Stand By Me: Part One



Little Miss Misunderstood


Chapter One

Vicki opened her vibrant dark brown eyes and saw black. It was as if she hadn’t opened her eyes at all. She checked with her smooth hands to make sure her eyes really were open. The sensation of nothing was thrilling yet horrifying when only seeing black with no ending.

Suddenly, seeing no end to the darkness, she let out a high-pitched, teeth-curling screech as she spied a swift tunnel stirring in the night. As she stared and shifted around her unfamiliar bedroom, a faint gold outline read 1:27. But as she moved around her room, there was no light again. Just the swirling tunnel ahead of her. The fearsome tunnel shone dark purple, with a thousand fireflies lighting the way for Vicki. Truth is, the current of mystery could carry her down. The bright purple edged her on towards it as if whispering, Do it, or suffer the never ending darkness from now and forever! She got up onto her knees and dove in.

While staying airborne, thoughts crashed into each other one by one. She was running against the currents of sand on a desert peak, now climbing up a steep cliff. Soon, she was leaping through the jungle or swimming in the deepest ocean. All thrilling, making her imagination set sail. But while coming to her last stop of motions, she face-planted into a big sea monster and felt a huge bruise form on her head. She stared down, barely able to see her hands, and touched her forehead lightly. “Ouch!” she cried out. She slipped over to one of her drawers to find a flashlight.

As it turned out, Victoria had climbed up her bunk bed ladder, running through her piles of neatly stacked stuffed animals, swung on the boards of her bed, and slid on her stomach through the stuffed animals that she had just knocked over, and bumped her head into her beanbag.

Vicki squirmed repeatedly on her beanbag, scared of the thought of going to school in the morning. Victoria or “Vicki” was adopted by her parents. Vicki smiled, imagining the many times when her mom would tell her how they had chosen her. When your mom gives birth to you, they are stuck with you. But if you are adopted, they chose you. Vicki liked to think that the word “chose” had a better ring to it than being stuck with something. Victoria tried to remember the comfortable feeling when she sat down in her mother’s lap as the story rang with truth out of her mom’s mouth. This story was the one thought, the one inspiration, that she had once been wanted.

Vicki’s dad knew she was different. Everyone knew that she was different. Her dad was just the one to say it to her face. Finally, he was fed up and left. No one really knows what happened to him after he left the house. The car was left there. His phone was left there. And most sadly, so was his family.

Ever since preschool, Vicki was homeschooled. Ever since preschool, everywhere she went, people knew that Vicki Saunders was different.


Vicki went to her first day of preschool very happy. New friends, new teachers, and new experiences awaited. That is if the teacher hadn’t greeted her the way she had…

“Now, Vicki. Say pleases and thank-yous! Make a good first impression. I will pick you up at three,” Mrs. Saunders said, straightening Victoria’s collar.

Vicki stared at the hands on the clock for a moment. “In seven hours, you mean.”

“Yes… wait… where have you learned to read a clock?” Vicki smiled mischievously at her.

“At the library.” Victoria smiled innocently.

“Well, okay, you little mathematician! Go ahead, and have a fun day. Blend in, but stand out, okay?”

“But isn’t that physically impossible? Not mentally but physically?” Mrs. Saunders ignored her. Victoria skipped in. Vicki’s eyes went big when she saw what the class was doing. The girls were dressing curly-haired Barbies up in bright pink. The boys were crashing race cars into each other, chipping the cheap paint. She skipped over to the boys, on the path to the teacher’s desk where she sat.

“You know,” she piped, “it would be better to buy metal race cars with real paint, instead of plastic cars. Besides, the result is atrocious with what you are doing to those cars!” The boys complained, dumbfounded that a girl was talking to a boy, especially with such big words. “Maybe hold the car like this instead.” She took the car and found a thicker part of the car. “There!”

“Ewww!! A girl touched something of a boy’s! Awww!” the girls moaned. “The new girl now has boy cooties!” Vicki rolled her eyes at the immaturity of the other children.

“You know,” she said to the closest girl before reaching the desk, “this building really needs some earthquake resistant tools. Like that bookshelf really needs that heaviest stuff on it. I would recommend talking to the boss! And look, please just hear me out.” The girl gave her a bored look. “I haven’t seen any cross braces or a mass damper here. Now, mass dampers and cross braces are expensive, but you need to start somewhere!” The girl gave her another rude look. “I am done with my advice, okay! Geesh!” She continued past the impudent girl and to the teacher’s desk.

Her desk had a huge, blue sheet of paper wrapped around it reading, “Mrs. Morton.” She had a tight brown bun wrapped around the top of her head. Her desk had different apples scattered everywhere and friendly notes scribbled down on colors. Black was Vicki’s favorite color. She liked the darkness. It was the stars, actually, that made her feel like she had friends. When every one of them sparkled and winked down at her, she felt at home with the darkness and light scattered here and there.

She thought of herself as a star. The darkness was the majority of the world. The normal people. But the stars were special. The stars were unique with different interests and hobbies. It wasn’t bad to be a star…

She continued to the teacher’s desk and cleared her throat. The teacher was apparently hard of hearing or needed new glasses, neither good, because she didn’t hear or see the little preschooler. Victoria cleared her threat again, holding the paper out to her new teacher.

“Hi, my name is Victoria Saunders. I love to write, read, engineer, garden, and research new biography and history matters found from ancient or biblical times. I also love to research the most recent illnesses so that I can stay healthy! I live at 1253, Morton Drive, 90773. I am four years old and know my mom’s, dad’s, brother’s, and the police’s phone numbers. Would you like me to recite them?” Victoria asked. Instead, she received another dumbfounded look of the smarts. “You know, Mrs. Morton, you are the third person to give me that look today… what’s it mean?”

Mrs. Morton said nothing and took hold of Vicki’s neatly written biography of herself. Vicki sat down by a cubby of cold, crinkly, old mats and dug her nose into her most recent book series, Disaster.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Saunders, Vicki’s mom, peeked her nose into the brightly decorated room. She had just witnessessed her daughter pointing out how to improve the quality of toy cars. So much for fitting in… she thought. Vicki’s mom hesitantly spied her daughter reading her book in the corner. She felt envious of the other girls and boys getting along and playing with each other. “Normal” was not a word known by Mrs. Saunders.

Mrs. Saunders sighed and decided to let Vicki travel through her day on her own. Right as she left the door, Mrs. Morton gave Vicki back her paper. It had a 100% on it. “Have you ever tried fifth grade?” she asked.

Vicki smiled gleefully. My first test! A 100%! What a way to start the — But she wasn’t able to finish her thought because she didn’t see any other girls or boys get a good grade or even a grade at all, now that she thought of it.

She leaned over to the closest girl and asked, “What did you get?” Vicki held her paper up proudly to the girl.

“The normal kids didn’t do it, ya dodo. Normal kids play Barbies!” She held her pink dressed Barbie with bright blonde hair up proudly. Then, she added, “Just like normal kids don’t read.” Vicki looked at her quizzically. “Now, can you please help me put Barbie’s skirt on her? She looks bad without it.” She pointed to the book. Vicki was on the verge of tears. The girl tried so hard to get the Barbie into the skirt that it ripped, like Vicki’s heart.

Soon enough, recess or “outside time” occurred, and Vicki grabbed her book. Mrs. Morton eyed her warily. As the class lined up into a mob, Vicki stood quietly waiting for the teacher to lead the class outside. The fact that a preschooler would rather read a book than go run around was hard to imagine.

As the class headed out the doorway, Vicki trailed behind, admiring the author that wrote her thick book. She longed to have friends like the girls in her book. She longed to be normal and to be wanted.

Outside, the girls played a game called, “Girls chase the boys,” and Vicki again rolled her eyes at their immaturity. She read her book. She loved to read because when she read, it was as if she was a character, diving into the disasters and bravely fighting crime.

Soon, recess was over, and Vicki got up to leave, but a big group of girls surrounded her in a chant. “Vicki the fifth grader! Vicki the fifth grader! The new girl is an overachiever — what a weirdo.” Then, they started again until it was too hard to bear. Then, Vicki did the one thing that she knew she could and would do best. She ran, book tight against her chest. Mrs. Morton ran after her. Now, Mrs. Morton, not being the most fit, more like stumbled quickly after her.

Vicki was very small for the age of four. Mrs. Morton chased after her, and right when Vicki was about to leave campus, she saw her teacher, sweat dripping down her forehead and hands out in ambush. Young Vicki instead rounded a corner so that she wouldn’t be running right in the open. She squeezed past a garbage bin and hid there. Mrs Morton, seeing no Vicki, counted to five. “If you don’t come out right now, you get a time-out.” Now, normally that would have worked, but Vicki, being no ordinary child and knowing that adults just said that and didn’t mean it if they couldn’t see you, stayed hidden, giggling like mad.

Mrs. Morton left, assuming that Vicki had found a way back to the classroom. Vicki stayed there for a while until she got hungry. She then got up and hurried to the lunch tables where her class was. “I won! No one could find me!”

All the little girls went up in a mad chorus: “Well you never said to,” “I secretly knew where you were!” “You can’t trick me,” “Ya, me definitely know!” “You are just sayin’ that!”

On and on and on it went until Mrs. Morton yelled, “Enough!” and everyone sat down angrily. Vicki, by herself, sat at a lonely table farthest from any insults able to be thrown at her.

It was clear that the other children had their groups. There was one fivesome braiding hair. The others with knotted hair picked at their nails, and the boys all just kind of blobbed together playing “ruff” or “tackle.” Then, there was Vicki. Poor Vicki! She wasn’t a girly girl. She didn’t like to get all rough and play sports. She didn’t like to play tackle. She was just different. Just different… she liked to write, study, and she even learned to read the newspaper at a very young age. She even explained some topics, including science and biology, to her brother a month ago when deciding on which middle school he should attend.

She enjoyed being as smart as the teacher. She didn’t know it at this young age, but she shouldn’t know things that would get you into a private middle school on an academic scholarship. It worried her neighbors. It worried her mother. But most of all, it worried her father.

After they finished lunch and the mumble of Vicki’s unusual attraction to reading and medicine were discussed by all, Mrs. Morton led the children back to the door and into the classroom. Vicki trailed behind, not wanting to draw too much attention to herself.

Now, this entire day that Vicki has been in preschool has been a fragment of Vicki’s recap of what happened many years ago. And yet, it felt like yesterday. This was another unusual fact about her: her memory. It is one thing to remember only the treacherous times of childhood, but to remember anything and everything…

After lunch, the class laid down on the moldy, flat mats. Vicki stood there stuttering, “Do we have to lay down?” Mrs. Morton nodded impatiently. “Really?!”

Yes, you must, Miss Victoria,” the teacher drawled.

“Victoria or Vicki is fine. I don’t like being called “Miss.” It sounds too proper. Besides I am not a teacher.”

Mrs. Morton cleared her throat angrily. “Vicki, enough of being a smart aleck! I have had enough of you being an overachiever!”

“But… but… ” Vicki looked on the verge of tears. “I read about an illness!” She whined, “I don’t want to get it. You get it by sharing breathing areas! We could also get influenza!” Then, she piped in a high-pitched, squeaky voice, “More commonly known as the flu!”

“Fine,” said the teacher, grudgingly. “But you must at least sit on it. You don’t have to lie down. Okay?” Vicki stumbled over to the mat and scrunched her nose of the putrid smell and germs that the mat carried. She sat with her back straight and nothing but her shorts and legs touching the mat. “I will now read you a story. A little girl — ”

“Why not boys? Why do the stories always have to be girls?” a boy named Leo piped,  annoyingly.

“I wasn’t the one to write this book!” the teacher said. “Anyway… a girl hopped down the road and found a place to build her house. She got her hammer out and went to work. Cluck cluck cluck went the hammer against the wood.”

She flipped the first page. “What sound did the hammer make?” Blank faces stared up at her. Vicki knew the answer but thought the book so stupid it wasn’t worth her voice. The teacher skipped the question and went on to the next page. “She got some paint. Swoosh swoosh swoosh went the brush against the fresh wood. What sound did the paint brush make?” She waited a couple moments. “Anyone?”

She sighed and continued, “Then the little girl found more wood and built the roof. Clunk clunk clunk the hammer went. What sound did the hammer make?” She looked directly at Vicki. “Not even you, Victoria?

Vicki sighed. “First of all, this is a waste of my time. This book is so babyish! I miss my mystery novels. I have a question. When do we start our literature and book reports? Probably never at this rate… ” She took a deep breath and continued, “And besides! A hammer doesn’t even make that sound! It makes more like a boom, boom, boom!”

“Are you done yet?” Tamara, the leader of the sassy girls, said impatiently. Out of all of the girls, she was the most mature, which was saying something, because none of them were mature. She wore her hair in long braids that went to her lower back. She also had a bright pink headband. Her shirt said, “Not sassy just have some sass.” “Besides, Vicki,” she teased when she said Vicki’s name, “no one wants you here. You are too smart for your own good.”

The teacher continued, “Then they lived happily ever after!” Ugh! What about the hardships?

But one of the girls thought of hardships… “Wait,” Lily said, a girl not much better than Tamara. “What about the prince. A prince must take her to the castle!” All of the girls started to giggle.

“Ummm… ” the teacher groped. “Nevermind. Let me just get this over with.” The teacher quickly read the rest of the story, “Then, a deer came and kissed the girl on the cheek.”

“No deer!” Vicki shrieked. “Deers carry ticks. Ticks carry Lyme disease. If you have Lyme disease too long… ” Eyes glared at Vicki, signaling her enough.

That was Vicki’s breaking point. She was tired of little stories filled with nonsense and questions that no one knew the answers to. She wanted to be rid of the teasing and the putrid smelling mats. She was done with all the old Barbie dolls overflowing in the bin. She was done. She wanted to go home to where she was loved by her whole family well, at least she thought she was.

Vicki hid behind the trash can for a couple hours until the sun started to set. She knew it was just moments till her mom would pick her up, so she crouched behind a bush. Her long jeans got muddy. Her hands poked with seeds and whatever else fell from the sky. Her cheeks were streaked with tears, and her eyes were puffy from crying. She had no idea how long she was there and got the idea that her teacher, Mrs. Morton, and the sassy girl, Tamara, wouldn’t be looking for her. They were probably glad she was missing. Seconds passed, then minutes, until she heard her mom call for her. “Vicki, are you there? I heard about what happened today. I won’t make you go to school ever again until college if you want… ”

“Ever?” A tiny voice that belonged to Vicki asked, behind the bushes.

“Ever. Until you want to, of course.”

Vicki got out from the bushes and took her hand. Her mom had a worried expression on her face. When they got home, Vicki realized that she had let her mom down. I didn’t fit in! she thought. I failed my mom! What is wrong with me? She ripped different facts about medicine and biology out of her journal She cursed how foolish she was to have written a big biography about herself. “All I wanted was for people to like me!” she moaned and growled at her bedroom.

She didn’t talk during dinner about her improvements she made on her hypothesis about volcanoes and the magma plume. She also didn’t share how her horrible day at school went. Her father looked scared of her the entire time. She cried before going to bed. She moaned in her restless sleep. She heard her mom go to bed late that night, probably trying to figure out what to do with their overachieving daughter. Vicki hated herself for who she was.

While sleeping, she felt a cool breeze brush on her. She woke up with her window open. My mom probably wanted me to have some fresh air, she thought. That morning, she woke up, still in her bad mood. She got out of bed and poured her Lucky Charms. Every bag, Vicki wished for the prize inside. This prize just isn’t made for abnormal people. She wept even more for the strange girl she was becoming. “I can’t stop my brain!” she murmured repeatedly to herself. None of it made a difference.

She knew that she would never, ever, ever want to go back to preschool. Or what she called, the lazy game. Vicki deserved better. A place where talent can be seen. A place where she isn’t blowing the other kids’ minds with her speech and smarts. She realized this as she awoke, staring at the white ceiling. That was when she noticed the empiness beside her…

After finishing her unsuccessful hunt for a prize in her cereal, her mom walked to the doorway, tears streaked repeatedly down her cheeks.

“What is it, Mother?”

Her mom shook her head, long, dark hair with blonde tips swaying.

Her dad was gone.


Up and Back Again


Dedicated to Izzy, Sophia, Sammie, and Rachel Barclay who helped me along my wonderful and winding journey of writing

Twelve-year-old Andrea opened her eyes groggily and looked at her bedside clock. 8:15! Andrea screamed in her head. She was supposed to be at school, Harker Middle, fifteen minutes ago. She quickly got changed into her blue and tan uniform, then swept her light brown hair back into a ponytail. Andrea grabbed her backpack and shoved her binder inside, then looked around her blue painted room at her bed, dresser, cabinets, and desk to see if there was anything else she needed. Andrea quickly grabbed her pencil case, then sprinted downstairs.

“Mom! Dad!” Andrea yelled. “I’m late! You guys didn’t wake me up.” No one answered. “Hello?” Andrea said again as she approached the table. A note was there.

Dearest Andrea,

I’m sorry we had to leave without telling you. Your mother hit the floor, and the doctors do not yet know what happened. This was at 5:00. I hope you are fine. I’m letting you skip school today. I just left the hospital to write this note. Now, I must hurry back. Don’t you worry, Andrea. Your mother will be fine. She’s as strong as you. I will be back at 9:00 to tell you the news.

Be strong,


Andrea sucked in a breath and dropped her backpack. She read over the note again, not believing her eyes. She picked up the note and squeezed it so hard that it crumpled under her hands. Then, Andrea threw the note back onto the table and imagined her mom having a heart attack or a stroke — or worse.

Andrea felt lightheaded and gripped a wooden chair. She looked around the room, at the wooden table in the middle of the room, the stove and fridge in the front, and some cabinets in the corner. They started to blur. She shook her head and walked into the next room to take a seat on the comfy, tan couches. Andrea put her feet on a dark oak coffee table in front of her and turned on the TV. Just forty more minutes until Dad comes home, Andrea told herself. Only forty minutes until I hear about Mom.

Time slipped away as Andrea half-heartedly watched her favorite movie, Wonder. Finally, she heard the door rattle.

“Dad!” Andrea shouted. Her dad burst into the room panting and brushing New York snow off of his coat.

“Dad! Dad! What happened?” Andrea asked, tugging on his sleeve.

“The doctors said that they haven’t seen anything like it. They said it couldn’t have been of natural causes, which is scary. I don’t know what it would be of. Anyways, I was not awake to see what happened. All I know is that no one entered this house all night.”

“Really?” Andrea said, worried. “Is she okay?”

“I don’t know, Andrea. I don’t know,” her dad said, pinching the bridge of his nose. Andrea hugged him.

“We have to head back to the hospital now. Put your coat, boots, and gloves on.”

Andrea nodded, a tear slipping down her face.

In the car, Andrea twiddled her thumbs and bit her lip. Mom… I wish I knew if you were okay. Please be okay. Please let her be okay.

Her dad, Mr. Wilson, gripped the steering wheel hard, turning his knuckles white. He drove into the driveway of the hospital and parked.

Soon, Andrea and her dad were in the waiting room.

“Mr. Wilson?” a voice called. Andrea’s dad stood up and walked into a room where a blonde lady was calling. Andrea followed. The lady shut the door behind them and motioned for them to sit down into comfy, blue chairs.

Sitting in one herself behind a wood desk, the lady spoke.

“Hello, Mr. Wilson. I’m Victoria. As the doctors have informed you, this was not from a natural cause. We looked over your wife and saw that something happened around her head. There was some type of dispositioning of her brain cells, and right now, it’s going to be very hard to fix this. I am very sorry. As you can probably figure out, her brain has stopped working. Therefore, the doctors put her in hospice. She will make it a few hours.” Andrea couldn’t imagine living without her mom. She burst into tears and buried her face in her father’s shoulder. Mr. Wilson let tears fall freely down his face. Victoria left the room, and Andrea wailed and squeezed her father.

Andrea and her father knelt down before Andrea’s mother and said their hearts out. Andrea told her mom about all the good times they’d had together — about how much she loved her. Her mother couldn’t hear them or anything, but Andrea spoke anyway, with tears soaking her neck. Mr. Wilson whispered in Mrs. Wilson’s ear for a long time.

Andrea was there holding Mrs. Wilson’s hand as her mother moved on to a better place. The next few months were rough. Mr. Wilson was not the same. He was never as happy as before. He didn’t laugh or smile like he used to.

Andrea and her dad lived differently. Andrea started to cook, do the laundry, and help out around the house. Her father was helpful also, but not as joyful as usual.

Finally, on Andrea’s thirteenth birthday, the doctors had a present for her. Andrea and her father drove to the hospital. They were taken into a room with many images on the projector and spewing across a table.

“I’m Victoria. You might remember me,” the familiar lady stated. “After your mother’s death, the doctors found something surprising. And it wasn’t in her brain. A long time ago, your mother tore her arm. When a doctor gave her surgery, a very bad virus was inserted in her. Well, it wasn’t very bad at the time. That morning when she lost consciousness, a virus trigger was released into the house that never should have been. That means,” Victoria paused, “I think it was someone who was either with the doctor at the time, or it was the doctor himself. I do not know why they would pick that time though to set off such a deadly trigger. And, how could they release it into your house?”

Andrea and Mr. Wilson shook their heads in disgust.

“What’s a virus trigger?” Andrea asked.

“Well, we’re not sure, but it might be an invisible gas or something that makes the virus become harmful. But the question still remains — why? And how?”

“We don’t know. We really don’t know.”

Mr. Wilson got up to leave, but Andrea stayed sitting in the chair. “Who was it? Who was it?” she asked.

“We don’t know yet, which is embarrassing on our part because we have no record of your mom’s surgery. Maybe it was lost, or worse, destroyed by the doctor because he didn’t want anyone to see.”

“Don’t you know about the surgery though? Like… when was it? Can’t you ask the doctors?”

“Andrea! It’s time to go,” Mr. Wilson leapt in. He grabbed Andrea’s arm and pulled her out of the room.

“Dad!” Andrea said in the hallway. “I want to know what happened! I bet she knows some information — what if we can even figure out what happened ourselves?”

Andrea’s dad shook his head, and they walked out of the waiting room.

“Now, Andrea, these doctors are very experienced. They know much better than we.”

Andrea mumbled under her breath as her dad led her out of the building, into the car, and all the way back home.

Andrea went back to school in the next month. The doctors were still figuring out what had happened, and Andrea was asking as many questions as she could. So much that her dad at one point left her in the waiting room. (He soon noted that that wasn’t such a great idea.)

Andrea walked into the school building crowded with kids. She was looking for one person — Harper. Harper was her only friend that wouldn’t tease her about her horrible grades.

Finally, Andrea found her in an upstairs hallway and told her about her mom. Harper gasped as they walked into their homeroom.

“Andrea! That’s horrible! I don’t know what I’d do if that happened to me,” Harper exclaimed.

“It’s okay. It’s really not a big deal,” Andrea lied straight to her friend’s face. Harper raised her eyebrow knowing that it was a huge deal but didn’t say anything.

Andrea and Harper sat down at their desks next to each other.

“Oh no,” Andrea whispered as her teacher, Ms. Addison, walked over.

“Andrea, I’m very, very sorry. I heard from your father. I’ll excuse you from all your missing work, okay? But I need you to work hard,” Ms. Addison bent down and whispered to Andrea, “Because of your grades, all right?” Ms. Addison gave Andrea a knowing look, then walked back to the front of the class to teach. Andrea shook her head looking down, knowing that she had F’s in every class except for art. Painting was the only thing she ever cared about. Harper understood, because she liked art just the same. However, Harper was also very smart and got A’s all the time. Andrea’s only ‘A’ was in art.

“‘A’ for Art!” Andrea used to say to her parents when they received her report card. Of course, they were never very happy.

Andrea shoved the subject of her parents away and finally heard her teacher dismiss them for first period.

“Finally,” Andrea muttered under her breath, making Harper elbow her. “What? I hate school. I just can’t wait for art!”

“Andrea, you need to get better grades! Your par — ” Harper caught herself and took a sharp breath. Andrea sighed and shrugged.

“I guess,” she said, walking quicker to math.

The rest of the day flew by in a breeze, Andrea not paying attention to math, science, or history. Finally, it was time for art. Andrea burst into the art room with Harper and filled her lungs with the familiar smell of paint and wood.

“Oh! Andrea! I totally forgot to tell you. We have a new art teacher. Meet Mrs. Grace. Mrs. Grace, this is Andrea,” Harper explained. Andrea stood horror-struck. A new teacher?! But she loved Miss Alia! She plastered a fake smile on her face and shook hands with Mrs. Grace.

“Nice to meet you, Mrs. Grace! Very nice. What happened to Miss Alia?”

“Oh. Well. She moved on to a better job that was more important than her students.” Mrs. Grace rolled her eyes. Andrea stood with a disgusted look on her face. She went to her seat and quietly sat down.

That day at art was awkward and quiet. No one talked or laughed like they used to.

Finally, it was the end of class, and Andrea was walking out the door.

“Andrea! Can I come hang out tonight?” Harper asked.

“Harper, remember? My mom? My dad can’t handle us right now,” Andrea said. Suddenly, she heard Mrs. Grace swivel around in her chair to face her.

“Mrs. Grace?” Andrea asked, turning around to face her teacher.

“Andrea — are you? Andrea Wilson?” Mrs. Grace declared. Andrea nodded. Just then, the classroom walkie-talkie on the teacher’s desk called Andrea’s name to go home.

“Sorry Mrs. Grace, but I gotta go,” Andrea said, eager to get away from her new art teacher.

“Andrea, wait!” Mrs. Grace said, getting up from her seat. But Andrea had already strolled out of the doorway and down the hall.

Andrea left school with a straight face. A new teacher, bad grades, more homework — could it get any worse? She walked down the road, seeing her small house in the distance.

That night at home, she was greeted with a surprise.

“Andrea, dear! Want to come watch TV with me?” her father asked. Andrea walked over to the couch, surprised that her father was in such a good mood because personally, she wasn’t. She sat down on the couch and started looking at the big football players thundering across the field. They were almost to the end zone. The player finally made it and threw the football on the ground with celebration.

“TOUCHDOWN!!!” Andrea’s father screamed. He scrambled to his feet and gave Andrea a high-five. She half-heartedly high-fived him back.

“Andrea, dear? Why the long face?” He asked, knowingly.

“How — how are you so happy right now?!” Andrea asked, losing it. “Nothing is going right today! Nothing ever goes right! How come all of a sudden you are happy?”

“Do you want to know? It’s because I realized that there is no point in getting sad anymore. What happened will not change. Like, don’t cry over spilt milk. It already happened. So you fix it. And since we cannot fix her death, the best way to mend our hurt is to smile and say, what has happened has happened, and I might as well be happy.”

Andrea stood dumbfounded at her father’s words.

Impressive coming from him, she thought. Then she smiled, and slowly, it made sense. He was right. No matter what happened, it was no use getting mad over.

As her father smiled back, Andrea forgot about her mother. About school. About all her worries. Andrea let her father wrap her in a big bear hug.

However, the next morning Andrea woke up from a nightmare about her mom. She sighed and got dressed for school. As Andrea walked down the stairs to make her breakfast, she already smelled the scent of waffles wafting from the kitchen. She looked over the railing and saw her father flipping waffles on the waffle iron. Andrea laughed to herself, knowing that she usually had to wake her dad up in the morning because he always slept in.

Mr. Wilson motioned for Andrea to hurry and come down the stairs. Andrea did and saw a big plate of strawberry and syrup covered waffles waiting for her. She grinned and gave her dad a big hug.

After eating her scrumptious breakfast, she kissed her dad goodbye and walked to school. Andrea entered the building to find Harper waiting for her there.

“Hi, Harper.” Andrea smiled.

“Andrea! Mrs. Grace wants to talk to you,” Harper replied. Andrea frowned and crossed her arms.

She walked up the stairs to the art room. She no longer enjoyed the wood and paint smell.
“Ah! Andrea. Harper told you right?” Mrs. Grace said, pacing around the room.

“Yeah,” Andrea said, standing by the door.

“Come sit, come sit,” Mrs. Grace commanded, pulling out a chair from one of the art tables. She moved it in front of her, and Andrea sat down, uncomfortable. Mrs. Grace hesitated, then kept pacing the room.

“Why did you want me?” Andrea asked, getting impatient. Mrs. Grace finally pulled up a chair and sat down in front of Andrea.

“Andrea, don’t get too worked up, but, I know something about your mother.”

Andrea’s eyes widened, and she gripped the sides of her chair.

“What?” she whispered.

“I was the doctor’s assistant,” Mrs. Grace said. Andrea’s face started to twist into anger.

“Now, before you get all mad, let me explain. That doctor, Doctor Richard, gave me the

file on your mom’s surgery along with a note.” Mrs. Grace took an unsealed envelope out of her pocket and handed it to Andrea. Andrea’s hands trembled as she took it. Suddenly, they trembled in anger.

“Why didn’t you report him?! How could you keep quiet?!” Andrea yelled. Mrs. Grace shook her head. Andrea glared at Mrs. Grace, then looked up at the clock.

“It’s first period. See you,” Andrea turned to walk out of the room. Mrs. Grace pushed her seat back and got up.

“Read the note!” Mrs. Grace yelled after Andrea.

Andrea sat down at study hall, fingering the note. This class, third period, was the only one she did not have with Harper. Finally, Andrea gathered up the courage to open the envelope. She raised the flap and reached inside — she felt a small piece of paper in the envelope and pulled it out. She unfolded it and read:


I am terribly sorry. I have lost the surgery file. If you are mad, I don’t blame you. But here, I have the note from Doctor Richard. Please understand.

There was a second note in the envelope too — the note that Doctor Richard wrote. Andrea hesitated to look at it. This note would change reality. She looked around the room at everyone studying quietly. Then, she unfolded the other note:

Lynna Grace,

This is for your eyes only. When Zaria Wilson tore her arm, I did surgery on her. You are my most trusted friend. This is a secret between you me, and if you ever see the Wilsons, them too. I am quitting my job as a doctor. It is no use anymore. But anyway, I was operating on Zaria when I found a virus in her arm through her bloodwork. It was deadly. I knew she would die soon, so I did the only thing I could. I tried to remove it, but I couldn’t. Instead, I damaged the virus so that it would only grow back on a certain day and kill her. By now, I’m sure that it has grown back, but I am long gone in a different part of the country. I pray for her family.

Your friend,

Dakota Richard

Andrea read the note twice and stood up in her chair. The teacher looked at her.

“Are you okay?! You look awfully pale,” the teacher commented.

“I — I’m not feeling so well,” Andrea replied.

“Why don’t you go lie down in the office, hon,” the teacher said, worried. Andrea nodded, packed up her stuff, and headed out of the classroom and down to the office.

The office called her dad, and he came and picked her up.

In the car, Andrea burst into tears from all this pressure about her mom. Her dad comforted her and said they would talk at home. Finally, they arrived at the house and sat at the dinner table.

“So, dear Andrea, what is bothering you?” Mr. Wilson asked. Andrea didn’t need to talk. She just handed the note to her father. Mr. Wilson read the note over, his face getting more and more ghost-like at every word. Finally, he finished reading and looked up at Andrea, his mouth in a tight, white line. He just looked at the paper, then at Andrea, then back at the paper again. Finally, after a lot of looking back and forth, Mr. Wilson pushed his chair back and stood up. He motioned for Andrea to follow him. They both got into the car and drove to the hospital in silence. Finally, they arrived and walked to the waiting room.

“Mr. Wilson? Andrea?” the familiar voice of Victoria called. Andrea and her father walked into Victoria’s office.

“So, what is this emergency meeting about?” Victoria asked.

“It’s about this,” Andrea said, handing the envelope to Victoria. “Mrs. Grace is my art teacher at school now.”

Victoria opened the envelope, took out the letter, and read silently. Her eyes grew wide, and she looked up at Mr. Wilson and Andrea. Andrea nodded. Victoria was lost for words, but she waved at them to leave. She had all the information she needed, and Andrea was finally feeling accomplished.

The next day, Victoria scheduled another appointment with Andrea and Mr. Wilson. The group of three sat together in Victoria’s office.

“Mr. Wilson, we’ve found the location of Dakota Richard. He’s in Rhode Island. We’ve been trying to contact him to pay you guys for not telling us anything. He’s paying a lot of money — some for this hospital and some for you.” Victoria looked really annoyed at Dr. Richard.

“No, no, no, no, no, no. He did a good deed for Zaria. Without him, Zaria would have died way before this. Please. We don’t want his money,” Mr. Wilson stated. Victoria looked like she wanted to say something, but she kept quiet.

“All right then,” Victoria said. “I guess now we don’t have any more to do with this. Thank you so much for all your help.” She got up and tucked her chair in behind her desk. She dismissed Andrea and her father.

Andrea skipped out of the hospital, content.

The next week at school, Andrea came home and jumped into her father’s arms.

“Father! Father! I aced my math test!” And Mr. Wilson smiled so big that his mouth hurt.

So, that’s how it was for the the Wilsons. Happy. Andrea went on to high school, having been on the Honor Roll twice.

Andrea and her father lived in that same house for the rest of their lives, no longer grieving over Mrs. Wilson, but thinking that she would be more happy if they were happy. Those were the words the Wilsons lived by.

Happy plus a Sad does not equal another Happy. But Andrea, dear, if we are happy, then your mother will be, too.



Andrea relaxed in the backseat of her dad’s white van, wanting to know how long it would be until they got to the beach. The sun shined brightly up above — it was almost noon. She looked over to her father, bouncing around to the music while driving. She smiled, knowing that everything was all right now. Then, she looked to the passenger’s seat where her grandma sat with perfect posture. Andrea’s grandma was an uptight woman, always yapping about something. Her grey-streaked hair was neatly pulled back into a bun. Andrea never saw a time where her grandma was not wearing a sweater, like a turtleneck, bell sleeve, or even a choker sweater. She was always wearing something like that!

“How much longer, Daddy?” Andrea asked for the fifth time.

“Not too much longer, dear,” Mr. Wilson answered back.

“You said that last time,” Andrea groaned, slouching down, but with a small smile on her face.

“Now, Andrea! You sit up like a lady! That’s how your Grampa Joe hurt his back,” Grandma stated. Andrea rolled her eyes with a smirk and sat up straight.

“Now, what do you say?” Grandma asked.

“Yes, Grandma,” Andrea strained.

“Good. And look! What a way to kill the time! We’ve arrived.”

Mr. Wilson pulled over into a busy parking lot.

“We’re here, we’re here,” he sang to himself, turning off the music. The family got out of the car and stepped onto the sandy road.

“What a lovely day!” Andrea’s dad stated, making Grandma glare at him.

“Now, now, you know the sun’s UV rays could hurt you. Put on some sunscreen!”

“We’ve already put on two layers like you told us to,” Andrea laughed. Grandma grumbled under her breath, adding another layer of sunscreen herself, even though her skin was already ghostly white.

“Andrea! Be careful getting that basket out of the trunk! You’ve probably already strained your back enough for a week! Don’t let me see you slouching one more time today, young lady or I’ll — ” Grandma stopped herself and looked around. She had announced this loudly, like she wanted everyone in the parking lot to stare at her. She again went back to grumbling, and the onlookers went back to their own business.

Finally, after a lot of Grandma’s comments, Andrea, Mr. Wilson, and Grandma made it down onto the sandy beach. Andrea immediately raced for the water, collecting seashells that the waves brought in. Mr. Wilson and Grandma set up a beach towel and the umbrella. Grandma stayed under the umbrella reading a book called Safety in the Cruel World. Mr. Wilson sat watching Andrea running around chasing seagulls. He had tried to get Grandma out of the Safety Zone before, but it didn’t work.

Finally, he called Andrea to come eat lunch with them. They all sat together on the red and white checkered mat, under the blue umbrella. The blue umbrella was under the scorching sun, and the scorching sun was under the white angels. Among the white angels was Andrea’s mother, looking down and smiling at the small family eating, Grandma not even reading her book.


The Overlord

The town was in complete and utter chaos. Monsters pillaged and wrecked everything in their path. Innocent villagers panicked and fled, and not all of them got away. The air was filled with screams of pure terror.

In other words, it was a good day for me.

I am Overlord Kane, and I have no delusions about my morals. With a name like that, what would you expect? I understand that I’m evil, and I embrace it. My goal is to overthrow King Basilius and take the kingdom for myself. I am the big bad, the evil emperor, the bête noire, the VILLAIN. Ah, it’s good to be bad.

So, what is an Overlord? It’s just a title given to the most prized demonic servant of Azrael, god of death, master of the Inferno, fourth horseman of the apocalypse, damn His name forever. Of course, it comes with some nice benefits. I get the three Unholy Treasures: the Dragon Sword, the Demon Armor, and the Crown of Azrael. I also get to destroy any heroes that get in my way. Do they defeat me? Sure, sometimes, but evil always comes back.

Anyway, the attack was almost over. As much as I like watching my minions destroy everything in their path, I can’t take over a kingdom that’s burned down. They had already broken into the mayor’s house and kidnapped his daughter, so I had what I came for. “Fireball!” I exclaimed, launching a burst of flames into the sky. It exploded, signalling the retreat, and I led my army back to Fort Gehennom.

A few hours later, I was sitting in my throne room when my trusted lieutenant Draco came in.

“How did the attack go, my lord?” Draco asked, blowing a puff of smoke. (He’s half dragon and has the flame breath to go with it. The other half is… I want to say dark elf, but even I don’t really know.)

“As well as always. We’ve got plenty of hostages, so I trust the dark elves can take care of them?” I asked.

“They’re requesting some hot irons and a copy of The Eye of Xenon,” said Draco.

“I’ll get it down to them. Any prisoners of note, aside from the girl?” I asked.

“The town bartender, a catfolk. He’s knocked out at the moment,” said Draco.

“We’ve got a catatonic cat o’ tonic on our hands,” I said.

“Otherwise, ah… nothing. I’m just not used to being out of the action. I hope a new hero comes in soon, so we can start fresh,” said Draco.

“We’ll take the usual protocol from here. You deal with the prisoners, and I’ll take care of the minions. It’s pizza night, and we just had an influx of trolls, so I need as many chefs as we can get,” I said. Draco flew away, and I emerged onto the balcony, looking down upon my subjects.

I took a second to scan the crowd. If there’s one thing I pride myself on, it’s the diversity of my minions. Most villages just have the usual mix of humans, dwarves, elves, halflings, and gnomes, but I have a little of everything. Goblins and kobolds were the most numerous by far. Then, there were the orcs and trolls, my shock troops. (If you can’t tell an orc apart from a troll, slap it. An orc will punch you across the room, a troll will regenerate and then punch you across the room.) Dark elves emerged from the prison chamber, their necromancers bringing an assortment of undead with them. Even the occasional dragon was flying in from above.

“Welcome back, everyone! What did I miss?”

Cheers erupted from the minions below the balcony. The uninitiated often think that I mistreat my minions, but the first rule of villainy is pragmatism. Treat your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valley, as they say.

“We have captured the mayor’s daughter! That’s another village driven under the greatest heel of all!” I said. There were more cheers, and a few chuckles from the more comedically versed. “I prepared for this, of course. To celebrate our victory, live music will be provided at dinner!”

Suddenly, a goblin ran up to me, out of breath.

“What is it, Jerry?” I asked, mildly irritated.

“Your evilness, the mathematicians have news! As of tomorrow, the odds will be in favor of the arrival of… a hero!”

The crowd fell silent. No one really knew how to react. None of my minions ever know how to react when news like this is announced. All sorts of folks are against me, but not every one of them is a true hero.

I, on the other hand, was most pleased. “Excellent! We’d better start preparing! Jerry, tell Cal the performance will have to be postponed a few hours. Everyone else, initiate the usual operations! If you’re unsure of what to do, there’s some goblins in the east wing who can help!” I stepped down from the balcony.

Draco was already in my throne room. “The dark elves have the prisoners under control. What happened out there?”

“The math team says a hero is supposed to show up tomorrow,” I said. A smile spread across Draco’s scaly face. I walked over to the file cabinet.

“Let’s see here… Do I have it under G for gambling or H for hero? Ah, here it is,” I said, pulling out a sheet of paper with an assortment of charts on it. “The current stakes are four thousand gold pieces. So, what’s your bet? Warrior? Mage? I’m going with warrior.”

“Paladin. It’s a long shot, but I’ve got a good feeling about it,” said Draco.

“We have a deal. Anything else?” I asked.

“The battle plan, my lord. You’ll be off fighting the hero, so I have to command the troops,” said Draco.

“Ah, of course. My tacticians have a new plan specifically tailored to armies with heroes among them. They’ve sent it down to your room for review,” I said.

“I’ll check that out, then. Good luck, my lord,” said Draco, flying out the window.

“And the same for you,” I replied. I pulled a hidden lever, causing the throne to move back and reveal the staircase underneath. Walking down to bed, I grinned at how neatly everything was falling into place. Then, as per the second rule of villainy, I let out an evil laugh.


Eight in the Evening

He walked in with the lights hot on his face. He strode through the sea of chanting, churning people at almost a skip, eyes rapidly flipping back and forth in the apprehensive version of the steady, slow moving gaze that panned the audience with cool confidence. The subtle discrepancy was unnoticeable. Yet it did not matter who knew, save one person: the person he employed his frenetic technique to locate. The Hornet.

The Grand Champion, also known as the Hornet, was unbeaten. The number eight, having fallen from second slowly and showing no signs of slowing his age-precipitated decline, had challenged the Hornet as a final flail before his career dipped below ten, went into free fall, and spiraled into the vaguely terrifying world of retirement.

The number eight continued his stride, trying a few jabs followed by a powerful cross. That cross used to be his most powerful weapon. But during the smack, as it was widely accepted to be called, the vitality behind the swing was drained. Nothing in the physical punch was wrong, but the audience didn’t seem to care, letting loose a great roar because of his quick training. As the ropes grew bigger, approaching too quickly for the number eight’s taste, he felt the desperate need for the boost of the audience’s cheer once more. He let loose a grand flurry of punches, danced back and forth while the cheer swelled, and drove it to a crescendo with an aggressive uppercut. While it probably lacked in technique, the uppercut had no rival for showmanship. Here was the ring, and now was the time where his natural instincts of fear must be forcibly silenced. He nodded to his trainer, who smiled and opened a gap between the ropes. Number Eight leapt with a huff onto the side of the ring and immediately dove through the ropes with effortless ease, landing in a leopard-like position. The man, with boxer trunks of a leopard glancing predatorily over long tendrils of grass, held the crowd in the palm of his hand. He sprang to his feet and pulled his muscles taut by stretching his arms in a long, nearly complete oval ending below his waist. He roared.

The crowd went wild.

They loved the design. They loved the passion. They loved the persona. They loved the effort. They loved the performance. They would be disappointed to learn how much Number Eight’s shoulder hurt from the leopard pose. It was then that Number Eight saw Number One, The Hornet, known only by his family as Walter Frederickson, hiding in the dark of the tunnel preceding the long walk out to the ring. The Hornet cracked his knuckles unsteadily and blinked hard.

He stared him down, knowing the only chance against the twenty-three-year-old champion was to psych him out, so that he would doubt his superior abilities. Perhaps if he could get the Hornet to crawl wounded back into his hive, his seemingly magical powers would follow.

“The battlefield is where you make it,” his wife had said to him once. It is not always the ring.

Well, it will be his brain this fine evening, thought the man. Early victories will be key to this match. I simply need to make him forget that he could beat me by running away and exhausting my strength through avoidance.

“A victory before the game is as early as they come.” That one was from his first trainer, and it was good advice. Leaping upon the Hornet’s brief hesitation to prepare himself before the match, Number Eight motioned to him with a stuck-out and trembling lower lip to come to the ring. It was a perfect gesture. The crowd roared with laughter, and the Hornet reddened visibly at the barb. But that was not the best part. Number Eight allowed a cruel, crooked bending of the end of his lip in a scarily jagged smile. The Hornet’s eyes widened and then narrowed as he realized it too.

Coming out after that insult would be to do exactly what had been ordered, overtly revealing weakness. Hesitating would confirm the insult that he was scared to come out of the tunnel. Number Eight had been plotting this opening for weeks, and if age came packaged with one thing to desire, it was knowledge. The Hornet took the only acceptable course and charged out with his shoulders thrown back. A slight tremor shook his frame, but while it originated near the peaks of his broad shoulders, it never made it past the compact abdomen. The Hornet, in a somewhat desperate attempt to mimic the showmanship displayed by his adversary, tossed his robe into the audience with a grandiose air, revealing the well-defined muscles hidden underneath. He arrived at his corner hastily, the crowd providing ample applause as befitted the national champion, yet none compared to the raucous cheers issued to the man who now donned a ferocious, black mouthguard decorated with sharp teeth. A simple, black mouthguard was handed to the man in the black and yellow boxing trunks.

Walter Frederickson had a small, chiseled face that might have been a half-moon if it were not so ovalish. He also sported a short crop of auburn hair that was just long enough to give the hairdresser enough hope to aggressively attempt to smooth it back. The Hornet was a strange case, a strange type for a boxer. His short form and subsequently minimal reach, and that his body was just lithe enough that one might have considered him a weight class down from heavyweight, made him quite an unlikely prospect for a boxing champion. He had not been scouted particularly early. He came out of nowhere, relatively, his first major match being against the number twenty-seven in the country. It was an easy victory. So easy that he shot up to challenging twenty, then nineteen. Nineteen, in fact, was a knockout later in the rounds. After that it was fourteen, a very easy victory, and then fending off a few challenges of his own. Sixteenth in the country was nothing to sniff at, but it took a hard-fought, nailbiter victory in the Olympics to really be taken seriously. He took home gold in the light heavyweight after going the whole match just trading blows with some upstart Australian boxer. It came down to the wire, but the Hornet, as he was now known, had won his twentieth professional match right after that victory, challenging the number ten. The Hornet never got too ahead of himself, though. Someone on the internet eventually realized he had only ever challenged someone four places above his own rank, and he earned a reputation for his dogged and modest attitude.

He was also known for his unique fighting style. As previously mentioned, his was not the body type that most naturally befitted a boxer. He had molded his entire style around one thing: reflexes. He had catlike reflexes, could practically anticipate a blow before the thought formed in his opponent’s mind. Based off of that one skill, his coaches had built a machine. It was all in the variety of attack, really. No one could ever land a blow on Walter Frederickson, and whenever they overstepped their bounds, Walter Frederickson would be in and out of their defenses leaving only a cripple. They folded after a strong series of punches, never too long and never was the attack pressed, but just a select few jabs and perhaps a cross. Then, he resumed his stance as if nothing had happened.This was why he was knighted the Hornet.

Number Eight hoped beyond hope that the weeks of rigorous training would pay off. And he needed them to. Boxing was the only thing he knew how to do in life, it being necessary in that craft to dedicate the entirety of one’s time to the endeavor. People do not wonder nearly often enough about the life of an athlete not as successful as Michael Jordan or Arnold Palmer post-career, thought he. And the boxers have the worst of it, perhaps behind football. Retirement is early, so you dither about, unsure of what to do with your money and refusing to allow yourself to take a nostalgic and longing glance into the past, until those years are wasted and you find yourself in the dangerous lands of a midlife crisis. Then your money is gone, your relationship is ruined, and you settle for a mediocrity that is not only depressing in its essence, but also jarringly melancholy as a juxtaposition to your former status. Number Eight’s head spun. He had taken the mental journey into the future that can be as dangerous as a foray into the past. Number Eight also then realized he had been holding his face in a rigid sort of mocking smile for some time. He disguised a brief massaging of his face in the similar but more quotidien gesture of stroking the stubble that was the beginning of a beard that Number Eight sternly refused to allow to come into being.

Walter Frederickson pranced about in his corner, looking a bit nervous, and very childlike as a result. The announcer began the spiel so familiar to boxing fans, announcing the contestants with zest that demanded some sort of accentuation, which ended up scattered arbitrarily.

“And in the BLUE corner, weighing in at TWO hundred and SEVEN pounds, COMING from New YORK, winner of twenty- matches, FIFTEEN by knockout and famous for his FEROCIOUS attack, HEAVYWEIGHT champion of THE world, The HORRRRRRRNET!” The crowd erupted into cacophonous cheers and the energy behind the words. The words were of less importance.

“And IN the red corner, weighing in at two HUNDRED and thirty-two POUNDS, coming ALL THE WAY from AR-I-ZONA, former NUMBER two in the WORLD for Heavyweight…”

The stadium spun violently and Number Eight forcibly stopped the whirlpool that might suck him into the depths of memory.

“…Winner of forty matches…”

He was pulled down into the fathoms of nostalgia to his twenty-first win. That one had been his twenty-first straight. He had felt very proud of it. Then his streak had been abruptly broken by a loss. Out of the four matches following that tenth loss, he had lost two. It was a grand disillusionment for Number Eight. Even though he grew higher and higher in the ranks, nobody believed he would top the lists anymore. And he didn’t.

“…With thirteen by KNOCKOUT and a paltry eight losses…”

But he looked to the side to see his wife, Linda. She was cheering wildly, and when she saw him looking at her for support, she adjusted her expression to flow confidence into him like a tributary. She had always been supportive of his career. He always came home to Linda smiling, a messy bun flopping as she set about making dinner. She held her own job as well, and it was a nice one. She had a Ph.D from Princeton, and had studied for a long while to earn it. As a result, she taught at the University of Phoenix. Number Eight and Linda would relax after a long day, have dinner while discussing the events of that day. Sometimes they would watch a movie. Sometimes they would play a board game. After that, they would go to bed in a beautiful bedroom. It was decorated with polished wood that appeared to be holding up the ceiling. It gave the room a homey ambience.

Linda, thirty-three, and Number Eight, thirty-four, had wanted children for a long time. The duo had learned a few weeks ago of the existence of a baby girl. Linda wanted Melinda. Number Eight disagreed. They would both laugh after each playful altercation. There was no visible bump yet.

Number Eight and Linda were equal breadwinners, at this point. Linda had wanted a job, wanted to do something with her Ph.D. When Number Eight met Linda, he had just lost two out of the last four matches. She took a job at the University of Phoenix soon after.

Walter Frederickson turned to look at the crowd. His glance was intercepted by the coach. Walter looked at the coach hopefully. He received a steely acknowledgement.

“…MI-chael Ca-RU-so!”

Number Eight came to the middle with Walter Frederickson. The referee recited the timeworn list of precepts. “I want a good, clean fight…” Number Eight stared at Walter Fredrickson. Walter Frederickson blinked hard. Then he began blinking very quickly, very copiously. His muscles rippled. His skin looked smooth and young. He blinked again. He checked the audience for any sign of recognition. A nice portion of people cheered. A handful crowed at how few cheered. The heavyweight champion bit his lip. Number Eight smacked the gloves of Walter Frederickson, and the latter’s gloves held firm. Walter Frederickson seemed to find some resolve. Number Eight felt a twang of fear.

Michael Caruso turned back to Linda and Melinda. He beamed at them and dropped his arms.



The (Rather Unfair) Life of a Housefly




Spider snot! Stupid spider snot! Excuse my language. I am so sorry. Let me introduce myself before I explain why I launched into a fury so hard it could break walls. My name is Fly. Yes, just Fly. I am, as you could tell on the cover of my — cough cough — best-selling book — cough cough — , I am a housefly. I live in a small crack in the wall of a big house. The big house isn’t mine. It belongs to some humans. Disgusting animals who fart every five seconds and laugh at the planet Uranus. HAHAHAHA. Sorry, I just got the joke.

Anyways, time for an explanation. I’m angry because my mom’s stupid boyfriend Derek (who’s a spider, by the way) booked us a “family” trip to Spider’s Island. Okay, I bet there are tons of things racing around your minds right now. You’re probably thinking he’s doing it to be nice. He knows I hate spiders. My mom is too wowed by him to care. He said he knows a lot of people there, including a spider that has a son who is the leader of a posse. He also showed us pictures, and every picture has about a million spiders in it. Not exaggerating. I’ve heard rumors about Spider’s Island from Sticky (who’s a stick insect) that they wrap their prey in webs and devour them in one gulp. My mom told me to pack all my stuff at once because the flight is tomorrow. So, I’m here in my room with an empty suitcase on one side and all my bottled acid on the other side. I’m probably going to stuff all of it in my suitcase tomorrow. Anyways, I’m going to bed.



Day of the flight… 

Hello? You still there? This is Professor Fly, and I’m about to board the flight to the dreaded Spider’s Island. I had to sneak my diary into the suitcase because Derek said I was getting “too old.” Nothing’s too old for Professor Fly, investigator of the unknown. I’ll fill you in later when I’m on the flight.

Okay, I’m on. It’s just me, Fly, not Professor Fly. He’ll come back when we’re on Spider’s Island. Anyways, we’re on the plane. It’s been about two hours since I’ve been on. The chairs don’t recline, and there’s no snack service. It’s seven hours of this torture. I’ve noticed that the air’s gotten much grayer. There’s also a lot of spiders on the seats. Derek’s already asleep, and Mom is looking through the images again. Okay, I’ll come back when we’re there.

Okay, hi. We arrived in Spider’s Island. The sky is still gray, and there’s a lot of tall, rocky mountains. We arrived at the den that we were staying in. We’re sharing rooms with one of Derek’s thug friends, the guy who has the son in a posse. When we arrived, the son was talking to a bunch of his friends.

“Oi, Dale, where’s your dad?” Derek asked.

“Don’t know. Guess he went out to gamble,” Dale replied. Derek and Mom went to find him. As soon as they left, Dale and the others all stared at me.

“So it’s true, eh? There’s a fly in Spider’s Island,” Dale sneered. All of his posse laughed evilly.

“Okay, fly. You think you can just walk around this place like it’s all yours? This is our island,” Dale said.

“P — please. I don’t have any hassle with you or your island. I want to get out of here as much as you want me out,” I replied. Dale grabbed me by the wing.

“Stay out of our way, or you’re in for a punishment,” he muttered.

He hung me on a branch that was sticking out of the cave. Then, he and his friends went away. Yep, that was how my morning started. I decided that since I was going to be staying here for a week, I should probably know my way around. I went outside the cave and slipped through a small crack in the mountain. I was horrified! In the center, there were hundreds and hundreds of spiders, who were gambling, making webs, stealing food, and drooling all over everything.

I bent my head low and pretended I wasn’t there. I was so small that they probably wouldn’t see me even if I went right in front of them. I spotted Dale, and my rage bubbled up. I really didn’t like that kid. I saw him walk over to a shop and while the owner wasn’t looking, he stole a whole bottle of spider whiskey. Did he drink? I didn’t really think about it much.

Dale and I were already on the say-something-bad-and-you’ll-instantly-regret-it scale. As I walked past, I noticed something else that was strange. Something smelled delicious! I mean, this is Spider’s Island. The only thing I thought they ate were bugs covered in webs. I followed the scent, and it led to a small market where a spider with a beard was selling some pies.

“Three, please!” I said. I gave him some spider cash I stole from Derek’s bag. He gave me some pies, and I stuffed them all in my mouth.

Chomp — “These are delicious! What’s in these?” I asked.

“Oh, just fly meat,” he replied. I stopped chewing at once.

“W — what?” I asked.

“Fly meat,” he replied. I spat everything out and ran over to the sea.

“EW EW EW EW EW EW,” I yelled out. This place was crazy! I couldn’t stay here anymore!

Eventually, I entered the cave. Mom was sleeping deeply, and Dale and Derek were out doing who knows what. I entered my bed, and just as I was about to fall asleep…


I jumped out of my bed. Something just bit me! I grabbed my covers and pulled them off. Inside of my bed was a snake! It hissed and leaned in for another bite. I grabbed my pillow, but it bit right through it. I ran over to the door and grabbed a branch. I threw it at the snake, but the snake devoured it in one gulp. What? Not even Professor Fly had ever encountered a snake like this. Speaking of Prof. F, he could have really been of use. The snake jumped out of the bed like a piece of rogue spaghetti. I jumped out of the way, and it hit the wall. It turned its head in a full 180 degrees towards me.


I took that as a warning. I flew into the bathroom at once. Big mistake. The bathroom was super tiny with no space to dodge the snake. Speaking of the devil, it bit its way through the door and into the bathroom. I grabbed the shower handle and turned it on. As soon as a drop of water touched the snake, it fled out of the cave in a nanosecond. I wiped the sweat off my forehead. As I flew out of the bathroom, I found Dale asleep and Derek looking at me as if he wanted to crush me in his fist and do it three times for fun.

“CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHY THE CAVE IS A MESS!” he yelled out. I wanted to yell that Dale did it right at his stupid, ugly, and hairy face, but I had no proof and even if I did, Dale was still asleep, all innocent.

“Listen, Fly. You’re on very thin ice here, and if you keep going on like this, you won’t like me by the end of this holiday,” he whispered. I mean, it wasn’t like he had won best man of the year, but I think he meant that he was probably going to turn worse than he already was. He gave me another look, then went to bed and stuffed all his bags on my bed. I sighed and lay down on the floor. I was so tired, nothing could have woken me up.




That was the sound of the alarm that woke me up. I thought that since we were on holiday, we wouldn’t have to wake up early, but that wasn’t the case.

“WAKE UP!” Derek yelled.

Dale got out of bed and accidentally-on-purpose kicked me. “Oops, sorry.” He smirked, and he, Derek, and Dale’s dad walked outside with Mom. I sighed and walked outside.

Millions of spiders were running to the mountain market. Weird. It seemed like they all woke up at the exact same time as us. Dale and his gang were hauling ten bags of bottles. Was that the spider whiskey? I snuck behind a bush and followed them to the mountain market. When he arrived, he set up a table and filled the spider whiskey with… bugs?! He was spiking the spider whiskey!

“Spider whiskey! Get your 20 spider dollars spider whiskey!” he yelled out. A bunch of spiders walked over and got a glass. As they drank it, their eyes became wider.

“BUGS! MORE BUGS!” they yelled, slamming cash on Dale’s table. He saw me and smirked. Oh no. I backed away slowly. Then, I remembered I could fly, so I did. This place was a nightmare, and I hadn’t seen anything yet. Just keep reading. I figured I might as well find a spot that no spider went to to be my private thinking spot. I found a nice area next to a pond and some trees. I started pondering the things that went wrong in the trip.

  1. Dale. Dale makes it up to the top of my list, no contest.
  2. Derek. Derek knows this place like the back of his hand. Not useful for me.
  3. The market. The center of the island, every spider went there, and they sold the most disgusting things.
  4. Snakes. On the bright side, I knew their weakness!


I had to decide my plan carefully if I was going to survive this island. Luckily, someone was already ready for the job, and his name was Agent Fly.

Hey, everybody. It’s Agent Fly. I was asked to make a plan to survive, so let’s hit the facts. Dale and his gang always head to the spider market to sell their spider whiskey at 5:00. Then, they go steal other people’s belongings. As long as I stay away from the market between 5:00 and 1:00, I’ll be fine. Derek isn’t a problem. He just goes to gamble with his friends all day. He returns at 9:00, and I have to be in bed by then. For snakes, I’ll just keep a glass of water next to me at all times. Just follow this plan, and you’ll be fine. Agent Fly, out!

Phew, thanks AF. With my new plan written out in front of me, I knew where to go at what time. I grabbed the paper and flew out. It was about 12:00, so I had an hour before Dale would come out of the shop and torment me. One thing AF and I couldn’t figure out was why every spider was outside at 9:00. Maybe this place was really organized, but I still thought it was kind of strange. They all woke up at the same time, did whatever they wanted, stayed up at the same time, and then went to bed. I decided that Agent Fly would go out, and Prof. Fly would stay back and analyze the results.

Okay, what’s up. Agent Fly here. I’m outside right now. It’s 8:59, and I can see some spiders leaving the market. I can spot Derek, Dale, and that dude who sold the fly meat. A secret agent always comes on time. I’ll wait here for a minute and tell you what happened.

Oh My Gosh! Agent Fly back again. I saw the craziest thing! It was precisely 9:00, and every spider was lined up, chanting. I felt the island shake, and then it started to rise! It didn’t take a genius to figure this out. Spider’s Island is a giant spider! It growled, and all the spiders bowed down. Derek walked in front and whispered something in (I guess) its ear. The spider growled again, and every spider backed away quickly. Then, Dale walked in front holding his spiked spider whiskey. The spider growled again, and he smiled. Every spider, besides Derek, looked frightened. Then, the spider went back down, and every spider crawled back to their caves. I have to report to Professor Fly!

Hi, Professor Fly reporting. I found out the spider was a giant spiked sea spider. Also, I translated the growls:




I don’t know what he was talking about. It all sounds strange. I’m sure it all fits together, but to what? Why was he asking about a report? Why did he congratulate Dale, and why did he complain about Derek not doing anything? Everything just didn’t make sense! Well, I’ll report to Fly now.

Okay, I just got news from AF and Prof. Fly that Spider’s Island is a giant spider! How am I supposed to stay here for a week? I’m so scared. Hold on, Derek and Dale just came back. I’m pretending to go to sleep. See you tomorrow, guys!



You guessed it, the morning.

I was so tired from last night’s investigation that when I got up, I immediately went back to sleep. Derek shouted at me, and we all went outside to the usual routine. I — I mean — AF, Prof. Fly, and I had decided to call the plan Operation Expose. We had to find out more and leak the secrets of this place. I was a lot more careful when I went outside, knowing that I was hovering above a giant spider. Anyways, I’m going to let Prof. Fly take the floor for now.

Hey there! Okay, so our next big plan is to find out what the spider was talking about. I have a few guesses, but I can’t be precisely accurate until I find some concrete evidence. Since I haven’t really found anything yet, I’ll just end my words here.

Okay, Fly back here. I kinda have some explaining to do. Prof. Fly ran into Derek this afternoon.

He said, “Stop doing your stupid games, Fly.”

You might be confused. Well, Prof. Fly, Agent Fly, and others that might come in after aren’t relatives, twins, brothers, friends, or any of that. They’re just… me, the weirdo Fly with a bunch of secret identities because he’s not happy about who he is. Even if you do wanna walk away now, stay for this next bit. It’s the one everyone’s been waiting for.


7:00 (AT NIGHT)

My mom walked towards me. She explained the biggest reason she wanted to come to Spider’s Island was to see… my dad. I looked up. What? My dad had never been a subject at my house. Derek seemed to hate him and said he was an unemployed loser who died by trying to fly in a paper airplane. My mom just kept quiet. I got up and followed her.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure everybody knew we weren’t going to literally see him. You guessed it, we went to the cemetery. We stood in front of his grave.

“Derek lied. He wasn’t unemployed, or a loser, or died by a paper airplane accident. He was a hero of war,” she said. I kept looking at his grave.


Frank Fly


Died from the great revolution and was swatted by a human. He was a great hero and will always be remembered for his actions.


I felt a tear trickling down my face. My dad. A hero of war. Everyone had made fun of me for the story that Derek had told everyone.

“He was also a hero to our family. His grave was put on Spider’s Island because nobody remembered him for what he did,” my mom replied.

I stared into my reflection in the water. For a second, I saw myself as my dad. A uniform, badges, waiting to enter battle. He had done it all for us. The family. No matter how weird everyone may think I am, me, Prof. Fly and Agent Fly are going to solve Operation Expose. Not for the fame or to rub it into Derek’s face, but for my dad and my family. I raced off to my hideout. Then, I spotted Dale, and he spotted me. I didn’t run away. I didn’t hide. I flew right towards him. Let me just say, this is one of my favorite parts…

“Well, well, well. Loser Fly has come to spread his disease,” Dale smirked. I stepped in front of him.

“How do you think the Federal Insect Prison will react when they find out you’re illegally spiking spider whiskey without a license? And last time I checked, selling spider whiskey without a license and being younger than 30 is five years of prison,” I told him.

“Aww, and where’s your proof?” Dale asked, mocking me. “I’ve been spiking and selling since I was four.”

I brought out a key chain. “This happens to be a recorder, Dale. Let’s see, four years, that’s about eight years in prison,” I said, clicking the button and skipped ahead. I’ve been spiking and selling since I was four.  “There’s my proof. You just unleashed a powerful demon, and that demon can send you to prison or a lot of places that are even worse. So, what’s it gonna be, Dale?”

He looked like he wanted to punch me, but then he and his posse walked away. I almost felt like breakdancing right there. I did it! I never stood up to anybody before. (Well, unless you count the school bully Bane, the Desert Scarab, but if you’ve read The (Rather Unfair) Life of a Housefly: Story Swap, then you’ll probably know that it didn’t end well.) I realized I should have used my brains instead of my imaginary muscles and probably saved myself a lot of pain.

Suddenly, as I flew towards the cave, the island shook. I knew what it meant. Gigantic spider freak island was rising up. It stared me straight in the eyes. It growled, but I’m pretty sure it meant: “YOU’LL PAY!”

I stared at it. I didn’t move. I wasn’t going to try and fight it. Then, I held up an air horn. BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAM!

Millions of sergeants from the FIP or Area 62 (Area 51 for Insects) flew towards the spider. They shot thousands and thousands of darts until it fell to the ground.

“Thanks for the tip, kid,” one agent said.

“Don’t forget my price,” I mentioned. He gave me a shiny badge. Agent Fly was officially in business with his own agent tag! Then, I ran into Derek. He looked even angrier than the spider.

“I’M GONNA KILL YOU!” he yelled.

To be continued…


A Day in the Life


Chapter One

Scritch… Scratch… Scribble… The sound of graphite scraping across a sheet of plain paper filled my head. I zeroed in on the story I was writing, for that was all that was important. Ms. Carter’s lecture of something or other slithered in one ear and out the other. I crouched down over the paper, letting my writing spill out over the page…


The voice pierced through my wall of words, and I jerked my head up. The entire class was staring in my direction, and Ms. Carter was looking at me expectantly. I shuffled my work so that my math notebook covered the sheet of paper with the short story.

“Um… what was the question again?” I asked nervously.

“Weren’t you listening?” piped up Jake.

Ms. Carter shot him a reprimanding look but turned back to face me. “Fifty-seven divided by three. We were working on Katherine’s problem, remember?”

“It’s Kate!” shouted Kate, defensively.

Shooting Kate a sympathetic look, Ms. Carter said, “Okay, sorry. Chase, we were working on Kath — err, Kate’s problem — ”

“Nineteen,” I blurted.

“Huh?” Ms Carter asked. A genuine look of surprise fell upon her face — she didn’t think I could do it. I could tell. A couple other kids, too, stared at me in shock.

“The answer. Uh — fifty-seven divided by three. It’s nineteen.”

A wide grin slowly settled on Ms. Carter’s face. “Yes, that is correct. Now, who can tell me where nineteen fits into… ”

Her words morphed into senseless babble, and I became enveloped in my story again. Thankfully, Ms. Carter ignored me for the long rest of the period, and I had jotted down ten pages of my messy handwriting by the time the bell rang.

Our bell was the old-fashioned ring, and by seventh grade, it had become a primal instinct to jump up as soon as you heard it. That’s exactly what happened, and the second the sound fell upon our ears, the class jumped up and ran out the room. But since I was a neat freak, I took five minutes to get ready because I had to put my writing in the folder, put the folder in my bag, and swing the bag over my shoulder.

I was just walking out when I felt a hand on my shoulder.

Ms. Carter said, “I’m going to let you doodle in class, just… try to pay attention, okay?” I nodded and continued my jog to the door.

Once outside, I had to run down two floors and turn a couple corners to get to ELA and was late once again. The door was open; the class was already inside. I sighed. The teacher, Mr. Williams, handed me a small slip of paper as I walked in. As soon as I had settled down in my usual seat, I briefly glanced at it at it. In a bold print it read:

It Is Your Duty To Be On Time! This Is A Warning — Next Time You Will Get Detention!

This was a new system Mr. Williams had put into play. I vaguely remembered him going over it last class. I sighed again and stuffed the slip deep in my bag where it would never be seen again.

“Who can tell me what a noun is?” I looked up to see Mr. Williams pretending to look around the room but actually looking directly at me.

I bit my lip to keep from retorting. Everyone knew what a noun was! We had covered it in fourth grade! He must be doing this to make me look like an idiot. Well, I would prove him wrong. My anger seemed to drown out the rest of the world as I answered.

“A per — ” I started, but Jake, sitting right across from me, interrupted saying, “A person, place, or thing, Mr. Williams.”

Confused, I looked at Jake, then back to Mr. Williams. “I asked Jake,” he explained, seeming annoyed. Jake smirked at me and then went back to explaining what a noun was. I gritted my teeth and reached in my bag for the writing folder, pulled my current story out, and started writing. I wasn’t that far into the story when someone spoke. “So… what did you get as your answer?”

I whipped my head around to find Emma, a classmate, staring at me expectantly. Her smooth, lush brown hair was swept over her shoulder, and her a picture is worth 100 words shirt blew in the gentle breeze that came from Mr. Williams huge, black fan that he kept in the corner.

“Umm… it’s… er… ” I trailed off, not knowing what to say.

Emma bit her lip. “Your answer. For, you know, the question… ?”

I breathed slowly. “I dunno,” I started. “What… what did you get?”

Emma narrowed her eyes and swept her hair back over her shoulder. “C’mon, Chase. Didn’t you hear him? He said list five examples of a noun. What are your five examples?”

Right then, Mr. Williams walked by our table. I quickly copied everyone else at the table and flipped open my ELA notebook. He leaned over, eying everybody’s work, and whether he noticed that the writing on the open page was from last month or not, he said nothing. Relief clouded my thoughts.

Suddenly, Mr. Williams turned back, his red beard and hair seeming especially menacing. He spoke in a disappointed tone. “Chase… I strongly advise you to see me after school for extra help.” He then continued his slow walk by the tables.

Next to me, Emma’s eyes widened. “Damn. What d’you think you did?”

I shrugged. “I dunno.”

Ant that wasn’t a lie. I was actually doing decently in his class, with a 90 average — which was more than I could say about my other subjects. Maybe, he had seen my work, or lack thereof. Or he just disliked me.

For the rest of the period, I just sat still and tried to listen to what Mr. Williams was saying. But it was hard — I just wanted to write, to zoom out from the rest of the world, and to focus on the worlds that I created.

That was all I wanted to do.

This time, I was prepared for the bell. The boy on my other side, John, had so much work sprawled out on the table that I put my own supplies away early and acted like John’s work was actually mine. Then when the bell did rang, I was ready and leaped out of my seat and bolted out of the room, ahead of everybody else.

Our homeroom was another three floors up, so I didn’t take my time. Once I was about halfway there, another kid, Mason, caught up with me and elbowed me in the ribs gently. “Yo, what’s up? What was that about?”

“What do ya mean? From the warning slip Williams handed me, or Jake the Jerk, or the extra help that I was ‘encouraged to go to?’” I asked sarcastically.

Mason choked on air. “Dude — an after-school extra help? Damn. Are you failing or somethin’?”

“Nope. I’m cruisin’ with, like, a ninety average. He just hates me,” I said, sighing.

There was a creak as Mason pushed open one of the large double doors that separated the stairwell from the hall.

“So… what’s up with your crush?” Mason asked excitedly.

“Not again, Mason.”

“No — Emma is legit your crush! You can’t hide it!”

“No. I refuse to admit something that’s not true!”

“Seriously, Chase; don’t try to hide it. I bet — I bet she knows it!”

I sighed and gave in. “Don’t you dare tell her.”

“Whatever. I swear, though, the second you let me, it’ll be in the newspaper.”

“Oh, sure — your private newspaper.”

Our conversation was brought to a halt when we reached our homeroom. Our science teacher, Mr. Lee, was standing outside the door to our class, talking to one of his students. Mason and I were first to line up behind Mr. Lee, but the 28 other members of our class soon walked up behind us.

Mr. Lee motioned for us to walk in without a glance. We did so. Then it occured to me to ask Mason for the extra help. He was an honors kid and probably knew what to do.

“Hey — about that detention… ?”

Mason, currently in the middle of throwing some books into his locker, looked at me. “Skip it.”

This caught me off guard. “Wait — skip it?”

“Dude, yeah. He was probably, like, joking or something,” Mason replied.

I slowly shook my head. “No… I don’t think so. I think he meant it… ”

Mason shrugged. “Whatever. I’ll go bash some stormtroopers on my own then.”

“Face it, dude — we both know you can’t even survive that game on your own.”

“I’ll try,” Mason insisted, shoving some books into his old Flash backpack. “And if I succeed, then I have the bragging rights.”

I thought for a moment, then said, “Nah. I’ll skip it. You’re probably right anyway, he just despises me.”

He was probably right. My best guess was that Mr Williams would just going to lecture me about being responsible and doing my work — and boy, had I heard that lecture too many times.

The bell rang again, bringing me back to my senses. I swung my backpack over my shoulder and followed the rest of the class out of the classroom, down three floors, and to the entrance of the school.

As I was being pushed out by the rush of students struggling to get out the main door, I saw Mr. Williams walking and caught his eye for a split second. He gave me a disappointed look. I turned away, but a feeling that seemed like guilt seemed to weigh me down.

“So, explain to me again — how do you become a hero in Battlefront?” Mason asked, coming up next to me.

I rolled my eyes and said, “Do you seriously still not know? Even, like, my sister knows!”

It went on like this until Mason and I had arrived at my house, when we waved, vowed revenge in Battlefront, and I spent a while fidgeting with my keys and unlocking the door. Once I succeeded, I walked inside slowly.

“Chase? You there?” a voice — my mom — called.

I kicked off my shoes and threw my backpack on the floor.

“Yeah, I’m home.”


The Rebirth Cycle

It started again, the rebirth cycle. Once a month, I change into another person. Different age, different height, different me. Now, I am a girl, Maria, sixteen years old and living in Ohio. My high school is called something like New Ohio High School. I’m scared. Whatever happens, love or friendships, after a month, it’ll all go away. What did I do to deserve this? Anyway, I’m tired of this cycle. It has ruined my life in every way. I have to go and start this new life of mine.

On the way to school, I try to avoid everyone. I look down and never look up at anyone. I pull my hoodie over my head and sit down silent and invisible. Feeling invisible felt good, no friendships and no love ruining my life.

“Hey, are you new?” asks someone over my shoulder. The voice sounds sarcastic and scratchy. I turn around, and all I see is a body full of glitter. The earrings, clothes, and lip gloss are all covered in glitter. I lay my head back in the fold my arms are in. I sit there, not moving until she asks me again in an angry voice. I lift my head, trying my best to keep my anger down and not let my anger get my magic out of control. The lights go out, and the teacher locks the door, assuming this was some lockdown. But I know it was my powers that turned off the lights. After my anger fled away, the lights started to flicker back on. I look up, acting surprised, so that no one assumes it was me.

We all go back to our seats. Ms. Johnson points to the board and starts to gabble about science and chemistry. I look back because I felt something hit my head. I hear snorts and giggles from Ms. Glitter Girl. I look behind me and see lined paper crumpled up in a perfect, round ball. I open it up and there, written in pretty, pink cursive is, “Don’t think I don’t know it was you who made these lights go pitch black. Have a bad day. Sincerely, The Best.” I rip it up and throw it into the trash can.

This boy walks over to her. I notice his beautiful, short, curly black hair. His brown eyes matched his precious smile. I look down at my hands, fidgeting on my desk, as I overhear his sweet angel voice say, “Why would you do that? I know what you wrote. You don’t even know her!” I quickly turn my head, trying to hide my smile, as the girl gives me this ugly face and rolls her eyes at me. The boy whispers something so quiet that I can’t hear. When he finishes, he looks at me. I wanted that moment to last forever, the moment that our eyes met. He smiled. I smiled back. It felt special and unique. There are so many words I can put into this moment.

Ring! Ring! I stand up, and so does everyone else. I grab my stuff as I quickly run to my locker. I shove all of my chemistry books into it before they fall out. I have to get home before anyone sees me. I go outside and hide behind the thin pole at the far corner of the school. I open my backpack and whisper into it, “Bring me home.”

As I start to fade, I overhear his voice again saying, “You dropped your — ” He stops and stares at me as I start to fade more. I close my eyes and hope that he will forget about this by tomorrow.

As the next day begins, I want to forget him. I hope he will forget me too. I look down and pull my hoodie over my head. I go to my classes and glance at the normies on the way. I can’t help but stop and stare at him one more time. I try to avoid any questions from anybody that comes my way. I go into class, put my bag down, and look around. Everyone is staring at me and the boy’s empty seat. I’m scared and shocked, but I don’t let it show. Halfway into class, he comes rushing in and stares at me, not talking. I stare back into his dreamy eyes. In every class from that day onward, I can’t help but daydream about some unrealistic fantasy. Days and classes go by, and I miss him for some odd reason. I think about him all the time.

Science class: glass shattering and terrible smells spreading around the room. Students screaming in laughter, girls checking their nails and me. I am doing the task written on the board, my blue goggles tightly strapped onto me, and my oversized white lab coat with my name printed over the top left pocket.

“Ms. Nervig, please report to the principal’s office now.” I hear the cutting beep at the end of the message, the light click of a button. Everyone stares at me, and I hear “Ooh’s” around the lab. My teacher looks at me as if I have done something brutal. I drop my things, throw the thin, blue gloves into the trash bin, and walk out of class. The cold air from the hallway glides past me in a rush. I have questions flying in my mind like paper airplanes. Why am I going to the principal’s office? I stop, everything stops moving, and one question shoots me hard, Have they found out?

I don’t even have to question it. I already know what it meant. Have they found out my secret? The secret that my family has kept for years, that nobody else knows, and that nobody else should ever know, Have they found out? I take a deep breath and push the heavy glass door out of my way.

I see Ms. Lynch setting up boxes and boxes of tissues all around her desk. I am startled, and everything begins to slow down. She looks at me. She isn’t mad or upset with me. She is sad for me. I sit down with my legs crossed and my hands tied. She looks up at me and offers a box of tissues. I kindly decline. She looks up at the ceiling, wipes her tears, looks down at me, and says, “Ms. Nervig, your uncle. Your uncle has um… Has uh… ” I can see in her voice and eyes that this is hard for her.

I hold her hand and say, “What is it?”

She looks up at me and whispers, “Your uncle passed away.”

My mouth drops, and I take a tissue box. Tears go pouring down, and sooner or later, the ground will be flooded with my dreadful tears. I kindly say, “Thank you for the information, Ms. Lynch. I have to get back to class.” I stand up to leave. I clench my fists and yell. The lights on the ceiling flicker, and the ground moves slightly. I wipe my tears as I run out of school and to my house. The tree of my mother was weeping, and the house was darker and smaller. It was silent, and the echo was spreading more. I begin to sulk and cry. The tears were weak.

I am Andhera, Andhera Hacke. I am at the park four blocks away with an old, dusty notebook laying flat on my ripped, black jeans. My thick, dyed black hair is in a tight, squished bun, and my leather jacket gleamed from the sun’s heat. I am lost, scared, alone. There’s a pigeon under the bench munching on my leftovers. Life is filled with different things and animals that people don’t see. The pigeon’s eyes are so precious and glowy. When its feet start to lift up and its light, delicate wings start to flap, the beak is so sharp yet so small. The wings spread wider and wider, and the eyes stare over the skyline as it soars like a sharp feather. I look back down at my father’s book that was left over. I put the diary in my black, ripped bag and pull down my hair to let the breeze flow through it. I tiptoed further into the forest to the abandoned cottage I saw on the way to school. I put on my gloves before I hurt anything or anyone.

Bump! I look up and see a reflection of me, eyes of a stressful past, holding a s’mores frappuccino that is half empty.

“What the fuck are you doing?!” I hear her say. She’s annoyed, and she pushes me to the side and walks ahead. I suddenly realize that I always back down, that I am always worrying about what I say. It was the same when I was in a car crash at the age of six.

I was in the backseat holding my old, sticky stuffed animal. We were on a bridge alone. My mother was in the front seat yelling at me. I could replay those moments on a loop. I had therapy for ten years, and I still struggle with PTSD. That was the last day I saw any family member of mine, and the last words that my mother spoke were, “You are a disgrace to everyone! As soon as we get there, I will — ” Then, we tipped and fell.

“Hey! I didn’t bump into you! You went into my path, bitch!” She slowly turns around, throws off her bag, looks over at me, and says, “What did you just say?” with an evil eye.

I immediately regret what I just said. That wasn’t me at all! I shake my head and quietly say, “Nothing, sorry.” I try to back away, but she turns me around and smiles. I’m confused. I didn’t expect this. As she smiles and shakes my hand, I shake hers back.

I walk back to the bench after school, and I see that pigeon again. I forget to put on my protection gloves and without realizing, I reach out my hands. I bend down and pet the pigeon’s feather wings, and suddenly its eyes turn white and then black and then it falls down. I put my two fingers against its precious neck, and I can’t feel a pulse. I put on my gloves, open my diary, and write, “Accidental Death #563, pigeon dead by touch of wing, time of death: 5:18 p.m. under bench.” I draw a small heart in the corner, lock it back up, and put it in my bag. I put the pigeon in a dark, red, lacy box and dig a hole underneath the tree. I say, “I’m sorry,” as tears pour down my face. I feel so guilty about how my first day in this new place went. I just bounced right back.


I tremble further and further into the tunnel underneath the forest. Andhera is crouching and holding tightly onto her bag. Her combat boots are loose, and they make the leaves rustle. “Are you sure about this?” I can see that Andhera immediately regrets this, and she is too afraid to move another step forward.

I sit down in the tunnel and look at her. I say, “Yes, I am completely sure, and we aren’t backing out now.” Andhera looks up, down, left, and right. Then, she looks at me with guilt. I roll my eyes, trying to avoid making eye contact with her puppy eyes as I yell, “Don’t make me regret doing this for us. We have come all this way to finally face this man! Since the day you made me think that you were a stalker, I knew that you could help me and that I could help you to find out who the heck cursed us! So, yes! I am sure about this and whatever you say I will — Andhera?” I can see that she wants to say something, but her mouth is open with no sound coming out. I move closer to her and whisper, “What is it?” She shakes her head and says nothing like it was… nothing. I knew that there was something. She pulls out a piece of paper from her bag, ripped, burned, and with thick ink written all over it. I turn around. The rustling of the leaves stops and everything stays still, pure silence. Tears pour down her face, and suddenly the tunnel is a flood filled with her tears. I read the paper out loud since she handed it to me. It is rusty and old, and it smells like blood.

I say in a low, deep voice, “Dear Andhera, my sweet daughter. I have fought and lost for you. Your mother said that I shouldn’t come home again because of my dangerous uncontrollable powers. I put this note in my old bag because I knew that one day you would be at Southside Racket Forest, looking for me. I gave you this power because I knew that one day you would want to find me. I have to go darling. I love you.”

I realize that we’re at the end of the tunnel. I stand up, and Andhera comes after me. We look at the sign pole, and there are arrows and signs everywhere with names of places. We look high up on the pole, and it says in thick black marker, “You are now at Southside Racket Forest.” We look at each other and then back down at the letter. We can blindly see a small cottage behind all the oak trees and a bloody sign saying, “Welcome to Hacke’s studio.” Andhera runs forward, and I grab her hand.

I tell her honestly, “Your father could be the murderer of mine. Your father gave you this terrible curse, your father made people forget about me after a month, your father — ”

She lets go and screams, “But what if he is actually a good person. That’s what I wanna know!” She lets go as she runs to the cottage. I am now standing here, still afraid for Andhera. I have no hope for her father. I slowly creep behind the cottage, looking through the back broken glass pane window. I see an elderly man hiding next to the door, waiting for an arrival. He looks nothing like Andhera, and he is sliced open on the neck, the blood still dripping, and the bone sliced in half as if it was broken. A knife on the floor, clean as a window wiper. I can hear Andhera screaming. I get out my bow and arrow and drop everything else as I run in. I see another elderly man holding Andhera by the throat with a gun to her head. I can see Andhera struggling to get loose. I try to calm him down, but I am afraid to move to close to the gun. Unfortunately, I am too late. I hear a gunshot, and Andhera’s heart stops beating while my heart turns cold. The only person I understand is gone. I go down to the floor and pull the bow and arrow out of her bag.

I stand back up and scream, “Back off, bitch! Now you live in my world!” Then, he punches me in the face, and the world blacks out. The sounds of an open breeze and the feel of a warm buzzing head on scratchy wooden floors. My eyes are frozen cold and shut closed; the sight of pitch black and the feeling of being unable to move. The voice yelling help and the warm soft feeling of a hand holding mine. And the empty silence of no one coming. And the silent cries of a loved one…




Part One: My Secret


Chapter One

I am different than the others. It is just the way I am. I’m used to the insults, the bullies, and the segregation. But, there is one thing keeping me going: the fact that I am unique. My name is Tor, and I am a lion. With wings. I know, I know. It’s weird, but I was just born that way. Even though I cannot fly yet, my wings are very helpful.

They help with keeping my temperature in check, fending off enemies, and jumping higher. In a way, I am grateful for my wings, but part of me just wants to be… normal.


“He did not!” she says. I laugh first, and then all the others join me. Cerla is our comedian. She knows how and when to tell jokes. I have a small gang of five friends: Cerla, Tou, Yero, Talika, and me. They are the only ones who admire my wings, although they don’t have any. I really do not want to lose them. I feel the wind blowing in my shallow mane as we make our way home.

“Oh, yes he did,” says Talika. “He just walked up to him, smacked him in the face, claws unsheathed, and before you know it, he gets reported to Taren.”

We all drop our jaws involuntarily. Talika and Cerla bring us daily news. We are used to surprises, so we always expect something new. They’ve always been the first ones to know everything that occurs within the pride. We walk in unison on the dusty, red sanded trail leading to our pride. It is early evening, and we should have dinner ready for us in a few hours. When we arrive, we are greeted by a loud roar from my father, the leader of our pride.

He trots over to us and growls, “You are late, my son.”

“Late for what?” I say, sounding childish.

“You are late for… your mother’s… funeral.”

His words sting me, and my soul collapses to the ground. I shut my eyes and let the tears flow silently. She is gone. Lost forever. It becomes hard to breathe as I walk to her den. I spend the rest of the day there. At daybreak, I am the only one awake. I still feel sad about my mother. But now, on top of that, I feel angry about something. I decide to go hunting and spot a herd of zebras down by the river. I trot toward them until I get into earshot. I stay as low as possible in the tall grass. I slowly crawl through the grass. I keep my wings hidden so that I do not reveal my location to my prey. But my wings are too large, and I startle the herd. I growl at myself, and I feel embarrassed. I return to the pride. I lie in my den for hours before I decide that it is time. Time to fly.

I find a nice, flat area and spread my wings. They are longer and larger than my body, nose to tail tip. I flap them in synchrony, and I lift off the ground. Judging by my results, I will be able to fly. I flap them more times, and I hover off the ground. I am naturally able to move around. I begin to increase my altitude.

“Uhh… Tor? What are you doing up there?” The voice belongs to Talika.

“Uh — I can explain,” I say.

“No explanation needed,” she says, softly.

Her grace distracts me, and I fall out of the sky and land on my back. “Ow,” I say, blandly.

She walks over to me. “You okay?” she asks, genuinely.

“Yeah, I think so,” I reply. I get up and shake off the dirt. “How did you know I was out here?” I ask her.

“I — felt it,” she says. Her fur blows in the breeze. No, wind. It grows stronger. And stronger.

“Oh no,” I say. “Not this again.”


“Tor, my son, Talika, thank you for reporting this. Both of you head for the shelter. I will take it from here.”

We immediately follow my father’s instructions. We sprint across our territory to the shelter. I look behind us and see a large storm cloud and a funnel descending toward the ground. We finally reach the shelter. Once inside, we cuddle up next to each other.

“Do you think this one could be the worst one so far?” Talika asks, with genuine fear.

“Possibly,” I reply.

The column of death still rages on. I am even more afraid now, and I can feel Talika shaking. She closes her eyes. I consider doing the same, but I choose not to. I hear a terrifying noise. Two trees have fallen in front of the shelter’s entrance. How convenient, I think. I can still hear howling winds above us. I can feel my heart sinking as I remember how my mother died. About a quarter season ago, a weaker storm hit us. A warning went out, but my mother and a few other lionesses were out hunting. They heard the tornado and came running back to assist us. But, they arrived too late. They were at least a mile away when they noticed the storm. They had arrived just when the storm hit. The other lionesses escaped danger with minor injuries, but my mother… got… impaled by a piece of sharp rock. We managed to keep her alive for a while, but the wound soon got infected, and even though we had adequate resources to save her, she had told my father these exact words, “Stop. Stop wasting your resources on me. I won’t get much better than I already am. Just let go. Let go.” That was two days ago.


So much damage has been done. Everywhere we look, there are toppled trees and torn up land, but what is most horrifying to us are the dead lions and lionesses everywhere. We trot around our territory, and we find something terrifying.

“Oh no. Please no. Father. Wake up. WAKE UP!!!

My father had been impaled, just like my mother, only he won’t walk away from this one. I realize my wailing is useless, and I pull myself together. I look beside me and see Talika. Staring. At my father’s body. No. There is a lioness behind him. Talika’s mother. I watch her as she sheds a single tear and walks away slowly. I cough, noticing all the dust around. But, another frightening thing strikes me. We are the only ones left. Our friends, our family, it’s all gone now. I summon all the power in my voice and let out a single roar. It lasts about half a minute, and I take a breath and roar again. This time, Talika joins me. We only have each other now. Only each other.


Chapter Two

“We’ll be fine, Talika,” I say, trying and failing to see any bright side to this.

We are in my old den, as it was the least damaged one. Talika has been crying for a while now. I have been providing her with food, what little water is around, and another thing. Love. I am thinking about confessing my feelings to her, but this is definitely not the right time. I have had a small (that’s a lie) crush on her for the past three cycles. I have been very confused about why I had these feelings. At first, I just wanted us to be friends. Anyway…

“How can you be sure about that, Tor?” she says.

“I’m not.” And I mean it. I don’t know what will happen to us.

“Tor, you’re always so honest,” she whispers to me. “And kind. And brave.” I must admit, I was not expecting her to say that. “I love you, Tor.” Now, I’m really confused.

“I… I… ” I consider all things I could say. I could confess right now or wait for a better moment. I make my decision immediately. “That gives my something to think about,” I say.


We’ve been staying in this place for twelve cycles. We’ve been feeding off the dead carcass of a buffalo, which has kept and is keeping us fed. I have also been having peculiar outbursts of anger. I try to keep them to myself, but sometimes I can’t contain it, and I leave the den for a destructive walk. Seriously, you should see the paths of destruction I make on these walks; I have very few paths to walk along and destroy now. Anyway, now I’ve voluntarily taken on the role of scouting for a better place to stay. We cannot venture out in the open very often; there are creatures that could easily have us for dinner. I look around the barren landscape, still scattered with lion remains. I shudder at the sight and decide to focus elsewhere. I venture further away from our “den” and find nothing. I sprint back to the den, everything around me becoming a blur of nature. I eventually reach it and shake my head at Talika. Her response surprises me, “That’s fine!”


Everything seems to be spinning now. I feel dizzy all the time, but Talika doesn’t, which I find strange. I don’t tell her, but I have had sleepless nights since the day of destruction. I keep waking up at night and roaring at the heavens, cursing at them for causing us so much pain.


I feel so alone. I have the power of flight… sort of… but I am hesitant to use it.


We have stayed in the same place for — well — I kind of lost track of how long, but I know that it is time to get moving. We eventually have to escape this dark, moist, cold place. I have had plenty of time to practice basic flying, though.


Part Two: Flight


Chapter Three

“Okay, okay. Don’t worry. I’ve got this!” I yell down to her. “I can do this!” As soon as I jinx it, a flock of vultures head my way, and I freeze in place as the images become larger and larger. “Oh, sh — ” I say, or start to say, as they come crashing into me. I fall to the ground and finish what I was going to say. “… it,” I finish unnecessarily. I see her triumphant face lingering over me.

“You were saying?” she says, before helping me up.

Our relationship became somewhat competitive since we started, well, you know. I feel like a huge burden that I have been carrying for a long time has finally been lifted. The burden being our feelings for each other. I shake the dust and dirt from my pelt as soon as I rise.

We decided that we would become nomadic for a while, moving from place to place. Sometimes we see vast open plains with scarcely any trees, and sometimes we see plant life everywhere. I don’t even think we’ve been to the same place twice.


The Guest House – Confusion


(Inspired by The Guest House by Jelaluddin Rumi)

Hi Confusion,

Although I never expected you to come, I guess you’re welcome, because confusion leads to thought, and thought leads to finally maybe making sense of some chapter of this crazy, twisting, turning, torrentuous story called life. I know that while you’re staying here in my head, I’ll have no idea which direction I should go in or where this chapter of my life will take me, but I know that you’ll make me think. And I’ve been trying to think for weeks, but something keeps jamming my mind.

Maybe it’s the heat from the early arrival of summer,

Maybe it’s the fact that there’s one person who I can’t stop daydreaming about,

Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been binging TV shows whenever a thought threatens to creep into my brain,




I can’t think clearly.

Maybe that’s because I’m scared of thinking, because there are thoughts in the back of my brain that I don’t ever want to resurface, that I’m too scared to address because the memories contained in those thoughts make me want to cry and scream and punch a hole in my wall.

And now you’re here, Confusion. You’ve barged into my head unannounced, claiming that you will make things better, but my first instinct is to turn you away. I need Clarity. I need Calm. The last emotion I need in my head right now is Confusion. But I can’t bring myself to turn you away, because I haven’t turned even Hatred or Jealousy away in the past, and if I let such horrible emotions into my head, I would be just as horrible as those emotions if I turned you away. Because really, you’ve never meant me any harm, and after you come and go, Thoughtfulness and Clarity always come to visit my head. And for that, my friend, I am grateful.

Welcome. I hope you enjoy your stay — but please invite Thoughtfulness and Clarity to come soon. I could use the company.








It wasn’t long. My friends finally defeated Crugo using the Particle Accelerator on Earth One in Dimension Two. I hope that the rest of the team is alright. The minute I came to this place, it was in a flash of red. After that, it was just darkness. Where I am is a mystery. All I know is that this place is wonderful, and what I’ve been through is a great part of my life. Here’s the story.


Chapter One: Beginning of the End




It all started when I was eleven. Some wizards and witches came and blew a hole into the atmosphere, and magic came out and spread everywhere like a virus until three weeks later it stopped. My name is Kelvin, and the world was under Savage’s command. We were slaves doing the trash that he could’ve done. You see, the world has changed. Many things can happen… in a lightspeed, a flash, slow, or even go through mirrors and earths?

Yes, earths. We aren’t the only world that exists with its own solar system. There are many worlds. Some can even travel to them by breaking the speed of light and the dimensional barrier, creating a wormhole called a breach. Those are called breachers. Breachers create breaches that can travel through time and space. That’s where most of our problems came from. They had a breacher named Geo. He recently died to spare our lives. He was a good hero. So yeah, why did he spare our lives? Well, no one knows why. He told us to run. I know he was serious, so we ran. Being on the run makes me feel like an outlaw. It’s terrible. There’s really nothing to do but run. The best thing to do is to trust yourself. There is no one you can trust when the world is fighting for power.

Twenty years later…

I’ve gotten used to this world. Newcomers come to us every night. What do I mean by “we?” Well, a few years back, I met up with my former survivors. We split up the minute we were running. Figured it was for the best. Josh and Jade went north. I went east. Kelly and Norah went south. We met up where we all split up.

“I know this might be weird but… I found this cool place in the east side. There’s this cave full of materials. I think other survivors were here before us.”

So we all decided that we should check it out. We gathered our stuff that we gathered over 30 years ago and went off.

A few minutes later…

“Here it is.”

We entered the cave. It wasn’t light out, so I used sticks and created a mini torch. At the end of the cave, there was a small box. A journal was found and also some materials to build a min five-person spaceship. The journal was all burned though, but there was a name left…

“Alex Lucas?”

“Who’s Alex Lucas?”

We went on to build the spaceship and went off. Thinking about the mysterious person named Alex Lucas was interesting. There were definitely more survivors out there. We just needed to find them.


Chapter Two: Location: Dead Zone

We reached the Dead Zone. This place was radioactive and also contained a beast named The Reaper Leviathan. One page was saved in the journal. It said that the Reaper Leviathan carries a stone. There’s also a small picture of the stone.

“Hey, that’s one of the stones! See… ”

The moment I went into the escape pod to get off earth, I found a page on the sidewalk showing all the stones. This was one of them. All of them grant power of any kind but only have a limited number of uses.

Location: Earth One Dimension Four

“It’s almost out of juice!” yelled Josh.

“What?!” I answered.

“Yeah, it’s about to die on us. We better get moving fast before we get stuck here,” answered Josh.

“Okay, let’s go everyone.”

It had been four years since we found the first stone. We found an archaeologist that also managed to escape earth. Later, he helped us learn how to use it… but the “The Core” found him and grabbed him off the dead side of the moon, and we never saw him again. Well, we’d been using this stone for four years, and now it’s about to die on us. This could be the end…

“Need any help?”

“Uhh… ”

In my head, I was like, Who are you… ?

“Name’s Bart. I’m one of you.”

“One of… us?”

“Yeah, one of you guys. A metagene,” said Bart.

“Metagene… ?”

“Here… ” Bart handed a piece of paper to Josh.

“Metagene… a person with special abilities created by mixing different genes together,” I read out loud.

“Wait wait. Hold up… you’re saying that we didn’t get our powers from the Particle Accelerator?”

“Afraid so… ” answered Bart.

“You’ve got your powers from magic,” said Bart.

A few years later…

The door creaked.

“So… this is Star Labs.”

“OH GOD!” screamed Josh.

“What? What?”

“Is… is… that a body?”

“Oh god… it is… ”

Both Josh and Kelvin threw up.

“Aww no… c’mon. Why here?”

“So, how do your powers work again?” asked Jade.

“So, my vibe comes from energy, and it kinda relates to age as well.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, it uses energy, so if I’m old, my energy would go lower, and if I run out of energy, I’ll run out of vibe.”

“Basically in short, I need energy for my vibe powers.”

“Would you guys hurry up and stop talking?”

“Alright, Jade.”

We were sent on a recon mission to find some news. Some said that the Triceratops recently found a new stone and were currently mining it out. They were right. They weren’t even close to getting it. The sensor said the stone was 567 meters deep. Only we had the tech to drill it down. We were heading back to headquarters until Josh sneezed so loud.


“Sorry… I had a runny nose.”

“HEY! GET THEM!” yelled a Triceraton miner.


We ran through the caves like mad men, dodging every single laser they fired at us. With the help of Jade’s sonic chi bouncing every corner into bits, everything turned into dust. We were gasping every turn we took, running for our lives, feeling the wind getting colder and colder as we slowly got closer to the light. You know those movie scenes when the main characters are in a chase scene and they are so close until they get trapped. Well, that was what happened but… plot twist!

“Hey, Josh. A hand?”

“Right.” Josh teleported everyone out.


“No prob.”

Josh helped us teleport out of that situation, and after that, we ran, ran as fast as we could. We didn’t want to be part of that any longer. We reported back to HQ, and we were sent out to get that stone. Bart stayed back so he could be “tested” and “researched,” so we knew more about his powers. We packed up and went back.

“So Josh, are you… and Jade… ”

“Woah, woah, hold up… me and Jade are just friends,” said Josh.

“Ahh!” yelled Jade.

“Jade!” yelled Josh.

Josh grabbed hold of Jade’s hands, with the help of Kelvin.

“Hold on!”

“Okay… ”

Both Josh and Kelvin lifted Jade up to safety. Josh and Jade hugged.

“Just friends, huh?”

“Yeah, okay. You got me.”

After the accident, we headed out with more focus than ever. Jade kept an eye out, just in case she fell again.


Chapter Three: Moments later…

We spotted the mining sight we barely escaped before. I felt the shiver sliding down my spine. Even the look of the place gave me the creeps. I hated that place. Not because we nearly died. It was because… my brother was there. Crugo, he was obsessed with power. The Triceratons offered him that if he would kill me and our parents. He couldn’t do it, so they pushed him aside and killed my parents. I guess I was lucky. They took him from me and used him as a slave.

“We’re here,” said Jade.

“Alright, here’s the plan.”

“You guys got it?”

“Yeah,” both Jade and Josh said at the same time.



“TRIP — ”

“Alright, alright. You guys are acting like teenagers.”

“Okay fine… stop being a party pooper.”

“Let’s just go.”

We entered the mine, and the first thing we saw was a big, bright light. It was the crystal. We ran to the spot and found out that they had finished digging it out.

“Let’s go… ”

We went on with the plan, fighting and blasting every Triceraton out of our way. I was so angry that I nearly smashed the crystal itself! We grabbed the stone and went off.

“Hand it over,” said a mysterious person.


“Yes, brother. Hand the stone over, and we can end this peacefully. Or we could do it the hard way.”

“I vote for the hard way.”

“No… ” said Josh.


“Here… ”

Before Josh handed over the stone, he teleported a cyclops in front of us.


“Adiós,” said Josh.

Josh teleported us out of there.


“Again, what are you guys gonna do without me?” said Josh.

“Uhh, we’ll be fine… ” said Jade.

No you won’t,” said Josh.

“Yeah, you’re right,” said Jade. She chuckled.

“Hey Kelv, are you still mad that we were playing around, or it is it because of that Crugo guy?”

Kelvin dozed off.


“Oh, sorry. Yeah, it was the guy… ” I answered.

“So, who was he?” asked Josh.

“His name is Crugo. He was my brother, until he became obsessed with power. The Triceratons offered him loads of power if he showed them his loyalty by killing my parents and me. He couldn’t do it, so they did it. I managed to hide, and they never found me during that accident. I saw them take him. He was treated like a slave until he finally got brainwashed by a witch of some sort from Earth Three in Dimension Seven. He was never the same man that I knew.”

“Woah. Tough story, dude,” said Josh.

“Yeah, are you sure you can face him?” asked Jade.

“Yeah, I’ll be alright.”

We carried on with the mission. We got back to HQ and delivered the stone for research. Our specialties from Earth Three in Dimension Seven are wizards and witches. They are experts of these stones because they were the ones who created these stones. They sent them off to different dimensions and earths, so no one could use them for evil. Remember the first stone that was almost dry dead? Well, they recovered it, and now it’s full back in power. Still, Parallax wants it because of its immense power.

“So, what is it?”

“It’s one of the stones,” said one of the witches.

“It’s not just one of them. It’s the first one!” said another.

“There were numbers for these?” I questioned.

“Yeah, meet Alpha One,” said a wizard.

“Wait, hold up. There’s more than one Alpha?” said Josh.

“Yeah, one alpha for each cube. Also, we need all eighteen stones. We’ve only got two. We still need to move on.”

“Speaking of stones, I have an idea of where the rest are,” said Bart.

“So… where?”

“I found this map when I was being tested with my powers. I was breaching through different Dimensions and Realms, and I found this on a dead moon,” said Josh.

“So what? This is a map of all the stones?”

“Yeah,” said Josh.

“How do you know?”

“Look, see this. It’s written by Alex Lucas. The same person who wrote about the stones,” said Josh.

“This guy, Alex Lucas. Who is he?”

“You want to know?” said a wizard.

“Yeah, maybe he could help us.”


Chapter Four: Alex

A long, long time ago, about a century, we wizards and witches learned a magical spell that grants powers of the imaginable. For the greater good, we used the power to banish the evil that corrupted our world, for the power was too strong that it could easily corrupt anyone who wanted more. So, we gathered and used all of our might to form the great, mystic power into eighteen stones and kept it away in the three cubes. We gave each of the cubes to three trustworthy people. One of which is Alex Lucas. He was a great man. Until one night, the evil who once struck upon us had returned. Monstruct. He led an army into Alex’s house and invaded his property. Alex managed to escape, but he left an important message saying that he fled to Earth Seven for safety. The message was sealed away in a hidden room only we could find. He said the only way to keep the cube safe was to not follow him. The message was the last thing that belongs to him. As a memory. We managed to banish Monstruct to another realm, hoping that he wouldn’t survive for more than a few months. The realm that we banished him to was the realm of Jotunheim, the land of the giants. Giants were fierce and unstoppable. Only the great gods and goddesses can deal with them.

Moments later…

We were sent on another recon mission to find the third stone. On our way there, we came across this weird spacecraft of some sort. We went to check it out, but then we got invaded.

“Step away from the spacecraft. This is the Triceratons. Step away from the space — hey, it’s those guys from before. Get them!”

Yeah, we were seen. This turned from a good and strategic recon mission to a got-to-get-out-of-here-before-we-get-blasted mission. I felt the wind in my hair blowing as the lasers came flying by, I knew this was going to end well. We ran and ran for a hiding place. Every path we took ended up with a scar or a burn. Every path except one. It was where the spacecraft was. By the look of it, it looked like it had pads that sucked up energy. So we went over and behind it. It worked. The lasers just got sucked up, but they wouldn’t give up.

“Hey, Jade. A hand?”

Jade threw a mini shock cannon. All the Triceratons flew back like some WWE wrestler slammed on the ground knocking everyone out. Then, Bart came out of nowhere and scared the life out of me.

“Jesus Christ, would you please stop doing that?”

“I’ll work on my entrances later, but now you got to go,” said Bart.

“Not without this.”

“What is that?” asked Bart.

“This is what they’re after, apparently.”

“Then let’s go,” said Bart.

We all got vibed out of that situation and immediately reported back to HQ. We brought the spacecraft back to them. You know what they all did. They all looked at it like it was a new popular kid’s TV show from the 1800s.

“Uhm, so any clue what this is and why the Triceratons are after it?”

“Okay, yeah. Right,” said a witch.

“Okay, let’s do some testing,” said a wizard.

“Wait, shouldn’t we take the guy out first.”

“Right,” said a witch.

When we took the cockpit off, we were all surprised for who we found. It was Alex Lucas. He survived the long years since his departure. He was in a state where his body was dissolved, but his mind said he was alive. So the wizards used a spell to move his brain to a body that was made of robotics. Thanks to the wizards and witches, Alex could now tell everything we needed to know to find the rest of the stones. Now you know that we have the data to find the stones. We’re not going to go through all of that. Instead, we’re going to skip a few years or so.

A few years later…

Okay, we’ve gotten all of the stones. On one of our trips, we stumbled across Crugo again. He told us that he got Josh, and if we didn’t hand the stones over, he was going to die. If you didn’t know, Josh was captured, and we thought he died already. We also met two new wizards named Kell and Norah. They’d been useful ever since. We followed Crugo’s plans. Crugo said we would meet at a certain coordinate on a certain date with all the stones. Today was the day. We landed on the dead side of the moon. We had all of the stones in a container. Crugo and his army slowly showed their faces. Then, we saw Josh all beaten like he’d spilled his guts out. Jade was terrified. I mean, her closest friend was nearly dead and was just lying there around 10-15 feet away from us. This was about to get messy. I could tell from the looks of Crugo’s face that there was going to be a 95% chance of punching and kicking ass.


Chapter Five: The End of Beginnings

We marched to Crugo, and we both handed the things we promised. We got Josh back, and they got the stones. I was regretting every moment I walked up to Crugo and handed all the stones to him. Once we turned back on each other, I got hit in my waist by a laser.

“I knew I couldn’t trust you!” I yelled in pain.

“Of course not. Why just leave without any fun?” said Crugo.

In a blink of a second, the whole dead side of the moon was brightened with flashing lights as we all used our powers to knock each and every Triceraton down. Then, there was a loud…

“ENOUGH!” yelled a mysterious being.

When we turned our heads facing towards the sky, we saw Parallax, but this was different. His face was all peeled and dissolved. When he miraculously peeled his face off, what we saw was unimaginable. It was Monstruct. He has been planning this all along. Turns out, he was not dead after all.

“Monstruct, how did you survive Jotunheim?” said Norah.

“Well my dear, I happen to use some magic to deal with those stupid giants. You know that gods and goddesses aren’t the only ones who can deal with them. A bit of some Asgardian magic did the job,” said Monstruct.

“Wait, you’re telling me that Asgardians helped you defeat those giants?” said Kelly.

“Yeah, the way I tricked them to help me was telling them that the only way to stop those frost giants is to start a war. You know how Asgardians love wars?” said Monstruct. “Oh, I happen to have brought some frost giants with me as souvenirs. I got lonely on my way back here.”

Then, a portal opened behind him filling the air with a cold breeze, and at least 500, maybe more, frost giants came out.

“It was easy to bargain with them to help me destroy you,” said Monstruct.

Looking back at this in my head, there was an 85% chance of us dying. We all started to fight the frost giants as much as we could. They kept coming and coming. Luckily, we had some magic people on our team. Norah and Kelly and the rest of the wizards and witches held back the frost giants while Josh, Jade, and I beat down the Triceratons to try to get the stones back. Yeah, I know that we should’ve not given them the stones, but we were trying to get Josh back, and also to stop Jade from crying all the time. It was worth it, maybe. At least we got to kick butt and use more of our powers. When we were fighting our way through, I spotted a person behind a rock. I went over there and guess what, he was a survivor from earth. His name was Leo.

“I know what they are planning to do with the stones,” said Leo.

“Uhm, using them for power and maybe killing us all?”

“No, Crugo, your brother… ” said Leo.

“Wait, how did you know he was my brother?” I asked.

“Doesn’t matter right now. So Crugo is planning to absorb all of the stones’ power and give it to himself and him alone. With Monstruct by his side, they both can rule the entire multiverse, and maybe destroy half of it,” said Leo.

“Well, I guess we should get moving.”

“We?” asked Leo.

“Yeah, we. Do you know how to use a laser gun?”

“I can try… ” said Leo.

“Okay, here.”

I handed him the laser gun that I grabbed just in case, and from the look of things, I think he knew how to use it perfectly. For some reason, my waist kept hurting whenever I ran. I checked under my shirt, and the part where I got shot at was slowly chipping off. This was bad. We were in mid fight with all of these frost giants and Triceratons and magic going on. I couldn’t risk telling everyone. Although it hurt really bad, I kept on going. Leo ran out of ammo, so I killed this Triceraton and gave Leo another gun to use. This repeated many times until I found this laser gun that ran on magic. Since the whole world was covered by magic because of the accident the wizards and witches caused, everywhere was magic. Norah and Kelly summoned cyclopes and other giants to help us. The ground started to shake with every step the giants and cyclopes took while crackling the moon in half.

As I tried to keep in pace with my team, I saw Josh about to die again. I couldn’t let that happen, and plus I was like half dead, so I ran in front of the gun that the Triceraton was pointed at Josh with. In the moment that he pulled the trigger, I was disintegrated, and I left my team without their leader. This gave Josh the anger to give a walloping punch to a Triceraton in the guts.


“Kelvin!” I yelled.

I was in rage when I saw Kelvin die in front of me. I couldn’t hold back my tears. Everyone was in shock. The Triceraton that killed him, I gave him what he deserved, a punch in the guts. I couldn’t stand this anymore. I ran through, teleporting every Triceraton into a molten lava volcano. Almost half of the Triceratons we were fighting were gone. The rest of the team got rid of them. Now it was time to get to Crugo and defeat him and finally go home. We entered Monstruct’s ship and what we saw was a big, bright light. We saw Crugo transfering all the stones’ powers into him.

“Crugo, NO!”

“What?! Why? I want more power. Why should I listen to you?” said Crugo.

“Because your brother, Kelvin, saved my life, and in doing so, lost his.”

“He’s a fool. Save you and kill himself. He should have just let you die, but anyways, thanks Leo, for bringing them here,” said Crugo.

“What? Leo you, you traitor.”

“I was really never on your side. He promised me power if I brought you guys here and especially Kelvin,” said Leo.

“Oh about that, there’s only one thing you’re missing, Leo. I guess you won’t being having any power except death,” said Crugo.

As we saw a big flash of light, Leo was turned into dust. We now saw what the stones’ true powers were. After that, Crugo also killed Monstruct saying that only one can rule the multiverse. Crugo flew off and started to go after earth. That’s where our next plan went in phase. You see, Kelvin knew Leo was a mole from the minute Leo said Crugo is Kelvin’s brother because only we knew. So late at night, Kelvin gathered all of us except for Leo and made Plan A and Plan B. Plan A was to act all innocent and pretend to not know Leo was the mole. Plan B was to use the Particle Accelerator to teleport Crugo all the way to the realm of Niflheim which is the coldest realm out of all nine. It would be too cold for Crugo to survive since the stones grant him power, not vulnerability. Crugo is still “human,” not a god.

So, we traveled to earth, and we went back to Star Labs and prepared the Particle Accelerator. We found Crugo’s location by tracking loads of energy signatures, and it all led to Hudson Bay all the way in Canada. Apparently, Crugo wanted to take over Canada first. So we pinpointed his location, and we used our satellite and launched the Particle Accelerator. The energy from the accelerator transferred to the satellite with the help of Norah and Kelly’s magic, and we finally teleported Crugo to Niflheim. We all cheered happily. The world was saved, and the multiverse could rest easily.

Chapter Six: Family

All was good after we defeated Crugo, but we were missing somebody. Kelvin was our leader, our friend, and is part of our family. We might not have grown up in the same house or went to the same schools, but we all knew him as a brother. We all respected him. We went to his funeral to repay him for saving everyone’s life, including mine. He may have not joined us in the final battle, but he was a part of it. Without him, this all could have ended really bad.

Goblins and giants, elves or Triceratons, we all knew him. This world has changed because of magic. Magic has changed all of us. Now we all befriended giants, elves, dragons, and even some frost giants. I was awarded for being the hero who saved the world. No one knows that Kelvin saved me. If it wasn’t for him, I would have been toast.

“I am proud to be the hero, but I am not. This award goes to my best pal, Kelvin. He saved me, and in doing so, he lost his own life. Without him, I would not be here, standing here with my mom and dad and all of you guys. Kelvin helped this team and even me go through tough times. I could not thank him enough, so I would proudly give this award to my fallen brother Kelvin. I wish he could see all of you guys here alive and well, and I know for a fact that he is in a wonderful place, up high. I just wanna say, thank you, and I love you all.”

So, I gave this speech about Kelvin. As for the award, it’s in the Museum of Fallen Heroes. It was built for all the fallen heroes known in history. One of them is Kelvin. We all learned a lesson from Kelvin’s death. We learned that home and family are what we fight for. We always come home to our family and friends. That’s what makes us unified. It’s our sense of humanity.

In loving memory of Kelvin Hollenbeck [My main character]


Acelin (Chapter One)

The king’s throne room truly is as magnificent as everyone describes it, if not more. The room is made of marble, and the ceiling reaches about forty feet above me. Guards prod me in, but I don’t need them ushering me to know what to do. I’ve had plenty of practice. Smile, bow, perform, and dance. Then smile, bow, and make your exit. I stride in, confident in my own abilities. I walk up, right to the elevated platform where fifteen thrones sit. I can see the king’s scrutinizing expression. I am merely a small, meaningless nymph who is much lower than him on whatever social scale you look at. I am here to entertain the king, the royal family, and his court before hundreds of princesses or girls of noble status come and try to entertain the thirteen princes. Thirteen out of five hundred will become brides, and one will be the future queen of Acelin.

I point to one of the waterfalls and twirl my finger around. It obeys, copying my actions. There are “oohh’s” and “aahh’s” coming from the court, but the royal family is silent. They’re my target. If they like it, I get handsome pay. I begin to twirl the one on the opposite direction too, then I move my right hand to the other side. The twirling waterfall gracefully moves across the room to where I point and combines with the other spinning waterfall, making a bigger, grander display. I turn my head to the right, looking at the royal family. I have a few princes hooked on the edge of their seats, including the heir to the throne. I wink and go back to my work.

Half an hour later, I finish the exhibit of my powers. I even managed to get a stream of water to curve around the thrones of the royal family. Cheers erupt from the courts, and I even get a standing ovation. The queen and all her sons give me one as well. A standing ovation from fourteen royals, not bad for someone like me. The king smiles and claps a little. His eldest son nudges him, and the king begrudgingly stands to clap for his insignificant performer.

I smile widely and bow in a similar way as before. “As always, a privilege, your excellencies,” I say and make my exit. Two guards lead me to my temporary room.

I begin to pack. My sister will be expecting me to be home tomorrow. I organize the very few belongings I have in my travel bag and grab my train ticket home. They said they’d escort me in fifteen minutes, at 18:00 sharp. So I sit and wait on the bed.

I’ve been in Creledo for two days. It’s even bigger than where I live, an underwater city called Oceim where every saltwater nymph lives. Creledo is the capital, but it isn’t where the king resides year round. He travels to different regions in the country to seek warmer weather than in the capital. Winter is harshest there because the ice faes, fairies, and nymphs all reside in Tostica which is a mere twenty miles away. I see the king more often than most because he has a summer home a few miles away from Ociem on the beach. A little town even sprang up around it. The town grew into the city of Gardenia, named after the magnificent gardens growing in front of the summer palace, which the public could view from outside the gates. I work in Gardenia. It’s not the most honorable job, but the pay is handsome, and I’m good at it.

My sister has a much more suitable job for a young nymph. She works in Ociem as a jeweler. She hunts for shells and turns them into the best jewelry in all of Acelin. She even sells them to the citizens of Gardenia. She said the queen even bought a necklace she made once. She’s very respected in Gardenia and Ociem unlike me. But I was desperate before my sister got a job.

I am interrupted from my thoughts when there is a heavy knocking on the door. It isn’t 18:00 yet, but maybe they came to collect me early.

I open the door, luggage in hand — if you can even call it that.

“Miss, we’re taking you home a bit early,” a tall, red-headed guard says.

“Alright,” I say and step out with them.

“Your pay will be delivered to your bank account,” the other guard tells me.

“Thank you.”

Perfect, I can’t be robbed on the train then.

They lead me out of my room and through the rest of the marble palace to a waiting carriage.

A servant opens the door for me and helps me in. The carriage is spacious, and the windows let in a lot of light. I sit on one of the velvet cushioned benches and stare out the window. The red-headed guard sits across from me, holding a long spear. The other, shorter guard takes his seat next to me holding a similar spear.

Am I that important that they have to use spears to protect me?

“What is it like in Ociem?” the redhead says, trying to start a conversation.

“There are many shops,” I say. “They sell one of a kind things. Jewelry you can get from nowhere else, amazing food and it’s not salty, and novelties from wreckages. The nymphs that do know of wreckages are archaeologists or investigators for the government.”

“What do you eat since you’re underwater?”

“Well, unknown to a lot, the city is surrounded by a bubble of oxygen. So it’s dry, and we breathe air, but nymphs can breathe both air and water. Cargo subs bring supplies to and from Ociem.”

“Of course,” the shorter one says. “But the bubble is interesting.”

“Yes,” I say, and the rest of the ride is silent.

We arrive at the Korona station at 18:15. The servant comes and opens the door again. The shorter guard steps out first before the servant helps me out again, and the redhead follows. They lead me to the check-in for the station.

A woman with classic black glasses looks at me sternly. She’s a member of the Acelian National Guard or ANG. She has on a black jumpsuit, making her movements versatile and agile while also making it appear she is in a structured, organized group. On her upper left sleeve is the Acelian crest, a Phoenix with its wings spread proudly. Little color dots circle it — green, orange, white, silver, lilac, blue, beige, and violet. One for each power group. She has her name tagged onto the jumpsuit. Admiral McKinnley. She has her auburn hair in a tight bun on top of her head. Her stormy gray eyes fix themselves on me.

“Name?” she commands more than asks.

“Atlantica Reef,” I reply, my voice level.

“Ticket.” She holds her hand out from behind the desk. I open my bag and take out the train ticket the Royals provided me. It’s made of silver colored paper, meaning a seat in the second class car. McKinnley scans the ticket, enters the code on it, and tears off the part meant for records. She hands me the other half.

“I’m going to have to search your bag and pat you down,” she says and gets up from her desk and gets out of the box she sits in. When she gets out, I can see she’s wearing black, knee high, lace up, heeled combat boots. It makes her look very badass, and part of women’s training for the ANG is learning to run in heels. How useful in cases like these. I wonder what her power is.

“Bag.” She holds her hand out. I hand her my luggage. She sets it on her desk and rummages through it. After a thorough search, she closes my bag and hands it back to me. She pats me down. I’m calm while doing this, it’s for security. She’s finished quickly, and the shorter guard leads me inside after she opens the door. The redhead stays behind. I catch a glimpse of him flirting and her blushing before I leave.

The silver bullet train speeds into the station at 18:30. Right on time. The guard bids me farewell, and I get on once the train stops. A conductor guides me to the second class car and my seat. It’s more luxurious than I could’ve dreamed. There are more comforts than I have ever seen at home. My sister and I live in the rundown part of town, in a dilapidated shack.

There is velvet cushioned seating and a table in the middle, for what I can’t imagine. I have my own compartment closed off by a sliding wooden door, allowing for privacy. The train will take two days to reach Ociem, so there’s another door behind me. That’s where my sleeping quarters are most likely and also the latrine. I just sit and look out the window. The bullet train begins to rise because of the magnets it uses. It’s a great alternative to what people were using years ago to power trains. The magnets on the train and on the platform are now at the same poles making the train levitate effortlessly above the tracks before speeding off.

I watch as the scenery passes by in a blur but quickly get bored, so I open my bag and take out my belongings. A locket, a few changes of clothing, and a book that I’ve read about five times already from cover to cover. The book’s about the history of sea nymphs. It’s got records of all the sea nymphs who ever lived in Ociem, and I’m trying to find any family ties I can because my sister should not have to live the way she does. I haven’t found anything — not one thing — with the only exception being dead relatives, like our parents. I sigh and put the clothes and book back, but I hold onto the locket. My sister made it out of shells, but I haven’t put any pictures in there. I put away the ring I received from my best friend. I don’t want to wear it for the fear it will be stolen.

I put the locket back into my bag with him in mind and go to my sleeping quarters.

There’s a comfy looking bed in one corner, a bathroom with a shower is in an adjacent room, and a vanity is placed opposite to the bed. I place my carpet bag on the bed and relax. I decide it’d be nice to take a shower and a nap. I head into the beautiful washroom. Towels hang on a rack next to the huge shower. I slide open the glass door and examine it. There’s no tub. Just a tile floor with a drain in the middle. I go back and lock the sliding door to my compartment, then the one for my sleeping quarters, and finally the one to the bathroom before taking my strapless, sweetheart neckline, light blue, chiffon dress off. My underwear follows, and I begin to remove my hair from its braid and free it from the hair accessories I used for my performance. I take my makeup remover out of my bag and begin taking off the heavy eyeshadow, mascara, eyeliner, lipstick, and blush I used. It feels good to be completely bare for once. No paint on my face, no suffocating dresses, and to finally free myself, I kick off my heels. My natural face shows in the mirror, and I almost don’t recognize myself. It’s been forever since I’ve seen myself without makeup. I look pretty either way, but I feel better like this. I step into the shower and cleanse myself with the scented soaps and oils provided in lukewarm water. Afterward, I dry myself and put on the bathrobe provided before heading to get changed into a comfortable outfit for once in my life. I put on my favorite light wash, ripped, denim, skinny jeans and a white off the shoulder top. I slip on a pair of sandal flip flops. I let my hair out and go back to do my makeup. I put on minimal mascara and apply my eyeliner in the cat eye style.

I take a look at myself. I look good.

I unlock all the doors and sit back down on the cushioned benches. A waiter enters my compartment and puts a platter on the table along with a bottle of ginger ale.

“In case of any motion sickness,” he says and exits as quickly as he came, sliding my compartment door closed behind him. I look at the covered tray and lift the cover out of curiosity. The tray is full of food for an amazing dinner plus dessert. California rolls with a side of soy sauce as an appetizer, chicken breast with mashed potatoes and vegetables, and finally for dessert, creme brûlée. I eat the meal, savoring every bite. I’ll never eat this well again. My mind wanders to how the first class must be treated if this is only second class. I relax after I finish the meal and neatly put the plates and dishes back before covering the tray again. I take the bottle of ginger ale to my bedroom and put it in my bag. My sister and I rarely drink pop, so I want her to share it with me. I feel bad Airia won’t get to try an amazing dinner like this, but she’ll have ginger ale, so I guess that makes up for it.

I cannot fathom what to do at this point. I’ve got nothing to read or take my mind off my boredom, so I just hope the waiter comes back to take my tray.

He does after a few minutes thankfully, and he asks me, “Do you need anything, miss?”

“Could I get a book?” I ask.

The waiter nods. “Do you have one in mind?”

“Not really, but I do enjoy the works of Otega Green,” I reply. He nods then disappears before coming back in ten minutes with two books.

“I’ve got two, miss,” he says and puts them on the table. “Perfect Strangers and Perfectly Imperfect.

I thank him, and he leaves. I then lock my compartment for the night and head to my “bedroom.” I slip out of my normal clothes and put on my nightgown and braid my hair into one long plait before getting into the comfy bed with Perfect Strangers. I read for two more hours before falling asleep.


Next Door Robbery

It was 9:00 in the morning when I had woken up, and it was a usual day, but it really wasn’t when my landlord came by to check on the house. But the moment the landlord knocked on the door rapidly, I knew that was really weird because he always looks in through the window. Then, he demanded I “open up.”

When I opened the door, he entered and gasped saying, “Call 911 this moment.”

Then, he pushed me toward the telephone, pushed me out of the way, and pressed the buttons rapidly. Then, I looked at his face, and his face was in terror with his red, sweaty forehead. I even thought his little hair on his forehead was turning red, too.

Then, I asked what was going on, and he replied, “There’s a robbery next door.”

And at that moment, my heart felt like it fell into my stomach. Then, the landlord finally got on the line with a 911 responder, and the landlord said, quickly cutting off the responder, “There’s a robbery on 258 Elm Street.”

The woman said, “We will be there.”

Then, out of nowhere, I heard the noise of glass shatter, and the next thing I saw was the cord break. I looked back, and I saw a man in a black ski mask, and then he quickly lifted up the bag full of jewelry and chuckled. Then, he left in seconds. The landlord and I looked at each other and sat nervously and waited for the cops to come. Then when they came, they asked what happened.

I said, “I don’t know.”

When the landlord and I were all alone, he said, “I was behind the robbery. That man that you saw in the ski mask, that was my brother, and you want to know why I called the cops. Because I will be last person they come to. I trust you so much I am telling you this now, and for you to be hush-hush, I am splitting the money with you. Okay?”

“I’ll take the deal,” I replied.

Then he said, “Okay.”

Though I did wonder why he robbed that place.


Silent Love

The radio played a soft ukulele tune in the background, shadowed by carefully placed piano chords. We lay atop my bed together, looking at the ceiling that glittered with fake, painted stars. One of my arms was on my chest, one of his was on the cover, and we each held the other’s hand. The pastel aqua and melon theme that was patterned in the bedroom added another feeling of peace. The radio crackled, the song ended, and it began to play a slightly calmer, aesthetic song with electronic beats. He shifted his position on the bed, and so did I, following his lead, so we both sat with our backs to the walls, sitting on top of the blanket. Our love was a quiet, delicate thing. It involved aimlessly lying on beds while playing warming music and looking up to our imaginary sky. We always painted the ceiling, so one time the sky could be dark and littered with small glow-in-the-dark stars, and other times it could be mixes of reds and yellows, imitating a sunset. But all that really mattered was that the two of us were there, together.


Benevolence of Change


The Child With Emerald Eyes (SONNET)

Summer smiles in sun-kissed bliss with her cloudless days,

Watching over a child with emerald eyes,

Who rocks back and forth in his chair in a joyful haze

And laughs in glee under bright and clear skies.


Winter smiles with her frigid cool and heavy mist,

Drifting down frail snowflakes that float in the air

And melt on the skin of an emerald-eyed man who wished

To be able to forever rock back and forth in his chair.


Summer returns in her sweltering heat,

Watching over a wrinkled old man with a cane,

Whose emerald eyes shine in defeat

At the passing of time that had stolen his youth with no refrain.


The wrinkled, old emerald-eyed man rocks back and forth in his chair with an accepting gaze,

Underneath the watchful eye of Winter and Summer and in his wrinkled eyes: a youthful, fiery blaze.


With Calm Sways (SESTINA)

She calmly floats, swaying

As waves softly lap and swirl

Against her body under a calm

Sky that appeared not stormy

But painted in a soft pink haze

Above water clear as crystal.


Overcome with a sense of rest, her crystal

Blue eyes gazing in swaying

Calm, floating atop water in a peaceful haze

And an unconscious swirl

Of serene lack of a stormy

Sea, washed over with a sense of calm.


Amidst her floating in the calm

Sea, she suddenly jolts with crystal

Clear clarity of times stormy

And gray, and with a more intense swaying,

She remembers and recalls in a swirl

Of sharp understanding in a sudden dark and blurry haze.


She recalled sitting in silence in a foggy haze

Listening to a doctor with steady calm

Who told of an illness in no swirl

Of emotions, but with crystal

Clear clarity, and under a sympathetic gaze, observed her swaying

At the prospect of times stormy.


From then on, there was no end to days stormy

With pain, until one day, a sudden haze

Of dizzy faint struck to leave her swaying

And struck her to the floor with a final sense of calm

And yet sharp crystal

Clear clarity of an overlooming dark, heavy swirl.


It was then she faintly recalled the deafening swirl

Of red and blue to save her from times stormy

But left her and her crystal

Blue eyes in a fleeting haze,

As she ended her struggling and finally closed her eyes with calm

And let go of the overwhelming pain to feel herself suddenly swaying.


Brought to a clear blue ocean and a soft pink haze

Painted in the sky, free of stormy

Days, she calmly floats, swaying.


Missing Tooth (RONDEAU)

Giggling in fleeting bliss, the girl’s face is momentarily illuminated

By the flash of a camera that had caught and captivated

A young girl in the bloom of youth,

Her mouth wide with a missing tooth,

And a laugh, free and liberated.


Now a woman, youth fadingly saturated,

She glances at a photo of a young girl faded

But laughing with a missing tooth,

Giggling in fleeting bliss.


With deepening wrinkles, the woman, sophisticated

With age and laughs weighted

With a solemn truth,

Glances at a photo with no missing tooth,

Of a young girl liberated,

Giggling in fleeting bliss.


Golden, Warm Air

A broken butterfly fluctuates in its soar,

Through a journey over poisonous gardens,

Cool air,

Broken wing flapping,

Flying with its thought: one last time,

But landing with its golden swirls in the warm hands of a warm-handed woman.


A broken woman staggers in her walk,

Through a journey heavy of poisonous people,

Dark air,

Broken past looming,

Walking with her thought: one last time,

But landing in her warm hands: a broken, golden-swirled butterfly.


The broken butterfly flew with the weight of fragile life

Atop its golden-swirled wings,

But remaining now, safely nuzzled against the warmth of a woman

Who had too walked heavy.


The woman weighted with broken past,

Begins to walk steady,

Illuminated by the golden swirls of a golden-swirled butterfly

With a broken wing,

Beginning to fly.


Golden-swirled wings glow from ascending warmth of warm hands,

And is released from the warm hands of the warm-handed woman,

Flying away free,

Into the golden, warm air.


A golden-swirled butterfly with a broken wing,

A warm-handed woman with a broken past,

But themselves no longer broken in harmonized air:



Dog Party

Another day at the Supermall USA, the mall of all malls, the supermarket of all supermarkets. And why are we (or in this case, why am I) here? We are here to get 13 small but important items for the party. It may take a while. It looks like I might be here for hours and hours just for the food aisle! I enter the supermall.

“Oh my god,” I whisper to myself under my breath. “This mall is huge! You could fit my apartment 40 times in here and still have space! This is going to be like finding a needle in a haystack,” I say to myself, staring at the promotional poster that shows a literal needle in a haystack in a supermall with the quote beneath it saying: “Try finding a needle in a haystack in SUPERMALL USA!!!”

I have three hours until the party. If I don’t get this done, I don’t know what I am going to do. Poor Joe will be so let down. Okay, let’s start by heading to the dairy aisle, aisle 52. Okay, cheese after cheese after cheese after milk after milk! Aha! That’s what I need. Milk. That’s one thing off the list, and now I have to go all the way back to the start for the zip lock bag aisle. I grab a bag not even looking at it and then run back to the back of the store. I do this for hours. Finally, I got all the items, and I look in my cart and realize half of them are open and tampered with. I scream out loud because I have been in here for at least an hour. People stare at me and run, some even filming me.

Embarrassed, I continue shopping like a normal person, taking all those old items and putting them wherever I desire. I continue my shopping, carefully examining items once I pick them up. It’s been another hour, and I have all the items that are on my shopping list. All the items are perfectly functional, and I realize I have not gotten a single gift. Not one gift has made its way into my cart. I quickly run back to grab a teddy bear and rubber chicken, run back in line, and wait. In the time I left and ran back, 30 more people got in line. The one time I leave and come back, the one time I go shopping in this mall, 30 more people… get in line… and take my spot… I am never going to this mall again, unless I am in true need of it. One and a half hours have passed. I sit in line, and I wait, trying to make small talk with the person in front of me while some young lady is talking very loudly on the phone behind me.

“O-M-G! That is so cool. I totally like that. As a matter of fact, I might like like that like now! Like it’s so like what’s the word oh it’s like cool,” she tells her phone.

I can’t take it anymore. It’s too much stupidity. This person, nothing she says makes sense.

“Can you like shut up!” I say, mocking her awful accent and speech.

She gives me a dirty look and turns and faces the other direction, continuing her conversation, this time talking about me and how “crazzzzy” I am. This time, instead of saying something, I ignore her, knowing that I am fighting a losing battle. I continue to wait in line for the checkout, finally reaching it after another 15 minutes.

“Cash or credit?” the cashier questions.

I respond with, “Credit.”

“There is no balance on your card,” he responds.

I reach into my wallet for cash, hoping there will be enough money in it. Today is not my lucky day, so I do not expect much, but surprisingly, I have enough. I make my way outside with my items and my near empty wallet and start driving home, looking at my gas tank. I realize by the time I reach home it will be empty. I take a quick stop to refill on gas. Joe’s friends will be home soon. I have to hurry. I look right and see some reckless idiot smoking a cigarette right next to a pump. What an idiot. I feel the need to approach him, the need to tell him the hazard of smoking near a gas pump and what it can do to him and others around him! So I do.

“You listen here, idiot. You don’t smoke near gas pumps because you can kill people like that!” I yell at him.

He quickly puts it away whilst saying, “Sorry, mom!”

I don’t know why he said “sorry mom,” but I don’t have time to question it. I head back home in the car. I approach the door with my keys in hand and only five minutes to spare. All of my friends will be here soon. I enter.

“Hey there, Joe!” I exclaim.

“Bark bark,” he barks.

Joe is a dog, a little Chihuahua. I hear a knock at the door. All my friends are here with their dogs ready for Joe the dog’s fifth birthday. Bark on, barkster.


The Vindicators (Chapter One)



The date is April 25, 2030. The planet has been flooded with criminals and chaos, the government has been overthrown, and all known superheroes have either been killed or have gone into hiding. The citizens of Earth now obey the criminals and supervillians that threaten them. They survive through each day with hope, hope that the heroes might rise again to restore the world to its former glory.


Chapter One

In a subterranean base deep underground, a not-entirely-human in a spacesuit is working on an android. His suit is a mix of green, gray, and black, made mostly of metal. A beam of blue light emanates from the spot in his helmet where his eyes would be. He wears the suit to protect what is held inside, a being made of pure, unstable energy. The suit shields Guardian from Earth’s air, which is toxic to his body. A cure to his condition is still elusive despite his intelligence. The suit is his only way of living on Earth.

The white room that he is working in is filled with gadgets and tools, strewn about in a seemingly random fashion. A pile of scrap metal sits in the corner, overflowing with junk: a broken radio, half of a computer, even a couple damaged airplane parts. He currently sits at a desk working on the upper body of a robot, one of his numerous projects.

The room is Guardian’s personal laboratory, and he uses it to build technology for his boss and teammate, Minion. The project that he is currently working on, titled Apetura, is an android designed to be an assistant to Guardian. It will have all of his technical prowess and limitless intelligence. Its purpose is to assist Guardian with a far more complex task: building a more advanced robot from scratch that can match the martial abilities of Minion, a necessary requirement for any member of his team. The robot will be named Namaste and will be a member of Minion’s team of superheroes, The Vindicators. Their goal is to save the world from the evil that runs unchallenged throughout Earth. Minion walks into the room, the reds and blues of his super suit shining in the light. He has a smile on his face and appears to be very excited, practically jumping with every step.

“How goes the project, my friend? I will require Namaste to be ready in a week’s time so that I can properly assess his abilities,” Minion inquires. Guardian looks up and hesitates for a second before speaking.

“Well… there’s a slight problem. To create an android from scratch in that amount of time I will require an assistant, which I am creating now. She will be specifically designed for this task and will hopefully prove to be a valuable asset to my lab. But Namaste should be ready by next week if all goes well, sir,” Guardian replies.

Minion smiles and leaves the room. He walks through the main floor of the base and into the elevator, a stainless steel contraption with an array of floor buttons, much more than any regular elevator. Minion inserts his key card into a slot on the bottom of the button panel and presses the lowest floor in the entire complex. The elevator descends rapidly and soon reaches the bottom, dinging with every floor passed. The doors open into the portal room, a room created for only one purpose: teleportation. A large portal-making device sits in the very center of this room. It looks like a metallic, circular frame, but nothing currently sits in the frame. A terminal slides out of the wall with Minion’s arrival, and an interface is brought up to his hand. He inputs the exact coordinates of his destination, and the terminal slides silently back into the wall. The portal machine emits a low humming noise, and a portal fills the frame, showing a glimpse of the other world. Minion enters into the darkness of the portal and is teleported away. The portal closes behind him.


The world that Minion enters is pitch black, except for the light coming from the portal behind him. But the light disappears almost immediately with the closing of the portal. The planet is named Ragnarok, after the doomsday story in which the sun itself is eaten and the world is plunged into darkness, a very fitting name for a place devoid of light. Minion takes a pair of night vision goggles out from his belt, puts them on, and starts walking down a meticulous path with the aid of his now clear vision. His surroundings aren’t much, just black spires of rock and the occasional hole, but the night vision helps to distinguish them from the rest of the darkness.

Without light, this planet is incapable of sustaining life, except for the person that Minion is looking for. The planet was once great. Its surface was vibrant, its animals happy and peaceful. But that was before the planet’s sun exploded. Everything went downhill from there. Soon, Minion reaches a steep ravine, the bottom nowhere in sight. He grabs onto the end of a tall pole that rests against his side of the gap, as if it was placed there on purpose. Minion vaults across the ravine with practiced ease and leaves the pole resting against the side of the ravine that he now stands upon. He takes a series of complicated turns and reaches another ravine, albeit with less distance between both sides. A metal bridge has been built here by someone, to allow Minion passage across to the other side. He is careful to avoid the tripwire placed between the second and third steps. At the end of the bridge, he reaches a large cocoon made of pure darkness, the lair of the person he is seeking.

The door opens eerily as Minion approaches the cocoon. He enters the lair of darkness and spots the only inhabitant of Ragnarok: Lady Death. She is a creature of shadows, specializing in the magic of darkness and necromancy. She used to be the daughter of a wealthy human family, but the reason for the sudden shift from her past self to her present self is unknown. Lady Death rarely talks about her past. She is currently sitting in a chair made of darkness, lazily playing with a wisp of darkness in one hand.

A scene plays out between the darkness, a battle between two contenders. Two stick figures wielding swords exchange blows silently. One lunges at the other, but the sword is knocked away by the second, a clearly better fighter. The better fighter holds up his sword to the other figure’s throat. The swordless fighter, clearly defeated, puts his hands above his head. The fighter with the sword gives the swordless fighter his sword back, and they shake hands.

Minion stands in the doorway patiently, knowing not to disturb her. Lady Death lets him wait for a second before letting the darkness dissipate and turning around to face Minion, intrigue in her eyes.

“What kind of project do you want me to work on this time? It’s always projects with you, no fun.” Lady Death makes a fake pouty face. “You’ll owe me a favor, of course, for my compliance. You won’t know when or where, but it’ll come sooner or later,” Lady Death says slyly, a grin spreading across her face. Minion’s expression falls.

“I thought you would let me off the hook given our history. Especially because of that last favor you wanted. That one took a lot of resources, especially from Guardian.”

“I insist,” Lady Death replies. Minion thinks for a couple moments and reluctantly comes to a conclusion.

“Fine,” Minion mumbles. Lady Death winks and pulls her cloak across her body, disappearing into the darkness and teleporting to Minion’s base. Minion rolls his eyes and sighs.

“Of course she’d just leave me here,” he says exasperatedly. “I’ll have to walk all the way back now.” Minion mumbles as he walks back down the long and boring route to his portal.


Minion passes through the portal back into his lair, entering the room with a satisfying swoosh. The darkness of Ragnarok crawls into the room for a moment but is sucked out when the portal closes. Lady Death sits in a conjured chair of darkness in the corner, pretending to be asleep. She pretends to wake up suddenly, as if Minion’s entrance was loud enough to disrupt her sleep.

“Ah, you’ve finally arrived. I’ve been waiting here forever. I wondered if you would even return at all,” Lady Death drawls. Minion rolls his eyes, clearly not appreciating the sarcasm.

“The project is this way, follow me,” Minion says forcefully. He walks into the elevator room and turns left into a small room, Lady Death following right behind him. The room is painted white with nothing but a skeleton made of metal in the center. The skeleton slightly resembles that of a bat, with an elongated face and winglike bone structure where ears would be. Minion walks directly towards the skeleton, while Lady Death keeps her distance and fidgets with her hands.

“Don’t be scared, it doesn’t bite!” Minion says jokingly, beckoning her forward.

“I… have an aversion to metal,” Lady Death says hesitantly, only inching forward a small amount. Minion nods slightly, respecting her wishes and making a mental note of this occasion, so as to not repeat it in the future.

“This is my project, or at least part of it. I want to create an intelligent creature from scratch, made of darkness and water. I want it to be like a human, but enhanced. I need the darkness from you. I can provide everything else,” Minion says. Lady Death reluctantly inches a little closer to the metal skeleton and begins to collect a ball of darkness in her hands. She closes her eyes, concentrating on the darkness, and it soon grows boulder sized. Lady Death opens her eyes and launches the darkness at the skeleton, covering the skeleton completely and then some. She rushes to the darkness covered skeleton and begins to sculpt the blob into a figure. She starts at the bottom, giving the being sturdy feet. Lady Death moves to the legs, sculpting stocky upper and lower legs for balance. The torso is slim and feminine, with small breasts and narrow shoulders. Her arms are thin with small but strong hands. Lady Death stands back, admiring her handiwork for a moment, and moves upward to the head. She sculpts a human face with slight batlike features, small winglike ears at the back of the head and a prominent nose. She steps back again.

Minion raises his right arm and forms a gauntlet made of water. He walks up to the creature and infuses water into her body. The creature’s chest glows blue for a moment before fading. Minion’s water gauntlet then turns white with light as he gives his project her final necessary component, life. Her body lifts into the air, and her eyes open wide, revealing blue irises. Minion steps back as the creature touches the floor. She bends down on one knee and bows her head, waiting for Minion to name her.

“Chiroptera, rise and protect the citizens of Earth! Help me save the world!” Minion exclaims. Chiroptera stands up tall and tests out her water abilities, creating shoulder pads and knee pads effortlessly, the magical abilities coming to her naturally. She then creates a sword out of water, takes a few practice swings, and lets the sword’s form coalesce into a sphere of water. She turns it to ice, then back to water. The water is absorbed into her body, and she looks up at Minion.

“I am ready to serve,” she says. Minion looks at Lady Death, smiles, and looks back at Chiroptera.

“Welcome to my base of operations,” he exclaims proudly. Minion hears a gasp behind him and turns around quickly. Lady Death’s black gloves are on the floor, and she is clutching her hands, which are turning white and skeletal from the palms to the wrists. The rest of her hands have already been turned white. Flesh drips off her hands, forming a small puddle at her feet. She bites her lip, trying to hide the obvious pain that the process is causing her.

“What’s happening to you?!” Minion asks concernedly. Lady Death gasps before responding.

“It’s from using too much magic… The darkness is corrupting me… eating through my skin. I can’t use that much darkness at once or it’ll… consume me entirely… This has happened before, it’s the cost of my abilities… ” Her flesh stops melting, and Lady Death straightens her body, her arrogant air materializing again. She puts her gloves back on and tries to pretend like nothing happened, acting as if the process never happened.

“Are you alright?!” Minion asks worriedly.

“I’m fine,” Lady Death says angrily. She rolls her eyes and teleports back to her lair.


The Biggest Game of my Life


I’m standing there in the tunnel waiting for my teammates to exit the team room. I’m feeling nervous because I have never been in this big of a game. I know this because I could hear my heart beating and nothing else besides that. This is the state championship game. The game that decides who would be crowned “king” of the state. My teammates are hyped as I try to hide my nervousness from them because I was one of the best players on the team. I could not be having any of these feelings before such a big game. Our coach screams that we are about to run out onto the court.

I close my eyes. I imagine everything our team has accomplished this year. How we were the best team in the league, which was a surprise, how we had four all-state players, and how I broke the scoring record in state history. This was one of the best moments of my career. It might be okay with my teammates for just getting to this big of a game, but I for one wanted to go out there and win it all. After all, not only was it my last season, but it was also my last game ever for my school.


I wasn’t always this kid who was amazing at basketball. In the beginning of high school, I was this 5’5” kid who did not have much of a jump shot and below average ball handling skills. But in-between now and then, I had grown to 6’8” and worked harder than I had ever worked before. I had top programs knocking on my door now, and it came down to six different programs. So, I talked it over with my parents, and it came down to Duke, North Carolina, Villanova, Kentucky, Kansas, and Virginia. On National Signing Day, I decided that I would be attending the University of North Carolina. At the end of the day, I reflected on how I had changed so much over the past four years and how my hard work had really paid off.

At the beginning of the season, I did not expect us to do so well. Our practices were terrible because almost nobody knew the plays, and don’t even get me started on the games. So one day, my coach sat me down in his office, and he said to me, “Look, I know this is your last season and you want to go to the state tourney, so what you have to do is become a leader or else this season is a lost cause.” I was leading the practices, and we actually started to win games. By the end of the regular season, our team had secured a spot in the state tournament, finishing with a record of 18-5. It took a lot of hard work, sweat, and grit, but I was proud of this team and what it had accomplished this year.


I remember when my son started playing the game that my husband loved for so long. I remember the times when he could barely play, but he stayed out long past dark shooting the basketball in that hoop I bought him for his eighth birthday. One day, he came home from school, and he said, “Mom, I don’t want to continue playing this game because I am terrible at it.” I told him that to get better, you have to practice more. I could tell that he wanted to get better because basketball was his life and one of the most important things that he cared about. My son had worked long and hard to get to the place where he was now; and I’m not just talking about all these college scholarships. I’m talking about the state championship game. He had been talking about this since the first moment of his high school basketball career. And now here he was, just about ready to play in the state championship game.


I’m standing there, ready to take the floor. As I run out onto the court, I look at the section where my mom is sitting and see how proud she is of me. She is looking at me and is so happy to see what my teammates and I had accomplished. We were so pumped for this because I know for me and six of my other teammates, it would be our last basketball game for this team. For those other six seniors, it may even be their last competitive basketball game. We take our last warmups, and then our coach calls us in to give us one final pep talk. I’m not really paying attention because I can’t focus with everyone yelling in the stands, but he is probably saying “I’m proud of you guys. You fought hard all year long, and it’s a true accomplishment just to get here.”

Here I am, three minutes before the biggest game of my high school career, and I’m so determined to win this game. This might be because it’s my last game ever for the school or because I want to give the fans a game to remember. But as I waited for the game to start, I remember those three minutes being the most nervous moments of my life. Oh, how I will never forget those three minutes before the game began.



Wake up – It’s hard to face the world. Hard to leave the safety of your bed and enter the pain the world holds.

Get dressed – Does it really matter what you wear. People will judge you either way. You keep glancing back at your bed, just wishing you could crawl back to safety. The only thing your outfit needs is long sleeves.

Have breakfast – Or don’t. Food is just empty calories that won’t help your diet.

Listen to the radio – People try to speak about the happiness in the world just to cover up all that’s wrong.

School – The teachers’ words enter your brain, then leave without a trace. They don’t leave any information, and you walk out of each classroom wondering what the teacher was talking about because you can’t ask for clarification. You don’t want people to think you’re stupid.

Lunch – A time when you sit with someone because you don’t want people to come up to you and ask if you’re okay. You hear them talking but feel distant from them. You struggle to keep your eyes open as you drift off into your own tortured thoughts.

More school – Just more time to think. More time trapped in the thoughts that are starting to scare you because you don’t rinse them. More time just waiting for the day to be over.

Sports – Fresh air, a breeze. You dread sports, but in reality, they help you cope with the thoughts that aren’t your own.

Home – You get home and get ready for a nap. A nap that you can’t have because the minute you lie down, you’re no longer tired, so you lie there just thinking.

Unspeakable things – Your thoughts convince you that it will help the pain. That it will make the voices go away. You drowning in your own petrifying thoughts as you stand over the sink, silver blade shining in the dim light. Blood runs down the drain until you finally stop the flow.

Dinner – More calories that you will pay for later but still consume.

Bed – You finally get to go to sleep. Peaceful, your mind at rest, banishing all memories of the day and just snuggling up and wishing you never had to leave.

Repeat – Do it all again, exactly the same.

And again, and again, and again, until you can’t take it anymore. Until you can’t handle spending your days waiting for the end of each day. Until the world seems to be spinning. You can’t take it anymore, and a thought crosses your mind. A thought of leaving the routine forever.

Away you go, away from the routine. People grieve until they forget, and they go on with their routines, not remembering you, the person who left.

But, it doesn’t need to be that way. So, you stay. You stay and change your routine. When you wake up, you no longer wish to go back to sleep. You see your food as something delicious and not as calories. You enjoy discovering the wonders of the world during each of your classes. You return from school full of energy, never feeling the need for a knife. You still love to sleep, but now you dream.

You choose to overcome the difficulties that the routine brings. You choose not to focus on the pain. You focus instead on the happy things in each day.

It doesn’t have to be something big. It could be something small. A snowflake landing on a window. The light shining through the trees in the perfect way. A funny photo. Anything that will change your day, make you smile for the first time in months.

Your grades improve. You social life improves. You appetite improves, but most of all, your life improves.


Shine Bright Like a Diamond


Chapter One: Debbie Allen’s Dance Academy

I had the dream dance class… at least that’s what I thought. But, I’m getting way ahead of myself. It all started three months ago when we were in dance class, and Mrs. Allen came in the room to post the cast for The Nutcracker and guess what… I got the lead part: Clara. It said it there in big bold letters. Danielle Rosewood… Clara. I was so excited that I jumped up and down, so I caught most people’s attention.

I said, “I got Clara!”

But, some people weren’t so happy.

My friends Harper and Aubrey got the ensemble, and Evelyn got Uncle Drosselmeyer. They looked as if they envied me. When I saw them looking at me like that, they rolled their eyes and turned away.

I walked over to where they were standing and said, “Why are you guys mad?”

“We just really wanted to get the part,” said Evelyn.

“Don’t worry. I’m gonna make sure that you get the understudy.”

I looked back at the sheet to see who was my understudy. It was my archenemy, Skylar. Perfect.

Skylar and I used to be best friends, but ever since I moved from L.A. to Beverly Hills because of my dad’s job, she made her friends, and I made mine. When I came back to L.A., she was already in a clique. Skylar was very angry because she felt like I betrayed her. She wanted to switch roles with somebody else, but Ms. Allen wouldn’t let her.

“But please, you don’t understand! She’s evil,” Skylar squawked.

“I said no, and that’s the end of this conversation,” said Mrs. Allen.

“Ugh, fine,” said Skylar.

She walked back over to where we were standing and said, “I’m so excited to be your understudy.”

I said, “At least that’s the first few words you said to me all year.”

She crossed her arms and said, “Hmph.”

It’s never a dull day when Skylar’s mad.


Chapter Two: Restless, Rehearsals, Revenge

Skylar tried everything she could to get revenge on me. Even before the auditions for the parts for the show, Skylar was practicing for the part of Clara. Now that she was the understudy, she hated my guts. It was the rehearsal, and we still didn’t have the dance memorized. Mrs. Allen was yelling like crazy.

“Girls, you have to straighten your backs. Danielle, please point your toes.”

“Mrs. Allen, I can coach Danielle with her moves,” said Skylar.

“Umm…” I said.

“Wonderful. This is perfect because you two are the prima ballerinas in this class.”

“Ugh,” I exclaimed.

I already knew that Skylar was trying to sabotage me for getting the part.

Later that day…

Skylar came two hours late. She even had the nerve to say that she was doing homework, and her mom wouldn’t let her come until she finished, but I know she never does her homework. Oh, I forgot to tell you, Skylar and I are in the same class in school, unfortunately.

“So you should point your toes more,” Skylar said, while fixing her nails.

“You’re not helping. You know that, right?”

“You’re so ungrateful. Whatever, I’m leaving.”

She “accidentally” knocked over her bag, spilled some makeup, and cleaned it up. Little did I know that she snuck butter under the rug that I would later move to do my dance.

“Hope the door doesn’t hit you on the way out.”

She turned around. I “accidentally” slapped her with my wooden front door.


Skylar left, storming.

The next day…

Since my mom and Skylar’s mom are really close friends, when Skylar told me that I was driving her to school, I was very annoyed. The whole ride there we were silent while my mom was blasting her favorite song through our car windows. Skylar was just looking out one window the whole time, and I was looking out the other.

As soon as we got to school, Skylar jumped out of the car without even saying thank-you.

My mom asked me, “Hey, what’s up with Skylar?”

I said, “Nothing, nothing. We’re just having a grand old time! Haha… bye!”

She cluelessly said, “Okay!”

During Mathematics 101, Skylar told Brandon, Joey, and Lucia to pass me a note. So, without Mr. Kerry seeing, they started down the line. When it ended up at me, I opened the note, and it had a picture of me with devil horns on my head with the devil staff.

After, when we were on our independent time, I went up to Mr. Kerry with the note in my hand pretending to ask a question.

I asked him, “Can I go to the principal’s office? This has been happening every single day.”

He said, “Okay. Class, class please settle down!”

As soon as I went into the principal’s office, I showed him the notes. He called Skylar into his office, and she gave me an evil glance, and I stuck my tongue out at her. Then again, this was my revenge for her trying to get revenge on me. After today, I will have victory and justice, and she’ll never get the lead part. I got it fair and square, and she cannot be mad. After today, she got suspended and because her mom was so mad at her, she wouldn’t let her go to dance. And I faked sick because there was nobody to be my understudy since Skylar was gone.

I chose Evelyn to be my understudy, and Skylar would have to be Uncle Drosselmeyer. This was all part of my plan.

Three days later…

Skylar walked into the dance studio saying, “Let’s rehearse this thing since I’m the understudy, and I say what has to be done.”

Mrs. Allen came into the dance studio and said, “Actually, since you weren’t here the day that Danielle was sick, we changed your position to Uncle Drosselmeyer, and Evelyn became the new understudy.”

“That’s just my way of getting revenge,” I whispered in her ear.

She growled.


Chapter Three: Practice, Practice Makes Perfect

Okay, so I gave you a flashback of my last three months which were a living heck, but Skylar got a perfect part to express her anger … just kidding. He is a good person in The Nutcracker. Now, every day since that moment, Skylar has tried to get her part back. Anyway, back to dancing. I have one week to make sure that I know the dance (even though I practiced one million times).

At home…

“Step, turn, step, chasse. Man, I need to work harder. Especially if I want to be better than Skylar.” I kept dancing until I rolled my ankle. Ouch. I was so mad. Hold up, why is the floor so slippery? I moved the rug to find a small yet noticeable packet of butter and a strand of hair that was an ombre of black to gray. My mind immediately went straight to the black-ombre devil herself.

Bad conscience: Come on, let her have it!

Good conscience: No, that’s only going to make matters worse.

You know what? I’m just going to leave it alone because I don’t feel like getting into any more messes.

Bad conscience and good conscience in sync: What are you going to do about Mrs. Allen? For sure you’re going to be kicked off the dance team.

Okay, I’ll just not perform in the dance, so Evelyn can have a turn. I’m happy that she’s getting a chance. I’ll call her now.


“Hey, Evelyn. Are you going to the dress rehearsal tomorrow?”

“No, I can’t. My cousins are coming over from Paris, so I am leaving from school early and not going to dance.”

“Okay. Thanks.”

Mrs. Allen would kill me if I wasn’t at practice since I am the lead role, and the show is in less than a week. I just hope that nobody sees my foot.

The next day…

I strolled into dance like nothing happened the day before. It’s going to be hard to pull it off because I have a limp now. If anyone finds out about my foot, I could be kicked out of the dance. Man … these are going to be a long few days. What am I going to do?

We all went to the auditorium (it was freezing), and Mrs. Allen was waiting for us. We start dancing. My moves are a little sloppy because of my ankle. At least Mrs. Allen didn’t see me. I didn’t know that someone was watching me.

After dance class, Mrs. Allen stopped me in the hallway to tell me that Skylar told her that I was limping during practice. Unfortunately, I had no socks or shoes on, so she was able to see that I had a giant bruise on my foot.


She shoved me with her shoulder as she walked past. (She literally gave me the cold shoulder). As soon as I went home, I slammed the front door, stomped up to my room (which really hurt), slammed my bedroom door as hard as I could, and cried into Mr. Fluffernutter, my fluffy, usually emotionless cat.

“Why did I have to fall. I have such bad luck.” I sighed. “I know what to do!”

I grabbed my makeup case and ran into the bathroom. When I came out, it looked like the day before yesterday never happened.


Chapter Four: Opening Night

I strolled into the auditorium looking like a “non-injured” queen.

I went right up to Mrs. Allen and said, “I’m here and ready to dance.”

“Great. Go change into your costume.”

In my dressing room…

“First, let’s do my costume, makeup, and then my hair.”

An hour later…

“Finally, I’m done.”

I’m going to find Harper and Aubrey, so we can practice our solo. We got so lost in dancing that we did not even hear the five minute call.

“Places in five… four… three… two… ”


“Run before the curtains open,” said Harper.

We got on just in the nick of time. Mrs. Allen was not very happy. The dance was going so well. I always get so wrapped up in the music. I didn’t even realize that the dance was ending, and it was time for my solo. Step, turn, step, chasse, grand jet… “OWW!”

“Someone call the ambulance!!” said Harper.

I was in so much pain that I couldn’t move or speak. This has got to be the worst week ever.


Chapter Five: The Hospital

“Where am I? What happened?”

“Hi, Danielle. I’m Dr. Taylor. You are in the hospital.”

“What happened?”

“You were in a dance show and fell, sprained your ankle, got a slight case of amnesia, and sustained a severe head injury.”

“Will I get my memory back?”

“With enough rest, your memory should come back in the next 48 hours!”

“Thank you. Can you get my mom and dad, please.”

“Of course.”

My mom and dad, Lilianna and Derick, walked in the room.

“Hey, Mom and Dad.”

“Hi, sweetheart,” my mom said.

“What is going to happen when I go back to dance?”

“We don’t know. All we have to do is wait,” said Dad.

Two days later…

Cough. “Mrs. Allen… ”

“Please pack your things, and leave my studio”

“What? Why?”

“Because you lied to me, and you know I hate liars.”

A few hours later…

“She kicked me out,” I said to Harper, Aubrey, and Evelyn.

“It’s okay. Maybe you can find a new studio nearby,” said Evelyn.

“You don’t understand. I’m not going to see you guys anymore,” I said.

“We’ll be here with you every step of the way,” Harper said.

The next day after school…

On the bus ride back from school, it was already filled up, so Skylar had to sit next to me. She sat down looking like she had read the funniest text ever. Today is not the day for this.

“How is it having so much free time on your hands?” Skylar smirked.

“What’s your problem? You got what you wanted,” I said.

“My problem is you’re still in this town. Why can’t you just pack your things and move?”

Why can’t she just leave me alone? The bus dropped me off at my house.

Skylar yelled, “See you never, loser!”

That was when I got a brilliant idea. I walked in the front door to my mom sitting on a stool in the kitchen, typing up a storm. She was too busy to notice me.

“Ma, can we get out of this town? It’s so boring, it’s so annoying, and I’m tired of seeing Skylar’s and Mrs. Allen’s faces.”

“What? Why? I thought you liked Skylar. I thought you guys were best friends.” She closed her computer and turned around.

“She stopped talking to me after we moved back. Can we leave? She just keeps making fun of me and bullying me at school. I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want it to get out of hand.”

“Sure. I’ll tell your father. We can arrange to move back into our old house,” she said calmly.

I was very happy about the decision.

A week later, we said our goodbyes and were on the road.


Chapter Six: A New Beginning

I just moved to my new house. It feels so empty… I feel so empty. I lay on the floor with my arms spread out just thinking about how things would’ve gone if I hadn’t rolled my ankle last month. I went to the bathroom to wash my face, and I looked up in the mirror and saw that my mascara was smudging because I was crying so much. I washed my face and put my hair back in a perfect bun. I was so happy but also so sad. I wish I was never kicked out of the dance studio, even though my new studio is so much better. I miss dancing with my friends. I went up the stairs to my nonexistent bedroom, and I lay on my nonexistent bed. I saw my moving boxes perched against the bright white wall. I went into my box labeled “decorations” and took out the photo of me and my friends dancing in our first performance and laid it on my nonexistent table.

I guess I should start unpacking.

A few hours later…

“And that’s the last of it! Finally,” I said.

I lay on my now existent bed. I felt more at home. I had my corkboard with all of my pictures on it in front of my desk, which was on the right side of my bed. On the left side of my bed was my nightstand with my picture and lamp on it. On the other side of the room was my walk-in closet. And I couldn’t forget my faux fur beanbag. I only felt like one thing was missing… my friends.

If I called them, would they be mad at me? If I didn’t call them, would they get more mad? I’ll call them now.

Phone ringing.

“Hello?” I said.

“O-M-G, hey!” said Evelyn.

“I can’t believe I’m really talking to you,” Harper said enthusiastically.

“How’s your new home?” Aubrey exclaimed.

“It’s great. I miss you guys so much.”

“Open your front door,” Evelyn stated.


I went downstairs and opened the door. I saw Aubrey, Evelyn, and Harper reaching out for a group hug. I saw Evelyn’s mom’s car in the driveway.

“Oh my gosh. It’s really you!” I gave them the tightest hug ever.

“So, who are you dancing for now?” Evelyn asked.

“Don’t get mad at me, but I’m dancing for Energii now.”

“What? Why? You know they’re our rivals!” Harper yelled.

“They were the only ones who would accept me.”

“I respect your decision.” Evelyn smiled.

“I love you guys so much!”

They all said, “We love you, too!”



Pest Poems


The Roaches

We relax under the cabinet

Eating the leftover cheese

Contemplating the meaning of life

And wondering if there is any bread

That we can pair

With this sharp cheddar.

We are happy

At the moment.

The humans are away

And they left

Without so much as sweeping

The kitchen floor.

You perk up,

Dropping your crumb

On the wooden ground

I ask what happened

But you are already darting across

The kitchen.

Then I see what you see.

You have found

a grape.


The Appreciation of Pigeons

All they see you as

Is some type of pest —


Ugly, annoying.

They don’t see

What they should see.

They can’t look past

Your interesting eating habits,

Or the fact that you

Like to flutter and squawk

Very noisily, when some of us

Are trying

To sleep.

Why do they love

Those hummingbirds

Who flutter harder

And louder

Than you?

Why can’t they stop talking

About those hideous parrots

That squawk so loudly

One has to plug

Their ears?

Looking closer

At the fine grey feathers

That gracefully morph

Into deep purples and greens,

Peering into your eyes,

Noticing the perfect oval shape,

The deep orange color

Surrounding a pinprick of black,

One could really only describe you

As magnificent.


Your Greatest Fan, Jemima.

My dearest Una,

Hear me now.

You think wrong of me,

And I can tell,

For I caught you

Standing on your stoop

Spraying vast quantities of bug repellent

Over every surface

Of your body.

If I could bite you

Without making those itchy bumps

Pop up all over your skin,

I would gladly do so.

But I can’t, unfortunately.

I see you trying to get rid of me

And my friends

But I feel it necessary to put it out there

That your struggles are pointless.

I’m sorry, I really am,

But I love you

Too much

To let the foul scent

Of that horrid stuff

Stand between

You and me.

I would die for you gladly,

Is one thing that you appear to have overlooked.

If my last sensation

Was a little bit

Of your freshly sucked blood

I would die a happy girl.

So put on all the bug spray you want,

Go for it,

Try to get rid of me,

But both you and I

Know that our love

Was written

In the stars.

Your greatest fan,



How We Can Improve My Current Situation



And hopeless.

Nothing can fix

This wretched situation.

I lean back against a piece of tinfoil

That was dropped on the ground,

And then it hits me.

I have finally thought

Of a solution.

For starters, a lot of pizza. Yes. More pizza!

Dripping cheese, warm and delicious.

Next, a nicer place to live.

How about the corner of a restaurant

(preferably an Italian place)?

Yes, that would be perfect.

Then, when the owners dropped food,

I could feast like a king! My stomach rumbles

At the very thought.

OOH! Also, I’d like to get myself

Another rat, for company.

You know, that’s all that I really need.

Scrap the pizza,

Scrap the home.

All I want

Is a friend.


My Favorite Snacks

The sweater your grandma wore

To her first day of high school

Is near the top of the list for sure.

The dye has mostly faded,

Giving it a more bland flavor,

But the soft texture makes up for any faults.


The knitted hat that your aunt wore

For the skiing trip she took

In the seventh grade.

Purple cashmere,

Smooth, magnificent.

The taste of snow still lingers

On its surface.


The rainbow scarf,

Disfigured and full of loose ends,

Your first knitting project.

The wool is scratchy, and it is already falling apart

Even though us moths have not yet

Filled it with our own holes.

Despite this, the nostalgia I feel

When nibbling on its colorful folds

Is immense, so I love it still.




Yellow dogs.

Black dogs.

White dogs.

Red dogs.

Brown dogs.

Grey dogs.

Even pink dogs.

So many dogs

To be my friend

For me to defend.

An ally

So diverse

That to be my dogfriend

Would be not a curse.

Yellow dogs.

Black dogs.

White dogs.

Red dogs.

Brown dogs.

Grey dogs.

Even pink dogs.

Accepting of all breeds

To diversity these are the seeds.


Is diversity’s heiress.


Is in our fashion.


Is to be taught with stress.

Accepting of all breeds

For to diversity these are the seeds.


The Sun Is Up


The sun is up

But I am not

I am numb

For the day is not

When I feel things

I only feel

When the sun is sleeping

And I can be alone

I can think my dangerous thoughts

By myself.

I am trapped.

Alone with just my feelings.

Why aren’t they there when I need them?

Why are they only here to hurt?
Is this normal?

Is something wrong with me?

What is it?

What can I do?

To stop it?

So many questions.

Where are my friends?

Why can’t I make them?

Why am I so alone?



For just a moment.

Stop asking questions.

Answer them.

Is this normal?


Is something wrong with me?


I’ve read about this.

They tell me there are other people here,

They’re just like me.

I don’t believe them.

What can I do?

I need someone.

I need someone to listen.

Someone to talk to.

Someone to understand.

Why don’t you understand?


The questions will not stop.

What can I do.

Who can I ask for help

If I have no one.




Who do I have?

My parents?

No, they wouldn’t understand

They tell me I need therapy.




But what if it could help?

They would judge me.

But what if they were okay?

I can’t take the chance.

Yes I can.

What harm would it do?

You’re right.

I’m crazy.

I’m right.

I need help.


The sun is up.

I’m almost up.

I can feel the progress.

I still have questions, but they are leaving.

I’m going to be okay.

I know it.

I am normal.

I am not alone.


I know that they will help me.


The sun is up.

And so am I.

I think that I’m okay.

I was brave.

I got help.





The light stains my eyelids a

lurid pink.

I fumble with the

Pen and paper

That lay on my desk.

The others are still sleeping,

The sun is yet to rise,

And I shiver in the cold.

The room looks too large without

The others.

I fidget in my seat,

Unable to sit still.

The paper stares at me

Marred by my shaky writing.

The timer dings announcing my time is up,

And I hand in a paper half blank, half gibberish,

Dripping with sweat.

So much for my future.


Hawaiian Vacation


Chapter One: Crazy Problems

Three minutes before my family moved to Hawaii, I was so scared. I felt sick to my stomach. I had never flown anywhere. Well, except for going to Florida and California. Now, you might be thinking, why are you going to Hawaii? Well, I’m going because my family and I got hit by an avalanche. Well, our house did. I was skiing in Pennsylvania, and I forgot to say I live in Ohio, so we could get there kind of quickly. That didn’t really help because our car had broke down, and our grandfather was at work, and we couldn’t call him because the power went out. This was the worst day of my life. When I thought things were starting to turn around, they got worse. I was scared of flying, and I had not packed anything. One good thing did happen: We changed the flight, so we could go there in two weeks. Well, my dad called someone. Yay! I had to pack because the movers came a week before we left. We had to stay in a hotel all week. I finally packed! The hotel was okay but only because we swam in the pool every day.

Two weeks later…

So now my family and I were going through security. The way there was not bad. We made it! So, now we had to fill our water bottles. Nothing bad happened except that the water fountains were not working. My family did not have to buy water bottles because my dad knew that our flight was not for two hours, but we got there early just in case. We had to take a red-eye, but at least it was Tuesday because the restaurant that is there had a pasta buffet. I do not like pasta, but I like meatballs with sauce which they did have. The food was filling because I did not have breakfast (as always). By the time we finished, the water fountain was fixed. Then, we filled our water bottles, and then we got onto the airplane…


Chapter Two: Plane Problems

If things were not bad enough, as I said earlier, flying makes me scared. What should I do? Help me!! Then, the very nice flight attendant told me to buckle my seatbelt. At least there were no problems with the seatbelt. When I sat down, I forgot that we were in first class. After we were allowed to take off our seatbelts, I waited until the flight attendant came by with drinks and food. I got a bagel and a ginger ale. Aloha, Texas! When I got off the plane, I was not scared of flying because I just thought I was scared. I was glad that I was not scared because that flight was only three hours, and my next flight was in nine hours. So that gave me time to figure out what to do on the i ka hora ‘iwawa, which means nine hour flight in Hawaiian. I figured out that maybe I could just sleep through it because Hawaii is six hours behind. I forgot about the time change so if my flight left at 10:00 and Hawaii is six hours behind, then it would be 4:00 A.M.. I might as well sleep a tiny bit. It was very hard for me to fall asleep, so I would watch a few movies and binge-watch TV. I was not sure what TV show but whatever it was, this would be really fun (hopefully). But if I do not like the show, it will not be fun for me. Now it was time for my family and I to go to Hawaii. We got on the plane with no problems. The flight was boring.


Chapter Three: Aloha, Hawaii

When I first got there, I was so excited to find out where our house was that I forgot that it was on the big island, and I was on Oahu which means, “the gathering place.” I guess the name fit what I was doing because I was gathering some of my things. Tonight, my family and I were staying at a hotel. Tomorrow, I would get to see my new house because we were taking another flight. Then, I was done flying for a while which was a good thing because flying is expensive, the long flights get boring, and the time change is super different.

The next morning…

When I woke up, I was very excited because this was my last flight for a while, (hopefully for my family too because my dad was going to try to get a job at the Polynesian Cultural Center which sounds like a really cool place). We were at the airport, and my family and I were now on the plane. Lift off! The flight was only 30 minutes, so now there were 15 minutes left. The flight attendant came by with drinks that were in pineapples. My family was in first class, so the really cool drinks were free. But the people in coach had to pay if they wanted the drinks. Now we were about to land, and I was so surprised that nothing bad happened. My family and I took a bus to the hotel that was really close to where our new house was.

When I saw our house, I was so surprised because the house was three floors. My dad also said that there was a pool in the back. Everyone in my family got their own room, but my parents shared a bed. Also, everyone in my family got their own bathroom with a tub and a shower. As soon as I got in, I saw boxes everywhere. When I saw my bed, I thought that the bed fit in perfectly and that the room was for me.


Chapter Four: The Pool

As soon as I got in my room after looking around, I changed into a swimsuit, and my brothers did too. I looked inside their rooms. It looked like both of my brothers belonged in those rooms. Then, my mom took a picture of me and my brothers jumping that would become a part of our Christmas card. It was summer (well, people were in school, but our parents did not want us to start school in the middle of the year) so I didn’t have to worry about trying to make new friends. I also did not have to worry about homework because there was no break homework. Ia! That means yay in Hawaiian. People were on break for one more day. So now I could spend the rest of my time playing in the pool and having fun.

The pool was amazing. It came with a slide which made it super fun and cool. Our family also had a bunch of inflatables and pool noodles. My best friend FaceTimed me, and it was so great to see her face. It was May, so she was almost done with school. Her house did not get smashed by the volcano because she lived far away from school. I was not sure why. I really thought she would like the pool. I hoped she would like the shaved ice and malasada, the Hawaiian doughnut. My dad said he really likes his job. My mom just started working there too, so my older brother who is 14 was in charge, but he was nice. My new life was going well for me and my family. My parents made a lot of money. They also said their jobs were fun and easy, so it was a win-win. The house also came with two golf carts, and my parents got everyone big hammocks that were so comfortable. I could sit on a hammock all day long crafting, except it gets too hot.


Chapter Five: Seeing My Friend

I was so excited to see my friend from Ohio because I had not seen her in so long that it felt like a year. When she got here, she and her family put all their bags down, and then they came over to our house. When she got there, we start doing all sorts of crafts, talking, and asking all kinds of questions like ones about school or what the ride over was like. We had so much fun! Her two brothers and her sister were all looking over at us because we were making leis. Then, we let them and my two brothers make them. My friend and I went to my room and then into the na mala li’ili’i, which means little garden. We picked a bunch of beautiful flowers because there were five people who wanted real flower leis. Her family had not got any at the airport because it was very expensive. Then, my family took my friend’s family to the Polynesian Cultural Center for free because my dad worked there. They loved it. The next day, we took them to the King’s Hawaiian Roll Factory, and the rolls were good like they always were. On the last day of her visiting, we made friendships bracelets because she said that I was still her favorite best friend. When she left, it was so sad. The good part was that she just got a phone, so I could FaceTime and text her. My friend’s flight got delayed, and she did not want to stay at an airport, so she had to stay at our house because there were no available rooms at any hotels near the airport. That was fine with me. We could have our own sleepover. It would be so fun.


Chapter Six: The Sleepover

My friend and I were so excited. No problem here. We stayed up until ten o’clock, crafting and drawing. Then, we got to swim in the pool for thirty minutes. It was 10:30, so we went back into my room and then went to my room past the garden, by where all the hammocks were. My hammock was purple and covered in lights that I turned on. But my family made a rule: If we had friends over, we had to ask to use another person’s hammock. I had to ask my mom to use her hammock, because it was next to mine and moving a hammock is very hard. My friend said that this was the best night ever, better even than her birthday, which is always very fun. We used my family’s telescope to look up at the sky. It was so beautiful. Her mom came out and said they were going to stay for an extra week. We both yelled, “Yay!” We were so excited. Then, we actually had to go back to bed, but it was okay because we still had fun. We spent the next day in the pool. It was awesome. I almost forgot about the street fair the next day. My friend had not been to a street fair in months, so she was excited when I told her. When we were in the pool and not looking at the house, my brother jumped in, and I was so scared! Then, I spent the rest of the day in the pool going down the slide. I think that this was one of the best days in my life.


Chapter Seven: The Fair and Fun

This fair was not one of the typical street fairs you would see in Ohio. Yes, there were cotton candy, games, and shops, but there was also a huge luau. There were some really great fire dancers like my dad, who was teaching my brothers all the tricks. My mom and I danced in the luau which was always fun. My friend really liked it. The next day, I got to teach her how to do a traditional dance. She really liked doing the hula. She thought it was hard, but then she got the hang of it. Then, we put on a show for our mothers, and they loved it. There were five more days left until my friend left. They would be packed with fun and awesome things. The next day, we spent the day at a water park, which was amazing. We were tall enough to go on all the rides, even though we didn’t. I was screaming half the time with joy and laughter but mostly because I was just scared because the rides were so big. But after going, it was not that scary at all. In fact, it was fun. My friend also won a huge inflatable ball that was red. When we got home, we played with the ball for the rest of the day, but before sunset it started to rain. So we went inside and played hide-and-seek until sunset, and then we fell asleep. It was still raining the next day, so we went to the arcade and played all day and had so much fun. It felt as if we never had to leave, but we did because my dad said that the storm was getting worse. So on the way back, my family got some batteries while my friend’s family stayed in the car. When we got back, we were fine until…


Chapter Eight: The Storm and More

So, the power went out, and now we couldn’t call, text, or play games. What would be so bad about that, right? I mean, maybe not having electronics would not be the worst thing because I could play games and talk to people more than I usually would. So first, we played Just Dance where one person from each family would compete against each other, and my family won. Yay! Next, we played family vs. family Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader which was fun because my friend and I were in fifth grade before the avalanche. Next, we taught my friend’s family a simple luau dance which was super cool because it was fun to watch a luau even if you were not in it. We got all the flashlights in the house and used them for the luau. Soon after the luau, we all went to bed. Then the next morning, it finally stopped raining. But then the power company said that they could not get the power on until the next day, which was fine because another day without electronics would kind of be fun. For the first half of the day, we just laid on the hammocks talking. Then, we had lunch by the pool and then just played in the pool for the rest of the day. The next day there was power, but we barely used it because we learned our lesson when the storm was here: you don’t need electronics to have fun. My friend was leaving in a few days so no time to waste, right? But, it didn’t matter if we didn’t do everything because she would come back very soon.


Chapter Nine: Almost Bye…

I was going to have to say bye to my friend the next day, but once again they postponed it, so I had three more days with her. Awesomeness was in view. So the next day, we planned to go to the luau at my new school where the eighth grade girls did a special dance, and the boys played with fire. We got to the luau with one minute to spare. The luau was great. As soon as it finished, the principal took me and my friend on a tour. The building was not that big, but it smelled amazing for some reason. The girls were super kind, so I wasn’t worried about making new friends. After all of that, I was so tired. The next morning, everyone in our house woke up at 10:00 which was very late for me. So to wake myself up, I went for a swim in the pool, and soon after, everyone else joined. It was so fun because I felt like it was the best pool party ever. We all played until 11:00 when the parents had to work. All of the parents had to leave, but all of the kids stayed in the pool until 12:00 when we had lunch, which was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that I made. After that, we watched a tiny bit of TV. Next, soon after the TV, we played Just Dance which was super fun and tiring. Next, we played hide-and-seek, and I scared my little brother for fun. After that exhausting day, we laid on the hammocks reading books. When my parents came home, they gave me and my two brothers each a fish. I knew why: because I had a fish but my brothers don’t. I was excited to have a second one because maybe my fish could be friends through the glass. They were both a rustic, purple, bluish color.


Chapter Ten: Bye for Real

Having to leave my friend was hard, but she was coming back in a month, and I was starting school which would get my mind off of her. Since we were both starting new schools, we would text each other about our difficulties if we had any, but hopefully we wouldn’t. The next day when I woke up, it was time to take my friend to the airport where she would go to Texas and then to Pennsylvania, where she and her family would begin the drive to Ohio. When we were in the car, I gave her a picture of us in Hawaii that says “friend” on top. I gave her sister a magnet and her brother a keychain to remember Hawaii. They all thanked me, and I was happy that they liked it. It was almost time to leave when one of the bags in the back opened up, and this trip was about to turn into a disaster. They had gotten to the airport two hours early though, so they had time to put everything back in the bag and even fold the clothes. So now, time for the hardest part, saying goodbye without crying. Here we go. I said goodbye and told her thanks for coming. She also said bye and said thank you too. I said the same things to her mom, brother, and sister. They went into the airport and then onto the plane. We saw it taking off, and we waved even though they probably could not see us. I think it was a sad and happy day.


for the poets


your words coat my lips

like honey

i sit cross-legged on my bed and speak them

over and over again

until i can taste them

imprinted on my tongue

they crackle

on the crumpled papers of

my spiral notebooks

i write them over and over again

the blue ink bleeding from

the margins

of my math homework

seeping over the equations

numbers have always made sense to me and

math is refreshing in its clarity

but i can’t help but be


by your words

they spill over my walls

printed thoughts that stain the blue paint

until there’s no room for posters

poetry on poetry

even your names flow easily

from my lips

pablo neruda

e. e. cummings

william carlos williams

{is having a poetic name a necessity

to be a poet?

or could beth the barista

publish her own printed thoughts one day?

could jonny the jockey

stain a teenager’s walls?}

eventually your words

the ones that coated my lips

imprinted themselves on my tongue

bled over my math homework

twist themselves up in my trachea

so that when i speak your words

they’re not the same

they’ve been reborn

your words

those honey coated ballpoint pen masterpieces

have been reformed into


bright white leather baseballs

shiny copper pennies

brand new words

{extra! extra! hot off the presses!}

your words are repeated




some people take quotes from movies

or pop stars

or presidents

but i take mine from you

you poets,

you creators,

you gods of your masterpieces

i dismantle them

i dig into every crack and crevice

i check and double-check to make sure

i shake loose every word

and i reassemble them

so that the barest whisper of you


enough to make it clear

that you are my inspiration

but besides from this whisper

the words, formerly yours,

are unrecognizable

i take my words,

my shining pennies,

my fallen stars

from you

and i make them mine



Three days later, she found herself on the riverbank. Thin breaths huddled in her chest and emerged at unpredictable intervals. Perhaps she was saving heat. The early March grass, pale and sickly, was bent a final few degrees beneath her feet. The water would have been a perfect pale blue, but it was dirtied by too many sticks and garbage and polluted snowmelt. A breath of wind, as small as her own exhalations came by, and it threatened to freeze the water in the river and on her face with all the force of a puppy playing at ferociousness. She stayed still as the smallest fraction of a smile bloomed inside her and withered a moment later, and she listened to the empty air ringing in her ears.

Vera, in her own quiet way, had always been as proud as a cat. She never claimed superiority, never went around with a stiffly straightened back, but like a cat, she always licked her wounds in secret and never let anyone know she was injured.

The winter descended on Vera late, and as she thought about it on the riverbank, she was as grateful as she could be, given everything. The first snow had been in November, but it hadn’t reached in and hushed up her soul for a good month. Even so, it had been too long. Each day she looked for some new tool or trick. Each time she seemed to be out of ideas, she summoned up enough cunning for just one more.

Still, none of them had worked (and the last one had worked least of all), and now, with the crocuses still in bloom, all she had was her own breath and a scrap of hope. The second, when she looked for it, was absent as often as it was there. Vera still held onto it like a child’s blanket, because what else was there? Sometimes she was almost glad of its absence, the breathless wanting that broke through the hush a little bit. She was always glad of its presence. Mostly the cycle, the soar and the crash, had tired her out. Still she was a little glad, because what else was there?

It was with this little bit of hope and little bit of gladness that Vera waited on the riverbank and worried a little. What if the late arrival meant a late departure? What if there was no departure at all, and the turning inside her was separate from the seasons? (This last one was too likely for comfort, and Vera tried to think of the rivers’ currents instead, the empty twisting things.)


Three days ago, the sky had been an over-bright, perfectly clear blue, as if trying and failing to make up for the below-zero temperature. Vera had gone outside, at the urging of her mother, and not just to the river a bit behind her house. She had got in the car, for the first time since the break began, and bit back a grimace at the fumes. She always imagined them creeping through her lungs and turning her insides charcoal gray, but the reality was that they were mostly just gross. Someone who avoided the car like her would probably be fine.

The seat of the car looked the same way it smelled: dirty, old, and slightly wrong. It was the sort of smell that infused the places where terrible things happened. She was being overdramatic, she knew that. She could ignore the smell. It faded into the background if she waited long enough and looked at the trees, looking empty without their leaves. Or at the road, watching the dashes blur into an unbroken line of white paint and seeing the barriers on the side of the road crash into each other noiselessly. Her gaze shifted in continual disappointment. The sun was out, the sky was doing its best to pretend it was summer, but everything was sallow, like the light was slacking off.

The trees looked like dust plumes now. Vera’s mother hadn’t said anything yet. Vera had barely noticed her get in the car and start driving. Something hard weighed in her chest.

“How long have you been driving?”

“Uh, five minutes or so.” Her mom looked a little surprised, and Vera wondered why, until she remembered that she had barely spoken in the last few days. “We’ll be there soon.”

Which meant anywhere from five minutes to an hour. Although, she had been to this store before. She really should have been able to remember. “Okay. Thanks.”

The white line kept bleeding into itself. Everything that could be seen on the side of the road hurried away from the direction Vera was heading. What were they, so desperate to get away and so good at it too? For a moment the car was stationary, she and her mom sitting passively in it, doing nothing but twitching and breathing. The earth roared past, and the air hissed along the car. Then, her perspective flipped right back, and it was once more the car racing down the highway while the trees fumbled a little in the wind. Vera sat still, breathless, disturbed. Was it any different? She still did nothing; only the car moved her. Could she even move? Vera willed herself to pick up her arm. It didn’t move, but that was to be expected. She hadn’t wanted it enough.

Some thick tangle of emotion engulfed her. She looked through the gaps, doing her best to ignore it and waiting for time and oxygen to take it away, even as it was about to stop her throat from beneath. “Mom?” she said.


“The play you went to last week, what was that about?” Might as well distract herself.

“Oh, I don’t really remember. Adultery or something?” Vera’s mom didn’t look at her. Of course she couldn’t, she was driving, but she had drilled into Vera the importance of looking people in the face.

“What do you mean, adultery?”

“Like, people cheating on each other.”

“No, I know what adultery means. I mean what else happened in the play? Lots of plays are about adultery.”

“Exactly.” A corner of her mom’s mouth flicked upward, just for a second. “Can’t keep them apart.”

“Hm.” Vera didn’t see the point in seeing a play you couldn’t remember, but she decided to shut up about it. “Was it good?”

Her mom shrugged. “It was like the rest of them.”

A sense of déjà vu struck her; she could have sworn she’d had this conversation. Only it wasn’t déjà vu at all: she had said these things before, or close enough to them, and her mom had just gone on seeing the same plays. Her stomach turned, and the smell of exhaust that she had ignored till now flooded it. “Then why did you see them?” she demanded. Her voice had an edge of anger in it that made her mother flinch.

“Don’t talk to me like that.”

Vera sulked and didn’t stop until her mom pulled into the parking lot, where the endless concrete was too overwhelming to really do anything but look at it. Something compressed her chest; she could hardly breathe. The buildings were not concrete, but they were the same color, or else a bleached beige totally devoid of personality. All the local colors had been drained out and stuffed into a handful of logos. Minus the sky. The sky was the same oversaturated blue, and at that moment Vera couldn’t imagine it ever changing. She would simply have to live out her life stalked by that sky, leeching all the color out of the landscape.

It was with — not gladness, but something close enough to it that Vera slipped out from under the sky and entered the store, following her mother blindly. The place was lightly crowded. That should have been easy enough to get around, but no one here could move at all, and Vera found herself bumping into person after person. Scowling, she retreated into a corner. Her mom could do the shopping herself.

The corner she found herself in was not a corner, exactly. That is to say, it was not a place where two walls met. It was a place where they collided as if thrown together by some frustrated god of retail, with any adherence to the laws of physics or aesthetics entirely accidental. The cement was rough enough to almost hurt when she leaned against it, and the caulk was filled with dirt. Had anyone, she wondered, ever taken care of this place? Or was it one of those permanently untended patches of civilization, built to keep out the wind and nothing more?

Something flickering by her nose surprised her, and when she traced the light back to its source, she found she was eye to eye with a dragonfly. It dragged itself up the caulk over bits of dirt that must have seemed to it as large as boulders, staring at her with glittering compound eyes; she scarcely breathed for fear of disturbing it. It drank in the empty light with its whole body and converted it, casual as anything, into iridescence: this must have been what made the alchemists think that they could transmute lead into gold.


The sound of her mom’s voice made the dragonfly take off. Vera tracked the blue and green glimmers for the moment it was still in sight, then reluctantly turned around. “Coming!” she shouted, then winced at the sound of her own voice. The store was the same as it had been a few minutes ago. The lights flattened the linoleum floor into a featureless expanse, and everywhere, bright packages and conversation blurred into a meaningless haze. The place smelled overwhelming, but it was an unplaceable scent, the smell of hundreds of processed foodstuffs. She thought of the dragonfly, how for a moment the sight of it had carved into her the desire to simply watch it. Forever, if she could get that.

But this was the real world. It was shallow and chaotic, and she couldn’t sit and want. Can’t sit and want. It was a message she would do well to gouge into a wall somewhere, but of course, nothing was that permanent or that simple. She would have to remember it. Perhaps she should leave a note for her future self, telling her not to empty herself out, to let the tides of the supermarket and the car trips wash over her and fill her. For the time being.


This is Called a Ransom Note

Dear Janice,

You may have recently noticed that your dear semi-aquatic turtle named Henry has gone missing. Please do not call the police. If you do, they won’t believe you and won’t do anything to help you no matter how much you plead. Resistance is futile. There is no way out this time, Janice. Henry is in good health, and his tank water is kept at a constant 27.7778 degrees Celsius. I feed him every morning and every night. But in order for him to continue on in his joyous state, I will need you to place exactly $53.94 in a sealed envelope underneath the Ford-Gleedon library mailbox, located on the corner of Ford and Gleedon. I will use the money to buy Henry a jumbo sized container of freeze-dried krill every other month. You have a whole year to create a plan to infiltrate my facility. If you can find it. Good luck.


Your dear Henry’s captor

P.S. I forgot to mention this in the letter, and I’ve gotten this far, and I’m not redoing this again. Just so you know, I need the money by Thursday.


Dear Daniel,

It has come to my attention that you have turtlenapped my semi-aquatic turtle named Henry. I know it was you. You have always loved Henry, and I saw you running out of my apartment building with Henry’s transportation tank while I was parking after my brunch with Janet. I know where you live, so there’s no reason for me to call the police anyway. Henry is a “she,” and you can always adopt a very similar turtle from your local shelter. Thank you for taking care of my turtle. I will be picking her up at 8:12 A.M. Eastern Standard Time tomorrow. Should you fail to hand over my dear Henry, you will be met with the brute force of a turtle mother. You have been warned.

With much frustration,



Dear Janice,

It has come to my attention that you have unmasked my identity. With much joy, I shall inform you of my plans this weekend. This upcoming Friday, I will be leaving the country with Henry and won’t look back. That’s right. I’m leaving. Over the weekend, we will take a cruise along the coast of France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and end in Greece. I have already bought a house for myself and Henry. We will live in a small cottage there and be adopted into the Grecian society. Henry will have HER own room with all of her supplies and toys. Until then, you have a slight window of time before we leave on our one-way trip to the sweet, sweet country Greece. Just so you know, yes, I have gotten a turtle license to have Henry with me on the plane to France. Farewell, Janice!

With much joy,



Dear Daniel,

If it means that much to you, then I suppose you may take Henry on the cruise, but you can’t stay in Greece with her forever. You can’t even stay in Greece forever. I have heard it’s beautiful there, though. Perhaps I will meet you in Greece. After all, we haven’t talked in a while. It will be nice to see you. We could go to some museums and parks or gardens! Anyway, tell Henry that Mommy’s coming.



Dear Janice,

I appreciate you allowing me to take Henry on the adventure of her 20-30 year life. It would be nice to meet up in Greece. I told my turtle that her psychotic stalker was coming to get her, and she looked pretty scared. Great job at being a mom. Today, Henry took a walk around the block in her new rolly cart transporter! It’s a small cart that comes with a tank strapped onto it. You can take your aquatic friends on a walk anywhere you are willing to walk to. Henry seemed to have liked it a lot. I plan to take her on more rolly cart transporter trips. All is well otherwise, and I hope to see you in Greece. Or maybe not. Because then you might try to take Henry away from me. It would be very unfortunate if that were to happen. Well, we’ll see.




Sonnet of the Feline


The worst gray haired creatures to roam the earth,

They leave and scrounge for rats and mice alike,

And they are even worse while giving birth,

Do not cross their paths whilst on a hike,


Do not pet them because, beware, they’ll bite,

On bed or shoes, wherever they may lay,

Tread on the tail, and prepare for a fight.

Inside or stray, please stay out of their way.


Their retractable claws will leave a mark

That won’t simply wash away with some soap.

Run away and they will dive in an arc,

Tis a slip’ry slope, farewell to your hope.


A kitten’s life is like a sharp descent,

Clearly, dogs are better, that’s what I meant.


Weird Dream

A dream that I had once, which was extremely odd, was that I started off standing on the top of the moon. I walked forward to the edge of the moon and fell all the way through space, down to earth. When I hit the pavement, I jumped out of my sleep. This dream has happened over at least five or seven times. The only logical explanation I have for this dream occurring multiple times is that when I was younger, I used to imagine that I was sleeping on top of the world. I guess that my wondrous imagination somehow turned into a terrifying dream that winds up having my body completely in pieces when I hit the ground, turning my “awesome dream” into a heart pounding moment for me.


Alas, such are the ways of the clouds…


I must serve them because alas, such are the ways of the clouds

I gather worms although alas, such are the ways of the clouds


Why must I subject myself to your experiments

I adorn thy statues since alas, such are the ways of the clouds


Please help me, for I drown slowly like a fish

I float merrily while alas, such are the ways of the clouds


I plead of thee for a breadcrumb, starving while my masters feast

They believe me their mindless servant for alas, such are the ways of the clouds


My parched mouth begs for life-giving water as I flee my masters

They chase me far for alas, such are the ways of the clouds


I cannot run much longer please help me

As I hide in the roots, they pass by because alas, such are the ways of the clouds


They dump buckets of acid on the lands, smoking me out

I take up the lost dagger and fight them but alas, such are the ways of the clouds


Beating them back with the almighty shield of sorrow

I fall beneath their power for alas, such are the ways of the clouds


They take my soul, leaving a husk

I continue my eternal servitude and forget my past for alas, such are the ways of the clouds


My flesh and bones evaporating and leave behind a vapor

I am a cloud and I am selfish for alas, such are the ways of the clouds


I lose myself, I forget my roots

I forget my humanity, for alas, such are the ways of the clouds


Now a cloud, I continue as such

Miserable, missing what I cannot remember for alas, such are the ways of the clouds


All I remember is Juliana

Mourning me for alas, such are the ways of the clouds


Potatoes to Apples


“Just a small town girl

Livin’ in a lonely world

She took the midnight train goin’ anywhere” – Journey (1981)


For all my life, I’ve wished I could be someone else. Somewhere else. New York. I remember being a kid, flipping through magazines at the one dentist office within a five mile radius, looking at the glamour and flashiness that the models and actresses flaunted in their pictures. I remember the article I was reading, something about the Big Apple, with a beautiful picture of Lindsay Lohan in the right hand corner. You know. Before she got sent to rehab.

She was in a red dress that skimmed the floor with these big hoop earrings. I flipped to the next page where there were even more A-List celebrities, carrying around their mini dogs in their mini bags before it was passé, and I fell in love. From that day on, I knew New York was my town.

I wouldn’t stop bothering my mom for a dress just like Lindsay’s. She got me one from the thrift shop that looked and smelled like it’d been worth about two dollars. Mom told me she’d gotten it for one. Did I care? No. I wore that dress until the fraying sleeves wore down to threads and I had had to cut up one of Dad’s old shirts for makeshift straps.

Idaho wasn’t ready for a star like me. And I made sure everyone around me knew that. My friends got tired of me talking their ears off about how great New York was and how terrible Idaho was. Can you blame me, though? We aren’t called the potato state for nothing. There’s nothing else here. It’s not exactly like you can party it up in a silo or anything.

So I made a plan. My town had one train station about two miles away from where I lived. Maybe I should have bought my tickets a little earlier, considering the fact that the only tickets left were for a train leaving at midnight. The only problem was that the ticket fare for a cross country trip was close to $200. Which meant that I would have to ask my parents for the money.

The closest I’ve ever been to a cross-country trip is driving to my Aunt Tilda’s house about two hours away from mine. My parents aren’t exactly what you’d call well-traveled people either. So I expected them to be a little protective of their only child going to a far away city and whatnot. They laughed. And when they saw how upset I looked, they stopped for a second.

“Why do you want to go to New York?” Dad asks, not even looking up from his newspaper. I could tell they weren’t taking me seriously.

Okay, so maybe I had already threatened to run away from home in eighth grade. They probably thought it was just one of those phases that I went through as a kid. But I’m not a kid anymore! I’m almost 18!

“I’ve looked at the train fare already, and it’s close to $200.” I showed them the online train schedule. I’ve already established that I’m an adult by showing them that I’m responsible for looking up the train times. To ask anything more of me would be overkill.

“And you just expect us to give you the money?” Mom stops peeling potatoes long enough to exchange glances with Dad. I know that glance. It’s the should-we-entertain-our-delusional-daughter-or-tell-her-how-the-world-actually-works glance. Which is ridiculous. I’m not delusional, and this isn’t a phase.

“It’s not just giving me the money, Mom.” I roll my eyes. “Think of this as an investment. I’ll go to New York, I’ll make money, and when I get rich and famous enough, I’ll buy you and Dad a house someplace better than Idaho.”

“How, exactly, do you plan on making this money?”

I stop for a second. Do I even know what I’m planning on doing in New York? Whatever. I’ll figure it out when I get there. They don’t need to know. God! Why can’t they just support me? It’s just $200. And the money I’ll need to rent out a place or stay in a motel. And the money I’ll need for food and a ticket back. But it’s not like I’ll be coming back anyway, so I don’t even need that $200. I’m already thinking ahead and saving money. So I go about convincing my parents the only way I know how: begging.

“Please? Please? Please?” I stretch out each syllable and make eye contact with my parents, hoping to send across some kind of subliminal message that says, “I need to go to New York now, and if I don’t, I might die.”

“Let’s say you did go. Where would you even stay? We’ve only left you at home alone once while we went to Marcie’s wedding.” Mom starts to cut up the potatoes into little chunks. It feels like the potatoes are my dreams, and my parents are just willing to cut them up into pieces for soup, or whatever dish we’re having tonight for dinner.

“I’d stay in a motel,” I answer quickly. “They’re cheap, and I’d be able to stay there for a while.”

They don’t look convinced.

“No.” Mom goes back to the potatoes. I can feel my dream slipping through my fingers like a wet bar of soap. Ew.

“But that’s not fair!” I feel tears gathering behind my eyeballs. I can picture it now. Me, years from today, in another house just like this one. I’m peeling potatoes, or washing dishes, or mucking out a cow yard. I’ll be just like… my parents. My boring, mediocre parents. I can feel the walls of our tiny kitchen start to close in on me. I have to get out of this state.

I manage a smile and try to make eye contact with my dad. “Okay. You’re right. I’m not responsible enough to stay by myself, especially in a whole other state.” I force a laugh but end up sounding like a car backfiring.

Mom pushes her mouth into a straight line and nods. “I’m glad you see it from our perspective.”

“I’ll just go to my room and get ready for dinner.” I turn to walk upstairs.

Dinner that night is kind of weird. Unusually quiet. But that might be because I’m trying to think of how to execute my master plan titled, How I’m Going to Get Out of Idaho by Stealing Money from my Parents While They’re Sleeping.

I mull over my options. I don’t have access to any of the things I see in the spy movies, which means I’ll just have to sneak into their room. They keep this ceramic bottle somewhere on their nightstand that has our emergency money in it. This is an emergency.

We finish eating in silence and go upstairs to wash up and go to sleep. Once I hear the faint snoring coming from the room across the hall, I know it’s time for me to put my plan into action.

I roll across the bed and plant my feet on the floor as softly as I can. I start to make my way to my parents’ room. Barely three steps into my plan, my foot and the floor create this awful creaking sound that gives me a heart attack. I reach the door and turn the handle slowly, wincing a little when it squeaks. I stop for a second and listen for any sign that says they’re awake. When there aren’t any, I turn the handle the rest of the way to let myself in.

I tiptoe my way to Dad’s side of the bed and reach around on the nightstand trying to find the ceramic bottle. I make contact with something cold, smooth, and cylindrical. Score. I shake it around a little to make sure it’s the right thing, and sure enough, the money inside makes a faint swishing sound as it hits the insides of the bottle.

My dad grunts in his sleep, and I almost fall back, but catch myself on the edge of the nightstand. I come back to my room and switch on the lights. I uncork the bottle and pull the money out with a pair of tweezers.

There’s about $500 in 20 dollar bills. I decide to take all of it. I empty out my school bag and pack a sweatshirt, some jeans, three shirts, and four changes of underwear and socks. I stuff the money into a fanny pack that I’ve put on under my hoodie and get downstairs as quietly as I can.

Once I make it outside, I do a little victory dance. Now all I need to do is get to the station. I check the time on my phone. 10:46. I have around an hour to get to the station before midnight. I walk down the driveway connecting my house to the road. It’s a quiet night and close enough to summer that I can feel the shirt under my hoodie start to stick to my skin.

I’m doing it! I’m finally getting out of Idaho!

It takes a while for my eyes to get adjusted to the lighting at the station. I see the ticket desk as soon as I get inside. There’s a pimply, tired looking kid around my age sitting behind it.

“Hi. One ticket for the train to New York?” I slide the money into the little compartment under the speaker. He looks up and types something into a machine and hands me the ticket. I wait for him to be impressed, maybe ask some questions about why I’m going to New York. A couple of seconds pass. Nothing. I lean with my elbow on the counter. “Yeah, I’m going to New York. By myself. I just decided I needed to get out of Idaho, you know? Who knows how long I’ll be gone.” I check to see if he’s listening. He’s not. “I might meet some celebrities there too, no big deal. I’ll ride a subway or two, go to Central Park. I’ve heard it’s all very glamorous.” The guy finally looks up. Yes! A reaction! He opens his mouth to say something. Maybe about how cool it is that I’m taking this journey? Or maybe about how he’s always wanted to go to New York too and how he’s so jealous I’m living out my dream?

“Did you say something?” He takes out the earbuds that I’ve just noticed and looks at me with a unimpressed, mildly annoyed expression. The earbuds play loud rock music that cuts through the silence of the station.

“Um. Nothing. Have a nice night.” I take my elbow off the counter and walk quickly to the seating area. Okay. Not exactly the reaction I was looking for. Not really a reaction at all, if I’m being honest.

But it’s okay! In about 15 minutes, everything about this garbage state will be history. The train will arrive, and I’ll be off to live the life I always knew was for me. I go out to the platform and sit on a bench with my hands tucked into the pocket of my hoodie and wait. Then, the train pulls up.

I enter the car and shuffle all the way to the back. I hoist my duffel bag up into the compartment and sit down in a window seat. It’s all dark outside with the exception of the lights from the station. I’m ready to reenact the victory dance from when I left the house when I notice there are two other people sitting in the car with me. I shrink down into my seat.

There’s a lady sitting in the seat across from me. She has hair that looks like it’s been dyed, and even though I’m sitting pretty far away, the smell of cigarettes and cheap perfume wafts from her direction. I feel kind of awkward, but it’s not like I’ll have any reason to talk to her anyway. I settle down into my seat and lean back into the headrest. I’m just about to doze off when a guy gets on and sits in the seat in front of me. From what I can see from the back, he has on a Pistons jersey.

The train jerks forward a little, and we start to move out of the station. I press my hands up against the window like a little kid and move my face as close to the glass as I can and crane my neck up to look at the sky.

For all I complain about Idaho, it really does look pretty at night. We even got some national reserve for looking at the sky. The stars look scattered, like someone took a paintbrush covered in white paint and flicked the bristles until the dark canvas was covered with tiny dots of light.

We start to pick up speed. I hear shifting in the compartment where my bag is. Then, my bag tumbles to the ground with a graceful thump, articles of clothing flying everywhere within a four foot radius. Crap. I scramble around looking for the things that fell out and manage to locate two shirts and three pairs of socks.

The lady sitting across from me looks around her seat and finds another pair of socks. She hands it to me. “Thank you so much.” I take the socks from her and stuff them into my bag. I’m positive my face is bright red.

“Don’t worry about it,” she says with a small smile. “You seem to have packed quite a bit. Might I ask where you’re going?” Finally! Someone who shows interest. I’m going to pretend she didn’t just see my pair of socks with the embarrassing polka dot print on them.

“I’m going to New York by myself,” I say. The guy in front of me turns around and hands me one of my shirts. I don’t want to seem rude, so I thank him and ask where he’s from. You know. Small talk. I’ll need it for when I rub elbows with Taylor Swift.

“I’m from Detroit.”

“Ohhh. Like 8 Mile?” I hope I’ve hit an emotional chord for him. Like, maybe he really likes Eminem and wants to follow in his footsteps and reach rap stardom. He gives me a blank look.

“What’s that?”

“Nevermind. But isn’t Detroit way closer to New York than Idaho?”

He shrugs. “I stayed with some relatives here for a while.”

I turn to the lady next to me and ask her where she’s from.

“I’m a singer. I have connections with some friends in Brooklyn, and they said they’d book me a gig at their bar.” She brushes her hair behind her ears and checks her phone.
“That’s really cool.” I smile at the both of them. None of us know what else to say, so we all go back to staring out the windows, looking at our phones, and sleeping.

As the anticipation grows in my stomach, so does the exhaustion from all the planning and scheming I’ve done for the past five hours. I close my eyes. Hopefully I’ll wake up just when we arrive in New York. It’s kind of like a fresh start.

A fresh start for me and everyone else on the midnight train.



Music echoes against the cold wooden walls of the old room, each note emphasizing how silent and still everything else is. Old books, stacked unevenly on the shelves, are coated in a thick layer of dust, and papers are strewn across the floor. It is 2073, and it has been years since anyone has stepped foot inside. The music comes from a tape recorder, plugged into the wall, perpetually playing the same three notes again and again. It is the only sound aside from the the buzzing of the bees outside. The drapes flutter with each gust of wind through the shattered glass window, and all that can be seen is a deserted wasteland with no human in sight. It is a fragmented version of what once was, a memory only held in the minds of the children, now adults, who once inhabited the playground outside.

Far away, a man stumbles through the dry, desolate desert all alone. Upon his skinny body cling tattered cargo pants, scattered with holes and loose threads. An equally worn long sleeve shirt hangs loosely on him, size extra large, when he is now a small. He was once known as Jeremy, but the name has long since slipped from his memory along with thoughts of his family and his home. He is the shell of the person he once was. As he climbs hill after hill of sand, his tattered leather bag slips off of his skeletal shoulders, forcing him to stop and adjust it over and over again. He can’t risk losing it, for it holds every single thing that he owns. His bag is slowly getting lighter with each passing day. It is becoming easier to carry, yet a reminder of how close he may be to death.

Memories of the past months slowly begin to infiltrate his thoughts and weigh down on his body and mind. He is reminded of the struggle to continue moving through the desert in the past weeks, as well as years ago, a time of joy, but also one that is on the brink of slipping from his memory. His daughter peaks out of his cloudy memory more often than anyone else. His wife less so, since he has had many more months to adjust to this loss.

Crap, he thinks to himself, pulled away from his thoughts as he suddenly realizes that something is wrong. Looking himself up and down, he finally notices the disappearance of the comforting thumping of his bag swaying against his back. Crap, he thinks again, realizing that he must now retrace his steps and climb the hill he just descended to find his bag. He scurries up, forcing himself to ignore the sand slipping under his feet, scattering across his face and into his eyes.

One hundred miles away, at the site of the old room, the ground suddenly begins to shake with the force of a 40 elephant stampede. One hundred miles from the room, the ground once again begins to shake. The man steadies himself, one hand against the sliding sand dune, and the other slowly losing its clutch on his bag and possession, eventually dropping them to the ground once again. The shaking comes as no surprise to the man, who has had to deal with these daily earthquakes for months now, but it is no less irritating. As the ground rapidly shakes beneath him and the earth seems to flip upside down, his feet slip out from under him, and he slides face first down the mound of sand. His chin stings as he comes to a stop at the bottom of the sand dune, then his eyes and hands as he returns from his stunned state to recognize the pain from the sand. His eyes fill with tears, and he wipes them away with a swift swipe of his hand, embarrassed, even though there is no one to see him cry. As a final droplet cascades down his cheek, making a river-like indent in the folds of his filthy face, his bag comes crashing down from the top of the hill to his feet. The earthquake slowly comes to an end, and the man checks his belongings. Nothing is broken, and he continues on.

Two months pass. The man has walked tirelessly in uneven circles, unaware that he is going nowhere. He has survived by drinking from wells in abandoned villages and sleeping in the empty houses. The water is bitter, and the beds are rusting and coated in dust, but they offer a diversion from the never-ending sand and sun. He never stays long, for he needs to continue on through the rolling hills of sand that never cease to scorch his feet with each step. It has been three weeks since he has come across any evidence of abandoned human civilization, and before that it had been two weeks. He is exceedingly aware that the towns are becoming farther and farther apart and that his strength is dwindling. His steps become smaller and smaller with each hour that he walks. He stumbles along, eyes half closed, legs giving out.

It is close to noon and already he is growing too tired to keep his eyes open. He knows that he is safe to do this because the landscape never changes, and as long as he continues walking he will be fine. He is almost at the point of sleepwalking, and his feet have a mind of their own.

The end was coming. There was a delusion across the earth that there was still a chance, still hope. Only those who could wrap their heads around it were preparing, and the rest were already as good as dead. The man had grabbed his daughter when he heard the news, shoved their belongings into their 1990’s SUV, and laid his daugher across the backseat, covering her in a blanket. Shoot, he thought, as he was pulling out of the driveway. He knew his daughter would be devastated if he forgot her favorite blanket. He rushed into the backyard where he knew that her blanket was laying and grabbed her off the grass, muddying his hands. The man rushed back to the car, the countdown to apocalypse almost visible, like an hourglass, in his mind. Without really thinking, he jumps back into his car, places the blanket carefully on the front seat next to him, and zooms out of the driveway. He needs the extra time to make it out of the city before the traffic builds.

Two hours later, with his daughter still asleep in the backseat, he arrives at the outskirts of town. They are almost safe. His brother has offered them a spot in his apocalypse shelter, and they are almost there. He turns around for the first time to shake his daughter awake, but is greeted by an empty space with a blanket strewn across. He is frozen with shock. His eyes are locked on the leather seat, and his hands slip from the wheel. The next thing he knows the car smashes into a tree, and he is thrown back by his airbag. The man can’t begin to understand what happened; his daughter is gone, and his car is wrecked. He is left with a blank feeling of terror as darkness encloses around him, leaving the man standing, out of breath, on the side of the road, his smoking car offering the sole glow of light as the stars begin to rip through the blackness above.

While the man stands terrified in the road, his daughter is scrunched in the bathroom corner of their house, crying. She is alone and afraid. Her father is nowhere to be found, and her house is full of her monsters. Two hours ago she had woken up in the car, her father gone. He had been grabbing her blanket, and the night stars had been shining down on her through the windows. She had slipped out the door and gone back into her house to see what was happening. As the front door swung closed behind the girl, her dad, unbeknownst to her, ran back up the driveway and turned the car on, forgetting to check the backseat again, driving away.

Suddenly, the man is jolted from his memory and pulled back into the desert. His body bashes against a hard, rough wooden surface, and his eyes snap open as he comes to an abrupt stop, waking him from his sleepy state. A little wooden room greets the man, almost welcoming him inside with a hard wooden hug. One note, then another meet his ears, beating down on him with the pounding of the past. The song that he once recognized feels distant, but the meaning is something he has never forgotten. The notes drift through the air, emitted in all directions from a tape recorder plugged into the wall to the left of the door, on the inside of the cozy room. Ivy covers the exterior, but a golden, rust-free handle is visible, peeking nervously through the vines. The man reaches out a shaky hand, grasps the handle, and turns it, pulling it towards him with a suddenly energized intensity.

He rushes inside, eager to escape the brutal sun. Once he is safely inside, he removes his bag, dropping it to the floor just next to his feet, and looks around. Old books, stacked unevenly on the shelves, are coated in a thick layer of dust, and papers are strewn across the floor. The drapes flutter with each gust of wind through the shattered glass window, and all that can be seen through them is the deserted wasteland that the man knows so well. The man spins around, searching for the source of the music. In the corner of the room, he sees a tape recorder with a cord twisted up and plugged into an outlet in the wall. Gasping, he holds his breath, unable to breathe because of the surprise.

The man learned long ago that electricity was no longer usable; outlets had stopped working after the asteroid. He reaches forward and yanks the cord out from the wall, but instead of ending immediately, the music falters and then continues playing louder than before. Surprised, he shakes the box and turns it around. He finds a panel on one side of the box that is screwed shut. He spots the lid of a bean can, slipped under the table and laying on the ground. Bending it in half, accidentally drawing blood with the sharp jagged edge he has fashioned into a knife, the man cuts a little door in the plastic music box and carefully lifts up the panel. The man nervously peeks inside and sees the last thing he expects, a tiny, pink music box, topped with a ballerina moving mechanically, yet rhythmically to the music.

“How could this be possible.” He gasps. The music box inside is undoubtedly what he thinks it is: his daughter’s. And he finally recalls why he had recognized the song.

He shrivels with sadness, sinking to the floor, shoulders squished against the wall, sobbing. He doesn’t know what to think of this. His mind races, jumping frantically from one laughable idea to another ill-conceived notion. As his thoughts jumble together into one, he forces himself to believe that the music box must be a coincidence, but he cannot force himself to ignore the voice in the back of his head, whispering his daughter’s name, telling him that the music box is hers.

Hours later he lies, shivering on the floor, overtaken by a restless sleep. Even as he dreams, he feels a presence. A shadow. Suddenly, he is shaken from his rest by the sound of soft tears. He can almost see his daughter shuffling through the books on the bookshelf, tears falling across the pages as she flips through the book her dad had once read to her. He has a sudden urge to comfort the girl, his daughter, but is left with an empty feeling when he remembers that no one is there. He runs to the books, noticing a select few which have somehow shed their dust not too long before. He knocks the pile down, searching through the books for one in particular, the one he had seen in his dream. One catches his eye, the bright fluorescent colors and glossy paper cover reminding him of the many nights that he sat reading to his daughter. He flips through the pages, but then tells himself that he is silly to even let his mind be plagued with this thought.

He puts the book back down, yelling internally at himself for allowing his optimism to get to him. He becomes angry, angry at himself and angry at the room for playing tricks on him. He shouts out loud, projecting his feelings into every corner of the building, yet his emotions continue to flood his body. He punches the table once, twice, three times, continuously, endlessly, expelling his rage for what happened to his daughter and to himself. He spots the books he had strewn across the table earlier and pushes them aside, onto the floor. Then, he crumbles into a ball on the floor besides the table, sobbing.

Through his tears he looks around, colors blending together from the salty water filling his eyes. The books covering the floor catch his eye and before he can stop himself, he is on his knees weeding through the pages. His tears scatter like rain across the pages, but he cannot ignore the dried tears among them that are undeniably from an earlier time. It is not till minutes later that the truth actually sinks in. He ignores all reason, his mind clouded with hope: his daughter must have been here, there is no other possibility.


Stormx4 Part I

Julia skipped happily down the stairs into the kitchen. She was wearing flamingo pajamas. The pants were completely covered with rainbow flamingos. The shirt consisted of a pink flamingo, the yellow sun, and it said, “Summertime is the best time.” Summer is getting close, but it’s not here yet. Her mom was on the phone again. Her mom had been on her phone for weeks, checking her texts, calling someone, or answering a call. Julia had been thinking about it forever and was determined to figure out the answer, and when Julia is determined to do something, it will be done.

“Good morning, Mom!” she said with a smile. Her mom ignored her and shooed Julia away with a motion of her hand. Julia did not listen because she was upset that her mother was ignoring her. “Mother!!! Mom!!! Mama!!! MUM!! MOM!!!” she yelled.

“Um, sorry. Excuse me for a second,” Julia’s mother said. Her mother put her hand over the phone speaker. “Julia, enough with this behavior of yours. I am on the phone with someone,” she whispered loudly.

“With who?!” Julia said.

“Someone important. Now go watch TV,” she replied.

“But I want breakfast!” Julia complained.

“No, Julia! Make it yourself! Do not be so dependant!” her mom responded sternly.

“Why can’t you just make it?” she pleaded.

“I told you! I’m on the phone!” her mom replied.

“But Mom! I don’t want to make it myself! I do that every morning!” Julia moaned.

“Then you can live without it. Now go watch TV,” her mom answered.

“I don’t want to,” she said as she crossed her arms and pouted.

“I do not care if you want to or not! I am on the phone, so go!” her mom hollered. Julia stomped to the living room which was right in front of the kitchen.

“Sorry about that, my… dog was acting up again,” Julia’s mother continued with her call. “So what were you saying?”

“Dog? I am not a dog, right? She gone crazy?” Julia mumbled to herself.

Her dad marched in the room. “Hey, Julie!” he said. “You ready for school today?” he asked.

“Dad, do I look like a dog to you?” Julia questioned.

Her dad looked concerned. “Um, no? Should you?”

“I knew it, and also there is no school today. It’s Sunday,” Julia mumbled. There is something weird going on, and I am going to figure out what exactly that is, Julia thought.

Her dad rolled his eyes and laughed a little. “I gotta go to work. Make sure you wake up your brother for his baseball game, so he has enough time to get ready. Also, did you see outside there is a moving van. I guess someone finally moved into the house next door. Too bad that old couple had to move. They were such great neighbors,” he said.

Julia paid no attention to him. She had worse things to worry about. “Okay. Sure, Dad.” She snuck up the stairs and sat in the room filled with her old toys. She pretended to be reading a book.

Julia then realized her mom was in the shower. This was her chance to figure out what was really going on. Julia’s mom typically takes a thirty minute shower, so that was how long Julia had to figure out this mystery.

She tiptoed into her parents room and grabbed her mom’s phone. She opened up the text messages. There was a number, 408-487-9863. Julia ran to her room and grabbed her phone. On her notes, she put the same number.

Mystery person: 408-487-9863

Julia opened up her mom’s text messages. At the very top, it said that she had received 40 text messages from that number. She clicked on the number, and at that very moment the doorbell rang.

Julia jumped in fear. The shower sound stopped. Her mom’s footsteps got closer and closer. Julia panicked and ran behind her mom’s bed.

Her mom cracked open the door. “Julia!” she called.

“Yeah!” Julia answered back, not realizing that she was trying to hide from her mother.

“What are you doing back there?” she asked.

“Uumm… I lost my phone. Yeah. I was looking for it, um, under the beds?” she replied.

“Okay. Can you get the door, and also hand me my phone, please,” she said.

Julia grabbed her phone and handed it to her mom who was wrapped in a towel. Her mom quickly shut the door. Julia sighed and turned away.

“And Julia!” her mom called from the shower. “Be polite.” Julia rolled her eyes and walked to the door. She doesn’t need to tell me to be polite. I am very polite. She’ll see. I will make her proud, Julia thought.

Julia opened the door. In front of her was a family of four. “Hello. We are your new neighbors! It is very nice to meet you. I am Esther, and this is Richard. These are our two lovely children, Michael and Ella. May we meet your family?” the woman asked.

“Um, just give me a sec please. Um, you can wait right outside, please. Thank you,” Julia answered. She slammed the door in their faces.

She ran up the stairs to her mom. “MOM!!! We have new neighbors! They want to meet you!!” Julia yelled loudly, so the family knew she was trying.

“I don’t have time right now, sweetie. I am preparing for a very important meeting. Bring your father,” she said back. Her mom was switching from outfit to outfit, trying to look her best for the meeting. She still had the dark blue towel wrapped around her hair on top of her head.

“Don’t you know he went to work?” Julia questioned.

“Alright then, bring your brother… Did you or your father wake him up for his baseball game?” she asked.

Julia stressfully put her hand on top of her head and pulled her dark brown hair. “Oh my gosh. I knew I was forgetting something!!!”

She ran to her brother’s room a few feet away and slammed open the door, smashing one of his newly built Legos. “WAKE UP! WAKE UP!!! YOU ARE GOING TO MISS YOUR BASEBALL GAME!!!” she screamed.

“Julia, I just built that!” her brother angrily complained.

“Well, I’m sorry, but it is not my fault you left it by the door! Now get up to go to your baseball game!” Julia yelled. Julia and her brother, Sam, are very close in age. She is eleven, and Sam is eight.

“But I don’t want to go!” he yelled.

“SAM! GET UP!” Julia hollered, infuriated by her brother’s refusal to listen to her.

“Why are you so mean?” He pouted.

“I am not!” Julia answered. “C’mon, Sam. Why don’t you want to go to your baseball game?”

“Because,” he replied.

“Because why?” Julia asked.

“Because, because.” Julia noticed that Sam seemed really upset, and she felt sorry for him. She hugged him and sat on the foot of his bed.

“HELLO!!! ANYBODY THERE?!” the neighbors yelled.

“Oh my gosh. The neighbors. I totally forgot!!! SO SORRY! BE THERE IN A MINUTE!!!” Julia responded.

“C’mon, Sam. We gotta go meet the new neighbors,” Julia prompted.

“Okay,” Sam said. She dragged Sam down the stairs, and once they got to the door, she smashed it open as fast as she could. The family waited impatiently outside the door.

The father stared at his watch and straightened his red tie. The mother perfected the ruffles of her tight purple dress. She fanned herself with her elegant paper fan that was covered with all sorts of patterns. Her two twins stared at each other. It was easy to figure out the resemblance between all of them. The mom and her children had golden blond hair. The father had brown hair, but the two kids had his same pointy nose. And of course, they were all so perfect.

“So sorry. My mom is preparing for a meeting, and my dad is at work,” Julia said, ashamed.

“But you can meet me!” Sam added optimistically.

“Okay, no problem. We’d love to meet you, little one. What is your name?” the woman asked.

“Sam,” he answered.

“Oh Sam, we are delighted to meet you,” Esther said with a smile. The two kids beamed at Julia and Sam. Her mother ran down the stairs.

“Oh, um… hello, Chandlers. Pleasure to um… meet you here. Why exactly are you here?” Julia’s mom asked. Julia was shocked that her mother already knew these people.

“It almost seems like you don’t want us here, Leena. We are the new neighbors. Would it be alright if your children came over for a while?” Esther asked politely. Julia was very upset with this. She always hated being in other people’s houses if it was not her best friend’s house.

“Um, no, sorry. He has a baseball game to get to,” Julia’s mom answered quickly.

“No, no. We insist,” Richard assured. The two parents glared at Mrs. Wood. Mrs. Wood was intimidated by them.

“Um, sure. I’m sure it would be fine to be a little late. Why don’t you two go upstairs and get dressed,” she said.

Sam and Julia nodded obediently even though they had no idea what was going on. The two ran up the stairs and into their rooms.

“Why don’t you two go in the house. We’ll meet you there, okay?” Richard said to his children.

“Okay!” they answered.

“Why are you really here?” Leena questioned.

“Oh well, I wanted to get a head start on it. My children already passed. Will yours?” Esther responded. She stopped waving her fan and micheviously grinned at Leena.

They glared at each other. “Give me a second please,” Leena hissed. She held her hand to her chest, trying her hardest not to break Esther’s nose with her fist. She walked to the phone to call her husband, Noah.

Julia and Sam came running down the stairs. “C’mon, little ones. Let’s go!” Esther called in a kind, high-pitched voice.

Now, Julia wore a plain purple short sleeve shirt with jeans. Her dark brown hair was in a neat side braid. Sam wore a dark blue jacket with a neon orange Adidas symbol on the front. His sweatshirt covered his black shirt. There was a Minecraft creeper surrounded by TNTs. He wore his orange shorts that were loose and really big on him, but he liked them that way. His hair was still messy because he hated to fix it. The only time he ever did his hair was when his friend, Bella, came over.

The two siblings held hands and walked with their neighbors to their house, where Michael and his twin sister Ella waited patiently.

Julia and Sam walked through the small door and into their neighbor’s small town home.

“Alright, Julia and Sam Wood. We are going to ask you a few questions today,” Richard said.

“Why?” Sam replied politely.

“Well, we are doctors, and your mother asked us to make sure you are doing okay because she is so busy she does not have time to take you to the doctor’s office. Let’s go upstairs,” Esther said.

Michael and Ella sat in their living room and watched them all walk up the stairs. The twins both knew exactly what was going on, but Julia and Sam were completely unaware.

“So, Julia and Sam, how old are you both?” Esther asked.

“I am eleven, and my brother is eight,” Julia answered respectfully.

“It seems you Sam, are very smart. You have all A+’s and one A. Julia you have…” Richard stated.

Julia cut him off, “How do you know that?”

“One A, three A-’s, two B+’s, and one A+,” Richard continued. “It seems you have decent grades, but will they be enough? That is the question.” Esther elbowed her clueless husband. He understood exactly why.

“We…” Esther sighed. “Your mother told us about you. She is so proud of you.” Julia nodded. “So, back to the questions. Have either of you ever been in a pressured situation? Such as bullies, natural disasters, death of a close friend or relative,” Esther added.

“Uh, we have been in a 2.3 earthquake,” Julia replied.

“I have been bullied,” Sam said quietly. Julia gasped in shock. Her brother is usually an open book and tells her everything.

“Sam! Why didn’t you tell me?!” Julia exclaimed.

“I didn’t think it mattered that much. I didn’t really think you cared,” he whispered.

“Of course I care, Sam. I’m your sister, and I always care about what happens to you,” Julia said sympathetically. “Now, who was doing it?”

“This cantankerous, unscrupulous, utterly malicious bully named Darius,” Sam mumbled. Julia stared at her little brother. She had no idea he knew his vocabulary so well. It must have been because he had been reading so much. Sam had always been an amazing reader and could read pretty much any book, unless he felt like it was boring.

“Um, okay. That was lovely, but let’s continue,” Richard prompted. “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“I want to be a scientist. What do you wanna be, Sam?” Julia answered.

“I wanna be… I wanna be a scientist, so I can work with Julia!” he stated. He stood up on the small brown couch and bounced up and down with excitement. He imagined it, him sitting with Julia solving math problems that would indicate when the Earth’s rotation would stop. She would have a purple lab coat, and he would have an orange one. They would solve it together and then laugh, realizing how simple their mistakes were before.

“Good heavens!” Esther squealed. “Do not bounce on the couch! Were you raised in a barn?!” She covered her mouth with her hand and fanned herself with her detailed paper fan once again. Sam quickly sat back down next to Julia across from the other small brown couch where their doctors and neighbors sat. Little did they know, the Chandlers were neither doctors nor their new neighbors. They were something far more important.

“I think that is enough questions, answers, and impersonating jackrabbits for today, children. Off you go,” Esther said, annoyed. Julia and Sam stood up and left the room. Richard got up from his seat and closed the door behind them.

“You can’t say stuff like that, Richard. You’ll give us away. It is a hard secret to keep. It may feel like you should warn people, but it is for the best that no one knows what is to be left of this world when the storm occurs. We will stop it. We just can’t tell anyone. The only people who will be aware of this are the few chosen engineers and scientists,” Esther whispered to her husband.

“But I don’t get why we cannot allow the real scientists and engineers to handle this,” Richard replied quietly.

“Because, Richard. The new generation of children has spent more time around technology. We have a much better chance using them. Besides, it will be quicker,” Esther answered.

Julia and Sam walked down their stairs and started to open the door. “Hey, guys. How did it go?” Michael asked. The two twins still sat in the same spot on the beige couch in front of the TV. Ella paused the horror movie that they were watching. It made sense because they were both twelve.

“How did what go?” Sam replied.

Ella looked around to make sure no one was listening. “The test?” she whispered.

“What test?” Julia asked.

“You really do know nothing,” Michael continued. “They, our parents, are part of a secret organization known as STORMx4. It stands for Support, Technological, Official, Rescuing Machine. The name in general means a storm that is combining four different types of natural disasters, a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, and tsunami. It will be a worldwide storm, and it will wipe out half of the planet. So STORMx4 is trying to bring together the smartest kids on the planet and use them to build a machine that will prevent this.

“So we could get picked?” Sam questioned. It was hard for Julia and Sam to process it all, that their worlds would blow up, unless a few kids could save it.

“Yes, that’s what we have heard,” Ella responded.

“Well, we have to warn the police officers and the firemen. And our parents,” Julia said stressfully.

“You can’t. We aren’t even supposed to know. You have to promise that you won’t tell anyone, not even your family,” Michael said quickly.

Sam looked up at Julia. They both really wanted to warn their parents, so that they could get to safety.

“Okay,” Sam sighed. The kids all heard footsteps coming from upstairs.

They all looked at each other. If Esther and Richard figured out that they were still there, the Chandler parents would for sure suspect something. Julia and Sam crawled swiftly and quietly to the door.

Julia twisted the door handle and then opened the door. Thankfully, their previous neighbors hated squeaky doors and had the door fixed. So if you opened the door, you could still hear the sound of a bee buzzing outside and pollinating the nearby flowers.

She cautiously closed it behind her. Sam and Julia ran back to their home. Their dad came home as quick as possible when he heard that his children could be chosen to rescue the world.

Noah and Leena held hands and leaned against their counter in the white kitchen. Noah rubbed Leena’s hand as she sobbed. Julia and Sam walked through the door.

“Is everything okay?” Julia asked. Their parents just came over and hugged them.

“Yes. Are you okay?” their father said concerningly.

“Yeah. Why?” Sam replied. Their parents looked at each other. “What?” Sam added.

“Well, there is a storm coming, and — ” their father had a lot more to say, but he was disrupted.

“Yeah, we know. It is a huge storm, and it will wipe out half the planet. We also heard that they are testing kids to see who will qualify to help build a machine to stop it,” Julia interrupted.

Both parents were shocked that their children already knew about this. “Our friends told us!” Sam said enthusiastically.

“Okay. Well, that is why I have been on the phone so much. I have been talking to the Chandlers,” Leena added. She looked down at her feet and clenched her husband’s hand. She leaned her head against his shoulder.

“And that’s why I have been so busy. STORMx4 has been contacting us. They believe they have discovered some potential inventors. The thing is, you just tested. They have seen your grades and know precisely what you struggle with. Our neighbors are the employees in charge of testing and watching you. They have been spectating you for a few days, so we have heard. Anyways, we are sorry for not telling you kids,” Noah said.

“It’s okay, Dad, but have people been stalking us?!” Sam continued. “Are they secret spy agents?!”

“Sure, Sam,” Leena laughed. The Woods all laughed together, just like they used to. Unfortunately, it may have been the last time the Woods would do something together, as a family.

A few days later, two white envelopes arrived. The days had been long and hard, but the Wood family tried to make the most of it. They played board games and spent time as a family. Now, came the moment of truth. Would the family be split up? Or would they stay together? No one knew.

Julia and Sam couldn’t bear to open it up in front of their parents. If they did make it, how would they tell them?

The two sat in Julia’s room. It was comforting in there. A pink light shone down on her fluffy purple pillows that covered her cozy blue bed sheets. Her queen size bed was overflowing with stuffed animals. Some were red, some orange, pink, blue, purple, green, magenta, rainbow.

She and Sam sat criss-cross-applesauce on her fuzzy purple rug near her bed. “We’re gonna open it on three, okay?” Julia said, looking at Sam. She tried her hardest to stay calm but couldn’t help but breathe a little fast.

“One,” Julia counted. “Two.”

“Three,” Sam added. The two siblings opened their envelopes and inside was a note. The note in Julia’s envelope read:

Dear Julia Wood,

I am sure you may not have been aware, but we have been watching you. We have been trying to figure out if you qualify for building a machine that could save the world.

We are sad to tell you, that unfortunately, you did not test at the right skill level. We are very sorry and hope you have future opportunities.

Please do not tell anyone about this message. This is a private organization.

Thank you,


Julia jumped up and down. She was so happy that she was not required to leave her family.

“Eeeeeeehhh!!!” she squealed.

Sam stared horror-struck at his letter. “What’s… What’s wrong Sam?” Julia asked.

“I — I — I.” He took in a shaky deep breath. “I qualified.” Julia stopped jumping and looked at her brother.

“No. There must have been some mistake. You must have read it wrong.” She snatched the note right out of his hands.

“Dear Sam Wood,” Julia read. “I am sure you may not have been aware… Blah. Blah. Blah. We are proud, and honored to notify you… ” She copped her mouth with her hand. “That you have qualified for this project. You are our youngest inventor and because our inventor closest to your age is a teen, the writing will not be so simple. You may bring one maximum person with you. Your grades and ability to catch on to things quickly are the reason you were chosen for this project. Please report to the STORMx4 organization, 98670, Main Street, Santa Clara, CA, with all of your belongings and clothes that you will need for the next few months. Congratulations,” Julia mumbled. She slouched down onto her bed. She was in denial. Her little brother, Sam, would leave her for a few months.

“I can’t do it,” he said. Julia didn’t reply. She just sat on her blue bed covers and stared at the note. Sam got up and ripped the envelope in half. He threw it on the ground and ran out Julia’s door. His parents were talking about how they would handle it if their kids did have to leave, when Sam pushed past them to reach the front door.

He opened it and ran to the park that was in the back of his small town home area. No one ever came there, so it was a great place to hide.

He ran to the farthest back corner, where a strong tall oak tree stood. He reached for the branch that was in front of him and pulled himself up. Tears streamed down his face as he climbed the tall tree. He pulled himself up to the next branch and stood on a small one below him because his arms weren’t that strong.

The branch supporting his foot snapped. He gasped. He clenched the thick branch tight. He held onto one side, and his body hung off the opposite side.

He had climbed this tree before, and the same thing had happened. But, that time he was with Julia. He broke his leg, but he was also only allowed to climb to the third brach up, which was pretty much ten feet off the ground. Now, he was two stories high.

He kicked his legs and pulled himself up farther with his arms. He swung his leg up and thankfully, it landed on the life support branch. He hugged the branch with his legs and arms.

I think that is enough climbing for today, Sam thought. He warily pushed himself up, so he sat normally. He held on with his right hand to a thinner branch close above him.

He still could not process the fact that he would leave his family behind. He knew that he would be trying to save, not just his family, but his friend’s families and their friend’s families. The point is, he would have one chance to try and save millions of people.

Sam pulled a paper airplane out of his pocket that he had made that morning. He stared at it. No more paper airplane making. No more friends. No more Mom. No more Dad. But worst of all, no more Julia, Sam thought. Sam had always been close with his mom and dad, but he was always the closest with Julia.

Whenever Sam felt like his world was going to end, Julia was there. He recalled that once he did terribly in a baseball game. It was a playoff game. If they lost, they would get second. If they won, they would gain first place in the league. The game was nearly tied, five to six. It was the last inning, the seventh inning. His team was one point behind, and they had two outs. It was up to him to keep them in and get a homerun for his team. One of his players was on the third base. All he needed to do was a single good hit, and he would win his team the game. It was his last pitch. The ball flew, and he missed it.

When he finished, he started crying and said it was all his fault. Julia comforted him and said, “If your players would have gotten more homeruns, then you could have been in the lead. It’s not only your fault. When a team loses, it is because of the whole team, not one player.”

But when he goes to STORMx4, Julia won’t be there to comfort him.

Sam stared at the sun, sinking beneath the horizon. The sky was a bright pink mixed with orange. Clouds were scattered. Sam sighed. He was always very outdoorsy. He would miss coming here. It’s a beautiful view, and it is really easy to think on that branch. Sam put his dark blue hood over his messy brown hair.

He lifted the paper plane up and threw it into the air. The plane flew through the sky, like a dandelion wish. Sam dreamed of being a paper plane and being free. He wouldn’t have to help STORMx4 because he would be busy soaring through the cool, crisp air.

He wiped away a few of the tears that were on his face. Should I go? Didn’t the note say I could take one person with me who could understand complicated words? Julia is good at that. Plus, she is good at math, the one subject I have an A in, she has her one A+. But, would it be okay with her if I pulled her away from her family, our family? Sam thought.

Sam climbed down from his thinking space and headed back home. He opened the door and walked in. His parents ran to the door.

“Oh, Sam. We are so sorry,” his mother cried. “Julia told us what happened.”

“Yes, Sam. We are really sorry,” his dad added. They hugged their son tight.

“Where is Julia, anyways?” Sam asked.

“Her room. Why?” his mother said, as she wiped her tears with a tissue.

“Just wondering. I’m gonna go talk to her,” Sam replied.

“Okay, sweetie,” Leena answered. Sam ran to and up the stairs. He walked across the playroom to Julia’s room. Sam lightly knocked on the door and cracked it open. His sister was on her bed, staring at the ceiling and cuddling her teddy bear stuffed animal. It used to be her favorite stuffed animal and her best friend. She would tell that stuffed animal everything, until Sam. Now, she can just tell Sam, but not this time.

“Julia… ” Sam said hesitantly.

“Sam, shouldn’t you be packing?” she asked, still staring at the ceiling. Her hands rested on her stomach and she crossed her ankles.

“The note says… ” Sam grabbed the crumpled note from the floor. “Since the closest inventor in age is a teen, you may bring one maximum person with you. So, I was thinking…”

Julia popped her head up. She hated to admit it, but she really wanted to go with Sam. And she was a little upset that he got picked and not her. She thought her grades were pretty good.

Sam continued, “Maybe, since you have one A+ in math and I have one A in math, you could… Maybe.”

Julia looked at him. Her, leave her family? She loved Sam, but she also loved her friends and her parents. They would be devastated. But, if she helps, her brother would not be alone. She could help save the world! Julia always wanted to be a superhero. This was pretty similar!

Julia was upset that STORMx4 would choose her little brother and not her. But, she wasn’t going to miss her chance to prove to them that they made a mistake, and they should have chosen her.

“I’ll do it, Sam. I’ll go with you,” Julia answered, after a little thinking.

“Well, let’s get packing,” Sam replied. He was sad to leave his parents. But, he was ecstatic that he would stay with his sister, his favorite person in the world. He couldn’t help but smile a little as he walked to his room, knowing that he would not be alone.

To be continued…


Golden Blood (Excerpt)

“We need to find her.”


“The girl.”

“Sir, which girl?”

“The girl, Zira. She’s one of the last ones. We won’t stop until we get what we need — her blood.”

The man stood in front of the committee and swore to do whatever they asked. Immediately, he started to work on finding her in the other world, Earth.


I’m concentrating on my comic submission, due next week. Music plays loudly on the radio in my room, but it sounds like background noise to me. The ink flows on my paper freely. I quickly glance at the clock. 11:46 P.M.. New page. Just as I start to draw a new box, my phone rings.

I jump, then scramble to find my phone under the mess on my desk. It’s only my friend, Kyla. I hit the green button and answer with a dry, “Hello?”

She answers much too enthusiastically for this time of the night. “Hey! I’m out right now, so what do you want for your birthday?”

I can’t help but chuckle. “Kyla, why are you out this late? And my birthday is technically in 14 minutes.”

“I know, but I’m getting you something right now anyway. How do you feel about — ”

“It’s okay, I don’t care what you get,” I interrupt. “I’m busy with something. See you tomorrow,” I say and press the “end call” button just as she was about to protest.

I go back to focusing on the comic. I had three pages written already, of my protagonist battling monsters and whatnot. Where I’d left off, my protagonist was standing in front of the biggest, scariest monster of all.

I don’t know what to draw next. I switch my lamp off and go to sleep.

“I’ve come to take you back.”

I shoot up from my bed. I suddenly have a tingly feeling over my entire body, and I grow very hot and dizzy. I find myself too weak to stay sitting up. I see my phone on the bedside table turn to 12:00 A.M.. Thursday, October 11. This isn’t what I thought turning 18 would feel like.

You’ve been in this other world for much too long and need to get back to your people.

The view of my window becomes blurred as I drift back to sleep, or faint. I can’t remember.

When I wake up, I’m only confused.

Am I still dreaming? I don’t know what time it is, but it’s dark. I don’t know what day it is. I check my phone. Friday, October 12. 10:45 P.M.. How? What happened?

I’m not in bed. Still confused, I start to feel scared. I’m as good as paralyzed. Terrified.

Why am I in a fancy dress? I hesitantly stand up and realize that I’m in a classroom. I walk out to the hallway. Empty.

School at night is eerie to begin with. Every sound from outside feels louder than it should be, and everything seems bigger than it is during the day. I struggle to remember why I was here in the first place.

There’s a gash on my thigh, bleeding underneath my dress. I hold the muddy ruffles tight in my fist. Not only am I scared and wondering how I ended up here, but an overwhelming, unexplainable grim feeling consumes me. My spirit had been brought down.

Then, a creak.

Lockers line the entire hallway, but one creaked open behind me. A chill goes down my spine. I’m not turning around.

“Who’s there?”

I stay completely still. My body is cold. I couldn’t keep my mouth shut.

“Who’s there?” I ask again. My breaths were heavy. Nobody’s there.

I squeeze my eyes shut, the way you do when you get a shot at the doctor’s office and you just want it to be over. I spin around and open my eyes.

Nothing. I had a sinking feeling there was nothing there. It wasn’t a draft. The hallway is spotless. No garbage, or bugs, or even a single dust mite. If only I could see a dust mite.

I step gingerly towards the exit. I keep walking, stiff.

Why am I here? Why am I here? I ask myself over and over, as if it would give me the answer. The last thing I remember is drawing, the night before my birthday. I realize I don’t remember what happened on my birthday, which was also homecoming. That’s right, this is my homecoming dress.

I push hard on the exit door to open it. It doesn’t budge. Locked. I’m beginning to feel lightheaded. I’m trapped.

“Is there anyone there?” I call out through the door.

The gash on my thigh is the only injury I can see. It had started partly scabbing over. The rest of my body is just covered in dirt. The horrible, ominous aura wouldn’t go away.

What happened? I rub my eyes, hoping maybe it was a bad dream. Mascara smudges onto my hand.

As I start to lean on the door and cry, it swings open. My heart feels like it dropped to my stomach and is pounding from there.

I look eye to eye with a guy standing in front of me. I recognize him. I can’t put a name to his face at the moment, but surely I’ve spoken to him before.

“Um, are you okay? What are you doing here?” he asks.

“Help me.” I say it in the weakest voice, but the guy helps me out of the building.


Next, there are thick, dark clouds. Purple, black. They surround me. It’s cold. Something is talking to me.

“Come,” they say. “Come to the other side… ” Over and over. The echo is everywhere. It doesn’t matter where I turn; the voices and the clouds are all that exist in this moment. I can’t escape.

“No,” I say. “No!”

I wake up in an unfamiliar place, with the same guy by my side. What is his name? I still have a sick feeling. “Where am I? How did I get here?”

He holds a glass of water. “Shh, it was just a dream,” he says. “I brought you here. This is my house. I would have driven you home, but I didn’t know where you lived, and I’m right around the corner from school.” I sit up straight, abruptly. He tries to hold eye contact with me, but I’m flustered. He gives me the water.

“Do you remember anything from last night?” he asks softly.

“I remember last night. I know I was at school, but I don’t… I don’t know why… or what happened before that,” I stutter.

“Okay, well, it’s me, Tyler,” the guy says. Tyler. Right. “Last night was homecoming night.”

“I figured that out from my dress,” I say, gesturing to it. I’m still wearing it.

“Your parents are probably really worried,” Tyler points out. “Do you, like, need help or something?”

“They probably aren’t.” Actually, I bet my dad is. It’s not like I told either of them that I was sleeping over at someone’s house. I just didn’t come home. “And I don’t think you can help me. Something’s going on,”

“Well… yeah, I think that’s safe to assume,” Tyler answers. He looks down at his feet. He kind of looks like he wants to say something but decides against it.

I roll my eyes. “No, I mean… I don’t know. Like, it’s not over.”

“Do you want to talk more after you change clothes? There’s a guest room that no one goes in. There’s clothes there,” he offers. I don’t know Tyler that well, but somehow I trust him. There seems to be a connection. I can’t tell what it is.

I nod, and he tells me to go to the room on the left. I follow his instruction and leave the door the slightest bit open.

The room is painted a subdued red. There are eight pieces of artwork, two on each wall. They’re all overwhelmingly dark, depicting graphic pictures of wars and monsters. There’s one portrait. The girl in the portrait cries dark tears.

How unsettling.

I quickly find a T-shirt and shorts in the dresser under the portrait. My mind was clouded with sounds. I need an aspirin or something.

My perception of time is completely messed up. I close my eyes and try to imagine myself in school. A normal day, before yesterday. I imagine myself on the field, running endlessly. It all seems so far. Whatever happened, I want it to stop. I want them to stop torturing me. I wish I knew who “them” was. If they want to kill me, then why not just do it?

Tyler is sitting with his back turned toward me. He seems to be taking some sort of pill, but his cup holds a dark liquid, like grape juice or something, rather than water. He groans in pain.

“Hey,” I say. “Are you good?”

Tyler looks up now. The light in this room is off, but it’s still bright from the daylight coming through the window. He stands up.

“I’m fine. Hi,” he says.

Ignoring the incident, I ask, “Why do you have those paintings?”

“They’re… ” he pauses. “Memories.”

I sit down on the hard wooden chair. “Where’s your family?” I asked. “Are they their paintings?”

“Yes, but I won’t say anything further than that.”

“What does that mean? Are you, like, adopted? You know, I’m adopted.” Why did I say that? He doesn’t care.

“That’s not quite it,” Tyler says. “I don’t know how to explain them.”

“Can you try?” I want to know more.

“I brought them with me when I came here. They’re, uh, otherworldly, I suppose. We had them in my home when I was younger. I can’t go back, though,” he says.


“It’s just not… here,” he says.

We look at each other for a long moment. Now that I can really look at him, it’s the first time I notice that he’s actually attractive, even though I was acquaintances with him for a while. I look away and focus on an area where the paint is peeling off on the ceiling.

“You should go home and rest. Let’s talk more another time,” Tyler says.

I look back at him. “Okay.” I know he would keep to that. Or at least, I hope.

He drives me home. I stand in front of my house for a few seconds before I walk in. It’s the same. Why wouldn’t it be?

My parents sit together on the couch. My dad looks me up and down, a stern look on his face. “Hannah, how did you get that?” he asks, pointing to my thigh.

“Oh, this… it was, uh, an accident. Someone hit it by accident. ‘Cause it was dark and stuff… ” I decide to shut up before my lies become obvious.

“And why are you still wearing your dress? Are you okay?” my mom asks.

“You just fell? Sober?” Dad comments. Ouch. That stings.

“No, I wasn’t drinking. I was at a friend’s house, that’s all. We were really tired after the party, and I slept over,” I answer. He doesn’t seem convinced.

Mom nods her head. “Okay honey.”

I go upstairs. There’s not much else I can tell them. There’s not much else I know.

My bedroom hadn’t been touched since the night before. The comic book pages were still sprawled on my desk. I picked the first one up. There was a drawing of a thick cloud, similar to the one I found myself in while sleeping.

I feel uncomfortable, so I turn it over.

Down the hallway, I turn on the water for a shower. I stand under the water for a bit, just feeling it run down my face. After I’m done, I don’t know what else to do. I sit on my bed and look out the window.

“Hannah,” I hear my mom call from downstairs. “Dinner’s ready!”

I don’t want to eat. I snuggle under my blanket and face the wall. As soon as I hear her footsteps on the stairs, I close my eyes. I hear my room door open.

“Oh, you’re asleep,” she says. “Alright then. Good night, sleep tight, and don’t let the monsters bite.”

My eyes fly open. I’m still facing the wall, so my mom doesn’t notice. She leaves the room innocently. Did I mishear “bed bugs?”

At first, I think I won’t be able to sleep at all. But I drift to an in-between state — both sleeping and awake. Again, I find myself stuck within these dark clouds. It almost feels as if I am falling. A person emerges from the fog. At least it looks like a person. He’s tall and skinny and wears an all black suit. He sports a thin purple scar across his cheek.

Hannah,” he says. His voice is raspy and intimidating.

“What do you want?”

Come back to us. This is where you belong.”

“Where are you?”

Come back to us… ” he hisses.

“Why? Why are you torturing me?” It feels like I’m screaming at the top of my lungs as I say it. I’m filled with anger, passionate anger. Before this happened, I remember that everything was fine, that I was so excited to be turning 18. And now I don’t know what’s going on.

The person disappears with one gust of wind. The echoing of voices uttering incoherent things makes the setting all the more unsettling.

I wake up out of breath. I check the time. It’s completely dark out. 12:34 A.M.. How?

My family must be sound asleep. I turn on the lamp on my desk and rummage for a post-it note. On it, I write “out for a morning jog, be back soon.” If they wake up while I’m still out, they won’t get worried. And they won’t assume I left this early.

Carefully, I stick it to the outside of my door and then proceed to climb out my window.

Once I reach the ground, I pull my hoodie on and walk twenty minutes to Tyler’s house. I don’t know why. I’m not sure what I really wanted to do outside in the first place. It’s cold. Going to his house just seems natural.

It’s not, of course.

I hesitate for a moment in front of his door. Knock, or don’t. I knock once, pause, and knock again. What am I doing? My heart is racing. What will I even say? It’s the middle of the night; would he even —

The door swings open.

“I really wasn’t expecting you to answer,” I say, kind of shocked and out of breath.

“I really wasn’t expecting you to knock on my door at one in the morning,” Tyler deadpans.

“Me neither.”

Tyler steps back to let me in. “So… why are you here? I mean, not to be rude, but this is one of the weirdest things that has ever happened to me.”

“I don’t know why I’m here either,” I say. “I just wanted to, I guess.”

Tyler nods, but his facial expression shows confusion more than anything else. I debate whether or not I should get into my dream. It seems a bit much to walk all the way to his house just to talk about a bad dream. Talk about being needy.

“I can leave,” I say.

“No, no. Don’t worry about it. Are you sure you don’t want to… talk about something?” Yes. I would like to talk to him about something. Those damn clouds.

He sits down on the couch, but I stay standing in front of him.

“No, it’s not like talking would help.” I pace back and forth a few times.

He’s facing the ground. “So, what do you want?”

“What do I want?” What a loaded question. I wish the clouds would leave me alone. I wish I knew why or even what was happening to me. “I want a regular life back. I don’t understand what’s happening to me. I’m scared all the time, and I can’t sleep anymore. I turned 18 yesterday, and I can’t even remember it. And this, this thing won’t leave me alone!” I cry.

Tyler doesn’t speak immediately after. I burst into tears. He stands up and wraps his arms around me. He hugs me tight, and the warmth makes me feel safer.

“Hannah, I think I know why this is happening,” he whispers to me.

“What do you mean?” I pull back and look at his face. He sighs. He looks down at his feet and avoids eye contact.

“Remember when I said my home isn’t here?” he asks. I nod. “It’s in a parallel universe.”

At first I’m speechless. Nothing. “Am I supposed to play along?”

Tyler drops his head, like he knew I wouldn’t believe him. But who would? “Can I tell you how I came? It’ll help you.”

I roll my eyes slightly. I don’t know where he’s getting at, but I’ll listen.

“I’m sorry, it sounds stupid. But when you leave that world, you automatically lose every memory of it. And some there are special, valuable. They have gold blood, and that’s why they’re always in danger.”

“Okay, wait,” I interrupt. “Out of every explanation you could’ve possibly given me, this one is the most unbelievable. This isn’t even useful.”

“I promise I’m not messing with you. Just listen. You’re one of the special ones. That’s why the smoke or whatever is in your dreams. Because your memory was automatically lost. And you’re valuable to them, so they need you back.”

“Yeah, okay, sure.”

Tyler is obviously frustrated. He puts both hands on my shoulders and moves me out of his way. He leans over to grab the scissors on the table. I become tense. “Tyler, what are you doing?”

He pulls up his sleeve, not answering me. With the scissors, he cuts his hand. Dark purple liquid oozes from the cut. I suddenly think of the portrait. Dark tears. Dark blood.

“Give me your hand.”

I hesitate, holding my clenched fist to my chest.

“Hannah, I need your hand. Please,” Tyler pleads. I slowly open my hand and give it to him, almost against my will. He grabs it and cuts it in one swift motion, too fast for me to react. I don’t pay attention if it hurts.

I stare at my hand. The blood is gold.

“W-why… why wasn’t my blood gold before? And why do you know this? What am I?”

“Calm down.”

“Are you joking? Calm down?”

Tyler puts his hands on my shoulders again. “Yes, I’ll tell you everything. Let me continue.” He makes me sit down and takes a deep breath.

All I could do was stare at my trembling hand. Where did it come from? How did nobody notice, not even me?

“I don’t even know where to start but — ”

“You better start somewhere,” I warn.

Tyler leans back, half sitting on the arm of the couch in the living room. He put his hands in the pocket of his hoodie, but his fingers were still fidgeting.

“So,” he begins. “First of all, I’m the only one who can remember here in this world. I figured out a concoction that kept my memory in place despite going through the portal. The regular purple bloods need the gold-bloods for the gold. And so when they leave, by whatever reason, they need to find a way to get the gold-bloods back. I guess it’s also a punishment for anyone who leaves.

“The portal between our two worlds is the clouds that you’ve been seeing,” he says. “The blood is disguised on Earth until they are discovered, and eventually what they want is to bring you back. So this is what you’re experiencing.”

I stay silent for a few minutes. We sit across from each other, not making a sound or moving one bit. “So… What now?” I say softly. This isn’t what I expected when I came.

“Well now you know. So, it’s up to you what you do next.”

“I’m going home,” I say. “I’ll… see you on Monday, I guess.”

“Do you want me to drive you again?” He starts to get up, but I stop him.

“No, I’m going to run home. Thanks.”

I step outside on the street, and the wind hits me in the face. I don’t know how I’m able to leave so easily with all this new information. I still have so many questions. So many thoughts.

I sneak back to my room without my parents noticing. It’s still dark out.

I’m exhausted. Exhaustion is the least of what I was feeling at the moment, though. I lean against the closed door, ready to just give up.

A thick stream of smoke wafts in through the window. It moves as if it has a brain of its own, and it’s coming straight to my face. It curls around me, but not encompassing me. “Hello… ” it whispers.

“Is this a dream? What are you?”

“I think you’re imagining me. Don’t you, smart girl?” the smoke says to me.

“No. This is real.”

The smoke curls around my feet, and slowly makes its way around my body. “You belong with us. You have a place… ” it hisses.


“You were destined for things greater than this weak planet. There’s a set place for you, a rare good under our empire. You’re supposed to come back… you shouldn’t have left. You need to be under our control,” the smoke provokes.

“What if I like it here?” I respond.

“You’re a difficult one.” The smoke curls up around my chest and behind my neck. It feels like breath as it speaks. “Aren’t you looking for something more? An identity, perhaps. A true identity?”

“You aren’t even a real person,” I say bitterly. “You are only a soul.”

The smoke laughs, sending a chill down my spine. “That’s what makes me powerful, dear golden-blood. You can’t hurt me, but I can hurt you.” The smoke nears my face, threatening to suffocate me as I pull away.

I clench my fists hard. “You already have. I know you won’t kill me if you need me back.”

The smoke loosens. “This won’t be the last time we meet. Don’t doubt that we will have it our way.” The smoke vanishes, out my window where it came from. I rush to close the window immediately after.

I breathe heavily. I change my clothes, shaking.

The person I see in the mirror is unrecognizable. There are huge dark circles under my eyes.

I know that I’m becoming a tense and anxious person, something I’d never been before. I close my eyes for a moment to think. What should I do? Inhale, exhale. I think back to when I was happy and carefree. I didn’t know things could change so instantly.

My comic still lay unfinished on my desk. The submission date was fast approaching. Maybe it would take my mind off things. I crack my door open to let in some fresh air. No way was I going to open the window.

Where did I leave off?

The protagonist was fiercely fighting off her antagonists. If the drawing can do it, why can’t I do it? I continue to fill in the background and started a new square.

The sun starts to rise, and before I know it, it becomes complete daytime with the sun streaming into my room. Somebody knocks on my door.

I jump. Mom walks in. “Relax, it’s just me. What’s up? Why so jumpy all of a sudden?”

“I know, I’m just… I’m fine.”

“Come eat with us,” Mom asks. I look at the deep creases in her eyes. She’s so happy and oblivious to my nightmare. I love her. I could never leave her, especially for something like smoke and nightmares.

I say nothing as I sit across both of them. I eat small bites and avoid looking at them. They talk about mundane things. Work, switching the lights, laundry. I zone out into my thoughts. What can I do? How did this all even happen?

“Are you alright?” Dad asks. “You seem really out of it.”

“No,” I say reflexively.

“What’s wrong?” they both ask.

I don’t know how to respond. They don’t even know. I stay quiet.

“Hannah, you can tell us what’s bothering you. We love you,” Mom says. I start formulating what I want to say. They stare at me, very concerned.

“I just… ” I finally begin, cautiously giving the rest of my answer. “I don’t have some information that could help me. Like, I don’t know what happened at homecoming. And… I don’t know who I really am, and I don’t have what I need to figure it out. Where am I from?”

My parents exchange a glance.

“Hannah,” my dad says, “This conversation was a long time coming.” I bet. “I wish I could share your origins with you. But we don’t know anything about before we adopted you either. There’s no information about your birth parents, birthplace, or anything like that.”

There’s no forms. It clicked when he said that. There was my proof that I wasn’t born here. “Absolutely nothing?” I ask.

My parents shake their heads. “You were all alone when we took you in. You weren’t at an orphanage. You were a year old or something, and you were in the street,” Dad says.

“What about the legal stuff? School, doctors… ” I say. Nobody must’ve realized that I had gold blood. Heck, I didn’t know until last night. How did the purple-bloods get away with it? It’s interesting to hear my parents speak about this when I’m referring to drastically different things.

There are still a lot of holes in my story. I sit there, half blanked out, half listening. My parents share about the loopholes they were able to get through, like my birth certificate. I was born “at home,” it seems. My head is spinning.

There was still a big “why?” hanging over me. I understand that I’m obviously from somewhere else, but why did I end up here? Why do I matter so much? Why won’t it go away?

“Thank you, Dad.” I give him a quick hug and rush to my room.

I’m weirdly excited. I feel anticipation for the answers I’ll receive tomorrow. It’s the closest to happiness I’ve felt in a while. Something to look forward to rather than to fear.

I try to sleep. There are too many things on my mind. I sit up. It won’t be long before I speak to Tyler. I tap my leg lightly with my finger, thinking of something to do.

Visually lay it out. Get my thoughts on paper.

I jump out of bed and flip on the lights. I get an empty notebook floating around on my desk and open up to the first page. Just like drawing a story. Except this one is real.

I take a deep breath.

I draw and write furiously. A baby, adopted and moved around, a determined runner, and homecoming night. Arrows and little comments cover the piece.

I drop my pencil and massage my wrist. It’s very late, and it’s been a few hours since I’ve eaten with my parents. I sneak out of my room to get a snack.

The kitchen lights are still on even though both of my parents are sleeping. I grab an apple and slowly make my way back up the stairs. I shut my door gently. I sit back at my desk, ready to keep working.

The drawings were now in color.

I drop my apple and it rolls under my desk.

All of the pictures of me were all colored gold, even though none of them had blood. There was also smoke added. Clearly I wasn’t alone.

I step back and look at the filled up pages. I feel scared once again, just as I was starting to get over it. Just as it was dying down, just as I was about to get answers.

Disregarding the time yet again, I decide to call Tyler.

No answer.

Should I call again? I click on the call button one more time. And again, he doesn’t pick up his phone. I throw my phone on my bed.

I want to show him the pictures. But I don’t want to touch them. I don’t know what’s been done to them. I don’t know if they’re hiding somewhere in my room.

I don’t feel safe.




The ingenue dreamed of a catastrophic world of cerulean music.

There were many realms in that world, each surprisingly different.

Her favorite glowed during the day with beautiful, cloudless skies.

The night sky was gorgeous as well, colorful but dark.

The moon and stars shone down from the bright heavens.

There was someone else there, a silhouette against the sky.

She saw them once, wrapped up in a yellow blanket.

They had a telescope, seeming to be watching the stars.

Another time she saw them sitting in a shadowed windowsill.

A shadow against the white curtains forever keeping them separate.


The ingenue dreamed of catastrophic, cerulean music.

There were many realms, each surprisingly different.

Her favorite glowed with beautiful, cloudless skies.

The night sky was colorful but dark.

Moon and stars shone from the heavens.

There was a silhouette against the sky.

She saw them wrapped in a yellow blanket.

They had a telescope, watching the stars.

She saw them sitting in a windowsill.

A shadow, white curtains keeping them separate.


Dreamed of a cerulean music.

There were realms, each different.

Her favorite beautiful, cloudless skies.

Night sky, colorful but dark.

Moon and stars from heavens.

A silhouette against the sky.

Wrapped in a yellow blanket.

A telescope, watching the stars.

Sitting in a shadowed windowsill.

White curtains keeping them separate.


Dreamed cerulean music.

Realms surprisingly different.

Glowed beautiful skies.

Night colorful, dark.

Moon and stars.

Silhouette against sky.

Wrapped, yellow blanket.

Watching the stars.

Sitting shadowed windowsill.

Shadow curtains separate.


Sports Poem


I find life often so represented by sports


The interwoven reliance of European football

With still the individual spotlight of baseball


The perseverance and small victories

As essential to life as it is to basketball


The dreary monotony, through it fine-tuned determination

So crucial to the trade of a runner


Often though one quarterback may lead the play

The receiver will score the winning touchdown

And neither is forgotten


Yet this idyllic portrait

Is not to ignore the dissenting voices that scream

of the goalie who dives in vain as time expires

the cleanup batter strikeout with runners on


But when all is said and done

and considered

and analyzed

Sports provide a nice summation

Of such a wonderful

and terrible

and complex thing

As life itself




Blue house

New house

New blouse

Blue blouse

Blue hue

Few to

Enjoy all that blue can do

The color blue

It stays so true

To all of the emotions

Blue dew

A happy sight

Reminds of the end of the night

And beginning of the day

Blue coo

So comforting

A blue coo’s a special coo

As it’s only cooed by those you knew

Who you know always care for you

Blue displays the happy

But blue displays the sad

And blue displays the anger

That everyone has had

Blue can tell of glory

Or blue can tell a story

It all depends on who

Is watching blue with you


Poisonous Rain


Rain is falling

Mom is calling.

It’s time to go inside

Weather lied.

Rain is falling

Mom is calling.

She is fleeing

I am seeing.


I say.

Is the rain poisonous?


Then why?

I ask.

Are you going to die

Because water is falling from the sky?

Rain is falling

Mom is calling.

Storm is coming

I’m still humming.

Water’s spraying

I’m still playing.

Rain is falling

Mom is calling.

Thunder’s frightening

Here comes lightening.

All is calm

Don’t worry, Mom.

It’s time to go inside

Weather lied.

Rain is falling.

Mom is calling.

She is fleeing

I am seeing.


I say.

Is the rain poisonous?


Then why?

I ask.

Are you going to die

Because water is falling from the sky?


Beach Girl

The blue haired girl always came to the beach. She stood, only her toes in the water, arms outstretched. She closed her eyes and smiled. It was like she was in her own world, just her, the wind, the water. Nobody else.

I walked to the beach every day just to see her. I wanted to walk up to her, and hold her hand and stand with her. I wanted her to notice me like I noticed her. But she never did. So I just came everyday, and watched her be beautiful as I sat on the sand only inches away.

Then came a day when she didn’t come. I walked over to my place, but she wasn’t there. Her hair wasn’t flowing in the wind, her dress wasn’t flapping, her hands weren’t extending to the skies. Her absence was emptying. It felt as if the whole world had imploded in itself, and its rotation was thrown off course. The girl with the blue hair wasn’t there.

I panicked, and didn’t return to the beach for years.

Five years of waiting passed. I hadn’t seen the closed eyed girl with the long, blue hair for five years. I had almost forgotten about her, but I couldn’t. She was too beautiful. I longed to see her again. So after five years of waiting in the dark, I emerged again. I don’t know what caused me to want to go back, but once I thought of seeing her I couldn’t stop myself. I went to the beach where she always stood.

And there she was.

She stood, only her toes in the water, arms outstretched. She closed her eyes and smiled. It was like she was in her own world, just her, the wind, the water. Nobody else. She was exactly the same, only taller. I sat down, on the sand, only inches away from her, and watched her.

She opened her eyes.

“Where have you been?” she asked me. I didn’t know how to respond. She had never opened her eyes, she had never let out a sound or even moved. She never saw me as I sat down beside her. But there she was, talking to me.

“I — I thought you left,” I responded.

Her smile widened. “Leave? I would never leave.” There was a moment of silence. “Stand with me.”

I stood, my legs shaking like jello. I stood beside her, and outstretched my arms. My fingers touched hers.

“Close your eyes,” she told me. “Don’t think of anything, just feel.”

I did. I felt the wind ripple around me and her soft fingers touching mine. I felt the soft rays of the sun warm my arms and the cool water wetting my toes. I felt what this girl had always felt, the peace, love, and calm. I finally understood. So there we stood.

We stood, only our toes in the water, arms outstretched. We closed our eyes and smiled. It was like we were in our own world, just her, the wind, the water, and me. Nobody else.


Five Haiku to Clear the Mind


I. Terminal Storm

Shrieks of laughter fill the air,

Joyous new leaves flutter,

Clouds roll in to halt it all.


II. The Prey

The cheetah’s fur glistens as it stalks prey,

Silent, as it moves.

It bares its teeth with saliva dripping.


III. Forest Stories

Leaves crunch under foot.

Beneath the trees, ‘side the shrubs,

All animals stroll.


IV. Beach

Waves crash on the rocks,

The once dry sand turns to mud.

Gulls fly overhead.


V. Superman

Birds fill the heavens,

Planes’ rumbles cut through the calm.

Hope’s spelled with an “S.”


Life’s Library


Everyone’s life has a place where it keeps

all the important memories

whether it is a box or a shelf,

A cart or a peanut butter jar,

or even,

a library.

It keeps both good and bad memories on its dusty shelves

If I choose to descend into the lower floors,

I would notice the shadows lurking inside old, rotting books

Looking closer, I would see that the books

Are in fact memories,



Things lost,

And found.

Every experience, stored here within the infinite capacities, of my life’s library.

The further down I go, the harder it is to read the titles.

The books are more worn and dull and dusty.

I reach the bottom floor, and go to the last shelf.

The shelf that is hidden. Blanketed in shadows

Veiled in dust and the utter silence.

I reach out and take the lone book

Sitting there on the dark bottom corner of the shelf.

The cover is made of soft brown paper

That is torn and falling apart,

I sit on the floor, finding that one spot.

Worn down and the only spot in the whole room,

Not covered in dust because I sat there

So many times holding that one memory

But unable

To read it.

I lift up the book,

Flip it open to the first page,

And read.


Enough Is Enough


An AR-15 has 15 functioning parts. The length of the gun, the speed of the bullet determines how lethal a fatality is.

The time it takes to unload the empty chamber.

That one flick can cause a mass destruction.

The silver ruthless bullets that trigger screams of horror.

The painful, excruciating sound when the revolver clicks revealing the sight of ammunition.

The cylinder, when inclined, locks the hammer into place.

The trigger requires an explicit amount of pressure to fire.

The target erupts, opening a door that cannot be closed. A ruthless act that cannot be undone. A callous school shooting cannot be undone.

That it has many working parts.

The morning of, the child believes the day will be like every other day.

A test first period.

The sound of the bell at 8:15.

The sound of countless kids screaming in the cafeteria.

The sound of bookbags dropping like a ton of bricks. The sound of birds chirping, on the morning on February 14.

The sound of 17 sharp gunshots.

A day filled with laughter was turned into horror in seconds.

The first shot triggers a lockdown.

The bell rings.

Code Red, but it doesn’t seem like a code red. One thought this would never happen to them but it did.

The fire alarm pounds loud in my ears as chaos erupts.

Classrooms become inescapable like gas chambers.

The shooter shoots. The sounds are still and silent.

The eyes are tearful and the stomachs are churning.

The police arrive, with precision, as a shot is fired, the separation begins for the student body.

Those living and those that the shots have hit.

That one massacre of school children triggers the carnage lost in Boston.

Why does this keep happening?

But we barely notice until we marry 6 feet under the ground.

I thought this was supposed to be a good day?

The day with pencils tapping on the desks.

The sound of gossiping.

The sound of teachers demanding for classwork.

The sound of the chairs tipping back.

It all disappears in seconds.

The stoplight turns red but the gun turns green.

The gun doesn’t kill people, the numbers do.

3100 South Springfield Avenue. A truck turned the corner. Not the ice cream truck. This gray truck was mean. It forced her to fight for her life in the hospital bed until 5:24 p.m.. The doctor says, “I’m sorry for the words that I’m about to say.”

Sunday, October 1, 2017, Las Vegas, Nevada. 58 gone. Near the Mandalay Bay.

I was there 2 years prior.

Texas, Sutherland Springs, a day we cherish Jesus and stare at the cross. 26 souls joined with him, but not out of sacrifice. Just one out of sacrifice, but he didn’t have to die if it wasn’t for that silver bullet!

But the debate on gun control only lasted for so long after the Columbine shooting.

How many more times?

A teacher takes a bullet to save her 6 students.

The child did not get a chance to hug Mommy and say, “I love you.”

A father is heartbroken.

He cannot even remember if he even kissed his little girl goodbye when she left for school the morning on February 14.

Now the father is saying, “Enough is Enough.”


Royal Blood (Excerpt)



I creep into the room, my arms tense and my forehead sweaty. Tiptoeing over to the desk in the middle of the room, I open the second to last drawer. Peeking inside, I see what I was looking for. A gold heart-shaped amulet, covered in amethysts. It was my great-grandmother’s, stolen from her by thieves and put into a pawnshop. It then was traded to a king’s servant and given to the princess as a birthday present for her “sweet sixteen.”

I clutch the amulet close to my chest. Silently, I put my fingers into the pouch at my side. I find the fake necklace a blacksmith had made for me, in return for a favor. It was an identical twin to the real one — the exact size, shape, weight, and color. The only difference was that it was made from iron, bronze, and other cheap metals instead of the valuable gold and amethyst like the real one.

Slipping the real one into my pouch at my side, I turn around, prepared to walk outside and get away with the prized possession in my hands. I smile and walk across the room, my confidence blinding me. For a split second, I feel fur under my foot before hearing a loud yowl beneath me. I lift my foot immediately, and the animal stretches into a pouncing stance, hisses coming from the back of its throat. I’m scared for my life, knowing that if I am caught, I’ll probably be killed for entering and stealing such a valuable piece. So, what do I do? I run.

I sprint out of there, taking the old servant’s route up to the back of the castle with the beast at my heels. I wouldn’t call the beast a cat, but that’s what its body is mainly made up of. It is at least five times the size of a normal cat, and at the sides of its body, the black fur turns into feathers and its wings folded at its side. I recognize the beast to be a Lexor, probably the princess’s pet.

The Lexor lunges for me, just scraping my leg. I dart out of the way and make a sharp left. I climb up a ladder and jump off it. The Lexor tries to follow me, but a clear barrier blocks its way. It meows and swats at the barrier but with no avail in getting past. I smirk behind my shoulder and run into the forest. The only way anyone can get through that barrier is with a certain blood type. A kind called Royal blood.


Chapter One

I enter the town and run down a back alleyway that’s known as “home” to Ash and me. Ash is my best and only friend I’ve ever had. I slow down to a walk and plop myself down next to her. Her pale skin shines in the darkness.

“I’m back.”

She continues to crochet and looks up slightly.

“Did you get what you wanted?”

I break into a bigger smile than I had on before.


I hold up the amulet and let it spin in front of Ash’s eyes. She now completely stops crocheting and holds the amulet a bit closer to her.

“Oh my god,” she whispers. Her dark chocolate eyes stare into my sea green ones. “Where in the world did you get that?!”

I smile back at her. “Remember two weeks ago when we went to the library and stopped by the Record Hall? Well, I looked into my history, and I found out that my great-great- great-great-great-grandma used to own a gold amulet with amethyst on it. It even showed a picture! Then, I remembered that the staff brought Princess Annabelle a necklace. Remember in the news it never said exactly what it looked liked, but it was just ‘really expensive?’ This is it!”

Ash’s eyes were as big as dinner plates. “So you just stole it?! Eve, what do you honestly think they’re going to do when Princess Annabelle finds the necklace missing, and you just so happen to have the one that’s missing?! Oh, they’re going to have our heads…” She trails off and gets up, starting to pace back forth and muttering to herself.

“Don’t worry Ash. They’re not going to find us. And they’re going to take your head over my dead, non-executed body. I put a fake one — same color, same shape, same weight — it’s exactly the same as the one I have.”

She stops pacing and rocks back and forth on the balls of her feet.

“Are you infinity and beyond percent sure, Eve?” She drops to a lower tone. “I can’t lose you over something like this — not when I’ve lost everything else.” Her hands start to shake and even in the pitch black alleyway, I can tell that she’s about to cry. I bounce up and walk over to her. Tears start to form in her eyes and roll down her cheeks. I pull her close to my chest and let her cry in my arms.

“It’s okay,” I whisper. “You’re going to be okay. We’re going to be okay. Alright?” She cries for a few more minutes as I rock her back and forth. Once she cries all the tears left in her, she rests her head on my chest.

“Look,” she says, her voice light and airy. She points to the sun as it starts to rise over our heads, the sky turning from its black darkness and bursting into a bright orange, then turning into pinks and yellows.

I smile and stretch my back. “Today’s a new day, okay? Let’s make it a better day than yesterday.”

She smiles and hands me a basket. “I made new blankets to sell in town.” I smile at her change of attitude and take the basket in my hands. “Don’t forget to buy new wool and bread!”

I nod and start off my journey to market.


Chapter Two

Even though the sun came up just a few minutes ago, the streets were already bustling with people. There are only five hours of sunlight in Astoria, so people need to work at least ten times harder when the sun is up. When the sun’s down, people spend that time by preparing for what they have to do for the next day. The school children have at least six hours of homework, four if it was a good day, and ten hours would be considered a lot. The chefs, like most establishments, would continue to serve their customers for at least six hours after the sun fell. Most people working a middle-upper job would work in some sort of building, getting paid by their bosses. The middle-lower class community mostly worked how I worked — in a tent selling what they can. But it was one-hundred percent necessary to work in some sort of job for at least five hours or else you’ll be thrown in jail, quoting law 14.

Our jail doubles as a mental health center, and it was an extremely dirty place. There were hardly any janitors that worked there, and the ones that did were often lazy and put minimal effort into their work. The people who did go to jail were mainly tough men who probably knew how to kill a person in fifty different ways, with their hands alone. Since getting thrown in jail will show up on my resume, forcing me to not be able to apply for a job with higher pay, I can’t afford to go there. Plus, I would probably die in jail anyway. Now, we live off of Ash’s woolen creations to survive, her working day and night while I sell them at the market when the sun is up. Today she created small blankets with a design of butterflies, dragons, and other cute designs, perfect for any small child.

I sprint to the marketplace where all the stands were being set up and prepared for 7:15, when the market was officially open for business, quoting law 23. I took mine on the side of town where the most people passed by. I put the basket onto the table and open it. Inside I find different blankets in different colors measuring about 3 feet by 5 feet, with the designs of dragons and fairies, unicorns and phoenixes. I trace the patterns with my thumb and smile softly to myself, thinking of when I used to have a blanket like this that I carried everywhere. It’s one of the only things from my childhood that I was allowed to keep.

The sounds of horse-pulled carriages driving by snaps me back into reality. I look up as a blue carriage drives by and splashes the edge of the tent with dark, murky water. I glare at the back of the carriage and continue to set up the shop. Once I’m done setting up, I turn the small postcard on the front of my tent to the “open” side. Cupping my hands around my mouth, I start yelling, “BLANKETS!!! BABY BLANKETS FOR SALE!!! ONLY 13 BRONZE PISCES!!!” I soon attract a small crowd of people walking under my tent and looking at what they can buy. I stand in the corner of the tent, quietly looking around at the people, but not really looking at them, but for thieves. There was usually at least one thief trying to steal something per day, and it was usually during rush hour which was either at the very beginning of the day when everyone was trying to get to their jobs or at the end of the day when everyone was coming home. My eyes swept around the shop, noticing a small child with darting eyes and beads of sweat dripping down his face.

“Hey kid,” I call to him. He looks terrified and froze to the spot. His eyes slowly drift to me. I wave for the boy to come here. I kneel down to his level. “You were about to steal from me, correct?” The boy nods and bends his head down. “Do you have a hobby of some sort?”

He nods and whispers, “I like to draw and paint.”

I nod. “Well, if you bring your drawings here, then I’ll be more than happy to sell them here. Then, if you one day can earn ten dollars, then you can have a blanket, okay?” A smile quickly spreads across his face, and he nods at me. “Good. Just bring your paintings or drawings here when the sun rises, and I’ll sell them. Now run off,” I said, making a small shooting motion with my hands. He whispers a thank-you and runs off.

I stand up from the floor and assist the customers that were waiting in the line on the other half of the tent. I place the mirror next to the quill and ink where I write down the orders that people ask for and treat the customers, trading the money for blankets. About halfway down the line, a very attractive lady comes up and points to the mirror that I was checking.

“Is that for sale?” she asks.

“No ma’am,” I respond. This is for checking the rest of the shop when I’m treating customers. Speaking of which…” I trail off and see a middle-aged man with a bald spot in the center of his head, dressed in all black. His hands were drifting over the blankets, and his mouth was pursed in a hard line.

“You!” I yell and turn around.

The thief looks at me, and he looks like the younger boy that just tried to steal from me earlier. I grab a sword from my side and point the tip at this face.

“Put my blankets down. Now.”

The man drops them to the floor and backs up.

“All of them,” I say through my gritted teeth.

He takes one that he was cleverly hiding down his sleeve and drops it.

“All. Of. Them,” I command.

The mysterious man stays in his place. I can feel my eyes glaring at him and walk towards him.

“I said all of them.” I take my sword, Esmeralda, out of her leather casing and put her blade under his chin. “Unless you don’t want your head.”

He drops to his knees and tosses one last blanket that was under his hat onto the floor.

“Good,” I say. “And if you want to actually buy a blanket, then you can meet me at the counter or browse under the tent.”

I let go of his collar that I didn’t even realize I was grabbing and remove the blade from his neck, leaving a small red line. He grumbles and walks towards the tent. I put Esmeralda in her scabbard that was attached to my belt, and I return to the counter. These days, it was every person for themselves or else you might get backstabbed.

I crack my knuckles and pick up my quill.

“That will be ten bronze tokens please.”


Ignorance and Apathy: an Analysis of Japan and America’s Values

Have you ever wondered what the cultural norms are 6,700 miles away? These cultural norms are systems of beliefs groups follow in order to maintain well-being. These sets of beliefs keep a society on one page and functional. Different cultural norms are also modified by the economy, integration, etc. Even though America and Japan are both first world countries, their values developed differently. Japan was secluded from the world for 220 years, but was heavily influenced by the outside world after WWII. Japan adjusted many parts of its culture, but it also kept most of its values. America, on the other hand, won WWII and was powerful. Instead of taking over the world, America chose to help out struggling countries. The culture also became prideful. People started becoming more independent and thinking outside of what the government wanted people to think. Under the laws created by the government itself, this type of thinking isn’t criticized. The two countries model themselves on a system that runs on values that are almost the opposite of each other. America values pride and individual rights, while Japan values conformism and respect.


Japan’s values, conformism and respect, emerged from being isolated from the world for centuries and the loss of WWII. In 1633, Japan closed itself off to the world with the exception of trade with the Dutch. No Japanese person was allowed to exit the country, and anyone living outside of the country also could not enter. This caused the Japanese to develop similar ideas, because they had no influences on their ideas from foreign countries. Also, the Japanese government implanted strict rules during this period, which made the Japanese people used to following orders without questioning them. Even after Japan opened up to the world, this culture still lived on. Many years later, Japan was in a similar situation. When Japan was fighting WWII, the government propagated propaganda, so the Japanese population, this time, was scared of the outside world. Japan’s hate towards the world quickly disappeared after the loss of WWII. Japan’s citizens realized that their country was very far behind and subsequently fell in love with foreign countries, especially the United States. Japan rebuilt its cities, but left a few reminders of war, like a building in Hiroshima, to never forget the horrors of war. This was not in any way directed against the US. Japan completely overturned its political views, but its thinking processes remained. Japan has still been obsessed with foreign countries, especially America, to this day.


However, America had external influences for its whole history. In 1787, the Philadelphia Convention wrote the Constitution, which by today’s standard, is still very democratic. America also evolved the way it did because of immigrant populations. America won the war and felt good about itself, because it was helping different countries recover. America’s people gained pride. However, America is very ignorant now, most likely due to the poor education system. America has the biggest economy in the world, but its education is the 14th best. America has a big culture which believes that America is always the best. All this contributes to America valuing individual and unalienable rights.


Japan and America’s values approach the task of keeping a community functional differently. Japan’s societal model has everyone working together and most people benefiting equally. This works perfectly in theory, but since everyone is expected to be similar, people who are any different, not necessarily worse than the expectation, are treated badly. There is even a saying in Japanese that translates to “the nail that sticks out gets hammered.” In America, people will undermine others to get ahead. Also, because of this, children are taught that being unique is always a good thing. They are also taught that everyone is unique. This creates a tendency for people to feel proud without work. However, this helps people’s unique strengths to be recognized. Japan’s values helps processes work smoother and more efficiently, because everyone always follows rules. An example of this is how in Japan, straight lines are formed to board the trains.


Values impact the way a civilization functions. Japan and America are two technologically developed first world countries with extremely different sets of values. It is important to know about these countries’ values because they are two countries which approach the task of forming a successful civilization from completely different angles through these two sets of values. By comparing these societies, one can gain knowledge about sociology.


I So Don’t Want to Be Here (Excerpt)

“I so don’t want to be here.”

Desiree looked up at the blonde girl in surprise. “Why?” she asked her.

“Why? Why? Isn’t it obvious why I don’t wanna be here? We’re in detention,” she said, a flash of irritation in her eyes.

“No — I know that,” Desiree told her, “What I meant is… why are you talking to me?”

Alice thought for a moment and shrugged.

“I — I don’t know,” she mumbled.

“Do you even know my name, Alice?” Desiree asked her, a hint of amusement laced in her voice. Alice said nothing.

“Yeah… didn’t think so.”

Alice still said nothing.

Desiree smiled softly at Alice. “Would you like to know my name, Alice?” she asked.

Alice nodded. “Yes please.”

“It’s Desiree,” she told her and extended her hand so that Alice could shake it, but Alice didn’t budge. Perhaps a handshake was too formal of an action for situations such as these, and Desiree put her hand down on the table in a failed attempt to seem natural. She picked up her pencil and began writing.

“So why are you here, Desiree?” Alice asked, as she proceeded to examine the state of her most recent manicure. She began picking the pink polish off her nails, watching it fall to the table in small pieces. Pick, pick, pick. This action greatly annoyed Desiree, seeing as the chips of nail polish were getting all over the table, and the two would probably have to clean them up afterwards, but she said nothing about it. Instead, she sighed heavily and answered the question she had been asked.

“I’m here for a pretty dumb reason.”

“Oh?” Alice raised an eyebrow, her eyes still focused on the nail polish she was picking off. “And what might that be?”

Desiree thought this was quite rude, but seeing as she was still writing her essay and not fully paying attention to the conversation either, she didn’t really have a right to criticize.

“I’m here for breaking dress code,” she explained, rolling her eyes in irritation. “God forbid I wore something I actually wanted to. To be fair, it was an accident. They change the dress code so often that half of the time I don’t even know what’s in it.”

Alice snorted in response. “Yeah, you were right.”

“About what?”

“That is a really dumb reason.”

Desiree smiled. “Tell me about it. At this point, I’m not even writing an essay. I might as well be writing a book. And instead of writing about what I did wrong and what I can do to fix my ‘dreaded behavior,’ I’m writing about why the dress code is stupid.”

“So rebellious, Desiree,” Alice mumbled, more to herself than anyone else. Desiree pulled at one of the strands of her frizzy, brown hair.

“Yeah, you’re right. I’m not rebellious at all. I guess that’s the thing about me. I follow the rules, even if I hate them. This is really the first time I’m speaking out against them.”

Desiree put her pencil down and turned to face the girl. She was still picking at her nails, completely oblivious to the large mess she was making.

“What’s the point of getting them done if you’re just gonna pick the polish off?” Desiree asked her.

Alice’s head snapped up. She looked at Desiree.

“I’ve got no fucking clue,” she told her.

“Huh. Interesting,” Desiree muttered, and Alice nodded. “Well, regardless of that, will you please stop picking off the nail polish? You’re making a huge mess.”

“Oh.” Alice became flushed with embarrassment. “Yeah, sure. Sorry.”

“It’s fine — ”

“Hello, you two. Have you completed your essays?”

Desiree turned, only to be met face-to-face with the school’s biggest asshole and assistant principal, Ms. Ronen, who stood in front of them with her hands on her hips. Everyone in the school liked Ms. Ronen — everyone but Desiree. She hated this woman with every fiber of her being, mostly hating her for the obnoxious voice she had, which was the voice a person uses when talking to a dog or a baby. It made her feel extremely insignificant and insulted her greatly, though nobody else seemed to care or have any issue with her whatsoever. Desiree also hated Ms. Ronen because she always seemed to get into some sort of trouble whenever she was around — which she hated because she was a good kid. She was always well-behaved — always had been, too, but for whatever reason, she always ended up doing something wrong.

Desiree nodded and handed Ms. Ronen her essay. The woman stood there, shocked as she realized that there were now five back-to-back pages in her hands.

“Is that good enough? I could always add ten more pages.”

Ms. Ronen’s eyes widened in horror at Desiree’s suggestion. “Oh! Oh no, no, no, that’s — that’s fine, Desiree. You’ve done great.”

Desiree smirked. Bet she’ll have a great time reading that, she thought.

“And what about you, Alice?”

Desiree looked over to where Alice was sitting, looking bored and uninterested. She sighed.

“I don’t have my essay.”

“Oh? And why is that?”

“Because I didn’t want to write it.”

The assistant principal looked appalled. “You do realize that you can’t just not write the essay… right, Alice?”

Alice shrugged and turned away.

“I barely did anything, though,” she whined.

“You skipped class, Alice,” Ms. Ronen huffed, “That’s a pretty big deal.”

“But I have to write an essay about why I feel bad for doing what I did,” Alice told her.

“And? Your point is?”

“My point is that I can’t write my essay because I don’t feel bad. I don’t care.”

Ms. Ronen’s face reddened in anger. “Just — just pretend you care… okay?” She sighed, obviously too tired to deal with Alice’s shenanigans. Alice nodded.

“Fine… ”

“And hurry up, too. It’s almost time for you two to leave.”

At this, Alice’s eyes widened fretfully. “But — I can’t! I can’t finish an essay in such a short amount of time!”

Ms. Ronen sighed as if she knew that something like this was going to happen. “Okay, fine. Just — finish it at home and bring it in on Monday.”

Alice nodded vigorously. “Okay! Fine by me! Can we leave now?”

There were more words exchanged between Alice and Ms. Ronen, but what they were exactly Desiree wasn’t sure. The only thing that Desiree cared about in that moment was the use of the word ‘we.’ ‘Can we leave now,’ Alice had asked, not ‘Can I leave now.’ She wondered what Alice meant by this, because as far as she was concerned, there wasn’t a ‘we.’ It’s probably nothing, Desiree thought. She probably just said that by accident. Even so, Desiree planned to ask Alice about this later on… well, if they ever talked again, that is.

Desiree knew for a fact that they probably wouldn’t.