the path.

“Be careful of the light sand. It’s slippery,” Admiratio called.

“Wudeva,” he said.

Biff stepped onto the path and started walking. And sure enough, it was safe.

“What is down there?” Biff asked, pointing to the clouds of gases.

“Toxic waste. Remember not to step on the light sand,” Admiratio reminded him.

Biff took a step forward.

“What the hell are you doing!” Admiratio yelled.

“I don’t believe you,” Biff said.

He stepped onto the light sand. He slipped a little. His legs went under him and he went flying into the clouds of gases.

For a long moment everyone stood there in shock. Screams echoed through the woods. Gales stomach flipped. This was the first time he had ever seen someone die.

“We must continue,” Admiratio said.

Gale started down the path, not knowing what was going to lie ahead.

Chapter 7: The Storm

As Gale continued down the path, he felt sicker and sicker. He kept seeing the scared look on the butcher’s face before he died. The others seemed sad, but not as surprised. Gale tried to keep as close to Carter as possible. Damon was somewhere behind them. Gale looked behind at Doc West. The old man was humbling around with his heavy backpack. Griff was running towards them.

He grabbed Doc West’s backpack.

“Out of my way, you stupid old man!” he shouted. He flung the backpack towards the edge.

The pack slipped off Doc West’s shoulders. It rolled down to the gases. Doc West stared at Griff. Griff just pushed past the old man.

Gale stared at the teenager. Griff stared back at Gale.

“What are you looking at. Butthead!” he shouted at Gale. Carter tapped Griff on the shoulder.

Griff looked up. Carter was a foot and a half taller.

“Pick on someone your own size,” Carter said. He pushed Griff ahead. Then he turned to Doc West.

“Are you okay?” he asked the old man.

“I am fine,” Doc West replied. “I am fine with sleeping on the ground.”

Carter started walking faster. Gale ran to keep up with them. They found Admiratio perched atop a cliff. He was staring out at the gases. Gale followed his eyes. Admiratio was staring at a huge cloud of gases forming.

“There’s going to be a storm tonight,” he said. “Everybody should take shelter.”

“How bad is it?” Gale asked.

“Deadly,” Admiratio responded.


That night, everyone was frantic. The storm was coming closer and closer. Gale was helping Carter set up the tent. Damon was panicking. Anastasia was sitting on the rocks with Blacksmith Ivan, staring at eachother.

Gale could see Carter looking at Ivan with jealousy. Gale felt bad for Carter, but he knew it was not his business.

Doc West was invited into Carter’s tent because he had no supplies. They ate dinner by the fire. Then Admiratio said that everyone had to be in their tents until the storm was over. Gale took one last look at the outside and then crawled into the tent.

He lay there next to Damon for a while. Waiting and waiting for the storm to come.

Then he realized someone was missing.

“Where is Anastasia?” he asked.

“With the blacksmith,” Carter yawned.

Gale lay back down for a few more minutes.

“Oh, crap,” Doc West said.

“What is it?” Gale asked.

“I forgot to use the bathroom,” he replied.

“Just hold it in,” Carter said.

Gale lay back down for another few minutes. Then Doc West started whining.

“Shut up or I will beat the crap out of you!” shouted a voice from another tent, probably Griff’s.

The wind was battering the tent. Doc West got up.

“Where are you going?” Gale asked.

“I really have to pee,”  Doc West said.

“You can’t go out! Admiratio said you will get hurt!” Gale shouted.

“I am going to get hurt if I have to hold in my pee any longer.”

Doc West left the tent and ran into the storm. Screaming filled the air. Then Gale heard the tent door open and someone come in and scream. Gale covered his ears and went to sleep.

Chapter 8: On Top Of The World

Gale woke up shaking from the night before. He even thought that he was dead for a moment. Then he pushed himself up and got out of his sleeping bag. Damon was still fast asleep. Gale opened the flap and squeezed out of the tent. When he was outside, he gasped. The whole site was covered with sand. Admiratio was perched on a rock.

“What the heck happened?” Gale asked.

“The wind, it turned over the entire mountain,” Admiratio responded. “We must leave now.”

Admiratio started rousing the groups up and telling them to go. Gale walked over to help Carter.

“How is Doc West?” Gale asked.

“I do not know,” Carter responded. “He is badly hurt”

Gale shook Doc West.

“Uhhh,” muttered the old man.

“Are you okay?” Gale asked.

“Leave me,” Doc West moaned.

Gale stared at Carter.

“We have no choice,” he said. “We must ditch the tent.”

Gale roused Damon. The two of the got their belongings and left the tent. Carter followed after them.

Gale felt very guilty about having to leave Doc West. But he knew it was hopeless. He still felt less sickened than the time he saw the butcher die. It confused him.

Everyone crowded around Admiratio. People yelled at him about the sandstorm. The clay man and the no face man were pushing the people away.

“Guys, guys,” Admiratio said. “We must continue. You cannot stop now. I never guaranteed your safety. We must take the secret mountain path.”

“The heck is that?” asked grocer tom.

“I am forbidden to show you the next path coming up, so you guys must be blindfolded.”

The people had no choice.They had to do what admiratio said.

Everyone was split into groups. Gale and Damon were separated.

Gale was put with carter and a bunch of others. Their leader was the no face dude.

“Hey you, blondie,” someone said behind him. It was Fisher Joe’s ten year old son, Malcolm. Malcolm was a nerdy and skinny kid with glasses.

“Yeah?” Gale asked.

“Is that giant dude your brother?”

“Malcolm.” It was Ashley, Alistar’s niece and the chief of guard’s 11 year old daughter. She elbowed malcolm in the side.

The man with no face blindfolded them and tied their waists to a rope.

All of a sudden, Gale felt himself being dragged by a rope. For the next two hours, he found himself being pulled from place to place.

After a while he had his blinds taken off.

He was on top of a mountain. Next to him was Malcolm on his knees. He was staring at the view.

“How high is this mountain?” he asked.

The man without a face didn’t answer.

“Where are we?” Ashley asked.

Admiratio caught up with them. He pointed ahead to the other side of the mountain. The mountain led down to a bunch of forestland.

“That,” he said, “once was downtown Manhattan.”

Carter was gasping at the view. Gale stood with Ashley and Malcolm. This was a view to remember.

The clay man caught up with his group and then Admiratio said they had to get to their site before sunset. Gale continued walking with Carter, Ashley and Malcolm. They walked for hours down a steep path to almost the bottom of the mountain. They finally arrived at a flat space for camp.

That night at the fire, Admiratio said that the next day they would have to split up into sectors of people to cross the bridge. Afterward, they would continue with the groups they were blindfolded with.

For the walk to the bridge, Gale was with  Griff, Baker Bob’s son Bo, and Biff’s wife/Griff’s mom, Nancy. It wasn’t the best group to be stuck with, but Gale knew it would be okay once he got to walk with Carter again.

That night Gale lay down outside next to Carter. He had no idea what was to come the next day.

Chapter 9: The Swing

Gale woke up the next day around 5:00 in the morning. He looked just to see the no face man get his group and have them start walking. Admiratio had already gotten up even earlier to stay at the end of the group.

The leaving group contained Damon, Blacksmith Ivan and his little brother Harry, Fisher Joe and his kids Butch and Butchina, Grocer Tom, his wife, and his two kids Hazel and Don.

After they left, Gale crawled over to the fire and watched it sparkle. People began to go to the fire and and eat breakfast. At 7:00, the clay man got his group and they started walking.

His group contained Carter, Anastasia, Old Man Flounder, Fisher Joe’s wife and Malcolm, the three girl scouts, Baker Bob and his wife, their baby, Alistair, his sons Johnny and Joey, and Ashley.

Gale stayed there for a while. He watched everyone sit there for a while. Then it was 9:00, Gale and his group had to head over towards the bridge.

On the way there, Griff was silent, Nancy was whining and saying that she would die, and Bo was panting. Gale was just walking, waiting for the walk to be over. His group was taking forever.

Gale just stared out while listening to the boring bickering.

“We’ll all die!!!” Nancy shouted.

“Shut up, Mom!” Griff shouted.

“I am tired,” Bo said.

“Shut up, fat kid!” Griff shouted.

“Can you guys quit it?” Gale said in an annoyed tone.

“Shut up, short boy!”

Gale listened to Nancy complain for a while and then just spaced out.

Then he heard a scream.

“Mom, what the F**K!” Griff shouted.

Gale looked to see Nancy flinging herself off the mountain. She screamed as she fell below. Gale was horrified. That was already the third death do far. The thought shivered him.


Ashley’s group was lagging behind. They had entered some traffic of boulders. The other group could have caught up with them by now. Hopefully they hadn’t.

Finally, they had reached the bridge. It was just a log standing over one deep chasm. The fall probably meant death. Ashley’s stomach did a dance.

Of course, as usual, Ashley was last. Was it her or did the bridge look loose?

Everyone was waiting as she walked across. She tried to focus on the other side. But then she heard the cracking sound.


Gale continued with Griff and Bo until they came to a big barren space. They arrived just in time to see Ashley on the cracking bridge, running to the other side.

The bridge collapsed just as ashley reached the other side.

“Ahhh!!! I am not giving up!!!” shouted Griff. He pushed Gale down and started running.

Gale got up and dashed right after him. Bo tried to catch up but fell on his face.

Sweat poured down Gale. He was burning. His whole body throbbed. He was actually running pretty fast. He was almost at the same distance as Griff.

Gale noticed some vines hanging across the cavern. He threw himself to the edge. He was falling. He held his hands out, grabbing for something. He caught a vine. He felt himself swinging towards the other side.

He missed and swung back towards Griff. Griff lunged at him but missed and was sent hurtling to the darkness below. Gale swung back. The vine was then uprooted from the cliff. Gale went flying to the other side and Ashley caught him by his shirt. She was panting heavily.

“That was close,” she said.

Bo yelled from the other side. Butcher Bob and his wife Roberta stared across at their son.

“Oh, no! All those people stuck at the other end,” exclaimed Old Man Flounder.

“I am sorry,” said Admiratio. “But we must continue.”

“I am staying to wait for Bo and the others,” said Roberta.

“Me too,” said Bob stubbornly.

“I will stay and wait until nightfall,” said Old Man Flounder.

“I am telling you, you should come with us,” said Admiratio.

“Shut up!” screamed Bob.

“Fine!” Yelled Admiratio.

The group followed him away.

Gale still was recovering from what had just happened. He went along as Admiratio led the group into a woodsy area.

Gale was then grouped with Carter, Ashley and Malcolm.
Gale did not know what to think of Griff’s death, nor the others.

Chapter 10: The Bees

Everyone continued on in silence. Malcolm kept adjusting his glasses. Ashley was playing with her hair. Carter had his head down in silence.

Gale tried to get a glimpse of damon. He was up ahead with his arm around Harry, Blacksmith Ivan’s little brother. Anastasia was with Blacksmith Ivan.

Gale looked up at Carter. The two of them were both jealous.

After a while, Amiratio told everyone to set up camp.

Gale found a spot to sleep. Carter went over to talk to Anastasia and Damon. Gale wanted to be alone.

He looked over at Ashley with Johnny, Joey and Alistair. He looked over to see the other families with each other playing and laughing.

Gale felt longing to have his own family, to know where he belonged.

He saw Admiratio staring at the families with longing, too. Gale wondered if the man once had a family.

There was a stirring in the bushes. Everyone grew silent.

Old Man Flounder popped out holding Bobby Perkinson. The baby was squirming and crying. Everyone gasped. Admiratio stood up and walked over.

“What happened?” he asked.
“We waited by the cliff for a while. Then Bob and Roberta handed me the baby and started climbing down. They took a while. I just decided to come back and hope they return. I will take care of the baby.”

“We will give them the night,” said Admiratio.

Gale shuddered a little. The journey was getting out of hand. He wanted to go home.


The next day neither Bob nor Roberta had showed up. Admiratio kept the group moving.

After a while they left the woodsy area and went back to the edge of the mountain. A huge yellow thing buzzed over Old Man Flounder’s head.

“What the hell was that?” he asked.

“That was a bee,” Said Admiratio. “They will not bother you as long as you do not bother them. They are mutated and have poisonous stings. Be careful.”

Gale got nervous. He was bug phobic. He turned to Ashley. She just looked grossed out.

After an hour, Bobby Perkinson (the baby) started getting playful. He started hitting the flowers

Once a bee landed on a flower. Bobby whacked it. Flounder noticed the bee charging at Bobby. He started hitting the bee. Flounder threw the baby to Grocer Tom’s wife.

Flounder screamed. He fell in agony. Grocer Tom leaped at the bee. He got stung in the nipple and fell back. The bee continued to sting Flounder until the old man stopped moving.

Fisher Joe grabbed Grocer Tom.

“Run!!”  yelled Admiratio.

Everyone ran after him and left the dead body of Old Man Flounder. Then they set up camp for the night.

Grocer Tom was crying in pain. Gale noticed Tom’s wife giving the baby to the girl scouts.

Admiratio approached Grocer Tom.

“He is paralyzed,” he said. “He will live but cannot walk.”

Gale shuddered a little. Poor Grocer Tom. But by the end of the trip, Tom was the least of the people to feel bad about.

Tree of Life

Summers in the suburbs never flew by. The long and winding road of hot weather and lemonade and ice cream never seemed to connect to any sort of parking lot or gas station deli. The usually weak sun shone brighter than any collection of stars ever did on the sleepless nights during which children were most energetic. They enjoyed every last bit of play and moment of joy, and they soaked up the beauty that the grassy fields emitted; whether it was sprawling on top of it or tugging at the weeds for mud pies. Children loved the summer and they never once wished the car that rode along that endless road would come to a stop. If the winding road was seemingly forever, so should be the car.
A mint green house sat lonely on its asphalted driveway. The trees around it swayed along with the ever-so-slight wind. The front steps of its porch were withered and breaking, but just sturdy enough for a family of three to step on and into their quaint living-quarters. Perched on the wood staircase were the feet of a little girl. Book in hand, she admired the plain yet scenic neighborhood and playing children that were only a little too lively for her taste. Even so, she read the sentences before her carefully and savored every line. She paid no mind to the noises of laughter and cheer.

Then there was her tree; her tree behind the house, parallel to all the others that were unimportant to her. She sat on the porch only when the book she was reading was uninteresting. Only the great moments of her current novel could be read under this tree that she loved so dearly. The moment in the story could never be as spectacular unless she was in the comfort of the soft bark and grass that, to her, was greener than any other patch.

And she would just stay there.

The playful children always looked at her with contempt and confusion. How could such a child, and their age too, sit back and do nothing on this gorgeous day of the sadly finite summer? The girl would only reply with a simple, yet witty, “the noun ‘nothing’ has a different definition in all minds. This may be yours, but it is most certainly not mine.” The taunters would look her over once or twice, shrug their shoulders, laugh and prance off, (partly because they couldn’t pick apart her artful language). Unfortunately, sometimes other much more upsetting happenings would occur, (and in the event of a crisis, the girl would retreat to her tree no matter how boring the book).

“Hey, you!” shouted a young boy in a collared shirt lacking a button. “Get that paper out your face!”

The girl looked up from her book, hiding her aggravation. “Pardon me?”

“Look at ‘er,” said a girl in a dirty, unattractive, beige plaid dress, “usin’ fancy words like ‘pardon’ and such.”

“Better stop spending so much time with all those books,” said a larger boy in a similar outfit to the first boy. “You might catch some sorta English virus!”

“I don’t think I know what you’re talking about.” The girl stood up from the porch steps and walked backwards onto the doormat, preparing for the worst. “There are no English viruses. At least not that I know of.”

“Gimme that,” spat the dirty girl. She snatched the book right out of the sweaty hands of her opponent. The dirty girl turned the book over in her germ-infested fingers. She opened the front cover.

“‘Lori’?” asked the larger boy, reading over the dirty girl’s shoulder.

“That’s my name,” said the girl. “Now if you’d please–”

“So, your name ain’t Booky after all?” asked the shorter boy rhetorically. “See, that’s what we’d been calling you before. We hadn’t known your real name, so we made you a nickname.”

“Oh, well my name’s–”

“I like Booky more,” said the dirty girl.

“May I have my book back?”

“Booky!” the larger boy yelled. “Booky!”

And so on, the three sour children danced around Lori, chanting “Booky” while holding the book that she had been enjoying so much. The dirty girl waved the book around while Lori attempted to grab it, simultaneously worrying about the horrid stench the dirty girl’s hands would leave on the inside cover and front. Maybe her stench would bleed through to the text itself, Lori thought. That would be awful.

After lots of running around and even a tumble into the mud, Lori retrieved her book and ran to the back of her house where the tree awaited. She looked at the thin branches that contained more love than she ever received from her peers.

Lori didn’t need friends. She didn’t want friends. Worrying about others was something she was never good at, and she was under the impression that each and every person deserved to be cared about by someone who could truly take on the responsibility of looking out for another human being. She also had the theory that children who have bad attitudes and personalities in general are the way they are because their parents took on too big of a challenge. Lori was daunted by the idea of parenting. People were too much work. It wasn’t like any of the neighborhood children appealed to her anyway. They were all truly horrid creatures in her mind, and she couldn’t imagine being “responsible” for them. All they wanted to do was ignore their education, get dirty, wash themselves off and get dirty again. Compared to other children, Lori was very refined, but in all honesty she was an ordinary introvert who wanted a nice spot on the grass and a complicated fictional text to decipher.

She was just more mature. All through the school year, Lori concentrated on getting good marks. All through the summer, she read books, praying that no one would bother her, but those prayers were never usually answered.
Lori sat under the tree and tried to stop the tears from escaping her tired eyes. She always tried, but she usually failed. She hugged the tree while her tears stained the bark, the bark soaking them up and taking them into account. Lori always felt the branches of the tree wrap around her the same way her branches wrapped around the tree’s stump.

Lori knew she was different, but she didn’t care. Any thoughts a friend was supposed to talk about to a friend she would write down on a piece of paper and crumple up. She would then uncrumple it, impale it using the tree branch and leave it there. You couldn’t tell how many papers were actually dangling from the tree branches unless you looked closely, but no one came near that old tree besides Lori. Whenever the idea that there were things wrong with her life occurred to her, she grabbed a pencil from a can on the kitchen table and ripped a small piece of paper off a larger one. She’d sit on the grass under her tree. Her eyebrows would scrunch and her fists would tighten as she worked her pencil around the paper trying her best not to break the point for fear of running into her mother and being forced to have a conversation when entering the house a second time. She couldn’t spend too much time gathering supplies or else the idea would be lost forever. She word-vomited whatever came to mind, good or bad.

Unfortunately, the notes were usually associated with the adjective “bad.”

Lori never read a note twice, and as her life went on, each recorded moment was forgotten. Lori was conscious of the darkness of some of her notes. She tried to put the ones that she thought would scare others (and even herself ) the most towards the top of the tree, so they would still loom over her but not as closely.
Many summers later, Lori sat under her tree with a new book. It took her that long to realize that she couldn’t read on the porch anymore. The notes on the tree branches had since tripled as a result of various other events that took place since her eighth summer. Her father passed away from undiagnosed pneumonia, her aunt moved in with them after her drunk husband left her, her grades declined, she developed more immense depression, kids became meaner and her teachers lost interest in her once outstanding book reports. Lori also just kept thinking of more notes to put on the tree in general. Feelings, internal and social struggles, anything that made her want to cry. Writing notes to add to the tree was a substitute. The grass wasn’t nearly as green as it used to be, yet the tree stayed as not-lively as it was when she was younger.

Outside of school, the neighborhood children didn’t bother her as much as they did when Lori was smaller and more vulnerable to such taunting, but she was in middle school now. The children were mean whether they lived near her or not, yet they soon realized that she was experienced in ignoring them.

But that didn’t stop them.

They made fun of her clothes, which were funnily enough, a lot nicer than theirs. Girls would tease her about her hair and say she smelled bad, but that bad smell was the odor of earth, grass, parchment and nature. The boys would call her ugly and make various jokes about her appearance. Sixth grade was hard because that was when it picked up, but now she was in seventh grade, and she expected it at every turn. She considered herself immune.


Fridays were never nice. It was the one day of the week when all the parents would let their children play after school and go from neighborhood to neighborhood strolling, laughing, playing and talking. If Lori was lucky, her classmates wouldn’t come into her neighborhood, and sometimes they didn’t. If they did, Lori would sit on the back steps of her house in the backyard, so she was hidden, but if she was being threatened she had an easy getaway.

One Friday afternoon, Lori thought she heard the acidic laughter that was vocalized when kids were approaching. She calmly and quietly, as if it were as normal as going to the bathroom, went into her house through the back door, locked it and sat on the couch to continue her book. One thing was different this time, though. In usual instances, the laughter would get louder and louder as the kids passed the mint house. Sometimes the kids would shout “Booky,” a name that followed Lori around since her younger days. Then the laughter would resume and begin to get softer and softer. Lori would then be safe to go back outside. This time, the laughter got louder and louder as the kids approached but it stayed at one, uncomfortably nearby-sounding volume. Lori looked out the window and saw five kids walking around and picking at a tree.

Lori’s tree.

She wasn’t going to take it. She was not an instigator of conflict; if it were any other part of the property, she would have waited it out. But this was her tree. There were things written on slips of paper dangling from that tree. Embarrassing things. Lori ran outside.

“Hey!” she yelled. “Get off my property!”

The kids let go of the tree branches and turned around slowly, giving Lori their full attention. “Well, would you look who it is,” said a gingery boy who went by Jon. “It’s Booky.”

Lori then decided to explore a new side of herself that she never thought would see the light of day; a side she never let outside her own head. “That’s not my name, and you know it.”

There were some “ooh’s” and “ah’s” coming from Jon’s friends.

“Aren’t you a feisty one,” asked a girl called Rosie. “You better watch your attitude, little girl.”

“You first.” After Lori said those words, she heard a faint rustling noise coming from the tree branches. She looked over and saw one of the other kids pulling a note off a branch and begin reading it. There were a few notes at his feet as well.

“Ooh, this one’s about you, Sally!” he called.

“I wanna see!” yelled Sally and another girl simultaneously.

“No!” Lori shouted at the top of her lungs. She dived at the nosy child impulsively and didn’t even realize she was tackling him. Sally and her friend stepped back and abandoned the path they were planning to take to get to the beckoning note. There was no punching, but the boy was kicking his feet in self defense.

“Get off o’ me!” he shouted as his friends watched, unsure what to do.


Lori’s mom came out into the yard in a fierce rage. Her scolding words flew at Lori’s face but bounced right off as Lori resisted her mother’s pulling, keeping a watchful eye on the intrusive children and not listening. Everything her mother said went in one ear and out the other as she screamed and cried, claiming that her privacy was being invaded. She was hysterical, and even though she was screaming at the kids to leave, her craziness was what shooed them away. They ran down the street in fits of laughter and tears trickled down Lori’s face as she stared after them. Her mother, slowly figuring out what actually happened, pulled her daughter into a tight hug, cupping her face and holding it against her bosom as wet spots formed, dampening her once clean blouse.

Lori’s mother stared behind her daughter and examined what she could see of the tiny slips of paper dangling from so many of the branches. She never normally noticed them, and if she did, she never considered them something of so much importance to her daughter. She couldn’t imagine what must’ve been written on them that was so private. Lori calmed down eventually and her mother decided not to question her any further. She simply told Lori to sit in the kitchen with her for the rest of the day with her book, some lemonade and a warm blanket. Sometimes, as she washed the dishes, Lori’s mother would glance at her daughter to check on her. She would catch sight of her soft cheeks glazed with the light crust of dried tears, yet her expression itself stayed as stoic and relaxed as ever.

It wasn’t until Lori’s eighth grade year that her mother and aunt finally started to observe the pattern in her daily routines. Lori would come home from school, do her homework and spend the rest of the day reading under her tree if the weather wasn’t too harsh. A new addition to this routine, they noticed sometimes, was a minute or two that Lori reserved for a light cry. If they were lucky, they would maybe even catch her adding a note to the tree. Lori’s aunt would always say, “there’s something wrong with that girl,” but Lori’s mother would always reply with, “no, sister, there’s something right with her.” Lori’s mom always thought that her daughter would amount to great things. She recognized her daughter’s knowledge of the world and its twists and turns. She figured Lori was saving her booming thoughts until she was old enough to interpret them, but for now, she was showcasing them on this tree that no one dared go near. What Lori’s mother didn’t know was how hard it must be to live with such a big brain, and how it can make your heart and soul rot slowly away over time.

That was exactly what happened to Lori when it became too late.

She didn’t come home from her first day of high school. Her mom waited for her

anxiously while her aunt rambled on about some man she’d met at a pub. It had been four and a half hours since Lori’s expected time of arrival had passed and she still wasn’t home. Her mother started preparing for the worst, and rightly so.

Lori’s mom went outside to the backyard and decided it was time to read these notes. She’d pondered the idea that maybe they held clues as to where she was. Her slippers pressed against the damp grass with urgency as she made her way to the withering tree. She grabbed the first note she could see.

Papa dead from pneumonia. Rest in peace.

Lori’s mom shivered as she remembered the awful event. She crumpled the note back up, threw it on the ground and removed another one.

Joey called me an ugly bat and said the same about Mama. What a horrible boy.

She grabbed another, intrigued.

Aunt Anna is drinking again. Mama argues with her a lot and it keeps me up at night.

Lori’s mom kept going through the notes in what seemed to her like chronological order; every note she picked up was more dark and serious than the one before it. She started with the ones towards the bottom of the tree first.

Sam Boyce called me a toad. He’s the toad. I hope he burns in hell one day.

I see the cars coming when I walk across the street. I know the car is a safe distance away and that I can make it across in time, but it takes more power to will myself to keep walking. Don’t stop walking. People will be sad.

Billy Sanders is really swell. Very cute, too. I like him because he is nice to me. I think he likes me.

Billy Sanders is a phony.

Sally punched me in the stomach today, so I punched her back and got sent to the principal’s office. It’s funny how only I get caught. They’re gonna burn in hell one day.

Billy Sanders tried talking to me today, so I spit in his face.

I almost stopped walking.

Everyone will burn in hell one day. Just you watch.

Booky will get them all back one day, those sinners.

The darker the notes, the more scared Lori’s mother became. Soon a pile of

crumpled pieces of paper formed at her feet as she picked up the last one from the tree. With tired eyes she looked around at the leaves, once an unnatural, papery white, now back to green. She sighed as she tossed the last note onto the ground, but suddenly, some black markings on a lone leaf caught her eye. She looked closer and was soon able to make out the words For Mom, scrawled on the leaf in thick Sharpie. She hadn’t noticed it before. She carefully ripped the leaf from its branch and turned it over. She read the words slowly and carefully, then out loud so her sister, who came up behind her, could hear. She took a deep breath.

Don’t come looking for me.


The Ugly Journey

As I am putting on my shorts and shirt I hear my dad yelling, “Hey, Nathen, hurry up! Jack and Nick are already waiting for you!”

I start to rush, putting my clothes on as fast as I can and jump into the car. I sit next to Ryan and Nick while Jack sits up front. We head on the road and talk about how we always go to this climbing spot and go on the rock that looks like a horse’s head. My friends get so excited as we pull up and reach our favorite climbing area. I hop out and start running to the big rocks.

We always try to get to the highest mountain we can find at Joshua Tree but there is always a higher mountain to climb. On this climb, we get to the highest point we have ever gone. Usually we head back when we are halfway done with our water but this time we have a lot more water than usual. We are going at such a fast pace we are not paying attention to where we are, which causes us to get lost. We start walking back the way we came and eventually we start to go back down.

We start climbing down small rocks and after a while they turn into slightly bigger rocks. I think there is no way the rocks can get bigger than the ones we are already climbing, but sure enough, they start getting bigger. I start to get scared of the jumps we are making. After a while, we see the bottom flat rocks. There is about a tenth of a mile of bushes before we will reach our car. We do not know those bushes are actually rose bushes with many thorns. We try to continue but are so upset and stop five feet away from the bushes. My dad says he will get us ice cream when we get home but only if we go through with the plan.

Before, the worst part of us getting to our car was jumping down the rocks with two and a half foot jumps but now we have to go through a bunch of dry plants with sharp thorns. I look at my arms and legs and see I am scratched up and bleeding. I look back to see how far we have gone and it’s only about 20 feet. I start to lose hope and think we are never going to get home.

I start walking, trying to dodge the shrubs in front of me, still scared of how much farther I have to go. I see a much greater distance behind me and know we are close. I climb up and see we are a little bit more than half way. I start to smile and stop paying attention to all the cuts I have. After about 150 feet, I get to another high point and see we only have around 20 more feet until we get to the car! I start to sprint ahead of everyone because they don’t know how close we are. Now, I am free! I run to the car and hug it but it burns my skin because it has been sitting in the sun for all this time.

I see my dad and friends come out of the bush and everyone is happy. My dad puts his hands in the air with the biggest smile and we go home. I realize instead of ice cream we got a handful of bandages. But the bandages are better, and I thank my dad.

A Short Story



The tiny girl watched the older one in disbelief. No one had not returned her hellos before!

“Look,” the older one said, placing a hand on her hip, “I’m six. So I am older than you and you have to listen to me!”

The small girl was confused. She was four, why did she have to listen to anyone? Kids were supposed to be treated like babies until they reached fourth grade, or so she thought. They were supposed to be pinched on the cheeks and be cooed at, not follow instructions!

“Go clean my room,” the older child said, grabbing her Barbies and walking down the stairs. “Oh! And also, don’t touch my flowers. If you do…” The older girl dragged her finger in a line across her throat.

The little girl gulped and nodded. She scurried up the stairs, her eyes widened at the sight.

There were toys everywhere with no empty space on the ground! From wall to wall there was trash, food and toys. There were headless baby dolls on the floor, the walls were covered with dry gum and the carpet had changed from a caramel color to a disgusting poop-like color.

Hours passed and the room was slightly better. You could now see the poop-colored floor and the slightly pink walls.

“Little girl!” the older girl called from downstairs. “Are you done?”

“No! Not yet,” she called.

“Well, hurry it up!” There was a pause. “Oh, hello, mother!”

The older girl’s mother was a tall woman. She had shoulder-length light brown hair and green eyes. This was the little girl’s chance to get the older girl in trouble. Not doing her chores, would get her into serIous trouble. The little girl skipped down the stairs. “Hi, step-mommy!” the little girl said, wrapping her little girl arms round one of the woman’s legs.

“Oh, honey, why are you all dirty?” the woman asked as the little girl looked at the older one
The older girl was repeating the “I’ll kill you” sign.

“Older step-sissy made me clean her room!” The little girl giggled, grabbing the woman’s hand. “I want to show you! I want to show you!”

“Oh ok, just give me a minute to talk to older step-sissy,” the woman said in a stern voice before picking up the girl and bringing her into the kitchen. The little girl skipped up the stairs and listened to her step-mom telling off the older sister.

“How dare you make your little sister clean your disgusting room! I don’t want to hear any excuses, young lady! You are grounded!”

The woman came up the stairs. “Ok, sweetheart,” her step-mom said, “show me her newly clean room.” The younger girl dragged her mother by the hand into the now clean room.

“Wow! Her room hasn’t been this clean in forever! I’m so proud of you! Do you want to go get some ice cream?”

“Yes, yes, yes!” the little girl squealed. “Ice cream! Ice cream!”

Over the years, the older sister continued to torment the younger one until the older one went to college. At college, the older sister attended parties, failed and was kicked out.

The younger sister went to college, didn’t go to parties and passed with flying colors.

The younger girl grew up and now works at Apple as a boss. She lives in a mansion somewhere in Beverly Hills.

The older girl also grew up and is still older. She doesn’t work anywhere and lives off of unemployment. She lives in a shack in some unknown place.

So, the older girl saved up some money and called her sister on one of those phones you see on the corner of the street.


“Y-yes, it’s me, big sissy.” The older girl coughed. “I need you to help me straighten up and find a proper place to live.

“I’m sorry, perhaps you wanted me to connect you to a representative. Okay, give me a moment,” a robotic voice said, then soon after, music started playing.

The older girl looked at the phone. Since she had lived in a shack after college, she had no idea of the new progress in technology. The older sister sat waiting on the phone to be connected to a representative.

“Hi, my name is Tanya. How may I help you today?”

“I need to speak with your boss. Can you connect me to her?”


“Do I need a reason why?”

“I need a reason why. Ma’am, if you are just going to waste my time, I’m going to have to hang up on you.”

“Fine. Do that.”

Beep. The call ended. The older sister wanted to throw the phone on the ground but she didn’t want to waste her four quarters. She had to find another way to reach her sister.

A few more years passed and the older sister had gotten a job. She had barely scraped up enough money to fly to California.

The older sister was boarding the plane when a voice came from the intercom.

“I’m sorry, folks, but due to volcanic ash in the air, we have to cancel the flight today.”

“What?!” the older sister shouted. “I saved up for years for this flight! You take me to California or I will get you!”

The older sister ended up getting a refund and buying another plane ticket. She flew to California and arrived at Apple.

“Hi,” she said to the lady at the front desk, “I’m here to see your boss. Um,” she repeated, “I am here to see your boss.”

The lady let her in after an hour of negotiating. She stepped into the elevator and went to the very top floor. Once the elevator opened, she stepped into the room.

“Hello?” the older sister said. “Is that you?”

The person in the large chair turned around and the older sister’s smile grew. It was her younger sister!

“Oh, I missed you! Listen, I need a job here and you can help me!” The older sister got on her hands and knees.

“No. Do you remember how you tormented me all throughout our childhood? Never.” The younger sister leaned forward and whispered, “Well, if I let you work here, then I’d be seen as a baby, but you can work next door with my good friend, Alejandro. Now goodbye.” The younger sister handed her a small business card with a picture of pizza on it.

The older sister ended up taking over for Alejandro when he passed away. Her pizza shop ended up being the biggest pizza shop ever until she died.


I try hard to be KIND

I try hard to be CALM

I try to be an ARTIST

I try NOT to be LAZY


The only bad thing about me is my ANXIETY


My worst enemy is my ANXIETY

It comes over me being KIND

It comes over me being HUMOROUS

It comes over me being CALM

It comes over me being LAZY

And it prevents me from being an ARTIST


Without creativity motivating me I can no longer be an ARTIST

I can never be myself when I’m ANXIOUS

I wake up scaring myself, not allowing me to be LAZY

Without a trembling hand, I can never be KIND

Without locking myself in, I can never be CALM

Without challenging myself, I can never be HUMOROUS


With anxiety, I’m challenged to being HUMOROUS

With anxiety, creativity is holding me back from being an ARTIST

With anxiety, I’m no longer CALM

The cause of my anxiety is always being ANXIOUS

Anxiety blocks out me being KIND

But with anxiety, I can no longer be LAZY


Forgetting my anxiety allows me to be LAZY

Forgetting my anxiety allows me to be HUMOROUS

Forgetting my anxiety allows me to be KIND

Forgetting my anxiety allows me to be an ARTIST

My anxiety causes me to be VERY ANXIOUS

Forgetting my anxiety allows me to be CALM


Anxiety holds me down not letting me be CALM

Anxiety holds me down not letting me be LAZY

Anxiety holds me down letting me be ANXIOUS

Anxiety holds me down not letting me be HUMOROUS

Anxiety holds me down not letting me be an ARTIST

Anxiety holds me down not letting me be KIND


I AM no longer HUMOROUS

I AM no longer an ARTIST

I AM no longer KIND


That Divorce Story

Later, I’d wonder what would happen if I hadn’t spilled the milk that morning in my haste to pour it into the cereal bowl. I wouldn’t have to have taken a detour on the way home, and I wouldn’t have discovered what I did.

I had overslept, and so I spilled milk as I rushed to pour myself cereal. As I wolfed it down, I was treated to the “this is how you kiss, in case you were wondering” show, performed by my parents, which made me roll my eyes, but I clapped when they were done. Still, I was an hour late to school, had to argue with the secretary about whether or not my absence was excusable, found out that my best friend, Amanda, was angry at me because I forgot to call her, and, by the time three o’clock rolled around, wanted nothing more than to sink back into my welcoming bed.

But I couldn’t yet. I had homework, and, as I was driving home in the Toyota I’d gotten for my sixteenth birthday, I got a text from my mom, which I pulled over to check (no one can say I wasn’t responsible when driving). The text instructed me to swing by the grocery store and perhaps purchase some milk, because apparently I’d spilled out the last of it this morning, and my mom was too busy to do it.

As I pulled up to the neighborhood Kmart, I was thinking about how annoying it was that I’d managed to make myself even more delayed. I needed to finish that history paper, and apologize to Amanda for whatever I’d done. I sighed in a mix of self-disgust and impatience as I plunked the milk (nonfat — I was trying to lose weight) down onto the checkout counter.

I lugged the shopping bags back to the car (they weren’t that heavy, but I was both chunky and unathletic) and jammed them in the trunk. As I walked around to the front of the car, my eye caught on a couple kissing a few yards away. The woman was leaning back against the wall of the supermarket, and the man was pressing up against her. I rolled my eyes — ever since the breakup with my most recent boyfriend, I had been on a crusade against PDA — and swung into the car.

As I drove out of the parking lot, I passed the couple who were (still!) kissing against the wall.

My foot slammed on the brakes.

No. No, it couldn’t be. No, it wasn’t.

But the back of the head that was now just a few feet away had the crumpled brown hair. The old gray sweater was unmistakable. The man was my father. And he was kissing a young blonde like he was married to her. But I knew better. He was married to my mother, and they were very much in love.

Were they?

Only seconds had passed, but all my breath had whooshed out of my body in one swift gasp. I looked closer. The woman was wearing a name tag. Hello My Name is Zoe. She was one of the checkout clerks.

Several cars were now lined up behind me, waiting to exit the parking lot, but I couldn’t move. Or breathe. All I could do was stare as my father took his hands off Zoe’s hips and put them on his chest.

With shaking hands, I pulled out my phone and took a picture of them kissing. I have no idea why I did that, but the only thing that came to mind later is that I was once told that if we saw a crime being committed and we couldn’t do anything to help, we should record it. This was definitely a crime.

A few horns honked. I tried to make myself move, but I was still frozen. A man got out of the car behind me and walked up to my window. He stood between me and the couple, who before I had thought was annoying but whom I now realized was the worst thing that would ever happen to me. “Why the hell aren’t you moving?” he shouted angrily at me.

I rolled down my window. “I’m sorry,” I said slowly, and I saw my father break away for the first time from the hot blonde who was not my mother, “but I’ve just discovered that my father is cheating on my mother.”

My father turned around, an expression of the most extreme horror and shame that I have ever seen. My heart twisted. “Sammi,” he whispered.

The driver of the other car looked at him. “What the hell is wrong with you?” he asked him.

I closed the window and drove away.

I dropped the milk at the doorstep of our house, but I didn’t go inside. I couldn’t face my mother with what I knew. I couldn’t ruin what had probably been a normal day for her. I couldn’t ruin what had been a normal life.

So instead I walked to Amanda’s apartment. At first she refused to let me in, but when I told her what had happened — with tears running down my face like they had been since I had discovered it — she forgave me promptly and told me that of course I could stay over.

“But Sammi, I don’t understand,” she said later, as I lay on her bed, eating a cookie (I was on a diet, but screw it, I needed comfort food). “I always thought that they would stay together.”

I rolled over and stared at her. “So did I,” I said honestly. “They were big about kissing, gooey love notes, Valentine’s Day…”

Amanda looked at me with nothing but sympathy in her eyes.

“And, I know it’s horrible to say, but if he had to cheat, he could have cheated for mind, not body.” Amanda understood, because she’d seen my mom. My mother was petite and had short brown hair, and smart glasses. She had the kind of appearance that screamed intelligence, and she is very intelligent. I always felt proud that my father was smart enough to pick my mother not because she was beautiful, but because she was wonderful. But now all of my father’s suppressed shallowness had come rushing up to the surface, I guessed, and all of my respect for him had vanished.

Several seconds passed in silence. Amanda had never been very good at consoling me (when I broke up with Jack, the only condolences she had for me were “Well, it was bound to happen someday”), but this was one area that she had absolutely no experience in. Her father had died before she was born, and her mother had never even started dating again, so she had no idea what it felt like to see your parents’ relationship implode. “Well,” she said finally, “at least we might have something in common soon — single mothers!”

As you can imagine, that did not do anything to make me feel better, but I appreciated her effort. “Oh, Mandy,” I said. “Let’s paint our nails.”

“Okay,” she said, pulling out her bottles of nail polish.

“No, wait,” I said excitedly, grabbing her hand. “Let’s get our nails painted at a nail salon! I’ve always wanted to have them done professionally!”

Amanda thought that was a great idea, so we grabbed money and set off.

As we talked about school and our friends, for the first time since I’d saw them earlier today, my father and that horrible Zoe disappeared from my mind. I was thinking about other things — at least, until I saw my father sitting alone on a park bench, looking absolutely dejected.

Again, he didn’t see me, but, again, all the breath was taken out of me in one quick gasp. “Amanda,” I breathed.

“C’mon, Sammi,” Amanda whispered urgently, dragging me around a corner until my father was out of sight. We tried to continue talking lightly like we had been before, but it wasn’t the same, and when we got to the nail studio, it was filled with middle-aged women, all looking tired and worn out, like they’d just discovered that their husbands had been cheating on them. I didn’t know if looking like that was just a part of being in your forties, but I knew that my mother was in her forties, and she’d always looked lighter than air, especially when she was with my father. I didn’t want to see her reduced to looking like these women, sad and pathetic and worn out, with all their youth left behind, unable to be reclaimed. She had always seemed young when she was with my father. Had my father always seemed young when he was with her? Or had he just been looking for a woman who was actually young, who would make him feel young? I’d had boyfriends before, who I had at the time thought myself in love with, but I never felt any different than I usually did with them. I had felt like myself. But my mother once told me that she fell in love with my father because she felt like a whole new person with him. Now that I thought about it, it was always my mother who would leave little notes on the door, who made a big deal out of Valentine’s Day. Had I just imagined that it was my father too?

All this was running through my head while I was sitting in a chair watching yet another middle-aged woman paint my nails. I was so distracted by everything that was going through my head that I didn’t notice until I was paying that I had had little decals of hearts glued against a baby-pink background on my nails. Exactly the opposite of my current mood. A cracked heart against a black background would have been more expressive of my feelings.

“Nice!” Amanda said appreciatively as we compared the finished products.

“No,” I told her. “No, it’s not nice.”

We went back to Amanda’s house, where we informed her mother that I was going to be staying over. Amanda’s mother was concerned, and said that I should call my parents to make sure that they knew where I was, but I wasn’t sure that I would be able to talk to my mother. But I had to, so I called her.

“Hey mom,” I said when she picked up. “I’m gonna be staying over at Amanda’s house tonight.” Did my voice sound different than normal? Was it weighted down with the knowledge that I now held?

“That’s fine, honey.” My mother’s voice was exactly the same as usual, if just a tinge worried. “But do you know where your father is? He’s not home yet.”

I tried to make my voice as normal as possible. “No, I don’t know. Probably stuck in traffic.” Of course he wasn’t home yet! How could he face his family after what he had just done? I wouldn’t be able to, but then again, I would never do such a thing in the first place.

“You’re probably right, sweetie.” My mother sounded relieved, like my theory was truth just because I’d said it. “Oh wait… I think that’s him right now.” She hung up, but not before I heard my father’s unmistakable deep voice say “Sorry I’m late.”

I stared at the phone after I put it back in its charger, wondering what was going on at the other end of it. Was my father confessing to my mother? Was he pretending that nothing had happened, that everything was fine, that life would go on the same as always? Had he done this before? How often had he and Zoe kissed against the wall of a supermarket and gotten away with it? The thought made me sick.

“Everything okay?” It was Amanda, appearing in her pajamas.

“Yeah,” I replied. But it wasn’t. But I couldn’t tell her this, so I just sunk back into my sleeping bag and fell asleep listening to Amanda talking about comfortable mundane events.

Sometimes when I wake up, there’s this brief period where I’m just exiting my oblivion, feeling the light press onto my eyelids, in a stage between being aware and unaware, where I know I’m awake but I don’t know anything else. Today I didn’t even get that relief. The very instant that I was jerked out of sleep by Amanda, I remembered everything. But there was nothing I could do, so I just put on a smile and turned to look at my best friend, who was still shaking me.

“Sammi, I know what we’re going to do today!” she said in her best Phineas impression.

“Oh yeah?” I asked her, smiling.

“We’re going to get haircuts!”

“Um… I got one last month.”

“Yeah, but you didn’t really change anything! You just shortened it a bit! Don’t you want to try something else?”

I contemplated this. It would be strange to look in the mirror and see something other than the long, straight, black locks that had been my companion throughout most of my life. I liked my hair, and I didn’t feel the need to change it. It seemed kind of unnecessary.

I would have thought that Amanda would have said the same. She, like me, had had one hairstyle that she’s had for as long as I’ve known her: chin length wavy brown hair. But now she wanted to change it. I couldn’t think of a reason for why she would want to change up her hair, so I guessed that she thought that it would make me feel better. But I wanted one constant in my life, one thing that would not change at the same time that everything else did.

“Not really,” I told her. She rolled her eyes.

“Sammi, you are so boring.”

“That may be,” I acknowledged, “but boring can be fun.”

“No, boring is the opposite of fun.”

“Well, if I find it fun, I guess I’m not boring.”


The conversation continued like this all through breakfast, with Amanda telling me that I was a scaredy-cat. I denied this over and over, but as she kept making fun of me, I realized that maybe this was true.

I was afraid. I was afraid of change. I was afraid to tell my mother about what I had discovered because I knew that so much would change.

But so much already had.

Amanda watched the grin slide from my face as quickly as it had been plastered on that morning. “Sammi, what’s wrong?” she asked, and then closed her mouth quickly, realizing that that was a somewhat stupid question.

“What isn’t wrong?” I replied, then put my head down on the table.

While my eyes were staring into the carved wood, I realized something. I realized that my mother needed to know, no matter how much it would hurt her. She needed to know so she could react, and then she would start to heal. Maybe she and my father would break up, and my father would marry Zoe, and that thought caused a lot of pain. But maybe after they broke up, my mother would marry a devoted man who put her above everything else in the world. Maybe she’d be happy again. Or, maybe she’d forgive my father, and they’d start to work out their problems, and by the time they brought up the cheating thing again, they would be able to talk about it, and my father would learn to put his family before anything else. And I realized that either option would be a lot healthier for my mother — and, probably, my father — than this twisted relationship that they had going on now. My parents needed to know where they stood in each other’s minds.

So I said goodbye to Amanda, thanked her for being there for me, and walked home, my mind spinning about how best to say it, and wondering, hoping, that my father had already told her.

I stood outside my apartment door, staring at the milk carton that apparently nobody had bothered to pick up. A really foul smell was coming out of it. Sort of a metaphor for what might have been going on inside.

“Dad,” I said quietly, dropping my bags on the floor. Because there my parents were, laughing, my mother sitting on my father’s lap with his arms around her.

“Honey!” he said, sounding happy, but the smile was gone from his face, and my mother looked at him in confusion.

“Scott?” she asked him, smoothing her hair down. “Hey, sweetie.”

I didn’t waste time. With what I had decided this morning at Amanda’s house, I knew that if I didn’t say it right away, I would never be able to. And no matter how much it hurt my mother, she had to know the truth.

“How could you?” I asked, my voice barely above a whisper. “You’re disgusting.”

“Sammi, please,” my father said, his voice cracking with pain. “Let’s talk about this in another room.”

I said, “No. No more secrets.” Then I turned to my mother, whose eyes were already wide with confusion and fear. I hated doing this to her. But she needed to know. “Yesterday, I saw dad making out with another woman at the supermarket.”

My mother didn’t gasp, and she didn’t burst into tears. She didn’t even make a sound. She just stared at me. If you just saw her reaction, you would not have been able to guess that she’d been given bad news at all.

“Jennifer…” my father said, and his expression nearly broke me.

My mother was quiet. She was still staring at me. Her eyebrows lifted, then settled, as she turned to look at my father. “Just tell me one thing,” she said at a normal volume, her voice perfectly steady but monotonous. “Was it Zoe?”

“Jennifer…” repeated my father. Tears were running down his face. I looked away, upset that his expression was upsetting me. Why should I care if he was in pain, after what he’d done to our family?

“You know who Zoe is?” I tried to ask, but my throat was closed. It actually hurt, this lump in my throat, and my eyes were welling up, and my face was scrunching, and my fists were clenching, and everything inside me was getting tighter like I was trying to hold myself together as my family unraveled before my eyes.

Nobody knew what to do. It hurt, to not be able to do anything. I closed my eyes to stop the tears. My head was roaring, but the apartment was silent.

“Jennifer, please.” It was as if my father thought that saying her name, instead of “pookie” or “honeybun” or any of the pet names that he usually called her, would bring her back to him, would somehow prove how serious he was about her. “Zoe was just…”

“A distraction?” my mother interrupted him. “Ooh, was your work overwhelming you and you just needed to clear your head and since I was so busy you just went to Zoe for comfort?” I was shocked by the biting sarcasm in her words. That was not how I thought she would have handled the situation.

“Jenny.” It was a statement this time, but whatever the rest of the sentence was, it was swallowed by sobs.

“No,” said my mother. “Go.” Then she chuckled. We both stared at her.

“Jenny, it was all a mistake, I can explain!” My father sounded nearly desperate. “Or I can’t explain, but all I want is for you to forgive me. Please give me a second chance.”

“More like a fourth chance!” My mother didn’t sound angry. In fact, she sounded kind of amused.

“You… don’t seem that angry…” my father wavered.

“Oh, I’m not angry. Yet. I’m sure the anger will catch up to me. But right now I’m just amused. It’s so funny, isn’t it, that I ignored all the signs. When I was buying groceries, that checkout woman, Zoe, was always hinting that something was going on with you two. ‘Your husband is so nice! He’s so charming, really makes a girl feel special.’ And I just ignored it! Isn’t that funny?”

“No, it’s not funny,” my father started to say, but my mother, raising her voice for the first time since I’d told her, yelled “GO!”

Then she turned around and hid her face in the pillowcase until my father turned around and walked out of the door. He didn’t even look at me.

After he’d left, my mother raised her head. Her face was stained with tears. “Sammi,” she whispered, opening her arms, and I fell gladly into them.

“Are we going to be okay?” I asked her, raising my head finally.


“Are you mad at me?”

My mother turned to look at me. “Of course I’m not. I’m so glad you told me. I probably wouldn’t have believed it if anyone else told me. I’m mad at your father, but it’s going to be okay.”

And because I was with her, my sweet, fragile, strong mother, I believed it.

Star Crossed

We weren’t talking. We were just lying there, the night time mist seeping into our skin. Faint chirps of a bird echoed through the darkness. The shouts of the chaos inside were drowned out by the quiet calmness of the outdoors. I squirmed against the blades of grass at my back. I was trying to find a more comfortable position and trying not to think about the fact that he was right next to me.

The sky was beautiful that night, dotted with glittering stars — little diamonds against a coal canvas. The moon was almost directly overhead, but not quite. I had to crane my neck slightly to have a full view of the gleaming crescent looming in the distance. I turned to see it, and at the same time he did too. We were suddenly inches apart, our noses so close they could almost brush against each other. I breathed in; he breathed out.

We looked at each other, not saying anything.

“You know, I think I like stargazing better than cloud-watching,” he finally said, breaking both the silence and the moment. “With clouds, you have to guess what they are, what they represent. The stars just tell you, with constellations. I like knowing. I don’t like guessing. Do you get that?”

I nodded, muttered a vague agreement. I knew too well about that. I had to guess every day about him, about us, about what all this was, if it meant the same thing to him as it did to me. We were clouds and I wanted to be stars.

We were still looking at each other, and I became intensely aware of my surroundings, noticing anything other than the way his breath smelled (spearmint), or how his faint freckles seemed to dance across his cheeks and nose, or how his eyelashes were so long they could practically touch his eyes (beautiful, hazy blue-gray color, and about the size of the moon in its phase a day before it’s full), or how his hair shifted when he moved, keeping to the beat of his motions. I didn’t notice any of that as we stared at each other, taking every moment breath by breath.

He talked a lot, I noticed that. In school, conversations were always fleeting “hi’s” between classes or big group situations. In a strange way, it was almost as if we barely knew each other. The weird thing about high school, it seemed, was that no one shared mundane things with others like their favorite food or school subject–everyone I met wanted to talk about their future, and what life meant to them, and how underclassmen put upperclassmen on pedestals they didn’t deserve to be on and whether or not a high school education really mattered in the long run, etc. I noticed that he loved to talk philosophically and passionately, and I didn’t stop him. I just never started that kind of conversation.

And then I turned away from him, ruining the moment. I didn’t mean to, but I shifted too fast and I couldn’t turn back to him again very well (that was too desperate). I was suddenly stuck again in the limbo of looking up at the sky while being so keenly aware that he was right next to me.

I didn’t know if he was looking at the sky or looking at me, and I didn’t know which one I’d prefer.

I began to trace out familiar constellations in my mind, moving my finger ever so slightly to help, brushing against the cold grass.

“I don’t like Juliet,” I said suddenly.


“Of Romeo and Juliet fame. We just finished reading that in class, and I think she’s awful. I think that whole relationship is extremely toxic and doesn’t deserve to be romanticized. They literally meet each other and die for each other in the course of less than a week. Like, I get that they thought it was their only choice, I really do. But they could have easily eloped without having to use the fake death as a cover.”

He laughed. “Tell that to historians and teachers everywhere. I’m sure they’ll agree with you.” He swept his hands across the air. “Breaking news: the greatest love story ever told turns out to be the worst.”

I smiled. “I’m just saying, those kids shouldn’t be put on a pedestal. They’re just so freaking selfish.”

“I guess I agree. I mean, yeah, I’d say they’re the main reason everything went wrong. But everyone messed up in some way, didn’t they? Every character contributed to the disaster that were the results of Romeo and Juliet,” he said.

I sat up. “That’s exactly how I feel!” I laid back down. “That’s exactly how I feel.”

A short pause hung over us. I watched a bird hover over something in the grass, but I couldn’t see what it was. His hand lingered ever so slightly over mine (at least from my angle it looked like it was).

“Do you think when Shakespeare wrote it, he wanted to write a great love story or he wanted to show the readers and viewers what not to do? Like did he set out to write a cautionary tale of sorts and the message just got warped with time? I’d like to think that,” I said.

“I’d like to think that, too,” he finally said. “That’s smart.” I didn’t know if he was referring to Shakespeare or my little analysis.

I didn’t know many people with whom I could have this kind of conversation. I didn’t know any boys who would be willing to talk about stuff like this. All I knew right now was him, and that he made me feel like I knew everything.

Just then, I heard some voices in the distance, and some car engines, and I knew the night was coming to a close. We’d been out here the whole time — I don’t think I ever stepped foot inside. It wasn’t like I wanted to anyways. While not losing my focus on the sky, I suggested, “Maybe we should get up. It’s late, it looks like everyone’s leaving. I’m probably getting picked up in like ten minutes.”

I once read online somewhere that the ancient Greeks had different words for different forms of love. I don’t like to think that there is one good definition for love. That’s what the Greeks got right — there is no one form of love. What I think they got wrong was that not all love can fit neatly into their categories.

But lying on the grass next to him, just being with him, looking at him, talking with him seemed predestined, in a sense; I think if love could be explained like a series of chemical reactions, this was the catalyst. I wasn’t sure if I was in love with him, but I certainly felt like I loved him. But what did that really mean? Did all that even matter if he didn’t feel like that? To him, I could have just been another girl to talk to at another party.

“So let’s just stay out here for ten more minutes. I can wait with you.” He said and I smiled. It occurred to me then how contained we were, in our little world of high school parties and stargazing. We were kids in an adult world and I was suddenly scared of what that meant. “I want to wait with you,” he echoed. The bird I was watching earlier landed.

I decided that I didn’t care what would happen tomorrow, because all that mattered was what was happening right now. So I told him, “I’d like that very much,” and we watched the stars again.

Us Against The World: Prologue

It’s the first day of school. Eyes wide open. I’m tired, but I’ll live. I push my blanket off of me and turn to the side. I see my clock on my desk. Seven o’clock. Good thing I got to sleep that late. These days, I have trouble sleeping.

It doesn’t take me long to get dressed, brush my teeth, grab my backpack, and walk downstairs to get breakfast. I am a good student, but I’m not very enthusiastic to go back to school. Who is? Regardless, I’m always tired and I get cranky if I don’t get a little bit of physical activity before I do anything. I know, I sound like a typical seventh grader. But please, cut me some slack. I’m trying my best.

My mom waits for me in the kitchen, holding a box of Cheerios in her right hand and a box of Frosted Flakes in her left hand. “Which one?” she asks.

“No, ‘good morning, how’d you sleep, you ready for school?’” I ask as I sit down at our white, circular kitchen table.

“I thought I didn’t have to bore you with that standard first day of school mom speech,” she says in reply.

“I’ll have the Cheerios.” I look around to see if my father is awake. I don’t see him, so he must still be in the bedroom. I am an only child, so I get a lot of attention from my parents, and they always get up to see me off in the morning. However, my parents’ high level of attentiveness for me has never really helped me socially. I’m not one of the popular kids at my school. I truly don’t mind their cliques and exclusiveness; I want to do what I want to do and that’s it.

Today is the first day of the eighth grade. I didn’t think I’d make it. Honestly. After spring in seventh grade I didn’t think I could even be here. I thought I’d be still caught up in a separate time. Still fighting reality. I lost that battle. Reality hit me like a sucker punch to the gut. But it seems that I’ve overcome it.

My dad comes down the stairs in his suit. He is a corporate lawyer, at the top of his firm. He holds a briefcase in his right hand, where the watch he’s worn every single day has sat for the past six years.

“Morning, Anna,” he says cheerfully. He walks over and kisses the top of my head.

“Morning, Dad,” I say. My dad never says ‘Good morning’; always just ‘Morning.’ I find that a little funny. My dad abbreviates a lot of other phrases too, like ‘sup,’ or ‘how ya doin.’ He tries to act all hip and cool and modern, when really he just makes a fool of himself.

My dad plants himself in the chair across from me as he picks up the paper from the counter. My mom lays down a cream cheese bagel in front of him, which he gladly picks up and devours. I finish my breakfast and pick up my bag. I head for the door.

“Bye sweetie,” they both say, almost in harmony.

“Bye,” I call.

“Wait, Anna,” my mom stops me. “Honey…just try your best out there.”

“Okay, Mom,” I say dully as I close the door.

It’s kind of chilly outside for September. Then again, it’s always cold in Minnesota. I live in a small town called Eriksville, near St. Paul. We are not a big community, but we have the best middle school football team in the state. I don’t care much for sports; there’s one thing I have in common with a lot of the other girls in my school, other than the cheerleaders. I’ve only been to one school game, and that was what we call the Premier, the biggest football game of the year. It was like our super bowl.

I walk along the sidewalk of Turner Street, where I live. The school bus stop is a few streets away. It usually arrives at 8:15. When I arrive, though, it is 8:14. The bus doesn’t show up until 8:23 – annoyingly late. I’m going to get to school with fifteen seconds to spare, if I’m lucky. When I get on the bus, it’s not very crowded, since most people live closer than I do, so they can just walk to school. I sit in the very back on the left, and make myself comfortable. School starts at 8:40, and the bus ride takes about  eighteen minutes. So I need a break.

More people flood on as it stops twice more. Still, no one sits next to me. I assume people just don’t want to be in the back; they want to be sitting next to their friends in the front, so they can get off first, since they know we’re going to be late.

Finally, we arrive in the parking lot. The people flood off and I’m the last one to step out. Everyone races towards the building. I stay back and walk, enjoying the last bit of the outdoors I will get until recess later today. Once I enter the new classroom for the first time, it is 8:40 on the dot.

The new teacher, Mr. Meeker, introduces himself. He is our English teacher. I like him. He seems nice. I can tell whether someone is kind or mean based on the tone of his or her voice. Mr. Meeker has a gentle, soothing voice that comforts me.  I feel like I can trust him.

“Okay class, it is really great to meet you.” I like Mr. Meeker, but I tune this part out. It isn’t necessary for me to hear. The same speech every single year — I’m not interested. My attention returns, though, when I hear, “For your first assignment — to get to know you — I’d like you to do some creative writing about a lesson you learned last year. And I don’t mean a school lesson, I mean something that you learned that has shaped you…that has influenced your attitude. Please try and say as much as you can.”

There is a lot I can say; maybe I’m not very comfortable with sharing everything. But then, I hear my mother’s voice echo in my head: “Honey, just try your best.” So I have decided it’s been enough hiding my past, it’s time to enter this year with a new perspective on life.

“You have one hour, starting…now.”

Why I Will Never Get a Desk Job: A Treatise

The endless days of paperwork; the writing, typing, coffee drinking,

Are days that leave me griping, typing, coffee drinking in the nighttime.


How could a person enjoy a desk,

That barren landscape long and bland?

Why the habit of paper white,

and walls the color of weathered sand?


Each day the same routine, the same walk, the same talk,

I cannot understand these men, in suits as black as ship’s caulk.


The copy and paste itinerary, from one day to the next,

Is enough to drive me crazy, and more than a little vexed.


No one could pay me to live in an office, no matter what career,

The older I grow up, however, there is a growing fear,

That I will be that man, who every day walks into here,

A grey glass building furnished with laminated plywood,

An earthly purgatory of despair, a dull life stuck in the mud.


This life is not for me,

Pray, archetypal cold businessman, replace me in this lair.

So I will not be the one to lose my hair, over spreadsheets filled with squares.

A cold desolate world of black ink, for which I do not care.


Part 1:

The waves greeted the shore with a crash

They pulled away

They crashed

They pulled away


The heated rays of light find my skin

And glows down upon me

And when I look up at the magnificent ball of light,

It warms my face and closes my eyes leaving light

Dancing in my vision


I let my arms float to my side

Weightless due to the gentle breeze

I close my eyes once more

And imagine that I am a bird

Soaring aimlessly through the sky

Only attached to the ground by

The cool ocean crashing

Against my ankles

Burying my feet in the moist sand


The waves soaked my feet and ankles

Changing the navy blue on my skirt to black

Spraying the ocean mist in my eyes


As the breeze turns from gentle to powerful

I lean against it

And rely on it to hold me up


The calming neverending sound of the waves crash on the shore

The dark blue water reflects my personality



With no light shining through

The water tries to pull my toes in as the uneven sand washes over my feet

The smell of saltwater lingers in the air

And gusts of wind dry my tongue as bits of salt fall in

It tastes so familiar

Because it tastes like tears


The jagged rocks bounce off my feet

Cut through the sand

Twist through the water

Land mid-twist into the sand

While others got dragged and pulled

Back into the deep blue


The sand sticks to my feet when I step out of the ocean range

And the rocks that were once in the ocean pricked my feet

My feet slipped into my worn shoes

And they dragged as I got farther from the water


I passed the rusting railing and shell covered steps

I passed the old playground with the fading color

I passed the bike rack which no one has ever used


I got to the area that no one ever sees

I got to the area that is easily missed

I got to the area where if you look back it isn’t there any more


Inside is a grassy area

Where a giant tree is growing in the center

One of those trees with beautiful flowers in the spring

Plenty of colorful leaves in the fall

Manages to stay unique in the winter


Inside is a colorful area

Where flowers looked as if someone had taken the seeds in their hand

And threw them about carelessly

That are purple and blue in the spring

Yellow and orange in the fall

Becoming bright pink and white before dropping their seeds and dying out

Leaving the next generation to take over the area


My hand lays on the bark

My fingers tracing over the patterns

My palm sticky against the cool wood

My breath sucked away



I stare at the rock off to the side of the area

That leads me away from my freedom

Into the captivity of the place

Away from my happiness

Into my sorrow


My watch ticks without a stop

Continuing the change of the numbers

Dragging me closer to reality





One final look around marks my goodbye

My promise to return

My hatred to leave


My hand leaves the cool bark

My fingers abandon the jagged pattern

My breath returns with a jolt


I remove the smaller rocks behind the bigger one

Kneel down to duck under the larger rock

That separates fantasy from reality


My watch beeps

5 minutes

A look of horror replaces my longing

4 minutes

Carefully the small rocks are replaced

3 minutes

Running as quickly as I can

2 minutes

The only door with no security cameras doesn’t open

1 minute

Footsteps are approaching

30 seconds

Ducking beneath the window to remain unseen

15 seconds

“Avia, come with me,”

No more time


Part 2:

“Why were you outside?” he questioned

I remain silent

“I asked you a question!” he demanded

No answer

“Fine, I’ll call your parents then,” he said calmly

“No!” I jumped up

“Then why were you outside?” he roared.

“It was beautiful,” I whispered


He had laughed

I had held back angry tears

He had given out punishments

I had taken them


Cleaning the cafeteria

Erasing pencil markings off desks

The usual


My roommate was angry of course

“Why did you not take me with you?” she raged.

My clothes stank of cafeteria food

My fingers covered in graphite

And my friend was angry that she wasn’t invited


I’ll tell you about my roommate

Her name is Saphina

The stringy dirty-blond hair is always in a bun or braid

The pale blue eyes tell you a story words could not

The cherry red lips only smile for me


The place we are confined in is considered a school

The name sewn on to our uniforms is Taylor’s Institute for Troubled Girls

The names they call us are nothing close to reality

If I was troubled, then they were kind


None of the girls who went to Taylor’s Institute for Troubled Girls are troubled

They are simply misunderstood

They are no more than unwanted

They are seen as clearly as a shadow in the night


In the morning 104 alarms ring

In the morning 104 uniforms are put on

In the morning 104 girls are in the newly clean cafeteria

In the morning 104 girls plug their noses as they shove food into their skinny bodies

In the morning 104 girls are herded to class

In the morning 104 girls wish that they were understood and wanted

In the morning 104 wishes aren’t fulfilled


Classes are dull

Eyelids droop

The monotone continues

Minds wander


The concrete cube only changes for the black board and flimsy door

The marks on the blackboard only smudged

Never fully erased


Rows and columns of desks

Arranged so no one can talk to each other without the teacher noticing

Stiff bodies from stiff chairs

Knees cramping from staying in the same position


Dates of starts and ends of famous wars sprawl on the board

Names of heroes and villains bounced off the walls

Attention of girls slipping


Into their own world


No hands are raised

No questions are asked

No tone changes

No attention returns


The bell brings the girls back to earth

Homework passed out

No one knowing any of the content


During lunch is the only time the girls ever talk in a teacher’s presence

Everyone seems to be the same in there

But none of us are friends

We are all family


Saphina and I do our homework together in the evening

Our pencils only stubs

Erasers covered in pencil markings


Curfew is 9 p.m

Which is the time the history teacher scouts the hallway for wandering girls

Footsteps echoing throughout the empty hall

Until finally they die away

Which is when I poke my head out the door


No one is in the hall except me

Which is confirmed by the history teacher’s door closing in the distance

I tip-toe two doors down

Which was left slightly open

I creep inside

No noise emitted


I crawl through the tall dry grass

Avoiding the view of the headmasters window

Quietly and silently


One by one the rocks are moved

Not daring to stand up

Slithering through the giant rock

Turning halfway through to replace the rocks


The area with the beautiful flowers is displayed in front of me

The area with the magnificent tree is proudly standing

My barefeet jog to the flowing greens that mark the beach


As soon as I step away from the flowing greens

The familiar sand is warm against my feet

I walk over to the steps and look at the pathway

Someone touches my arm

“Thanks,” she whispers

Soon they are only a shadow in the night


Creeping back to the school

On my hands and knees

Too dark to see too far ahead but light enough to see where I was going


The window right next to my door room is propped open

I grab the bar on the wall to pull myself in

And sneak into my dorm where Saphina is waiting

To hear the adventurous tale


In the morning 103 alarms ring

In the morning 103 uniforms are put on

In the morning 103 girls whisper in the cafeteria

In the morning 103 girls plug their noses as they shove food into their skinny bodies

In the morning 103 girls are herded to class

In the morning 103 girls wish that they were understood and wanted

In the morning 103 wishes aren’t fulfilled


None of the teachers notice

They never do

They never take attendance

And few learn our names

They are there to speak

We are there to listen


The monotone never stops

The grey walls next to the grey desks

With the grey door and the once black now grey chalkboard

You have to touch everything with caution in this prison

For the fear of it falling apart

The smell of chalk mixed with boredom and misery fills the air

The taste of breakfast or lunch still lingers bringing the taste of vomit as well

The taste of blood as tongues and cheeks and lips are bit

To prevent getting up

And leaving

For we have no purpose here

Or anywhere


In history class I sit in front of where she should be

The empty desk hidden amongst the others

My feet fidgeting hoping the empty desk wouldn’t be noticed

The clock ticks slowly

The lecture on who-knows-what continues

Trying to make my skinny body wider

Homework is being explained

Trying to look taller than my almost-five-feet self

For a fraction of a second no one talks

The bell rings

We’re freed

I succeeded


Part 3:

Tomorrow is Spring break

It’s when we leave the hatred of our school

And greet the hatred of our homes


There’s a train that brings us from and to the school

Stops at each one of our houses

Making the trip about two hours long


My house is the third to last

One of the farthest away

But still in the same state

One by one girls are dropped off to their houses

None of their parents are there to greet them


When the train screeches to a halt near my backyard

I take my bags from the upper shelf

Sling my backpack over one shoulder

And my suitcase in hand

I push open the doors

To find a greyed sky

Growing old


I enter a temporarily abandoned house

And walk up the perfectly polish stairs to what is considered my room

I lay on my couch and pull my laptop out of my backpack

Open it to my email and begin to type

One by one they reply

My proposal is sent to the whole school

None disagree


I go downstairs for a snack

My house rings with silence

The colorful colors inside looks dull and grey

It smell of cleaner and supposedly perfection burns inside my nose

Everything is perfectly smooth and every corner is perfectly sharp

My tongue tingles from the emptiness of the air

From the loss of love that my mother had brought

Now buried underground


I go back upstairs to eat my snack

And wait

I wait for something to happen

I wait

I will continue to wait just like I always have

Because nothing seems to happen



The door opens and closes

The only sound audible is footsteps

A coat being hung up

Shoes being taken off

A bag being put down

My father is home


He doesn’t come to see me

He should know I’m here

Then again, it’s him


An hour later the door opens again

This time the footsteps join the sound of clicking footsteps

Clicking footsteps I’ve never heard before

Keys jingle

A phone rings

Something big has happened while I was gone


I walk downstairs from my room carefully

Trying not to make any sound

I peer over the railing to see this new stranger


Her hair is dyed blonde

Her eyes are brown

Her v-neck comes down a bit more than they usually do

Her skirt is so tight, I think it may burst


Socks cover my feet, muffling my footsteps

My dull brown hair is pulled into a messy ponytail

I walk into the kitchen where my father is talking to the stranger

For two minutes they don’t see me standing in the shadows

It’s as if I was one of them


“Avia,” my father said, nodding in my direction

The stranger looked startled that there was another person in the house

I stared at her

My father sighed

“Avia, this is my wife,” my father said


I wasn’t surprised that my father had remarried

I wasn’t surprised that she looked like that

That didn’t mean I had to be happy about it


My father didn’t tell me that he got remarried

He didn’t tell me that there would be another person living in my house

To him I was a shadow

Nothing more than part of the real image

This is what the teachers were supposed to see me as, not my own father

There were so many emotions wrapped up into one at that moment

I guess you could call me disappointed


At dinner, we ate together

We slept in the same house

When they were in the pool I was outside

He never talked to me

He never called my name

He never acknowledged my presence


I was third to be picked up on the train

We all had the option to put our things in the back car

When the train stopped for me both the girls came out to help me with my bag

I didn’t need the help

It was all part of the plan


By the time we were at the second to last stop

Most of the girls were no where to be seen

The conductor couldn’t see us

Much less wanted to anyway

At the last stop I went to ‘help’ the girl with her bag

And went to join the other 101 girls


When we arrived at school to conductor stopped

He didn’t come see if we were getting out or not

After 15 minutes of us

Holding our breaths and clutching each other the train drove away

With us in it

Twin Survival Guide

This is your go-to guide on surviving being a twin.

Well, this is NOT going to be easy. You see, to be honest, being a twin is awful. Take it from me. So now for the tips.

Having two of the same gender twins is a lot better. But if you have a boy or girl twin and you are the opposite gender, buckle your seat belt – it is going to be a very bumpy ride.

Pre-Step 1:

If you can eat your twin in the womb you can avoid all problems and read this guide.

Step 1:


Sometimes one twin can be dominant and eat all the food that your mother gives you, but don’t let that happen. Fight your way to the food. (But don’t kill the other twin because your mommy will be really mad).

Step 2:


Sometimes in school you will end up with the same friends, but as you get older, this is not a good idea. Say you’re going to a party with all your friends and…your siblings. You guys are in a gossip circle and everything is going swell until your twin tells your Biggest. Darkest. Secret.

Step 3:


Sometimes school can be a place for kids to do something they are not allowed to do without their parents knowing, but having a twin at your school is like having a rat in your pocket. If you can avoid your twin and do opposite things at opposite times, it’s only for the better.

Step 4:


Being a twin means being compared. Be more gorgeous so that when people talk about you, you’re the angelic one and your twin is the ugly, fat one. Also you probably can make them really, really jealous especially when you date their friends. If you wanna be extra better, maybe hook up with their friends.

Step 5:


Listen up, children, this may as well be the most important step:

Be your parents’ favorite!!! If you are nice and listen to what your parents say, you will be the “better” twin. And be rewarded in different ways like gifts.

That’s it folks! I hope you learned something because these tips will help you survive being a twin!

Voice of Reason, Spirit of Adventure

I could hear the neighbors next door but I have never seen them. Each night, noises emanate from their house and pierce the silence. Rumbling, low chanting, sometimes shrieks. Makes it hard to get to sleep. Mom and Dad insisted that they didn’t hear anything, but I knew they did. How could they not have? Anyway, the past few days, it had been getting worse. The noises were longer, and louder, with more screaming and chanting. Not to mention how debilitating it was. Night after night, I couldn’t get to sleep until three o’clock in the morning, which gave me exactly three hours of sleep on which to function.

Frankly, I’d had enough.

I slipped out of the house quietly, knowing that if my parents knew what I was doing, they’d lock me in my room for sure. No parent wants their kid knocking on the door of a house that sounds like something out of a bad horror/sci-fi movie.

The plan was simple. I wouldn’t ask questions, wouldn’t judge or act suspicious, I’d just politely ask them to keep their noises to a minimum at night. Then I would walk away and pretend nothing had ever happened.

As I walked up the long dark driveway my heart started pounding. The blood rushed up to my face, and my footsteps echoed breaking the silence. I approached the huge oak door that had once been painted a dark green, but all signs of that were gone now. I reached, finger poised ready to push the button that would announce my arrival. Was I really going to do this?

A very skinny mostly black cat slunk out from behind the hedge. I froze, not sure if it would make some kind of horrible sound to alert its owners.

“Hi kitty,” I breathed. “Please don’t make a sound, please don’t make a sound.”

Suddenly the cat meowed louder than I have ever shouted in my life.

“Shut up, shut up, shut up,” I begged.

No sooner had the cat stopped when the noise started again. The chanting in the house stopped. I ran back down the driveway, heart pounding so incredibly hard I thought it would burst. I can do this, I told myself. If I were anybody else this would have been over fifteen minutes ago. I just have to walk back up the driveway, ring the doorbell and ask, simple as that.

I inhaled deeply, and balled my hands into fists to stop the shaking. Why the hell was I so afraid? I just needed to make a polite request.

I started back towards the house. The chanting began again, quieter now, and this time I didn’t even think — I just rang the doorbell.

Ding-dong, I heard it echo down the hall. The chanting died down immediately. After a moment, I heard footsteps, slowly making their way to the door.

It creaked open.

A woman, pale as a sheet with shadows under her eyes, stood before me. She had a plastered-on smile that was far more disturbing than comforting.

“What do you want?” she asked.

I steadied myself. “Ma’am, excuse me, but I was wondering if you could keep the noise to a minimum at night? It’s sometimes hard to sleep.”

“I’m sorry,” she said quickly, “I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about.” And then she slammed the door right in my face.

“Can you beat that?” I said, as I recounted the story to my friend Camilla the next day. “She slammed it right in my face!”

I could tell Camilla was elsewhere. She’ll start looking at you, but not really looking at you, and that’s when you know she’s off in Camilla-land.

“I dunno, Si,” she said real slow. “You said you hear shrieks?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Why?”

“Well, what if they’re hurting someone? We have to help them, don’t we?”

I sighed. “You know we don’t have to help every person we come across, right?” I said.

She shook her head.

“How can I be happy if I know someone else is in pain? We have to investigate this.”

I sighed. “And I suppose I have no choice in this?”

“Of course not,” she said in her matter-of fact way. “I’ll sneak over to your house tonight. Make sure you’re awake and dressed.”

Of course I didn’t want to, but I stayed up anyway. Camilla is my best friend, after all. I discovered a lot of new ways to keep yourself awake late. I sent an email to my future self, counted all the flowers on my curtains (72), and got an awful lot of homework done. I was figuring out how to be most comfortable when lying on the floor when I heard a sharp rap at my window. I opened it, and standing there, holding a small pebble, was Camilla.

“Hurry!” she whisper-shouted. “Climb out your window!”

“What? No!” I whisper-shouted back.

“Why not?”

“Because I can’t!”

Camilla looked at me with a combination of bewilderment and pity. “Well, get down here somehow.”

I tiptoed slowly out of my room, careful not to wake my Mom and Dad. Then I slowly padded down the stairs and out the door.

“Great,” said Camilla once I was standing next to her. “Now we just need to get in somehow.”

“Maybe they left the front door unlocked,” I suggested.

Camilla gave me a look. “Si, of course it’s locked. Who the hell leaves their doors unlocked?”

“I don’t know, these people are weird, remember?”

“They’re weird, not stupid.”

Even so, she tried the front door.

“Do you know how to pick locks?” I asked her.

“Yeah,” she said.

“You do?” I was impressed. Picking locks was a cool skill.

“Well, I read a WikiHow article before sneaking out, so I should be good.” She took a hairpin out of her pocket and began to jiggle it around in the lock. After a few, very boring minutes, the door finally unlocked with a click. Camilla’s fist shot up into the air.

“Yes! I didn’t think it would actually work!” She grabbed a flashlight, and handed me her phone. “Be sure to film everything.”


“In case something happens.”

That was worrisome. “What? What could happen?”

“Shhh, be quiet. I don’t know.”

We crept through the darkened house. The chanting seemed so much louder now that we were closer to the source of it. It gave me chills down my spine, but I could almost make out words, not in any language I recognized, but much more ancient and sacred. An old memory came to me, from a book I had read long ago, and barely remembered. All the creatures on a distant planet were singing in a beautiful, ancient, sacred language that only one child could understand. For a second I wondered if they were creatures from a distant planet, but then I shook my head at the notion. That’s ridiculous.

“Down the stairs,” whispered Camilla.

We crept down slowly. Every step I took, the stairs creaked. I knew it was just my nerves, but it was still terrifying, and the chanting grew louder. When Camilla reached the bottom step, she opened her mouth in shock.

What? I mouthed.

She said nothing in return, just made a follow me sort of gesture. I climbed down after her.

Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw next.

An awful lot of women and some men too, were all standing in a circle, chanting the weird chant I’d been hearing. In the middle was some kind of object, glowing so brightly I couldn’t make it out.

“They’re chanting so loud they can’t hear us,” Camilla said.

“Well, it doesn’t look like they’re hurting anyone, can we go now?” I asked. “That glowy thing is giving me weird vibes.”

“No!” said Camilla. “We’ve come across a cult, with a mysterious glowy thing, and you just want to walk away?”

“Well, yeah.”

“I mean, these people are in a cult, we don’t know what that glowy thing is, and it’s our responsibility to document it!”

“No, it isn’t!”

“Yes, it is!” Now be quiet!” Camilla edged closer to them. With an eye roll, I followed her.

Suddenly, I tripped on an electrical cord and fell to the floor with a thud. Camilla made a noise, incomprehensible and profound, deep within her throat. The chanting stopped and all the people turned around.

The largest one, a tall, thin man with graying hair, approached us. “Why do you disturb our ceremony, boy?” He jabbed a finger at me. His voice felt like someone had slipped ice down my back.

“Well, actually,” I started to explain that I was not really a boy, nor a girl either, but Camilla shot me a look, as if to say, Now’s not the time.

“Well, The Master wouldn’t like this silly intrusion at all, would he?” He addressed the rest of the congregation. they shook their heads and muttered with disapproval. “But,” he said, “The Master is always willing to forgive those who offer.”

“Offer what?” I asked, but they ignored me.

The man said, “You must offer up yourself to The Master, that is the only way to be forgiven for your interruption of the most divine.” He made a motion, and two members of the congregation grabbed our arms.

“No!” I heard Camilla scream. “Fight me like a warrior, you god-forsaken coward!”

I kicked and screamed with her. However, our efforts were for naught. We were thrown into a dark closet. We heard the door lock with a click, and then the two brutes walked away. I swore loudly.

“We have to get out of here,” Camilla said.

“You can’t.” A new voice this time.

“Who are you?” I asked the new voice.

“I’m Anders,” he said. Then, a short, humorless laugh. “Though not for long. Soon I won’t be anything.”

“What do you mean?” Camilla pressed.

“They suck the life out of you, turn you into nothing but a husk. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen them.”

This guy’s delusional, I thought. Camilla crouched down beside him.

“Can you describe this phenomenon to me?”

“No, no, no, they suck it out of you, nothing but a husk, nothing but a husk.” The words that came out of his mouth were just pure chaos. “I don’t want it, get me out get me out no, no, no, no, no, no.”

“Listen, Anders, hi. I’m Camilla. That’s Si, and we’re going to get you out of here. But we need you to tell us what they do so we can get you out of here.”

“No, no, no,” he whimpered quietly.

“You have to.”

Something about the way he spoke reminded me of when Camilla and I were kids and she looked up the medieval ceremony to become a knight, and actually tried to perform it. We had a sleepover and we snuck out to a church, even though neither of us had ever been to church before, except for the Night Vigil. She made me bring a bucket of soapy water and she gave herself a sponge bath, to cleanse herself in preparation. (We were really little then, and neither of us cared very much about nudity.) The next day, she put on a white shirt and black pants and boots and my superhero cape from a few Halloweens before. We took her toy sword and shield and placed it on the altar, and, I kid you not, this girl knelt down and prayed for ten hours straight. Just like a real knight.

It was intense and I remember being really impressed with her self-control. Then, because we had no other knights and we didn’t know any priests, I had to give the sermon on the duties of a knight. I didn’t really know what the duties of a knight were. I tried to say something about the code of chivalry, but a lot of that didn’t really work, since she was a girl, so I made up my own code.

The code was to protect those who couldn’t protect themselves, and to help those in need, and to be honorable in your actions. I didn’t know what the last bit meant, but it felt right.

We also had to write our own vows, because those were gender-specific as well. And finally, I took her toy sword and I dubbed her Sir Camilla. After the ceremony there was supposed to be a huge festival and feast, but instead, we just sang the theme song to our favorite TV show and ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

“We need to know what they’re doing in order to stop them,” Camilla told Anders. Her arm was slung loosely over his shoulder, as if to steady him.

“They — they strap your head to this machine,” he choked out, “And then they turn it on and it makes a humming noise and then you go stiff and then the humming stops and they take your head out and you fall forward, and your eyes, they’re completely vacant, no one’s there, no one’s at home, and it’s just…” He broke down into sobs.

I felt something stirring inside of me. I wanted to hold this kid, cradle him until his tears stopped, and protect him from everything. Shut up, I told myself. You barely know him. Your comforting probably wouldn’t do him any good.

“And,” he continued, “They take the glowy thing and they somehow connect it to the machine and then the glowy thing gets brighter and they chant and chant and chant about the damn Master and how he’s going to cleanse the world or some shit, and all that chanting, it hurts my head.”

“So, they’re using whatever they suck out of people.” Camilla stood and looked at me. “You stay here and protect him.”

“Camilla,” I protested. “You can’t possibly think that you can take them on your own. There’s more of them, and they’re bigger than you. You need me to fight with you.”

Her eyes narrowed. I knew she hated to admit that someone could beat her, but she dropped her arms to her side in submission.

“You’re right,” she said. She pulled a pocket knife out of her bag and gave it to him. “Are you in any condition to fight?”

He stood. “Probably not, but that doesn’t matter. I’ll do what I can.”

“Okay,” she said. Then, for the second time that night, she started to pick a lock.

Now, I’m generally not very good at fighting. While I have no problem hurting other people, I’m small and pretty easy to overpower with simple brute force. However, I have one redeeming quality: I can use anything as a weapon. Camilla knew this, so when the door clicked open, she let me go first, with Anders following me and her taking up the rear. I scouted out the area. Immediately my vision focused on an old workbench. Jackpot. There were hammers, screwdrivers, and lots of other easily weaponized things. I handed Camilla a hammer and grabbed a wrench for myself. Then, we silently crept into the main room.

The one good thing about the chanting was that it obscured our footsteps completely. We could get right behind them and they didn’t even know we were there. We had to act fast. This was our one shot. We had to make the best of it. I studied the glowy thing more closely, looking for a way to shut it down. It was connected by five electrical cords to what looked like five giant batteries.

“We need to unplug the cords from the batteries,” I whispered to Camilla and Anders.

“Got it,” Camilla whispered back.

“Cover me.”

They stood with their backs to mine and Camilla poised her hammer, ready to swing, as we slowly made our way over to the first battery. I counted down on my fingers, my hand prepared to pull the plug. Three. Two. One. I pulled the plug. A thousand screams came from inside the glowy thing, as it began to pulsate wildly. The whole congregation turned to us. There was one unanimous flash of panic on their faces, and then they dove at us like wild hounds. I swung blindly with my wrench, hitting someone in what I think was his back. We dashed to the next battery, and somehow unplugged it against the mass of writhing bodies trying to stop us. The screaming became louder.

“Si, slip out and unplug the batteries. Anders and I will hold them off.”

“Are you sure you can?” I asked.

“Yeah, now go!” shouted Anders.

I dove underneath someone’s leg and ran to the third battery, unplugging it with a single swipe of my hand.

“Si, hurry!” I heard Anders shout.

I scrambled to the fourth battery and was about to unplug it, when someone grabbed me from behind and hoisted me in the air. I kicked and yelled and flailed my arms. Suddenly, the arms grabbing me went stiff and I tumbled to the floor. I saw Camilla had hit him in the back with her hammer, and Anders was keeping his little crowd of attackers at bay with his knife. I unplugged the battery and staggered over to the last of the five and unplugged it for good. The last of the screams died out and together we dashed up the stairs and the whole world blurred into a dream as we ran away and outside.

We hit the cool night air like a wall and suddenly all my senses became clear again. Anders was looking around in amazement. He looked so happy. Camilla looked proud.

I was the only one who seemed at all concerned. “Guys, we need to get out of here. They’ll come after us.” Camilla snapped to attention.

“Right,” she said. “We really need to go.”

“Where?” I asked.

“Doesn’t matter, as long as we’re safe.”

We took off running. Already we could hear the congregation coming after us. My legs felt like they were moving through jello, like in those dreams where you’re being chased.

“Down here!”

We all ducked down a long street, that was usually full of people, but was eerily empty and strange in the moonlight.

“The library!”

Our library was a tall and imposing stone building, with lots and lots of windows. Camilla jimmied the lock open with her hairpin and all three of us tumbled inside. Anders slammed the door behind us. The lights flickered on and all of us collectively sighed with relief.

“Si, come help me push this bookshelf,” said Camilla. I obliged. Together, we heaved the bookshelf in front of the door. Then we collapsed next to Anders, who was already curled up on the floor. He looked a lot younger, and a lot more innocent. I felt my eyelids get heavier and heavier as I slid toward a dark and dreamless sleep.

The Madhouse

It was the summer of 1929 when I first found the house. I was roaming Central Park with my best friend, Cass. It was cold, and our breaths were white in the air. The hum of the factories was louder in the still snow. It was silent on the streets of New York City, like a ghost town. I took a step into the snow, testing it with my finger. I quickly jump-stepped back inside the little awning space of one of the stores.

“It’s cold!” I whisper-shrieked. Cass nudged me, a grin on her face.

“Be careful or you’ll end up like that fellow Miss Anne told us about!” she whispered back.

“Lost all his toes!” I whispered back loudly.

“His wife wouldn’t even let him in!” Cass giggled.

“She thought he was some thug!” I giggled, poking Cass in the stomach. She let out a shriek, and then she covered her mouth with her hands, staring at me wide-eyed. I stared back at her.

“Andy, what if we get caught!” she whispered back, so fast that she didn’t even make any white breath.

“C’mon, let’s go! Cook packed us food to eat at the tree!” I said, stepping into the snow, tucking a loose strand of my short golden blonde-ish hair behind my ear. I could see the fear in Cass’s dark blue eyes, but she stepped out reluctantly and followed me through the falling snow. I grabbed her hand and broke into a run, running up Central Park, our long skirts flying behind us as we dodged street vendors and horses, through people and through trees, the snow biting at us. But we kept running, because we could never, ever, do this in the school. Why, if they saw us, we would be skinned alive!

When we finally stopped, we were at the foot of our tree, the one that we loved, because of those low branches that were perfect for climbing, and the dark, soft, leaves that concealed us from prying eyes as we shared stories and ate snacks that the maids had packed us. I swung up the branch and climbed up to the perfect branch, with the prettiest view of the city, where no one could see us. Cass climbed up and sat next to me, swinging her legs to get rid of her jitters. I reached into my long, dark, brown coat and took out my metal lunch pail. I set it in between us and I took off the gloves that my mother had insisted I wear, to keep my hands delicate and pretty, perfect for anything that an upper-class girl would do. I much preferred to do things with calloused, worked, hands, which showed that I deserved my life, rather than delicate hands, because I couldn’t defend myself with delicacy.

I looked at Cass’s gloved hands, and I felt a wave of guilt pass through me. If I had watched her last winter, she wouldn’t have fallen and gotten that scar… I thought, hurriedly unlatching the cold metal as it fell open, leaving me to scramble and put my gloves back on in the hopes of warming up my hands. I reached in, taking out a small container with hot soup in it. I found two spoons. I handed one to Cass and we both leaned into the middle, eating the soup, savoring the taste of good chicken in the freezing cold. When we were done, I put it back in and took out a little wax paper-wrapped brownie. We both gasped in delight and I split it in half, remembering enough of my manners to give her the bigger half and keep my mouth closed while I chewed. I climbed down when we were done, and we looked up at the large building that was being built, and we could see it peeking through the trees.

“It’s the Empire State Building!” Cass whispered, because neither of us wanted to disturb the peace.

“Supposed to be the tallest in the world!” I whispered back, imitating Cass’s excited little sentences, that showed her naive-ness.

“Yeah.” she breathed. I looked at her.

“I hate to say it, but we should head back to my house.” I said. She nodded, her dark brown curls bouncing. I could tell she was in another place, probably thinking of her ugly scar, re-living the memory, as I had done many times. I squeezed her hand and she blinked out of it. We broke into a run, navigating the streets. However, the streets became unfamiliar. The buildings were still nice, but they weren’t mine, or Cass’s. Cass tugged on my hand.

“Andromeda, what’s that house? I don’t remember it.” she said, pointing to a brick house with peeling paint on the boards. It looked old, like someone just didn’t want it fixed any more than it had to be.

“I don’t know, but we should go home.” I said, looking for a street sign.

“Andromeda, let’s look inside.” she said, walking towards it. I found a street sign. Oh, a block away from my house!

“Cass, my house is a block away! Let’s just go home.” I said, but Cass was walking towards it. “Cass, let’s go home.” I said, more forcefully this time. She didn’t even blink. “CASS!” I yelled at her, shaking her shoulders. She just kept walking. “Cassidy Sage Levy, I do not appreciate your rudeness.” I glared at her. It was like she was in some type of trance. I stepped in front of her. She walked around me. “Fine. Ignore me.” I said, stomping off, but I couldn’t even get to the corner in my guilt. I stomped back, looking for her, but she wasn’t there. I felt panic sweep over me, and I remembered her walking to the house. I ran to the house, flinging open the door.

It was darker than anyone would think that a house could be, and as I stepped inside, I felt as if I was walking in literal nothingness. Then a candle was lit as if by magic in the pitch black, revealing a rusty old toy monkey, its eyes empty, as if scratched out. I heard a scream, which sounded like Cass.

“CASS!” I yelled, looking around frantically. A musical note struck my attention, and I turned to see the monkey, creaking as its mouth opened and closed, music sounding throughout the house.

Welcome to the Madhouse,

Welcome to the Madhouse,

We’re all mad here.

The monkey sang, the lyrics echoing. It continued as a light switched on in another corner, revealing a woman, her eyes gouged out, blood staining her innocent white dress.

This is Sarah,

She saw too much,

So now she’s here to see

so much

The woman smiled at the monkey and sat down in the pool of blood, beginning to trim her nails. Another light flicked on, this one revealing a man with a suit and a beard. He smiled at me, too, but I realized with a shock that in his hand was a bloody cleaver.

This is James,

He wanted to see,

What it was like

To live forever happily.

Now he knows that

Happy comes last,

First comes murder,

And happy is after that!

The monkey chanted, the mouth moving up and down in a haunting rhythm. I gaped at the ill-fated people before the light revealed another person, this one a young boy, a frown upon his face, but someone had carved a smile in his face with a knife, the blood still trickling down his face.

This is Levi,

He smiled too little,

So now he can smile until he’s brittle!

The monkey went on, and I couldn’t help but wonder if my fate was the same as theirs. Another light switched on, revealing a pretty girl about my age with dark brown curls and dark blue eyes. She smiled at me, and I realized that she was wearing the same clothes as Cass, and in fact, was that Cass?!

This is Cassidy,

Don’t you remember?

The time when she fell,

This time last winter?

“Oh, no, no, NO!” I screamed at her. “CASS!” I yelled, tears running down my face.

She doesn’t,

All she knows,

Is this little house,

And oh,

here she goes!

Cass took a step towards me, the smile still on her face. She looked so innocent, so…peaceful. She had a hand behind her back, and she reached out to me with her other gloved hand.

Andromeda, come,

it’s painless here.

No one makes fun

of me for my scar, here!

She sang, and another tear leaked out of my eye. Of course the house spoke to her. She was already deformed. It was calling out to her. “It’s fun! If you come, we can hang out all day, and Monkey promised brownies! There are bad times coming, Andromeda. We can stay here in endless fun!” she said, smiling innocently, as if it was the easiest, best, thing in the world.

“Cass, listen to me. Look at these people. We will die if we stay here. We have to go!” I said to her, my voice frantic. I grabbed her hand. She shook her head, clucking disapprovingly. She mimicked the monkey, and the next lyrics came on as a light switched on in the back.

This is your spot Andromeda,

What did you do?

You refused your gift Andromeda,

And that’s very rude.

And Andromeda,

Bad girls need to be punished.

She chanted. I looked at her, wide eyed, as the monkey chanted the final verse, the last verse I would ever hear.

Welcome to the madhouse,

Welcome to the madhouse,

We’re all mad here.


“Mommy?” Ayla Brown stared up into her mother’s pale-blue eyes, her long golden hair tickling her forehead.

“Yes, honey?”

“Why can’t Daddy be here for my graduation?”

“Daddy is sleeping, honey.” Ayla’s mother, Lily, stood up from her crouched position and walked over to grab Ayla’s butterfly leotard.

“He can’t still be sleeping, he’s been sleeping for,” Ayla stuck her left hand up and slowly counted her fingers, “thirteen days.”

“He is very tired, honey.  He won’t wake up for a really long time.”

“Why can’t we see him?” Ayla stepped through the pink fabric, and her mother helped her through the sleeves.

“Because…” Her voice cracked as she tried to hide a sob.

“Don’t cry, I’m not as bad at dancing as you think.” Ayla smiled and twirled in her tutu and flapped her wings. Her mother started to laugh softly but inhaled sharply and let out a sob again.

“Are you ready to finish pre-school, Ayla?”

“Mmmhmm,” Ayla said as she skipped over to line up for her dance. She turned around to her mother and waved, smiling like she was about to be on “America’s Top Model,” her favorite ‘Mommy show,’ which she snuck into the living room at nine o’clock to watch.  

I love you, she mouthed to her mother through the other four year olds.

“I love you, too,” Ayla watched her mother say as she sneaked to her seat in the back of the small theatre.

Three months later, Ayla dragged herself up the Cameron Elementary School steps and into room 23. After months of waiting for her father to wake up, Ayla had given up hope that she would ever see him again. She had stopped watching “America’s Top Model” and playing with her best friend, Jamie.  Ayla spent hours a day staring into space, completely shutting out everyone but her mother. Ayla could tell she spent most nights crying. She tried to comfort her, but it seemed to make her mother cry harder. So Ayla spent most of her summer vacation alone in her room trying to stay put together.

Once Ayla reached the door, she turned around and kissed her mother goodbye, walked into the brightly colored room, and put on a smile.


“I wouldn’t punch someone who’s face is already so messed up!”

“Ayla!” her mother said in a strained whisper. “How could you?!”

“Look, Mr.Turner, I didn’t hurt anyone.” Ayla’s peacock colored braid flew around, as she tried to convince her principal that Jimmy Cammo had slipped and broken his nose, that it had not been punched by her.

“Ayla, we have witnesses who tell me that they saw you bullying Mr.Cammo during passing period today. As a junior, I expect you to be kind and considerate, and set an example for younger students. You are doing the opposite–not only harassing people, but breaking school rules, policies, and expectations.” He sighed and started again. “This is your sixteenth time to the principal’s office this year, and we are only three quarters of the way into first semester. Normally, we would have expelled you by now.”

Ayla saw her mother open her mouth and close it again.

“But we have decided to only suspend you from the campus for two weeks.” Mr.Turner looked down at his desk and picked up a large stack of papers and handed them to Ayla’s mother. Ayla noticed an odd expression sketched upon his face. He looked hurt, but there was something else there. It puzzled her.

“We will see you back on campus on April 24.” Mr. Turner wheeled his chair away from his desk, stood up, and walked out of his office.

“Ayla, sixteen times! I thought you had only been once!” Her mother frowned at her. Ayla avoided her mother’s gaze by pretending to see a bird out the window.

“There will be consequences.” Ayla dragged her feet as she walked to her mother’s blue Prius and slipped into the back seat to avoid the long lectures and cold glances. Halfway to her apartment, Ayla’s iPhone 4s burst into “Don’t Stop Believing.” She picked it up and whispered into the microphone, trying not to upset her mother.


“Ayla, what the hell?” Jackie’s high voice echoed in her ear, forcing Ayla to drop her phone out of surprise.

“Shhhh,” she let out, picking it up from the black leather seat.

“Don’t shush me, you are in no position to shush me! Suspended! For two freaking weeks!”

“Shhhh, don’t worry, I can still go Sunday.”

“Turn that thing off.” Her mother’s voice was stiff and unforgiving. Ayla covered the mic on her phone and whispered, “But, Mom, it’s–”

“Turn it off.”

Ayla groaned and, as quickly as she could, was off the phone with Jackie. The car screeched to a stop at a red light. Lily’s gold-grey hair whipped around, and her dark brown eyes met her daughters.

“You will volunteer at Karl’s Ocean Orphanage every single day. No friends or boys until you complete four months of community service.”

“What!” Tears formed in Ayla’s eyes.

“Now you know what it feels like, to have people be cruel to you.”

“Life has been cruel to me, Mom. Ever since Dad died, nothing has gone my way!” Ayla could see tears welling up in her mother’s eyes, too.

“How could you be so cruel to people? Kids bullied you in Kindergarten. You know how it feels to be treated horribly! How could you, of all people, be a bully? I am disgusted with your behavior.” Her mother’s tears were gone and were replaced with anger flaring across her face.

“I–” Ayla choked.

“No, you can’t have an excuse, and if you do, it is probably horrible.”

Silence filled the car as it rolled into the driveway. Ayla grabbed her phone, slung her bag onto her back and ran up the stairs, holding back tears. She fumbled with her key as she fought the urge to start bawling. Don’t cry, don’t do it, don’t let them get to you. As soon as she opened the door, she rushed past her tiny kitchen and lurched into her room. Leila, her sixteen-year-old cat, lay sleeping on her floral sheets. Ayla dropped her bag on her tan carpet as she inhaled sharply. She sat down on her bed and stroked Leila’s white, smooth fur. No, don’t do it, she thought. It had been years since she had cried–years of holding back tears, pretending that everything was okay. But being yelled at by her mother, who had almost always been there for her, had pushed Ayla over the edge. The only other time Lily had yelled at her was in Kindergarten. Ayla had returned home with a nasty cut on her leg from being stabbed with a pencil by Larry Garten.

“Ayla what happened to you?” Her mother asked as she put down her magazine.

“Nothing,” she mumbled

“Honey, what is wrong?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Did someone hurt you?” She crouched down to be eye to eye with her daughter.

“No, Mom, I’m fine.” Ayla looked down avoiding her mother’s gaze.

“Honey.” Her mother placed her hand on Ayla’s back, right where Jack Orlando had hit her last week.

Ayla reacted quickly, her hands flying to her back in pain.


Ayla looked up. Her mother was holding her cheek, glaring back at her.

“What was that for? Go to your room! And don’t come out until dinner!” All of the kindness

drained from her face as she pointed her left index finger up the stairs.

As Ayla lay on her duvet, she realized that that was the last time she had cried. But not the last time she was hurt. She was bullied until second grade, but by third grade had taken manners into her own hands. Bullying others made her feel horrible about herself. She couldn’t avoid it, though; everything people said angered her. Ayla had no friends until Jackie and Ursula moved to her school. Once Ayla met them, she thought she could stop punching kids and giving people bloody noses, but it turned out they were just as mean as she was. The whole middle school lived in fear of their clique. Ursula was the best at making people feel horrible about themselves. She criticized people’s weight, race, clothing, everything. Jackie was small, had great grades, and was assumed to be a nice, innocent nerd, but she could make someone wish they could crawl under their bed and never come out. Jackie was the group’s rock, their leader. Ayla dreaded what they did at first. As she became more and more cruel, bullying slowly grew on her. But every once and a while, Ayla could feel her early years creep up on her. She quickly dismissed the thought of them, but she couldn’t keep her past from catching up to her anymore.

So she let it out, the years of pain, hurt and depression. She wailed for hours, clutching Leila and letting her lick the tears off her face. Ayla waited for her mother to come creeping through the door and into the kitchen to make their usual dinner, chicken and mashed potatoes, but heard nothing but the sound of her own thunderous sobs. Eventually, she cried herself to sleep.


Ayla woke up to the sound of her mother entering their apartment. She rolled over and stared at her clock. 7:12.

“Up.” Her mother came into her room and violently expelled the covers from her bed and walked out of the room.

“No,” Ayla grunted. She stayed lying there for five minutes, dreading getting out of bed. Suddenly, the contents of the day before came rushing back to her memory.

“Nooo,” Ayla whispered as she debated to stay in bed for another half hour, like normal, or to get up and face her mother again. She pulled up her covers, but quickly threw them back off and rolled out of bed. She tip-toed as fast as she could to the bathroom down the hall, trying to avoid meeting her mother. Ayla spent thirty minutes standing in the shower, letting the hot water run down her face, washing away cat saliva and dry tears.

“Come down, now!” Usually, her mother would let Ayla stay in the bathroom for as long as she wanted on weekends. She also normally would let her sleep in until exactly 10 AM. But not today. When Ayla got down the stairs, she could immediately tell that her mother hadn’t slept much last night. Her long golden hair was messed up and her shirt, which she had been wearing the day before, was wrinkled and out of place. She was standing by the microwave, waiting patiently for her oatmeal.

“Hello, Ayla,” she said coldly.

“Hi,” Ayla sat down at her seat and started picking at the tablecloth.

“You start volunteering today. At 9.” Ayla looked at the clock. 8:03. “We leave in twenty minutes.”

Ayla groaned.

“And if you misbehave,” her mother cautioned, glared at her, “you will not get your license this year.”

“What?!” Ayla screamed, temporarily forgetting that she was avoiding being yelled at. Her mother simply set down a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios and sat down next to Ayla.

“I’m hoping that won’t be a problem at all, because there is no way you can possibly hurt orphans,” she answered.

Ayla felt as if her mother was coaxing her into another fit. As if she wanted her to punch her. But she wouldn’t dare, not when her freedom was on the line. And when the one thing in the world she couldn’t do was hurt her mother. Lily Brown was her only family. She had no grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, anyone other than her mother.

Ever since she was young, Ayla had put walls up around her heart, protecting it from anyone who could break it. The only person she let in was her mom, who had always been there for Ayla to cry with, talk to, and laugh with. But that morning Ayla slowly began to close her walls to her mom, too, expelling the only person she ever loved from her heart. Because with her heart open, even only to one person, she was breaking.

“Eat up.” Her mother’s words broke her from her trance.

“Sorry,” she mumbled as she stuffed a spoonful of soggy Cheerios into her mouth.


Two hours later Ayla stood waiting in the orphanage lobby. Her mother had signed papers, shaken the directory’s hand, and left. Ayla looked around through her wet hair. She was surrounded by colorful paintings of children holding hands and families playing together. Down the hall stood two large French doors leading into “the schoolroom.” On the other side was a smaller door labeled “girls’ dorms” and next to it was another labeled “boys’ dorms”.

“Hello, Miss Brown, welcome.” Ayla spun around hastily. Standing inches away from her and around a foot above her was a women. She had a brown bob surrounding her long thin face.

“This way.” Ayla followed her into a large schoolroom. There were floor-to-ceiling windows on both sides of the room, and sunlight shone onto the rainbow carpet in the middle of the room. In front stood a large chalkboard covered with multiplication problems. The ceiling stood forty feet above her, and strung from it were colorful cardboard butterflies and dragonflies.

“This is mainly where you will be working. The children will be down shortly to meet you. Good luck,” she said as she walked out of the room.

Good luck? What did that mean?

“Are you Ayla?” a voice behind her asked.

“Yes.” She turned around to find fifty eyes staring straight into hers.

“Hi.” Ayla glanced around at the orphans. There were around twenty-five of them, from ages three to twelve. Ayla nervously waved. She oddly felt like she was in kindergarten again, with people judging her and criticizing her every move.

“Hi,” the kids chirped.

“Okay.” The new woman turned to look at the herd of orphans again. “Introduce yourselves, guys.”

“Hi,” Ayla said nervously as she twirled her hair through her fingers.

“I am Adele.”


“My name is John.”

Ayla was overwhelmed by the sudden amount of tiny voices.

“I…uh…need to go to the bathroom. Umm, where is it?”

“Over there.” A tiny girl who looked like Dora the Explorer pointed over to a door by the chalkboard. Ayla pushed a few children out of her way, completely ignoring the fact that she had pushed a boy into a desk, and ran to the bathroom. She swung open the door, rushed to the sink, and inhaled heavily.

Her mind flashed back to ten years ago. She was standing in front of the whole class giving her presentation on hummingbirds.

“Well, hummingbirds are very colorful. And…um they like to drink nectar. I chose to do hummingbirds because…I like birds and these are very pretty birds.” Ayla’s skirt was balled up in her fist. She was staring at the grey carpet, trying to focus on her speech and not on the staring faces. “And…ummm.”

“Why won’t she hurry up?” Lily whispered loudly to Jasmine. Ayla kept her eyes glued to the carpet, hoping the class wouldn’t notice the tears forming in her eyes.

“Ayla?” she heard her teacher ask. “Are you done?”

Ayla nodded her head, pretending she didn’t have another two minutes of information about her colorful bird. She hurried back to her assigned seat next to Nate and Jasmine.


“No!” Ayla said out loud, snapping herself out of her trance. She took a paper towel and wet it. After dabbing the wet towel on her face, Ayla opened the door and stepped out of the bathroom. She closed the door silently, turning around to see the boy she had pushed unconscious on the floor.


The dark haired women she first met in the halls was standing over him, staring directly at Ayla. Many of the children were glancing up at her, too. The small boy’s sketchbooks and colored pencils were scattered on the floor, and a large golf ball size lump had formed above his right eye. His hand was still clutching a small piece of paper.

“Ayla, please follow me.”

Ayla stood frozen. This couldn’t happen. She couldn’t have hurt him. He must’ve fallen.

“Ayla, please.” The women walked over to the French doors and opened them, signaling for Ayla to go with her. Ayla could feel the orphans staring at her, waiting for her to make a move. Don’t do it. Don’t let them get to you! Ayla thought. She slowly dragged herself to the door and out into the hall. She followed the women into the front office. By the time Ayla had seated herself down on the small wooden stool in front of a cluttered desk, she had already figured out twenty ways her mom could punish her.

“Miss Brown.” A deep male voice echoed from behind the giant black chair facing away from Ayla. “I was informed that you pushed Mr. Carlton into a desk, and he is seriously injured.” Ayla sat in silence, too afraid to speak. “And you also rushed to go to the bathroom while the children were introducing themselves.”

“I…had to go,” Ayla timidly suggested.

“And, it says here,” a small hand emerged from behind the back of the chair holding a file with Ayla’s name written on it in crisp blue letters, “that you are disrespectful in class, rude to your teachers, and a bully.”

“I honestly do not know how you wiggled your way into our volunteering schedule,” the man remarked. Slowly, he turned his chair around to face her. Ayla’s jaw dropped. The man looked to be only around four feet tall. His large glasses took up half of his plump face, which was covered by a large, white beard. If it wasn’t for the black suit, Ayla would’ve thought that Santa was sitting in front of her. Her fear melted away and was replaced with the sudden desire to laugh.

“I do not think we can let you come back.” The man said. Ayla’s urge to laugh melted away.

“What? No!” Ayla pleaded.

“What is going on here?” Another voice joined their conversation from the doorway. Ayla winced. Not her mom, not now.

“I was just telling Ayla how she wouldn’t be allowed to work here anymore,” the man said in a matter-of-fact way.

“I got a call regarding Ayla pushing someone by accident, not being exiled from the orphanage,” her mother accused.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, but any harm to our children is absolutely forbidden.”

Ayla sat, petrified.

“Can I talk with you alone, Mr. Simons?” her mother said.

Ayla stood up from the stool and rushed to the door. Once out in the hallway, Ayla sat down on a bench, trying to prepare herself for what would happen when her mother came through that door.

“Excuse me, you are sitting on my phone.” Ayla turned to see a tall teenager sitting across from her. He had short hazelnut hair and large glasses that Ayla tried her best not to make fun of.

“I am sorry, I didn’t even know you were sitting here. Wait–” Ayla studied his face again, “do I know you?”

“I doubt it. No one knows me. I transferred away from Cameron when I was just in Kindergarten.”

Ayla froze, remembering exactly where she had seen his dark brown eyes before…


Ayla was back in her Kindergarten classroom for the second time that day.

“Why is she sitting alone?”

“Do you want to ask her over?”

“No, she’s weird.”

Ayla felt as if someone had punched her in the gut. Why didn’t they want her to sit with them?

“She isn’t weird.” Ayla looked up from her hiding spot behind the teacher’s desk.

“Nate, you can’t sit with us at lunch.”

“Or recess.”

“Or school.”

Ayla watched as the three girls waved Nate away from their lunch desks. She put her face back into her knees and continued to cry.


Someone’s hand was waved violently in front of Ayla’s face.

“Oh.” She jumped. “Sorry.” Ayla shook her head, trying to get herself together.

“What was that all about? You were sitting there for thirty seconds staring at the wall,” Nate said with a worried expression.

“I was just…I just remembered something I had to do.” Ayla jumped up from her seat, worrying he would remember her. She wouldn’t let him see her as the little kid who got picked on in Kindergarten. She wouldn’t allow anyone to pity her, especially a weird nerd who was on the bottom of the food chain.

“Wait…Aria? No…Ally?”

“I got to go.” Ayla started walking swiftly away, heading for the nearest door.

“Ayla! I remember–” But the sound of his voice was cut off as Ayla slammed the door to the Girls’ Dorm.

It took Ayla a second to realize where she was. She took a deep breath in and sighed it out. Instantly, she thought of her mother, who always watched yoga videos on Sundays. Suddenly a small high-pitched voice interrupted her thoughts.

“Excuse me?”

Ayla turned away from the door to see a short, thin girl with a pink superhero cape strapped around her neck. Her curly blonde hair was tied into a bow on the top of her head. Ayla knelt down on her knees, as her mother did, and looked the girl straight in the eyes.


“Why is your hair blue?” The girl stepped back, shying away from Ayla.

“It’s not blue, it’s–” Ayla caught herself. Be nice Ayla, be nice. “Sorry.”

“Why is it blue?” she asked again, more impatiently.

“Well–” she was interrupted by the door swinging open. The girl’s face paled and she sprinted away down the dimly lit hall, which Ayla guessed led to her bedroom. A small shadow emerged from behind the door.

“Miss Brown, please come with me.” The director calmly lead Ayla out of the door and into the office again where her mother was sitting on the small stool filing her fingernails. Ayla pretended not to notice she was there, but it was proving difficult with her mother’s you-are-going-to-pay-for-this glare.

“Please, sit,” the director said cautiously. Ayla was in the middle of debating if she should be super sincere and apologize, or if she should deny everything, when Mr.Simon dismissed the two of them.

“What?” Ayla was stupefied. Had she missed his speech? What was going on? Did she get to come back tomorrow?

“I said you can leave, Miss Brown, and you too, ma’am,” he explained as he sat down in his large black chair. He turned himself around to face the back of the room and disappeared. Ayla followed her mother around the ivy covered building and into the parking lot. As she snuck into the back seat, Ayla glanced up to take one more look at the orphanage windows, her last chance of freedom, and noticed a small face with a little blonde bow on top of her head staring straight back at her.


“Yes…you will be going back to the orphanage tomorrow morning.”


“I talked to Mr.Simon, and he told me that if you are seen harming anyone with words or force, you will never be allowed inside the orphanage again,” she remarked quickly and calmly.

The next week was hell. Ayla spent her mornings trying to avoid Nate, who apparently volunteered there, resisting her temptations to laugh at the one kid who looks like he ate fifteen hamburgers a day, and running into the nearest hiding place every time Mr. Simon came into the room.

On Sunday, Ayla checked in at ten o’clock sharp for a four-hour morning “play session,” which she had begged her mother to let her skip.

“Your assigned seat will have your name on it.” Assigned seat? What kind of play session is this? Ayla quickly strut down the hall, determined to get there before Nate, so she could make sure she wouldn’t end up his “play buddy” or something. The pushed the doors open quietly and crept up to the desks. She frantically searched for her name among the colored pencils and markers.

Ah ha, she whispered to herself. She fumbled with her pink name tag and looked down again pushing away her hair from her face. She saw a smaller blue name tag with Nate’s name on the desk next to hers.

“Hm hm,” Ayla whipped herself around, holding a blueberry colored pencil tightly in her hand.

“Whoa, it’s just me,” Nate said as he stepped back throwing his hands in the air.

Ayla groaned.

“What?” he asked.

“I just stubbed my foot. And I…uh. It hurt when I turned around.”

“You are horrible at lying.” Nate grinned as he pulled back his minute chair and pushed his glasses off his nose. “You know, you used to be that nice kid that always got picked on. Now you’re just a–” The French doors swung open revealing at least around eighty children. Ayla’s jaw dropped.

“I thought there were only twenty of them,” Ayla whispered to Nate, temporarily forgetting that she wasn’t supposed to talk to the “bottom feeders.”

“There is an afternoon class and a morning class,” Nate whispered back. He leaned closer to Ayla, who scooted her chair away awkwardly. She resumed to watching the enormous amount of children file into the playroom. One small boy was dressed up in a Harry Potter costume complete with a red crayon lightning scar on her forehead. Another little girl, who looked like a halloween enthusiast, was wearing a bright orange t-shirt and black leggings and green witch earrings. Ayla nearly turned to Nate to point out a huge kid who was wearing liquid guy-liner and a large mohawk on his apple sized head.

“Please find your assigned seats, everyone.” Mary Margaret pointed to the rows of desks and sat down at her own. Many of the children automatically rushed to their seats, grinning and pushing each other, struggling to get to their chairs.

“Hello.” The same small girl who confronted her in the girls’ dorm seated herself down in the chair next to Ayla.

“Hi,” Ayla smiled. Something about the little girl intrigued her.

“Why is your hair blue?”

“I thought it looked pretty,” Ayla tried.

“It is. You look like a peacock.” The little girl giggled and reached out to tug lightly on Ayla’s hair, who resisted her urge to pull away.

“What is your name?” Ayla asked, taking the girl’s hand.

“Sam.” She criss-crossed her legs and took her hand away to pull herself closer to the desk. “What is your favorite color?”

“Blue, what’s yours?” Ayla responded.

“Pink.” Sam grinned, displaying her pink wristbands and t-shirt. “Whenever there is a donation, I get there first and get all pink clothing.”

Ayla grinned.

“Okay, everyone! Now that you are seated and comfortable, we shall get down to business.” Mary Margaret’s face was filled with despair. “We have some bad news. We do not–” Her voice cracked as she stifled a sob. “We cannot get enough fundraising to fund our…our–” Mary Margaret sat down on a small blue chair, unable to finish her sentence.

Mr. Simons stood up to continue her speech. “All of you will be either moved to Arizona State orphanage or put into the foster system.”

Many of the younger children had started to weep, but the older ones, like Ayla, sat frozen in their chairs, unable to react.

“We are arranging to move in three weeks.” Mr. Simons paced back to Mary Margret and lead her out of the room.

Ayla felt a tiny hand grab her pinky finger and tug. Sam lightly laid her head on Ayla’s shoulder and gently sobbed. Ayla felt helpless. Her whole life–and a hundred kids–depended on this orphanage.

“Shut it, Kyle, it isn’t that bad. Foster care is where dogs go when they don’t have home, just like you.” A tall girl with dark brown hair and icy blue eyes mumbled to a boy, who looked to be only six years old.

“Hey!” Ayla yelled, accidentally causing Sam to jump and sit up abruptly. What are you doing, Ayla? Don’t defend the kid, he probably deserves what he is getting. she thought.

“Hey what?” the girl glanced over at Ayla with a bored expression on her face.

“Stop that,” Ayla stood up from her chair. She felt two hundred eyes land on her, making her uncomfortable.





“Who are you to tell me to stop being mean? Telling Kyle to shut up is nothing compared to what you do.”

“Ayla is nice, Miley.” Sam’s usually sugary voice was rough and harsh.

“Shut up, Sam!” Miley pushed Kyle out of her way and strutted past the desks to Ayla. Suddenly, the doors to the playroom burst open, and Mr. Simons paraded in with Mary Margaret trailing behind.

“Unless we get 5,000 dollars in two days, we will pack our bags. Ayla and Nate, you may leave.”


“Mom!” Ayla burst through the door. She had plodded twenty blocks after waiting half an hour for her mother to pick her up. She glanced at the clock. 1. Ayla sat there, trying to shake the image of Sam being shipped away in a truck over the California border, crying. Finally, she gave up and began to walk home.

“Mom?” Ayla threw her purse onto the kitchen table and pulled out her phone. Just as she tapped the phone app, she heard a door upstairs close.

“Mom?” Gripping a baseball bat, Ayla snuck up the stairs. She pushed open her mother’s bedroom door open and glanced around the room, sitting on the bed sat her mother.

“Ayla?” she spun around to face her daughter.

“Why didn’t you answer me? Are you hurt?”

“Lily?” A deep familiar voice boomed from inside the bathroom. “Honey, who is there?”  Ayla’s eyes started to fill with tears. What was going on? Honey?


“I asked who was there.”

Ayla searched her memory for that voice. She knew this man, but how?

“Oh no one, I meant no one.” Lily signaled for Ayla to leave.

“But–” Ayla gasped.

“I will explain later,” she whispered, pushing Ayla to the door.


“Out!” The door slammed in her face, leaving her alone in the hallway. She trudged to her room, grabbed Leila and flopped onto her bed. She felt stuck. Like her whole life was crumbling. Tomorrow she would have to go to school for the first time in two weeks. She would have to face her friends, who would probably make her feel horrible for even going within ten feet of the orphanage. Three sharp knocks interrupted her thoughts. Ayla sat up, unaware she had been crying.

Mr. Turner. Her principal. His was the voice inside her mother’s bathroom. He let Ayla come back after two weeks not because of Ayla, because of her mom.

“Honey, can I come in?”

“Is he gone?” Ayla mumbled.

“Yes.” Lily sat down next to Ayla and began petting Leila’s ears.

“Why can’t we just move?” Ayla looked up from her pink painted nails, her eyes filled with tears. She felt her mother’s arms embrace her.

“Because–” Her voice cracked and she let out a sob. “Because…I don’t expect you to understand.”

“Mom,” Ayla groaned. “I hate my friends, the orphanage is closing, everything reminds me of getting bullied in kindergarten, and Dad died here. Leaving nothing but a keychain and five thousand dollars.”

“I have some news.” Ayla watched a tear cascade down her mother’s cheek. Suddenly, something clicked in Ayla’s brain.

“Wait…five thousand dollars?” Ayla jumped off of her bed, throwing Leila off her lap. She charged down the stairs and rushed past Mr. Turner, who was sitting on her couch in a bathrobe, and bolted into the garage. Her hands trembled as she pushed cardboard boxes out of the way to a small cupboard. She pulled open a wooden drawer and reached for a small envelope. She quickly grabbed it and ran upstairs again. She grabbed her coat, shoved the envelope in her pocket, flipped off Mr. Turner, and ran into the night.


“Here.” Ayla gasped as she tripped into the orphanage lobby and threw the envelope on the front desk. The lady looked at her suspiciously and reached for the envelope slowly. Still looking at Ayla, she tore open the seal and reached inside. She quickly looked down, checking to see if what she felt was there. A stack of fifty Ben Franklins sat smiling at them on the desk. The lady jumped up, rushing to Mr. Simon office. Ayla ran to the bathroom, afraid she was going to vomit from running so far.

“Ayla?” a small girl in a pink onesie was standing there, holding a toothbrush and a teddy bear.

“Hi…Sam,” Ayla managed, gasping for breath.

“Ayla?” Her mother’s voice echoed from the lobby.

“She is in there, Miss.” Nate.

“Miss Brown?” Mr. Simons. Ayla groaned. She grabbed Sam’s hand and pulled her out of the bathroom, ready to face her punishment for giving away her college money. She was greeted by her mother, whose hair was messed up, her coat half on, a very disgruntled Mr. Turner, Mr. Simons, a pale-faced Nate, and the reception lady.

“Ayla, can I speak with you alone?” Mr. Simons asked.

“No, just get it over with,” her mother said sternly.

“I really shouldn’t–”

“Okay I will then. Ayla,” her mother looked at her, “you are not going back to school tomorrow. Instead, you will be going to a new school next year. I have already talked to Mr. Turner, who is fine with it.”

Mr. Turner grunted.

“My turn!” Mr. Simons said impatiently. “Ayla, thank you for your generous donation, but we cannot accept it, unless your mother approves.”

“I approve,” her mother declared.

“I guess I will see you tomorrow then.” Mr. Simons looked very uncomfortable as he and the receptionist walked back into his office.

Ayla looked down at Sam, who looked thoroughly confused.

“What?” she questioned.

“You don’t have to move.”

Sam’s face lit up. A grin wide enough to stretch around the whole room was etched upon her face. She jumped up and down, dropping her toothbrush and hugging her teddy bear.

Ayla turned around to her mother, who had let go of Mr. Turner’s hand. Ayla wrapped her arm around her mother.

“I love you,” Ayla whispered.

“I love you, too.”

I Can’t Think Of A Title: Poem Series

Vicious Cycle

Vicious cycle

15 pregnant

16 in jail

15 drugs

16 but still a child

Vicious cycle

15 4.0

16 athlete

15 independent

16 but still a child

Vicious cycle

27 alcoholic

27 drug addict

27 responsible for two lives

27 struggling

Vicious cycle

27 owns car

27 Costa Rica

27 independent

27 my sister

But Dad what was your role

do you fall in the cycle

does she hate you

does she love you

she loves you


you had her

but you were her

a child

but you differ

Vicious cycle

maybe not

we broke it


Untitled #1

I’m standing in the road

I’m grey yet everything is in color

Choking on the fear of the unknown

Drowning in my simpleness

Naked cowboy literally sniffing my hair

slowing falling to my death

but it’s me

uncapable of accepting indifference

yet inevitable



my eternal chaser


Untitled #2

Don’t you dare think for a minute think

I’m anti-social

I attract a crowd

I have a mythological writer across from me

A 27 mean girl

and then there’s me in the center

thinking just for a moment if we

were all dead

red splatter is my vision

knives guns and a blank document

what’s the next horror

how many horrors

the limit does not exist



Feast on Words

When it comes to reading, I’m quite a pig; every word is licked up clean

Each taste has an exquisite flavor–bitter, sweet, and in between

I consume the sentences through the mouths of my eyes

I will snack on words of any shape and size

And let my brain digest them


Every paragraph makes an elaborate feast

The tastes and textures-a hundred at least!

The symbols always taste the best

And take the longest to digest

The dialogue is just divine

Quotations and tags are always so fine

Similes are some great stuff

I can never get enough

Metaphors are like chamomile tea

Subtle but strong enough for me


And any other writing technique

Tastes new and special and very unique

Books, stories, fables, and tales, see–

Reading will never fail me


The Martians are Coming, The Martians are Coming

Hey, my name is #45. Yes, I am the 45th person that was ever born. Our species lives for a very long time but we are not very social and we don’t form friends that often. We are called the #’s. Today is a very special day. We are invading Earth. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Since I am super smart, I just recently developed a new type of explosive which can blow up the Earth in 3 hits. It’s awesome! I recently just tested it on Mercury. It only took one hit. All those Earthians are gonna have to surrender soon, if they value their planet.

The funny thing is that Earthians don’t know we exist. They think Mars is a small red rock with nothing on it. In fact, that is partially true. Mars used to be uncolonized but then our species invaded it. And now we live there. See, explosive + fuse = boom = win. Or that’s what we think. Our species has over 1,000,000,000 planets to its name. We love invading people. That’s our natural instinct. I wonder how many planets Earth has invaded.

Wow, when is the ceremony gonna start! I’ve been waiting 56,798,134 seconds. This is almost two years in Earth days, but it is only five martian hours.

Ah yes, finally the moment has come. The ceremony. This ceremony is fairly simple. We don’t use nearly as many explosives as we use for the other events. This is awful for the common martian because we get paid to buy explosives. But anyway, here we go. We start by dancing around the fire while throwing in little hand grenades, next we play a game of tag. Who ever the explosives blows up is out. Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt, and besides, you get brought back to life. It is actually very enjoyable. I blew up 3 times during the invasion of Mercury. After we throw little hand grenades, we get martian c4 and throw it in the air for the black hole to suck up. Next, we all get in a cannon and rocket to the Earth and back. This is what humans call the aurora borealis. Now for the final step: We have an eating contest. Whoever eats the most rockets without blowing up wins! I have won three times in my entire career.

Oh! Have I mentioned roast e…the best food, here on mars. It is a delicacy. It tastes like steak. It is my favorite food, and my pet c4’s food, and my rocket launcher’s food. Everyone loves it. Soon I will have to start construction on the mega rocket launcher that will launch the new explosive. The only thing I will eat is roast dynamite because it is very healthy, gives you energy and tastes good. It is much better than, say, a martian carrot, which is basically fireworks growing on the ground.

Finally, construction time! The construction building is made up of all types of explosives but it is mostly made up of something called cement explosive. This is cement mixed with explosive powder since cement and explosives are very easy to obtain. It has very safe working conditions as you are around explosives all the time. The mega rocket launcher that I am making is going to be made of crushed explosive rockets. It has a safety switch, too. When you press it, it coats the rocket launcher in gasoline and ignites it. Usually you blow up, and that’s why we have a blow-up proof suit which is made out liquid  blackpowder. Something that us, Martians invented, but the Earthians stole it in a powdered form. If you would like to know about this blow-up proof suit you can check the Martian Wiki. It is very reliable… Or is it? … I can just tell you now. The blow up proof suit starts with a shell made out of hardened c4. We drop the c4 in water and then dry it off in a mold made out of dynamite. Sometimes it is very hard to remove the suit from the mold, because it has a very high chance of blowing up. If all works to plan, then we can start chiseling the inside of the c4 so now it is hollow and is a shell. Next we pour in liquid black powder to make the suit more flexible and so we can have a strong inside.

Once we are done with a suit, we put it through a stress test. We make sure that it blows up in even the highest humidity. Oh, did I mention our atmosphere? The martian atmosphere is very dry which makes everything flammable. Which is super duper amazingly good.

Okay, now back to work on the missile. For the inside of the missile i’m going to use martian potato. This is a highly explosive vegetable that we all love. Too bad it’s going to waste.

Back to the missile…

Around the crushed potato, we have a mysterious paste. One drop of it blew up Mercury, so now we are going to use fifteen drops mixed with gasoline. Also, you aren’t supposed to know this but when I launch the missile I am going to dump a bucket of mysterious paste on it. So when Earth blows up, lots of mysterious paste will fly to the Sun and the Sun will cough and cough. When it’s done coughing, it will sneeze and all the planets will be sent away except for ours. The only reason we don’t fly away is because of martian physics. You see, every planet has their own physics which the people come up with. So for our planet’s physics, we made it so nothing bad will ever happen. Many people thought that this was unfair to other planets, and there were many riots and rebellions with explosive watermelons and carrots. Funny thing is, all of these fruits were stolen from the planets that were the cause of the rioting!

Here are how the riots go:

Someone walks up to a police officer and says “You better watch out, because a riot is starting in ten seconds.”

Police martian: “Oh really?”

Person: “I’m not kidding.”

Ten seconds later…

Police officer: “AH, explosive flying carrots and watermelons everywhere!”

Riot people: “We don’t care.”

Police officer: “Hey, stop that…”

Riot people:” Why?”

Police officer: “Because we are going to invade earth and you are wasting explosives, those could have gone toward the building of the the missile.”

Well, at least, the missile is going well. I have finished the outer coating. It is made of pure gasoline mixed with black powder, and fireworks too. The missile is built just like a firework. We are going to put in sparklers, too.

A few hundred years pass…

Well, now everything is assembled. The missile is ready and we are ready to launch. I think I’m going to take a good few years rest now. I have to start working on it again in 87 years so I better start sleeping.


Hmm… What if we use a black hole instead? We could first blow up the Earth, and then we could suck their planet into a black hole. The people may like that better. Hmm… I wonder.

Ah, that was a terrible three years rest and dream, I did not sleep well at all and I did not get a good night’s sleep. Wai wai wait waaa… I am talking in that stupid Earth talk again. Martians never get tired, I shouldn’t even be sleeping. Come on. I should be working.


“But why? I didn’t do anything wrong?”


“Sorry, I was bored and wanted to see what an Earthling does when it’s bored.”


“Ok, I’m going to Earth. BYE!”

“FINE, sta- go, go, yeah, I meant go.”

  1. . . 4. . . 3. . . 2. . .1. . .blast off!

Practice Makes Perfect

The dinner table was eerily silent. Nothing but the smacking of tongues against the roofs of mouths broke the spell. I sat in a furious haze, determine to keep my lips locked, as this was my vow. This continued for at least another minute — me staring down crossly at my lamb sausages, refusing to make eye contact with anyone. Finally, my mother penetrated the silence with a hesitant, “So, Tilly, are you planning on practicing the piano this evening?” I didn’t like her tone. It was too high, too cheerful, implying that I wouldn’t fulfill the responsibility tonight, the responsibility that I had promised to take on ever since I had begged for private lessons.

It’s not that I particularly enjoy playing the piano. I just despise being behind in school. I play for my school’s orchestra, and until my parents hired a private tutor, I couldn’t keep up with the rest of the ensemble. My eyes would have brushed past measure 20, left and right hands struggling to match each other, when I would hear the first violins play a B flat, something I knew would not come up until at least measure 35. Slowly, the piano accompaniment would fade as my fingers ceased tapping the keys and my eyes read the music as quickly as they could to synchronize myself with everyone else. Maybe I would find the spot again; maybe I would not, and sit in a helpless daze for the rest of the piece. After struggling for months, I finally decided I needed professional help. As my skill level grew, I surpassed the rest of the orchestra in skill. It felt wonderful – such a relief, such an improvement from being behind. I discovered that I liked being the best, even craved it like a kind of drug. Soon, my talent exceeded middle school level and even some high school levels.

“Tilly? Can you answer me, please?”

I should have stayed silent, should have kept my shoulder icy, pretended they weren’t there. But that tone of voice Mom used! The inflection implying I was not doing enough! That I wasn’t dedicated to these piano lessons, that I was wasting their money with them. And then the the nag to reply even though they both knew that I was still burning — like a stubborn ember from a dying coal —  from earlier that day. I was doing the right thing by staying silent; I was keeping the peace, preventing anyone from becoming distressed further by my bad mood. Her tone struck me like a mallet in every nerve in my body, so that they exploded like fireworks, setting sirens off in my brain; sirens that I couldn’t ignore.

“Yes!” I yelled with as much venom I could muster. “Of course I am! I practice every day! I don’t need you to nag me at every second you get!”

“Hey!” my dad snapped, eyes narrow. “Don’t talk to your mother like that!”

“Well, she can’t talk to me like that!” My voice got higher and more whiney with each word I said. “I hate that tone of voice! I hate being nagged! I can manage my own life!”

“I wasn’t nagging you! I was just asking a ques-”

“Tilly, you are excused. Go to your room!” My dad stood up as he said this, as though I deserved a standing ovation for my temper. I pushed my chair back on the wooden floor, relishing the angry screech it made. I gave both parents one more malicious scowl and swiftly turned my back on them, showing that next time, I would certainly not be replying. I heard my mom sigh deeply as I stomped around the corner onto the staircase. I stopped when I heard voices, lurking in the shadows out of sight, but not out of hearing.

“What did I do this time?” she whined.

“Listen, Sabrina, it’s not your fault,” my dad said. “She was already on edge from when you were nagging her about cleaning her room. She had a similar reaction to that, remember?”


“Hey! Don’t get me wrong! I’m on your side. You didn’t do anything wrong. She probably just has hormones or something.”

“Yeah, but why does she have to take it out on me?

“Don’t worry, honey, she’s just grumpy.”

I hissed in anger to myself. What right did they have to talk about me behind my back? After they exiled me to my room? And yet, as I stomped the rest of the way to my door, I felt torn by a feeling of melancholy, an inexplicable forlornness.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I was crying. I was sobbing but nobody knew.

When I was practicing the piano, the anger that I had been feeling over the past few days and especially tonight at everything in the world was turned into pure sadness that poured out of my eyes as I hit the high D in Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, the challenging and complex piece I was mastering for my private recital. When I’m playing the piano, my hands glide in auto-pilot and I am left alone with my thoughts, even more so than in bed before I doze off. My mind wanders to wherever it decides. It wanders across the school day, around the homework, and right to the dinner table. The anger had turned against me and whipped me with its wrath. I took the beating in my mind as my fingers danced over white and black, black and white. Why are you always so angry at everything and always in a bad mood? Why do you lash out at anyone and everyone who tries to help me? You’re such a snob. Such an ugly person. Such a waste of space. I chastised myself over and over and let the words sink in. The notes in the air crescendoed from piano to fortissimo as did my weeping. The piano blocked out the crying and I was thankful for that.

My subconscious, though, was urging me to cry just a little louder, just enough to attract attention, hugs, and comfort. I didn’t, but still wished that someone would come in and discover the wetness of my cheeks, the swollen blotchiness of my eyes. Maybe Dad would like to hear me play, hear me improve. Maybe Mom had a sixth sense and it was tingling, alerting her to her daughter’s distress. But Dad didn’t want to listen to me. And Mom’s sensors didn’t work.

The notes rolled off of the piano as my tears rolled off of my cheeks. I didn’t know that the Sonata could sound so forlorn, like such an empty, isolated trill. As soon as I tapped the final chord in the piece I yanked the bench away from the instrument and ran up the spiraling staircase to my bedroom, last note still ringing in the air.


I shut the door behind me as loudly as I could without making it obvious that something was wrong. I was still hoping that someone would come to comfort me and hold me, whisper in my ear that I’m okay, I’m fine, It’ll all be alright. I wanted someone to come to me, pat me on the back, but I could not bear to go to them. No one came to me. I was alone, sobbing, burying my face into my pillow.

It’s my fault. I’m disgusting. I’m awful. I’m awful to myself, awful to my friends. I’m terrible to those who love me, ungrateful. I deserve my wrath. I am afraid. I am terrified of tomorrow, of the future. If I waste my time sobbing here like a lunatic, where will that leave me? I need to do better, I must be the best. I’m frightened at the thought of not being perfect – that my faults and troubles will throw me homeless on the streets when I’m older.

It was a while ago. I was maybe six or seven, but I was in bed, cuddling with Mom.

“I’m going to miss this, when you’re older, Tilly,” she said, face buried in my hair.

“Why?” I asked, confused.

“Well,” she said. “A lot of times, teenagers grow out of cuddles and they don’t want to hang out with their mothers anymore.” I was staring at the wall, back pressed against her stomach, nestled in like a caterpillar’s chrysalis. I smiled and snuggled in deeper. A strand of golden hair fell on my nose, and I blew it off so it flapped just above my forehead before falling over my eyes again.

“Don’t worry, Mommy, I’ll always be your cuddle bear!”

I could feel her mouth curve into a small smile on my smooth hair. She kissed the top of my head. “Promise?” she asked.


And yet here I am, seven years later. The promise had been broken long ago. So many times, she knocked playfully on my door only to find my nose in a book, completely disinterested in her. Her predictions had come true. I was just another teenage snob, moody and disagreeable. I’m always finding one reason or another to turn crimson with fury. She nagged me here; I didn’t like his tone there; I really hate having Mexican food for dinner; the list was never ending. And there’s nothing that I can do to stop it. I am possessed by a furious demon that plows through everything in its path.

I lifted my head from the pillow and saw that it was soaked with tears and snot. Sniffling, I ambled to the mirror over my bathroom sink and silently observed my battle scars. Puffy eyes. Footsteps of tears that had run down the path on my cheek. Hairline sticky from being shoved in the pillow. I wished someone would come. I wished it with all of my heart and being. Someone, please, open the door and come find me. But I was alone. And no one came.

Slowly, I stumbled back to my bed and threw myself prostrate onto the mattress. I opened my mouth and moaned out a final cry for help. And then I waited, staring at the dull white plaster on the ceiling, tracing familiar cracks and ridges with bloated eyes. The thin spiderweb of imperfections danced in my sight as more water prepared to descend from my eyelids. Shutting them, I felt them fall, leaving a thin trail behind them, a memory.

I must have fallen asleep like that — with the lights still blazing over me — because I woke up to the creak of my doorknob turning. Drowsily, I rolled my head on its side to check the clock. Ten o’clock. I had slept for three hours and nobody thought to check on me. Darkness from the hallway poured onto my pale yellow rug like a coffee stain. The light from my room illuminated my mother’s face.

“Tilly, it’s getting late. You should go to bed.” I moaned softly.

“Tilly? Can you answer me, please?” I moaned again, louder. The door opened all of the way and she stepped inside, seeing me completely for the first time.

“Tilly! Are you okay?” Why is she so nice to me when I’m so rotten to her? Tears began to stir in my eyes again. I held out my arms to her. She came to take my hands and then lay them down on the comforter. I felt the bed duck under the newly added weight as she slipped under the covers behind me, wrapping her arms around my waist.

“Tilly, what’s the matter?” I was crying again. Big, sloppy, wet tears falling down my cheeks. I buried my face into the pillow and savored the feeling of her embrace.

“I’m sorry that I’m not your cuddle-bear anymore, Mom.”

I could feel her mouth curve into a small smile on my smooth hair. She kissed the top of my head.

“You’re still my cuddle bear, Tilly. You’ll always be my cuddle bear.”

Green Eyes and Gasoline

“I missed you.” Her words are soft around the edges, floating just between our two faces.

“Right.” My words are quiet and jagged, disbelief slicing through the middle.

“No, really.”

“But we haven’t seen each other since…” My words are cut off by my judgement. My eyes search the floor.

“Since?” she asks. Her right foot inches towards me.


There are no more words, no soft jagged edges, no floating waves between us. There is nothing. I know we’re both thinking about the same thing. Maybe she’s even trying to search for the words to continue the conversation. But I stay silent. I can’t even look up from the dusty floor.

My hands tingle. I flex my fingers, hiding them deep in my pockets. I think they were tingling that day, too. The last time I saw her.

But maybe it was from the cold that time. And it was so, so cold. I felt the frost biting into my shoulders. I want to ask her if she remembers how cold it was. If she remembers how you could see your breath when you spoke, how there was an angry crunch when you stepped forward.I always want to know what she remembers, if she remembers the tiny details like I do.

I heard in class once that after a traumatic experience, our brains can block moments out, trying to save us from our own memories. Maybe that happened to her. I wish that had happened to me.

Our crunching steps had been in unison that night. As if we were one. That day her head was down, buried beneath a plaid scarf. Her hair was shorter then. And I thought her eyes had been greener, but maybe that was just the illusion that the street lamps cast as they flickered and we crunched onward. Maybe they just got greener with every moment that I spent thinking of that night, biting my cheek until I felt the blood break through.

I wonder if she thinks about it. My eyes creep up, and catch on hers. She must. You can’t forget a thing like that. In her eyes, her not-as-green eyes, I can almost see the story, as if watching it on TV. I can almost see us creeping through the quiet streets, our feet crunching in unison, our breaths painting foggy pictures under the lamps. I can almost hear our breaths shortening as we got closer and closer to the little house, just outside of our little town.

We were antsy, our eyes jumping from each other to the road ahead of us. We couldn’t wait for the rush to take over us. To make us forget about school and arguments and secrets. The rush always did that. It washed away what we thought was pain, and left room for just seconds of glee.

That night was different. I don’t know how I didn’t recognize it as we marched to the little house. She wasn’t carrying her usual bag, filled with the usual necessities: spray paint, screw-drivers and wire-cutters. The bag was bulkier, banging against her leg as we walked.

And she wasn’t talking. She wasn’t venting, ranting about the drama that she always watched and felt. As if we were friends.

And we weren’t friends. When we saw each other in the halls, my head went down and she kept chatting to her friends. Maybe that’s why she chose me from the beginning. Because I could never- would never- talk about it in school, drag this part of her into the crowded halls where the other fragment took over.

She always liked her boundaries. This part of her life was always separate from the day-time part. I never tried to muddy the line or test the waters. I didn’t want her to move on to someone new, someone else that could spray paint billboards and jump fences with her.

Yes, I see it now. That that night was going to be different. There was something different in those green, green eyes as we pushed through the cold. It was going to be different forever.

Soon we would reach the house, just outside our town. She stopped short, our stomps no longer in unison. I turned on my heel, searching in her gaze, searching for our mission.

I saw fire.

There were flames dancing in her green green eyes. And there was hurt in her soft smirk. She handed me one of the bags, the gasoline can sliding across the cloth. I didn’t dare look up at her. I didn’t dare tell her no, tell her that it was too serious. Arson wasn’t a game.

She took out the matches first, laid them on the ground, out of the way. With a quick, decisive motion, she pulled off the top of the gasoline can. She turned to me, and started pouring on the dirt leading to the little house. I followed suit, tilting the red can ever so slightly, watching the clear liquid fall onto the shabby siding of the shack.

And then we were done. I stepped back to her. She still hadn’t spoken. I expected – wished – that she would back out. I wished she would kick away the matches, and put her arm around my shoulders as we walked away.

She grabbed the box, pulled the match against the flint. The match fell softly, like her words did just now. She lit another.

And another.

Her wrist flicked with aggression, the matches lighting up quietly. I only watched. I bit my lip, and watched as the flames grew, reaching towards the sky. It started spreading. The flames grew and reached toward our town, our trees.

None of it seemed real.

She picked up the bags and ran. I thought I heard a giggle over the crackle of the fire. And we ran. By the time we reached my house, I was gasping for air, the smoke still caught in my lungs.

She shook her head at me, winked her green green eyes, and left.

When the alarms prodded at my sleep, I told myself that they didn’t have to do with last night’s gasoline.

I could still smell the gas on my fingers.

When I heard the whispers about the girl that was in the hospital, I told myself it could have been anything.

I can still taste the tears from when I went to the funeral, watching from the back of the procession.When I close my eyes now, I still see the rainbow of gasoline on pavement. I can taste all the words–all the questions–I want to say to her now.

“Well…” she says, her words cutting through my memory.

When the bell rings, telling me to push myself on to my next class,  it almost seems like the sirens sounding through the night. I try not to think about her green eyes or gasoline as I put my head down and walk to class.



Waves of blue sliding off of pale rocks. The world is fogged by the salty cover around you.


Hazy dreams that slip away from the moment you wake up.

Dreams that shake you, break you, but are forgotten the next day.


Tears wiped from crinkled eyes, heads thrown back with laughter.

Petals waving in the wind. Fast moments.


Pens and  papers left on desks and floors.

Abandoned. Left behind, broken.

Homework left on counters and people left alone.


Skies with pale spots moving across the horizon.

A canvas with drying paint and emotions flowing off.


Air whistling past your ears as you run across a track.

Birds flying from tree to tree, their blue wings flapping along with the rhythm of their tiny hearts.


Blonde lashes covering misty eyes.

Eyes surveying a crowd.


Romeo’s Nirvana

“It is the sun’s tale,” he whispered, “and I know it by heart.

How your pink-shaded cheek fit tender in the palm of my hand

Eyes–locked magnets to the mirror of my pupils

I always declined in faith: I was not ready.”


It must have been that he saw turquoise tides in her curly hair

Rippling in laughing coils

Or a half moon in her numb lips

Wrists striped in braceleted madness–that was when he turned away.


Fear is his ghost

It binges and gluts on a sane head

With words that are upchucks of senseless ragamuffins:

Their meanings need no coaxing


His hands do not feather her in cupidity

Only ‘till her breast is a turf, blanket flecks of snow,

Humming, humming.


She brings him a stack of cotton pillows

As this is when they string their love in sleep

When the ceiling is expanding, the color of radon,


They heard the machinery of the thunderstorm

Lightning in the shape of angel heads

An aureate clock glitters in the sky: a number line of beads


Now they enter into an enamored utopia

Sync into mania

He will not kiss her with a crystal lens: it must blur


For dreams too, are heartless;  they envelop our eyes

As well as a beguiled spirit

The stars mock the couple. Or perhaps they chase them.


But he wakes, she wakes, they wake,

Startled and spinning, as an eyelash dispersed in air

She cannot cry for him, as he built bricks between them


They are immured by a howl

Soundly, it clings

To her throat, his mind for something to drag down.

Breath quavers then stops.

Are the two fated or young innamorati?

Is it for which her hands perform his script?


His peridot tears glisten, as the lime spring leaves.

They penetrate her heart. Slow, amorous cravings

That yield, that yield, that yield.


Adding More Languages

About 40 million immigrants move to the United States every year. About 50% of those immigrants don’t speak English. This is maybe because they were unable to learn it, or didn’t have anyone to teach them the language. Whatever the reason is, they will probably have trouble learning a new, different language. Besides Spanish-speakers, we don’t help those who can’t speak English because we lack translations for different languages on basic labels, signs, and products.

This could be a problem, medically and mentally. If there are ingredients in a product that the person is allergic to, he or she wouldn’t notice and might use the product. For example, if there were nuts in a food product and a person was allergic to nuts, they wouldn’t know because they wouldn’t be able to read that there are nuts present in the food product. Also, if there are notices that this person couldn’t translate, they might end up doing something against the notice just because they couldn’t translate it. For example, if a sign on the road said to not turn left, the person might misunderstand and turn left. There would be fewer accidents if immigrants could read signs.

A way to solve this conflict is by including more non-English translations. If immigrants can read labels and signs, then there would be fewer accidents. Even though we can’t include every language, we can at least fit a few more. It is unfair that only Spanish-speakers would be able to read labels because there are only Spanish translations on them. Another way to solve this problem that doesn’t involve including many translations is by putting pictures on signs instead of words. This way everyone would be able to understand what the sign is saying. We can also help non-English speakers learn English by having someone teach them or translate English for them.

We can’t fit every language onto a small amount of space, so we have to choose which languages to include. There’s no debate on that we should put the most used languages in the United States. The most popular languages are Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Tagalog. Neighborhoods where most people speak the same language can be exceptions.

Even though there are classes and/or translators that can help these people along the way, how long would they even be there for? It could take years to completely learn a new language. Some people don’t even want to learn English! But they are forced to since they live in the United States, and most people speak English. So the best way to help these people is by adding their language to labels and notices.

If you disagree with helping immigrants by including more languages, you would probably say that they should just learn English. But, as stated before, it could take a long time for someone to completely learn/understand a new language. I’ve been taking Spanish in my school for three years and I barely understand it. This might be the same conflict as other immigrants with English. Also, the United State is a melting pot and full of different cultures. If we don’t welcome immigrants to the United States, then we wouldn’t be known as a melting pot anymore. Putting other languages on labels and notices could make a big difference.



I lacked the thing people were defined by most

twisted up features covered by fails and fails of tries.


Normality shielded by your ignorance

my world blocked by the disgusted look on your immaculate faces

my head booming with perceptions that you will never hear. Not from my beastly face


Rejected time and time again by the gentleman with the perfect face

for “I am not allowed to hold crushes”

I have lost all hope for beauty. I have lost all hope for him. I have lost all hope to live


for there is no more trace.

I have stopped counting the remarks, for there will be no end.

There will never be a light at the end of the tunnel.


If only they could look right through me or overcome the scars

If only I was opaque, maybe they could see the real me:

The normal innocent school girl, the blonde popular one.


But my life does not go by the realistic fiction chapter books


I take my own path.

I may not color inside the lines.

the glass may even be half empty


But I cannot stop now.

I need to fight

fight for the clashing, the mis-matched.


This cannot be their destiny.

Bubble Tea

Mina heaved a huge sigh when the last bell rang. Quickly grabbing her flea-market bag, she dashed out of the semi-humid classroom, checking her worn-out watch along the way.

I’m going to be late again, she mentally noted, looking up at the crowded corridor. In her hurry, she almost bumped into one of the many girls oblivious to anyone besides herself. Brown curls reeking of hairspray brushed against her lips, and she made a face when the nasty poisonous smell crept up her nostrils.

“Excuse me,” Mina muttered halfheartedly, roughly pushing the girl aside. She didn’t have any time to lose. Her part-time job was starting in five minutes, and she still had a long walk ahead. Well, if she could get to the job anyways.  She had been at least ten minutes late to her job everyday for the past month ever since school had started, she had been warned by her plum-faced boss, whom she partly wanted to slap as hard as she could. But money was money and it was what she really needed.

The girl that she bumped into abruptly turned around, with the expression only a rich, spoiled brat from the oh-so-prestigious school could have. However, her face fell when she saw Mina, her confidence dropping at the same rate.

“Ugh, it’s her,” the girl mumbled, seemingly looking down on her because of the fact that Mina wasn’t well off like her. But, she didn’t dare to say anything else, since Mina’s reputation had always been bad. She had been labeled the ‘poor ice princess,’ as well as ‘commoner’ or ‘scholarship student’.

Either the girl had been afraid of Mina’s cold glare, or afraid of some kind of virus going over to her if she stayed in Mina’s radius for longer than five seconds. At least, it seemed so. Mina honestly didn’t care though, as she had other things to worry about besides the bad attitudes that some students of the school had towards her. It wasn’t like she had a better attitude towards them anyways.

Raising her eyebrow, she gave the girl an uninterested look before brushing past her. She certainly didn’t have any time to waste, especially not on a brat. Just as she walked past her, someone else had bumped into her from the side. Oh, how she despised these corridors. Annoyed, she glanced to the side, looking back at the boy who seemed irritated that she was the one whom he had to bump into.

Taking in a deep breath, she narrowed her eyes and dashed forward, ignoring the incredulous expressions of the spoiled teens around her. Just before reaching the exit, she noticed that a large crowd had formed outside, as the squeals of fangirls vibrated the steps of the staircase she had been walking down. Stopping midway, she tried to look for a visible gap between the ocean of people. While using her somewhat eye strength, she noticed that these girls were surrounding a few guys.

Mina frowned, and the distance from the corners of her mouth to her ears seemed to be a mile away. They had been named the ‘Kings’ of the school, or whatnot, because of their wealth and looks; well, if they even had the looks anyways. To be honest, she didn’t know much about the school’s students because she had been too preoccupied by attending class, making perfect marks, and so forth, since she couldn’t afford any mistakes or bad grades being the scholarship student that she was. And outside of school, she tried to not socialize with the rich children of the school as much as she could. In fact, she didn’t have the time to, since she was busy with the numerous part time jobs she had worked in order to support her single parent family.

She admitted, Life sucks. However, she couldn’t just wallow up in a self-pity party, as that wouldn’t get herself, nor her family anywhere. It was her body that needs to get to somewhere. That is, to her part time job that she was nearly three minutes late to already.

Snapping out of her thoughts, she practically slid down the rest of the stairs, only to realize that she had to make a gap herself. Muttering some annoyed “Move” and some “Get out of my way” remarks, she pushed away all the girls from her path, as she was much stronger than the feeble-looking girl she seemed to be.

Having pure white skin, dark chocolate doe eyes with her naturally rare dark brown hair, she seemed to be a human doll walking around. However, her personality was pretty much the main reason why people despised, as well as feared her.

Arching an eyebrow, she almost sighed in relief when she saw the welcoming sight of some space on the ground, causing her to look up. However, her eyes had met a pair of cold, apathetic eyes, framed by a pale face. It was a boy.

One of the Kings, Mina scowled, Or whatever they are called in this place.

Narrowing her eyes at the boy, she walked past him swiftly. She squinted her eyes, trying to find a way out of the crowd, for she had somewhat ended at the center of it. “Wow, did you just see that?” “She looked at Joon in such a nasty way!” “How dare she?!” A few of the girls in the crowd gasped in shock. Mina didn’t hear it. Sighing, she quickened her pace, finally exiting the mob. Glancing at her watch once again, she cursed silently. Thanks to the lunatic-filled crowd, she was almost at the point of being too late for her part-time job. Nearly in a running tempo, she made a small mental note to use the backdoor next time she left the school during that time.

Mina took in a deep breath, hints of mixed emotions painted on her face. Maybe he won’t notice me…Biting her lip, she dusted her school uniform, and tip-toed into the restaurant.

“Hello, how many people-MINA KIM.”

Mina carefully looked up at her now, red faced boss, as she managed to muster a fake smile on her porcelain face.

“I’m so sorry, boss. The students in the hallway-”

“You’re fired, Mina. I’m very sorry, but I honestly cannot tolerate the tardiness you showed today.”


“I’m very sorry. I wish you luck in the future.”

Mina stared back, dumbfounded. Gritting her teeth, she threw her small name card at the floor, swiftly walking out without turning back. Shaking her head in frustration, she glanced at the time. It’s 3:00 already, and I must find another job, before Mother finds out. I cannot allow her to get another job. You can do it, Mina. You can do it.

Puffing up her cheeks, she began to walk, each step faster than the one before. Mina entered every store in sight, only to come out with disappointment. She couldn’t give up yet. She couldn’t.

As the bright sun began to set, Mina sat down on a nearby green park bench she had discovered along her path. A tiny sweat bead rolled down the edge of her dark-circled eyes, dropping down to the center of her pink rosy cheeks. She wiped it away, her vision beginning to blur.

“I should get a drink,” Mina muttered, stumbling when she stood. Her blistered feet began to move once again, her now-worn-out shoes trudging against the concrete floor.

Eyes wandering, her mouth finally twitched in relief, after discovering a sign that read, ‘Bubble Tea?’ posted on the surface of a brick-walled building. Mina hesitated, knowing the fact that she shouldn’t waste five dollars for a drink. However, her hidden teenage-girl side appeared, and she opened the door to the store.

Mina’s mouth dropped a little bit in awe, as she looked around the shop. Decorated with cream white walls with matching teal accessories, it seemed a bit like the dream room she had wanted when she was little.

“Hello Miss, what would you like to order?”

Mina jumped in surprise, her awkward expression masking her facial features. Oh, how she hated to be startled.

“One strawberry bubble tea, please.”

The male worker in front of her nodded his head, before leaving to the kitchen.

Walking to a table, she bit her lip, before her eyes widened. An idea had popped into her head, as she rubbed her arm against her back.

“Here you are, Miss. That would be five dollars and twenty-five cents.”

Mina looked up at him, handing her money into the waiting hand.

“Um, excuse me, Mister?”

The male raised an eyebrow, as Mina took it as a sign to continue.

“By any chance, do you need any more workers here?”

He turned around and walked away from her. Mina looked at him, confused, watching his retreating figure disappear through the “Employees Only” door.

After waiting for a few minutes, her face filled with disappointment. It was impossible to find a new job that quick, right? Sighing, she took a sip from her drink, walking quietly from the countertop.

“Wait, Miss!”

An object was thrown over her right shoulder.

“I hope to see you tomorrow, miss. My name is Minho, by the way, and I hope to have a great work experience with you.”

Mina took the object off of her shoulder. It appeared to be a brown, apron-like uniform, with a blank white name card attached to the cloth. Her mouth twitched, as she began to walk. Before she reached the door, she said slowly, “Mina. My name is Mina. Thanks.” And with those final few words, she left and was taken into the arms of the cool, autumn night, a rare, radiant smile glowing brighter than the stars splattered across the black, velvet sky.

Doll House

My body was frozen, the soft chair seemed to envelope my porcelain limbs. I waited a bit, for the dull thump and the darkness that signalled The Girl was preparing for bed. I was always hesitant in moving, for one time she had come back and caught Jeffrey walking.

Sally was the first to move, she creaked and stuttered as she swung her legs onto the wooden floor. Then, Frankie was next. Nobody moved fast, after a long day of sitting stiff and being moved from table to kitchen to bed, we were all sore. The house was illuminated with light and a silhouette moved across the wall, Mother. There was heated conversation between her and Father (I was not surprised), but finally the light was extinguished and the house was silent again.

Mother and Father loved to fight, and hated to love each other. Whenever Mother didn’t like the furniture, Father did. Whenever Father wanted family time, Mother had a headache. It went on like this, sometimes quiet, sometimes the shouting found their way to my room. Playing with me.

Days passed, then weeks, then months, and finally the house was never touched by The Girl. We watched her grow, she never knew we were there. I guess it was fine like that, until it wasn’t.

There was no school, The Girl stayed home. She had a friend over. Her mother came in, words were exchanged and the mother walked toward the house. It was like an earthquake, then a tornado. The house was lifted skyward, we all fell. A crash, a scream. Plates falling from shelves, books sliding down the hallways. A rough thud and then blinding light slanted through the windows. No one moved, then I did. Outside there was green and gray and moving boxes and more people. Suddenly, the house was opened and a hand reached in, sweeping us into darkness.

It felt like eternity before I could see again, but when I did I wanted to be blind. I was alone, the walls painted pink, as was the floor and furniture. Everything was clean, everything was new. That night I fell asleep to the sound of…nothing, no bickering about the worn out sofa or the wobbly chairs. I was never really interested in moving into a new house, I guess I just wanted a new set of furniture.


What more abuse is there to come?

Over 99 percent of farm animals in America, such as chickens, cows, and hogs, are raised in factory farms:  large, industrial operations that raise large numbers of animals for food. Cow transport and slaughter is especially cruel. Cattle who survive feedlots, dairy sheds, and veal farms face an excruciating trip to the final step of cattle slaughter in the U.S – the slaughterhouse.

My name’s Harold. I’m a calf (a young cow). When I was created into this world I had a mother, but the second I was born, she was taken away from me along with my other siblings. God knows where they are now. Possibly dead.

Just yesterday, I arrived here at the slaughterhouse. The trip here itself was nerve-wrackingly uncomfortable. It’s the middle of winter and it was so cold that I was frozen to the side of the truck. I was jammed in the back with about forty other cows. When we finally arrived here (the trip was ten hours long), I was pried off the walls of the truck with a crowbar by the petrifying humans who carry long electrifying sticks. It was hellish. Because I was hesitant to leave the truck, they stuck those darn sticks right up my rectum and in my face. I was terrified – in complete shock, I would say – after the long, cold truck ride. I couldn’t even leave where I was.

“If ya keep standin’ there they’ll keep on shocking you,” whispered a cow next to me.

“Yeah… okay,” I whispered back, scared to death of what they had warned.

“You’re lucky you even survived that truck ride. A lot of cows don’t,” said the cow. I stood there, in even more shock.

Coming into this world knowing I’m going to be slaughtered saddens me, but right about now, dying sounds like a swell idea. I’m only a year old. I have already had my family taken away from me, been pried off a frozen truck with crowbars, electrified with those long electrifying sticks, and fed food made up of my own species. The first day I arrived at the slaughterhouse, they fed new incoming cows the leftover cow fat from the previously slaughtered cattle. It was disgusting. It smelled of feces and dead cow. The forty other cows and I were all so hungry though, so we had to eat it. We hadn’t been fed on the truck ride a whole 24 hours prior to that. I closed my eyes and ate the cow intestine. I’m glad it took some portion of the horror away. I’m only a young cow. What more abuse is there to come?

Me and thousands of other cows spend most of our day eating disgusting food, sleeping, and walking in each others feces. Most cows are sick. We get infected or catch bugs going around quite easily. I’m guessing probably from either the food we are fed or our living conditions.

We are confined to a shiny, vertical, tin-like house. There are no windows. I have not seen daylight for three days. All I have to look at are the bright, artificial lights hanging from the ceiling and the peaceful blackness when I close my eyes to sleep.

I’m quite a bit fatter now. They feed us a lot. I have been told they only force feed us so much to fatten us up, so when we are slaughtered they can sell more meat out of our lifeless bodies. I don’t think that’s a true fact though. I certainly hope it’s not.

I made a new friend. His name is Ronn. He’s a black cow with white spots like me. We are the best of friends. We pretty much just sleep and eat together (which is all we have been doing here in the slaughterhouse), so I guess you could say we spend a lot of time together. Just yesterday I heard Marley, one of the immigrant workers, talk to his co-worker about me and Ronn always being together.

“They wanna separate us,” I mooed at Ronn in between bites of gloppy mush. “I can’t believe it. Why would they want to do that?”

“I dunno man,” he replied. “But don’t worry, I won’t let that happen.”

Ronn really cares for me. We kind of need each other. Neither of us have our families anymore. We are all we have.

I seem to be coming down with something. I have not been hungry for the past three days. Marley noticed and took me into a bright, bright room. There was a radio on while a doctor checked me for signs of infection.

“He could be infected. Do you think we can still slaughter him off to sell?”

“Yeah,” Marley told the doctor. “He’ll still make some good beef,” he obnoxiously laughed.

A commercial came on the radio. “Go beefatarian with our big mac – double quarter pounder with cheese. McDonald’s brings you the most juicy, filling hamburger you’ve ever eaten for just $4.79! Get yours now, exclusively at McDonald’s. Dooo-doo-doo, dooo-doo.”

Is that what we are being advertised for? Is that what we are sold for? Are our very lives only worth $4.79?

As they checked me for infection, my mind was racing. The more I thought about the commercial, the more furious I grew. The worst kind of anger is when you know you can’t do anything to stop the bad from continuing – that is what I felt like.

Now Ronn… he’s gone. How do I know, you ask? Word has gotten around about the surprise slaughter last night. Many cows that have been here for longer than I have experienced a surprise slaughter of their fellow cows many times, so many times that by now it’s not quite a surprise.  Ronn was taken away from me just last night and he hasn’t come back. Marley and two other buff guys came around our area and took about ten of us. I fought for Ronn ‘cause I knew where they were going to take him and what they would do to him. I mooed and tried to head-butt Marley. Immediately, I was stricken three or so times with an electrifying stick. It burned my side where they had struck me, as my heart feels now with Ronn gone. I am completely alone and I have nothing in this world.

Two weeks after Ronn’s death, Harold was slaughtered. He lived the last two weeks of his life as sad as he had ever been. By the time his slaughtering came around, he was glad he wouldn’t have to put up without Ronn around anymore. He was happy he wouldn’t be tortured anymore – no more shocks, no more mushy food. No more inhumane treatment. Slaughterhouses all over America treat their animals as if they aren’t living beings in need of great care.

Cornflower Blue

Cornflower Blue are waters in the well

And green and glowing like an ocean swell

Heart of friendship long away

One has left and one must stay.

Fields and rippling streams of ice

Beautiful but it has a price

Cornflower Blue stains a midnight sky

Where silver light glows, where night birds fly.

Nostalgia staining memories dark

Rainbows dying in their blazing arc

Heavy is air that touches grief

Sorrow stealing like a thief

Rivers of tears from soulbound scars

Cornflower Blue snakes through the stars.

Longing for the friend she lost

She leaves her home at first white frost

Far from anything she knows

Singing the cold wind as it blows

Though storm wolves howl and fast they lope

Cornflower Blue will give her hope.

First Hunt

My foot falls are marked by the crackle of twigs and papery leaves,

Around me, I know they’re watching, waiting; they’re somewhere.

Pulling my spindly frame up the ladder, I see the woods differently.

As I rise from the floor to the canopy, the grey rocks and leaves and knotted brush slowly give

way into the open, elegant lines of tree trunks.

The leaves shimmer, shivering in the cold crisp air.

Hanging my pack, I listen, trying to distinguish the rhythmic sound of footsteps from the rattling of trees. Somewhere, something is listening as intently as I do.


As the sun slowly fades above the trees, the wind dies, revealing a forest full of hidden life, disguised by the trees and stones.


Something is there.


The rhythmic crinkling of footsteps moves around my tree, invisible, taunting me.

Suddenly the rhythm, more discernible against the falling of leaves, gets nearer.

The sky dims.

The footsteps stop abruptly, listening for something I can’t hear, looking for something I can’t see.

A moan.

A scream.

The terrible exclamations of coyotes bounces off the old stone walls, echoing in woods, bloodchilling.

The nightmarish noise makes me grip the gun tighter.

The biting November wind sweeps in to accompany the joyous screams of wild dogs.

My fingers are numb, my gloves penetrated by the air.

My toes, in the warmest socks, are snapped at by the hungry cold.


As the sky mellows into a dark blue, the light disappears.

Shadows become more defined.

My hopes dim with the light.

The something, just beyond sight, eludes my vision and taunts the gun.

One final clamour of coyotes announces the arrival of the night.


I climb down the ladder carrying the sun with me, plunging the forest into darkness,

a shadow only penetrated by the eerie white light of my lamp.


January 9th, 2019

Is there anybody here? Hello? HELLO? AHHH! This book is unresponsive! What is so wrong in my life? AHHH! Let me read the manual. Oh, so this writing book is for me to write in and not for me to talk to. Ohh, I get It! Well, reader, I suppose our greeting was a bit unfriendly, but let’s start off with a good point, since you are going to be hearing about me for a long time. My name is Martin Malkin and I work as an assembly clerk at the electronics store Ripoff & Soups. What’s an assembly clerk, you ask? It means that I can be trusted for assembling lots of things like electronic clocks, electronic wallets, electronic credit cards, electronic cookbooks, fax machines, lightbulbs and others, including things like car batteries! It might seem like my life is dull but hey, at least I’m not a….uh…a button factory worker! You see, ever since the recession of 2014-2015 things have been semi-hard. I say that because while there are four castes, the Government, the Millionaires, the Monks and the Commoners. Wait, six castes. I forgot the Soldiers and the Homeless. As you see, I’m a Commoner. But there are no wars since the Great War and there are now 11 countries! There are North America, Europe, South America, Asia, Africa, Australia and Oceania, Antarctica, Britain, Central America, France, and the Moon. Also there are two Religions: Agu, and the Church of Good Hope. I’m in the Church of Good Hope. Last, there are millions of animals! But there are also billions of weapons in the atmosphere, most with either ice-nine or the Arctic Plague. Also most of those animals are genetically modified and there is not a single part of the ozone layer. But let’s have some good times and not get too melancholic! My job today was very annoying since apparently our work building is home to 2,000 labor unions. I don’t believe it, though. I had a very fun job. I assembled the minute hands of electric clocks. Again, it may seem like it was very boring but at least it wasn’t in a…what was that job again…ah…oh, a button factory, yeah a button factory. I left early to go to my personal ATM at my local bank in New, New, New, New, very far away New Harlem. I can’t ride a bike, so I took the subway. I got a new workers pass and shook the ATM to get more free money. I learned it from my dad. But I forgot my worker’s pass at the ATM in New, New, New, New very far away New Harlem. I rented a Honda and went back to the work buildin. Wait add a G. The work building. Why didn’t I pass my spelling exam? So Admiral Syria Jacks came up to me and yelled “Where’s your worker’s pass? It’s needed to come to the building!”

“Ahh s***!” I ran out to the nearest Corner store right on Elm street. There, a beggar came up and screamed in my ears, “The World Is Ending! Gather Yourselves For The End! The End Is Nigh! Bask In Your Existence While You Have It!”

I walked into the corner store with the highest expectations and I found a pass master by the frozen food aisles.

“One Worker’s Pass, Please!”


“Martin Marty Malkin.”

“Here you go.”

“Thank you.” I sprinted past the evangelistic beggar and came back to the Work Building. I gave my pass to Admiral Jacks and started constructing more minute hands, this time for a statue of Buddha Jr.

“Coffee Break,” yelled Admiral Jacks, and I was trampled by the footsteps of hundreds of children, women, old people, and middle aged men like me (well, I really don’t know how old I am because they stole all birth certificates, but I’m sure I’m middle aged). I went to my favorite coffee shop, Giribaldi, with my friends John Beese and Ibn-Louis. I tried to catch up with my friend Emmaline Mabatai but there’s a curtain everywhere that separates men and women in all public places, except for banks and parks (well, there’s only one park in this district, and that’s Clooney Park). I asked for my usual vanilla spicy decaf cappuccino, Beese got a bottle of caffeinated vodka, and Ibn-Louis got low-fat boba tea. The waitress asked for a tip and I gave it to her, enthralled. While she was walking away I told her I wasn’t done with my order.

“I’ll have a raspberry jam croissant with a cherry on top?” I asked. When she walked away again I asked if she could get me some crab soup. Then when she walked away I asked if she could come Saturday evening and she said she would have to check with her boyfriend. I said ok and was still wondering about meeting her when Beese started talking.

“Evaluations are in two weeks,” he said. “I already know who’s getting promoted and who ain’t.”

“Tell us,” Ibn-Louis said.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Shut up Martin, I’ll tell you. I’m going to get promoted out of this dumping ground for people’s convenience. I’m going to get to the board of directors of Ripoff & Soups and be somebody, not s***.”

“Ambitious goal,” Ibn-Louis exclaimed, “but I’m going to be in Washington, getting this company votes in congress, and making sure Mr. Tweed doesn’t get arrested for f***ing tax evasion!”

“What’s so bad about tax evasion?” I asked.

“It’ll get Tweed out of f****ing office, you d***!” Ibn-Louis said.

“No more jobs, you kid!” Beese added.

”Fine,” I said feeling happy that my friends can have a two-sided debate with them talking not about me and talking about theyr side. Wait it’s not theyr it’s their. AARGH! I should go back to boarding school of forceful relearning!

The same waitress came and she gave us all we asked. Me, my crab soup, a raspberry jam croissant with a cherry on top, and a vanilla spicy decaf cappuccino, John a caffeinated vodka, and Ibn-Louis a low-fat boba tea.

“Hey gal, get me some tulip honey badger muffin with a sprinkle of cocoal,” John called.

“Get me a Kellogg’s cereal cake,” Ibn-Louis added.

“Also come by my place saturday night. The Super Bowl’s on and it’s sushi pizza night!” John told the waitress.

“But I’m going with that young fellow,” she pointed at me.

“He’s a loser who doesn’t know the f***ing word fun!” he called.

“Fine. On saturday I’ll spend 15 minutes with loser.”

“Martin!” I said happily.

”You loser, Martin, I’ll spend 15 minutes with him and I’ll spend 2 hours with hunky…”

“John Beese, or as I like to say, John Beast!”

“Haha!” she yelled. “So yeah!”

“Coffee break is over!” Ibn-Louis said!

“Yeah, I’ll stay here and read my Playboy,” John answered.

“I’m goin’ to stay here and finish my Kellogg’s cereal cake,” Ibn-Louis said.

“And I’ll stay here too and play Candy Crush,” I said.

“No, leave, you’re a god*** motherf***ing bastard who’s a s***ing no funner!” John said.

“Yeah, get out of here, doofus!” Ibn-Louis replied.

“You guys are always right.” I was walking out of the door when my favorite song ever Baba O’Riley came on. I ran up to the podium and started singing the lyrics. Everyone joined in and it was really fun! Until the Workers police came and took us away for late break. I was beaten until I couldn’t get up but I guess what I was doing was pretty bad. Then John Beese came up to me and said CONFIDENTIAL, CENSORED BY NORTH AMERICAN GOVERNMENT. I was taken back to the work building where the great Mr. Tweed came up to me and stabbed me in the cheek.


“Yes,” I peeped. He stabbed me again, this time in the head.

“Why did you do what you did,” Tweed told me.

“I was singing Baba O’Riley, my favorite song!”

“YOU S***! YOU KNOW THE F***ING TIME!” Tweed yelled back. Now he kicked me in both of my shins. I fell down in pain, but I didn’t cry. “C’mon, cry!” he yelled. I started to cry. “Look, I’m treating you better than your folks, Mr. Beese and Mr. Ibn-Louis.”

I looked up a bit and I saw that Mr. Tweed was telling me the truth; Beese was getting bit by bloodhounds, and Ibn-Louis was getting waterboarded, yelling profanities every time he got hurt.

“Thank you for treating me better, Mr. Tweed,” I complimented. In response, he got his nearby monkey wrench and threw it at me. It hurt and it didn’t hurt at the same time.

“I’m not your f***ing parents!” he yelled. Then he sat down in a chair right next to me. “Listen, I gotta tell you something important. You’re going to space.”

“Really, Mr. Tweed?” I asked, in disbelief.

“Please, it’s Archibald Tweed Jr.”


“So you are going to the space hotel to see if it can house life. You, Mr. Beese, Ms. Mabatai, Dr. Jockisoin, and Ms. Pelican will be going tomorrow at 11:00 p.m. You got that?”

“Yes, sir!” I replied.

“The reason we picked you and everyone else is because we did a survey of which person who will be not missed by anyone staying here and here were the rankings: you, Mabatai, Jockisoin, Pelican, and Beese. Also, since today is Sunday, you will be back on Earth anywhere between next Sunday to 17 years! Now scram! You can go back to your house!” And that was it for his monologue.

I ran out, doing the airplane. When I got back, I was stopped by my landlord.

“You owe me money,” he said.

“How much do you need?” I replied.

“$7,000,” he told me.

“Ok, here’s a check.” When I gave it to him I went back up to my apartment, where I stayed all day.


January 10th, 2019


I woke up with a sock on my head. It was a crusty, old sock that must have been worn I don’t know, ten to thirty years ago. Then it struck me that it must have been Mabatai! I ran out and right in front of me a bright pink drone started telling me an announcement: Come to the work building! Mr Tweed wants to show you your comrades. I found my bicycle and I rode it to the work building.

“Hello Martin, come with me,” Tweed walked with me to this green room with two blank computer monitors and a poster for Hotel California by The Eagles. First I saw Beese, who wore an undershirt and blue jeans, along with a baseball hat with the flag of Texas on it. He ruffled my hair and told me,

“You’re not gonna find any good babes here.”

Then came Dr. Jockisoin. He was wearing a light grey labcoat with a Led Zeppelin t-shirt underneath. He had some yellow church pants along with a green beret and bowling shoes. I also saw that he had long hair and he was really sun-tanned. He started telling me the Periodic Table when Ms. Pelican came in. Ms. Pelican had a big straw hat with a pink ribbon on it. She wore a white shirt with a Yale University sweater over it. She had sweat pants with Toms on. She also had shiny grey gloves. She came up to me and we had a conversation about the death penalty and then about labor unions. Then John came over to her and asked her “if she wanted to go with him later” (which from experience means that he was interested in her).

She raised her eyebrow and said “Possibly, I’ll think about it YOU IGNORANT SON OF A B****!” She put down the tequila she was holding and ran to what she thought was the farthest corner from Beese, which is apparently not that far.

John looked down at me and said, “I’m not giving up, you hear!” Then, to my joy and hopefully the joy of my colleagues, Ms. Emmaline Mabatai came in. She had a hoop skirt with HUMONGOUS stockings with Wall St. signs on them. She was wearing her Cardinals Jersey, a family relic since her great-grandfather (she told me that it usually goes to boys but since her parents never had a son they gave it to her). She had a lot of conmetics (no, it’s cosmetics. Arghh!). So she had a lot of cosmetics on and she had a turban on her head along with her suitcase. I looked a bit closer and I learned that she was listening to her teal iPod with Bob Dylan on. Specifically, the album Blonde on Blonde.

I waved my hand in front of her face to get her attention. It worked and she paused the music and looked at me. “What do ya want, Martin? Are you having the good life?” she said.

“Y-y-you are so b-b-beautiful Emmaline!” I stumbled out of my numb mouth.

“Thanks, you look pretty cute Martin,” she replied.

Our chit-chat was interrupted by the booming voice of Mr. Tweed’s secretary. “Hello, Dr. William Jockisoin, Ms. Emmaline Mabatai, Mr. John Beese, Ms. Louisa Pelican, and Mr. Martin Malkin, welcome to our first meeting together. I am Mr. Tweed’s Secretary, Mrs. Secretary. In a few hours you will all be Ripoff & Soups first commercial passengers to our Space Hotel. Hopefully you survive.” (Then I saw out of the corner of my eye the DJ putting in the turntable the record for Journey’s Greatest Hits.) “Thank you for your bravery and your consumerism. Goodbye,” Mrs. Secretary monologued. (It’s a word Ibn-Louis made up a year ago).

We all left the work building and then Me & Ms. Pelican with Dr. Jockisoin went to the nearbiest (another word that Ibn-Louis made up) church that belonged to the Church of Good Hope. When we got to the church, Saint Marc Jacobs had a seminar. “God made us to be your conscience, and our guidance is telling you to give us $130, with tax.”

People were throwing money at Saint Jacobs when Mr. Tweed blasted through with a toupee on. “I am here to become a saint, right now!” he declared, giving Jacobs some money, humming Pink Floyd while he did it.

St. Jacobs said, “Everyone, we have a new Saint, St. Tweed, who joins our ranks of Saints. Johnny, declare for me our Saints.” Johnny, St. Jacobs’ personal helper, put on some fake glasses and read out something from his iPhone.

“St. Marc Jacobs, St. Gregg Only, St. Job Less, St. Jim ‘Lucky’ Duck, St. Paul Simon, and now St. Archibald Tweed!”

Everyone clapped along, except Ms. Louisa Pelican. “So, I can pay to become a Saint?” she asked, nearly sarcastically.

“No, girls can’t become Saints until 2039,” St. Jacobs replied stubbornly.

“So you are sayin’ that girls are too incompetent to be Saints?” she quommented (it’s another word Ibn-Louis made up, a mixture of a question and a comment).

“No, I didn’t say anything abou — ”

“If no, why can’t we be Saints?”

“I, I, I don’t know about this stuff. I didn’t start this religion.”

“Well, who did?” That left St. Marc Jacobs speechless. the whole church was in suspense, a suspense which can not be words, a suspense which can only be seen to be described. Jacobs ran away from the podium he was standing, in the heat of the suspense. Then a person in a preacher’s clothes jumped up from his seat and started twiddling with his rosary.

“I know about this whole thing. It’s a big f***ing scam, a big one!” he yelled.

“Really?” Louisa asked, with a wanting-to-know look on her face. “Tell me more about this scam?”

“This was all started as a religion where you don’t have to do anything, just a religion which is a religion just in name, not at all in practice. All these seminars and stuff are all made up your local preacher and/or saint makes this stuff up,” the preacher said.

Then Louisa asked. “How do you know all this stuff Mr…um…”

“It’s Starling Mann, and I know all these things I told you ‘cause I co-founded this religion.” The name Starling Mann made Louisa’s eyes bulge.“Wait, youre the person who owns that nearby record store! You started this religion?” Ms. Pelican questioned in shock.

“Yes, strange things can happen these days. Now, you all leave, I need to talk with Johnny here. NOW!!” Mr. Mann told all of us. We all left, and I was strangely happy. Right outside of the Church, Ms. Pelican & me saw a Creedence Clearwater Revival cover band playing. I looked closer at their drums (drums always have the band’s name printed on them) and I found out they were called “Fogerty’s Lost Boys.” We started dancing and soon we spent three or four hours listening to this cover band. By the time “Fogerty’s Lost Boys” left, there was a Simon & Garfunkel cover band coming, “The People Who Can’t Hear The Sounds of Silence.” But for us though, it was time for lunch & coffee break. More coffee break for me, more lunch for Louisa. I ran to the closest coffee shop that was not Giribaldi, and I found it. It was called “The Closest Coffee Shop That’s Not Called Giribaldi,” and it had the best coffee that was not from Giribaldi. I saw that with me was John Beese, Dr. William Jockisoin, and Ms. Pelican! John had his registered “hooking up with women and either making out with them in the bathroom or getting their phone number to make out in my bathroom” clothes on (will it work? I don’t know), Dr. Jockisoin had an infamous blue overcoat on, and Ms. Pelican just put on a winter hat from her purse.

“I’m in the mood for some karaoke,” Jockisoin said.

“I would like to hear some gossip,” Beese replied.

“How about some 20 Questions?” Ms. Pelican said.

“But what do you want, Martin?” Louisa said.

“Malkin, Malkin, he’ll do anything!” John boomed in self-confidence.

“I’ll gossip” I repleyeid (It’s replied not repleyeid!! *** grammar!)

“That’s a great idea!” Beese started saying. “I think we should start with Ms. Louisa here,” he stated.

“No, I think we should start with Beese here,” Ms. Pelican replied.

“Yeah, we should,” Jockisoin looked at Beese with a suspicious eye.

“OK,” Beese said nervously, and he started.

“I was born on April 31st, I don’t know what year in Everston, Texas. My father Hamilton Beese was a 1st Commander in the U.S Army and my mum, Mary Beese, was a housewife. Now, it seems like my dad was kind ‘cause he was in the army, but he had a severe case of PTSD and he was a bit schizo. He had fought in the Vietnam War and had seen things that shouldn’t be known to 9 to 10-year-olds like me. He had recorded the sounds of war on his tape recorder that was shown to me. He also told me stories that were the most gruesome. I remember that once when I was 1-8 months old he had a horrible thought that made him get a carving knife and chase my mum. She held me and I was the only thing separating her from him. He anyway charged Mom with the knife and slashed her in her arm. She dropped me and I was picked up by my crazy dad. He was about to kill me when mother Mary grabbed me from his arms and ran out of the house, locking the door so he couldn’t chase us. That was the scariest experience of me with my dad until I wa — ”

Jockisoin interrupted by pointing at the window, his mouth gaping. There were some people holding up signs that read “*** the meaning of Religion, Bless your inner feelings!” and some people with signs that said “The government is a company!” Louisa, John, and William were all talking about the signs, but I looked at a waitress who was coming to give us all our coffee.

“Um, excuse me miss but can I talk with you?” I asked.

“Sure,” she replied.

I went up to her and I asked the hallowed question, “Do you have a boyfriend?”

“No, well, I used to but I dumped him two days ago. He was a douche. He thought that to be a boyfriend you need to make you and your girlfriend be pretty much identical. So he made me do whatever he did and it was the WORST relationship ever.”

“Well, why didn’t you break up with him earlier?” I replied in thought.

“Because, when someone, like, cheats on him or says that they want to break up with him he goes PSYCHO! His doctor says he has a bad mental disorder. So I didn’t do it until I didn’t care about giving him a mental breakdown, but I’m looking for a boyfriend,” she said.

Then I let it out, “Can I be your boyfriend?”

After backing up a bit and almost running away, she said in a calm voice, “Sure.”

I let out an inner victory cheer and then I asked almost as soon, “What’s your name and what’s your phone number?”

“My name is Melanie Kippwoff and my number is 1-916-879-3288. What’s yours?”

“My name is Martin Marty Malkin and my number is 1-000-111-2233.”

“Where do you work, Martin?”

“I’m an assembly clerk at Ripoff & Soups, you?”

“I work here as my day job, but my real job is being the owner of Ticky-Tacky Records and cashier of its subsequent store.”

“Well, that’s a pretty good job!”

“Thanks, Mart! Is it OK that I call you Mart?”

“Yeah, it’s OK!” I responded. “Also I’m goin’ to be one of the first people to be in Ripoff & Soups, and first commercial space hotel.”

“That’s amazing! When are you going up there?”

“Today in fact, at 11:30!”

“Great, I can’t wait to see you! Skype me from the space hotel!”

“Oh, my skype address is martinmalkyc@skype,” I said.

She answered back by saying, “Well, mine is melanierainerl@skype.”

My heart was racing but then Jockisoin was racing, using his feet, to go tell me, “It’s 3:30, we should go.” I looked at the clock, he was right, it was 3:30, then 3:31, then 3:32, then 3:33. My precious time with Melanie was being wasted! I said goodbye, then I ran out of “The Closest Coffee Shop That’s Not Called Giribaldi” and ran to the department store. You always need a few supplies for living in space for who knows how long! I bought some cookie cutters, some spoons, knives, forks, sporks, combination locks, hairbrush, aerosol, ziploc bags, headphones, paper, a fax machine assembly kit, and an aqualung. I went to the clothing store and bought shoes, shirts, tuxedos, sweaters, undershirts, and helmets. Last but not least, I went to Amazing Savings and bought some gluten-free gluten, rainbow cookies, ice cream sandwiches, modified green beans, edible glue, M&Ms, Hershey’s Chocolate Beer, Fosters, Coca-Cola-Pepsi-Dr.Pepper-Sunkist-Fanta Mixable Fountain Soda pack (it also comes with five cans of each soda individually), tonic water, kale, and finally, pink peeps.

When I finished my shopping spree my personal sense of time told me it was 5:09. I ran home and started folding my clothes and packing stuff into stuffcases. Then I found a picture of my mom, Nicole, and my dad, Casey, with me at Washington Monument when I was 8. For some strange reason we all doing peace signs, at a monument. I started laughing in a sort of inside joke kind of way. Then I found some more pictures where that picture was. One of them was with my first girlfriend, Joane, and me at age 13 at a hockey game at Mexico City. There was another picture of me and my half-cousin Georg, pretending to put our hands on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I can see that I was 10 when we did that picture. And finally I found a picture of Nicole and Casey about to board a plane to Rwanda as Peace Corps volunteers (my parents said they weren’t there long ‘cause they mistranslated their Kinyarwanda, an official language of Rwanda, wrong). I stuffed quickly the pictures and the subsequent photo album into one of my packs. I also packed lots of books, old & new vinyl records and a turntable, movies, two computers, and a foolproof razor.

When I had finished packing all my stuff into stuffcases, I got something that in the writing world (which I’m afraid to say in a world I’m new to) we call writer’s block. So I called the advice hotline.

“Hello, how can I help you?” called the receptionist in a calming voice.

“Hi, my name is Martin Malkin. I would like some advice on what to do when you have nothing on your hands at the time being?”

“Yes, you should go get a life!” the receptionist yelled right before she hung up. I sulked until I looked and saw that John Beese was running my way.

“Mart, come quick!”


“Ibn-Louis is gay!”

I thought about it for a while. then I saw a mixed feeling on John’s face that gave me the idea that he did not like this simple fact of life.

“What’s the deal?” I told Beese.

“I don’t know. Goodbye!” John said and he ran away to somewhere.

As I was walking to the work building I passed a bookstore that I mysteriously walked into. I started to buy some books, since I had now (dang it! It’s ‘no’! Aaah! spelling strikes again!) sorry no real anything to do at all. I bought War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (since I was going to be there for a long time, right reader?), Ulysses by James Joyce, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, and Animal Farm by George Orwell (as you can see reader, I am trying to dig deep into classic literature).

But then, a bright green book caught my eye. It was some philosophy of Phillipe Froufrou. I bought it quickly because of 2 things. 1.) It was because bright green books are usually very entertaining, and 2.) ‘cause I wanna know some good philosophy! I went up to the cashier and asked her what the price was.

“$29.06 please!” she answered in monotone. I gave her the wanted price and started my very short sprint to my wanted destination. Then suddenly some prostitutes fell on my knees asking for a chance, their infamous business having gone smaller by the day. I contemplated and I gave them a chance. I paid their price. It felt good. I could easily possibly remember some of those minutes for a few years. I left the old rusty condos where “it” happened and I checked the clock. It was 9:50. I skipped all the way to the Work Building.

There Mr. Tweed was waiting for me in glossy black designer shoes with designer Gucci clothing on. I could see the hair gel too. Don’t forget the hair gel. Looking very impatient, he ushered me into a blue-walled room, or auditorium to be specific, with a cool organ that I ran to, to bang random keys on. In the middle of my own improvised symphony Tweed ordered me to stop it at once, for it was, quote, “grinding his eardrums into dust.” I sulked into one of the pews. I started to read the Holy Bible, having nothing else to do. Then everyone came in, not just including the crew, the guests of honor, but also secretaries, dancers, entertainers, professional organ players, backup astronauts, technicians, priests and much more others! I also found Syria Jacks and Ibn-Louis here! We all gathered around and talked about politics and religion when we heard a professional organ player play “Rise of the Valkyries” by Richard Wagner and Mr. Tweed and Mrs. Secretary strutted to the pulpit like it was a runway.

Mr. Tweed got up to the pulpit and started talking. He motioned the professional organ player to stop playing. He stopped abruptly and immediately. “Hello!” he started. “My name is Archibald P. Tweed Jr. but please, call me Tweed. I am so glad to say that in exactly two hours Ms. Emmaline Mabatai, Mr. John Beese, Ms. Louisa Pelican, Dr. William Jockisoin and Mr. Martin Malkin will be Ripoff & Soups, or in general first at all, people to go on a commercial space hotel. I say we give these astronauts an ovation!” (There was a quick ovation.) “This is a big deal for the history of big business and space and science! We’ve beaten Virgin Galactic! I feel so glad to have this company taken completely different and new paths that have gone rock steady so far, such as our successful space program! Maybe soon, we’ll be able to populate Mars! Now, let’s get this show on the road and get these men on the shuttle! C’mon!” Before we got out of the auditorium we were stopped by Tweed and some of his goons. “Here is the Bible and the Book of Mormon, a Bag of medications and a Hoover Vacuum Cleaner, it could get dusty in there,” he said. Then we went to the shuttle. Jockisoin whispered into my ear, “I vomited when I was at the simulators in Cape Canaveral.” I gulped. I have no idea where I’m going right now. They start the countdown. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Goodbye Earth, hello space hotel!

To Be Continued…


I am a human.

Not perfect, not the best at everything, but that’s ok.

There is no right or wrong.

But I am still the unique one.

I am that person that people say “they’re different” and I love the thought

of:  “She is not the same.”

I take in the fact that I am not normal.

I take in my crazy ways, and the reasons I am unique.

I dream every time I have a moment to think about it. Every day, every hour, every minute, every second I have.

I love that there is no perfect.

I will always be the crazy friend, I will always be the unique one.

But I will never be the person who is always perfect, because that is what makes

you always perfect.

That is what makes you human.


He’s Not The Right One For Me

you had me at hello and I had to say goodbye

I usually get mad but I let it slide

I was tough to stay, strong to rise

but I fought for you that wasn’t a surprise

we work a path, you and me together

we both fought the weather

I was judged by my height that I would never be loved

god brought justice to light

and there I am with you tonight

then I got hurt

unexpectedly by you

you pushed me to the dirt

because I had curfew

well I was done

my brain and body became one

I had nobody, I mean none

until you pulled out what you had

I screamed why me?

you said it was never us nor we

we were never together and not forever

you also said I didn’t love you at all

my spouse is coming home and I’m not taking the fault

I know I’m tall

I’m average human

you’re something I don’t want

I don’t want to hurt your feelings

it took me some healing

from that pain I lost him/her,

him/her was my main

I will never forget his or her name

If Time Stopped

If time stopped, would the Earth keep spinning? Would the planets orbit the sun, turning their nights into days? Would time only freeze for us, down on our lonely little planet? Would the universe keep moving?

If time stopped, we would have forever. We would spend eternity together, thinking about all that we might have done. Wondering what would have changed if we had lived differently. Pondering the infinite possibilities of everyone, and everything. All the places we might have been, all the things we might have seen.

If time stopped, we would lose our minds. We would waste each day, clinging desperately to our last shred of sanity, all the while thinking of the what-ifs, the might-haves. Frozen in our little bubble of infinity, never to move again. Never to grow old, explore, or create. Never to see new life. Never to gain wisdom. Never to fulfill a dream. Never to wish upon a star. Never to love, cry, laugh, smile, frown. Never to scream, sing, dance, spaz. Never to know a new story. Just the same story, repeated countless times.

If time stopped, we would forget ourselves. Our souls would be lost, our hearts faded, our minds useless.

If time stopped, there would be no point to life.

Enjoy it while you can.


John F. Kennedy International Airport Adventures

murmurs of commotion, excitement

the smell of stale

people and personalities

unintentional noise, ears popping

I’m sorry

I spilled my iced coffee on your shoes

gum popping and

the smell of tourist mint


waiting for the risky grey flying machine

that takes you to and from

countries with twisted tongues in the form of words

and food that makes your tongue recoil like a rattlesnake


I want mac ’n cheese please

stern voices

that force the memory of exotic etiquette


pearly whites strung together with wire

don’t make the alarm go off

even though daddy said they would

an extra ounce of strawberry shampoo

makes more noise

on the metal detectors

than my morning alarm does

to my phone


because here and there

extraneous sounds soar

from New York City to Beijing to Geneva

all coiled up into one little flying machine

until it’s all let out into a collective



No Good News Today

The scattered newspapers were as smooth as silk.

No good news today.

My window caught the light in bends of the rainbow.

No good news today.

I ate and wandered through the kingdom of my mind.

No good news today.

The sun was blotted out by hazy, forgotten dreams.

No good news today.

One day a giant force will pursue truth.

No good news today.

A heavy drumbeat rules my life.

No good news today.

The staccato flute of hope plays pianissimo.

No good news today.

My heart felt as wet as rain.

No good news today.

NFL Playoff Predictions

This year the Super Bowl was the most watched event on American television ever. The same thing happened last year and the year before that. On top of that, football is the most popular sport to bet on. This makes for an eager mass of football-lovers wishing for a crystal ball that would see into the 2016 NFL playoffs. Fear not, dear gamblers, for I am hear to alleviate your worries with probably the best NFL playoff predictions you’re ever going to get.


Teams Making It

Out of the 32 teams in the NFL, only 12 will make it to the playoffs. 4 divisional champions from each league and 2 wild card teams who make it in too. The following are my predictions and a short blurb about why.



Miami Dolphins

New York Jets

Buffalo Bills

New England Patriots


Divisional Champion: Patriots

The patriots have Tom Brady and LeGarrette Blount and Malcolm Butler. Enough said.

Seed: 1



Cincinnati Bengals

Pittsburgh Steelers

Cleveland Browns

Baltimore Ravens


Divisional Champion: Steelers

The Steelers have a good offense with Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown and they shouldn’t have a problem locking up a good seed.

Seed: 4



Tennessee Titans

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Indianapolis Colts


Divisional Champion: Colts

The colts have Andrew Luck and now Frank Gore which should be enough to handle the rest of the teams in the AFC South.

Seed: 3




Denver Broncos

San Diego Chargers

Oakland Raiders

Kansas City Chiefs


Divisional Champion: Broncos

The Broncos have repeatedly proven themselves to be a great team with Peyton Manning at QB, Demaryius Thomas at wide receiver and TJ Ward at safety. They should beat out everyone pretty easily.

Seed: 2



Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Redskins

Dallas Cowboys

New York Giants


Divisional Champion: Cowboys

The Cowboys will have a way easier time making it to the playoffs this year than last year, because Chip Kelly ravaged the Eagles in this year’s draft and the Redskins and Giants won’t bother anyone.

Seed: 3



Minnesota Vikings

Detroit Lions

Chicago Bears

Green Bay Packers


Divisional Champions: Packers

The Packers are an unbelievable team that, in my opinion, should have made it to the Super Bowl. Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson are great together and Clay Matthews ties it up on defense. All they have to do is keep Brandon Bostick on the bench and you have my 100% assurance that the Packers will make it to the playoffs.

Seed: 1



Carolina Panthers

Atlanta Falcons

New Orleans Saints

Tampa Bay Buccaneers


Divisional Champion: Saints

This may seem like an odd choice but Drew Brees on offense and now Stephone Anthony on defense (stopping big running and short passing plays from developing) will propel the Saints to something like a 9-7 record which should give them the road in. The odds of them making it to the Super Bowl are 25/1 so they should at least do semi-well in the playoffs.

Seed: 4


Seattle Seahawks

San Francisco 49ers

Arizona Cardinals

St. Louis Rams


Divisional Champion: Seahawks

6 words: Marshawn Lynch, Marshawn Lynch, Marshawn Lynch

Seed: 2


Next we go to the secondary champions, the ones who haven’t made it as a divisional champion, but are good seconds. Here are my predictions and a short blurb about why.


Wild Cards:

Wild card teams are teams that make it into the playoffs by the skin of their teeth.  They are the two best teams that haven’t made it into the playoffs yet.  There are only two wild card teams from each league. The wild card teams are seeded 5 and 6. Here are my predictions for the wild card teams and a short blurb about why.



Baltimore Ravens

The ravens are really a good team that can even give the Patriots or the Seahawks a run for their money. Joe Flacco and Justin Forsett work really well together. The only problem is, the Ravens are really going to have to block for Forsett once they get into the red zone, because they traded everybody who knows how to catch a football (except Steve Smith) to the 49ers. This probably isn’t a surprise to anyone who knows betting, given that the odds of the Raven’s winning the Super Bowl are 12/1 (If you bet $1 and they win, then you get $12)

Seed: 5


San Diego Chargers

The chargers may not look like much right now, but when the season starts, you will see Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates work together constantly. Keenan Allen should also be a good option for Rivers, and since last regular season he got 783 total yards on 77 catches he should be a good option on long throws.This is also what the betting market says, with the Chargers’ futures (the prediction that they will win/lose) of making it to the Super Bowl 20/1; so making it into the playoffs shouldn’t be too hard.

Seed: 6



San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers are a pretty good team lead by Colin Kaepernick and having a new defensive lineman will really boost them. They are a good team and if they can make sure not to make too many stupid mistakes, then they should go far. Their odds of winning the Super Bowl are 45/1 and their odds of making it to the playoffs are 25/1, so the market is kinda skeptical for now, but if the 49ers play hard they should go far this season

Seed: 6


Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons have some good players and some bad players. Devin Hester and Roddy White are both examples of players who really get out there and work hard to get that extra yard. They are both assets to the Falcons. A player on the Falcons who I don’t like is Vic Beasley. He may be the best pass rusher in the draft, but he will be stopped easily by people like Mike Iupati and Evan Mathis. He might mature into a very good player, but he played for Clemson, and their defense isn’t pro-style so he’ll need to learn a lot. And by the time that he does, the Falcons’ season might be over. The odds agree with me. Vegas Insider, the website where I got all my betting odds from, says that the Falcons have 40/1 odds of winning the Super Bowl.

Seed: 5



The playoffs are the way for the NFL to determine which teams have the skill to beat out other teams in single game elimination. Here is a short blurb about each game.


Note: I am not doing gambling predictions until the AFC and NFC conference championships because of the multitude of factors


1st Round:

This is where the playoffs start. The top two teams in each league get a bye (automatic win) to the next round; here is a diagram of how the playoffs work.


The first game will be between the Seed 3 AFC team and the Seed 6 AFC team. The matchup is Colts vs Chargers.


Winner: Colts

The Colts have Andrew Luck who may actually have made it to the Super Bowl if not for Deflategate. In addition, the Colts now have Frank Gore at running back which should be more than enough to overwhelm Philip Rivers and the Chargers. My guess is 37-28, with the Colts pulling a last second field goal to broaden their lead.


The next game will be between the Seed 4 AFC and the Seed 5 AFC. My prediction is that it will be Steelers vs Ravens.


Winner: Ravens

The Steelers have a good team and have now drafted Bud Dupree, so they are good, but my feeling is that the Ravens will pull some kind of last-second running play, giving them a win. Predicted score: 42-38


After that comes the 3 Seed vs 6 Seed NFC game which will be Cowboys vs 49ers.


Winner: 49ers (barely)

This game will probably be the closest of any playoff in playoff #50, so hold on to your hats. At the end of regular time the score will be tied 35-35, in overtime, no one will score with both the 49ers and the Cowboys each making spectacular defensive plays to keep the other from scoring.  In double OT, though, the 49ers will have Carlos Hyde run up the middle for a touchdown from somewhere between the 10-20 yard line.


Finally in the first round comes the game between the NFL 4-5 Seed teams; in my prediction Saints vs Falcons.


Winner: Saints

This will be a good game to watch because the Falcons have no run defense and the Saints have no pass defense so Matt Ryan will either be getting sacked or throwing long, wildly inaccurate passes to a Saints defense that can’t intercept them. For the Saints offense, I can almost guarantee that 90+% of Drew Brees’ throws will be under 10 yards. Overall, just because Drew Brees is better than Matt Ryan, the Saints will win 28-24.


2nd Round:

Now it’s down to teams that can really handle themselves. The #1 Seed teams will play the worst surviving teams and the #2 Seed team will play the other surviving team in their league.


The opening match is between the Pats (Patriots) and Ravens (#1 AFC seed and worst surviving AFC team).


Winner: Pats

The Patriots simply outrank the Ravens in terms of the level they play on; there isn’t really a way for the Ravens to win no matter how well they play (save for Tom Brady getting injured).


The next game is between the Broncos and the Colts (2 Seed and 3 Seed).


Winner: Colts

The Colts will beat the Broncos by a very slim margin of three points in my prediction. The Colts are good enough to stop an aging Peyton Manning and CJ Anderson, and the Andrew Luck is good enough to evade the Broncos sacks. Predicted score 45-42


Next comes the NFC seed 1 (Packers) vs worst remaining team(49ers).


Winner: Packers

This is the same thing as the Pats-Ravens game, the 49ers are good, but the Packers are just better. Predicted Score: 35-20


Lastly in the second round comes the Seahawks-Saints game. Just like last year’s Seahawks-Panthers game, this just won’t go well for the Saints. An even bigger predicted blowout then the Packers-49ers game, I don’t even want to predict the score.


Third Round:

The final four. These are the teams that can play hard, and don’t have any major problems in any part of their team. I will now go back to talking about the betting odds.


First Patriots vs Colts. Just like last year. Except this time, the refs are gonna be looking pretty hard at the quality of the balls.


Winner: Colts


The Colts now have Frank Gore, who is far better than LeGarrette Blount and Andrew Luck is at least in the same league to Tom Brady. On defense for the Colts we’re talking Greg Toler and Mike Adams. For the Pats we’re talking about Rob Ninkovich and Malcolm Butler.  It’s going to be a tough game for sure, and my guess is that the score will be 24-21, with a late fourth quarter field goal by the Colts. The betting odds reflect this as the Colts have the best chance at 7/2 and the Pats are behind them with 4/1 odds.


Next we go to the NFC championship where we have the Seahawks facing the Packers for the second year in a row. This game will be even more heavily bet on then the AFC championship.




Another very close game. This time though, the Packers shouldn’t make any stupid mistakes, so they should be fine. The gambling odds aren’t sure about this. The Seahawks lead the Packers with 16/5 odds and the Packers are close behind with 7/2 odds.


Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is the culmination of the NFL season. The two teams good enough to handle everybody in their division come head to head in one game. In my prediction the teams will be the Packers vs the Colts.


Winner: Packers


The Packers and the Colts are both great teams, but the Packers just have an edge with Eddie Lacy at running back, Aaron Rodgers at QB, Jordy Nelson at wide receiver, and Clay Matthews at linebacker. The Colts are going to put up one heck of a fight, though. Andrew Luck, Frank Gore, TY Hilton and D’Qwell Jackson will give the Packers some trouble. The deciding factor will be the Colts’ lack of ability to stop Eddie Lacy. The betting on this game will be very very close. The Packers lead the odds at #2 with 13/2 odds and the Colts are close behind with 12/1 odds.


Season Review:

Overall, this season will be pretty unpredictable. From my predictions, Ravens pull out over the Steelers to the 49ers victory over the Cowboys to even the Colts beating the Patriots with a field goal, the season is full of great plays and stops. The one thing this round of playoffs lacks however is major failures like in last year’s playoffs. I back this up with the reasoning that this year, teams will be more careful about mistakes and will be less willing to take risks, simply accepting the level they’re on, and playing their best. This will affect the betting as the bets will, for the most part, not change. Overall, Super Bowl 50 and the playoffs before should be pretty fun.

My Life As A Senior

It was 8 a.m. and it was time to get out of bed and start my first day as a senior at Valley High. I walked into the kitchen, grabbed my lunch from the table and walked to my blue convertible. I started the engine and drove down Pine Lane to pick up my one and only friend Laney. It took us 15 minutes to get to school and we parked outside. It was senior orientation and the principal gave us the welcome back to school speech and we got our new schedules. My first class was AP Calc BC with Ms. Tang.

I went to my locker, the same one I had for the past three years, to unpack my bag and grab my binder for class. As always, I was late to class and ended up sitting next to Jack, the most gross guy in school. I looked around and happened to see Janice on her phone, as always checking her Instagram likes, while Josh was taking a nap. Ms. Tang walked over and screamed in her Chinese accent, “Wake up! You’re not at home. You’re at school and at school you learn.”

Ms. Tang was characterized as the most hated teacher in school, not because of the class she teaches, but because when she talks no one can understand her. I used to love math before Ms. Tang joined Valley, but now I hate it, and it’s has become my worst subject. When Ms. Tang taught us, she would take three days to cover a topic. One was to learn the concepts then next day without practice while the last day was quiz day. However, Ms. Tang was never confident at what she was teaching as she barely answered all the questions that the class asked her. The bell finally rang, and first period was finally over. Now just 4 more to go. I ran out of the room as fast as I could, and walked up to Laney by her locker which was right next to mine and complained, “That was the longest period of my life! Seniors year sucks. I can’t wait to get out of this hellhole.”

“Janie, it’s okay. You’ll get through it. What is your next class? I have AP Lit,” Laney said in an optimistic tone.

“British Lit,” I said.

I hated Shakespeare. Who is supposed to understand what on earth he is trying to say? The bell rang and we both were late for second period. Ms. Moore, my English teacher, was British of course. At least with her accent I could understand her, but wished I didn’t. The first play that was assigned to read was Othello. I was ecstatic when she said Othello because I had read the book over the summer, when I took a summer English class to get more credits for my transcript. So I decided then that I wasn’t going to do anything for this class, and instead stress over the fact I might not get into college.

Three years of high school has already passed for me and I can’t change that. My average has been the same each year, and an average of an 81 is not going to get me into a really good college. I was so worried that instead of going to lunch with Laney, I decided to visit my college counselor, Mr. Paxton. He was the funniest counselor I had met in the school. I knew from the moment I met him that he was different. He had long brown hair down to his shoulders and he always had a stash of junk food in his left drawer. I knocked on his door and said, “Hey Mr. P, what’s up?”

Mr. P said in an Australian accent, “Ow-yar-goin mate?”

“I’m worried about my grades and that it’s not going to get me into a good college. I’ve always been a slacker and that’s not gonna change. My parents think that the only college I’ll get into is Pine Valley Community College, which is like the worst school ever!!”

He said, “No drama, mate. It will work out fine. If you work hard this year for the first semester and show you’re trying to make an effort and raise your grades a little, you’ll be fine. Now nick off, you’re bothering me. I was eating my fifth twinkie before you walked in. Go eat lunch!”

I went to have a quick chat with Laney before I went to AP Chemistry. In my head, I thought, this is the easiest class ever. Science has always been my strong suit. I loved learning about the elements of the periodic table and I wanted to learn more about Organic Chemistry. I can definitely pull my grade up for this class. Mr. Kuplar was the most serious teacher in school. He loved chemistry and loved teaching it for the past three decades. Our lab that day was to learn more about reactive metals such as sodium and potassium. Once our lab was completed, we had to write a lab report concluding our data and findings.

As I started thinking about our lab, I started to daydream about the cutest guy in school who happened to be in my chemistry class. His name was Niall and he was the quarterback of the football team. His sea blue eyes mesmerized every girl in school. He has a big sense of humor and always has a jock that makes the class burst into laughter. Not only do people love his cute face and sense of humor he also loves to sing, dance, and play the guitar. Even all the guys gave him the nickname “The Triple Threat.” I imagined him asking me to senior prom, but while day dreaming I hadn’t realized that I had put some potassium powder in water. All of a sudden I heard bubbling noises. I woke up and saw that the potassium mixed with water. The mixture created potassium hydroxide which can lead to an explosion. Just as it was about to explode, I yelled to the class, “Everybody get down!!!” and a small explosion occurred.

Mr. Kuplar was in the back of the room, saw the explosion and fell to the ground. We all gathered around him, and I shook him to wake him up thinking he fainted from what he saw, but he wasn’t waking up.

Someone shouted across the room, “Janey, you gave him a heart attack. You killed him.”

All of a sudden, we heard the fire alarm go off . The smoke in the room got worse. I turned around to realize that the reaction never stopped, and I finally pulled the fire alarm button and everyone went in panic mode.

“Run!” Niall said as he ran out of the room.

We all were gathered around outside in the school’s football field. Mr. Jenkins, the school’s principal came running to the school field franticly looking to see if everyone was okay.

He walked straight up to our class and said in a loud angry tone, “Can someone explain to me what happened to Mr. Kuplar and what caused the fire?”

I didn’t dare to speak, but I knew that if i didn’t, I probably would be in more trouble than I was already in. So I decided to suck it up and confess. I walked up and said, “This is all my fault, sir!!!”

“How so?” he said.

“Well, we were doing a lab assignment and I was not paying attention and caused a chemical explosion,” I said.

“You think this was a mini fire!!! Everyone evacuated the building. You caused a disruption in every class. Tomorrow come to my office and we’ll talk about the consequences. As for everyone else, school is over for the day. See you tomorrow.”

I walked to the school parking lot to head home and Laney found me and asked me what had happened. As I drove her home, I explained the whole story to her. Laney exited the car and said, “Don’t worry. Everything will be okay.”

As I drove down the road, I thought to myself, what are the consequences that I might receive and what will happen to me? I didn’t want to face my punishment or the reality.

When I got home the maid said, “Your parents are out for the night at a benefit and won’t be home til late.”

“Okay, ask the cook to make me Chinese food tonight.”

I went up to my room to check social media about posts of what had happened today. Everyone in the class told everyone what had happened on Facebook. I started to get frustrated about the situation as people started to make up stories. One crazy story was that I started the explosion on purpose because I hated school and everyone in it. That story spread around and everyone was commenting about how crazy I was and how stupid of an idea it was.

I couldn’t face my classmates tomorrow. I didn’t want to be the laughing stock of the whole school. Words travel fast in Valley High and once they hear gossip it never ends. I was tired to doing nothing for the past few years. I wanted to be more independent and outgoing and the only mind that I thought would help me get there was to go somewhere else. Some where no one knew me. I always had a hidden interest in going to Morocco to learn Arabic, as well as to learn more about their culture and gain a whole different on perspective in life.

I decided then and there to leave to Morocco. I wanted to get away, far away as possible. Not only was it across the world but my friends and family would never think that I would decide to go to there. I walked up to my parents room and opened my mother’s drawer and took 5,000 dollars, which was all of the money left in the drawer and purchased a one way ticket to Rabat, Morocco in a different name. I walked into my room looking for my luggage and started packing all the things I could fit in my luggage.

As I was walking down the stairs I got a call from Laney. In a rush to leave I hit ignore.

Parfait Pantoum

The oranges are making me bananas

Yogurt is a weird word

Especially oranges, they make me go nuts

Is a berry a fruit?


Yogurt is a weird word

Granola crunch crunch drives me crazy

Is a berry a fruit?

I really want to know


Granola crunch crunch drives me crazy

I went down to the apple store and

I really want to know

How the parfait came to be


I went down to the apple store and

Especially oranges make me go nuts

How did this parfait come to be?

The oranges are making me bananas

One Wish


“If you were granted one wish, what would it be?” The shimmering purple genie leaned closer to Yi, studying her every move. Yi took a step back, trying not to slip on the other crystalline bottles scattered around her dusty attic. She thought for a moment.

“I got it! I wish for a hundred more wishes!” she yelped in excitement. The Genie gave her a look.

“No, no, no. You can’t wish for something like that! It’s against the whole genie code thing. Just…just wish for something, anything!

Yi stopped for a minute.

“Well, if it’s one wish, I’d better think about it! Give me a minute.” Yi cleared a few bottles off of an old box of toys and sat down. Her mother collected these kinds of things – they were everywhere – but Yi hadn’t expected a genie to pop out of one when she accidentally knocked it off the shelf. “Hey, you have a name right? Tell me!”

“You should really focus on making a wish right now, but if you have to know, my name is Astrid. 1,000 year old genie at your service.” Astrid tried to do a few loops in the air, but she was pulled to the ground by the remnants of the broken bottle. “Now see here, I’m stuck in this bottle, but if you make a wish, then I’ll go free, capiche?”

“Oof, fine. Just…give me a minute.” Yi leaned backwards and pondered her wish. “I got it!!!” she said, jumping up, unsettling a few bottles in the process.

“Well, come on then, spit it out kid!” Astrid looked ready to burst.

“Well, everybody has to die, right? But I don’t want to, so I wish that I could live forever!” Astrid’s face fell a little.

“We genies get this one a lot. Well, how would you like it, what sort of deal do you want here.” Astrid did a couple of impatient loops.

“Well, I don’t really care if I never die, right? Let’s do it!! ” Yi squeaked. She was jumping up and down in excitement.

“Well, I think I have a good idea of what you want out of this….Fine, it doesn’t matter much what happens to you as long as I get out of here. Alright, kid. Get ready.” Yi felt a little shock as Astrid granted her wish. Yi looked around with gleaming eyes – she really would never die! Feeling somewhat reassured, Yi jumped up and down once more.

“Astrid!!” Yi called out. “Thank you so much!!!” Astrid gave her a look.

“No problem kid, it’s not like doing this hurts me or something. In fact, you’ve done me a great favor…”

Astrid, now free of her invisible chains, flew up into the dusty attic air and did a full cartwheel.

“It feels good to finally be out of there…” she mumbled. Looking back at Yi she said: “Welp, kid. It’s been fun, but I’m going to leave now. I’m finally free!”

Without another word Astrid phased through the closed attic window and flew off. Yi mumbled a goodbye and stared downwards at the remnants of the bottle. That bottle…was her mother’s bottle! Oh no – her mom was coming home soon, she was gonna kill her! Yi jumped as she heard a thunk coming from downstairs. Looks like she was home already.

“Yi Anamarjia!” her mother sternly called. “I heard a noise from upstairs…get down this instant, young lady!” Yi scrambled down the stairs as fast as she could, trying not to slip. But she guessed if she fell it didn’t matter – she was immortal now! When Yi had made her way down to the kitchen, her mother was waiting there, bearing a grim look. “Honey, what did I tell you about going into the attic…”

“Never…” Yi mumbled, avoiding eye contact with her mother.

“Honey, you didn’t meet any genies up there, did you?” she inquired.

“No, Mother…” Yi said again.

“Good. If there really is a genie, I want the wish, OK? Your father paid a lot of money for these you know, and I get that you don’t believe in this stuff, but I do.”

A tiny grin formed on Yi’s face. She had met a genie, and she had gotten one awesome wish.

“Alright honey, dinner’s at seven, so don’t forget to wash up beforehand.”

“Yes, Mother….” Yi chimed one more time, before walking away. Sometimes her mother got on her nerves so much.

“Oh, honey! Your father is working late tonight, so he won’t be here for dinner!” Her mom screamed up the stairs.

Yi didn’t respond. Yi shuffled into her room, it was small, but comfy. She flopped down on her bed and stared up at the ceiling, a newfound excitement welling up inside her. She could live forever! She could see a bright future where she made tons of friends and did all sorts of crazy things! But, the best part was that she could never die! Yi knew that there were going to be fun times ahead of her.




Yi mumbled to herself as she walked down the street. It had already been four years since she made her wish! Though she was deep in thought, when Yi passed the flower shop she instinctively stopped. In the window, there was a shiny glass vase bursting with bright pink tulips. Yi looked at them for a long time through the window. Her mother loved pink tulips, and she often made Yi buy some for her on the way home. But not today. Yi’s mom was dreadfully sick, keeping her busy father at home to try to take care of her. Yi started walking again. As she made her way through town, she had to stop one last time near her favorite clothing store.

A group of girls from her school were inside, gawking at a very mature dress. Yi stared at her ageless body through a mirror. Well, after she had her growth spurt and all that, Yi’s body never changed. Her hair could take months at a time to grow not even half an inch. She had been cut and bruised so many times and had miraculously recovered. Her face never wrinkled, and her body never showed any physical signs of change after that time. Yi used to love that store so much, but now she almost never went in because of the other girls inside. The group currently in the store gave her an icy group of glances, so Yi decided to move on.

Slowly, Yi approached her quiet home, looking up at the saggy roof and dusty windows, Yi sighed. Entering the house, Yi heard the quiet of her father and mother upstairs, so she decided not to bother them and went into the kitchen. Yi quietly fixed herself a cup of tea, and while she was drinking it her father came down to fetch some medicine. He never said hello to Yi anymore. While watching her father’s shaking hands browse through the medicine cabinet and grip the bottle of his medicine tightly, Yi thought. Her father was getting old too. After they both died, what would she do?

Yi tried not to think about it and went back to sipping her tea. After her father was out of the room, she decided to go back up into the attic, just for some more quiet time. Thumping up the stairs after her father, Yi didn’t care about how much noise she made. When she opened the attic door with a creak, her father whipped around.

“Yi! Where do you think you’re going!” he snapped quickly.

“Oh, be quiet, Dad,” Yi mumbled before disappearing up the attic steps. Hearing no audible response from her father, Yi went up the stairs at a leisurely pace. Reaching the attic, Yi was greeted by many of her mother’s bottles, gleaming in the muted light from the windows. With a thump, Yi threw herself down onto the attic floor, creating a cloud of dust around her. The smell of old books assaulted her nose, and the dim room strained her eyes. Yi closed them. That was how she liked it. Sitting up here sort of made her forget her problems, especially the problem that she never told her parents about that “fatal” wish she made. Yi sat up there for hours and hours, never bothering to care. Why should she care anyways? Everything but her was going to be gone eventually.


Yi tied up her newly bleached white hair. Though her mother and father both died, she never did. She was constantly being chased by the police because of how abnormal she was, so she had to constantly change her name and appearance. Now, Yi was returning to her hometown after many years of traveling. She had been all over the U.S. on foot. It wasn’t hard for her since her feet never got tired, even if her shoes were worn out. Walking through a section of strangely familiar woods, Yi saw the dismal roof of her old house peeking out over the treetops. Passing through her front yard, Yi glanced at the “For Sale” sign near the porch. After her parents died but Yi lived on, rumors had spread about the house being cursed. Yi stamped up the stairs to her front door, which gave her a disapproving screech in response. Opening her tattered backpack she had owned since 9th grade, Yi took out her old house key, which she had desperately tried not to lose. She even jumped in front of a truck on the highway to make sure her keys weren’t crushed under its monstrous wheels. Of course, she had to change her appearance again just to make sure no one knew she had stayed alive. Yi entered her dusty house once again. All of the old furniture was still in place. There was so little interest in the house that no one bothered to scrape the dust off of the chairs and such. Yi decided not to get too overwhelmed by her nostalgia and went up the stairs. She knew what she was after.

Tearing through the cobweb covered stairs to the attic, Yi looked into the dark place where all of her troubles had been born. Her mother’s glass bottles were still in place, but they no longer shined. The more she thought about it, didn’t her mother mention at some point how she wanted to wish on a genie to live forever? Her memories of the times when she was living with her parents were foggy at best. These objects of pure pain and suffering seemed so fragile… you could simply break one. Yi spent no time wasting away in her thoughts. She lunged for the nearest bottle – a dusky green one – and threw it against the floor of the attic as hard as she could. Stray glass shards nicked her legs, but it didn’t matter to her. One after another, Yi shattered all of her mother’s prized possessions. Eventually, Yi hoisted a dull aquamarine bottle into the air and slammed it to the floor with a loud crack. As the broken shards settled among others, a small blue light drifted out of the remains of the bottle. Yi took a step back as another genie rose up to meet her.

“Why, hello there!” he said, seemingly not noticing anything out of the ordinary. “You want a wish, right? Well, why don’t I grant it for you?” The genie looked right into Yi’s eyes, waiting for an answer.

“I know this might sound bad, but please, I wish I could die,” Yi coldly replied to the genie, unwavering.

“Well, it’s your choice. Are you sure?” he said, taking the request as if it was just something anyone would ask him.

Yes!” Yi snapped. She was sick of him already, and it had barely been two minutes.

“Geez, ok! I’ll get on it. Now let’s see here…I’m sorry, but I can’t grant that wish,” the genie said. There was a dusty silence as Yi realized.

“What?! Why?” She screamed.

“I dunno, it’s some complicated part of the genie code or something. Can’t you think of another wish?”


“Please? I just need one wish, and then-”

“I WISH YOU WERE GONE!” Yi screamed. She had had it with this stupid existence, and this genie was not helping her mood.

“Well, fine then. Wish granted.” The genie faded away, leaving a tiny cloud of settling dust in his wake. Yi was not done yet. Sobbing as she smashed bottle after bottle, a river of blood, tears, dust, and broken glass trailed behind her. Screaming as the shatter of her mother’s last bottle echoed throughout the house, Yi sank to the ground in misery. Curling up in a fetal position on the ground, Yi let the dust settle around her.



The human race was done for, well, except for Yi. The sparse deserts of what used to be planet earth shook with the energy of the sun. Even the sun, which was the source of all life, was going to go out soon. Yi watched as the giant star crept closer and closer to the dying planet. Everything fried under the sun, but not her. Waves of scattering sand whipped through her hair and stung her eyes, but she didn’t cry. Slowly, everything would be gone. She would live and live and live, but what would happen when the universe itself disappeared? What happened before the universe? Yi would outlive time itself, even if she was dying on the inside. The sun gave out one last dying breath, rocking the earth. Suddenly, a huge blast of light engulfed everything. The flames of the star scorched her skin and burned off her hair. It didn’t matter. She’d grow it back later. Yi felt her body being shredded apart in the blast. It didn’t matter. As this world ended, one day a new world would begin again.


The wind teases every strand of your hair

While the ground races underneath your feet

And everything around you moves too fast

When you decide to run

The heat drips through your fingers

The wind teases every strand of your hair

Never stop a girl gone wild

And everything around you moves too fast

The angry wind slaps your face

The heat drips through your fingers

And everything begins to spin

Never stop a girl gone wild

The clouds move swiftly overhead

The angry wind slaps your face

Rain crashes down

And everything begins to spin

While the ground races underneath your feet

The angry wind slaps your face

When you decide to run

Rain crashes down.


Part 1: Bus

The bus

In the back, swaying and bumping over roads

Paved with cracked tar


Playing games with reality

The mood

is happy

even euphoric

Two friends

Maybe more

Lock eyes

Sudden nervousness.



Waiting for what?

Something they both know

Something they both know but something that neither says

Until now

“Who loves who?”

The names of random classmates, together in fantasy

Until the moment comes

He looks her in the eye

“And I,” he pauses.

“Like you.”

She is shocked

But she smiles and says

“I like you back”


A love of children

But it will last


Part 2: Sapphirestar

Her heart is broken.

She doesn’t know what’s happening

And she doesn’t like it.

Always friends, but maybe their relationship is cracked

She’s angry

And unhappy

And regretful.

Maybe it’s her fault

Maybe it’s his

She doesn’t know anything anymore

She’s in tears

Crying the blood of her heart out on the blacktop

He’s in pain

She is in no state to help him

Later she will regret it.

She feels like she will never be happy again

He’s talking to her

Ignoring himself

Making light of his pain

In order to comfort her.

She starts to smile

Despite herself.

Nobody but him could do that to her.

He makes her happy when she sees him

She would die for him

She realizes it when he smiles.

She loves him.

He loves her.

She makes it her mission to never let him down.

She knows she’ll falter.

But she knows she’ll try.


Part 3: Dare

Her friend

They’re laughing together.

She is dared

To do something

That she needs an excuse to do.

“Do it within my earshot.”


She is nervous

But happy at the same time.

She approaches him

Her heart flutters like a finch

Trapped in the prison of her chest.

She blushes.

“I need to talk to you.”



They leave behind the clutter of the schoolyard

They leave to be alone

In the shade of a dying oak.

But it is still alive.

“I love you”

She says.

He smiles.

He shifts on the faded grass

She thought she saw him blush


He says

His face is red

He is smiling

So is she

She doesn’t know what “Ditto” means

But she will

And his eyes tell her the true meaning

Of what he says


Part 4: Floodlights

It is cold

Wind whips their bare faces

They forgot to bring scarves.

The sun is setting

A cold fire on the unmelting snow

As the clouds dance their slow waltz across the flickering dusk

Stars are blinking into being

One by one

Above their heads

They are alone for the moment

Free from people

Free from lies

The lies they’ve told all their lives.

They slide and stagger on the tight-packed snowflakes

Laughing and trying not to fall

They lift off from the ground

Free from gravity

Free from others

They reach the top

Silver floodlights flicker on around them and bathe them in brightness

They race

down the hill, laughing in the stream of air they’re flying into

He falls

She stops and makes her clumsy way towards him

They’re holding hands

She pulls him to his feet

“I have something to tell you,” she says


He is expecting something

“I could say it first” he says, knowing what she is thinking.

“I love you”

“I love you too”

“Really?” Her eyes are wide, reflecting the floodlights



Part 5: Firewall

It is the next year

She is looking forward to seeing his smile again

She’s missed him like he is a part of her heart

Maybe he is.

She spots him in a crowd

She waves

He doesn’t see her.

This happens every day

He vanishes and she cannot find him

She cries herself to sleep at night

She writes him a note.

More like a letter.

Her friend has the locker next to him

The girl hands him her note

He never replies

It is difficult to know his feelings

She is kept in limbo

Never knowing what he is thinking

But always wanting to know

He has his firewall

Hard to breach

But she will try

She watches him from under her lashes

Never with the courage to talk to him

She wonders

Where did it go?

Does he feel the same about her

As she does about him?

Every night she reads the notes he sent her

When they were young

And innocent

And she knows

One day

She will break his firewall


Part 6: Night

She’s awake

She shouldn’t be

Glancing furtively around her

Her face is lit by a machine

She wants to talk to someone

But nobody is there

She hears a sound.

She’s not the only one awake.


She reads the message.

It is simple and short

But she smiles like she has won the world.

It’s you

She writes.

They talk

He shows nothing

Until later at night

They are pouring their feelings out

They have no other outlet.

Nobody else understands.

But he does.

So much she never knew

She wishes she could be with him now

Now she knows how much he has gone through

How much she never knew

She has passed the firewall

They are talking

Maybe I love you because you understand me

She says from her heart.

I can’t help but love you

The reply arrives with a soft ding.

She falls asleep

Maybe he is still awake.

All alone, waiting for someone in the dark.


Part 7: Poetry and Loathing

She is back on her computer

Her virtual escape from the tortures of real life

He is there too

It is late at night and they’re talking

She finds it easy to talk to someone who is not there

Easier than to talk to someone who is.

Hello there I don’t believe we’ve met before

She is surprised.

They know each other.

Who are you?

My name’s Loathing and yours

She is confused- what is this?

Loathing: A feeling of intense dislike or disgust; hatred

That’s what I call myself

She’s about to cry.

Now she knows what he’s been dealing with for so long

The voices and the vividness

The stories and the racing mind

Always racing

Always busy

Never still

She writes from the heart

Fierce poetry

Almost unconscious

Trying to combat the Loathing

Trying to draw him from the abyss he has been near for years

Using her spirit; she is the poetry

Teeth gritted

Eyes shimmering with tears

Writing to save a life

She knows

If he were hurt he would only need to ask and she would take the pain without hesitation

He is unhappy and she keeps it in her mind, dampening her outward happiness with his emotions

She fights loathing with poetry

Silent World

Silent world. Chemical world. My world. They mean the same thing. Before, there used to be life, plants, animals, society. Not anymore. I write this as the chemicals slowly ravage my body, the same ones that killed this world. Maybe, if our world can heal, you will find this and know our mistakes, but let me start when I began to understand our wrongs.

It was blue today, the picture on my wall. The ultimate expanse, the sky, arching over the glittering ocean. Yesterday it was the grandeur of the redwoods, nothing like the small trees that line the streets here. The pictures make some people mad at those who took these wonders from us.

We are the lucky ones, the teachers at school say, the only ones who didn’t try to destroy the world. Yet no one listened to Ersatz, the company who sponsored Eden, so they all had to suffer in their hell as we lived in paradise.

But that’s all over now. We are the only ones left and today we have a Gathering, to decide who gets the new position in the lab. I contemplate getting chosen as I pull on my coat and head into the sunshine. If I get it, there could be a potential social benefit, but the work would be hard.

As I arrive in the amphitheater the head-scientist Thomas flashes a sparkling grin at me, his dark hair artfully shaped. Then again, social benefits didn’t sound so bad. People listened to those who worked at the lab, especially at Gatherings when big decisions are made. I will probably be picked. There are only a few others with the qualifications to take the job.

Thinking about it, I really want that job.

Nine and a half hours later the debate is still going on and Thomas, who is advocating for me, is losing. His Secondary, Robert, is working with Kelsie who also wants the job. She is blond and her blue eyes are vibrant against her black eyeliner. It is no mystery why Robert is fighting oh-so valiantly for her, seeing as he is an unattractive and unmarried man. If she gets the job due to him it is expected that she will be more open to him.

Thomas is getting tired and a few more men had joined in with Robert, probably to get “in” with Kelsie. Finally, when it reaches 10:00 p.m., Thomas gives up, Kelsie gets the job and I am stuck back at University. Feeling fed up because I am extremely qualified while she had barely passed exams, I stomp out.

On the way back to my apartment I pass Thomas, who tries to say something to me, but I just push passed him, too upset to talk.

When I get home I see that the picture had changed, it is now a lightning storm over a cliff. It is strange, how the picture makes me feel. Like I am filled up, so full that I could burst. I have never been this angry before. I always succeed, I am top of the class, I deserve that job.

Before I realize what I am doing, I shatter the screen that holds the pictures. A hot stinging sensation shoots up my arm, I look down to see my own blood that now decorates the glass. It hurts, but part of me likes it. Part of me says to keep on hurting because it will never go away. After all of my work, all my running, I will still hurt because I have lost them, I have lost the job, I have lost Thomas. Red descends on my vision, lulling me into a state of comforting rage. Finally being able to let out how I feel.

I awake hours later, feeling tired and empty. That full feeling, having hope and anger swirling through my head is gone. I am left feeling adrift in the world. What is left for me? That was the only job opening and I don’t think I could bear working in the lower levels. Processing numbers all day, coming home and drinking the night away, only to do it again the next day.

Maybe letting my license expire would be worth it. I mean, the rest of the world might hate Eden, but they could accept me. All I would have to do is wait and then I could leave. The rest of the world and I certainly had something in common; both of us had our lives fall to ashes.

Just one more week and then I could go see the ocean and redwoods from the shattered screen. I smile gently as I pull the covers over shoulders. No longer feeling empty I slip back to sleep.

Two days later, I find myself next to Thomas in one of the many decorative gardens.

“I’m going to let my license expire,” I tell him when the conversation comes to a lull, my voice barely louder than the singing fountain. I was expecting sadness, a little betrayal maybe, but not the sheer horror that covered his face like plaster.

“What? You — you’ll be dismissed! You can’t go, how will you survive?” he splutters. Survive? The world may not be as easy outside of Eden, but it certainly isn’t lethal.

“How do you mean? It might not be entirely accepted but it certainly isn’t dangerous!” My voice is rising by the word. His face falls blank for a moment, then he grabs my face between his palms.

“Listen to me. Whatever they have told you is a lie. I can’t let you go, I can’t let you throw your life away not before I — ” He stops, his mouth slightly agape, his eyes wild with something I couldn’t recognize. An insanity, a protective desperation, a need for something.

“What, Thomas?” I whisper. My voice is shaky and scared.

“Nothing. Nothing at all.” He resumes his seamless, professional appearance that I recognize from when he gives lectures at University. Even though he’s only a year older than me, he is already the Second Scientist at the lab, I mean, what else would a Presidential descendant expect?

And the way he looks at me, like he is terrified of the thought of me in the outside, away from him. He looks insane, mad enough to kill.

I awake to a knock at the door. Thomas is leaning against the door jamb and looking like he hasn’t slept at all last night.

“I got you the job,” he gasps out, his face hopeful, but there is a shadow of something much darker. But that doesn’t matter right now, I got the job! For a moment I stand frozen, then I throw my arms around his neck, crying.

Taken by surprise, Thomas raises his arms slowly to hug me back. After a moment, I land on my feet and release him, saying, “What would I do without you?” At my compliment his whole face darkens for an instant, not even long enough for me to be sure that it actually happened.

“Come on, let’s get you set up,” he says, and all my worries wash away.

The lab is big and bright, full of stainless steel and glass. All sorts of instruments occupy the large rooms that are connected by long fluorescent-lit hallways. As I settle into my desk and stare out the massive window at the city below me I wonder for the first time how Thomas got me this job, and why.

Window Writing

the push of wind,

the rustle of trees moving,

the rush of heaters,

the murmur of voices,

the beep of a reversing truck,

the zoom of an accelerator,

the squeak of brakes,

the screech of tires,

the blaring of horns,

the shouts of the workmen,

the whir of the saw,

the shudder of the jackhammer,

the tap of fingers on keys,

the crinkle of plastic,

the crunch of chips,

the bark of laughter,

the slam of a door,

the crack of a knuckle,

the pounding of the heart,

the clatter of a phone,


the sound of me thinking.

Dream in The First Place

Soft feet spring like flying stars

And a day turns to a day turns to a day

Never mind reality when you can ride with a dreamer,

Who wants a grumbling stomach thirsting for revenge,

A bird calling its children home and finding the world,

Who wants music flooding their ears,

A flower as soft as love brushing your cheeks,

who wants a dagger sharp as love piercing their lip,

A scar built and made by unfocused hands,

Who wouldn’t want to say “I love you” in the rain and thunder crash,

A ship sinking so well it forces laughter,

Life can be a burden, death can be a release,

And I can find my worth, my solitude, my soul

While flying on the shoulders of dreamers

And encased in a hungry love,

But the water that flows cannot be drunk,

And I can bathe in my words.

I am searching my pit of pillows,

Next to a soft ray of sunlight,

Blue skies actually bring me down

But gray skies are my beauty,

I say it all but think not a thing,

I can’t count my days of not believing,

But those few days unmasked are only mine,

Never mind the stories published but listen to mine untold.

A fingertip can bend the scale

But your weights slammed won’t do a thing

Awaken by truth makes me long for fiction,

And you tell me to get my head out of the clouds,

Well, you can’t see the stars,

My short time away is a rich one,

I won’t have time to be reasonable when I’m lying on the moon,

The winds of my lungs whisper in and out

Your heartbeat beats a steady rule

Mine is dancing, it’s leaping and laughing.

Today a newspaper cracked my fantasy,

My sobs cracked a heart

My scream cracked a mirror,

And you say life is a train moving on,

I’m going to be slumped left behind,

A stain of grief blotted on the surface of no one caring,

A hand pulls me around the curve

Smiles stretch onto fake crying faces,

Bending their elastic lies,

So I soar away on the wings of a dream I spun myself,

I built the wings while falling in a jumbled heap that flew

And you dare say I’m not strong

Never mind and let it all be gone,

The sharp dagger of love will make its move

It will claim me and take me as a casualty,

Isn’t everyone just so tired of holding on?

One day I can see what was here all along if I’m lucky enough

If I can gather my breath and dreams and release and let go

And allow the slipping that welcomes me and my dreams

If they ever were dreams in the first place.

You’ll Walk into a Bar

You’re standing by a table in the corner of the room, nursing a cup of cider and trying not to stand out. People around you are talking and moving around and, in one instance, singing. You consider sitting down at the table, but the group already there would probably try to include you in conversation, so you don’t.

A huge guy winds over to the table. He catches your eye and smiles at you, then disappears suddenly from view. There’s a crashing sound and a muffled curse as the man hits the ground. Without thinking, you step forward to see if he’s okay.

He’s sitting on the floor, looking very sheepish.

“Are you alright?” you ask him, holding out a hand to help him up.

“Yeah, thanks,” he says. He takes your hand and pulls himself upright. “I’m Axel.”

“Greg,” you say. Axel’s eyes are deep brown, and there’s a small tattoo on his wrist. He looks behind him and frowns slightly at the table leg.

“That wasn’t very smooth,” he admits.

“I’ve seen smoother,” you agree. “Are you sure you’re alright? That sounded like a hard fall.”

Axel dismisses this with a wave of his hand. “I fall a lot. It wasn’t that bad. Nothing broken.”

“You spilled your drink,” you observe. “Can I buy you another one?” You aren’t sure exactly where this is coming from.

Axel’s face lights up. “I would love that.”


° ° °


You’ll walk into a bar. You’ll go up to the bartender and say, “I’d like a beer.”

The bartender will frown at you. “ID?”

You’ll smile nervously. “C’mon.”

She’ll roll her eyes, gesture at the door. You won’t move. “Out,” she’ll say. You’ll pretend not to hear her. She’ll beckon to the bouncer, expecting you to get the hint. You won’t. She’ll shrug. “Your choice, pal.” You’ll be escorted out of the bar.

You’ll struggle, but you’re only 5’4” and the bouncer, like most bouncers, is as tall as a mountain. So you’ll be lifted out and dropped on the curb. The bouncer, whose name is Axel, will sit down next to you, sigh, and drag a paw-like hand over his face.

“What the hell are you doing here, Greg?” he’ll ask.

You’ll shrug. “I’m getting a drink.”

“That’s not what it looked like.” You won’t say anything. He’ll wait, then shake his head at you. “I work at this bar. I work here.” He’ll rub at his forehead, sigh again. “You know I work here.”

You’ll carefully avoid his eyes, looking instead at your beat up pink Toms. But you’ll feel his irritation. He’ll exhale and push himself up. He’ll turn to go back into the bar.

“Axel,” you’ll say.

He’ll stop walking. “Greg. I need to get back to work.”

“I miss you.” You won’t mean to say it until you do.

“I know.” His voice will be soft, a gentle rumble and a gentle phrase. You’ll wait, hoping for something more, but instead the door of the bar will open, then swing shut.

After a moment, you’ll get up. You’ll push your bangs out of your eyes and take a deep breath. You won’t cry. You won’t. You’ll want to (you always want to), but you won’t.

You’ll feel trapped. You’ll want to claw your way out of the feeling, but you won’t be able to.

So you’ll walk. Quickly, arms wrapped around your torso like they’re holding you together.

You’ll walk down the sidewalk. Past the family owned shoe store that they’ll have converted into a Starbucks, past the swing set where you used to sit with pretty eyed boys and spill all your secrets for a kiss, past what feels like everything.

You’ll walk to the end of the street. And you’ll stop. And you’ll breathe. You won’t think about the dumbass thing you just did.

Once you feel like you can trust your mind and your legs, you’ll sit down on the curb. The tight feeling won’t be gone, but you’ll pretend that it is. Sometimes that works, and this will be one of those sometimes.

You’ll open your phone and tap out I’m sorry, then delete it before you can hit send. I’m sorry won’t fix how many times you’ll have shown up uninvited (unwanted) in his life. You’ll understand that.


° ° °

You blink.

“Greg? You alright?” Axel asks.

“Yeah…yeah,” you reply. You shake your head. It feels like cobwebs are draped over your thoughts. Axel still looks concerned. “I’m fine,” you add. “I just zoned out for a minute.”

“Yeah, you looked pretty out of it.” He takes a sip of his drink. “What were you thinking of?”

“The future, I guess,” you say.

Axel smiles. “The future, huh. What about it?”

You shrug. “Axel…” You stop. “I’ve got to go.”

“Oh, alright.” He looks puzzled, but he says nothing and stands up with you. “Here, I’ll give you my number.” He writes it down on a piece of newspaper and hands it to you. “Call me, okay?”

“I will.” You won’t.

You take one look back when you get to the door. Axel’s watching you, and you quickly push the door open and step outside.

It’s better this way. You understand that.

The Adventures of Stupid

Chapter 1

Hello, my name is Stupid. I need to find a key in a hhhiiilll (which means mountain). So I hired an assassin to kill a blimp man so I could use the blimp.

As I was flying, the assassin got on his own ship and tried to shoot the blimp with a bazooka. My blonde hair blackened as he scored a hit. I flung myself at the key of truth which would save us all.

I hit the spiky mountain and blood sprayed from my chest. I climbed and climbed until my vision blurred. My life…was…nearly over…but…I…must…get it!

All of a sudden I was healed and a large dragon stood before me.

“Hello, I am Frostbite of the six dragons, you have freed me. Free the rest of my kin with the next key on Mount Buttox,” boomed the dragon. Then it flew away.

I looked far into the distance and I saw a butt hhhiiilll. I ran down my hhhiilll and I saw the assassin with his red glowing eyes.

“I…I…I…w…wiill…k…k…killl!!!” muttered the assassin…

“W…well I’ll make sure you don’t!” I shouted as he charged at me.

“I HAVE THE KEY!” I shouted and the key turned into a shield. The assassin bounced back as he hit my shield.

“♈(aries)!!!” I said as I swung at him with my fist. KA-POW!!!! The assassin went flying away…
“Y…you…d…d…don’t know who raised you, do you…?”
“What are you saying!!?”
“I…I killed your m…mother…the dragon…AND I’M PROUD OF IT!!!”
Then he vanished…

Chapter 2

“WWWAAAHHH!!” I cried.

My mother was a dragon! Why did the assassin kill her? Why did the assassin like it!?! I thought. And what am I???

Then a thought occurred to me.

“I’M a DRAGONBORN!!!” I shouted, and all of a sudden I felt a little different, like I had scales…wait, I’m a dragonborn. Duh.

Anyway, I got to Mount Buttox and a giant bat loomed over me…and a butt killed the bat in two seconds as I drilled underground.

I found a strange man who said that he was “the doctor” and he also said that I needed to kill a…that was as far as he got, because all of a sudden he disappeared and I was alone in the gray, dark cave.

A strange voice floated around, saying “kkiiilll.” And then the world went dark.

Chapter 3

When I awoke I was in a dark, dark cave.

“Dddiiieee!!!!” I jumped out of the way but my leg was pierced by an arrow and it bled…a lot.

My attacker was a strange demon and he roared with fury at missing. It started stinging me on the neck, I thought I was done for, but then I saw a key!!!

I grabbed hold of it and I was healed again. With the last of my strength I thrust the keys at the creature and they turned into swords and it killed the demon.
”Looks like we’re safe.”

Memoriae Vitarum

As your aura fades from

your jacket,

your car,

my memory,

I have trouble recollecting

the time we had together.

Only hospital beds and funeral homes

seem to come to mind.


It’s been

6 months,

1 week,

2 days,

3 hours,

27 minutes,

and 42 seconds

since you last walked this Earth.


But who’s keeping track?

Who’s keeping track of the

very last time

you smiled at me,

you winked from across the table,

you told me how proud you were?


Your love of travelling

was passed down

to my father

and then to me.

You’ll be with me in spirit

as I tour the world.

My children will inherit the same vitality

I gained from you.


From the days where I could

wrap my tiny toddler hands

around your index finger

to our last hug goodbye,

your presence kept me

safe and secure.


Though now it’s

merely metaphorical,

you will remain eternally

by my side.


The Story of a Family

The lighthouse was located on the headland. Dagny trudged her way up the path, pulling her coat around her. In the fall, it was colder up here. The wind was sharper, but she didn’t care. Even though she could use a bike if she wished, the autumn foliage made the long trek worth it.

The waves battered the rocks at the bottom of the headland, tossing spray up fifteen feet or more. Buttercream, Dagny’s golden retriever, ran alongside her, her strong paws thudding on the ground. The leaves fluttered around them like forgotten thoughts.

The forest ended suddenly, revealing a clearing with the lighthouse at the end. Dagny ran the last few hundred meters and reached the top panting.

A few feet away from the lighthouse, there stood a house. Made of red bricks with white windows, it was the size of a cottage. It faced the sea.

Dagny opened the gray, wood door that was battered by years of wind and sea spray. There was a small kitchen to her left and the living room was to her right. A fire was burning in the fireplace and a pile of books laid in a corner. At the end of the entrance hallway was the door to the guest room.

She walked into the kitchen and started unloading her basket. Dagny’s sister Casey walked in, munching on an apple. She grinned when she saw her sister.

“How was town?” she asked. “How’s Mrs. Nelson? And Patty? How about Mr. Brown?”

Dagny laughed. “All fine,” she said, “there’s going to be an arts festival in a few weeks.” Casey nodded non-committally. “So…any messages?” Dagny asked.

“Not a word.” Casey threw away the apple core and wiped her hands on her jeans. “I sometimes feel like she’s never coming back.”

Dagny nodded. “I know. Believe me, I know.”

They stood in silence for a minute, then Casey sighed. “I’d better start dinner,” she said. Dagny nodded and joined Casey in the kitchen.

Rain started, pattering down on the roof, softly at first, then tumbling down. Lightning split the sky in a trident of light. Dagny could see the waves in the sea below tinged with white, churning in the storm.

Casey smiled as she passed by, walking to the sink to wash some onions for the salad. “Do you want to chop these?” she asked. Dagny nodded, grabbing the cutting board from the counter. Casey watched her, then asked, quietly, “How was Mrs. Morris?”

Dagny looked up. “She was okay. Nothing’s come for us.”

“She knows how important this is to us, right?”

Dagny nodded. “Yeah, she knows.”

“Peony will come back.” Casey’s voice was choked up, almost slurring the words. “You know that, right?”

Dagny nodded. “Yeah. I know.”

Casey shook her head, tears brimming in her eyes. “God, I miss her.”

“Me too.” Dagny put an arm around her sister’s shoulders. “Me too.”

Casey wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “Sorry, Dag, I’ll stop.”

Dagny shook her head. “It’s okay. I miss her too.” She squeezed Casey’s shoulders. “Cry as much as you like.”

Casey smiled. “Maybe later. Now I have to make the salad.” Getting up, she headed to the stove. “You coming?”

Dagny nodded. “In a bit.” She went to her room. Picking up the framed photograph on her desk of her, Casey and Peony in front of the lighthouse, she smiled thoughtfully. They had gone there with a friend, Lizabeth. Lizabeth had taken the picture.

“Oh, Peony,” she muttered. “Come back.”

Sighing, Dagny put the photograph down and went to the kitchen to join Casey.

* * *

“Dagny.” Someone was shaking her. She groaned and turned over. “Dagny!” Casey’s voice, sharper than usual.

She opened her eyes. “What?”

“Guess who I just got a call from?”

“I dunno.” Dagny sighed. “Why did you wake me up, anyway?”

“Peony called! She’s coming in three days!” Casey shouted. “She’s coming back.” She paced the perimeter of the room, then returned to the bed.

“Come on!” she said. “Get up, already! She’s coming!”

Grumbling, Dagny swung her legs over the edge of the bed. “I’m up,” she said. “Is there breakfast?”

“Yeah, in the kitchen. But Dagny! She’s coming and ohmygodohmygod what are we going to do?!?”

“Casey. Calm down,” Dagny said evenly, on her way to the kitchen. “We’ll welcome her, throw a nice dinner, and then adjust to life with her around again. I mean, her room is untouched, so it should be relatively easy for her to readjust.”

“Oh, yeah, about that! She said that she was bringing a guest with her.”

“What?” Dagny whirled around. “What guest? Did she say how long they’re staying?”

Casey shrugged. “She just said a guest.”

Dagny spread cream cheese on a bagel. “Great. Now we have one more problem to worry about.” She shook her head. “Okay, we’ll give her guest the guest room.”

Casey nodded. “Do you think that she’s changed?” she asked after a moment.

“Changed?” asked Dagny.

“Like, she’s not so selfish anymore.”

“I don’t know, Casey. Maybe.”

“I wanted to travel as well!” Casey suddenly said. “We planned that whole trip for the three of us, for when Peony was a bit older. But she couldn’t wait, could she?” She crossed her arms angrily. “She could have taken us along.”

Dagny shook her head. She was remembering the day before Peony had left.

Dagny and Peony were sitting at the kitchen table. Casey was leaning against the counters, head in her hands. “I’m not a child!” Peony had shouted.

“I know,” Dagny had said. “But we think that we should hold off the trip for a few years. Just until you’re 27 or so.”

“Peony, everything we’re doing is for your benefit.” Casey’s voice had been tight, as if she was about to cry. “You could try to be a little grateful.”

“I want to see the world before I’m old!” Peony had gotten up, then, and slammed the door. The next morning, she had left after breakfast.

Casey’s voice snapped her out of her reverie. “I did want to see the world, you know.”

“Why didn’t we?” Dagny asked. “I mean, we’ve had a year. We could have gone so many places in that time.”

“But it wouldn’t be the same,” Casey muttered. “Not without Peony.”

* * *

The bell rang. Dagny stopped setting the table, and hurried to answer it. When she flung open the door, Peony’s face greeted her.

“Dagny. Hi,” she said. “It’s so good to see you again.”

Dagny swooped in for a hug. “It’s great to see you, too,” she said.

“This is Annie,” said Peony after a moment. “She’s my friend.”

Dagny looked up. Annie was tall, with black shaggy hair to her shoulders. She wore a leather jacket and jeans. Her right ear had two piercings in it. She stuck out a hand to Dagny and smiled. “Hi. Peony’s told me all about you.”

“Really?” asked Dagny.

Annie nodded. “Yes. And thank you so much for letting me stay here for a bit.”

“Yeah, about that. How long were you planning to stay for?”

Annie grinned. “Three nights. Then I’ll go to Massachusetts to see my family.”

“Oh. Okay.” Dagny smiled. “Let me help with your bags.”

Casey emerged from the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron. Smiling at them, she hugged Peony somewhat stiffly. “It’s good to see you back!” she said.

Peony laughed and introduced Annie. Casey shook hands with her, and then turned to Dagny. “Anyway. I have to go make sure that our dinner doesn’t burn,” she said. “Are you going to take them to their rooms, Dagny?”

Nodding, Dagny picked up the duffel bag and led the way to the guest room.

“You’ll be sleeping here,” she said to Annie. “If you need anything, please ask Casey or me.”

“Or me!” said Peony.

Annie nodded. “Thank you,” she said. “I’m sure it’s very comfortable.”

Peony walked up to her room, Dagny helping her with her suitcase on the stairs. “So,” she asked, “Did you miss me?”

Dagny sighed. “Yes. We did. But we were also wondering why you couldn’t bring us along while you pranced about the globe.”

“You wanted to go later!” Peony exclaimed. “You weren’t ready at that time.”

“Ready? Peony, I was ready since we had first had the idea,” Dagny said in a measured tone. “We just thought that you would be too young for such a trip.”

“But I wasn’t!” Peony shouted. “I was the perfect age for traveling.”

“Were you really? Where did you meet Annie? And why didn’t you write after the first six months?”

“I met Annie in Paris. And besides, it’s not like you cared about my trip. That’s why I stopped writing.”

Dagny clenched her hands into fists, trying not to scream. “Peony. Casey and I cared very much. And we were always so happy whenever a postcard or email came. It made us feel like we were there, with you. When we got the postcard from Rome, we made spaghetti and meatballs for dinner and Casey bought a CD of Tosca to play in the background. After dinner, we watched Roman Holiday. I mean, just two weeks ago, I asked Casey where she thought you were, and when you were coming back. She didn’t know, but she said that she missed you very much.”

Peony was silent for a moment. Then she said, very quietly, “India.”

“What?” asked Dagny, confused.

“We were in India at that time. It was really beautiful, you would have loved it,” she said. “I’m sorry.”

Dagny opened her mouth to speak, but Peony shushed her. “I’m sorry for not taking you along. You’re right, you deserved it. And I hope that next time, we can go all together.” She rummaged around in her suitcase, then took out two packages wrapped in paper. “This is for you,” she said. “Open it.”

Dagny slowly tore the paper, then cut the tape of the bubble wrap. The present was heavy in her hand.

It was a gray stone, polished so that it had a shine to it. Carved on the surface were the words “family” and “love,” repeated over and over again.

“I got one for Casey, too,” said Peony. “I thought she might like it.”

Dagny hugged her sister tightly. “She’ll love it. Oh, Peony, how we’ve missed you.”

“I missed you too,” said Peony. “Very, very much.”

“You know,” said Dagny, after a moment. “Casey once told me that she’s always wanted to see the Hawaiian islands. Do you think a trip could be arranged?”

Peony nodded. “Oh, yes. Definitely. In fact, since her birthday’s in the fall, it will be off season, meaning that we won’t be bombarded by tourists. Oh, and there’s this great restaurant we discovered. We can take her there.”

Dagny smiled. “I think she would love that,” she said.

Casey called them to dinner. Dagny could see Peony shrink back.

“Do you think she’ll be upset when she sees me?” she asked.

Dagny smiled. “No. In fact, I think she will be very happy.”

“Casey,” she called. “Come up here. Your sister has returned.

Satires: A Collection of Current-Event Satires

A collection of current-event satires in the style of The Onion


Tragedy Strikes Cast of Finding Bigfoot, When They Actually Find Bigfoot


Tragedy struck the cast of Finding Bigfoot yesterday, as what was once a fabricated show preying upon the dementia of elderly conspiracy theorists quickly turned into an all-too-real nightmare, when in their fake search, they actually came across a Bigfoot-like creature. “We were behind the studio in the woods, where we film most of our scenes involving fake noises, when a large, humanoid shape emerged from the dark,” recalled cast-member, James Fay, struggling to hold back tears. “Then the thing lunged on us and proceeded to pounce to death the rest of the cast, and then just left.”


“Shock” and “terror” were words used to describe Tuesday’s incident, as the cryptid hominid was not only in fact proven to be real, but by matter of sheer chance, discovered on the very-show capitalizing on its unproven existence. Camera man, Mark Ryans, who narrowly escaped dismemberment from Bigfoot, said in a press conference that despite the show’s title, “I never signed up for this…I never thought we were actually going to find Bigfoot!” A visibly shaken Ryans added that, “I was hired under the pretense that I would be working for a show that peddled false science to the most vulnerable population demographics…not a legitimate pursuit of mythical beings with a murder streak!”


This incident has also put the rest of society in the awkward position of having hermetic, senile conspiracy theorists and impressionable 8-year-olds being able to say, “We were right all along…there is a Bigfoot!”


Alas, it was an all-too-familiar tale of a patently misleading reality TV show, through an event of bizarre serendipity, ironically falling victim to the very thing they originally falsified. In February of this year, The Discovery show, Ghost Hunters too fell victim to this increasingly common trend, when the show’s producer was inadvertently possessed by a demon.


As for one elderly fan, and self-anointed “Bigfoot expert,”: “I mean, they kinda had it coming…when you play with Bigfoot fire, you have to be prepared to get Bigfoot burned.”


Lobbyist Now A Regular at Senator’s Office


After visiting the office of Arkansas Senator, Tom Cotton (R-AS), six times last month, and leaving sizable donations in the undisclosable, dark-money, SUPER PAC, and…100% legal tip jar, Exxonmobil lobbyist John Richards has been upgraded from occasional customer who stops by when convenient, to a reliable regular.


Every lunch break, Richards can be counted on to order a hefty serving of fiscally irresponsible tax cuts, with a side of reduced labor requirements. “You got it,” Cotton replies, scribbling down his order on a yellow ticket to hand off to the chef. “Anything else we can do for you?,” Cotton cheerfully adds, before asking if he would like napkins with that.  “We make a mean comprehensive, multi-billion dollar subsidy program, too, you know.” While Richards usually demurs, he always promises to try it next time.


“He’s one of my best customers,” Cotton admitted.  “I don’t even need to ask for his order any more.” As Richards said, “It’s gotten to the point where I walk in and the industry-wide tax cuts and financially reckless corporate handouts are already waiting for me in a brown paper bag.”


Dr. Oz Recommends New “Stranded-at-Sea” Diet


Dr. Mehmet Oz, a decorated cardiothoracic surgeon known for his evidence-based medical advice and sustainable weight loss programs that don’t put emphasis on universally dubious and unregulated pills, has recommended a new strategy for those looking to drop a few in time for summer.


“I like to call it the ‘Stranded-at-Sea diet,” said Oz on his daytime show, noting that his nutritional innovation could revolutionize the way we lose weight. Over the course of the 65-day diet, one should consume a raw fish, preferably drenched in seawater, no more than once every three days; sardines, mackerel, and reedfish are all fair game, so long as they are not cooked, seasoned, or otherwise prepared to eliminate potentially lethal pathogens. “Mercury poisoning and intestinal infections are just more ways this diet helps you lose weight fast,” Oz said to his enthused crowd. While seaweed collected from the ocean’s surface also comprises a significant portion of the stranded-at-sea diet, according to Oz, “the bonus is that you can eat as much as you want.”

“No more late-night cravings,” as one fan of the show remarked. The key, though, is to limit water intake to about every four days. As Oz put, “with no taste, no texture, and no smell, water is really just empty calories.”


While side-effects include severe dehydration, vitamin deficiencies, and internal bleeding, Oz noted that eating like a cast-away on a liferaft is the only sure-fire way to lose weight fast. “There’s very strong evidence to support my claims…I mean, has anyone who has spent 65 days stranded at sea ever come back fatter than when they left?…I don’t think so.” Although Oz has faced criticism from fellow practitioners, studies have repeatedly shown that eating like a driftaway is positively correlated with weight loss. Whether it is the nutrient rich jellyfish or complete lack of requisite nutrition, one study published in Doctor Daily found that “in almost 80% of cases, the cast-away diet resulted in significant fat reduction.” While other diets focus solely on reducing fat, noted Oz, “my diet is the only holistic method that helps reduce not only fat composition, but muscle mass, brain tissue, cardiac organs, and liver function too.”


Following Baltimore Protests, Uncle More Racist Than Usual


Seemingly galvanized by Fox News’s coverage of the events, conservative Uncle, Rob Lance, who visits occasionally on holidays, seemed to be seriously intent on besting his own previous records for unbridled racist banter. “Normally”, said Vance’s brother, “he would drop a few ill-conceived, factually unsupported, poorly construed race-based generalizations at the dinner table, or maybe while playing golf.” But with recent protests across American cities suggesting that black individuals were not in fact completely subjugated at the hands of all white male hegemony, Vance began his day-long attempt to post record racial numbers. In a matter of hours, Vance progressed from a mere casual racist who blanketed his statements with such pleasantries like “I’m not racist…but” or “it just so happens” to dedicated hate-mongerer, as evidenced by his halftime decision to switch to the n-word of the hard “r” variety. As the night wore on, Vance covered the spectrum, with his uninformed diatribes ranging from “welfare queens” to those “gangsters with saggy pant.”


While no one who attended Saturday’s family reunion expected Vance to top his once unbeatable 1992 Los Angeles riot statistics, onlookers say he made a valiant attempt at dashing the dreams of a post-racial society.  While relatives noted that age had taken a toll on Vance’s ability to spew unjustified mistruths with intensity, Vance said that as long as he legitimized the concerns of those who rightfully believe that racism had not in fact been vanquished, “it was good enough for him.”


Crack Addiction Changes Middle Age Father For The Better


Susan Wallace, wife of 56-year-old accountant, David Wallace of Danbury, Connecticut, was surprised to learn last week that her husband had been abusing a form of powdered cocaine, a highly addictive substance banned in every state except Florida. Mr. Wallace, who was often described by family friends as a “dull log, slightly more awake than a comatose patient” never liked taking risks or acting spontaneously. Before his addiction, “he shopped from the eight-dollar bin at Kohl’s, drove a Nissan Altima, insisted on eating at Olive Garden, and got his hair done at Supercuts,” said Susan, struggling to hold back tears. Only just a couple weeks ago, “he would come home from work and drool as he listlessly watched Fox news,” David’s sister-in-law, Barbara added, noting just how much his addiction had changed him.


“Now, he’s an entirely different person,” Susan said.  “Crack has changed my husband from an apathetic accountant to a fun-loving, energetic, if occasionally delusional father.” While the jitters and occasional shivering were annoying at first, according to Barbara, “I’ll take addicted, erratic David, over that indifferent lump of tissue anyday.”


At press time, David was planning to purchase a motorcycle in order to jump the Housetonic River in mid-air.  When asked about his devilish antics, Susan grinned and said, “It feels like I finally have my husband back.”


The Mistress

It wasn’t silent, as nothing ever really is.

Moonlight lay on the waves

and hung in her tears.


The crashing of the water on the bay

echoed through her head

weaving its way in between each jumbled thought.


The sky and the sea shared their color,

the moon hanging from a string in the inky atmosphere.


She stood with her feet in the sand and waited for sunrise

so that she could return to him

and take once more what she believed to be rightfully hers.


But there was only midnight and the sea,

and the sun had a long way to go.

The Afterlife

I didn’t expect death to feel like what it did. There was no welcoming light at the end of the tunnel that appears as a great spirit gently leads you by the hand to the other side. Angels didn’t take me in with open arms and shining smiles, ensuring that my stay in eternity would be comfortable. There was no place where all of my deceased loved ones stand at the pearly gates, floating on clouds and illuminated by a holy golden light.

The transition between the worlds of the living and the dead is not one’s life flashing before their eyes. I was expecting to see my childhood with my siblings, playing in the large backyard with our black lab and a hose. Our dad would already be working on the barbecue with a warm smile, as the role of both parents was hard to fulfill. Awkward braces, acne, chipping nail polish, badly-cut bangs, crushes on subpar hormonal middle school boys could’ve all very well been my last thought. I could’ve seen partying in short dresses and underage drinking, staying up late and desperately trying to type the last words of a paper due tomorrow, crying in bed, worried half to death about what the future could hold.

I should have seen myself through moving towns and switching schools countless times, each one less painful than the last. All my broken bones, every favorite song, every embarrassing moment, every mean thought, every friend I made and lost.

My soul could’ve been violently ripped from my body as it crossed over, leaving the past behind. Would I have seen my dying body from above, clawing at my solid presence, desperately hanging on to the last bit of my small existence?

Perhaps I could’ve drifted along the earth as a ghost, watching over my family and friends, wanting to reach out to them, but unable to make my presence known. I would likely haunt those who I had disliked in my mortal life, dropping items on their heads as they passed under me. They would probably get fed up with all the flickering lights and doors being slammed by an unknown force, and I would then be exorcised back to the realm of the dead.

I guess that’s where I am now, but it isn’t like I would’ve thought at all. It’s lonelier than I expected. I can’t see my relatives, I don’t know where they are. I want to find them, to call out to them, but I can’t.

The way I died could’ve been worse. Although I suppose I’ll never know how it feels to die in any other way. All I saw was more and more bright light as I felt myself slipping away from life, which was, to say the least, a bit cliche. The “go into the light” stereotype wasn’t totally wrong. But it was too sudden. I was too young, I didn’t say goodbye. That’s how concussions happen. I thought I was fine, and nothing went wrong for the longest time, but then I went to sleep one night and I never woke up.

I still feel asleep. Time passes so slowly, if at all. I can’t move. Or rather, I don’t have a body to manipulate.

I barely know how long it’s been since I’ve died. It’s too dark to see anything, although I’m sure there is nothing here to see. Light doesn’t exist anymore. Nothing does.

There are so many things I would’ve wished the afterlife to be, and this is not any of them. Maybe there is something else for those who lived their lives better, where they can live their lives in eternal happiness, although I doubt it. I wish that, if anything, I would’ve been sent to the Hell that people believe in. With fire and lava and never ending torture. Perhaps I would’ve prefered that, for at least I would be able to feel.

This seems worse. So, so much worse. I am nothing. Everything is nothing. Everything except my thoughts. My thoughts that pound their way through my no-longer-existing mind. I want them to stop, but they won’t. There’s nothing I can do with them except keep thinking. I would kill myself to get rid of them. But I am already dead.

As a child in church, I would wonder if the Heaven those men in the robes preached about was real. I would wonder if we really did live forever amongst the clouds and all our deceased loved ones. I would tug on my mom’s sleeve, questioning what Heaven was. She would usually answer with something along the lines of “Whatever you want it to be.” I wouldn’t question further. But it isn’t like that at all. When I died, I realized I would find out what really lied beyond our mortal lives. I did find out. It was nothing.

Zeroed Out

Behind me was chaos. I knew people were fretting and spinning and shrieking, but I stayed with my forehead pressed against the ice-cold window of the space station. I forced myself to watch the eerie white expand over the Earth as if the swirls encircling the planet thought they could conceal the rest of the universe from the obliterated sadness that was now left. I had assumed if we broke out into a nuclear war it would be more climactic –not that the government would just mandate reruns of the 1951 “Duck and Cover” and turn Bert the Turtle into bumper stickers and collectible figurines. Even as an astronomer, part of me had always expected comical red and orange flash explosions.

Caden slid next to me and pasted himself against the window as well. “People are zeroing out, Cressida.” He said it in his deep, quiet rumble, voicing my name with constancy that made me tingle.

I knew what he meant. People couldn’t bear the thought of being the abandoned remains of our world. Of sipping coffee on a spacecraft for years with nowhere to return to. They would move towards the hatch doors without their suits and leave the station, not caring to find out how much longer they could keep going. We were supposed to be strong and know that death was imminent, but many couldn’t bear it when it was slow and foreseen. They had reached their lowest point.


Caden looked at me with soft, glimmering eyes that wanted to shield me from any pain. He tucked a honey strand of hair that had escaped my braid behind my ear, letting his freezing fingers linger a moment on the nape of my neck. I could tell he had been working outside the craft. His breath was tangy, his hair smelled bitterly of diesel and thawed metal.  His dark skin glistened with sweat and his eyes were teary like mine.

“Most of Unit Nine,” he answered finally. He bit his lip as he did when he held his breath and turned his head left; scant hairs on top trailed a millisecond behind, standing straight, having been kissed by static electricity.

“What about Bec?”

“She’s fine.” He responded instantly, reflexively. Bec was my magnet. I couldn’t be without her. Him either.

I looked again at our miserable planet and was roughly grateful that they had made no effort to prepare us. I regarded the churning ashes and comatose atmosphere. It seemed inadequately serene. I was waiting for Earth to begin quivering and combusting and chortling and unleashing itself in a gleeful rage of lava and Hell. I was half-heartedly expecting an unveiling of Satan. Something entirely irrational and absurd that would just somehow make the collapse clear anyway.

Caden stepped closer to me. “I know it won’t help to hear this right now but—”

“I need to go keep people calm and check the supplies. I know.”

“I was going to say I love you, Cressida, but that’s true as well,” Caden whispered.

“I love you, too,” I said, squeezing his wrist lightly, looking at him with warmth. I couldn’t bear to wonder what would become of us now. The little girl inside me had been expecting a picturesque wedding. A white one, maybe, with Calla Lilies and Tulips and a triple-tier cake like they used to have hundreds of years ago. I looked down at my engagement ring, which was a laser-pointer ring used for giving presentations in the Space Lounge. Caden had proposed spontaneously. I knew he surprised himself just as much as he surprised me.

I swiveled around now, breathing in quickly, somehow feeling selfish as I did so, as if the oxygen supply was not unbounded, as if breathing took longer than it should. I headed to the storage room, hoping Bec would go there as well.

I felt awkward, like I had heavy weights in my hands but there was no mass inside of me, no tasks of obligation remaining. Like I was Phillippe Petit, 718 years in the future, walking from one Twin Tower to the other but realizing that the towers had crumbled below my feet as I walked. Yet I was still walking; walking across the sky with no tightrope. I felt guilty, as if I should throw myself into a gutter but that didn’t make sense at all. My body shivered, almost as if every part of me had realized that I was still standing. I could blink. I could lick my lips. I could feel sweat between my toes.

I heard the cacophony of footsteps and clicking heels and the whir of machines and fans. I took a sharp left, walking down the alabaster hallway. Empty offices, doors strewn open, and piles of devices being organized by apparatuses that could understand no difference in situation. I kept my feet moving, faster and faster, realizing that my life had been spent doing things of little importance.

I’d been here less than a year and the view from the gigantic windows to my right had always stolen my attention. But this time as I walked alongside the incredible sized sheets of insulated glass, I forced myself to look away – to not be deluded by my fried home planet. Even so, I pictured my little brother and parents rupturing into trillions of particles, whirling across crooked countries and sloshing seas. Lifted by the same wind currents that carried my favorite ice cream store sign and the tree at the end of our block that I always hated as a child. It would almost be easier to picture 37 billion dead bodies than picture none at all and just dust.

I punched in the nine-digit code for the storage room and stepped through the doors, which slid open instantaneously like it recognized the desperation and scarcity of time. The room was three stories high with outlandish tile work and drawer complexes. The white was overpowering. Flickers of green materialized from perfect retina circles on the faces of each capsule that was fully stocked and red emanated from each that was running low.

“Cressida.” I knew the voice was Bec’s before I even saw her. Voice recognition is so weird.

We ran at each other, sailing into each other’s arms.

She was a war veteran and I was her family and it was like she had been gone for five years. And I needed her to feel like I can breathe again.

We spoke at the same time. “—Are you okay? —” “—Yes—” “—Wait—“ “—Not really—” And it wasn’t weird because that’s how we were.

She pulled me after her as she slid over to the main monitor in the center of the room. It stood six feet tall, three millimeters thin, virtually invisible when not turned on.

“Ready?” I asked, though the question was mainly posed towards myself.

Bec turned the monitor on slowly, hesitating as if she were a kid playing with a light switch, trying to balance it between on and off.

I winced.

The power went on in seconds, showing the standing status of food supply. Three dimensional graphs and models were projected within an instant. The two of us raked through information until we got to the heart.

“Seven years, six months, twenty-three days.” My voice surprised myself.



Bec studied me. I saw her lip quiver as she attempted speech. “Cressida. You should go somewhere. Take them to Neptune. Do something that hasn’t been done. There won’t be anyone to remember it, but at least it’ll be the last thing you remember.” She took a step toward me. Her voice resonated in the room, delicate and exposed.

“Neptune would take under five years.” It was my favorite planet.

“Do it, Cress. You and Caden could easily convince the team.” Caden could do it, I knew. He had a way with words.

“What about you?” My words tumbled out of my mouth and she hugged me and it felt like we were at a funeral with crystallized tears in our eyes that wouldn’t run.

“I’m jumping.” Her words were muffled by my hair but they hit with full tilt anyway.

A second slithered by slowly like a slug creeping across asphalt. We stood in a silence that was uneasy and unfamiliar. I saw us rocking back and forth on blue hover seats twenty years ago with sparkling eyes, laughing with vanilla blossom smiles like we never wanted to die.

“You’ve decided?” It felt like a bruised answer, something incomplete and lacking affection.

“I have,” she said. “I have, and it’s not because I don’t love you and you’re not enough. But you have to let me, because I can’t sit here with twiddling thumbs and fake smiles for seven years. I have to pay tribute.”

“People have paid tribute, Rebecca. Several people from your unit have already,” I said, letting desperation peek through my words.

“They did it because they were incapable of living like this. Please understand, I’m not zeroing out. I’m not weak, but I’m not strong like you are. I can’t live a finite life built on whim. I’m doing it because I can’t be bound by an obligation that doesn’t exist anymore, and I need to show myself that I’m human and I sympathize and I feel their loss and that we all do and I just have to do it. I have to be with them. You can keep going. You have a way of thinking that has astounded me since we were children and your life keeps plowing on and on and I need you to keep going and do what you’ve always wanted to do. Please understand.”

I did understand. Of course I did.

She took me, frozen, into her arms and told me she was leaving and that she loved me and told me to stay here, not to watch and not to say anything. She left me, arms pendent, facing the towering monitor in the center of the room, seeing the green and red flashes of the supply capsules in my peripheral.  I heard her heels clicking and the door hissing as it closed behind her. I felt time pulsing inside me and I didn’t know how long it was, but there was a ‘ting.’

I lifted my eyes to the monitor where the remaining time was displayed, wincing as I saw twenty-three days morph into forty-four. So that’s how much a life was worth. Twenty-one days.

I twisted down the alabaster hallways, passing the empty offices, stopping, this time, to look through the colossal glass windows into the black, watching the beauty of the trillions of dancing stars, somehow aching for the warmth of sunlight.