Through the Cracks

Once I broke the trust they had 

I regret breaking a pickle jar

I’ve seen others break bonds

I know that others break plates

Watched them try to piece them together again

Imagine they try to piece them together again

I’ll probably break my own heart

I worry I’ll break as many plates someday

They’ll watch as I try to pick the broken pieces back up

They’ll watch as I try to pick my broken self back up

I can’t break glass ceilings

I worry I won’t break down walls

I don’t think I’ll ever need to

I worry now I am expected to

I knowingly broke a friendship

I unwillingly broke the rules

I listened to others and followed them

I watched them leave and couldn’t follow them

I never want to break away

I hope I can break a heart

Why You Should Love Your Kids More than Your Hat


“Here are ours. My wife, Meena, my daughter, Adrika, and my son, Ravi.”

“Okay,” the customs agent replied with an eye roll. 

He was thanked for his tireless work nonetheless, and the family continued on their way through the seemingly endless Heathrow hallways. With their flight leaving at 8:00 AM, everyone was exhausted, so the nice, cool airplane that had softish seats with a small yet noticeable recline seemed like the perfect compensation.

This was no normal family though. With Siddarth leading the pack, carrying 3 ridiculously large black suitcases in his hands, his already impossibly large size doubled, he took up half of the hallway, causing all of the passengers to stare. His gorgeous, premium suede baseball cap with luxurious foam inner linings gave him a suspicious air that he loved and the cap lived for, but which the family was forever embarrassed of. 

The rest of Siddarth’s family seemed to have all gotten his wife’s more normal, though dwarfish in comparison, dimensions. Adrika, 16, was a solid 5 foot 8, almost a foot shorter than her dad, causing her to have a weird combination of love, admiration, and nervousness whenever she got to spend time with him. Sometimes, she felt that the hats he was always wearing got more attention than she did. I doubt she was wrong.

Ravi was a baby, only 2. Adrika, being 14 years older, had her doubts about him, but she was slowly coming around. Ravi was lucky enough to be gifted with one of the Siddarth’s prized possessions: a limited edition Gucci baseball cap that he got as a wedding gift. He was wearing it today, because, as Siddarth said, “It always is good luck when father and son are matching-matching!” With the eye rolls going unnoticed, he danced around joyfully the whole morning. Yes, it did look as weird as it sounds. 

“Should we find somewhere to sit?” Meena asked her husband. 

“Of course, of course. These bones need to rest someplace. Look at me carrying all these suitcases while you guys just lounge around.” 

His rambling went ignored because no one wanted to remind him that he was the one that had insisted on carrying the bags. 

With two hours still left until boarding, the family of four managed to find an empty row of 12 seats, and filled up the middle 8. 

“It’s a good thing that no one’s here in the morning,” Adrika said. “We can get a whole row to ourselves.”

“Yes, yes,” Siddarth huffed.

 “Attention, attention! Flight Number 457 to Boston is boarding. I repeat Flight 457 to Boston is boarding. All passengers must report to the gate!”

“Oh!” Siddarth woke up with a start. “Okay. Let us go now.” With a mighty heave, he lifted himself up, grabbed the suitcases, and pushed his family to the line. 

As Adrika walked with them, she already began to dread the moment ahead, the moment where her father would embarrass them even more. 

“Boarding passes please,” the bored security agent said.

“Okay, sir. But how much can we get an upgrade for?” Siddarth asked kindly.

“You can’t do that here, you should’ve just chosen a first class ticket when you bought your tickets,” the man replied, eyeing his cap, the bags, and the whole family’s clothes. “Or when you checked in.”

“But, sir, how about you check if there are some empty seats, and maybe we can squeeze into them?” He ignored the chuckling behind him.

“I’m afraid that is not possible. You will have to sit where you were assigned.”

At this point, another security guard came up, and even though he was big, he was no threat. 

“I’m gonna have to ask you to keep it moving, you’re holding up the line.” His thick British accent made Siddarth take a second before understanding what he said, and by this time he was fuming.

“You know, I am a high-class banker! I can make you pay for what you are doing to me!” His kind tone was replaced with a loud, obnoxious one.

“No one is doing anything to you sir,” the original agent said nervously. “You’re just holding up the line, so we’re asking you to just get on the plane.”

“This is outrageous! I was only asking for an upgrade, no need to belittle me!” He always threw in some big words when he was in this situation, hoping to impress the common folk. 

“Let’s just go to our seats,” Meena said softly to her husband. “No need to create such a big scene.” Even though she usually said these things to him, and he usually ignored it, this time it was different. This time, he sensed that his entire family, not just Meena, wanted him to stop (and maybe he did too). He immediately put down all the suitcases and just left the line, walking off with his head drooped and shoes dragging. It was like a flip had been switched; what was on full blast a mere moment before was now very suddenly completely off. This shocked everyone, and when I say everyone, I mean everyone. No one knew what to say or do, because it’s not every day you see a 6 foot 8 man become a depressed shell of a person in an instant.  

“Should we follow him?” Adrika asked nervously after a moment.

“Um, yes,” Meena said determinately. 

As they walked past the shocked security guard and boarding agent, with the suitcases in tow, they all thought to themselves (except Ravi, of course) that maybe they had had something to do with the meltdown. Maybe if they had been more supportive of the move to Boston, he wouldn’t have stormed off. On the other hand, since no one had wanted to move anyway, this might’ve been their lucky break. I guess we’ll see when we get there, Adrika thought to herself.

Even though I was very much ahead of them by this point, from the corner of my eyeline I could’ve sworn I saw a smile come quickly and quietly across Adrika’s face. She wiped it off her mouth in an instant, but it stayed wistfully in her eyes. 

As Siddarth moved surprisingly fast through the airport, I felt myself struggling to stay balanced on his head. At first I didn’t know why, then I realized it was because he was sweating. If I’m not mistaken, this might’ve been the first time he had ever sweat, or at least this much. The other three were seemingly not in the biggest rush of all time, and the suitcases certainly weren’t helping with that. They were catching up though, since even though we were running, he wasn’t at all fast.

Suddenly, he stopped. He bent over and panted; he was out of breath. He looked at his watch, then quickly turned it away to not be reminded that he was only “running” for four minutes. He managed to find a place to sit and sat there, hoping his family was coming after him.

When they finally arrived, they sat next to him, and without saying anything, he immediately felt more at ease and more comfortable. They were all silent, with only the occasional boarding announcement to fill up the peace. I wasn’t surprised, since if there was one thing that I knew about this family, it was that they weren’t talkers. They were more of a keep-quiet-and-think-to-yourself kind of family. Now, that was something that I actually didn’t mind, since I used all that empty space to come up with my own ideas about their life, and why I was even there. 

Hats are for heat, the rain, the cold, or for self-conscious people. With those options, I can make a pretty good choice as to why I was perched on Siddarth’s head, and it made me think even more as to why. What did he have to be self conscious about when he had everything? He had an extremely well paying banking job, a great house, nice cars, and a family. What else does one need? 

That’s when it hit me: he had a family, but he didn’t have love. He barely saw his kids, his wife was annoyed at him half the time (and vice versa), so then what? What else do you have when the only things that you love are things that you bought, not things you made? 

Well, I guess then you have nothing.

It was at that moment, when an Aha! expression formed on Siddarth. He had realized what he was missing! Previously, he thought moving to a new place with new people and new things would bring his family closer together, but it was all right here. That was shown in the way they didn’t all board the plane when he stormed off, but they came back to him, because at the end of the day, they wanted his approval and his love. 

Love. The one thing missing in his otherwise perfect life.

So for the first time in public in probably forever, he took me off, sat me down on a dirty airport chair, and embraced his family in one gargantuan hug that seemed to last for eternity. His smile plastered wide over his chubby cheeks, he whispered the three magic words to his family, and I swear some sweat dropped down onto the chair from the top of me. 

He looked at me and smiled, and we both knew that this was the last time we’d ever see each other. 

The Negative Side of Stereotypes

When I was in eighth grade, I was on the phone with a friend and she was telling me about a seventh grader who took an eighth grade honors math class. This shocked me for two reasons: one, because of how smart he was, and second, because he was not Asian and did not fit into that “smart” stereotype. The “smart” stereotype that a certain group of people were smarter than others had gotten in my head and almost brainwashed me into thinking and believing that. Stereotypes are used all over the world and can cause many conflicts. It can negatively affect someone because stereotypes can cause unwanted failure and can refrain someone from being their best self. 

There are many outcomes of stereotyping, and a big one is that stereotypes can cause a lack of success. They have high and/or low standards and society expects people to reach and accomplish that standard. For example, a stereotype could be that boys excel at sports. This sets up a standard and an expectation that everyone expects from all boys. However, if a girl becomes good at a sport and is better than a boy, people are shocked. If a boy isn’t good at sports, he may feel defeated and disappointed that he could not reach that standard or expectation. On the flip side, if the standards of stereotypes are too low, it does not push the person to try harder or to be better.

Furthermore, stereotypes can refrain someone from being their best self. An example would be a stereotype threat. According to the article, “The Good, the Bad, and the What of Stereotypes”, a stereotype threat is defined as, “People who face a stereotype threat are always in fear of doing something that could potentially confirm a negative stereotype.” People have trouble truly being themselves due to the anxiety or fear that they might fit into a disliked stereotype. On the contrary, if you do fit into a stereotype, people expect you to only be that stereotype. For example, as written in “The Good, the Bad, and the What of Stereotypes”, if you are a class clown, people always expect you to be funny. So, if you are upset, people expect you to hide it because you are the class clown. Additionally, a physiological source, “What is Stereotype Threat,” gives evidence stating that, “Keller and Dauenheimer (2003) showed that girls’ reports of frustration, disappointment, and sadness accounted for poor math performance under stereotype threat.” This is all because of stereotypes and the “level” the person must reach because they are a certain race or gender.

Although some people may agree with this, others would say if you fail to reach people’s expectations, it can help the person learn and try again. This is a valid point, however, if you disappoint someone’s expectations, it can cause indifference and cause them to stop trying to meet everyone’s expectations. Another opinion about stereotypes is that there are some positive and uplifting stereotypes. For example, the “all Asians are smart” stereotype. While this stereotype may seem positive, if there is an Asian who may not be as intelligent, it would make them feel unacceptable to society. Also, stereotypes could be biased to a group. The other people who aren’t included in the stereotype can become overlooked or feel like they’re being left out.

All in all, the negative effects of stereotyping could include failure and can cause one to hide who they truly are. The high standards of stereotype leaves people with unwelcomed frustration and disappointment. People do not show their real personality because they are afraid that they will be wrongly categorized into a stereotype. Meanwhile, some may think that some stereotypes are positive, but it is most likely only positive to a certain group causing the others to feel unwanted. The day I called that friend and figured out about the seventh grader made me realize the powerful effect of stereotypes. Hopefully, the future generations will ignore all different stereotypes and prevent them from being used so that they won’t have a similar situation as I did.


Prince, Karen. “The Good, the Bad, and the What of Stereotypes.” Taylor’s College 14 

May 2020

Stroessner, Steve and Good, Catherine. “What is Stereotype Threat.” Adapted by R. Rhys pp.10


It was an ordinary Tuesday morning. The sun shone through the cracks in the blinds. A light layer of frost covered the front yard. I regrettably got out of bed to eat breakfast. I got on the bus before arriving at the bane of my existence, school. I walked into my first class, math. Yuck! Students were piling into every classroom until the bell rang, and like magic, everyone disappeared into their rooms. 

“Good morning. How is everyone today?” Ms. Reed asked the class. “Remember, the math final is on Friday.” Many students groaned. “But you are all going to fail!” she cackled. “You were such a bad class that by October, I started teaching you wrong things. Y does not equal BM plus X. Now you are all going to fail this test and class.” Some students started crying or whining. Others were pulling out their phones and notes to fact check. But some of the lazy students (like me) just relaxed and started to talk to each other. 

“You can’t do this to us. I need to get into AP Applied Physics with calculus and quadratics next year,” Jane, the extreme overachiever, complained. 

“You are too smart and cocky. Your ego is even higher than your IQ level. By failing this test, you will have to graduate with everyone else instead of at fifteen. No more pre-accepted into Harvard and Oxford for you! Mwuahaha. Now you will be at everyone else’s level. Your GPA might even lower to a 3.9.”

“No!” Jane screamed, as if the sky were falling down. “I will report you or kill you.”

“Why are you doing this to us?” Will asked.

“Because you are all horrible students.” Ms. Reed connected her computer to the projector and opened up the digital grade book. She opened up Jane’s grades and started lowering it point by point. 100% became 99% and so on. Jane was screaming and crying like this was torture. 

Jane suddenly leaped onto Ms. Reed, scratching her with her nails. Some kids pulled Jane off of the teacher, but Jane was still fighting back. She grabbed one of her always sharp pencils and tried to stab Ms. Reed. 

“Stop! Stop! Stop!” Jane screamed, punctuating every word with a stab. “I hate you!” she screamed. 

“You should only be hating each other. You all did this to yourselves,” Ms. Reed said. 

“But I’m blaming you!” Jane screeched, pulling Ms. Reed out of her chair and pushing her to the ground. 

“If you want someone to blame, look behind you.” Ms. Reed looked at me. “You are the reason why everyone will fail because you are the worst student of them all.”

Jane tackled me, holding the pencil inches from my eye. 

“You are the reason I’m not going to Harvard. DIE!” She started jabbing me with the pencil. She grabbed the ginormous book she had to prepare for her college-level botany. She started to whack me with it. 

“I will smash your nonexistent brains!” she screamed, raining strikes on my head. 

It took five people to lift her up and throw her out of the classroom. Jane clawed at the door, kicking and screaming. 

“YOU WILL FAIL!” she screamed. 

Ms. Reed cackled. “You all will fail,” she said. We watched as she lowered all of our grades. We heard Jane wail from the hallway. 

“FBI. Do not move,” a woman on a megaphone said. FBI agents broke down the door and streamed in through the windows. “You are under arrest for emotional torture.” Ms. Reed was put in handcuffs.  

“Wait!” she said. “I only tortured the brown-noser.”

“GPA?” an agent asked. 

“4.9,” Jane said. 

“That’s impossible.”

“That’s what I thought,” Ms. Reed said. 

“What classes are you taking?” the agent asked Jane. 

“All APs, and I’m auditing courses at Harvard, Yale, and Oxford,” Jane answered proudly. 

“You are free to go, Miss. Sorry for the trouble.” They took the handcuffs off, and all the agents cleared out. 

“Good luck,” Ms. Reed said. She cackled like a witch. 

The Otherworld, Book IX: The Shadow Legion

Trigger Warnings

  • Death
  • Animal Death
  • Burning People (though not graphic)
  • Death of a Loved One


“Producat in flamma.” 

Clufa walked over to the edge of the cliff, a small flame flickering in her hands. 

“Junge currum suum fortitudinem.”

It began bouncing around her. Clufa didn’t mind. She was harnessing it, after all, so if it touched her, it would do nothing to her. She peered at the edge and saw the shadowy being.

Clufa didn’t bother to hide a small smile creeping across her face. She faced the man, and from behind her, she felt a cold chill. As she turned, Altzeroil let out a small breath.

“Facite hoc meum,” Clufa concluded. She grabbed the flame and, with a flick of her hand, an enormous flame appeared above her. She peered out to the edge of the cliff, and in an instant, she threw the flame towards the cliff. An\ huge explosion from the other side was heard, and Clufa could do nothing but grin.

As the smoke cleared, Hana walked over to the edge. A flower came onto her hand. She beamed at it. Clufa groaned, not having much more patience for her easily distracted little sister.

“Hana,” Clufa said through gritted teeth. “The wizard, remember?”

“Oh, um, right.” Hana quickly withdrew her flower. She stretched out her hand, and a large vine came from their cliff towards the other that Clufa had blown up.

Clufa heard a couple of shouts from the cliff, and she knew that they were planning on evacuating.

Altzeroil drew his staff, and instantly, a large trail of ice grew from their cliff to the other, creating two paths. They didn’t really need the paths, of course. Altzeroil was just doing that to be dramatic, because what would life be without that?

Altzeroil levitated from the ground and began floating to the other side. Hana followed on her own vines (she was the only one of the three who couldn’t fly), while Clufa, being the impatient brat she was, flew like a rocket to the other side. As soon as she got there, she found the closest human she could and grabbed their collar.

“Where is Divino?” hissed Clufa, a flame flickering in her hand, getting dangerously close to the human’s head.

“I — I know nothing!” cried the human. “Please, have mercy!”

“Mercy is for cowards,” Clufa hissed, and she dropped the human, letting him fall down through the fog. She faced the rest of the humans. “You have two opportunities: surrender Divino and die together, or I will destroy you all now and give you no chance to bid farewell to your loved ones.”

“Clufa, please!” Hana reached the cliff. “No one deserves to die alone.”

Clufa rolled her eyes. “Hana, just find Divino, and we’ll be over with this.”

Altzeroil reached the other side. He looked across the humans, grinning.

“Altzeroil, NO, we do not have TIME for this!” Clufa spat.

“Please, just one?” Altzeroil asked. “I haven’t tortured anyone in weeks, I want to torment just one of these humans.”

“Oh, Altzeroil, don’t be horrible,” hissed Hana. “These humans are merely trying to protect their home — they aren’t the ones we’re here for.”

“But if we can’t find him, what else are we going to do?” Altzeroil muttered. “We’ve been searching for weeks. I’m not in the mood to go looking again.”

“Then don’t,” a powerful voice echoed from the edge, and the three primordial wizards turned and saw Divino, standing with a strange magical aura surrounding him.

“Finally,” hissed Clufa, and she summoned her staff. “Occidere,” she said, and a blast of fire spewed from her staff and hit Divino… but his aura protected him.

Clufa roared in fury and flew over to him. She tried to manually strike him down, but the second she got too close, the aura around Divino blasted her backwards. She immediately got up.

“How is this possible?!” Clufa screamed. “You’re a MORTAL!”

“It seems we mortals are capable of more than you thought we were,” growled Divino. “Surrender, Shadow Legion, before I’m forced to use this.” He raised a small globe in his hand.

Clufa let out a small scoff. “You plan to trap us in the limbo dimension? Pathetic fool, don’t you know that we are the primordial wizards of the ELEMENTS? We cannot be defeated!”

“Correction — you can’t be killed,” said Divino. “You can, however, be defeated and locked away for millennia to come.”

“Then it seems all we must do is keep you from using that,” Altzeroil said with a grin. “From inside your protection aura, you are unable to use that thing. You must come outside to face us, and to do that, is to risk death.”

“Some things are worth risking,” snarled Divino, “so that you can’t bring out your genocidal apocalypse!”

“Your kind has abused the magic that we gave you,” growled Clufa. “You use it to torment other creatures and even some of your own kind. You do not deserve this power.”

“That’s hardly a valid excuse to destroy and remake everything!” Divino cried.

“Everything will be as it was, with one thing changed: you will no longer have magic,” Altzeroil explained. “Everyone will only be dead for a few moments, so calm down.”

“We can’t trust you, not after what you did,” Divino growled.

“Then get out of your shell and fight us!” Clufa yelled, more fire erupting from around her.

Hana hopped towards them, grinning.  A large vine carried her upwards, and she gazed down at her siblings and Divino.

Divino, to Clufa’s slight surprise, chanted an incantation and the aura around him vaporized.

Clufa wasted no time. She raised her staff and an enormous fire erupted from it, and it struck Divino.

However, Divino was prepared, and he conjured another shield to deflect her power as he conjured his item. Altzeroil noticed this, and flew over, attempting to grab it, but in the nick of time Divino grabbed Altzeroil and blasted him with the object.

Altzeroil was highlighted with white magic. He gave a yelp as his form suddenly vanished.

He’s in limbo, Clufa realized. That man… his magic worked!

“Altzeroil!” Hana cried, looking horrified.

Clufa let out a frustrated growl, but as she attempted to attack Divino once more, Divino leapt upward to Hana and attacked her with it too.

Hana immediately vanished as well and all her vines disappeared.

Clufa scoffed. “Looks like it’s just you, and me then. Once I destroy you, I will release my siblings,” she growled.

“If you destroy me,” corrected Divino.

“Or if I do,” another voice came from the sky, and Clufa looked up in time to see a woman encased in blue armor floating in the sky. She gazed down at them.


Zadus came down to the ground. As Divino launched at her, Zadus simply grabbed his arm and held her hand inches away from his neck, holding a spell in her hand. “Surrender, Divino. You can’t overpower me.”

“We cannot let you unleash the titans,” Divino said.

“And you think you’ll be able to stop me?” Zadus questioned, stepping closer. “May I remind you that I have the power of the cosmos?”

“Then your weakness is down here,” Divino said, and he blasted Zadus with the object. Of course, it did nothing, but the second Clufa went to attack Divino, he leapt at her and her magic hit Zadus instead, suddenly encasing her in amber.


“Perhaps it’s destiny,” Divino admitted. “Perhaps the time of the primordial wizards has come to an end.”

With one more blast, a ball of light hit Clufa in the chest. Clufa had the luxury of seeing her spirit shoot up to a space unknown as her body went completely limp.

When Clufa opened her eyes again, she was in some white room. She saw Altzeroil and Hana in the room as well.

“What — what happened?” growled Clufa. “Where are we?”

“We are in the limbo dimension,” Altzeroil answered. “That wretched wizard put our physical bodies in stasis and imprisoned us here… It will take us millions of years to return to the physical realm, if we are able to at all!”

“Then we will wait for millions of years,” Clufa declared. “Zadus has been imprisoned in amber, and she won’t be released until we release her. We will wait until the balance of magic has been altered, and then… we will break free.”

“You know, on the bright side, we have each other,” Hana interjected. “And we can still use our magic here, and it’s just the three of us! So we can be as chaotic as we want!”

“That does sound fun,” Altzeroil admitted. “What do you think, Clufa?”

“I think this will be a long prison sentence.”

Chapter 1

That was the end.

I guess not the end of the story, because, well, you’re still reading.

But that was the end of the reign of the Shadow Legion… at least for now.

See, my name is Ash. I was a sorceress who lived about three million years after the reign of the Shadow Legion and have lived for about two thousand years since. Lucky me, right?

Not exactly. Since apparently I was violating the rules of “disrupting connection between magic, risking releasing ancient beings, blah blah blah,” I was imprisoned… no, not in an alternate realm, but in my own house.

Exactly how humiliating can a defeat be, especially for a powerful sorceress? I personally can’t see how it could be any worse than this.

But I’ve been wrong before, so I really don’t know.

Anyway, you’ve probably read a bunch of other stories about stuff like heroes saving their world from some kind of big threat that’s going to cause catastrophe, and the heroes are flawless and perfect snowflakes who are never questioned and always save the day.

And you probably find that annoying, don’t you?

Well, if you do, I have good news for you! I’m not biased towards the winning side. If you really want to know why books are always so biased towards the heroes, it’s because they’re the ones who won. But here I am, someone who lost, with no hint of bias towards those who’ve won!


Because, as you can guess, I’m a little irritated with how my life has turned out!!!

You know, trapped in my house, forced to give anyone who wanders here some blessed magic powers so that they can think they’re some precious little snowflake who has done no wrong.

But anyway, enough of that. I did my research, I stalked the limbo realm… and I know about the Shadow Legion. And I can tell you about them because I’m sure you’re wondering: what exactly happened to them? And is there any chance that they could come back?

In short, they were trapped in limbo to keep them from becoming titans and remaking the Fantiverse, and yes, there’s a very good chance that they’ll come back because a magical connection was severely altered in another world.

If you want a more detailed explanation of what’s happened, well, that’s what I’m here for.

So yeah. The Shadow Legion.

Clufa, Altzeroil, and Hana started by redecorating the limbo realm, at least the part of it they were imprisoned in. I guess they figured if they were going to be imprisoned there, they might as well make it just a little bit hospitable.

They each stuck to their own corner most of the time (except Hana, who had literally no regard for personal space, and honestly, I respect her for that) but had meetings in the center and often could temporarily break the connection between their plane of existence and the physical realm by communicating with those below.

Yes, limbo is above the physical realm. Don’t ask me why, I have no idea.

Anyway, so a couple of things happened in the million years they were imprisoned — namely that they did a LOT of manipulating.

And I mean, A LOT. All of them, even the temperamental Clufa, were pretty much experts by the end.

Perhaps I should give a couple of examples?

Well, here’s one.

(Please pardon the way it’s written, I was just taking notes on what was happening, so it’s written in script form.)


Daemones magnanime nomini tuo me benedicite mihi scientiam.

A large pile of smoke appears, and from it, a shadow that is shaped like CLUFA appears. The shadow is orange, with a redhead and yellow limbs.


Greetings, young wizard, and thank you for communicating with us. It’s been so long since we’ve had contact with those from the world below.


It’s an honor to meet you, master of the flame.


The flame is an art anyone can learn, but it is true that I am the creator of it.

CLUFA bounces around a couple of flames in her shadow form to show what she’s doing.


I’ve summoned you to ask: how may I topple the Wizarding Committee?


(scoffs) So there’s a wizarding committee now? Love that these pathetic humans pretend they’re the ones in control of the magic and try to hide that they have primordial wizards lurking over them right now.


Indeed; I wish to topple them, and take control of this world.


I can help you, and I’d rather you than the Wizarding Committee rule. But may I ask just why do you think you’re worthy of this?


Because I’ve studied magic for far longer than they have, and I work hard to learn it for myself rather than greedily taking it from others.


You’d be a step up from them, I’ll give you that, little cat. Just what kind of animal are you?


Tiger, technically, though most just call me a cat.


Yes, I can see that.




Hana, shhh, I’m TALKING to someone, and we have to make a good IMPRESSION. PLEASE go back to your corner and… play with plants or something.


But… but it’s a CAT!


Just summon a cat of your own! Can’t you do that?




Well… can’t you make a sculpture of one?




Ugh, fine, come on.

HANA’s shadow appears in the smoke. Her’s is green all over with a few lighter shades of green in her limbs and head.




Um… hello I guess.


Okay, you saw the cat, now please go. 

CLUFA pushes HANA away, and her smoke disappears.


Hi. Sorry. My sister’s crazy about cats. Runs in the family, I guess, since cats are one of the only species my brother doesn’t like torturing.


That is… um… quite alright. ANYWAY. I’ve been told that you can bless others with your power.


You’ve been told correctly.


Well, I want to know if you can do that. If you can give me that power.


Can I? Yes. Will I? Maybe. It depends on what you do for me.


What can I do for you?


I am currently in the limbo realm, and I need an external force to help me escape. That’s where you come in.




Yes. You must alter the balance of magic so that the barrier between limbo and the physical realm is shattered — only for a brief moment, mind you — but enough for three demigods to escape.


You’re demigods?


Well, we call ourselves that, but, technically we weren’t born to a god or a human, so… JUST LISTEN TO ME!


Yes, of course, um, sorry.


Now, I will bless you with some of my flames, and you may be my host. With this power, you must destroy the Wizarding Committee.


Hold up, hold up, what do you mean, ‘host’?


I mean, the Shadow Legion can use any willing sorcerer as their host if they’re in limbo, to shatter the barrier between worlds. That is what I plan on doing with you, but I need two others.


Fortunately, I know where to find two others. But why should we believe you?


How else do you plan on getting this power?


Hmm. Very well. Grant me your strength.

So yeah.

That’s all I remember from that scene because a bunch of humans came and asked for a bit of magic, and of course, I had no choice but to say yes because of this ANNOYING CURSE THAT KEEPS ME HERE FOR ETERNITY.

Anyway, I suppose that leads into a little of what happened, right? Clufa eventually possessed Freiza and used her to start creating havoc in the Wizarding World (the planet in which that was located).

But there is a lot more to this story. Why? Because many unexpected things happened on the journey.

For one thing, the Wizarding Committee was, in fact, toppled, but not because of Clufa or Freiza. It was because of the citizens of Tulgey Wood, who waged a massive attack, allying with Gnome and Cat Island in order to achieve this. It resulted in two major casualties (not counting the Wizarding Lord, whose death was the goal).

As you can imagine, it caused some shaking of the realms, but not enough.

It wouldn’t be until several weeks later that a true shaking would occur…

Chapter 2

Ah. You again.

You certainly are hungry for more information?

Greedy human.

Assuming you’re human, of course. I really don’t know at this point. Last week I heard that a strange creature with purple eyes and black fur was the one who struck down the Wizarding Lord at the cost of his own life.

Guess that means more than just humans have large intelligence now?

Not that humans are very smart, of course.

Anyway, I won’t jump to any conclusions, and I’ll just give you what you came for.

So a few things happened in the three weeks before they were released. Some external things involving Clufa manipulating her way into getting out with her siblings, but I must say, much to my surprise, observing these demons actually turned out to be a really interesting character study!

I almost feel like I’m watching a movie when I’m watching Clufa, Altzeroil, and Hana all together (maybe a horror drama sitcom? I don’t know), because their interactions and clashing personalities are just delightful.

Take one night, for instance.

Clufa was conjuring some kind of magic aura that was causing tension in limbo. Guess she thought that would lead to some magic misconnections, but if she actually read the books like her brother did, she’d know that would be pointless, as nothing that happened in limbo impacted the world below.

As she was doing this, she was suddenly interrupted by a large bush that took the shape of a cat, that suddenly pounced on Clufa, and bounced off her, destroying her incantation.

Clufa growled in frustration.

“Sorry!” cried Hana, running by Clufa, chasing after the cat. “Lost pet!”

“Hana, what did you do?!” Clufa barked.

“I finally learned how to bring things to live!” Hana answered enthusiastically. “I created a cat, made of leaves! He’s now my best friend ever and for all eternity!”

“Well, can you please just take it away from here?” demanded Clufa. “I’m trying to cause balance shifts from here!”

“You realize that’s pointless?” Altzeroil questioned sassily. “Nothing that happens here impacts the physical realm. We can cause an earthquake, and the physical realm will be untouched.”

“Well, it’s worth a shot, since no one else is trying anything!” Clufa responded irritably. “Now, WAIT.” She closed her eyes and spread her arms out. “Omnis virtus mea, et adducere magicae.”  A yellow string appeared between Clufa’s hands. She began circling her hands around each other, as the string began vibrating. “Utere ea ut conteram nos.” She began levitating, and when she opened her eyes, they were glowing. She looked down and brought her hands inches apart. The string turned into a ball. “Claustra perrumpere!”

Clufa threw the magic ball down the limbo barrier, but it simply bounced off and hit Clufa in the head as though it was a basketball. Clufa fell down, clutching her head, as the ball evaporated. Her eyes stopped glowing.

“Clufa!” yelped Hana, hopping over to her sister. “Are you alright?”

“I’m… I’m fine,” Clufa answered, shaking off the pain in her forehead.

“As I said,” muttered Altzeroil, levitating down, “that was pointless. It got you hurt, and it could have gotten one of us hurt.”

“What have you been doing?” Clufa demanded, getting up. “I’ve been trying to get us all out of here, you’ve just been floating around your precious ice palace and reading stuff, being a nerd!”

“That’s a compliment,” Altzeroil replied with a sly smile.

“IT’S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE!” Clufa roared, losing her temper again, and a bunch of fire erupted around her. She levitated into the air, glaring sharply at Altzeroil.

“Clufa, calm down,” Altzeroil told her. “You’ll burn Hana’s things, which isn’t very polite.”

Clufa muttered as she levitated down and the fire died away. Clufa walked away to sulk her magma fortress.

“Um… was it something I said?” asked Hana, nervously clutching her cat.

“No, dear,” replied Altzeroil, floating back to his ice palace. “It’s no one’s fault.”

Fun, right?

Clufa was constantly throwing temper tantrums, yet at the same time was the most productive of them all, Hana had the IQ of a rat while she was probably the nicest of them all (not saying much), and Altzeroil was the sassy best friend who thinks he’s better and more chill (get it?) than everyone.

It was almost like being in limbo brought the best out of these people, which is interesting, because personally, I became a lot more insane while in this prison. I used to be much more level-headed, I guess you could say (though the people who imprisoned me here will probably tell you otherwise). Now, I’m pretty chaotic, so yay. They’ve gotten a lot closer and developed more antics. I guess not being alone definitely served a role in it.

Anyway, guess you’re done with all this “FUN FUN” stuff and want to get to the actual interesting stuff.

Fine, you cranky person.

Later, though. I need to get my sleep. Goodbye.

Opal Shore

“You’re going to be late for work!” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hey, mommy look, look!” 

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

A beach motorcycle rides up behind me. Great timing. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screw it!

I grab the buoy and stand up. 

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

I throw my sunglasses in Boss’ chest. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

(Bold is the stage directions.)

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


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

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

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

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

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

(Jesse stops pacing.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Louder typing sounds.)

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I suppose I should.”

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

Here lies the mortal remains of Evner Leroy Dubs


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

Dubsy will be missed.

PERSEPHONE / Wake of A Dark Rose


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

An obsession, as you’ve said before.

Problems and struggles and flaws and fault

When really, 

What is fault, when everything has two sides? 

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

Existence of something so realistic

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

That’s how they describe normality 

Not like we ever fit that anyways.

Dial the pinned number on your phone,

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

But those scars came from cuts;

Cuts that healed over time and bandages made of paper,

Paper that was bound to end in flames.

Homes in each other,

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

Built up galaxies that were always bound to crumble.

Like you, like how you are, 

Collapsing on yourself like a brittle shell,

A white globe descending through time.

For it’s so easy for those

Numbers, gliding through zeros and stages of life.

Because that’s what life is;

Are you what life is? 

A number and some vertical ovals on a page, 

A ripped-out love note on a paper, 

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


A thorned, romanticised flower, 

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

A figure that left her keeper

Nipping at shadowy, aching heels 

While you kick dust into the air behind them 

And I inhale it, over and over again, 


I do it for you.


I make mistakes, 

and you

Claim that I challenge you, but really,

Do I scare you? 

Are the cuts on your upper arms fears, 

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

Will you tell people that they’re my fault? 

Or are you just afraid of being wrong? 

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

Really, I’m the we that’s afraid, 

Because the other is you.
And in our reality, 

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

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

The Musical Connection

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Multi Regional Theory of Human Evolution

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Woman in the Moon

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

—a lit candle in a yawning abyss—

—a campfire that casts as many shadows as light—

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

Light. But swallowed up by darkness.

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

I squeeze the stone The Goodmother gave me at dinner.

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

—but The Goodmother knows best—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No one would want me. 

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

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

Any scrap of luck.

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

—you could run away, already halfway—

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

—shards waiting to break—

—a giant pearl weighting the center of a necklace—

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

—a compass? a wheel of time—

—a spinning wheel creaking above and below the water—

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


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

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

—one celestial object is so like another—

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

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

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

—yellow stardust—

—is this magic?—

My palm fills with golden powder. 

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

The moon glows, alight with fire, above me. 

—a paper lantern, finally lit—

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

—this is magic—

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

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

—a tree that has burst from an acorn—

—a blinding light after days of slumber—

—it is me, I am magic—

It is terrible. Who am I? 


I gasp and cry the tears I stored inside when I 

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

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

—couldn’t succeed—

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

—or will she?—

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

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

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

—no sunlight either—

—heavens above I have to hide—

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

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

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

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

—but there’s no one to cry for—

—no one to see and no one to care—

—not a person worth caring for—

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

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

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

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

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

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

—little old me—

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

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

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

—any scrap of luck—

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

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

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

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

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

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

and I think of the moon,

—glowing bright and soft and hot—

—hot, hot, hot, I feel it—

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

I nod impatiently and creep toward the trees. 

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

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

—lots of praying tonight—

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

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

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

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

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

—wait what—

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

—too late to close my eyes—

—death by a bear would have been mercy—

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

—banish the orange beast—

—do something—

—the moon—

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

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

—well what should I have done—

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

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


My heart clenches. “But I am magic!”

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

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

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

—the slap of rejection—

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

—o to be gathered up as efficiently, lovingly—

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


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

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

The Shadows. 

—I’m desperate and cold and aimless—

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

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

I’m in too deep now.

—jumped off this cliff a while ago—

“Whatever you’re trying to do . . . ” I pause. “My magic can help. I can summon rain, wind, fire—make plants grow, anything.” 

—nothing left to lose—

“You want to overthrow the government? I can burn it all down,” I rasp. 

The leader frowns. He turns to a fair woman just behind him and whispers hurriedly. She nods eagerly, casting hungry eyes over me. Finally: 

“We can use you. My name is Kai, and that’s Rafiya.” A nod toward the blond woman. “Welcome to the Shadows.” Rafiya helps me onto her horse, settles behind me, and whips us into a gallop. 

We ride north, hugging the river, for most of the night. I don’t know where I am going, and I don’t care. The grim black sky and stinging wind blind me

—and my judgment—

but I keep up with the group. I’m wanted here, maybe for all the wrong reasons, and it is enough. They promise me a roof and a bed, companions to chase away my loneliness, so I’ll do anything they ask. 

—morality has stolen too much of my life for me to heed it now—

When the sun rises, it does so over a ramshackle village and, not too far off, a large, tall building of white stone, boasting turrets capped with gold. Clueless about any geography outside of the Hall, I raise my eyebrows at Rafiya. 

“It’s the Governor’s palace.” She leans closer and whispers, “You’ll kill her. We have a few things to teach you first, but if you do this for us, we will officially accept you as a Shadow.” I’m dazed but weary, so I nod. 

The Shadows have been scouting the palace of the current Governor, Nette Flysalle, for weeks. Their planted agent lets me into the kitchen through the palace’s back door, along with the local baker when he makes his daily bread delivery. He whispers hurried instructions to me as he stirs onion soup—how many lefts and rights I must make to reach Nette’s receiving room, where she will be alone and ready to receive petitioners. He slips me a maid’s uniform, which I pull over yesterday’s white robes. 

I’m counting my left turns as I scurry down the plush carpeted corridors when someone pokes me in the shoulder. Whirling around, I see Rafiya in a costume similar to mine. She presses a finger to her lips and taps her dagger at her hip, mouthing just in case as she follows me. I contemplate whether the dagger is for Nette or for me as I race around the last turn and ease open the waiting red door

—why is the goodmother here?—

“Where is the Governor?” I scan the room frantically, noting possible escapes: there are no windows. There is a skylight, but the ceiling’s too high to reach. 

The Goodmother laughs. “There is no Governor. We at the Hall are blessed by Anli Herself. Heaven would not want any other ruler of this country.” She steps toward me, poised and calculating. “I’m only telling you all this because you’ll soon have no one to tell except your fellow inmates in Hell.” 

I press a shoulder against the doorframe and gesture with my hidden hand to Rafiya. I hope I correctly make the shape she taught me a few hours ago: a warning to hang back, and get help. “You’re sure I’m going to Hell?” I toss out, listening for Rafiya’s footsteps to fade away. 

“I have sensed something off about you since your childhood. As you grew, that manifested as a nocturnal sleep cycle, a fascination with the library’s moon myths. An irreverence for Anli, and for my authority. Oh yes, you tried to hide it! But I knew you failed your magic classes because you had the wrong kind of magic.” 

Maybe before I would have cared. Now her words are rote, targeting the approval-seeking person that has slipped farther and farther away from my consciousness. I walk toward her and snarl, “If I can’t kill you, maybe they will.”

With beautiful timing, Rafiya, Kai, and the other Shadows appear in the doorway, knives gleaming in different parts of their clothing. “Finish it now!” I hear someone crow.

The old woman changes tactics. “You know you want to belong. Come home. Only I understand you. These rebels only want to use you—I sent you to them so you could realize this. Kill these rebels to show your loyalty, and we can overlook your taint.” 

She has set up this whole situation—my encounter with the rebels in the woods, my flee to them after the Ceremony, my presence here to kill a nonexistent Governor. 

—the most skilled weaver—

—engineering us all into place—

I turn to the rebels. Kai says impatiently, “It’s not true. You’d rather be with us than this manipulator. We don’t believe in rejection. Now kill her.” But his eyes are wide, and Rafiya’s knuckles are white. They fear me. 

I step back, so I can see both sides at once. My heart squeezes and prompts me to imagine, just once, what life as a Hall inductee would be like. I’d finally be able to join in on games like flip the coin, where one had to do so only by controlling the air around the coin. I could live and die cushioned inside that community. 

—they would never accept me—

—even with the Goodmother’s sanction, all of them will always distrust my power—

What about life with the rebels? With one killing blow, I’d win their approval. They have already welcomed me. I could put my fighting skills to good use, help them end the Hall’s iron-fisted reign over the land. We might go hungry, but always together. I may not grow old, living in such danger, but I would live fully. A hardscrabble life softened by company. 

—if I were powerless they would eat me for breakfast—

—they don’t even know my name—

If I kill the Goodmother, I choose the Shadows. If I kill the Shadows, I choose the Goodmother. The thought spins in my head.

—simple math—

“I choose the good and righteous side. For all that I’ve railed on morality, it still lives inside of me,” I say, as much to myself as to my audience. “I’ll kill nobody.” 

—the shadows aren’t heroes, nor is the goodmother—

—my life is not black and white—

—my life is not a fairytale—

—my life is Mine.—

I stop speaking, but my thoughts are pounding-loud, reverberating in my head. 

I choose my side. I don’t care if I’m alone. My conscience can keep me company. And I choose not to be lonely, but happy.

“I choose myself.”

The skylight glass shatters, revealing the pale dawn sky. The moon and the sun twinkle in tandem, in this intermediary between night and day. The forever-full moon calls to me once more.

I let myself answer.

I dissolve out of my worldly body and reach the moon.

And that’s why the moon has phases. 

Oh, did I skip ahead again?

And that’s why people see a man in the moon. It’s actually me. The moon seems a cold place, but it’s quite warm up here. Perhaps a bit pale and empty, but it’s not so lonely. 

I am not unwanted either—rather, quite in demand. The witches distrusted my power, while the rebels lusted for it. Either way, they urged me to hoard it and hide it. But the ordinary people, the ones who seek a pinch of magic in small miracles—

I help them. My magic melts off the moon in small bits and pieces. Every time my territory melts away completely, their faith in the power of the moon—

—light in the darkness—

Restores it. Mortals are a thankful lot, even for the little help I can give them: in puzzle pieces with corners broken off, in small drops of magic swirling down different drains, in wrinkles ironed out. In broken shards reformed into souls.

And these souls may grow old and grey, but they will always understand the Moon. And me, Su-enna. I will be here for them. I will still be here for the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren, who have heard the stories. 

Now I watch. I wait. I feel. 

—I give myself away.—

Why Do We Dream?

We dream because we all have some sort of imagination. Usually, dreams aren’t exactly what we want to dream about. People say we can control what we dream, but actually, we can’t. Dreams come unexpectedly and randomly. Sometimes we don’t have a dream at all. I have an imagination but that doesn’t necessarily mean I have a dream every single night. Some nights I do, but forget about them, other nights I have but remember them.

When we don’t have a dream, we are usually in the dark until we wake up. This can cause people to oversleep. It’s happened to me many times within time, you will wake up. Don’t worry too much about not being able to get out.

Sometimes our real-life expertise comes through to us in our dreams meaning some of these dreams are connected to our real-life (mostly thoughts buried in our head). Others are just uncommon and unexpected but most of the time, you dream about things you keep buried in your head. You can inflate your dreams by knowing you control what you do in this world. You may not be able to control your dreams but you can control what you do. You can also do abnormal things in the dream world that can’t be done in the actual world.

People stumble in the dream world a lot because it’s not what’s expected for certain people. Some people may think the dream world is like the real world but it’s not, even if they have dreams that could actually happen in real life. You can also confuse your real life with your dream if you dreamt about something that could’ve happened in the near future.

Many people in dreams give themselves the opportunity to look for love and decide to take their dreams to the next level: making out with someone in their dreams. It can get real horny and I’d like to warn people in advance but it wouldn’t be fun to wake up with a wet bed, just sayin’.

You can be a candidate for whatever you want in the dream world since it’s not like the normal world. It won’t affect your work routine in the real world. Dreams don’t make people tired unless they’re a nightmare and terror drains their energy. People usually feel fresh in the mornings after their dream and usually happy because something they’ve always wanted happened in their dream.

In conclusion, I’d just like to say to not be scared of what you dream of. Flow with it if it’s a good dream and take the opportunity to enjoy it. If it’s a bad dream, try to stay calm for if you wake yourself up, you’ll know it’s fake. However, real-life nightmares can occur and can scare you for a while. Good luck dreamers, don’t let your imagination run away with you!

The End


“frank? frank!

my entire life, summed up into two short words, written in sharpie against my white bedroom walls.

i think that’s what they hate the most. the shortness, the stillness of it. the ink that dried too quickly and the words that were missing too many letters. the blood that rushed to my head and the gravity that pulled the marker away from me, onto the ground.

i’m sorry.

they’re angry with me, even if they pretend that they aren’t. maybe they wish i had more to say, more of an apology than just the words:

i’m sorry.

when i think about it now, i have more to say. i could’ve written pages and pages about it, explaining why i did what i did. but sometimes things are better when they’re simpler. sometimes i don’t need the whole world to try and analyze my mind. 

the only reason why i make so many mistakes is so that the skeletons in my closet won’t be lonely. but i didn’t tell them this, won’t tell them this. instead, all i left behind was a measly i’m sorry. it’s better than nothing, i guess.

still, they hate me. i know that they do. but i can’t really blame them. i hate me, too.

i felt like a jellyfish that day, or a ghost. something that you can’t hold on to. i couldn’t even hold on to myself.


i spent two weeks in the hospital last month. four days were for me, in a stiff white bed with no company but the ceiling and the tubes and the nurse who poured me orange juice every morning. the remaining ten days were for my dad, sitting beside him in a plastic fold-up chair, listening to his even breathing as he climbed over the edge of life. he died surrounded by what he loved most, the woman he pretended that he could still call his wife and half-empty cans of beer.

he was a nice person, i think. he was just good at not being himself.

he’s in a better place now. and if you ever want to talk about it… if you ever need me, just know that i’m here. i’m here for you. we’re here for you. you’re not alone. 

it’s going to be okay.

it probably is going to be okay, but i wish it could be more than that. i wish that things would be how they used to be. i wish that things could be summed up more than just “okay” and “i’m sorry.”

the last night as a patient in the hospital was the worst. i shared a room with a six-year-old girl. she talked a lot, mostly to herself but also to me. she told me about the pet rats in her bedroom who chewed holes into the sunlit yellow paint that coated the walls and died. some nights, she’d crawl over to my side of the room and just cry, but i never said anything when she did. that was the worst part about being upset — people just wouldn’t leave you alone. i couldn’t tell what she was thinking. maybe it’s better off that way.  

monday, 1:37am. i wish that i had learned her name.

my dad died on a thursday at half past twelve with so much alcohol in his veins that they couldn’t tell how much of it was blood and how much of it was whiskey. i wasn’t there that night like i was all the other nights, like i was that monday thirty-seven minutes after one in the morning. i wasn’t there as he faded into nothing, silent as ever, no one noticing that he was truly gone until my mother turned over to give him a glass of water and didn’t even hear a whimper of protest in return.

he was half dead when they first found him on that day, face down in a puddle of unrecognizable fluids. they spent ten days trying to revive him, wasting their energy on a man who was too far gone to even care. 

i don’t miss him, and yet i wish that he was still here. ryan doesn’t believe me. she thinks that i do miss him, somewhere inside, and maybe she’s right. but maybe she’s wrong.

ryan visited me twice when i was there. she brought a plant with her the first time, a small cactus she named albert that had allegedly lived for fifteen years, but no one really believed her about that, especially because after a few days of living on my windowsill, albert was no longer looking very healthy.

it’s fine. everything’s fine.


there is no air here. i can’t tell if it’s actually as stuffy as i think it is — maybe it’s just all the flowers lined up against the wall, little goodbyes and sorry’s but mostly just dying flowers of what they think is sympathy.

goodbyes to a dead man. how ironic. shouldn’t he be the one saying goodbye?

people are staring, but no one says anything. maybe they feel as out of place as i do. maybe they’re pretending just for me.

my mom leans over towards me. she doesn’t reach for my hand, but i feel her breath, warm and sticky on my neck as she says, “are you okay?”

i nod. 

the breath moves away like it had never been there at all. i don’t look up. i don’t look anywhere. time keeps moving, moving on and moving away and i am still, not still enough to not be noticed, but still enough to fade into the background. 

there is no air here, and yet the atmosphere still smells of who he used to be and the dust that floats by me but not in the way i want it to. and everything is so quiet, their words tiptoeing around me, but it still feels too loud and i know this only because my head feels like it’s going to explode. 

it doesn’t.

my mom hovers over my shoulder again, pressing fingers into my palms and words into my ears but really all it is is noise.

“are you okay?” she asks again. this time i turn to face her. “frank?”

“yeah.” something crawls up into my throat and pulls down at my flesh, down my neck and my spine and my wrists. it’s racing up and down my chest and down into my stomach, and i feel like i might throw up. everything is glued to me. the hair on my forehead, the shirt on my back, and the rows and rows of eyes watching me, waiting to see what the dead man’s son has to say about his decaying body.

i cough into my sleeve, the cloth warm over my chin. another layer of fear.

“frank, are you sick? you’re not getting sick, are you?” she reaches up to my face and presses a palm to my forehead, pulling away after a few moments of prodding. “you feel sweaty,” she says. 

“it’s hot here,” i tell her. “it’s too hot here. and stuffy.”

“maybe you are getting sick,” my mother contemplates to herself, reaching up to my skin again. she looks worried. i didn’t mean to make her worried. “but you feel okay… ”

“because i am.”

her eyebrows curl up and form little creases on her face. “you’re pale,” she tells me anxiously. “maybe you should go lie down somewhere.” she digs into her pockets and pulls out a pack of napkins, our alternative to regular tissues when i was kid. i cough into halloween, into rainbow birthday cake, into christmas and pearly black new year’s balloons and sparkly fourth of july. i shove the crumpled up celebratory paper deep into the pocket of my jacket.

“is ryan here?” i ask, searching through the sea of people for a tiny head of green. “did you see her?”

“uh, no, i don’t think so.” she shoves the words out of her mouth quickly to reassure me, and then shoves me forward a bit along with them. i wobble towards the back of the room near the door and into a cheap plastic chair. “you should rest, until she gets here at least.”

“you’ll wake me up when — ”

“yes, yes, okay? i’ll wake you up when she’s here, now go.”

i go. what else can i do?

she wanders off to talk to who i assume are relatives. i recognize a few of them but most i don’t. even from here, i don’t need to hear what they are saying to know what they are telling her. one of them looks familiar, an old woman with bracelets that sing like cymbals as they tangle themselves around her wrists, and this one leans forward to enclose my mother in a hug.

she barely knows him. she barely knew him. why does she get to care? why can’t i?

they’re always asking, and i never tell.

how are you feeling, frank? after what happened… ”

nothing. i feel nothing.

“i’m doing okay.”

i feel less than this woman with a face that looks a bit like everyone else’s, a woman who had probably had only spoken to my father once in her life. and still she brought flowers. and still she feels bad.

she feels bad.

i feel nauseous.

suddenly i can’t sit still anymore, and it’s like the bats that have been breeding in my stomach have blossomed and burst out and i can hear nothing and everything all at once.

i shift out of my seat and slip out the door where no flowers wilt, no chairs are stacked, and most importantly, no people are huddled. the air feels cool on my skin for a moment until another wave of heat crashes against me, and i realize that i’m shaking. i move back to steady myself against the building. it helps just as much as i expect it to, which is not at all. my head is still spinning.

no one is here. no one is watching. usually that would make me feel better, but right now it isn’t.

breathe, i tell myself. an ant crawls up against the back of my arm. breathe.

i’m going to throw up. i know i am. i know i am, breathe, breathe — 

“frank?” a voice calls from behind me. i turn around for a moment to see a head of green and brown hair, scan all the way down to her feet with curly shoelaces, the ones that match mine.

and there it is. it all pours out of me, more bats and more stomach acid, and even though i knew it was coming, it still takes me by surprise.

“oh, frank.” she edges towards me slowly. no touching, no touching. she knows this already. of course ryan knows. “hey,” she says. “it’s alright.”

“not really.” i cough out more bats. then, i wipe my mouth with the napkins in my jacket pocket. the party poppers and confetti and balloons are ruined.

“can i… ?” ryan questions, and i nod, so she pulls my hand into hers and we tumble into the grass. there are ants crawling all over us, swarming us, or at least it feels like that. i ask her if she feels them, if she feels them all over us, suffocating us, and she shakes her head in return.

“nope,” ryan says. “no ants. just us. just you and me.”

“oh.” i take a deep breath, but it doesn’t seem to sink in. “good. that’s good. i like it better like that.”

“me too.”

i am floating on this twin sized mattress, on this bed of grass, and i am listening to the water. i am just an accessory. i am just a footnote to someone else’s happiness. maybe that’s all i’ve ever wanted. maybe that’s all i’ll ever get.

it is/was/will be. and that is enough.

“are you okay now?”

i think before i answer. “i, um, i guess so.” i’m breathing again. the bare minimum but it still counts. ryan tells me so. we listen to our breaths for a few more moments before she speaks again.

“do you want to go in?” she asks, pointing to the door behind us. 

no. i don’t want to see him.

no. “okay.”


the hospital again. it smells the same and looks the same, but this time it feels different. there is no commotion outside in the hall, where my dad is still half alive. there is no nurse with orange juice, no roommates. nothing. it is quiet and for the first time, i wish that it wasn’t.

i look up at ceiling where there is no fan spinning like the one in my bedroom. instead, there is a spider, and the way its legs move reminds me of a fan a bit, or maybe everything reminds me of everything. maybe i just want to go home.

i do.

i wonder if anyone will come visit me this time. i wonder if anyone will bother at all to go down to the pharmacy across the street where they sell those pink balloons with the bears on them, where they used to sell holiday napkins except now they don’t anymore. i wonder if my mom is at home and if she’s thinking about me at all. if ryan’s thinking about me at all. i wish for a moment that she didn’t know about what happened, about what i did.

the door squeaks open, and something jumps up in my chest as a woman in a white coat pushes her way in, and i know that my eyes are traveling down to her shoes, looking for laces that curl but they aren’t there. this isn’t who i want it to be.


The sky is an endless path for Apollo to trek

his glorious reign flushes my face

I promise myself I can do anything

as the strings binding me unwind

flying with blue kites

chasing down Apollo

New leaves grow on hedges

peeking into the world

when autumn returns

the gardener will drive back

and they will fall like snow

barely given a chance

But I promise myself the moon is touchable

as I watch it slip away

staying shielded by tickling grass

The dark lit up by a thousand little fires

I wait

for a reason to drop from Apollo’s chariot

into my open palms


and if not, then raindrops

to hide my tears

Autumn comes and touches my face

with burning leaves stumbling towards their demise

Smile, child, she whispers

I’ll prove you can do anything

and I’ll put on a porcelain smile

knowing Apollo is tired too

stepping forwards, waving goodbye

to an endless season

Life and Why We Live It: An Essay On Reality

What is death? To some, it is an ultimate end. They believe there is nothing more. Others believe in some sort of afterlife. This afterlife is usually perceived as in the sky, or underground. Sometimes, it uses two locations. Some believe death is nothing but a new beginning. They believe they will be reborn as something else, depending on their life. But if some know that there is another life, or some sort of better afterlife, why do they want to live? What is the driving force that makes us want to continue? 

People love experiences. An unforgettable experience is not what helps, though. It is the pursuit of those experiences that is important. Which would help one continue more: going skydiving, or wanting to go skydiving? Once one has the experience, they will need something new to chase. One also can’t want something and then not take it when they have the chance. If they actually wanted to do it, it would make them feel scared. If they didn’t really want it, this would force them to think more about what keeps them going. When a goal is completed, the person will need a new goal that is going to keep them going. This goal can be anything, from making the perfect pastry to committing the perfect crime. However, these goals are temporary. After some time, the goal will be completed. Then, one will need a new driving force.

Another thing that can keep one alive is a hobby. Just doing something can help you love life. First, you have to love it. Then, one has to do it at least once a day, with a structure. If one can do it at any time of day, that person will inevitably not do it at least once. This is the road to collapse. One time leads to two times and before you know it you’re only doing your hobby once a week. One main thing this plan needs to succeed is the constant enactment of this force. Consistency is the key to success. Also, this has to be a good hobby. It can’t be something bad for you, because you will eventually realize this and stop to think about it. If you continue, then you will always second-guess the reason you’re living. If you decide to stop, you will need a new hobby. You must make sure your hobby is here to stay. If your hobby turns out to be a fad, you will be forced to like something that is uncool. Imagine making your hobby Pokémon Go when that was a thing. In three months, you would be an outcast for liking a bad game.

Another lifeline could be love. I would strongly advise against this, because love isn’t always forever. People break up, and then where will you be? Also, loving someone, and being consumed by that love, can make one seem clingy. This will lead to even less success. But say it works. You get married and live happily ever after… not. Half of all marriages end in divorce. Having loving someone be the only thing you do and then having that love crushed would be soul-crushing. Also, say in your pursuit of love you do something wrong. If your views of love are twisted enough, you can be committing sexual harassment. Even if everything works, eventually your spouse dies. Imagine having the person you care about most die and tell me you still think love is a good idea. Too many things can go wrong and are known to go wrong. Humans are just too unpredictable. Find a Plan B.

There is one more paradigm toward life: hatred. One can be sustained by the ultimate dislike of others. First, your hatred must be absolute and ultimate. Second, your hatred must have a target. I would suggest a small, focused target, like a person. However, a larger hatred for an ideal can also work. Some would prefer a larger target, because there are more things to hate. I prefer a specific thing, because acting on that hatred can be more satisfying. Either way, hatred is considered wrong. Your whole life plan may be put into question. You will also question it, which is never good. Hatred does provide a very strong motivation to continue, but that motivation may be found evil. While you may not think this, others will. This makes hatred not the best motivator. Goals and hobbies are much better, but you are better off hating than loving.

Each of the above plans to motivate life has its own merits, but they are best when combined. Having a good hobby that also offers goals can be truly rewarding. Hating someone can be a hobby if you do it every day. Your goal could even be to put down another because of your hatred. Love used in conjunction with other plans can provide results ranging from having a bad time to getting arrested, but one can still love. The love just has to be separate. Love can be extremely motivating if you also have a hobby to fall back on. Using multiple plans is important, so one has a backup plan. It can soften the blow of loss. Each plan has individual merit, but each one shines even brighter when combined with the rest. Making a motivation plan can be motivating in and of itself. This is the final step toward excellence. Wanting to want can be just as good as wanting. It is the ultimate goal, because it is constantly being achieved and reset. In conclusion, life will continued to be lived, but each person chooses why they live it.


I Am Still Alone:

She thinks she knows 

He thinks he understands 

Yet I am still alone 

“Everyone has experienced that”

“Trust me it is normal” 

They say and walk away 

They say they love 

It is said that they care 

I remain alone. 

In the dark corner of my mind I remain

They say 

“I’m always here”

But there is no one

I see no one 

I’m a supernova about to explode away from all celestial objects in the universe 

What they say is a lie

So I will be alone

I will be with the only person who understands

I will be with somebody true

It is good I am still alone


Almost reaching the top then the bar gets higher

It continues to grow in an uncontrollable rate

The fail to reach enough makes me start over

Vicious cycles attack me

So close but I never can accomplish

Then all the way back down again I fall

Fall back into the necessities of the world

I watch from down below seeing all the people reach the top

They eye me with pity

But no one can help assist me up

I drag myself lower and lower

I dream of an overflow, to be more than needed

Enough and more

Yet I stay behind what I continuously hope to surpass

Never full, never more

Nothing ever there to fill it up

They Don’t Know: 

Innocence but you take every burden

You love but keep the unconditional loneliness that you are brought up with

Giants step on the speck of dust that you made yourself to be

You know of your rightfulness, however power drowns inside you

You see through yourself in the midst of your reflection

You hate then love it

It has been beautiful, it has been astonishingly horrible

No one sees the beauty though

No one ever has

The ugliness underneath beams through even with your rightfulness

Limited time keeps them blinded

You aren’t worth the dread of patience

They don’t intend on discovering your beauty

Trees of Albuquerque

I had been watching birds since the age of nine. Owls, finches, herons, and song sparrows were my favorite. The variety in species and function in the finches were fascinating, but what really caught my eye, or in this case my ear, were the song sparrows, the way their notes flowed into each other in complete harmony, going from do to re to mi to fa in beautiful consistency. The song sparrows were my favorite birds to observe, as their action of singing sounded so simple as a word but so magical as a sound. But the song sparrows didn’t last. By the time I was 25, my days of listening to sweet harmony were over, as a new power plant opened up, and with its smoke and ash and cracks and pops, it drew all the birds away. I learned by that time I wasn’t a bird watcher. I just liked the sound of song sparrows. Yeah, there were other birds I looked at, but who doesn’t think some birds look nice? This migration plunged me into sadness. I would never hear that beautiful flow or that consistent harmony ever again. I tried everything to recreate that sweet sound, every stroke of the hand or a blow of the horn or on an instrument, every audio recording, but none could replicate it, not exactly.

At this treacherous time I had come across an old nest with a peculiar egg in it. I thought to myself I might as well try to hatch the little thing. Its shell was so thin that it could be crushed by a flea. I took it in praying it would be a song sparrow, praying that I would hear those sweet symphonies again. It had been two weeks in the incubator. Even with its warm light at a nice 72 degrees, there were no cracks. Four weeks in the incubator with its steamy air, no cracks. I had given up. I had decided that I would follow the song sparrows even though I had lived in my town all my life, but I couldn’t take being apart from the harmony. I decided to crack open the egg and make a good breakfast with it, if it wouldn’t give me a song sparrow. Right before it hit my bowl to crack, I heard a noise. It was a perfectly consistent flow from do to re with a harmony unreplaceable. It was the voice of a song sparrow with its tranquility. I canceled every flight, unpacked every bag, and put back every plate because I was staying. The egg then continued to crack over the next three days. I had a song sparrow. I wasn’t going to use this bird just for its beautiful voice but also to show the power plant what its emissions were doing to the area. It was my duty to these sweet birds that were forced to leave. I had readied my case towards the court of how the power plant was driving away wildlife. When presented towards the court, it looked like a one way street with me going the wrong direction. The defendants argued that shutting down the plant now wouldn’t save the birds and there was no point. But I still had to try. I then gave my most persuasive point. I let the court hear the sweet symphony and melodies of the song sparrow even though it wasn’t allowed. I let them hear the beautiful flow from note to note, hoping it would be enough. It wasn’t. The power plant company had a better argument and a better lawyer. It was sad. My song sparrow was sad. I had used it, and now it wanted to be free. So I let the bird go, and with it I let my fight go. There was nothing I could do to stop it except let it free to the trees of Albuquerque.

Black Roses

We planned our funerals together. You told me you wanted black roses.

“Black roses, where can I find those?” I asked.

“I’m sure you’ll figure it out,” you smiled.

I think about that conversation a lot. I think about black roses a lot. In fact, I think about black roses so much that last summer, I tried to make one. I painted a white rose black with acrylic paint I found in my garage. It didn’t work. I threw it away. The black paint smeared on the garbage bag, leaving ugly dark streaks. Last summer was the last time I saw you. Last summer you winked at me and told me to let you know if I ever found a black rose. That was the last thing you told me before you boarded the airplane. The airplane that would take you to Guam. Guam. The island. To be honest, I’m not even sure where that is. I’m not sure why you leaving bothers me. I’m not sure why I’m still looking for black roses.

A Mother Knows Best

“What about George National High School?” asked my mom. I immediately felt my chest tighten. You had to take an admissions test and have a perfect GPA to get into George National High School. And I didn’t have the best GPA. It had its flaws, but I knew very well that I couldn’t disagree with my mother, so I had to put George National High School as one of my options. “Love, why don’t you say what you think about it? I’m just suggesting a school.”

“I don’t want to go to that school, but I don’t know why I would say that because you never take into consideration anything that I say,” I answered.

Mother ignored me and kept flipping through the big, fat book that named all the high schools that my social studies teacher gave me at the beginning of the eighth grade year. I left Mom alone in the living room and headed to my bedroom. I grabbed my laptop from my nightstand and opened it to the application page. The application started in two days, so I still had time to pick the last two schools that I needed for the list, without Mother’s “suggestions” or “recommendations.” Mother had other visions for my future: she wanted me to go to a boarding school or a private school, then have a career that was in the science or medical field. I, on the other hand, had plans to go to a good high school that was in the city and then… just let fate make my choice. Of course, I couldn’t tell this to my mother. She would argue with me and say she knew what was best for my future. But that fact was counterfeit. How could she know what was best when I didn’t even know what I wanted to do with my future?

“Dalilia?” asked Mother. I immediately closed my laptop and opened up the nearest book. “Where are you?”

“Ma, I’m in my room,” I yelled back. A few minutes later, my mother entered my room with a cup of milk and tea in her hand.

“Would you look at that… you’re back to reading,” said Mother.

“What do you mean? I always read.”

“Yeah, but you are doing it because you want to, not because I told you to… ”

“Alright… ”Another lie, but I didn’t want to argue with her. Mother had seen me read in the cafe right next to my school many times before. I kept reading while my mom placed the milk and tea on my nightstand, on top of my history notebook. Right on top of it. I felt like she forgot that tea is liquid, and the notebook had my notes for my history final.

“So, what are you reading?” she asked, tentatively.

Call Me By Your Name by — ”

“Andre Aciman,” she finished.

“Yup, that’s the one… ”

“Dalilia, you are always reading that book! Try being more diverse… ”

“I really like the book — ” I stopped myself before my mother could give me the death stare. “I will, Ma. Do you have any recommendations?”

“Try Milk and Honey,” she responded, then left my bedroom. That conversation was so unnecessary, but now I had a book recommendation. I went back to the application website and saw that some high schools allowed you to apply early. I looked at the screen and contemplated the choice I was about to make. I had always been a good child and taken my mother’s recommendations, but now something was making me rebel against my mother. I trembled as I clicked the blue apply button next to my top four choices and then watched the computer load and accept my selections. I immediately felt a wave of catharsis and sent a text informing my counselor.

Dalilia, you know your first choice was Dule Jet High School, right? she texted back.

I told her yes and the reason why I picked the school (for the puppy shelter after school program). She then sent me a picture of the school’s graduation percentage rate and the safety rate. Only 34 percent of the students had graduated in four years, and only six percent of the students felt safe in the school. This meant that the high school’s seats were not filled, and I suddenly experienced a rush of stress as I realized that it was official: I would definitely be going to this school. I threw my head face-down onto the pillow and screamed into it: College was never going to happen now. My counselor called me right in the middle of my breakdown.

“Dalilia, you might not get into the high school, maybe… ” she said. It was clear that she was trying to find a scenario in which I wouldn’t be accepted into the school, and it was also clear that she couldn’t find one. A huge sob came out of my mouth. “W-Wait, um. You could always apply to a boarding school or a private school. I believe you are smart enough to get into one… ”

I stopped crying for a good second. If I did apply for a boarding or private school, then I would have to tell my mom that I needed to take a test to be accepted. A test that I hadn’t studied for because I didn’t have time, and I’d wanted to rebel and — and — and… I broke down again.

“Ms. Sar, I’m going to have to tell my mom,” I said, between sobs. Ms. Sar stayed quiet as she listened to me weep.

“Our mothers tell us what to do for a reason, Dalilia. It’s because at the end of the day, they want us to become someone who is respected and valued. Even if your mom annoys you and punishes you, she does this so that you won’t make mistakes that affect you in the future. A mother knows best, so right now you should go talk to her about this. It’s not good to be keeping lies from her.”

I thanked Ms. Sar and hung up. I headed to the bathroom, washed my face, and dried it. Knowing my mother, she would punish me or maybe even scream at me, but you couldn’t always assume the worst. I headed downstairs and found my mother sitting on the kitchen island on her laptop. She had her glasses on and her favorite coffee mug that I gave her for her work promotion gift. I sat next to my mother and took a deep sigh.

“Ma — ”

“I know, you don’t need to tell me.”

“Wait, what? You know about the high school — ”

“Yup, I keep tabs on your computer and your phone and your Netflix account.” Yeah, talk about privacy. “And I’m proud of you for being honest and coming to me to tell me about your naive choice.” Mother’s eyes were still on the laptop screen, and surprisingly she was being very nonchalant about this whole situation. I stayed quiet while she kept typing on her laptop.

“I plan on applying to a boarding school,” I quietly added. Mother had no reactions and kept typing on her laptop. A few seconds later, she stopped and took a sip of her coffee, then looked at her laptop again.

“Dalilia, I feel like you’re mature enough to make your own choices about your next steps, but right now I’m thinking about sending you to the church school that your uncle has recommended since you were in fourth grade,” Mother responded. I opened my mouth, but she kept on talking. “Don’t answer me right now. Why don’t you go and think about it — go outside and get some fresh air or something.” I really needed it, so I didn’t bother to argue with her.

As soon as I stepped outside, the smell of my neighbor’s Smeraldo flowers hit me. I hadn’t been outside for so long that I’d forgotten about the Smeraldo flower and the placid winds that made the chimes on my window move and tinkle. I remembered my neighbor telling me that the meaning of this flower was, “the truth untold.” Fun facts, huh. My mother coughed and interrupted my contemplative moment. I came rushing back to reality and thought of my mom, the woman who I respected most. I admired her yet abhorred her for making me abhor myself. I admired the fact that someone could be powerful enough to make someone else hate themselves: a power of hers that I both hated and revered.

I texted my Aunt Pam who was like another mother to me, but I never told this to my mom because I knew she would get jealous. Aunt Pam was in her 20’s and had her hair cut short last November because she strongly believed at the time that women who cut their hair wanted to change their life. She was still stuck in the 90s, since she wore mom jeans and a wide shirt with a finishing touch of a dark red matte lipstick. Personally, I loved this aesthetic look unlike my mother who thought that Aunt Pam needed to “wake up.”

Aunt Pam texted back, inviting me over since she heard about my choice. In the family, when you did something wrong, all your family members know about it, no matter where they were. I could call a family member who lived overseas, and they would know about my choice too. I headed over to Aunt’s Pam house, a couple blocks away. As soon as I entered her house, the smell of cinnamon rolls hit me, which brought memories of when I stayed over at hers when Mother was away.

“Oof — ” I said as I body tossed myself onto the couch. “I hope I don’t get food poisoning, don’t need any more problems.” Aunt Pam came out of nowhere, sat next to me, and kissed my forehead.

“Ha, you know you want them, but I don’t plan on giving them to you until you tell me what’s up,” she responded. I let out a stressed sigh as my response.

“I know that Ma is surely applying for the nearby boarding school, even though she said that I should go to that obtuse school all the way in Boston with a Nun. So, I guess that at the end of the day, she does design my future… ” The house was quiet, making it feel like even Aunt Pam was experiencing the same epiphany I was going through.

“That how it goes, boo. Your mother kept you in her stomach for nine months and had to grow through vomiting, urination, and other worse things — just to bring you into this world. She knows you the best, even though you claim to not know yourself… ” Aunt Pam stood up and headed back into the kitchen.

“So, Boston it is,” I responded. Aunt Pam nodded. That is how I made my decision. I didn’t have to think about it —


“Wait — so you made a choice to come here in a matter of seconds?

Dalilia nods and pats her roommate’s head. The roommate is a freshman and comes into the room, complaining that she could have thought twice before picking a horrible high school that her mother didn’t allow. It was sort of similar to Dalilia’s story, so she sat down at 5 am on a school night and told her freshman roommate the story as a way to console her. Plus, Dalilia also thought it was a great icebreaker.

“Well, I’m going to sleep,” said Dalilia. The freshman pouts and has a tiny tantrum. After the tantrum is over, the room stays silent. So silent that you can hear the birds talking to each other and the leaves fighting each other and if the sun could make a sound, you would hear it too. The freshman looks at her hands and lets out a tinkling giggle. “Hm?”

“By the way, how do you remember the story so vividly?”

Dalilia laughs and thinks for a moment. “Some things are just so important that it’s impossible to forget them.”

People say that they created mothers because God couldn’t be everywhere, but Dalilia didn’t believe this. However, that doesn’t mean that she forgot about it. Dalilia had finally decided to come to her senses when she graduated high school with honors in all classes and got into one of the best colleges in the country, thanks to her mother’s screaming when Dalilia wanted to give up, the tight hugs when girls were being rude, and the inspirational texts in the middle of the day. Since then, Dalilia figured out that she would always need her mother — no matter what age she was, no matter how mad she was at her.

The End