The Field of Sorrow

Editor’s Note: This is a wonderfully creepy story that may be scary for some younger readers.

As the pair approached the field, they sighed in relief. “Ugh,” Olivia sighed. “I wish I could use one of the self-driving robots. I can’t believe that your mom is forcing us to walk home.”

“I know,” Emily replied. “I wish that she allowed us to ride.”

Olivia didn’t reply. She was thinking about her parents, who had died in a fire 3 years ago. She remembered her mom’s caring smile and her dad’s gruff but tender voice. She missed them so much. She wished that Emily had not gotten cyborg implants. It separated them in a way because cyborgs tended to always stick to other cyborgs. Their friendship was growing tense.

Suddenly, she felt apprehension creeping up her spine, like the claws of a cat.

“Does something… feel weird?”

“Yeah, I dunno, I feel… uneasy.”

Then, the smell struck them. It was a horrendous stench. It smelled like spoiled milk mixed with rotten meat.

“What is that?” Olivia asked.

“I don’t know,” Emily replied.

“Should we check it out?”


“What if it’s dangerous?”

“Come on, don’t be a wimp. Race you!”


As the girls charged through the underbrush, Olivia couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that something was about to go horribly wrong. As the pair reached where the smell originated from, however, they realized that they had made the worst mistake of their lives.

It was a body and a rotting one. It had been beaten to a pulp and had multiple seemingly recent stab wounds on its chest.

Olivia gasped. “Who could do such a thing?”

“I could,” a deep voice that sounded like scraping nails on a chalkboard said. 

Too late, Olivia felt eyes burning on her back. She turned around slowly. 

There was a man with cyborg legs and a cyborg eye. He was tall and had icy blue eyes. He was wearing a long black coat and a hat, yet the girls could clearly see a psychopathic smile on his scar-riddled face.

“Hello girls,” the man said. “I’ve been waiting for you. You are going home, correct?”

The girls shakily nodded.

The man tutted. “Oh well. I guess we will take… an alternative route.”

He lunged at Olivia, and everything went black. 


They woke up chained to plastic walls in what seemed like a sort of dungeon. Their captor was in front of them, wearing what seemed like a 1600s plague doctor suit.

“I apologize for bringing you here like that. I just needed some… subjects for my experiments.”

Olivia tried to scream, but she was gagged. For the first time, she noticed a horrifying sight. There was a dastardly display of several different metal… tools. They all looked incredibly painful. 

Their captor went on. “I have some tools for these experiments, as you have probably noticed. Those will be used if you misbehave. You may call me Doctor Anubis.”

He ungagged them both, and immediately they both tried to scream. 

“Ahhhh, nice try. I’ve put an implant in your throats that prohibits you from screaming. Don’t worry, you can still talk.”

Emily immediately spoke. “How dare you do this, you sick, demented, demon! Do you know who I am?”

“Why yes I do, little lady,” Doctor Anubis said. “I simply do not care.”

“Wha-what?” Emily sputtered.

“Well, you see, it’s not about who has the most riches or power. It’s about who makes the best… subjects.” With that, he turned and dug a sharp, straight tool straight into Olivia’s stomach. She gasped and passed out.


Groggily, she raised her head and looked down. Nothing seemed to be wrong, but her chest had crisscrossing scars across it. 

“I have been working on this for ten years, since 2040, and I have never had results like this before.” The man pulled out a high-tech tablet. He showed her grisly images of his “failed experiments.” 

“You’re horrible! Why would you torture innocent people?” Olivia said. 

“For the experiment. I have told you this before. Next time you ask, I will beat you.”

“Y-yes sir,” Olivia whimpered.

“Good. Now for you, Emily. Let’s see your… potential.”

“Nooo! Please! I’ll give you money! Have mercy!” Emily pleaded.

“There is no mercy.” 

With that, Doctor Anubis plunged his tool into Emily’s stomach. He sliced around horribly, digging around her intestines for what seemed like hours. Finally, he seemed satisfied. He sent a robot over, and within a few minutes, Emily was awake. She looked up groggily, then noticed the scars on her stomach.

“How dare you do this to me!” she yelled. “I will have your skin when we get out of this!”

“The problem with that,” Doctor Anubis said, “is that you won’t get out.”

There was a long, tense silence.

“I have a question,” Olivia said. “What is this ‘experiment?’”

“Good question. I am trying to link people’s consciousness together with an interface which I control.” Doctor Anubis said. “That way I can force people to give me their money and property, and as a bonus, I will have unlimited subjects.” 

The girls sat there in silence.

“Well, that was a successful day! Sleep now!” 

He turned off the lights and walked out of the room.

“That guy is a psychopath,” Emily said. “We need a way to escape.”

“But how?” Olivia replied.

“We wait until we can get one of his tools, cut our chains, then stab him.”

“I don’t want to go through another minute of that torture!”

“You have to.”

Olivia thought for a while. Why is this man so horrible? She wished that there was a better way to get out of this situation, but she couldn’t see another way out besides Emily’s way. Maybe, if she did die, she would be able to see her parents again. Eventually, she drifted off to sleep.

The next day, Doctor Anubis probed their brains, apparently trying to connect them. He continued probing them for the next few days until he seemed satisfied. He only fed them disgusting mush, and never untied them. However, one day, Doctor Anubis seemed to get cocky. He left his tools in reach of Emily and walked off. After she had waited a few minutes to make sure that the doctor was gone, she grabbed the tools and sliced herself free. She immediately went over to Olivia and cut her free as well, using her cyborg arm.

“We need to go!” Emily hissed. They snuck forward, and Emily picked the lock of the door with one of Anubis’s tools. As they emerged for the first time from their room, they realized that they had made a massive mistake.

“You fools!” Doctor Anubis’s voice boomed. “You thought you could escape me! Fine. You will provide some nice field testing for my project. Project Intuitio, activate!”

All of a sudden, Olivia felt a massive pain in her cranium, like a rabid gerbil was trying to escape from her skull. She looked over at Emily, and it seemed that she was dealing with the pain as well. She had also dropped Anubis’s tool. Olivia tried to scream, but the implant blocked her. 

Doctor Anubis walked towards them. “I see the project is working. Good. Any second you will be connected to my interface, and you will be my slaves.” 

All of a sudden, Olivia felt a sudden urge to go to the Doctor’s side and obey his every command. She gritted her teeth in order to try and resist the Doctor’s commands. It took all of her willpower to resist, but she was able to do it. She looked over at Emily, and it seemed that she was able to resist Doctor Anubis’s commands more easily, due to her half-cyborg body.

“Fine. I suppose I will just kill you. Murderbots, kill this scum!”

Instantly, 3 robots popped out of the walls. Large spears and swords popped out of the robots, and they moved threateningly towards the pair. 

“We need to go!” Olivia shouted. She looked towards the only open exit, a door that was slightly ajar. “We need to get through that,” Olivia hissed

“Ok. How do we do that?” Emily replied.

“We run.” They both took off at a full sprint, rushing towards the door, but they were intercepted at the door by a murder-bot.

“Run! I’ll hold it off!” Emily sprung into action, delivering a quick roundhouse kick to the robot’s face with her cyborg foot. The robot seemed unfazed and delivered a punch into Emily’s gut. Emily grunted and looked over at Olivia, who was standing there, frozen. 

“Run!” she croaked out.

Olivia seemed to unfreeze and sprinted out the door. She could hear a murder-bot sprinting behind her. She looked back as she ran, just in time to see the murder-bot skewer Olivia in the chest with its spear. Emily was gone. Olivia sprinted out an unlocked door, right into the same field where they were abducted. Stricken with grief, glad to feel the sunlight on her face, the feeling of grass under her feet, and the sound of chirping of birds one last time as the murder-bot caught up to her and stabbed her in the back. She collapsed, full of grief and sorrow, as everything slowly went black.

The Witch Girl

I’m watching my best friend get pinned down by a ghost. Maybe if Mom had listened to me, this wouldn’t be happening.

But we can’t just start here, can we?

My name is Miriam. I’m thirteen years old, and my mom is a witch.

A witch, you ask?

Well, just take a peek at my basement and you’ll be sure. It’s chock-full of glass bottles, magic powders, random dangerous liquids, and a witch’s ensemble — hat, broomstick, purple robes, etc. And to top it all off, her black cat Coco who weaves around my legs.

I’ve been begging her to teach me her witchcraft since I was 5 and discovered her secret, but she refuses to teach me. And she won’t tell me why.

Am I not good enough to be a witch? I always try to shake these thoughts from my head.

But let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

It was the middle of June. I was excited to be staying over at my friend Tat’s place for an hour. I biked over to her house, which was only a few blocks away. It was a very bright yellow color.

We talked for a few minutes, and then pulled out our art supplies: a big sheet of blank paper, wide paintbrushes, and paints in every color.

“Oh, Rayne,” I sighed when I used a brown I had mistaken for orange. It messed up my rainbow. 

“What does that mean, anyway?” asked Tat curiously. “I’ve heard you say it before.”

I grinned guiltily. “I’m not sure. I’ve just heard Mom use it so much that I say it without thinking. She’s never told me to stop, anyway.”

We eventually finished the painting and hung it up in Tat’s room. The walls were already covered in art that we had made together, but this filled up the last blank wall. Her room was a riot of color, with a rainbow blanket on her bed and a fish tank full of iridescent sea snails.

We then played games, and before I knew it, it was time to go home. I waved goodbye to Tat and then biked home.

When I opened the door to my house, my eyes widened. The living room looked like someone had been playing ping-pong, but the balls were dripping paint. Everything was covered in color.

“Mom?!” I called.

“Yeah?” said my mom from the basement.

“You better come see this,” I called.

“In a moment, Miri,” she said absently, using her nickname for me.

“No, seriously! The living room is messed up!”

She walked up the basement stairs and then stopped in surprise. “What in the name of Rayne happened?” she asked when she saw the mess.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I just got back!”

“I know, Miri,” she said. Her eyes seemed to glow. “Are you okay? Is Nessie okay?”

“I’ll go check on her,” I said. “I’m fine.”

Coco followed me up the stairs, and I opened the door to my little sister’s room. “Hey, Ness — Oh Rayne!” I couldn’t believe it. My sister Nessie’s room was covered in paint as well! I checked her bed. She wasn’t there.

“She’s not here,” I called. “Ness, you little rascal! Did you paint all of this?”

“Miriam, please come down here,” Mom called.

“Why?” I asked. “What about my room — gah!”

Coco pushed me down the stairs. My arms pinwheeled as I tried to keep my balance, but in the end, I tumbled down the steps. I rolled onto the paint-covered floor, groaning.

“Ugh… Bad kitty,” I grumbled. Coco carefully stepped around me, heading over to my mom. I carefully stood up, and then looked down at my clothes and arms. I was absolutely covered in paint.

“Rayne!” I yelled to the sky. Then I turned to the culprit. “Coco! Now I have to clean my shirt up!”

“No, Miri,” said Mom. “There’s no time for that. Besides, it will protect you.”

“What do you mean?! What in Rayne is this mess, anyway?!” I yelled, looking at the bucket’s worth of paint covering our living room.

“A ghost’s mark, Mir.”

I stopped cold. “A… A what?”

“A ghost.”

I laughed nervously. “Um… You know ghosts aren’t real, right?”

Mom sighed. “Neither are witches, Mir. Neither are witches.” She seemed to be losing focus.

The room seemed to be getting colder as well. “Where’s Ness?” I asked with a strange sense of dread.

Mom snapped back into awareness with a jerk of her head. The room suddenly seemed warm and cozy again. “Right. Nessie. I’ll track her.” Her eyes glowed violet. “This way.” She stepped out the door, Coco following behind her. I hurriedly put on my shoes and half jogged, half walked over to her. 

“Mom,” I said, “where are we going?”

She glanced at me. “To find the ghost who took Nessie, of course. She’s not in any immediate danger, but it is critical to find her as soon as possible.”

“The ghost took Nessie?” This was getting more far-fetched by the moment. “Are you sure?”

“Miri,” said Mom. “Who do you think knows more about ghosts? You or me?”

“Well… you, I suppose,” I grumbled. Then, in a sudden outburst, I said, “But maybe if you had just taught me to be a witch, I would know a little something about ghosts too!”

She glanced at me, her eyes cold. “For the thousandth time, you are not ready to be a witch, Miriam.” The comment stung. Was I really not ready? Then she looked ahead. “The ghost is in here.”

We had stopped in front of a very familiar yellow house. “Mom,” I warned, “this is Tat’s house.”

Her eyes glowed crimson, and she reached into the pocket of her coat. From her pocket, she pulled out perhaps 100 small metal spheres. They seemed to be linked to each other somehow. She handed them to me, and I peered down at them.

At a closer look, it was a net. Tiny metal threads connected every sphere in a 10 by 10 grid. The threads seemed to have a golden sheen. “What is it?” I asked, tearing my gaze away from the net. “Why are we here? Can you tell me anything about what we’re doing or what a ghost is?”

“Of course, Miri,” said Mom. “To start, you need to know that witchcraft is not a culture. It is a race, a birthright. Even if you turn away from the path of witching, you will still have the magic in you.” She stroked Coco. “Everyone in the world has a little bit of witch magic, but in most people, it’s very weak. The families with the most potent magic all trace back to Rayne and her daughters.”

“Who’s Rayne?” I pulled myself up and sat on the mailbox.

“The goddess of witchcraft. She had eight mortal daughters, seven of them good and one of them evil. We are descended from Beryl, the eldest good daughter. We have strong witch blood.”

“Okay…” I was getting a little lost.

“However, one can only start using their witch magic when they unlock the true potential of their creativity. This is why most people never manage it. Roald Dahl and Mozart unlocked theirs, as did Picasso.” She traced shapes in the air. “Of course, most people who unlocked their magic never actually knew they had it — it was just infused into everything they did.”

“How do I unlock my witch magic?” I asked, hopping off the mailbox.

Mom sighed wearily. “Everyone does it differently. But it always happens through their passion. Music. Architecture. Scientific discoveries. Anything, really. But you have to fully recognize it.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“You’ll understand once it happens to you. I can’t tell you how to understand your magic, though, because for everyone it’s unique.”

“Oh…” I said, somewhat crestfallen. Now I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to unlock my magic. “Well, tell me more about the ghost.”

“Ghosts are spirits. People who pass away can still stay anchored to this world by something called a talisman. It is a magical item. If you destroy the talisman, the ghost will leave this world and pass on to the next. Most ghosts aren’t malignant, however. I would bet that the ghost who kidnapped Nessie had a child in life, and they wanted to recreate that memory.”

I was still a little uncertain. “Wouldn’t it be… mean? To destroy a ghost? Isn’t that like destroying a person?”

“We are not destroying a talisman, just as we are not destroying the ghost.”

“What are we doing, then?” I was under the assumption that we would banish them somewhere… magic. I was reminded of how little I knew about the witch world.

“We are sending the ghost to the afterlife so that they can be released. We are freeing them.”

“Okay!” I glanced at the house, and my energy faded. “But this is Tat’s house. We can’t just… sneak in here, or whatever.”

Mom snorted. “There is no we. I’m going in, you are staying out.”

“What?!” I cried. “Then why did you give me this?!” I shook the golden net in front of her face.

“To defend yourself if the ghost decides to leave,” said Mom. “Why don’t you play with Tat for a few minutes while I deal with the ghost.”

“Okay!” I said, a little incredulously. “I am going to be having a playdate with Tat while you track down a ghost in the same house. That’s just great.” I looked up, and to my dismay, Mom was already ringing the doorbell. “Wait!” I yelled, just as the door opened. Tat’s mom was at the door.

Tat’s mom ushered me in.

“This is so cool!” said Tat, who was inside. “Let’s play a game!” I followed her, feeling sick and useless.

We went up to her room, where she pulled out some cards. I was focusing on what Mom had told me so much that I was barely paying attention to the game. After I had lost four times in a row, Tat frowned.

“You okay, Miri?” she asked. “You seem a little distracted. Are you cold?” She shivered. “I gotta ask mom to turn up the heater. It’s absolutely freezing here.”

“Now that you mention it…” It was really cold. “Um… Tat?”

“Yeah,” she asked absently.

“Do you believe in ghosts?”

“No,” she said, looking up. “They’re just stories invented to make children go to bed.”

The lights flickered on and off. I looked up nervously. “Well, maybe you should start believing in them.”

The room seemed to be darkening. My hands were shaking a little as I pulled out my net, looking around the room anxiously. My fear seemed to transfer to Tat, who looked a little nervous. 

“What do you mean?” she asked. She was glancing back and forth, and then looked at my net. “What’s that?”

The lights turned off. The window, which should have been letting sunlight into the room, seemed almost muffled. It was nearly completely black.

Light, I thought. I need light. I wasn’t sure how to make light, though. I looked around the room, noticing Tat’s glow-in-the-dark paints.

“Mind if I spill these?” I asked before opening the cap.

“I can’t see you, Miri,” Tat said, sounding scared. “Where are you?”

The green paint inside the bottle glowed faintly. In the dim light, I could see Tat to my left. “Here,” I said, throwing the paint over her. I had remembered Mom saying that if we were covered in paint, it would protect us.

“Gyah!” she yelled. She spat some glowing green paint out of her mouth. “Miri, what was that for?!”

“Do you want to be attacked by a ghost, or what?” Despite the tone of command in my voice, I was terrified. “Look, just don’t move.”

The ghost was here, I knew it. I held up the net, which I realized was glowing dimly. As I watched, some of the darkness seemed to solidify, taking shape as a person, almost. I shivered.

As I looked closer, I realized that it was a woman. She looked at me for a moment, and then turned away, seeming to lose interest. Tat stared at it, and I got the feeling that she could see it too.

I stood there for what seemed like hours. Tat stood as still as she could, shivering and covered in paint. I stood with my net in my hand, trying to pretend I was invisible. The ghost kept going back to the paintings we had put on the walls. It peeled the one we had done that morning from the wall, staring at it. Then, after a moment, the paper disintegrated in its hands.

I exchanged a terrified glance with Tat.

I saw the ghost glide up above Tat’s bed, and then it picked up Tat’s favorite, one that she had framed. The painting depicted shades of blue and pink, brushed almost carelessly all over the page. In the middle, there was a golden owl.

The painting disintegrated. Tiny colorful pieces floated down to the floor.


The sound had come from Tat. She was shaking in anger. I shook my head at her, but she clenched her paint-covered fists and…

“Why did you do that?!” she yelled at the ghost. “That was my favorite. I worked really hard on it!”

The ghost stopped. It slowly turned around to face Tat.


I heard it talk, but it sounded muffled. The single word seemed to echo around the room.

Suddenly, the ghost sprang forward. Tat let out a little yelp and then was bowled over by the ghost. Mine, it said again, Mine!

And… that’s where I am now.

Maybe if Mom had listened to me, this wouldn’t be happening, I think bitterly. Then reality takes hold. My best friend is being attacked by a ghost, and I’m standing here blaming my mom for not wanting me to get hurt. I have to do something.

What can I do? I look around the room. My eye falls upon the glow-in-the-dark paint again. There are still three bottles left. I grab them, screw open one of the caps, and toss the pink paint over the ghost. Then I repeat it with the yellow. The ghost keeps running its fingers over the glowing ooze — who knew ghosts were interested in glow paint? I try to open the orange, but the cap is stuck. 

I toss it aside and hoist my golden net. I hurl it at the ghost, and… it passes right through! What? Mom said this was a weapon!

My eyes widen as it passes right through Tat, too. It hits the glowing paint on the floor and glows a little stronger.

I snatch it out from under them, and an idea hits me. If it got stronger when it touched the paint, then maybe…

I brush it across the paint-covered walls, but nothing happens. In a desperate attempt, I grab my paintbrush and cover it in gold paint.

Golden light flares up all over it. I almost drop it in surprise and then blink a few times to get used to the light. However, a few seconds later, it goes dim again.

I splash more paint on it, every color of the rainbow. The ghost turns its attention to me.

I need a distraction, I realize. Maybe… I picture the golden owl that was the centerpiece of the disintegrated painting, and a similar golden owl flies out of the net. It seems to be made of golden sparkles, somehow. It flies at the ghost and pecks at it furiously. The ghost tries to shoo it away, and when that doesn’t work, it tackles the owl.

I cover the net in more paint, and the ghost shies away from its light. Then, it turns around abruptly, and I realize that Tat is whacking it with a blue-covered paintbrush.

“Stall!” I yell at her. Because, in the end, we’re just stalling for Mom to destroy the talisman. She had said that it would take no more than fifteen minutes. How long has it been? I try to run the minutes through my head as I brandish the net. Thirteen? Fourteen?

I throw the glowing net. Once again it passes through the ghost, and it shies away from the light.

“Rayne!” I yell as I watch my weapon fall to the floor. I need more things like the owl. More distractions. I dive for the net, and everything seems to slow down.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see Tat dump her glitter paint all over the ghost and jump for the net. I see the net about to make contact with my hand, and the ghost about to jump on me.

Just as its shadowy fingers reach my back, Tat and I touch the net and an explosion of glittery rainbow moths flit out of the glowing weapon.

The ghost falls back, confronted by the moths. It then stops. The paint, magic, liquid light, and darkness covering it seem to melt away, leaving only the faint silvery form of a woman. She looks at us as tiny sterling flecks float off of her body. She seems a little puzzled as she dissolves into thin air. The lights turn back on. The room gets warm again. I look around. We’re both covered in paint, two paintings are missing, and there are paintbrushes and paint all over the floor.

“Mom!” we both call.

Both of our moms rush up the stairs to Tat’s room. “I destroyed the talisman,” says Mom, who is carrying Nessie and is quite breathless. “But I didn’t find…” She stops in shock. “Did you guys fight the ghost?”

I run over to her. “Yeah,” I sob. “Scariest thing ever.”

“There’s a good explanation for all this,” moans Tat, before looking her mom up and down. “What are you wearing?” Her mom is in yellow robes with a pointed hat and shoes.

Mom smiles. “Both Juliette and I are witches.” Both Tat and I look at her mom with new respect. 

“Witches?” breathes Tat.

“I’m sure you and Tat will be, too. After all, Tat and Juliette are descended from Lazuli, the youngest good daughter of Rayne.”

“Mom, the net was weird. It glowed and moths and an owl came out,” I say while hugging her.

Mom looks at me. “That’s not the net, Miri. That’s your magic.”

“Magic?” I’m excited despite my ordeal. “But… I thought that I wasn’t gonna get to be a witch!”

“Why would you think that?” asks Mom.

“Well,” I say, looking down a little. “You always said that I wasn’t ready to be a witch, but…” I don’t say what I am thinking: I’m not good enough to be a witch. It seems embarrassing to admit.

Luckily, Mom seems to read my mind. “Miri,” she says, “You are going to be the best witch ever.”


I stand in the basement, staring at the assortment of broomsticks in front of me. There are long ones, child-size ones, fluffy ones, and straw-tipped ones.

I glance over at a dark hickory broom with a horsehair tip. It seems right. I smile as I run my hand down the staff and then yelp as it lets off a small shock.

“That’s the one?” asks Mom, who is standing to my right.

I shake my hand out, wincing a little. “Well, it just shocked me. Is that good or bad?”

A small smile touches my mom’s face. “Looks like that’s the one.”

I pick up the broomstick, smiling as I realized it looks like a giant paintbrush. Then I look at the hand mirror my mom is holding up to me. I am glowing gold a little, I realize. I hold my net in one hand and the broom in the other, and finally feet like a real witch in my tye-dye shirt and black pants. The golden owl swoops around me, landing on my shoulder.

This is it, I think. I’m a witch now. I realize I am beaming with pride and pleasure.

“Well,” says my mom, grinning just as widely. “Let’s get witching!”

Our Customized Future

“Alright, Mr. and Mrs. Gardner, the fetus communication device is all set up. We’re ready when you are,” the doctor said, while double checking that all the wires were in the right place.

“I think we’re ready, doctor,” said James Gardner, the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Clutching his wife’s hand, he whispered something in her ear, which made her frown mildly. The screen powered on, and James and Mary could see their fetus. Excitedly, Mary grasped her husband’s forearm, as they had been trying to have a child for a few months, with no success until then. It was a long and painful journey, but they had finally succeeded. 

“Hello? Is this my customization?” asked the fetus. The doctor gave a microphone to the couple so that they could talk to their son.

“Hello, my beautiful son. Shall we get to it?” asked Mary, wanting to get on with it.

“Yes, sorry.” The doctor opened his laptop. “Let’s start with a simple one, what are you thinking for height?” 

“I was thinking maybe 6’5, 6’6,” James said. 

“No, that’s too tall. The Inspector will see him as a freak! He’ll get sent straight to the Ugly House. 6’3 will do just fine,” said Mary, arguing with her husband, just as always. The doctor typed on his computer, inputting the requested height.

“Alrighty, now, how about eye color?” the doctor asked, still typing at his keyboard.

“We were thinking about blue, not very dark, but more like an ocean or sky blue,” Mary said, and James nodded, for once agreeing with his wife. The doctor typed some more on the computer.

“Hair color?”

“You better make me blonde. Not too yellow though, more like a pale blonde. I’ve studied the current beauty standards,” the fetus said excitedly.

“I don’t know, I was thinking brown hair, but I guess you would know better than me,” Mary said, debating whether or not to trust her child-to-be. The doctor typed that information in the computer. 

They stayed there for another hour or so. Whenever James tried to bring an idea to the table, Mary shot him down with some excuse. Eventually, James got sick of it and just let Mary and the fetus choose. He didn’t want his son to get sent to the Ugly House. He had heard about what happened there. He had heard that the Inspectors were very harsh. He had heard the rumors. He was nervous. 

* * *

Mary had given birth to Liam Gardner after 16 hours of being in labor. The Inspector was due any minute now. James had to leave for a meeting halfway through Mary giving birth. She was not happy about it. He was always leaving her to do some sort of work thing that she didn’t understand. Well, at least she now had a baby. A beautiful baby boy. Or at least she thought.

“Is this Liam Gardner with James and Mary Gardner?” a deep, booming voice asked. Mary turned toward the door. She saw a man dressed in a black and gray vest with a scar on his face. He was donning a black baker boy hat.

“Yes, I am Mary and this is Liam. James could not be here, unfortunately,” Mary said, a little bit snarkily. 

“Liam Gardner, what an interesting name.”

“Oh, the name is not final, we can change it if you think it’s odd.”

“That will not be necessary.” The Inspector walked toward Mary and the baby. “What a tall little man. He appears strong as well. He will be helpful to fight in our armies, if he is deemed satisfactory, of course.”

“Notice how beautiful his face is!” Mary said, trying very hard to get her son deemed satisfactory.

“It will not help you nor the boy if you try to convince me. I have made my decision. You will be sent a letter in the mail with instructions.”

“Instructions? For what?”

“For how to get your boy to the Ugly House. And for what to do from there. Please inform Mr. Gardner of this decision and read the letter together when it arrives.” 

Mary was shocked. Her son, going to the Ugly House? That didn’t happen to the wealthy folks. Liam had studied the beauty standards, and she had trusted him. Now he was going to be taken away. She had to speak with James about this. 

* * *

Mary stormed into their home. 

“James. Our sweet Liam is being sent to the Ugly House. I know this was all your fault, you in those meetings, when you told me in the customization that you had to sort a matter with the doctor, you knew he was going to be sent to the Ugly House all along!” Mary screamed at James, sobbing. 

“I did that to protect you, dear Mary. I knew I wouldn’t be able to help you raise a child. I was barely there when you were pregnant, I could never have time for our son,” James said, a lot calmer than his wife.

“And you thought that sending him to the Ugly House would be an appropriate response? You couldn’t have just been there for him?” Mary was really yelling now.

“Mary, you are acting obtuse. Do you not realize I was just trying to help? God, Mary, you’re impossible sometimes.” James was starting to get more aggressive.

“I’m impossible? I take care of our child, I cook, I clean the house while you just go to work all day! I don’t see you ever, and I’m the impossible one? You’re insane, James! You know what? Don’t come to our room tonight. I need my space from you.” Mary picked up Liam and went to their room. Liam’s crib was already set up in there, at least James did one thing. Mary had just gotten in bed when she heard a knock at her bedroom door.

“Hey, Mary, I just wanted to say that I’m sorry. I know it won’t help but I just wanted you to hear it. This came for us, I thought you might want to look at it first.” James slipped a letter under the door. It was addressed to both of them. 

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Gardner,

On the next page are the instructions for how to get your son, Liam Gardner, to the Ugly House. You have three days to get him there, or he will be forcefully removed from your household. 


The Inspectors

Mary skimmed the instructions and then opened the door. James gave her a hug, and then took the letter from her. They would take Liam to the Ugly House the next day.

* * *

The instructions had been very clear. Liam was to be brought to 151 Applebaum Street, and he would be taken to the Ugly House. Mary and James took their relatively-newborn and got into the car. They passed Bananabaum street, Pearbaum street, Grapebaum street, until they finally got to Applebaum. 147, 149, and then finally, 151 Applebaum street. The house was painted a turquoise color, and neither Mary nor James could say that they liked it very much. It looked very old and run-down. Almost abandoned. The instructions had said to leave Liam on the porch and not to hover. They did exactly that. Mary and James had driven home, and didn’t see Liam again, at least not for a long time. 

That’s where their stories end, but Liam’s story, well, that one is just beginning.

* * *

Liam was lying on the porch for about 15 minutes before an elderly woman came out of the house and got him. She brought him inside and gave him a bottle of milk. Then, as standard procedure for all incoming Ugly children, she gave him a dose of a serum made from maple tree bark that allows him to talk. 

“Hello, Mr. Liam Gardner. You are here because you have been deemed Ugly. Do not be alarmed, you will not be harmed just yet. You may call me Mrs. X,” the elderly woman, Mrs. X, said.

“So, I was deemed Ugly, why am I not in the Ugly House?” Liam said, confused.

“Currently, you are in what is called the ‘transition period.’ You will be transported to the Ugly House in about 30 minutes. This talking serum will wear off in about two minutes, so if you have any questions, now is the time to ask them. Don’t worry, this is standard procedure.”

“What is it like in the Ugly House? Will I be treated poorly? I’ve heard rumors that it’s terrible there.”

“I apologise, but I’m not allowed to address that. Oh, I think the serum has worn off. Unfortunately, I cannot give you more. Here, play with this.” Mrs. X gave Liam a baby toy to play with until the Transporter arrived.

30 minutes later, Liam was picked up. The Transporter put him in a seat in the back of a truck. The ground was damp and it smelled like mold. The Transporter was not a good driver. He kept on swerving and hitting potholes. About 15 minutes into the drive, the truck stopped. Liam was taken out of the foul-smelling vehicle and put into a baby carrier. He was handled aggressively and carried until he saw a mansion. If someone had asked Liam to describe what he saw in that moment, he would’ve just said scary. The mansion was huge, and looked amazing, but Liam knew it was the opposite. The whole thing was very eerie. Liam was taken inside. He was greeted by an incredibly ugly young girl. She seemed about seven years old. Her family must’ve been poor, Liam thought. Come to think of it, all of the children in this home were not from a high income family. Liam was the only outlier. Liam thought it was kind of horrible how only the poor got sent to the Ugly House. Well, mostly the poor. The girl took him to a room that didn’t have any windows. The only source of light was a small lamp in the corner. There was a black crib in the room that Liam assumed was his. Sure enough, he was placed in the crib. The ugly girl gave him a small bottle of milk that she had hidden underneath her bed. 

“Drink up. I’m Susan,” the girl whispered to him. She seemed cautious, as if something or someone was preventing her from talking to him in full volume. Liam drank the milk. Susan watched him drink, and then took the bottle from him when he finished. Liam thought this was a bit odd. This whole place was kind of odd. But it certainly was nothing like the rumors, at least not yet.

“The guard will be here any minute. I should go,” Susan said anxiously. She left the room. 

“Liam Gardener?” a woman’s voice came from outside the room. “I am here to introduce you to the Ugly House. I need to give you an injection so that we can… communicate with you better. Don’t worry, it’ll only be a pinch.” The woman came inside the room with a needle and a bandaid. She gave him the injection and put the bandaid on. Liam felt different. He felt older. It’s not possible that that injection made him older, right? It’s not possible…

“Great, it looks like the injection worked. You are now 11 years old. Can you speak?” the woman asked.

“How – how did you make me age ten years with only an injection? Why am I suddenly 11 years old?” Liam asked, confused.

“This is a standard procedure for all incoming Ugly children. Do not be alarmed.”

“That’s not possible, the girl that greeted me, Susan, she was only seven. It’s not possible for her to age ten years.”

“The injection works differently for different people. That ugly girl only aged five years. Now, let’s take you on a little tour, shall we?” The woman grabbed him by the wrist and pulled him out of the room. She took him to a room that again didn’t have any windows and sat him down at a metal table. The chair legs were uneven, and the table was sticky and smelled of orange juice. Sure enough, the woman gave him a glass of orange juice. When he finished drinking it, the woman took the glass and put it in a bin on the table. There was a small side room, which she went into and took out a pen and a notepad. She then looked at him and began to write something down. Liam was curious.

“What are you writing?” Liam asked, anxiously.

“That’s none of your concern! Don’t be so nosy, or you will not enjoy your time here. And we wouldn’t want that, would we?”

“Um, I guess not.” The woman continued to write. About ten minutes later, the woman had stopped writing and took Liam out of the room. She instructed him to follow her and took him to another room with no windows that had a chair and a barber smock in it. She told him to sit down and grabbed an electric razor from a side table. She then gave him a haircut.

“Nice hair makes someone look more Satisfactory. You stay here for three months so that we can mold you into a Satisfactory child. We transport you back to where you started, 151 Applebaum street. Your parents or whoever can come get you from there. Unfortunately, the injection never wears off, so you have lost a few years of your life. Oh well. Get up and follow me please.” She walked to yet another room. This was going to be a long three months. 

* * *

Liam looked in the mirror. I guess I’m, Satisfactory now? He thought. The Inspector was supposed to come today to reevaluate him. Liam was not sure if he was excited or disappointed. The last three months were something to say the least. He enjoyed his time here overall. He made a new friend in Susan from his room. He was considered attractive now. But despite all this, he still felt incomplete. He skipped ten whole years of his life. Ten years that he would never get back. Well, at least he would see mom and dad again. He heard a knock at the door. 

“Come in!” said Liam.

“Hello, Mr. Gardener. My, you’ve grown a lot since the last time I saw you,” said the Inspector, shocked.

“Yes, well I was given an injection which made me age ten years, as per your instructions,” Liam said, passive-aggressively.

“Do not put the blame on me, boy. I only deemed you Ugly because my boss had told me to. I have to reevaluate you now. You are a very good height for your age. And my-my, very strong too. Hair looks great. I deem you Satisfactory. Goodbye now, Mr. Gardener.” The Inspector left the room. Liam was in shock, that all happened so quickly! The woman who had given him a tour (whose name he still hadn’t learned) came into the room. 

“I’m here to discuss the details of your departure. You will leave our facility in half an hour. Please go pack your things now,” the woman said, without an ounce of emotion in her voice. Liam packed up his stuff and went to the exit of the Ugly House to be picked up. Again, he was put into the back of a truck. The ground was not damp this time, but it still smelled of mold. After a 15 minute ride, the truck stopped at 151 Applebaum street. James and Mary Gardener picked him up. They went back to the house. Mary had decided to get a divorce from James, so she took Liam and they got their own house. 

That’s where this story concludes. 

It was Him

Editor’s Note: This story explores darker themes and mentions violence & self-harm.


It’s the alarm that woke me up that morning. Not my clock that’s seemingly harmless, but the Imperial Alarm. It has never been used before. 

When we first moved to the Triwall Sector, the second thing our family was taught about was the Imperial Alarm. It’s reserved solely for emergencies such as natural disasters, and the unexpected death of a high ranking member of the Imperials. I remember the man who gave us a tour of the place, carefully pointing every single thing out. He had led us to the pedestal, holding the huge bell shaped alarm. “It’s never been used before and it never will,” he said. I guess that man was wrong. 

The bell rang, and it’s been ringing for the past half hour. It seems like no one knows what to do right now. Everyone’s scrambling around outside, frantically searching for some guards who know what they’re doing. I yank on my socks and slowly open my door to reveal the bare hallway. One step at a time, I pound down the stairs to find my family huddled around our Slim Screen that displayed the town square. The Slim Screen is honestly an extremely helpful tool. It broadcasts channels that play on TVs, and it translates over 6000 languages.

 My family’s faces are expressionless, but I see the fear beneath their eyes. I walk over to them and slip my hand in Mom’s. My mother, with her beautiful blond hair and blue eyes, the traits I inherited from her, is waiting with a worried expression and her level signal over her head. 153. Like Mom, I have her ocean blue eyes, yet take my thick, curly brown hair from my father. Mom rubs my back like she always has since I was little. I feel her hand, comforting me, and soothing me. “It’s going to be okay Alana, everything’s going to be fine.” When my mom says something, you have to believe her. The compassion and sympathy in her voice stay with you wherever you go.

 She’s squeezing my hand now too, and I can tell she is unhappy with the situation. My dad pulls me in for a side hug, and this time I didn’t resist. I mean, usually I would because who even hugs their dad when they’re 14? My head leans against his broad chest and I feel his chest muscles tense. He breathes in and out, in and out. I concentrate on his breathing. It’s ragged and heavy. I pull away and cover my eyes with my hands. I want to fall asleep. We stand there in muddled silence for about 30 seconds. The Alarm is still ringing, and it’s hurting my ears. Then, the Imperial Alarm lets out one last earsplitting shriek and falls quiet. Timmy squeaks out a sound. He moves to hold Mom’s other hand. Then, everything goes pitch dark. Even our levels are gone. 

The first thing we learned about when we moved to Triwall Sector were the levels. When you performed tasks the bots were happy with, the icons over your head gave you points. Having points gave you advantages which helped you lead a better life. As a pay salary for jobs each week, our levels go up by .25. Mom and Dad’s levels are really high for commoners, so we get lots of luxury. For example, our family, we all have levels in the hundreds. So, we are able to access the uptown of Triwall while the middle class can only visit Midtown and Downtown. For the people that have low levels, they can’t access the elevators, the cars, the luxury objects in everyday life. Points are like health levels as well. Your arm broke? Your neck broke? The levels above your head carry a value no one can imagine. They slowly drain while you’re getting better, while you’re summoning enough strength. After you’re healed, work harder. You work harder until the levels are gained back. That’s just how it is. Well, all that’s gone now. There are no more levels. There are no more levels. No matter how many times I repeat that to myself, I can’t seem to fully wrap my head around the fact that there are no more levels. 

My brother, Timmy, looks around with fear in his eyes. He’s only nine. I’ve always protected him. He’s like the best friend I’ve never really had. But now that the world is out of control, there is nothing I can do to make Timmy feel like he is safe. Because in fact, he isn’t really safe at all. I see my parents exchange that look that means, “Uh oh we’re in trouble.” But to us, they only give positive and supportive looks. Mom wrenches her hand from mine and Tim’s grip and hurries to the windows. Her forearms rest against the metal windowsill. My mom stares at the crowd, and turns to report back.

“The whole level system is gone. It’s chaos out there.” 

And indeed it was. I rush over to the window to see for myself only to find disaster. The usually lit-up streets were dark. The level symbols above our heads used to keep the streets glowing. There are no levels now. My hands fall on the windowsill. Without the level system, everyone can go anywhere. They don’t need to keep in line as they won’t be punished. I force myself to drag my feet back to the rest of my family. Timmy whispers, “Are we gonna die?” Feet shuffle, and finally, my mother says in her sweet voice,

“No, Timmy, we’ll be absolutely safe. We’re here for you wherever you go.” But somehow, even if Mom’s voice sounds exactly the same, for the first time, I don’t actually believe her. 


Mom starts soothing Timmy, who begins to cry. I can’t listen to this anymore, I’m way too tired. I’m tired of living in this world where levels control you, I’m tired of the levels malfunctioning. My feet drag with every step I take. My arms hang by my sides, like limp spaghetti noodles that Timmy throws under the dinner table. 

“I think I ought to get some sleep,” I say weakly. I mean, there is nothing I can do at this moment anyway. Mom nods, and Dad says,

“I’m heading up too, you guys should also catch a nap.” He gestures to Mom and Timmy. 

“Wait it out till the morning, nothing much can get worse from here.” Dad grins, puts an arm around my shoulder, and starts guiding me towards the stairs. Oh boy, is Dad wrong. 

We reach the top of the stairs. I leave Dad standing in front of his room and head to mine. I can barely keep my eyes open, my eyelids feel like weights. I sink down on my bed. I don’t even take off my socks. Pulling my blanket up to my chin, I immediately fall asleep and get greeted by a memory I don’t want to rewatch. 

“Alana Wilkson, walk up here please.” The levels above my head are rapidly shooting down, lower and lower. I want to stop them, but I can’t. The rest of the class is staring at me, laughing and pointing. My level is down to 33. I shouldn’t even be in school with a level that low. You need at least a 50 for that. Six, five, four, I feel myself losing strength. So this is how it feels to die. 

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” I whisper to Ms. Johns defiantly, while I fight for my eyelids not to close. She stares at me, daring me to lie. I want to sink into a small puddle, a puddle where no one knows who I am. Eventually, my levels were sorted out. I woke up in the office to find the most important man in the Triwall Sector waiting for me. That was the time I met the Elector Imperial. He drove me to his private quarters and then hired his team to fix the numbers. I watch as the symbols light up and my level is soon back to normal. The Elector Imperial fixes me with a smile, his ice cold eyes piercing into mine. “Sorry for causing you any trouble, Alana dear.” But even at the mere age of nine, I could tell he doesn’t really mean it. 

My forehead is beaded with sweat when I bolt up, wide awake. The truth is, I’m scared. I’m scared of the levels. When I used to wander downtown with Mom where the river is, where we saw the different boats coming in with shipments, I saw those homeless people, the beggars on the street. Their levels are low, really low, and their faces are blank. Like they’ve given up. Because once you’re down the ladder of levels, there’s really no going back up. Our lives are shaped by levels, and levels are vital to living in Triwall. It’s that important. So I’m scared. I’m scared because without levels, we’re nobodies, we don’t have a place in the world above anyone else. And I’m scared for my neighbors, my friends, and my family, but mostly, I’m scared for myself. 


I’m too startled. I don’t think I can go back to sleep and relive those unpleasant memories again. I walk to the bathroom quietly, as my whole family seems to be asleep. Peering into Mom and Dad’s room, I see Timmy snuggled in between them, smiling in his sleep. He’s probably thinking of good memories. Wish I could relate. I splash cold water on my face and pull on my boots. I am going outside. I am going to see for myself.

I open the door and fresh air hits my face. I need that. Walking to the Imperial Alarm, I see many people huddled in groups, even this early in the morning. It makes me uneasy, because usually no one’s around this early. It makes me scared. I pick up my pace to a jog when someone runs into me. I jump back in surprise. Without meaning to, my face lights up. He’s the most beautiful boy I’ve ever seen. Pushing those thoughts away, I analyze the person getting to his feet. He’a a carpenter, someone who fixes things that go wrong in the Triwall Sector. His badge gleams on his chest.  Can’t even call him a man, he’s barely 18. He looks flushed. Almost as if he’s hurting inside. Guilty for doing something wrong. “Sorry,” he mumbles, while averting his eyes and continuing on his way. I think I will remember that boy. With those looks, I don’t think I could forget him.


Wow. The space around the Alarm is packed four deep. People scrambled and shoved, trampled and tripped each other. Many people stay on the sidelines though. Without their levels, if you get hurt, there’s no telling what could happen. Of course, the risk takers wanted to see the Alarm for themselves. People touch it, bang it, or simply just stand in front of it. Normally, with the presence of levels, people wouldn’t dare. Points are taken off in big chunks for approaching the Alarm at all.  But now, you can do anything you want to, if you are okay with the possibility you may be in pain for the rest of your existence. After all, there are no more levels. Then, after an eternity of physical violence, people gasp.  Their faces are frozen with shock. “No!” someone screams, and all of a sudden, the Imperial Alarm rings again. Standing less than 30 feet away, the bell’s intense ringing hurts my head. I have no idea what’s happened. 

“The Elector Imperial is dead,” someone shouts while others repeat those horrid words. “Dead in his bedroom, throat slit.” 

My stomach hurts. I feel lightheaded. The world fades to black.


I wake up to Timmy’s face hovering over me.

“Alana, you’re awake! Thank goodness!” my Mom says happily. Dad hovers over her shoulder, his eyes brightening the moment he sees me smile. Timmy dances around the room, like he doesn’t have a care in the world. 

“Mom, what happened?!” I gasp, finally finding my voice. 

“Nothing you have to worry about now, honey,” Mom replies, clearly hiding something she doesn’t want me to know. 

“Mom, I want to know. I deserve to know.” I sit up and pain hits my temples. It’s like a blinding light I can’t close my eyes to. Timmy shouts and screams. As much as I want to tell him it’s okay, I don’t have the strength to do it. I see Timmy’s hazy shape over me, and a memory hits me again. The day Timmy came home.

I see my old doll Betty in my hands. I’m pacing around the same table that’s still here now. Mom and Dad should be home anytime soon. I’m so excited. I get to meet Timmy. I’m with my old babysitter, Gerta. She’s gorgeous. Her level states 72. She got a job after graduation apparently, and then became my babysitter. There’s a knock at the door. I rush to open it, but Gerta beats me. She swings it open, and smiles brightly at Mom and Dad while I stare at Timmy. My eyes are only on him. He’s adorable. I make a move to grab his torso but Dad puts a gentle hand on my shoulder. 

“Sweetie, move to the sofa, you don’t want to drop him, not when he’s this young.” I sit down on the sofa and get comfortable while Dad sets Timmy down on my lap. He has blue eyes, the same as mine. I watch with huge eyes as a level symbol starts to form over my brother’s head. I swatted it, determined to see my brother’s full face and take in his face. The symbol stays put. Timmy starts to wail and scream. Mom takes him back hugging and rocking him. As Mom heads to her room, I stare at the hovering level signal with confusion. It’s always been there, and somehow, even now, I still can’t seem to get used to it. But now, as the levels are gone, it’s even stranger to not see the flickering blue digits above someone’s head. 


I’m conscious again, and Timmy runs over to me. I think I’ve gotten used to seeing our levels over our heads because looking at Timmy now, the space above his head just seems so empty. 

“Alana’s awake!” he says enthusiastically to the whole house. Then, to me, he says solemnly, “The Imperials want to talk with you. They wouldn’t tell us why. Mom pestered and pestered, but no one told us why”

The Imperials. That means the government. What do they want from me? A fourteen-year-old girl who fainted at the site?

Timmy tugs me up to a sitting position while Mom strides into the room. 

“Hey, hon, glad you’re up,” my mom says with her sweet voice like silk. She moves around, taking my temperature, and brushing my hair. When she’s satisfied, Mom sits down and sighs. 

“I’m taking you to Imperial’s Head for questioning, I’m sure Timmy has told you. Ready in ten.” Mom pecks my cheek and walks out. 


We pass the Alarm as we head to the Imperials Headquarters. There’s caution tape around the site, but otherwise it looks the same.  Now, looking at the Alarm, it looks identical to what it looked like yesterday, but I know so much has changed. 

Mom pulls up to the huge cement block of a building. It doesn’t even have any windows. 

“Head in hon. I’ll wait for you outside.”

I’m numb as I pass through the endless metal detectors, walk by the countless stares the guards give me, and finally, when guards escort me to an office, my eyes snap open. 

There are two men sitting straight up in chairs. One is a general with badges all over his uniform. And the other is the beautiful boy I met this morning. 


He flashes a small smile, then returns to his poised state. I blush. Before I can move my mouth, the general saves me. 

“Glad to see you joining us, Ms. Wilkson.” He turns the corners of his mouth up, as if he’s teasing a smile. I nod tentatively and sit down in the chair the general points at. Once I’m seated, the general starts to talk. 

“I heard you were at the alarm early this morning. Is that correct, Ms. Wilkson? Yes, I assume that is. Judging by the face you made at Mr. Thomas Oberchy’s presence, I see that you two have met?” 

I nod again, and the general is silent. I’m still confused about why I’m here, but the general says no more. The silence is unbearable. I am here watching two men glare at each other with much hostility, and the reason? No idea.  

“Mr. Oberchy is suspected of the murder of the Elector Imperial,” the general finally says. I see Thomas clenching his fists. He must be instructed not to talk. 

“And as of now, you, Ms. Wilkson, are the only person Mr. Oberchy has interacted with this morning. I say, let’s begin. No need to make that face, Ms. Wilkson, this will only take about half an hour or so.”

The general really was trained for this type of questioning. Question after question, he shoots at me like bullets you can’t avoid. 

“Have you met this man before?”


“Do you suspect there are other people involved?”

“Um, no.”

Tens of questions later, I find myself faced with one last question. This is where I make my mistake. 

“Was there any suspicious behavior from our suspect this morning?”

“He was worried, I think, and… and, he was heading away from the Alarm.”  My voice quivers and wavers in uncertainty. The general is still sitting up ramrod straight, but he smiles. 

Thomas’ eyes snapped open. The blase look behind his eyes is gone. For the first time, he speaks up. “I didn’t. I swear I didn’t. I was heading home to see my parents and my sister. I really swear I didn’t.”

His voice is like Mom’s. Smooth as silk, and it makes you want to fall for him. He seems so genuine, and his words seem to come from his heart. 

The general winks at me and steps out of the room to talk with his elders who are waiting outside. Thomas looks at me with wide eyes. He is only a few years older than me. His expression is so innocent, so real, he just doesn’t have the capacity to kill someone, especially in front of the Alarm, where there were hundreds of people present. 

When I first saw Thomas, I thought he was 18, but now I see the youth in his eyes, the sparks of joy. He can only be about 16, and as we sit here, in this cold cement block of a room, the youth in his eyes fades away. 

“Please,” he says. “I have family at home. They need me. My sister needs me the most. If there were anything more I had to say to make you believe me, I would.” He looks so vulnerable, so fragile. He looks away, then turns back. 

“I really don’t know why I’m begging you, but you are the only person who can change his mind. So please, help me, please do.”

I look over his face one last time, those deep blue eyes, flawless skin. His face is the definition of pain. It breaks my heart to see someone in that state. It hurts more to leave them like that. And even as I will myself to believe this boy is a criminal, I can’t bring myself to. “It was him,” the boy says. I shake my head. Is he talking about the general? His position is already so high, I doubt he would risk his own life to kill someone important like the Elector, I think to myself. My heart aches for Thomas. Turning away, I walk out the door, but not before whispering to myself that I was going to make sure I would do what’s right – not for the government, but for my heart. 

The general is talking with his elders in a room that looks executive. Even royal. Unlike the rooms they use for investigating people, like the one I just walked out of. He tells me, “We’ve all agreed! 10/26/47, we’re executing him.”

He chuckles, apparently proud of himself. I glance at him, disgusted to see this man. This man who has just dished out a death sentence without remorse.

I have just given a boy death, when I just as easily could have let him live. This boy could have been the man to find the cure to cancer. He could have been the president of the world. But most importantly, this boy will not be able to give his family love. He will not be able to love his mom, his dad, he will not be able to love his sister. His sister who needs him the most. 


Mom’s car is waiting idly in front of the building. I walk up to the car and knock on the window. 

“Mom, please unlock the car.” 

My mom gives me a thumbs up and I swing the door open. 

“How’d it go, hon?”

“It was fine, Mom.” I sink into the cushioned seat of the car. She stares at me pointedly as if urging me to tell more. I close my eyes and remember how easily the government was able to give a death sentence. The general too. And me. Can one person just end someone’s life? The general was so precisely trained, taught everything he needed to know to become as high-ranking as he was. And yes, you can train people to learn things, but you need to be born with a heart.


The citizens outside their homes are doing things they wouldn’t have dared to when there were levels. Why did the levels just vanish? Who would know how to start ringing the Alarm? And more importantly, who killed the Elector Imperial? In 27 days, a suspect who may be innocent will leave this world forever. We drive home in silence. 

Pulling up to our condo, I see Timmy and Dad waiting for us outside. Dad looks so worried. I give him a reassuring smile and tell him, “I’m fine, Dad, nothing to worry about.” But inside, I am hurting. I am hurting for Thomas, because if he is truly innocent, he doesn’t deserve this. He doesn’t deserve any of it. 

I sit on my bed for what feels like forever. When I will myself to get up, I remain sitting. Now the level crisis and Thomas’s dilemma add to my problems. It’s all weighing me down. The problems are holding me under water and won’t let me breathe. The problems I don’t have 

time for. 


Thomas was arrested yesterday, right after I left the Imperial’s Headquarters. He is being broadcasted on Slim Screen. He doesn’t even look mad anymore. His eyes hold the pain he is forced to bear. Looking at him reminds me of someone who has given up. Someone who has decided that there is no reason to live. He fidgets with his hands. He moves them around in a pattern. I do that sometimes too when I’m nervous. It makes me feel more connected to him. It makes me happy. Happier to be sad. 

The camera switches over to the general in his office. His jacket is adorned with badges that gleam in the light. “It’s honestly an accomplishment that we found the culprit who killed our dear Elector. We are working on making him talk about the damaged levels. The suspect remains quiet as of now. We still wonder why he would… ” I turn the volume on the Slim Screen down. 

He keeps talking. He looks like a goldfish. Spitting out words with no value.


Laying in bed that night, I realize something so important. The levels prevent you from dying. The levels are now gone. And the Elector is gone as well. Is this a coincidence? I think of what my dad told me when I was only a little kid. “There are no coincidences in the Triwall Sector.”

Hurriedly, I sit up and turn on my lights. I swing open the door to my room and start making my way to my parents’ bedroom. Inside, it is peaceful. The dark curtains cover the windows, blocking the chaos in the outside world. I gently prod my mom with my hands. Bleary, and annoyed, she opens her eyes and stares at me, confused. 

I start, “Mom, the Elector couldn’t have died if the levels were intact. That means somebody who – ”

“ – knew how to wipe out the levels murdered him,” she finished, the twinkle in her eyes grows. This excited her, I can tell. 

“Then. Then, that means someone with access to the level system must have murdered the Elector Imperial. Someone on his side must have ended his life.”


It is October 26th. Thomas will be executed today. I spend the entire morning staring at the bright, flashing screen of the Slim Screen. The news stations broadcast Thomas’s face, bored and restless. His hands are moving again. Constant fidgeting. Almost like defined movements. Tears roll down my cheeks every time I hear someone reporting facts about Thomas’s would-be death. 

Now, you may be thinking, Thomas will live. The general is responsible for the death of the Elector, and Thomas won’t die. However, if you are thinking that, you are wrong. In fact, Thomas will die that day. In fact, I will visit Thomas’ family that day, his sister, his mother, his father, all blue eyed and blonde. I will comfort them, hug them, cry with them, despite barely knowing them at all. I will learn Thomas’ mother’s name, Lindsey. His father’s name, Landon, and his sister’s name, Anna. The sister who will get robbed of Thomas’s love because of me. 

Thomas’ family and I grieve over him. We sit in silence, the absence of sound addressing our feelings of how unreasonable it is for the General to give a death sentence merely based on my word. 

“I don’t think Tommy’s life was worth only a few words from a teenage girl. I really thought it was more,” Lindsey says, her voice cracking. Tears brim in my eyes, and threaten to spill. I glance at Lindsey, and she looks away. My heart convulses in pain. 

I watch Thomas’s family in silence. I cannot bear the responsibility of his death. I stand up, push in my chair, and I tell them, “I am truly sorry. I am sorry from the bottom of my heart.”

Thomas’ parents give me a small nod. It’s Anna who speaks up. “It’s okay.”

The most meaningful words I have ever heard. 

Lindsey comes up and wraps her arms around me. I used to think that sadness brought people apart. Now I know that sometimes, sadness brings people together. 


At home, I take a long shower, trying to wash off the grief I hold inside me. It doesn’t work. The shower thunders down in streams. My tears do too. 


I stare at the Slim Screen and the General talking like a goldfish. Spewing out lies of Thomas’ crime. He’s literally dead. Don’t pick on him more than you have to. I turn the volume down. His hands stay still, like a professional. Why were Thomas’s hands moving with so much certainty? What is he trying to tell us, and what do I need to know?

I ask the Slim Screen, “Pull up all clips of Thomas Oberchy.”

Seeing the more recent clips, I smile. His hair. His eyes. 

I scroll down the list of crammed letters and words until I’m at the year 2037. Thomas sure does have a lot of articles about him. None are particularly interesting. The math award in 2nd grade, the art competition he won when he was 5. I scroll back up. And then, something catches my eye. October 26, 2042. 5 years ago to this date. My face blanches, and I breathe in sharply. 

11-year-old Thomas Oberchy Volunteers to teach kids American Sign Language.


American Sign Language. Oh my god. I frantically order the Slim Screen to play the clip of Thomas’s last appearance on camera, and zoom in on his hands. It makes sense. His hands move with dominance, while trying to be subtle. He is trying to tell us something. 

I tell the Slim Screen, “Translate American Sign Language to English.” I hold up the video of Thomas signing. The device processes for way too much time, then finally says, “He did it himself. He did it himself. He did it himself, is the translation of the clip you have ordered me to translate.”


I sit there for a minute, trying to make sense of what Thomas was saying. Then, I shout, “Mom! Dad! This is so urgent. Come here!” 

I hear their footsteps plodding along. Like they’re on a walk! Like they are lounging by the pool and getting pina coladas for me and Timmy. No, Mom, no, Dad. This most certainly is not the time to be drinking sweet pina coladas while dipping your feet in the pool. 

“Hurry! Hurry up!” I shout. The door to my room opens slowly, and my parents step in.

“Ok. Ok! Are you listening? You know I was watching the news clips of Thomas before his execution, right?”

At this, my parents nod. 

I continue, “And, I noticed, his hands were moving very, very much. I do that too when I talk, but not to the extent of what Thomas was doing. So I thought, maybe I would figure out more about who Thomas is. I scroll back to 2042, and golly, there’s an article about Thomas teaching sign language!”

My mom turns to me. “Honey, I am impressed by what you have uncovered, but do you think there’s a chance Thomas did it? I mean – ”

“Mom. Are you serious right now? You have got to be joking.” However, my mom does not seem to be joking at all. 

“Dear, I’m not saying you’re wrong, but the people who have captured him are trained professionals. Surely they would know and can tell if someone is truly innocent.”

“Dad. These people killed a boy with their only evidence being my word. Do you understand how unreasonable this sounds?” I say. My fists are clenched. I already talked to Mom about the killer being on the Elector’s side. Just what could have made her change her mind? My mother, who I relied on, who is my most trusted human on earth. What has happened to my mother? Can’t she see she is wrong?

“Thomas said, ‘He did it himself, he did it himself, he did it himself,’ in the translation. Do you see how big this is?” 

Unfortunately, my parents do not see. I sat up, “You don’t get it. He’s innocent.”

Yanking the doorknob open, I storm out of the room.


Who knew how to disable the levels? And what does Thomas have to do with this at all? Why was he randomly taken into custody? I decide to visit Thomas’s family once again. 


Knocking on the door, I fear I have made a mistake. Thomas’ family certainly would not want to see their son’s cause of death in the flesh. Before I can turn back though, the door opens and Lindsey peeks out. 

“Hi! I just wanted to ask a few questions because Thomas’ death is so confusing and does not make sense at all. I hope I’m not bothering too much, even though I know I am.” My brilliant idea suddenly turns not-so-brilliant. I should not have come here. Lindsey opens the door fully, allowing me to come inside.

I follow her to the living room, and watch her as she takes a seat on the stiff orange sofa. I follow suit.

She asks me, “Would you like anything to drink?”

Even though my throat is burning with thirst, I cannot take more from this family. “I’m okay, thank you,” I say.

Then, I proceed, “I was just thinking about Thomas’s death, and I thought why him? Because there were certainly many other people around the Alarm. There were so many other people who actually knew how to disable the levels. But Thomas was selected for a reason.”

Lindsey sighs, her eyes red and puffy, and quietly starts telling her story. 

“Thomas was selected for a reason. But not for the reason you think. You see, Thomas was one of the few carpenters chosen to feverishly work for four whole days, to end the idea of levels at all. They were told that the levels were unhealthy for society and the growth of humans. They poked and prodded with wires, changed the programs of the levels to allow them to be permanently discontinued. There were five of them. Everyone else but the Elector and those five carpenters knew zilch about this plan. When they finally succeeded, they were to report to the Elector himself. But those four other rats of people fled, leaving Tommy the only one to report to the Elector. Those four people literally left Triwall Sector. We still don’t know why. Anyway, he was driven to the Elector’s private office, where he told him they were successful in disabling the levels. The Elector flipped the switch that would wipe out the levels totally. Tommy left the office, proud of his accomplishment, but scared of the chaos that would happen.”

Lindsey clears her throat and wipes her eyes.

“This is where things go wrong. On the way out of the office building, Tommy said there was a thwack on the floor. A thump. He rushes back to his personal room where guards are already surrounding it. He stands on his tip toes and sees a petrifying scene. The Elector’s body is in a pool of blood. A slit in his throat. A knife lying next to his limp hand. The rancid and rusty odor emanated from the blood. Thomas tried to rush away, but someone grabbed him from behind, and told him to change, then come right back. He left, and then that’s where he ran into you, Alana. And so, Thomas’ death is not actually your fault. The Elector was not supposed to end his life. Thomas was not supposed to see that. The reason Thomas was given a death penalty is because he had seen the true cause of his death and was deemed untrustworthy to keep the secret. My husband and I, now you, are the only people who are aware of this. But it still saddens me. It really does.”

My eyes are overflowing with tears. I give Lindsey a hug. Thomas was right. It was him. “Him” could be anyone. It could be Thomas, who was part of the Elector’s death. But I will choose to think of Him as the Elector. The Elector did it himself.


Breaking through 

the salty water

I swim back to shore

My feet feel 

smooth rocks 

on the shore

as I step onto

the beach

I lay my towel 

on the sand

and pull out 

a book to read 

in the sun

Walls of water 

slap the rocks

The smell of  

smoke from hot dogs 

is carried in the air

I lean back

and feel 

the warmth 

of Summer

Gateway to Heaven

My heart was pounding as I peeked past the haybale to the crowd across the dirt road. I had never before seen this many demons gathered in the countryside. Was I safe? I wished profoundly that I was with my parents in the human world. The world where humans were at the top of the food chain. The world where I didn’t have to worry about being hunted down. The largest of the demons turned toward me, and I quickly ducked behind the hay bale. I peeked past the edge to see his back turned on me. I tried not to gag as the horrendous stench of human blood hit me. No doubt the demons were hungry.

“I heard there were humans hiding in these places. I can smell one nearby. Tonight, we hunt. We smell. We look. We will bring the best quality meat home. At midnight we go. We do not stop until dawn.” There were cheers. “We have families to feed,” he continued. “So do not be late.” 

Humans have families too, I thought. Humans have lives. Humans have feelings.

The crowd slowly began to thin out. Eventually, there was no one left. Only the acres of farmland I was tired of seeing. When I got to the old barn, the sun was getting low in the sky. There was not much time to run. There wouldn’t be many places to hide if I fled now. I had to stay and hope that our hiding spot was good enough. 

I brushed back the hay and opened the cellar door. I tossed down the ears of corn I had harvested. I climbed in, shut the door, and began climbing down the rusty old ladder. “Emma?” I called. “Emma?”

“I’m here,” replied a small voice. I felt my feet touch the bottom and rushed to greet Emma. “Why were you gone so long?” She saw the worried look on my face. “Is everything alright, Layla?” 

“Everything is fine.” I smiled at her. “I brought food.” Emma smiled at me with a missing tooth.

“It’s not potatoes again, right? You promised.”

“It isn’t potatoes. Promise.” I whipped out the ears of corn. She grinned. 

“Corn!” I forced a smile back and worked on peeling off the husks. I handed her two and kept two for myself. After dinner, I put out the old lantern and made a pile of hay for us to sleep on. 

As we lay there in the darkness, I couldn’t help but think that we would be dead in a few hours. I thought of that day when we were shipped off into the demon world. When a cloaked figure had snatched us up and stuffed us into a wooden crate. I had felt a jolt when the figure picked us up. He had set us down on a vibrating surface. I’d peeked through the crack and found that it was the back of a truck. We’d driven for hours, and the whole time, I had tried to break out. The wood had weakened. It had creaked. And eventually, I had made a hole big enough for the both of us. We had crawled out and I waited for the truck to come to a stop. Then, I’d lifted the truck door and ran the fastest I had ever run, with Emma on my back. I ran all the way to the outskirts of the city before I realized that I wasn’t in a human dimension. I was in a demon dimension. I had to bite my tongue so I wouldn’t scream. It was a miracle no one noticed me. That was four years ago. I was nine at the time. Emma was only two.

I lay there for a few more hours. Suddenly, I heard footsteps above us. Emma had woken up. “Layla? I’m scared.” She grabbed a hold of my arm. Then we heard voices. Demon voices.

“I smell humans. Top grade humans.”

“There are no humans here.”

“Lies. I smell them. And soon, I will find them.”

“I’ve been eating meat. Found a child a few miles down.” And that scared us even more. Emma clung onto me for dear life.

“Fine. But I’ll be back. My senses have never failed me.” We heard fading footsteps. And then they were gone. 

We waited hours upon hours clinging on to each other. We waited until bright light peeked through the cracks. It must have been at least mid-afternoon. We waited a while longer before I went over all the procedures with Emma again before I got ready to leave. 

“Don’t light the lantern by yourself. It’s dangerous, and we don’t want to waste it during the day. If you hear any noises, stay right where you are. And if there’s talking loudly close by, use the sound for cover as you bury yourself in hay. Got it?” I could tell she was tired of hearing this. She nodded, her eyes wide. 

The last night had clearly taken a toll on her. Her hair was frizzy, and her face a pale white. It made me sad, because she had always been upbeat and positive. She smiled a lot and was the type of person who would brighten your day. She was all I had left.

I knew she had a stressful life for a 6 year old, but it was my job as an older sister to make it less stressful. What I would give to be 6 years old again. I sighed and made my way to the old ladder. “Rusty” was the name Emma gave it. 

All of a sudden, the cellar door opened. “Hey. Wait.” Two red eyes peeked out from the opening. I was paralyzed with horror. I forced myself to take slow steps back. 

“Stop. Don’t come out today. It’s too dangerous.” I realized I didn’t smell human blood. What was going on? 

“Sorry if I scared you.” They flipped the bony mask onto the top of their head. It was a blond haired boy. “The name’s William. William Lewis. You can call me Will.” I realized it had been so long that I had forgotten my last name. The memory and symbol of my parents. My family. I felt like crying. William continued on. “I’ve been watching you from afar. Seen you coming out every day. You’re not very good at it. There are much better hiding spots than behind hay bales around here. This is where I used to live. Anyway, are you gonna thank me for saving your life yesterday night, or are you just gonna stare at me?”

“Wait. That demon was you?” He nodded. “But- that was a demon’s voice. I know one when I hear one.”

He chuckled, “Clearly not.” He spoke in the exact same voice I had heard the night before. “But — how?” He thrust his chin forward. “I’ve learned to talk like one. Most demons can’t tell, but you should’ve been able to tell it was a human. The high tone at the end. Humans can’t speak that low for very long. Amateur mistake.” He stood with his hands on his hips and his head held high.

I rolled my eyes. “Whatever.” Emma sat in the corner. She glanced at me. “Who are you talking to, Layla?”

I glared at William, “A friend.” He laughed. 

“A much smarter friend,” he joked.

Suddenly, he got serious. “We need to get out of here. The demons are planning another attack tonight. We have to get far from this area. They’re going to find you this time.”

Horror struck me. I had never thought that the demons would attack two nights in a row. “But where will we go?”

Will gave a short, swift nod of his head. “Just follow me.” I motioned for Emma.

“Take the lantern, Emma.”

“Where are we going?”

I forced out a smile. “You’ll see. We might not be back here for a while, so say goodbye to this place.”

Her face fell. “But — I like this place. Please, can we stay?”

“It’ll be fun. An adventure. We’ll find a big house with running water and electricity. And the whole time, we’ll be guided by my friend and expert Will. Don’t you want to spend time with my new friend? Wouldn’t you like a nice big house?” I knew this was probably never going to happen, but I would do whatever it took to get Emma on board.

She smiled. “Really?” I nodded. “Alright. But we gotta come back sometime. Promise?” I nodded. I had a churning feeling in my stomach. It was the first promise to Emma I knew I’d break. I watched as she began all her goodbyes. Goodbye to the old cellar, goodbye to the stack of hay, and lastly, goodbye to Rusty, the old ladder.

When we finally climbed out, it was almost evening. I had no idea we had spent that long just talking.

Will froze after seeing how low the sun was in the sky, “We have to go. Now.” I nodded, and we swiftly and sneakily made our way out the door. William led the way while Emma and I followed. We made our way behind the barn and walked almost a mile before I began to question Will’s abilities. 

“You know, we aren’t really traveling away from where the demons are, right? We’re just going further behind the barn.”

William nodded. “Just trust me. I know more than you do. We’re nearly there.” We walked past many more farms until we came to a grassy field with tall grass that stretched for miles. “We’re here. This will provide cover. Now we can make good progress without worrying about being hidden.”

Emma tapped me on the shoulder. “I like him,” she whispered. “He really knows how things work around here.” I rolled my eyes. Apparently, Will had good hearing, too, because he smiled smugly at me.

“Let’s go already,” I hissed. “Before it gets too dark.” We traveled many miles in the tall grass. When we were sure we were far away from the demons, we took a little rest. Emma was so exhausted she laid down on the grass and fell asleep instantly.

Suddenly, Will’s face went hard as stone. “I smell human blood a few miles away. We have to keep moving. The demons are coming.”

What? Will could smell blood from miles away? What was up with him? Did he have super senses? Will scooped up Emma and hoisted her onto his shoulders. 

“Let’s go. We have to keep moving.”

I couldn’t help but think that Will was strong. Maybe even stronger than me. I brushed that thought away and kept moving. We traveled many more miles. The sun was beginning to rise. “I can’t smell them anymore,” Will remarked. “I think it’s safe to take a break.”

Thank goodness, I thought to myself. My feet felt like they would fall off. Will put Emma down and she woke up with a start. “Were you carrying me?” she asked me. “No. William was.” I felt my face getting warm. Emma looked up to me more than Will. I should’ve been carrying her. She looked at Will. “You were?” Will nodded. “Yep. And you may have drooled a bit on my shoulder.” Emma giggled, “I did not!” Will laughed, “Whatever you say.”

Will looked up at the sky, “It’ll be lunch time in a few hours. I’d better go out in search of food. Stay here with Emma.” I opened my mouth to argue but Will was already gone. I had a churning feeling in my stomach. 

Great, I thought. There’s Will taking charge again.

“I kind of miss the cellar,” Emma sighed. “It’s way better than this field. There isn’t even a roof here.” For a moment I felt proud. Emma still looked up to me. She liked the shelter I found more than Will’s field. She grinned, “But I like Will.” The churning feeling returned. She must’ve seen the look on my face, because she put a hand on my shoulder. “Don’t worry, Layla. I still like you. You’ll always be my big sister.” She sure was smart for a 6-year-old. She grinned with her missing tooth. I stuck my pinky finger in the hole, which always made her laugh. We lay on the grass together until Will returned.

When he arrived, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Emma had fallen asleep. I sat up. “Are those really — ” Will nodded. Apples. He had apples. I hadn’t had one since I had been in the human world. In the countryside, Emma and I ate mostly potatoes, carrots, and corn. I hadn’t seen a fruit in so long.

Will sat down next to me with a soft thump. “Don’t wake Emma,” I whispered. He handed me an apple and I caressed the smooth cool skin. I took a bite of the shiny red apple. I felt a burst of flavor and let the sweet juice dribble down my chin. “So, how’d you get apples, anyway?”

“I jogged a few miles to a farmers market.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. “You went to a demon’s market? Seriously? You could have died!”

“Well, I didn’t, so it’s no big deal. I do it all the time. Nobody knows I’m a human. I’m already considered a regular. With my demon voice, red eyed costume, and herbs to get rid of the scent, I’m bulletproof.”

I sighed, “Okay. Whatever. I trust you. We gotta get moving soon, so we should probably wake up Emma.” I grabbed another apple and hid it behind my back. I shook her gently.

She looked up at me groggily. “Layla? What time is it?” I smiled wide at her. 

“Lunch time.” I handed her an apple. Her eyes grew wide and she smiled big.

”An apple?” she gasped. I laughed as she took big bites into it, devouring it in seconds.

“Why don’t you savor it?” I laughed.

 She grinned, “It’s even better if you don’t.”

 I shrugged, “Okay.”

Many more days went on like this, traveling under cover of darkness (and tall grass), and at dawn Will went to find food. There were fewer and fewer demons as we traveled, and I wondered why. “Will,” I asked. “Why are there fewer demons here?”

“The demons like warm temperatures,” he responded. “Since we’re traveling north, it’s getting colder. We can’t really tell, because we have been traveling a few miles at a time. But the demons have really sensitive thermoreceptors.” At my confused look, he added, “That’s what helps the body detect temperature. But don’t worry, I didn’t expect someone like you to know that. It’s like you haven’t learned anything these past few months.” I felt dumb when I was in William’s presence, but I laughed inside my head because he always had to add a little sassy flare at the end of a few sentences.

We traveled for many months. I started to wonder how William had survived like this. “Now that we’re in the North, wouldn’t it make sense to find shelter and stay there?” I inquired. Emma jumped in.

 “Can we go back to the barn instead?” I pulled her close. “We will, we will,” I lied through my teeth. “In good time.” Once again I felt bad for lying. Emma was growing older. She would realize eventually. Will shook his head. 

“If I wanted to find shelter, I would. Have you not realized after all this time that we’re going somewhere?”

I looked at him. It was such a simple thing. I should have realized that a while ago. But where were we going? I was afraid to ask. If Will was taking us, it must have been safe, right? We traveled a little longer until we came to a wooded area. 

“This is it,” Will whispered, gesturing toward the forest. “Stay on high alert.” I saw fear in Emma’s eyes, the same fear I had sensed in the darkness that night the demons came. We walked a little while until everything looked the same. Massive trees towered over us as we walked deeper and deeper. There was an eerie sense to the forest, with dark gray clouds looming over us and a thick fog in the air. 

“Are you sure we’re in the right place?” I began to question Will. Will nodded.

We stopped at an old tree that looked just like the other ones. “We’re here,” Will pointed out. 

“What’s so special about this tree?” I asked.

 “You’ll see,” was his terse reply. He twisted the lowest branch, muttered something I couldn’t make out. “Layla, Emma, stand back.” At first, nothing happened. The tree looked as if it had stayed that way for centuries. Then, slowly, a gaping hole opened up into the middle of the tree revealing a cement tunnel underneath. The tree creaked aside allowing us to crawl in. Emma’s eyes shined.

“This is awesome!” she gasped. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” William smiled for the first time since he had entered the creepy forest.

“Come on.” He motioned to the tunnel. We crawled in the tight space one at a time. The tunnel itself was spacious. It looked quite old and cracked. Now more than ever I wondered where we were going. We walked down the tunnel for a few hours, but it felt like days. The anticipation was killing me. The tunnel got darker and darker. “Can I have the lantern please, Emma?” She nodded and handed it to him, a big smile on her face.

He lit the lantern out in front of him and held it out to light the way. He turned around to make sure we were following, and that’s when I noticed his eyes. The light flickered against his red eyes. When I first met him, I had thought it was a part of his demon mask. How had I not noticed this?

“Your — your eyes,” I gasped. “Demon eyes.” I couldn’t believe it. This explained his peculiar sense of smell. 

“I knew I would have to tell you eventually,” he sighed. “I’m half demon. My mother was a demon. She fell in love with my father early on. Before demons relied on eating humans. Many ate humans, but not all. So despite what anyone said, they married. And they had a baby.” I gasped. 

“You.” He nodded. “But — where are your parents?” I inquired. 

“My mother died giving birth to me. Human and demon blood clash. My father was heartbroken. She was his only love. He raised me until I was 13. And then he died of heartbreak.” He sighed. “I am frozen at the age of 13. The blood formed some kind of compound that keeps me young. I am much older than you think. Now you know. Let us continue. Please.” A tear rolled down his cheek. I was speechless. All I could do was put one foot in front of the other and follow him deeper into the tunnel.

We walked in silence for many more minutes until finally, we came to a big black rimmed portal. It contained some purple fluid substance. Armed guards jumped out of nowhere and surrounded us. “Relax. It’s me,” William said calmly. “The keeper of the portal. Return to your posts.” 

“You’re the keeper to this portal?” I gasped. 

“Yep.” He stood in his familiar triumphant stance. Emma stared at him with wide eyes.

“This is the portal to the human world isn’t it?” He nodded. His eyes sparkled.

 “I’ll miss you, Emma.” He scooped her up into a big hug. Then he turned to me. “Forget everything negative I said. I have lived many long years. Saved many humans through the portal. And you truly are one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met. You sure are experienced, too.” He winked. “Goodbye, Layla. Stay safe. You will be returned to your parents.” Then I did something I thought I would never do. I gave Will a great big hug.

“Goodbye, Will. I will never forget you.” A tear rolled down my cheek.

I took Emma’s hand. “Ready?” She smiled at me. We stepped into the portal together. “This truly is our gateway to heaven.”

Superhero Family

Today is an important day. It’s the day that everything changes. I can finally be taken seriously by my family since I am now 18. I told my family I did not want anything big, just a cake. Not that they would ever listen.  

“Hi! Happy birthday, sweetie!” my mom yells as she zooms across the kitchen. I can’t see what she’s making but I can smell the gorgeous crepes. The same ones she’s made since my 5th birthday. My dad appears with a gift box as big as him.  

“Happy 18th birthday, you will always be my little girl,” he says. My brothers come down the stairs bickering. 

“Why don’t you just put my name on your gift?” Alex says, sighing as if it’s the end of the world.

“You can fly, why can’t you just fly to the store and get her something yourself?” Jordan says.

“Because it’s 8:00 and no stores are open!” Alex yells, though it was actually 10:00.

“I don’t care! I have been working on this gift all year you are not getting the credit!” Jordan yells.

“Breakfast’s ready!” my mom yells. 

Suddenly I see a vision of my family eating Christmas dinner, my mom moving slow and lifeless. My dad quietly announced that he is going to drive to the grocery store. My brothers quietly set the table, Jordan is not even levitating the place mats like he always does. My vision ends and I come back to reality frightened. I take deep breaths, squeezing my mom’s hand. Once the shock wears off I’m determined to find out how this happens and how I can stop it. I’ve got a month till christmas there’s no way I’m letting that happen to my family. 

 “Are you ok?” my mom asks. Before I could answer, my mom gave me the warmest, tightest hug. It lasted forever and somehow it made me feel so safe and free of worries. I say with breathing deeply, the tears coming down my face mixing with the snot from my nose, 

“I had a vision that you guys were boring, not even boring, worse than boring. You were dull and lifeless and you didn’t have powers and Dad drove to the store and… ”  Before I finish the sentence my mom starts wiping the tears and snot from my face. 

“It’s okay, you’re okay, we’re okay,” she says. My gut is telling me that this is my fault, that somehow by resenting my family I’m going to take away their ability to express themselves in their odd obnoxious ways. That’s it, from now on I am going to love my family the way they are.

I walk down the stairs and grab a slice of cake from the fridge and a cup of tea for my breakfast. My mom grabs a slice and a cup of coffee and sits down, she has that look on her face, the bad news face.

“Seeing how you reacted yesterday to seeing we were in danger, I just don’t think you’re ready to be a superhero just yet,” she says.

“I can’t believe it, you still don’t take me seriously. You guys think I can’t be a superhero because I don’t have a flashy power that I can’t use for random everyday tasks. I’m sorry that my superpower is not good enough for you. I’m sorry that my feelings are a burden to you.”

My mom walked away speechless as if I had just killed her spirit.  At that moment I realized that I just broke my mom’s heart. I was so full of anger, I forgot to think about my mom’s feelings and the fact that she does what she does to keep me safe. 

“By the way, Grandma’s coming for Thanksgiving since she can’t come for Christmas. We’re going all out almost like a 2nd Christmas,” Alex says as he grabs an energy drink and runs out the door. Oh no. The vision I had wasn’t on Christmas, it was tomorrow. I have way less time than I thought. 

“Family meeting!” I yell. My whole family squeezes on the couch. “I love you guys, don’t change, don’t stop using your powers, not because of me. Mom, I’m sorry I blew up at you but I’ve wanted to fight with you guys since I was little and I think that I’m strong enough. Anyway, that’s off topic, I don’t want you guys to change, please. Tell me you won’t change, please.”

“Ok,” they say, confused as to why they had to watch this odd mental breakdown.

“You’re ready!” my dad says, opening his arms up for a hug. 

“Huh? I just completely broke down and you think I’m ready?”

“The fact that you are comfortable enough being a weirdo makes you ready to join us.”

“You excited?” Jordan asks. 

“As a superhero, you have to constantly deal with identity problems. So, you have to be comfortable enough with your flaws to be a superhero,” my mom says. 

The next day, I wake up to my mom zooming across the kitchen. I can smell the wonderful baked mac and cheese and delicious ham. I run and hug, her sobbing. At that moment, I yell, 

“Thank god!” 

Bob the Doofus

The light was blinding and he was very drowsy. He was aware that he was in some type of room. His vision was still recovering and then all of a sudden he was aware that his nose was bleeding.    

The golden idol was made by the people who created this earth and have the power of all known wisdom. Any person that holds the idol will gain knowledge of everything known to mankind.  

Boy, do I have a book for you. It is called Bob the Doofus. It is about a man who joins the army and in quest for a powerful idol on an unstable planet where it is taboo to wear a watch. Will Bob make it or will he die looking for his life’s dream? 

“Finally it’s within sight. I can see it. It’s so beautiful,” Bob said as he looked into the darkened cave.  Kabboom!Kabboom?” Bob asked. Then it dawned on him. The idol had not welcomed him with open arms. “Runnnn!”  The moment he said the word, his army scattered and Bob heard a bang, then a thud, then a slice, then a roll. The skeleton army advanced seeming to materialize out of thin air. 

The skeleton shouted something horrid and the whole army attacked. Bob pulled out his sword and ran. He got six feet away when another wave came at him. He started slashing his way through but they seemed to be immortal.

One of the skeletons knocked him upside the head and he fell. He was dimly aware of a smoke smell coming from his pants. He immediately stopped, dropped, and rolled. Then he stopped and took his pants off, and threw them at the skeleton army.  

The skeletons immediately caught fire and turned into ash. 

The Summer Breeze

The summer breeze whistles through my hair 

It swims through the grass and trees

Makes the gleaming sun looks like a gem, so rare

And dances on the waves in the seas

Down on the beach, umbrellas shake

Knocking over ice cream, as if it wants the treat

And in the valley, wind darts across the lake 

Water splashes as the wind dances to the beat

But the summer breeze must transform

Another wind must interfere 

The draft still enters, but more like a storm

For fall, at last, has finally appeared

The Comrade: Part 1

The Comrade… Part I

The murder was timed perfectly. The target had no hope. 

Never call the victim by their name. It personalizes the situation and you will hesitate as you realize what you are doing. The advice seeped into The Comrade’s mind as he threw the knife. It was a perfect hit, like always. The Comrade’s real name was Braydon, but nobody called him that. He had enhanced senses that allowed him to track things easily. 

There was a meaty thunk as the knife passed into the target’s arteries. The Comrade stepped out to end the job. 

The sweet satisfaction of a kill. Especially this one. The target would pay for his arm with her life. 

The Comrade was one of the deadliest bounty hunters on earth. He did not know why the client wanted the target dead. He did not know who the target really was. A good hunter does not ask these questions. A good hunter does not hesitate to finish off the kill. The Comrade had been on many missions before, and it showed. Bullet wounds, knife scars, burns… fruitless attempts of a victim fighting back. There had been one incident where the victim had survived. Once again, now the survivor was no longer. 

Comrade would have been a normal boy, growing up in a normal school in Cornwall, and followed in his dad’s footsteps as a butcher, if not for the war… or the Neutralizer.

15 years earlier in the year 7062… 

Cornwall, The Constipated States of Russia, Formerly Europe

The bombing was ceaseless. Braydon knew he wouldn’t last long. He was huddled next to his mother on the floor of an evacuation shelter. He dreamt of better times and fell asleep with the rhythmic BOOM of the bombs. He awoke to his mother shaking him, the panicked look on her face causing an adrenaline rush. The bunker had been bombed, and now it was a smoking hole. Braydon and his mother rushed out as the rebels started to storm the bunker. He was lucky none of them saw him. 

Suddenly, three rebels popped out of a dark corner and started shooting at him and his mom. He never saw his mother again. 

In the span of about two seconds, the rebels were on the ground, dead. The sound of a jetpack made him snap around to behold the sight of The Neutralizer. He was decked out in full titanium armour with a strong blaster in his hand, a heavy sniper slung across his back, which was one of the newest models. He had a bullet carrier across his chest and leg and a cape across his back. He had an extra titanium jetpack in his hand. The helmet and knives strapped to his legs identified him as part of The Watch. 

The Watch was a mysterious group that existed before the rebels. Nobody knew which side they were on, but now Braydon knew they were going to help. 

There was a rebel sneaking up behind the warrior. Before Braydon could tell him, with alarming and cunning speed the Neutralizer swung around and shot him. The rebel fell to the ground dead. The warrior held out the jetpack to him. 

“Is this for me?” Braydon asked cautiously, the excitement building in him. The Neutralizer said nothing. Must not be a very talkative guy, Braydon thought. He took the jetpack warily, as if it might explode in his hands. He felt the cool metal soothe his skin as he strapped in. The Neutralizer pressed a button on his wrist guard, and suddenly Braydon shot up into the air. The weightlessness made him feel giddy as he landed on top of a building. 

“Come with me. You may call me Commander. Do not try anything or you shall have a terrible fate.” The warrior’s deep voice echoed through his helmet. 

“You mean, kill me?” Braydon stuttered.

“There are worse things than dying,” was the reply as he blasted off. Braydon found the button on the side of the jetpack, popping out a joystick in front of him which he could control. He followed the “Commander” through the bombs of terror. He glanced down and saw the scene he had fled, gazing at the destruction and hollowness.  

As Braydon and the warrior landed in a small dark alleyway, there was the pitter-patter of footsteps, and then a sharp cry of death. They both landed silently. The Neutralizer told him in silent language to stay and be quiet. Braydon watched silently from the corner as he took out his blaster pistol and walked along the hard ground. He looked once, lifted his pistol, and shot. The other enemy shot at the exact same time and the shots bounced off each other multiple times before flying away. They both gave a hearty laugh, embraced, and began to walk away. Braydon started to walk toward them but not before he spotted a small frilly dress rush past him in an alleyway. He thought it must be another refugee. Five minutes later, trailing the two warriors, he had the impression that someone was watching him. He swung around to catch a glimpse once again of a polka dot dress, this time catching a little bit of the girl’s hair. 

“Hey wait! Who are you?” he shouted. He ran to where he had last seen her and just saw her round a corner.

Giggling erupted from somewhere behind a wall. Braydon silently walked toward the sound, a smile spreading on his face. He jumped forward and said, “Gotcha little skunk!” 

The girl smiled and said shyly, “Hi. I’m Marybelle, but you can call me Mary.” 

“Hi, I’m Braydon. Why are you following me?” Braydon asked timidly, helping the girl up. Marybelle looked like she had just woken up from the ground. Her dress was caked with mud, and her hair was messy, sticking to her face which was covered in grime, but held a certain gleam to it which made her look pretty. 

“I was following metal man,” she replied. “He saved me.”

“He saved me too,” Braydon said quietly. “Speaking of which…” The warriors were far away, and both Braydon and Marybelle were out of breath when they caught up. 

“Commander,” huff, “where are you,” huff, “taking us?” asked Braydon.

The Commander and his buddy turned around. “Us?” he questioned. He acknowledged the little girl and said gruffly, “No friends along.” 

“But… she said she was rescued too…” Braydon protested. 

“Oh. That’s my sack. Ahaha,” his buddy “Ex-Commando” explained. 

Marybelle ran up to “Ex-Commando” and hugged him. “Metal man,” she said, pointing to the man.

Braydon gave a small laugh, which sparked giggles out of Marybelle. She was like a little ball of sunshine. She must have been only about five years old. Braydon couldn’t stand to think that people as young as her would be facing this war. 

“Come now, children. You must prepare,” the Commander ordered. Braydon followed him to a door set in a stone wall. He hit it with some sort of pattern, and they waited. About ten seconds later some sort of spyball popped out and viewed all of the customers. The spyball retracted, and a grinding sound emerged from the door as it swung inside. They all walked  though into the hall. The hall was long, with no pictures or paintings, and made out of pure marble. More “metal men” were on the side of the hall, cleaning their weapons. They all stared as Braydon walked though. 

“You found a sapling?” one of the warriors grunted.

“Yeah. The first one too!” Commander boasted. “They’re going to get the best armour.”

The Commander led Braydon away from Marybelle and brought him through a hallway to a metal door. Braydon heard a faint clanging coming from inside. 

“Put these on. Then you might not die,” Commander laughed again. He handed out something that looked like a foil cap with eye coverings. Braydon didn’t know how you would be able to see through them, but he put them on. Suddenly, his vision was enhanced. He could see things with intense clarity, from the texture on the Commander’s helmet to the finest grain of sand on the ground. 

“So… can you see anything?” the Commander asked.

“Y-Y-Yeah.. Everything looks so… pure!” Braydon stammered, looking around. 

“He is the Chosen One…” the Commander said under his breath. Braydon acted like he didn’t hear him. The last thing he wanted was more attention. 

The Commander knocked on the door three times, and the door opened. Inside, Braydon saw an armory. The clanking sound grew louder, and Braydon could see an Armourer hammering a piece of titanium into what looked like a chestpiece. 

“The sapling is here, old one.” The armourer turned around, and Braydon saw her gold helmet. 

“Gooooood,” the Armourer dragged out. “His armour is ready.”

“I believe him to be the Chosen One, Master,” the Commander explained. “He can see through the glasses. 

5 years later…

Braydon was only 14, and yet he already felt his power growing. He could sense people without seeing them, hear things from more than a mile away, and see things in clarity. He had been admitted into the creed of the Watch when they discovered his powers. They had changed his armour to be smaller, so now he could stay safe from enemies. He had been given two blaster pistols as well as a considerably weak sniper which would only damage his target. 

This new mission was the hardest mission yet. He was to assassinate Will Hye, a Russian spy who worked for the Soviet Hye. This would be his first time on an assassination mission.

Braydon had been given the nickname “Comrade” because of how loyal he was to his teammates. This time he had been given the other child in the creed: Marybelle. Marybelle was only 9, but she was still experienced. She was a much better sniper than Braydon was, which made him envy her. She had the same armour as Braydon’s except for the blue design on the front of her helmet and limbs. 

They were camped out on a building very high. Marybelle was to snipe Will Hye, and if the shot missed, Braydon would go down on his jetpack and gun him down with his pistols. This mission was sure to be a success. 

Will Hye had just finished a meeting with another spy, Bill Nye. The two spies had been discussing plans on how to invade the Constipated States. They had decided to discuss these plans with their boss. Little did they know, that meeting wouldn’t happen. 

As Will walked out of the building, he felt like someone had punched him. He stepped back a few steps. People were screaming all around him, but he couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about. Then he looked down and saw the blood spilling out. His eyes began to swim, and black spots clouded his vision. The screams grew softer, and he could barely see. Will tried shouting, but no sound came out. He fell down and sunk into black oblivion. 

The mission was complete.

Whatever Happens In The Dark

There are three types of small towns: the happy-go-lucky town, the murder town, and the normal one. Our town just so happens to be the last one. 

We all go to one school, shop for food at one store, eat out at one restaurant, and buy clothes at the same department store. It’s all very simple. 

All of our grades are very small, so they’re squished into one class per year. However, if you ask one of us what it was we did or learned last year, we won’t know. None of us know. All we know is that we went to school and learned something. As far as we know, we get taught the same thing every year. 

My name is Claire. I live in this town, like all people do. We all know there’s nothing else out there, and we’ve accepted it. It’s just miles and miles of grass. So you can imagine the surprise when our teachers announced we would be going on a “field trip.” 

None of us knew what a “field trip” was, so it had to be explained. Basically, it’s when you get on a yellow bus and drive somewhere other than here. That would be fun if there was somewhere else to go. But there’s not. 

“Where would we even go?” Nathan asked one of our teachers, Ms. Harper. 

“Outside of the town line,” she said. “Obviously.” 

We all exchanged a look. Was Ms. Harper going crazy? 

But nevertheless, we all packed our lunches and got on a bright yellow bus the next morning. 

I sat next to my friend Kira. Across from us were Emma and Sammi, who brought candies for us to share. But Jake, the brute, stole them. He and his pig friends Lucas and Finn ate them all. It was disappointing, but Sammi is always prepared. She brought extras, and we were sure to keep them hidden. 

“Does everyone have their things?” Ms. Harper asked. 

“Yes ma’am,” we all chorused. 

“Wonderful.” She clapped her hands, and the bus door shut. 

We all jumped. 

“We’re off!” Ms. Harper said.

The bus began to drive, and we were all a bit nervous. Here we were, in this large yellow thing that hardly seemed safe, crammed together like a can of sardines. 

“Kira!” someone called out (I think it was Shawn). “How high can you get your leg?” 

“Yeah!” someone else cheered. “Do it!” 

It was no secret that Kira was the most flexible person our age, perhaps in our town, and we all took great pleasure in watching her stretch every which way. 

Kira lifted her leg up past her head and then back down onto the brown seat. Everyone on the bus cheered and clapped, and Ms. Harper stood up. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are approaching the town line! Prepare for some… changes.” 

Kira, Sammi, Emma, and I all held hands as the yellow bus crossed the town line, and drove past the sign that read, “Thank you for visiting! Come again soon!” 

That’s when we heard the scream. That’s when it all came flooding back. 

It was pure chaos. People were tripping over each other, trying to get to the bus door, but Ms. Harper snapped her fingers and banished us all back to our seats. 

“Enough!” she commanded. “You will speak one at a time, just like you’ve been taught.” 

“Let us go!” Charlie pleaded. “Please, we’ve done nothing wrong!” 

Ms. Harper smiled, and we all turned a shade whiter. “Neither did the other children, but you’ve been chosen.” 

Emma started crying. “Please!” 

“You!” Lucas roared, standing up and pointing at our ‘teacher.’ “You’ve brainwashed a whole town, and you expect us to sit quietly and twiddle our thumbs?” 

There were sounds of agreement, and Ms. Harper waved her hand. A layer of skin grew over Lucas’ mouth, and he screamed silently. 

I gasped and covered my own mouth. 

“You have been chosen by the Merciful One! Like all the children before you, you will meet your fate!” Ms. Harper said with a wicked grin. 

“Let us go!” Sammi cried. 

“The other children had similar reactions when their memories came back, but none of them escaped. None of you will either.” 

Emma stood up and threw a gumball at her, then another, and then another one until the whole bag was empty. Ms. Harper’s face was red with rage. 

“You dare to hurt me? Me, the Merciful Lord’s messenger? You will pay, girl.” Ms. Harper cackled loudly and Emma screamed. She clawed at her throat, and her pale skin began to grow black. 

Sammi screamed and tried to run to the back of the bus, but she fell in the aisle before she could reach the back door. 

An invisible force dragged her to the front, and then suspended her in the air. Her blue eyes became red, then black, then white before completely dissolving before us. She began to twitch before she, too, was engulfed in blackness. 

Emma was still struggling on the seat, and Kira was trying to help her. She touched her ashen arm, and then the darkness spread. Kira screamed, and then fell onto Emma’s body, becoming a corpse herself. 

I covered my eyes as I heard Emma’s crying grow louder and Jake’s screams of “get her!” eventually turned into him choking. 

Just like those other children, we would go missing. We would be wiped from the town’s memories and replaced with new, shiny versions of ourselves. Just like those other children, we would be eradicated. 

I couldn’t let her do this. I couldn’t. My friends were all dead or would be in a few moments. 

So I uncovered my eyes and ran. I ran to the front of the bus and tackled Ms. Harper to the ground. She screamed her horrible scream, and I fought the urge to cover my ears. I took off my shiny black shoe and hit her in the head with it over and over again until her wriggling stopped. 

I searched the dashboard for something to open the door, and after what seemed like an eternity of endless button pushing, one yellow button made the door swing open. 

“Quickly!” I shouted, running down the little steps. “Run!” 

I had expected to hear people shouting for joy and running to safety, but there was nothing. The screams and cries had stopped. There were no sounds of joy. There was only silence. 

I slowly walked back into the bus and saw nothing. Nothing at all. My classmates were gone. My friends’ bodies were gone. Ms. Harper’s body was gone from the floor. I was alone. 

I walked up the aisle and searched the seats for anyone who might have been hiding when I heard the noise. A person. Someone was clearing their throat behind me. 

I turned around expecting to see someone to help me, but I fell to the ground. Ms. Harper was standing there, large black wings stretched out. Her eyes were white and her nails were long and ragged. Her sharp teeth were stretched into a terrifying smile, and her hand was curled around a knife. 

“Poor Claire,” she cooed. “All alone.” 

“Please,” I said. “Please don’t do this.” 

She tutted. “I thought you knew better than to run, my dear. I always thought you’d know not to look into the dark.” 

“Let me go,” I begged. My blue dress had been torn, and I was trembling like a baby. 

“I thought you knew,” she continued, her voice dropping to a whisper, “that whatever happens in the dark is none of your business. But I was wrong. You, like all children in that filthy town, don’t know any better.” She stepped closer to me and knelt to the floor where I was cowering. “Now you may join them, my dear Claire. That is my final gift to you. Hopefully there, you will know not to fight your destiny.” She gave me one final smile before it was all black. 

Ms. Cressida Harper walked back into the town later that day with twenty-two children that looked just like the ones she’d left with. But they weren’t them. Fortunately, no one would know but her. Just like every year. 

The yellow bus was parked in a lot and left for the next class, and Ms. Cressida Harper walked into the cafe where she drank a cappuccino. She smiled at the waiter who brought her the drink and smoothed out her yellow and red dress. 

Ahh, there really was nothing sweeter than the darkness.

The Goose is the Garden

The goose is the garden

Is becoming overgrown we need to trim the weeds

Take over the driveway

Is really falling apart

From you I can’t seem to think 

About the mountains outside the window

Casts a shadow on the ground

Is made of water 

Reflects the clouds

Are shaped like a wolf chasing sheep

Escaped again the German shepherd 

Is so cute though how can you blame

Me every single time 

I see the milky way I think of all the milk I’ve spilled

The beans

For dinner do you mind if we have them again this week

Has been weird without you

I am nothing.

The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword

In 1839, the highly revered words of “the pen is mightier than the sword” were first written by novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton in his historical play Cardinal Richelieu. Ever since, the use of this phrase has skyrocketed and is now commonly used and applied to everyday life. Despite the extremely common use of the phrase, in many cases, it has little effect due to the fact that many continue to question the might of the pen. And their uncertainty is valid, for the pen is an object that is barely longer than three inches. Comparatively, a sword is not only large, but is also a sharp, hefty, and possibly even lethal weapon. After all, the sword has the ability to maim and injure, while the pen’s abilities are limited to words on a page. And while one may be tempted to use physical might and strength to intimidate and therefore have control over another person, they might find that it is not the most influential tactic. On the other hand, though it may not seem so, the pen possesses infinite power. The words we use may influence others in unimaginable ways, and we can use these words to impel others to believe what we believe in, spreading positive influence even further than we realize.

Firstly, imagine two people facing each other. One holds a pen, clutched beneath their index finger and thumb, and the other wields a sword. If they were to fight against each other, there would be a clear victor: the wielder of the sword. The person holding a pen simply has no chance. Now imagine a different scenario. One person, holding a sword, is faced with thousands of people. Another, holding a pen and able to use their voice, is in the same situation. If the two were to try to fight against the mob of people in front of them, who would have a better chance of winning?  A sword is meaningless against so many people. It is so heavy and moves so slowly that it could only attack a few people at once. However, the other person is in luck, for they have the ability to use words, which can not only be used against all thousand people at once, but can also express a much more meaningful idea in the same amount of time. We should all feel lucky, for if we are ever faced with a thousand people, while we may not have a sword, we definitely can use words. And those words, if used correctly, can express a thought-provoking, life-changing thought in just a few seconds.

Furthermore, without causing harm to people, both written words and spoken words allow people to express their complete thoughts. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., one of the most notable leaders of the civil rights movement in the United States, is a profound example of this. According to Forbes, the famous and highly influential quote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” comes from one of his writings. In April of 1963, King had been arrested for leading a demonstration in Birmingham, and one of his most extraordinary works is his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” He constantly used his striking rhetorical abilities and finely honed way with words to persuade others to join his cause. Thus, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a tremendous influence on millions at the time, becoming one of the most prominent civil rights activists in the history of the United States. And yet, the question remains, why not use violence? Not only is it a more tempting option, it is much easier. However, physical strength only instills fear in people, forcing them to agree to our demands. On the other hand, speaking and writing allow other people to choose to believe in our cause and be encouraged to spread it further. Put simply, one slash of the sword has only one consequence, and its influence likely ends there. But a scribble of the pen can have a thousand outcomes, reaching thousands of people, spreading across nations and breaking barriers.

Finally, words have the ability to evoke emotions from those we choose to influence, and this can greatly help to convince them to believe what we believe. According to CXL, Antonio Damasio was a neuroscientist who conducted a famous study which demonstrated the impact that emotions people feel have on their decisions. He discovered that those with brain damage, who were not able to feel emotions, could not make decisions. Ultimately, he realized that emotions are almost entirely what affect all of the decisions we make. Additionally, within our brain, there are two systems: system one and system two. System one is on consistently and is the emotion processor, while system two is the logical processor. Consequently, there is an ample chance that you will make a decision solely based on your emotions. Therefore, when the words that we use in our writing affect others and can make them evoke emotions, every future decision of theirs is impacted, underscoring the importance of targeting people’s emotions. However, the only emotion that violence can establish is fear. Writing can do so much more. It can tug at our heartstrings, put a smile on our face, make our heartbeats quicken, make us laugh or cry, and bring out the best in humanity. The possibilities are simply endless. For this reason, the ability that words have to impact others is tremendously increased.

Ultimately, our words have a profound impact on those we influence; an impact that is far greater than any form of violence, force, or threats. The pen is considerably more efficacious and eloquent than the sword due to its ability to influence thousands, if not billions of people at once; its ability to make people believe in our cause rather than simply fear us; and its ability to target people’s emotions and impact their decision-making for the rest of their lives. We cannot really measure how far the influence of our words travel. Therefore, we can choose to use the great power and mightiness that our words have to influence change on the future world. Our writing can inspire change in ways that we cannot begin to conceive by spreading our ambition and belief to others, and if we do this for good purposes, we can make the nation we live in — nay, the planet we live on — a better place. If we all use the exceptional power that is writing in the forthcoming years, decades, and centuries, we will be able to accomplish more than ever before. Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s words were thoroughly accurate; though swords are larger, sharperm and more intimidating, when all is said and done, it is the pen, which is powerful enough to be able to impact and alter decisions and beliefs of others, that can spread influence throughout the entire world, that is truly the mightiest of all.

Works Cited

Carmine Gallo.

“Leaders Who Master The Power of Words Inspire Change.” 15 January 2018. Forbes. 19 December 2020. 

Shanelle Mullin. 

“Emotional Persuasion: The Advanced Guide.” 25 September 2020. CXL. 19 December 2020.

Why the World’s Population is Only 7.8 Billion

This book is dedicated to my breakfast bagel.


The Dictatorship of America, 3789 A.D.

The following letter has been retrieved from an archive and is believed to have been written by Jim Nlocnil.

Palermo, Sicily, 1915 A.D.


There was a suitcase. There was a bed. What was it doing there? The bed was the first bed that the legendary bedmaker would make. Now, the bedmaker would prefer if his name was not mentioned in this book, though it perplexes me, for he is already quite famous indeed. But from here on out, I will call the legendary bedmaker “Gustavo.” Gustavo was not always famous, for he grew up in a humble cottage on an island in the Sardinian sea. This island was called Sicily, and it was quite a magnificent island indeed, for tourism and commercialization had not found the island yet, letting the locals live a happy life with no one to disturb them. 

Gustavo had a father named Monee, who, despite the name, was a very poor bedmaker. One day, Monee stumbled across a stream. He looked into the stream. He then walked away. Another day, he ran into a beautiful untouched beach, and when he put his hand into the pristine crystal waters, it was a pleasant temperature — refreshingly cool but not uncomfortable. He took off his hat and filled it with the water and took the hat full of water home. Now, Monee was quite a forgetful man, and he forgot to show the fresh, pure water to his family. The next morning, to his surprise, the water was still the same perfect temperature it had been when he first discovered it. He was intrigued but not frightened by this discovery, for he was still curious about this liquid. He went back to the beach, and, sure enough, the water was exactly the same temperature it had been the afternoon he had found it. Monee’s mind instantly whirred into action, thinking about the possibilities of making this water into a product he could sell.

The first thing I should do, he thought, is tell Gustavo. As soon as Gustavo had heard about this “cool water,” he got some leather, sewed together a water-tight bed, and filled the bed with the water. And, though Monee and Gustavo did not know it, they had just created the first water bed. Monee gathered his savings, and soon, they patented this water bed, though they did not mention this, for they wanted to keep the water a secret.


Nazi Controlled Poland, 1941

Jakub sighed. He and his best friend, Filip, had made a secret organization for boys like them. They had “special powers,” though they were more like a curse. They could do “amazing things” like climb up brick walls and shoot energy from their fingers. This did nothing against the tanks, soldiers, machine guns, and other terrible things that the Nazis used to invade. But because of these “special powers,” they were targeted by soldiers, who were ordered to execute any boy who used “magic.” Jakub probably had the worst power of all. He could see and hear through any solid object. What use was seeing through a tank when it was about to shoot a shell at you? The other boys were younger than him but were far more powerful. They respected him, though, for he was the leader. 

“Quick!” Filip screamed. 

The soldiers! Jakub and the other boys dove behind a bush as Filip started making hand signs to release an energy shield. Another boy closed his eyes and opened them, although this time his eyes were red. He looked at a soldier and instantly paralyzed him. 

“Jakub, help! My shield is going down!” Filip screamed. 

  Filip only had enough energy to sustain the energy shield for a few minutes, which, until now, had been plenty enough time. It seemed that the soldiers heard Filip too because they instantly rushed his way.

  “No!” Jakub yelled.

They had Filip. Without his shield, he was helpless, and one of them was dragging Filip onto the Jeep while the other one held a rifle to his head. 

“You can’t do this!” Jakub screamed.

By then, the Jeep had driven off to the forest, and the only person who could see and hear Filip was Jakub. The last words that Filip uttered before he passed out were: “under the bench.”

Palermo, Sicily, 1924 A.D.


Meanwhile, Gustavo and Monee were raking in the profits from their successful bed-making business. The beach still looked untouched, and Monee suspected, though they had drained many gallons of liquid from it, that the beach would still make more.

“Gustavo,” Monee said, “when I die, you have the choice to lead the company. Will you continue the family legacy?”

“Of course I will!” Gustavo exclaimed. “But I hope that I do not take it over soon.”

Kepler-443b, circa 5.55 billion years ago

“Rumor has it that there is a habitable planet only 2,500 light-years away!” Bob said. 

Bob and his family lived on a planet called Logic, and it was about to explode. It was rumbling violently, and they needed to get off it as soon as possible. They first considered moving to the puny moon, Ableton, or the dwarf planet, FL Studio, which was circa 600 light-years away. But then they discovered that the planet would make such a shockwave that all of the habitable planets and moons would be terminated. The scientists of their colony searched desperately for a habitable planet, and it seemed that they had found one. 

 “Quick!!!” Martha (the mother) screamed. “The spaceship is going in 10 minutes!!!”

“Okay, Mom. My UltraBomb is not going with me, right?” Tommy said.

“Of course it is! Now come on!” Martha said.

The UltraBomb was a safety device that some scientists had discovered in the Renaissance Period. They had discovered many things, but the UltraBomb was by far the coolest. A child, if threatened, could deploy this UltraBomb and vaporize every living thing except itself for a 1,000-mile radius. To trigger it, you needed to pour a special type of liquid onto a compressed plasma ball. It would then kill everything around it except for the child itself. The Logic government-issued UltraBombs to every kid colonizing Earth, but they were strictly told to only use it if necessary. Tommy thought they went overboard on the liquid, though. They brought more than a thousand gallons!!!

“Watch your step, little guy,” a crew member said.

Tommy sat down in his seat and prepared himself for this new adventure.

The Dictatorship of America, 3789 A.D.

The following snippet has been retrieved from an archive and is believed to have been an advertisement from “Palermo Daily.”

Palermo, Sicily, 1956 A.D.


Gustavo flopped down on one of his many waterbeds and cried. His father had died the day before today, and he was sad. Even worse, he had to give a speech at the funeral, and his words were unrecognizable from his sobs. But he had to move on and keep the family legacy.

One month later

Stress. SO much stress. Gustavo had reformed the waterbed, spreading business outside of Sicily, and it was spreading quickly. He had also put advertisements in newspapers all around the world, and his company had gone public. (NASDAQ, GWB ^1.27%,1598.7) The Mariott had replaced all of their beds with Gustavo’s, and his business was doing well. Gustavo was having a good life.


Nazi Controlled Poland, 1942

Under the bench, under the bench, under the bench. Jakub kept rolling this around in his head. What? He had checked under every bench he had seen for the past year. Unless… The stone bench!!! Filip had chiseled a miniature stone bench for Jakub, but before he could snatch it, Filip had thrown it way off into the woods to tease Jakub. Jakub thought that Filip had thrown it in a random direction, but Filip was very precise with his arm, so Jakub now knew that this was not the case. Jakub searched for hours and hours in the dark woods until he finally found the bench. He dug the soil under it and found a mysterious ball of light.

Suitcase & Bed

Warsaw, Poland, Marriott hotel, 1963

Filip was dead. Who cared about him anyway? Jakub had been trying to sell this weird ball of light to museums, but they said it was just some lights in a glass ball. He slammed the suitcase (containing the ball) onto the bed. The waterbed burst, and the suitcase cracked open. The ball bounced out and fell into the liquid.

The Dictatorship of America, 3789 A.D.

The following letter has been retrieved from an archive, and is now known to have been written by “Zadinsky.”

The Eve of Eve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  “It tastes moldy,” Eve said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What happened to the turkey?” 

“It was expired.” 

“Can’t we just order Chinese food?” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How To Persevere

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

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

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

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

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

The Facility


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


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

“Are you sure about this?” says Ash. 

“It could be cursed… ” says Echo. 

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

“Yeah, bu — ”

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

 “Oof!” says Ash. 

“You’re okay!” I say happily 

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

“What?!!” I say, mind blown. 

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

To Be Continued… 

Fast Forward

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

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

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

“Coming, Mom.”

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

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

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

“We need to get back.”

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

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

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

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

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

The brothers said, “We were doing fine.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hopes and Dreams

We, the successors of this country

Are grateful for being born in a country

Where there is freedom and democracy 

Where anybody can become president

Where you can be

My hopes and dreams are to become a president

Of a free country

Where you can say what you think

This country is not perfect of polished

This country is not striving

But is moving forward blindly

I hope this country will 

Accept people from different countries and cultures

People with different backgrounds and beliefs

We still have miles to go

Before we are perfect

But we are not trying to be perfect

Nothing is perfect

We should welcome people

But right now we aren’t

We have to start a new chapter in our lives

We have to treat everyone like Americans

The Candy Fairy’s Skateboard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She grabbed my hand and helped me stand up. 

“Where’s Ben now?” she asked.

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

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

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

“Sweetie, what happened?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Beowulf, the Real Antagonist

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

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

“But Higelac’s hardy henchman and kinsman

Held him by the hand; hateful to other

Was each one if living. A body-wound suffered

The direful demon, damage incurable

Was seen on his shoulder, his sinews were shivered,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grendel lying, of life-joys bereavèd,

As the battle at Heorot erstwhile had scathed him;

His body far bounded, a blow when he suffered,

Death having seized him, sword-smiting heavy,

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

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

Works Cited

The Terror

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I would never lie.”

“Let me see the text that says so.” 




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

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

 Sam said, “Okay, let’s go.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I will have to take force.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s me.”

“Le, you can speak now, but how?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Chapter 7

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

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

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

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

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

This provokes some vulgar language and inappropriate content.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And?” I ask nervously.

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

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

“Thank you, sir,” I say happily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hear the faint click as the call ends.

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

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

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

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

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

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

and drive out of school.

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

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

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

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

Dead meat.

After PBJ

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

The Watchers in the Shadows

Chapter Three of The Watchers in the Shadows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Come on, loser. Let’s get to work”. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will chuckled. “Those two are great.” 

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

Will laughed. “They truly are the best.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I elbowed him. 

He laughed.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I winced. Why this one?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He nodded in response and stepped back. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What did you send?” I asked. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I looked at my feet. “Understood.” 

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





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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s his name?” I asked. 

Will smiled again. 

“Braylon Kramer.”

Lost at Sea


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

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

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

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

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

Chapter One 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Three

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Four

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, not — ” Emy cuts herself off, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Five

Thump thump, thump thump.

Is all I hear.

 My heart beating, everything else is silent.

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

Scared to open my eyes… I do anyway.

Chapter Six

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Seven

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… she is almost dead.

Chapter Eight

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

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

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

“Carna?” she whispers into my hand.

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

Ott: Part One

Chapter 1

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

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

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

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

Chapter 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gradually, the golem responded, “Roont.” 

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

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

To Be Continued…

Some Dumb Stuff I Made Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No problem, my g.” 

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

Ally and the Broken Wing

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

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

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

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

Why does he continue to walk? Ally thought.

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

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

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

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

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

Leslie for President

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

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

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

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

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

Keys on the Keyboard


Sometimes I am lucky,

Everything going my way

Other times my soul feels like

It’s being sucked away

Butterflies in the sky

Then stormy weather, don’t know why

World is changing, all around

As fallen soldiers hit the ground

Making things all tangled up,

Like drinking poison from a cup

God please help me, hear me pray

Or save me once, just once today

Make some bodies come to life,

Save an innocent person’s life

Life is precious, not to waste

But some devils just need one taste,

Of blood so sweet,

So please let’s find a place to meet

If you save my life, I’ll be kind,

So save my superstitious mind

A Poem I’ll Write Someday.

Some time,




A poem I’ll write someday.

A magical,


Miraculous thing.

A poem I’ll write someday.

Maybe ‘bout some guy’s


A poem I’ll write someday.

Not now,


Never in the decade.

A poem I’ll write someday.


I am from waves crashing against the shoreline,

Clouds floating with the breeze.

You drink me, use me every day,

I’m used to water your leaves. 

I flow down mountains low and high,

Fill zig-zagging streams.

Some laugh, some cry, some smile with pride,

For I’m their hero, their savior.

To some, all I am is tainted waste,

Not good to use or drink.

Their sad faces stare at me,

Reflected on my surface.

I can only do so much,

Try to help but fail.

I save some lives but not enough,

When people die, we have to be tough.

Slowly I flow through the canyons,

Threatening, any second to dry.

Birds drink me with their beaks,

I give them the energy to fly.

Many thrive around me,

I’m the center of them all.

What will become without me?

Will humans still be here at all?

Blackbird Pie

Fields of people,

Each one a flower.

Looking for a chance,

To escape.

From this green field,

Looks good to you,

But a jail for all within.

Leaves and seeds,

Blow past from the east.

Birds come in,

From the west.

For years the flowers

Come and go.

Life and death,

Just part of the flow.

No one escapes from the

Grassy field.

Guarded day and night,

By soaring birds.

Shadows in the dusk,

Always back at dawn.

In uniforms,

A blackbird’s best,

Letting no one through.

These black shadows,

Flying high,

Mockery to all below.

Blackbirds let

No one through.

Even when,

The sun’s

Baking hot,

Like the fires in their eyes,

When they’re ripped from

Their kith and kin,

Not knowing when

They’ll see them again.

To perfect the


Made for generations.

To make



This is the

Blackbird pie.

Luca’s Timer

Luca rubbed the timer imprinted on his wrist. It was currently April 7th. 


It was stuck at 312 hours. 312 hours. In 312 hours, it was his birthday. So what was this timer, you may ask? Well, this timer was not for his birthday, that’s for sure. This timer actually had nothing to do with Luca at all. This timer was for his soulmate. Kai White. But don’t tell him about the timer. He can’t know about that yet.

Luca was completely aware that Kai was his soulmate. The only problem was that Luca didn’t love Kai. Luca loved someone else. But that can’t be, you might be thinking. Soulmates are soulmates forever, through thick and thin, and life and death! That’s what you were told, at least. Luca Davis is in love with another person. Will King stole his heart. Or, he thought so.

Will was his favorite person to be around. Not so much anymore though, but I’ll get into that later. They spent many long, beautiful nights together under the stars and shared many important moments. Luca used to not care about Kai in the slightest. Or before, if he did, he showed no sign and put it in the back of his head to where the thoughts he had about Kai could get lost forever in the hormonal world of his mind.


Kai was suffering from one-sided love. He knew Luca would never love him back, and he gave up trying. 


You might question the fact that the timers on each other’s wrists were so different. The reason for that is quite simple. But I’ll leave you to figure that one out. Because the reason is vital to the ending of the story, and I can guarantee it will not be a good one. These boys are very different, but oh so similar in so many ways. Kai just loves to stare at Luca during class, when the teacher is distracted, he can get into the foreign jungle of tangled daydreams about him and his soulmate. 

This whole soulmate thing is a sick and twisted ideal. Especially when your soulmate loves someone else. Kai’s heart aches whenever Luca shows affection towards Will. He feels like a piece is missing. But he tries to not let it affect Luca’s relationship. Because if Luca’s happy, he’s happy. 



Luca noticed the time on the timer was suddenly different. This is not the first time this happened, as Luca has had this timer on his arm since he was little. It was always counting down, and he could do nothing but wait until time’s up. It seemed an hour had passed since he last checked. It was the only mysterious thing about his explosive personality. He took it upon himself to google it.

What happens in 311 hours? 

The answers he got were no help at all. They were things like, ‘Dial 311 for NYC tax service!’ or, ‘The state of New York, 311’. Besides his birthday, he really couldn’t think of anything at all. Luca called Will in hopes of the redhead being in some help to this mystery. Alas, that was not the case.

“What happens in 311 hours, babe?”

“I don’t know, what happens in 311 hours?”

“Do you think this is a joke?”

“Is it?”

“No, I’m dead serious. What happens in 311 hours?”

“Oh. I don’t know. I can look it up for you.”

“I tried that already.”

“Why is 311 so important?”

“It just is. Nevermind.”

“Alright. I love you, Luc.”

“I love you too.” Saying that felt weird to Luca. It felt forced, like he no longer meant it but he had been doing it for so long that he couldn’t stop. Like a drug almost, except without the feel-good part. Luca hung up the phone and sighed. He loved his boyfriend, yes, but recently he seemed to have… fallen out of love? 

Is that the right mix of words?


Kai noticed sometimes that Luca likes to tuck a strand of hair behind his ears. Kai wonders how that is even possible, considering Luca’s hair was short. Kai knows that even though Luca will probably end up getting a soulmate reassignment, he’ll probably never find another soulmate. Or maybe he will, but the chances of that are really slim. Especially since he lost the love of his life so young, he is 16 years old. But just seeing that Will can put a smile on Luca’s face makes his heart drop to his feet. It’s been picking away at him slowly. It’s unclear how much more of it he can take. He doesn’t worry though, he knows everyone will have a happily ever after. But that’s not how life works. Everything can change. His whole life could turn upside down, and he’ll never be the same Kai and he knows it. But fate chose not to do that to him yet. So he’ll just have to wait everything out and see what happens.

To be continued…

Corry’s Dreams

Dream #1

Test Subject: Corry J. Bolns 

Age: 13

“Wake up.” A lady leans over and kisses a boy’s forehead. Her eyes have no pupil or iris but seem to be able to see. The boy sits up and hits his head on a sheet of glass. Through the glass, he can see a woman and what seems to be her dog walking over the glass. Her dog begins to scratch at the glass and its owner pulls it away. The boy rolls off of his bed and begins to fall. He lands on a chair where a plate of eggs and waffles are waiting for him. He eats them and falls backwards off of the chair. He then lands in a swing in a playground. Someone pushes him from behind and he flies upwards towards a ceiling, he hits his head. 

End of Dream #1

Corry Bolns was 13 years old when this experiment started. He was taken into this facility against his will and was put into what seemed to be a coma. He was not completely conscious but was somehow able to dream. He was asleep for 3 years. He had exactly 13,140 dreams. We recorded all of them. I will not include all of the dreams in this short pamphlet. I would like to state that I do not think that they should be using these children as their test subjects. I, however, do not have the authority to change, tweek, or stop these experiments. This facility is run by the government and is in an undisclosed location. 

Dream #879

Test subject: Corry J. Bolns 

Age: 13

“Mrs. Banaldi, I forgot my homework at home.” The boy says while fidgeting with his fingers. “That’s the 3rd time this week, Bolns!” The teacher throws an apple at the boy’s forehead. It hits him in the nose, making an apple-shaped indent in the center of his face. The boy falls backwards, splatting against the ground. His body begins to sizzle and bubble, the teacher runs away into the school building. But all of the students have turned into the boy. They say hi in unison. The teacher falls backwards. She wakes up in a bed where she is surrounded by apples.    

End of Dream #879

Corry is hooked up to a device, whenever he has a dream it shows on a monitor. His body still needs water and food. So there is a tube attached to his stomach. He also has a tube attached to his bladder. Some type of pill is fed to him to keep him asleep. Whenever a dream ends, the monitor goes blank. 

Dream #4198

Test subject: Corry J. Bolns 

Age: 14

“Please! Please, Mom, please!” A boy is being pulled away from his mother, and is being shoved into a car. His mother is screaming and struggling but her husband is holding her back. She punches him in the nose and he lets go. She runs toward the car just as it starts to leave. She grabs on to the door. It drags her along. Her knees bleed and finally she lets go. The car drives off and the mother sits in the street bawling as her child bangs on the window of the car.

End of Dream #4198

This was the saddest dream that Corry has had. It is a dream of how he wished his mother had reacted. Instead, when they came to take Corry away, she and her husband stood in the doorway waving goodbye. I don’t understand how anyone could watch their child being taken away and not try to do something about it. I think his parents were very horrible people. This was a recurring dream. He had it over 100 more times. Sometimes his father and mother went after him, but he never got out. 

Dream #8354

Test subject: Corry J. Bolns.

Age: 15

“I’m going to puke,” A boy leans over a toilet. He starts to vomit and then passes out. The boy literally pukes up his guts. His stomach is floating in the liquid along with his intestines. His stomach pops, splattering blood and stomach acids all over the bathroom. The boy is still unconscious but has creatures crawling out of his eyes, mouth, ears, and nose. He begins to tremble. And then POP! 

End of Dream #8354

A lot of Corry’s dreams are gross and bubbly. I think it’s because Corry has seen some pretty traumatizing things in his life. When he was 8 years old, his big sister spilled boiling hot oil on herself. She got terrible burn scars, lost eyesight in one of her eyes, and she had to get a face transplant. She died two years later when she got into a horrible car crash. Corry and his family went to visit her in the hospital, she passed away a day later.

Dream #12063

Test subject: Corry J. Bolns 

Age: 16

“Get up!!” A lady shakes a boy.

His eyes slowly open.

“What’s happening?” he says groggily.

“There’s a fire!” she yells. His room is slowly getting warmer. He runs to the door but the doorknob is too hot to touch. He tries to kick the door open, but he passes out from inhaling too much smoke. His fingertips begin to melt and his body makes a puddle on the floor. 

End of Dream #12063

At first glance, Corry’s dreams don’t seem to have much meaning behind them. I never understood what we were trying to figure out. What the point of this experiment was, I still don’t understand to this day. Sometimes I think the point of these experiments is to torture these children. But for what? What did they do? Most of them have horrible parents or one horrible parent. So are they getting punished for being born into horrible families?

Dream #13140

Test subject: Corry J. Bolns

Age: 16

A boy opens his eyes. He begins to sit up but he is pushed back down by a man in a suit. He looks confused. He tries again. But is pushed down once more. He starts to struggle. But the man grips his wrist. More men in suits show up. The boy tries to go back to sleep. 

End of Last Dream

Before experiment

Interviewer: “What is your name?”

Corry: “Where am I?”

Interviewer: “What is your name?”

Corry: “Where am I?” 

Interviewer: “Name!?”

Corry: “Uh, Corry.”

Interviewer: “Full name?”

Corry: “Corry Jack Bolns.”

Interviewer: “How old are you?”

Corry: “13.”

Interviewer: “What is your date of birth?”

Corry: “Please, where am I?”

Interviewer: “Date of birth?”

Corry stands up, but a guard grabs him.

Corry: “Don’t touch me!!”

Interviewer: “Don’t be stubborn kid, what is your birthday?!”

Corry: “February, 12, 1977.”

Interviewer: “Please fill out this form.”

After experiment 

Interviewer: “What is your name?”

Corry said nothing, he simply sat staring at the interviewer.

Interviewer: “Kid,” he waved his hand in front of Corry’s face.

Interviewer: “Alright, your name is Corry Jack Bolns, can you say that?”

Corry still stays silent.

Interviewer: “You are 16 years old. You were born on February, 12 1977 in upstate New York. Your parents are Jeana and William Bolns. Ring any bells?”

Corry: “Mama?”

Interviewer: “Yes.”

Corry: “Where is Mama?”

Interviewer: “She is at your home with your father.”

Corry seemed scared at the mention of his father.

Interviewer: “Do you remember any dreams?”

Corry: “Mama!!” Corry begins to sob. I don’t understand why he misses his mother so much, she seems like a horrible person, but she must have done something right. 

Interviewer: “That’s all we need.”

Me: “Where are you taking him?!”

Interviewer: “Home.”

When Corry arrives at his old home all he does is stare for the first 15 minutes. He then goes up to the bright red door and rings the doorbell. His mother opens the door and shuts it the moment she sees her son. His father opens the door only to shut it once again. Shouts can be heard from behind the front door.

“I thought he was dead!”

“Why would you think that?!”

“You made it sound like he was dead! I cried for two years straight!”

“Don’t exaggerate Jeana! We are not taking him back.”

“Why wouldn’t we Bill? He is our son!”

“NO! I am in charge here!”

“Says who?!?!”


“You never loved me or our children!”

“You think I married you because I loved you?!?!”

Jeana Bolns slaps her husband in the face. She then goes upstairs, fills her suitcase with all of her stuff, and walks out of the door. She grabs her son by the arm. She buckles him into their car and drives off.  I am not sure exactly what happened to Corry after that. I have a hard time believing he lived a good life. His mother’s parents were rich and they supported them. I did visit them at their home a year later. Corry’s mother smoked the whole time and she kept telling me that they were trying to erase all of the bad memories. So I wasn’t allowed to talk about the facility. I didn’t learn anything. I was on my way out when Corry’s mother stopped me.

“Why would you let them do this to my son!?!?”

I left without saying a word. I guess I do feel guilty. But this is not about me, this is about Corry, Corry J. Bolns, Corry J. Bolns’ dreams.


He stares at the painting, in a state of awe. I’m confused. What’s so magical about a painting? He’s saying something about how labor intensive it must have been to make a painting like this. How wonderful it would be to live in the painting. 

“It’s just a bunch of dots,” I say pointedly. “There’s nothing wonderful about it.” He just smiles, amused. 

“You have to look at it like it’s a window. Like it’s giving you a clear view of another person’s world.” He waits for my response, but it doesn’t come. I tap my foot against the concrete floor. The rest of the gallery is just as boring, and we’re here for at least an hour longer while Mom finishes up her shift. It couldn’t hurt to try. 

“Well…” I begin. “I… guess the white, yellow, gray, and blue make the sky look… sort of real.” 

“Yeah,” he says. I expect him to start yammering on about the feelings looking at the clouds give him, instead he looks at me again. “What else?” 

My ears feel hot, I can hear my heart beating in them. I look down at my scuffed up sneakers. I try to avoid eye contact by rubbing them against the ground. 

“I — ” I swallow my pride. What good is lying now? “Hadn’t thought of anything else… ” 

He doesn’t get mad. I can feel him smiling at me. A beam of light shining down on me just as the light shines down on these three people in the painting. 

“That’s okay.” 

I look up. 

“Really?” I smile back at him, confused. 

“I’d prefer to continue our discussion, but if you’re really stumped… ” I cross my arms.

“You’re really trying to take me on a guilt trip?” 

He smiles. A wide grin that succeeds in making me laugh. Dirty looks from all around the gallery find their way to me. I mumble an apology to the angry museum visitors.

A minute later, he asks me, “Did you think of something else eye-popping about the painting?” 

“Eyes popping?” I ask, excited. “Like in that video where they cut the lady’s eye open? But it’s ACTUALLY a SHEEP’S EYE?” 

He laughs. “That’s not what I meant!” He messes with my short hair, like I’m a dog. 

“I meant what comes to your eye first?”

“Oh,” I laugh. “I guess, those three people in the light.” 


“Yeah,” I respond. “They look like the only people in the world.” 

“I get that,” he trails off. 

A scratching sound takes him back to the real world. A crow is dancing on top of the skylight. The skylight is right above us. Looking up at the light, shining through the dim gallery, I finally understand what my brother meant by the word “window.” 

The Smile of an Idol: Another Story

At our 99th performance in Akihabara, a scout found us. He noticed our performance and approached us for a deal. He invited us to the Akihabara School Idol Company Audition Session. Various school idols from all around the globe will be auditioning for a chance with us, he said. We think you’ll do wonderfully, he said. One condition, he said, only Karin. 

H-huh? What? Has my hearing gone bad or something? I glanced to my side, only to see Karin’s eyes filled with hope and determination. Her eyes were the complete opposite of mine, filled with despair and malice. I looked forward once again, trying to find the trace of a joke on the scout’s face. All I could see was joyful seriousness.

“Wait… REALLY?!” 

Karin started jumping up and down like a bouncy ball. Up and down. She was so animated, I could almost see the sparkles in her eyes. 

“Lynn, this is wonderful! C’mon, let’s go tell Mom!”

I didn’t respond with my usual submissive “alright” or even a simple “okay.” For once in my life, I stayed silent. 

I didn’t even notice that Karin had already left me behind. I was far too busy burning the scout’s business card. I know he gave one to each of us, so it wouldn’t really do anything in the long run, but defiance is defiance. The main lesson I learned from this experience: lighters are surprisingly easy to find on the street. All I had to do was ask some old guy if I could borrow his. He was surprisingly chill about it, but we ended up in a far-too-long conversation about boats. Well, more like he roped me into a far-too-long conversation about boats. 

After burning the scout’s business card, I felt a rush of energy. Is this what defiance feels like? Is this what a rebellion feels like? I never understood what the point of a rebellion was if everything was moderately okay until this point in time. If I were to describe the feeling of rebellion at this point, I would say it’s addicting. Almost like an invisible version of cocaine. And unfortunately, this mental drug has a very long effective time.

That night was the time I had ever not been in the small apartment I shared with my parents and Karin. I left the performance setup in the pouring rain, hoping that it wouldn’t work the next morning. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the despair and malice had consumed me whole. I was somehow drowning in a dream that wasn’t mine to begin with. I never even wanted to be an idol in the first place, it was Karin’s idea, so why was I so angry? I somehow managed to sleep through the pounding rain, even in a dirty city alley. Sometimes crying and kicking makes it easier to fall asleep. It seems like it would be counterintuitive, but somehow it always worked like a charm. 

After a week of the same ol’ defiance, I wandered back home. I was reluctant at first, but I figured I had to. I can’t just keep living off of snacks and cheap coffee. My already-small amount of pocket change was running out, and I wasn’t particularly fond of having to starve in some alleyway. 

I sprinted through the pouring rain for 3 miles until I reached our apartment block. I dashed up the creaking stairs, careful to avoid any loose steps. I was at the doorstep, huffing and puffing, even with all of the dance practice. I shakily pulled my index finger up to the doorbell.  My dread and anxiousness were growing along with the movement of my finger. My shaky finger hovered over the doorbell for at least a minute, hoping that no one would notice me at the door. My finger shakily hovered for a few more seconds before it dropped back down to my side. I can’t do this. But before I could selfishly run away, a third party intervened. The door nearly hit me in the face, the already broken hinges almost snapping off. A fairly short girl who looked about my age answered the door. She had navy blue-dyed, short, choppy hair with long bangs covering her eyebrows. Her eyes were red and puffy, and she looked like she hadn’t slept in days. She looked exactly like Karin, but her mannerisms were completely different than usual. She spoke in a quiet, slightly lethargic voice, 

“… Lynn, that you?”


It was understandable why she might have had second thoughts on who I was. I mean, I looked quite different than before. My clear, porcelain-like skin was covered with dirt and bruises and my long hair that used to match Karin’s was now messy and uneven.

“Yeah… it’s me-”

Before I could get a chance to finish my sentence, Karin shoved me into a tight embrace. I could feel her tears on my shoulder and my eyes widened. I thought she would’ve wanted nothing to do with me by now. It was a while before I brought myself to reciprocate her embrace. But eventually, I gently brought my hands up and returned her hug. I buried my head into her shoulder and soon, we were both sobbing. By now, all of the neighbors and even my parents were staring at us, but we didn’t care. Neither of us even realized how much we missed each other. 

After what felt like hours of sobbing, we finally parted. Karin smirked at me teasingly. She gently shoved me into the apartment. 


I nearly tripped and fell over the little step next to our apartment door. “Nee-hee-hee! That’s what you get for leaving me for a week!” Karin said playfully. 

“Fine, fine! I deserved that.”

“Damn straight!”


We were both silent for at least a minute until we both bursted out laughing. 

“Who actually says ‘damn straight’ anymore?!” 

“I dunno! Maybe me!”

We were laughing together as if nothing ever happened. The scout never came, I never ran away, and Karin was the same as ever. She was a loud and annoying sister for sure, but she was my loud and annoying sister. I moved my head up and brushed my long hair out of my face. I looked at Karin.

“What did you do to your hair?”

Her cheeks flushed red and she looked flustered for a second. 

“Oh, uh-”

“Not that I don’t like it! Blue suits you well, and I think you look great with short hair!”

“Oh, thank you! Yeah, I felt like I needed something new, hee-hee.”

“It’s a little choppy, though.”

Karin went from fluster to worried in the blink of an eye. 

“Well, I-”

“… Did you cut your hair with craft scissors?”

“Ummmm… maybe?” Karin shrugged. 

I laughed.

“Of course you did. Good to know that you’re still Karin!”

Her worried expression changed to one of joy and happiness, and we smiled together for the first time in years. A real smile.