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


Alabaster metal met obsidian with a clang that resonated throughout the courtyard, early morning light striking the pale blade in such a way that it seemed to glow from within. The trimmed maze of shrubs snaked around the two figures as they danced over and under in a deadly tango of reflex and skill. To a casual observer, it would seem that the pair were evenly matched, accustomed to each other’s fighting styles over years of practice. Yet a sharper eye might notice a slight misstep, a strike just off mark, a parry almost a second too late. 

“Watch out, Princess,” Emity smirked as her blade barely missed her opponent’s arm.

Adhara narrowed her eyes. “How many times do I have to tell you not to call me that?”

“Once you get this move right,” the woman shot back. Adhara’s only warning was a flash of dark silver before she found herself stumbling backward, the sound of her sword clattering to the ground ringing in her ears. Emity bowed down in an overly low curtsy. “I believe that I’ve won, Your Highness.”

Adhara pursed her lips in a failed attempt to keep from smiling. “Manners don’t look good on you, you know.”

“Nor do they look good on you.” Emity grinned, straightening up as she tossed an auburn braid over her shoulder.

“Nope, they don’t,” the princess agreed as she picked her sword up from the ground, her dark eyes twinkling. “Why don’t I prove it to you? Ready to lose?”

“Oh, you’re on. I admire your — ”

“Princess Adhara,” a nasal voice bellowed. “Just what are you doing?”

Adhara spun around and couldn’t help the frown that sprang to her face. Before her stood a middle-aged man dressed head to toe in blue velvet robes embroidered with gold. A matching feather hat sat atop his meticulously coiffed hair. Adhara rolled her eyes. The royal advisor had the uncanny ability to appear at the worst of times. “Does it matter? I can do whatever I want. It’s my castle.”

“Now, now, Your Highness. That’s where you’re wrong. This castle belongs to the Astel Dynasty, to the benevolent rulers of Cordin. It belongs to the King and Queen, and afterwards, it shall go to the Prince, which means you must follow their rules, and that starts with ceasing these… activities.” He wrinkled his nose as he waved his hand in Emity’s direction. The woman glared daggers at the man but said nothing.

“Too scared to come up with a comeback?” he sneered.

Emity set her jaw. “No, I just don’t want to get fired.”

“No one’s getting fired,” Adhara cut in, trying to ignore the sudden flurry of butterflies that had risen in her chest. “Your commands hardly have any weight to them, you know, especially with that awful hat. Honestly, where in the world did you find that thing?”

The man’s face turned scarlet — either from embarrassment or anger, Adhara could not tell. “As the official advisor to the King and Queen, I refuse to accept this type of behavior. Now you are to return indoors for your lessons right this instant.”

“You can’t tell me what to do.”

Something in the advisor’s eyes darkened dangerously. “Oh, I’m not telling you.” He moved to the side, and almost reflexively, any sign of emotion dropped from Adhara’s face.

The King of Cordin had always been taller than average. Once upon a time, Adhara had been convinced that her father could touch the Sun itself. She knew better now, but the way he was towering before was formidable, to say the least. He frowned as he took in the scene; the silence was palpable, Adhara’s face a carefully composed mask, Emity’s bold features a display of uncharacteristic fear.

“I looked out at the sunrise this fine morning, and what do I see but two shadows staining my gardens. Shadows,” he repeated. “Like dirt on ivory walls, tar on white marble, blood,” he took a step forward, “on silk tablecloth.”

It took Adhara a surprising amount of energy to keep from rolling her eyes a second time.

“It’s impudence,” the King continued. “Outright disobedience. It’s rebellion, which will lead to Darkness. Light must eliminate Darkness by all means possible. Whatever it takes to keep the flame burning. Hence, I have made a decision. This was by no means an easy decision, but it must be done. I regret to inform you,” he turned to Emity, “that you are no longer a part of the royal army, no longer part of this castle. Never were, it seems, if this has been going on for as long as I think it has.”

Yet another clang sounded throughout the courtyard as the black blade tumbled from trembling fingers. “I — w-what?”

“No!” Adhara cried. “You can’t do this. It was… it was my idea! I dragged her into this. Please, it’s not fair.”

The King ignored them. “Adhara, I won’t have you contaminating Light. Never let me catch you with this sort of peasantry again.” With that, he turned on his heel and left, the royal advisor scurrying after him like the weasel he was.

Adhara couldn’t hold back any longer, and she rushed towards Emity. Her vision was blurring — tears, she later realized — yet somehow, paths intersected, and the two friends found themselves stumbling into a wordless embrace. Seconds stretched into minutes, and for once, Adhara was grateful for it.

It was Emity who pulled away. She tried for a small smile, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “I should — ” she drew a shaky breath. “I should probably go now.”

Adhara had never thought that the combination of these five words could render her speechless, particularly not when spoken by the person before her. A thousand possible replies tumbled through her head, and a thousand of them all seemed wrong. All she could do was look up at her friend, memorizing every detail for the final time. Brown met blue, and though they were very different colors, in that moment they shined with the same light.

Emity swallowed hard. “The sword,” she managed, gesturing to the obsidian black blade on the ground. “Take care of her for me.”

Adhara cleared her throat, blinking hard. “It’ll be here the next time you dare to challenge me. R-ready to lose?”

The former guard wiped her eyes and gave a small smile. “I admire your confidence,” she replied, voice trembling only slightly.

If beginnings were celebrated with fanfare, perhaps it was only fitting that this was an ending in silence. Adhara gazed at the courtyard gates long after Emity had passed through them. How strange it was that not long ago, adrenaline had coursed through her veins, her movements quick and deliberate when now, she didn’t want to take another step. The hedge around her hardly reached her waist, but the maze seemed infinite, twisting around her like vines that crawled up her arms and stole the breath right out of her chest. They created a labyrinth with her at the center.

As the sun rose higher in the sky, rose gold receded to cerulean, and the morning mist drew away. But the tears still remained. Soon the courtyard was flooded with light, void of all shadows.

* * *

Night was the best time to brood. As the sun sank below the horizon, the darkness deepened so that it was almost tangible, velvety drapes that wrapped one in perfect silence. The princess silently cursed the wide windows of her room that ensured that it would never be completely void of light. The full moon tonight was unusually comforting, though, its wide face non-judgmental as it shined down upon the sleeping kingdom below. Starlight illuminated the tears on Adhara’s cheeks, turning them silver as they fell through the air before disappearing into the stone of the windowsill as though they’d never existed in the first place. From the East Tower, a sea of trees stretched out before her, curving around the edges of the kingdom in a delicate embrace. If she squinted hard enough, Adhara could see the tips of a distant mountain range between the line where the land blurred into sky. The cool night air caressed her cheeks, drying her tears for the time being. Adhara sighed. Her breath curled into gossamer mist that sailed out across the moonlight before disappearing completely. Not even the night bothered to preserve any sign of her sorrow. 

And suddenly there was fury, blazing white-hot from within. 

The constant darkness seemed to mock her, taunting her with the way that it sat still, unmoving, unchanging. Adhara wanted to shatter it all, tear the solid sheet of moonlight into shreds, rip every star one by one from the sky, destroy the night and show everyone her pain. She wanted to scream and shatter the darkness, make them all suffer like she was. 

And then she’d laugh. Laugh at the pleasure of watching such destruction, smile at their fear as she waltzed through the kingdom, and reveled in the look of betrayal painted on every person that, no matter the face, would be one and the same.

I admire your confidence.

For a space in time, her heart seemed to stop. Adhara could imagine her friend’s face, jaw set, ready in a fighting stance, but in her eyes — shards of a broken mirror. Haunted. Haunting. In an instant, the fire evaporated. Neither smoke nor ashes remained, just suffocating emptiness.

She was hollow.

Adhara pinched herself. Who was she becoming? How could she let this happen? Why?

The final question echoed in her mind. The ground seemed to tilt until it was rushing closer. The walls were caving in, the darkness heavy, and she couldn’t breathe.

She was falling, falling, falling… spiraling downward, inward forever… 

And then there was a scream.

Adhara’s first instinct was to clap a hand over her mouth before common sense kicked in. Her throat didn’t feel raw from the sheer volume of producing such a noise, and there were no frantic servants or family members crashing through the door. The scream had really sounded far away, too far to have been coming from her. Surely her mind and heart weren’t so far apart? 

Maybe you’re losing it, a voice in Adhara’s mind said helpfully.

The princess frowned; it didn’t help that some part of her brain was actually considering that possibility. She closed her eyes against the breeze and attempted to mimic a sense of serenity… and there was the sound again, piercing the night.

It was really a chorus of sounds, closer to yells than screams, that clamored over one another like waves crashing against the coast. Her eyes shot open, and she found herself searching for the source of the sound. It wasn’t difficult to find. A spot of brilliant red-gold hovered before the steps of the castle. The shouts ricocheted off of cobblestone streets and granite pillars, twisting around wrought iron lamp posts with shrieks that clashed with the hum of steel blades. Torches seemed to set the swords aglow, blazing in the night, the fire too bright to be warm as it lit the faces of commoners and guards alike.

And yet, as Adhara glanced at the finery of her bedroom, the colors seemed muted, the sounds muffled as though she was watching the scene unfold through a veil. Three stories up above it all, the distance was palpable. She turned away from the window, the din fading into nothingness. Perhaps she just needed to sleep.


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

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

“It’s hardly frightening,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No,” He murmured. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


He stares at the painting, in a state of awe. I’m confused. What’s so magical about a painting? He’s saying something about how labor intensive it must have been to make a painting like this. How wonderful it would be to live in the painting. 

“It’s just a bunch of dots,” I say pointedly. “There’s nothing wonderful about it.” He just smiles, amused. 

“You have to look at it like it’s a window. Like it’s giving you a clear view of another person’s world.” He waits for my response, but it doesn’t come. I tap my foot against the concrete floor. The rest of the gallery is just as boring, and we’re here for at least an hour longer while Mom finishes up her shift. It couldn’t hurt to try. 

“Well…” I begin. “I… guess the white, yellow, gray, and blue make the sky look… sort of real.” 

“Yeah,” he says. I expect him to start yammering on about the feelings looking at the clouds give him, instead he looks at me again. “What else?” 

My ears feel hot, I can hear my heart beating in them. I look down at my scuffed up sneakers. I try to avoid eye contact by rubbing them against the ground. 

“I — ” I swallow my pride. What good is lying now? “Hadn’t thought of anything else… ” 

He doesn’t get mad. I can feel him smiling at me. A beam of light shining down on me just as the light shines down on these three people in the painting. 

“That’s okay.” 

I look up. 

“Really?” I smile back at him, confused. 

“I’d prefer to continue our discussion, but if you’re really stumped… ” I cross my arms.

“You’re really trying to take me on a guilt trip?” 

He smiles. A wide grin that succeeds in making me laugh. Dirty looks from all around the gallery find their way to me. I mumble an apology to the angry museum visitors.

A minute later, he asks me, “Did you think of something else eye-popping about the painting?” 

“Eyes popping?” I ask, excited. “Like in that video where they cut the lady’s eye open? But it’s ACTUALLY a SHEEP’S EYE?” 

He laughs. “That’s not what I meant!” He messes with my short hair, like I’m a dog. 

“I meant what comes to your eye first?”

“Oh,” I laugh. “I guess, those three people in the light.” 


“Yeah,” I respond. “They look like the only people in the world.” 

“I get that,” he trails off. 

A scratching sound takes him back to the real world. A crow is dancing on top of the skylight. The skylight is right above us. Looking up at the light, shining through the dim gallery, I finally understand what my brother meant by the word “window.” 

Maria Merian: The Butterfly Woman

“Art and nature shall always be wrestling until they eventually conquer one another so that the victory is the same stroke and line: that which is conquered, conquers at the same time.” – Maria Merian

“Where do the silk moths come from?” and “Where do the caterpillars go after they are in their pupae?” were questions that people had to ask themselves in the seventeenth century, because the answers to these hadn’t been discovered, yet. One woman answered those questions just by using her artwork, at a time when nobody thought women could do so.  Her name was Maria Merian, and she not only changed science, but she changed the way I want to be in the world.

Maria Merian was born in seventeenth century Germany and was fascinated with two things, bugs and art. Her father was a printer and publisher and her stepfather was an artist, so he helped her build her skills. Later on in her life, she made several books that changed the way people looked at science, such as Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium. She figured out these concepts at an early age. Imagine a young girl figuring out how the life cycle of a caterpillar works when nobody else knew about this! Of course, there were some theories, but they were very wrong. Some didn’t even include the butterflies or moths!

When you are very young, you learn about the life cycle of a caterpillar. Maria helped us figure that out. In many of  her paintings, she shows how the cycle begins with the eggs and it ends with a moth or a butterfly. According to the Atlantic, she would say things in her journal like, the pupae looks like a “date pit.” You would think that she would make these discoveries in her later life, but no! As a child, she figured them out. Maria kept the caterpillars she collected for her stepfather’s art. She kept the silkworm in a box and watched them grow and drew every little thing that she saw during the process. She did this all at a time when women couldn’t use certain papers, paints, or other important materials and on top of that, she could have been seen as a witch. Maria also left a marriage at a time when women weren’t to do that. But these stereotypes didn’t stop her.

In the seventeenth century, women weren’t allowed to leave a marriage. She rebelled against what was “proper.” I think that is amazing. She also came up with a good paint that women could actually use! I think it is unbelievable that women couldn’t use something as simple as a piece of paper, or glob of paint! Now we live in a world where anyone can do anything, but we still have a lot of work to do because some groups of people aren’t as equal as others. Back to Maria. First she gave some big questions some big answers, only as a child, and then she started to become more and more of a great female role model. That is incredible! 

That is very encouraging. It makes me feel like I can do anything even though I am not an adult! She must have had a lot of patience, for she waited and waited for these caterpillars to grow into beautiful little butterflies. Since there would be no photography until almost 200 years after, she couldn’t just take pictures of the bugs. Just imagine sitting and waiting for something to happen, and then having to draw an intricate drawing of it very quickly. She had to sit and draw every little detail! It makes me stop and think about how much we take our technology for granted.

I am very thankful for what she did. Even though not many people know much about her, she made a big difference in our world. I would like to be like her. Her life story inspires me to want to use my creativity to change the world. I hope to use my work to speak up about equal rights for everyone, because, like I said before, even if the Declaration of Independence says that all men are created equal, some people are treated unfairly! Even in a time where there is advanced technology and brave activists, I feel like I can make a difference. Like Maria, I might not be recognized for the change that I am determined to make, but if I can do something, I will know that I have done good. 

I think that people should learn more about her because she is a great role model. If she can inspire one person, I think she could inspire the world!  Imagine living in a world where people use their talents and differences to make the world a better place. That would be great. We need more people like her! We can accomplish this by not letting stereotypes get into our heads and by always having our creative minds with us. We can also conduct our own projects and draw, write, or make music about them. Maria Merian inspires me to want to make a change and I hope others feel the same way!


  • Sidman, Joyce. The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science. Boston, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018.
  • Wulf, Andrea. “The Woman Who Made Science Beautiful.” The Atlantic, 2 Aug. 2016. The Atlantic, Accessed 23 July 2020.
  • Campetella, Florencia. “The Butterfly Woman.” Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecolog. Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Accessed 23 July 2020.

Cheers or Tears

“Oh my gosh! I can’t believe we’re going here!” Danika squealed as she clutched her twin sister, Tamara’s arm. Tamara smiled and eased out of Danika’s strong grasp.

“This is the place you said you wanted to go if you ran for captain of the cheer squad,” Tamara said as she saw her sister eyeball the luxury restaurant. 

“I know I said that,” Danika said and smiled as she took out her phone to take a selfie. 

“So are you captain?” Tamara asked, waiting to hear if the whole gift was too bizarre. 

Danika just shrugged her off and said, “I will be. There are only two other girls running and they both wear their skirts too long. I just know everyone will vote for me.”

Tamara sighed as she looked at her twin. “So you might not even be captain?” Tamara said, thinking about how she had spent three months worth of allowance money on getting a table at the most famous Chinese restaurant in town. 

“Are you seriously doubting me, Tam? Of course I’m going to be cheer captain. I’m the best one on the team!” Danika gave her twin a snarky glare before rushing out of the taxi to get a better angle to post on her instagram. 

Tamara groaned and hurried out to join her sister. “How about we take a picture together and you can post it on your social media account,” Tamara asked, thinking about how her parents would think it was so cute to have a picture of them together. 

Danika wrinkled her nose with distaste. “Ew, no. My followers would freak if they saw a picture of me and my nerdy sister. It’s best for them to think I came alone. And besides, this lighting makes my face look really good, and your face will just dull it out.” Tamara blushed at her sister’s harsh words, but stepped aside as her sister went up to the sign and took some more pictures.

Tamara walked up to the man up front and said, “We have a reservation, under the last name Holden. Tamara and Danika?” The man nodded and beckoned for them to follow, Danika squealing every other second. They sat down at a fancy round table, with linen cloth and shiny silverware. “I can’t believe you did this all for me! You’re the best, Tam! Of course, second best to me!” Those were possibly the nicest words Danika had ever said to her, minus the forced, “I love you” as a child. Danika immediately started texting her friends, probably bragging and telling them about the restaurant. 

A waiter came by to take their drinks, and Tamara ordered a glass of Diet Pepsi while Danika scoffed and told the waiter to bring her a Shirley Temple and to make it snappy. The waiter scurried off and Tamara shot her sister a warning look, which Danika slyly ignored. When the waiter came back to ask them what they wanted to eat, Tamara looked at Danika. “I have a budget, so don’t go crazy and get anything too expensive.” Danika merely looked at her twin before turning to the waiter and ordered a steak with chow mein and crab. Tamara blinked at her sister, her mouth open. Had Danika not heard anything she had just said?

“I assume we’re sharing?” Tamara said, still gaping at the amount of food her sister had ordered.

Danika scoffed and said, “This is my big night. They announce the result on TV and I just know it will be me. So I’m ordering whatever I like. You can get soup or something, but nothing from me.” Tamara stared at her sister before sighing and ordering simple spring rolls. Then, she sipped her Diet Pepsi as she waited for the food.

The food was so good, though Tamara was still shocked at the amount of food that Danika ate. Afterwards, they sat back and waited for the check. When the waiter came with the check, Danika grabbed her arm, stopping the whimpering waiter.

“Hey miss. Turn on Channel 3! They are announcing the cheer captains for Ridgemont High and I know it will be me. Quick! It’s starting!” The waiter hurried off to oblige Danika’s demands. 

Tamara glared at her sister and said, “That was really rude. You should apologize.” 

Danika laughed and said, “Tam, she’s a waiter. Her whole purpose is to serve us. Besides, someday, that will likely be you, serving my whole cheer squad. If you’re lucky.” 

Tamara just shook her head and looked at the bill. Her eyes practically bulged out of her head. “That’s a lot of zeros,” she whispered to herself. She didn’t know if she could pay for it all. “Hey Dani. Can you help pay for the meal? Your steak and crab cost a lot of money.” 

Danika snorted and grabbed the bill from Tamara’s hand. “How about I make you a deal,” Tamara countered as Danika hastily threw the check back at Tamara’s face. Danika stared at her. “If you become cheer captain, I will give you 20 dollars to go get ice cream at the really expensive French place, Le Creme.” Tamara did not miss how Danika’s eyes glinted when she mentioned her not getting captain, but hurriedly smiled at the mention of Le Creme. “But if you don’t become cheer captain, then you have to pay for dinner and give me 20 dollars to get those jeans I wanted the other day. Do we have a deal?” 

Danika snorted, something very unlike her, and shook Tamara’s outstretched hand. “You should just give me the 20 dollars now, Tam, because I’m practically the captain. Mmm, I can already taste the mint chip ice cream.” Tamara rolled her eyes and turned her attention towards the TV which now was turned on to channel 3. The cameraman was zoomed in on a tall girl with glossy brown hair that was tied into a bun at the top of her head. A beaming reporter stood next to her. 

“HEY!” Danika yelled, causing many people to stare at her with disgust. The same shivering waitress came forward, looking so pale that Tamara almost asked if she was sick. “Turn up the volume! I want everyone to hear when Magnolia announces that I am the new cheer captain!” Danika promptly shoved the quivering waitress towards the TV, almost knocking over a man carrying a tray of soup. Tamara put a hand on Danika’s arm, a warning to stop all her bossiness, but Danika flicked her off and returned to typing furiously on her phone, although her gaze was intent on the screen.

The TV reporter was standing next to who Tamara assumed was Magnolia. She had the microphone pressed to her shivering lips and she forced a smile at the camera through purple lips. “And now, on channel 3, we have here Magnolia Harp, captain of the Ridgemont High cheer squad, though soon to be former. Magnolia, what do you have to say about the runners before you announce who will become cheer captain for Ridgemont High 2020?” The reporter turned to Magnolia, who sent a stunning smile towards the camera, angling her right side to the cameraman, not a hint of shivering shown although she was in her cheer mini skirt and crop top. 

“Well, Wanda, I just want to say that all the runners are very qualified people, but we could only choose one captain. Of course, they may be a downgrade from me, but at least they are the best of the worst.” Magnolia laughed as though she had said something funny and flicked her hair. Tamara noticed how fake she was and how much of a similarity she was to Danika. She turned her head towards Danika to see if she had heard what Magnolia said about being a downgrade, but Danika was picking at her nails and muttering to herself about what a great captain she would be. 

Tamara fixed her attention back to the TV where Magnolia had positioned herself in front of Wanda, the reporter. The restaurant had gone quiet. A lot of people were staring at Danika, as if waiting for her reaction. Tamara turned to her sister, who was looking between the TV and her phone. “What are you doing? They are about to announce who the captain will be. Why are you on your phone?” Tamara asked as she watched her twin’s pink manicured hand type furiously on her phone. 

“I’m sending the cheer squad pictures of the uniform design that will be for the cheer this year. Isn’t it so nice?” Danika shoved the phone in Tamara’s face, but Tamara was too blinded by the pink and glitter to even see the whole uniform.

“Um, Dani, what are you doing? You’re not even captain. Don’t tell me you paid for those already?” Tamara put her hand on her forehead. Danika scoffed and glared at her sister. 

“I’m seriously offended, Tam. For this whole dinner all you’ve been doing is questioning if I’m going to be captain. Let me spell it out for you. Actually, let me cheer it out for you.” To Tamara’s horror, Danika stepped on to the table, dirtying the white cloth with mud prints from her pink heels. Some people gasped and put hands to their chests. Others threw down their napkins and demanded for a bill so they could leave. Tamara jumped up, her fury almost to the point of boiling over. But before the manager could shove her way through the crowd, Danika stomped down on the table hard. Silence rang throughout the once laughing restaurant.

“D-A-N-I-K-A! What does that spell? DANIKA!

I’m your captain, yes I am.

I have spirit, I can dance!

If your skirt goes past your knees

Run so far before I SCREAM!” 

Tamara covered her ears to block out her sister’s ratchet screaming. Many people were hurrying to get out of the building. Danika fluffed her hair and sat down on her seat before the manager made it to their table. She looked furious.

“If you don’t get out of my rest-” Danika silenced her by putting her finger to her lips. The manager gasped, looking shocked.

Tamara looked at her sister who merely shrugged before saying, “Shut up! Magnolia is announcing it now! Oh, and yes, I already paid for twenty pinkalicious uniforms. Thanks for your credit card, Tam.” Tamara angrily glared at the back of Danika’s blonde head as she had turned to face the TV.

Magnolia had taken out an envelope, as if she were announcing the winner of a reality TV show instead of the cheer captain for a small town in Texas. Magnolia beamed at the camera before glancing down at the paper. Whoever’s name was on it didn’t seem to surprise her. “Our runners included Susan Maple, Danika Holden, and Tabitha White. This was a very close race, but one person got the majority of them votes, becoming our next cheer captain. Give it up for SUSAN MAPLE!” The people on the TV started clapping and Magnolia blew a kiss at the screen. 

Tamara slowly turned toward Danika, who had suddenly gone quiet. Everyone who was still in the restaurant turned to see Danika’s reaction. Tamara even heard someone ask if there was popcorn. Danika’s face was white with held back fury. Her mouth contorted into an ugly snarl, and she stood up so abruptly that she knocked over a waiter carrying a bunch of dishes. They all shattered around her and she screamed. Tamara had never seen her sister so mad. People actually started running out of the restaurant, but Tamara knew she couldn’t escape Danika’s wrath.

Danika swung her chair and hit the table, causing their plates and silverware to shatter and fly across the room. Tamara watched as her fork was flung into the fish tank and only barely missed stabbing the cute little goldfish, which now swam to seek refuge under a rock. Danika had tears of bitter anger running down her face, as she turned and stalked towards the door. Tamara couldn’t help but overhear the manager call the police. Within five minutes, Danika was surrounded by cops. Sirens blared and people rushed to the crime scene. Tamara gazed ahead, horrified, as she watched Danika get handcuffed and put into the back of a police car. She was screaming at the top of her lungs. 


A police officer with curly white hair stepped towards Tamara. “Ma’am, do you know this young lady?” Tamara stared at the officer before shifting her gaze to her sister. Danika had stopped struggling, and now sat limply in the back seat, glaring at Tamara, her blond hair disheveled and her mouth pulled back into a silent snarl.

“No,” Tamara whispered. Then more confidently, she said, “No. Officer, take her away. She needs help.” The officer nodded before saying something into his walkie talkie. Danika had started thrashing again, screaming Tamara’s name, but Tamara turned her back to her sister.

She called a cab and was whisked off into the night, leaving her sister for her parents to deal with. The next morning, Tamara woke up with a throbbing headache. The events of the night before suddenly rushed back to her and she groaned. She called her mother, and told her she was going to visit Danika at the police station, and possibly take her out. Her mother said that she had talked to the officers, but only Tamara was allowed to take her out. Tamara sighed and started her long journey to the station, scared of what Danika might do once she got out. When she arrived, Tamara signed some papers and showed her ID. Then she was led to a holding cell in which she saw Danika sitting in. Tamara couldn’t help but gasp. Danika looked horrible.

Her normally neat blonde hair was knotted and looked more dirty blonde. Mascara streamed down her cheeks in black lines. Her eyes were puffy and red, her skin was pale. Her clothes looked like they could use one or 500 cleanings. And the smell. Tamara gagged. Danika looked up, her eyes glassy. When they narrowed on Tamara’s face, the depressed look was gone, followed by a low growl. Tamara took a step back, so that Danika couldn’t somehow grab her through the bars. Then Danika let out a low laugh.

“Somehow, even being in this cell for a night, I look better than you,” Danika rasped as she threw her head back and laughed. Tamara’s eyes narrowed to slits as she watched her ungrateful twin trudge back to the bench and lay down. This was it, Tamara thought. Danika has finally broken. Tamara shook her head and asked the officer to hold on opening the cell. She walked up to the bars and calmly said, “You still need to pay for dinner. Also, the jeans I wanted are on sale, so you only have to give me 18 dollars.” Then she nodded to the officer who unlocked the cell.

Danika scowled at Tamara but didn’t make any move to attack her. In fact, she was so calm, smoothing her hair and smiling, that Tamara almost asked if there was a doctor in the station. She warily followed her twin out of the station and started walking home. It was quiet for a while, until she heard a soft noise. Frightened that Danika might be saying or doing something rash, Tamara coughed to get her attention. Danika merely looked at her and plastered on the fakest smile Tamara had ever seen. Danika was humming. This should have been calming, but it unnerved Tamara so much she almost screamed.

When they arrived home, Danika hurriedly went into the restroom and locked herself in. Tamara heard drawers frantically being pulled open and knew that Danika was putting on makeup. Tamara sighed and went back to her room. Her sister was crazy. She knew that her sister not becoming cheer captain was bad, but she didn’t expect all of this. First her sister got arrested and now she was eerily calm. Tamara couldn’t help but blame herself. If she had only waited to take Danika out, then maybe none of this would have happened. She would still have her three months worth of allowance money, a happy stomach, and a mostly normal sister.

She heard the bathroom lock click and then the door being swung open. Tamara hopped to her feet so she could talk to Danika. Danika’s back was to her and she couldn’t see what Danika was looking at on her phone. She hesitated and then touched Danika’s arm. She felt her sister stiffen.

“Dani, what’s wrong? I know what I did yesterday was awful but you are acting weirder than normal.” 

Danika let her blonde head tip back as she rumbled a laugh. “Oh Tam. When will you ever learn? I’m perfectly happy right now. Did you really think I lost becoming cheer captain? It’s only a matter of time before the position is mine.” Tamara watched in horror as her sister applied a thick layer of red lip gloss before blowing an air kiss her way. Then she pranced out the door.

Tamara knew that whatever was going to happen next was bad. What did Danika mean when she said that the cheer captain position would be hers? Did she imagine the whole fight the day before? Tamara quickly looked to see what Danika had been doing while her back was to her. On the coffee table, a 100 dollar bill sat on the table with 18 ones next to it. In Danika’s elegant pink script, the note next to the money said, “To pay for dinner and your jeans. BTW, those jeans don’t really go well with any color but it did look good on you when you tried it on. Xoxo, Danika aka soon to be cheer captain.”

Tamara held the note numbly in her hand. She was shocked. Normal Danika would never pay her back, let alone tell her that her jeans were a nice pick. Crazy Danika would pay her back, tell her that her jeans looked good, and then do something probably illegal. Tamara stared hard at the note, trying to wrap her head around how Danika had written that she would “soon to be cheer captain.” She had said those words earlier.

Didn’t Danika hear Magnolia say that Susan Maple was the cheer captain? Tamara sighed and trudged back up to her room, still insanely confused about the note and Danika’s sudden leave. She climbed into bed and went back to sleep. When she awoke a few hours later, she heard the front door slam shut and Danika’s high pitched squeals.

“Turn on the TV! Channel 3! Hurry! TAM! Come down here!”

Tamara groaned and ran down the stairs, nearly tripping over her own feet. “What?” She asked, although it sounded more like a growl. Danika was smiling so brightly and this time, Tamara could tell it wasn’t fake. 

“Turn on channel 3. Magnolia is making an announcement! Hurry! I don’t have all day! TAMARA! I will not demand you one more time!”

Good, Tamara thought, but she turned on the TV for her lazy twin anyway.

“Why do you even want to hear this announcement? You’re not even cheer captain,” Tamara said, not even remotely interested in seeing her sister throw another temper tantrum like a psycho two year old. Danika rolled her eyes and chuckled and fear gripped Tamara’s heart. This could not be good for anyone on the cheer squad except Danika. “What did you do?” Tamara whispered, too terrified to even say it any louder.

“Just watch,” Danika said and shifted her head back towards the television.

Magnolia stood on TV, next to Wanda and a red headed girl whom Tamara recognized as Susan Maple, the new cheer captain. Susan had twin streaks of mascara running down her face, and in the lighting, her fake tan made her look more orange. Magnolia had an angry scowl twisting her mouth and she kept shooting glares at Susan before smiling at the camera with her dazzling fake princess smile.

“We’re back on channel 3. I’m Wanda, you’re reporter, and today I have for you some very sad news. Magnolia?”

Magnolia practically shoved Wanda out of the way as she stomped forward. 

“Thank you Wanda,” Magnolia started, although Tamara could see the annoyance written clearly on Magnolia’s coal black eyes. “It has been very unfortunate that Susan Maple has decided to step down from her position as cheer captain. Susan, why have you come to make this sad *cough stupid cough* decision?” Susan stepped forward as Magnolia backed away, but not before subtly putting her foot out and tripping the poor girl. Susan stumbled but regained composure as she smoothed out her hair and pulled up her already short skirt higher, so much, that it looked like a belt. Tamara had a gut sinking feeling that Danika was the reason why she had made the quote of quote “sad *cough stupid cough* decision.” 

Susan looked up at the camera and Tamara didn’t know if it was all acting when her clear blue eyes filled with tears. “I have decided to step down from this position because of a secret that would be exposed if I did become cheer captain. Now this secret isn’t that bad or anything but…” Tamara could see the guilt written across the fake tanned girl’s face. This was a bad secret. She turned to see Danika’s smug smile as she leaned back into the reclining couch cushion.

“What did you do?” Tamara hissed, her horror stepping up a notch. Danika ignored her and kept her eyes glued intently to the screen. 

They had missed the rest of Susan’s resignation speech and Magnolia was now smiling back at the camera with her “If you cross my path again, I will end you” smile. Tamara watched Danika warily as she sat forward with anticipation. Magnolia was now smoothing her hair and her mouth was still twisted in her feline smile, though Tamara didn’t miss the shadow of a scowl on her face.

“Since Susan has decided to step down from her position as cheer captain, I have to give the captain position to the runner up. So, Congratulations to—” The TV screen fizzled out and went black and fuzzy. Danika screamed and looked like she was going to pull her hair out.

From upstairs their father yelled, “WiFi’s down throughout town girlies!” 

“SHUT UP!” Danika yelled and started furiously pacing. “Magnolia was just about to announce me captain. I know it. How come God decided now was the perfect time for a blackout?” 

“Maybe because God thinks this whole thing is stupid,” Tamara muttered, her voice barely audible over Danika’s impatient stomping. 

Danika whirled on her and pointed an accusing finger. “This is all your fault! If you hadn’t taken me to that restaurant, none of this would have happened!” Tamara stepped forward, feeling bolder by the second as she watched her sister’s quivering fingered point accusingly at her.

“MY FAULT? You’re such a stuck up snob that no one wants you on the cheer squad? Do you realize that no one voted for you? Susan won and you blackmailed her into stepping down. I bet the person Magnolia was going to announce was that other girl running, Tabitha White. But I don’t know! All you cheer girls are the same! Fake tans, fake personalities, fake smiles, YOU’RE ALL FAKE! Danika, no one WANTS you to be cheer captain!” The moment those words left Tamara’s mouth she stepped back. Danika stepped back, her face blank with shock. Time seemed to stop. The house was deathly quiet.

Then Danika stepped forward and threw the remote control at the TV. It hit the glass screen with a thud and the screen cracked. Then Danika started crying, tears running down her face. “Daddy!” She wailed. “Look what Tamara did!” She pointed a finger at the cracked 500 dollar screen as her father’s feet pounded down the staircase.

“I did not do that!” Tamara yelled, shaking with anger.

Her father’s face was pale with anger as he looked between the girls. “You two have only been yelling at each other all day! Tamara Grace Holden. Come with me this instant!” Tamara gaped and pointed her finger at Danika. “But I didn’t even do it! Danika did it!” Her dad angrily looked between them and yelled, “FINE! I’ll just check the cameras!”

Danika’s face contorted and spat, “What cameras?” Tamara gave her a satisfied smirk.

Their father rubbed a hand down his face with exhaustion. “Danika, what do you have to say for yourself?” Danika gaped and sputtered and she looked between her dad and Tamara. Then she furiously shoved Tamara out of the way and stomped towards her room, the door slamming in her wake. Tamara looked up to see her dad dialing something into his phone.

“Who are you calling?” SHe asked, almost not really wanting to know.

“The Dallas Anger Management Association. Otherwise known as DAMA. I think your sister is going to need it.”

Her father put the phone on speaker as a woman’s voice rang out. “Dallas Anger Management Association, how can I help you?”

Tamara watched her dad’s face and saw many flickers of emotions, one of them being guilt. She knew he was rethinking if this was the right way to go. Tamara put a hand on his arm and gestured towards the glitching TV. Her dad nodded and spoke into the phone,

“Hi, my name is Ethan Holden and I would like to take my daughter to these classes. Her name is Danika Lyla Holden. Age 16. She has had a lot of recent outbursts and temper tantrums that will need some serious help immediately.” Tamara listened as her dad and the lady on the line talked for a couple of minutes before hanging up and turning to Tamara.

“Get your sister. We’re going to the DAMA now.” Tamara couldn;t hide the shock from her face. She had always known her sister had problems when she didn’t get what she wanted but she had never expected it to get this bad. Especially over something so stupid. Like, was Danika going to pride herself when she was 40 over being cheer captain in high school over a team that hadn’t ever won any cheer competitions and was for a school in the middle of nowhere Texas? Then again, Danika prides herself when she does anything that makes her look more superior than others. Her motto was, “I can only be on the top if I have people holding my designer heeled feet from the bottom.”

Tamara had to bribe her sister with money to get her into the car and the whole way Danika was a crying mess. They hadn’t yet told her where they were taking her. Tamara was fidgeting restlessly in the passenger seat as she kept stealing glances at Danika’s wrecked face through the mirror. Danika hadn’t said anything besides demanding to know where they were taking her. Of course, they didn’t answer with the fear that she would open the door and just get out of the car on the freeway. When they finally pulled into the parking lot of DAMA an hour later, Danika looked up and her expression froze.

“Anger Management?” She snarled looking between her sister and her father. “Daddy! You can’t let Tamara manipulate you! I didn’t;t do anything wrong! Please daddy! Let’s go home!” Tamara’s father’s face flashed with sadness and for a brief second, Tamara was scared that her father would pile them back into the car.

But he grabbed Danika by the arm and hauled her out of the car. Danika started thrashing and screaming and soon brought a lot of attention toward themselves. People with white lab coats started running towards them from inside the building as Danika tried to fight off the grip they had on her. She was screaming at the top of her lungs and Tamara had to cover her ears before her eardrums exploded. A man with a while lab coat and frizzy black hair came forward and injected something into Danika’s still flailing arms. For a moment, everything was still. Then Danika’s body went limp and a collective sigh came from the crowd that had formed around them. Tamara couldn’t help but feel a pang of sadness as she watched her sister get lifted and carried inside of the building. But she knew it was for a greater good. And she hoped that after a couple months of management, she would have her old twin back.


Best Friends Wait What!!!

Ludovico Cordara’s POV 

It is the year 2034 and it is a rainy Sunday night in my Chicago penthouse on the top of the Sears Tower. I wake up and do my usual 20 pushups and I run on my treadmill. Then my kind maid cooks me imported and sweet Belgian waffles. As always, I am super hungry so I eat 3 entire waffles. Eventually, I am done eating and I go to my room and I pick my fanciest suit because today is a super important day. Today is the day where I graduate from Harvard Law School where I am a graduate with two S.J.D.’s 

I am incredibly proud of myself. My parents are there and they surprise me with a courtside game of the San Francisco 49ers against the Kansas City Chiefs. It looks like a copy of Super Bowl LIV. 

Nick Bosa’s POV

It is a super bright day and the rays of the sun are blazing through my window. I wake up and run to take a boiling hot bath because I have an incredibly momentous game coming up. The Super Bowl. I am super agitated, but at the same time, I am calmer than ever. After my bath, I go to my kitchen where a fantastic breakfast is prepared. It is composed of a bowl of organic fruit from my garden, a bowl of raw oats, and 7 scrambled eggs. I divulge it all in a matter of 20 minutes. After that, I meet with my parents and we go to watch a movie at my parents’ private movie theater. The movie is about this astute lawyer named Ludovico Cordara. It tells us all about his background and how he graduated from Harvard and in all the photos, we see 49ers merch, which makes me feel good. After the movie, I go to Levi Stadium with the coach and my teammates and we started stretching and practicing. We need to practice because in a week, I will be playing the most important game of my life.

Ludovico Cordara POV

I go back to my house and I can’t wait to go into my Anti-Gravity room in my basement. As soon as we get there, we put on helmets and a specialized platinum suit. I’ve done it before, but most of my friends haven’t and I remember my first time doing it and it felt like being awake while sleeping. It’s such a fantastic and weird experience that I don’t even know how to describe it. I invite all my friends and we have an intense game of dodgeball. I am so electrified that I finally get to play with all my friends. Afterwards, we go and relax in my pool. Then I go with my very best friend Guglielmo and we have a lot of fun watching a movie. The movie we watch is called Bad Boys. It is hilarious. Will Smith, who is one of my close friends, comes over and we have a classic battle of ping pong. I am exhausted after our thrilling game which was, unfortunately, a debacle in my aspects. Eventually, I go into my heated water bed which feels like you’re riding waves without ever getting wet and being so close to the sun as you could grab it without ever being hot. It is the perfect combination of sleeping.

Nick Bosa POV

As soon as I get to Levi Stadium, Coach yells at me and tells me to run 5 suicides. 

I reply, “ Coach, I’ll run 10. I need to be ready for our game.”

Coach says “That is exactly why you are my captain and this team’s leader.” 

After 3 hours of practicing, I go to the weight room and I start doing my daily exercise which is composed of 20 pushups and 30 situps plus 30 bench presses. After practice, we all go into freezing cold and glacial cold tub. After we have cooled down, we relax and take a soothing hot tub and massage. Finally, it’s about 7;00 and the team and I go out to dinner at a famous steakhouse in San Francisco called Strip Steak. The steak there is more than fantastic, just tasting it gives you a rapturous feeling in your body. After the fantastic day, I’m still a bit sad because no matter how much I love football, I just feel like I have a different calling. Well anyway, I go on my customized German mattress. 

Ludovico Cordara POV

I finally wake up and I instantly go to the kitchen and grab a banana and run to take a shower. My alarm didn’t work and I am late for work, and listen to this, I’m defending the freakin’ president. This might be the biggest cause of my life. I can’t believe that there is no time to take a shower. I put my clothes on in a hurry and my maid is cooking me breakfast really quickly. The breakfast today is a buttermilk pancake with no butter and some diced strawberries on top. I drive my Lamborghini as fast as I can, and by the time I arrive, I’m too late and the president is really mad at me. I decided I’m tired of being a lawyer. I go to meet my friends from the 49ers and we talk about the game strategy over sushi. I ordered a spectacular green dragon roll and a plate of Japanese Chirashi which was amazing. Afterwards, I go back on my super fast car and all of a sudden, a dim light bulb crashes into me and I am knocked out.

Nick Bosa POV

I wake up at 6 and I run to my massage place where my doctor is giving me a soothing and relaxing back massage before my big game. My whole body feels like a temple, I am hyped. Afterwards, I go to practice and my coach tells me I might not be able to play in the big game. I am desperate when I hear the news and I decide to run out of practice and drive all the way to my house, but while I am driving, my car stops and a truck rams into me.

I am unconscious.

Ludovico Cordara POV (really Nick Bosa)

I wake up and for some reason, I am 6 ft 4 inches and I am extremely buff and strong. I go look in a mirror and I am freaking Nick Bosa. The doctor comes to check on me and I notice that it is an impostor because the doctor’s eyes are blinking, his heartbeat is very high, and his pulses are sweating, and I might add the fact that he has a gun in his hand. My body starts panicking and I run at him and I tackle him in a way that I could have never dreamed of.

I am finally dismissed from the hospital and I go to a gym to see how strong I am. It turns out I can bench press 524 pounds. Afterwards, I open my phone and I call my massager and tell him if he can give me a message because my back is swollen. I am starting to enjoy being super strong and fast. Unfortunately, I now live in San Francisco instead of Chicago.

Nick Bosa POV (really Ludovico Cordara)

As soon as I wake up, everyone is asking me if I’m okay. And I have never seen this many people care for me. And then the doctor comes in and says, “Sir Mr. Cordara, how are you?” I freak out because I just realized that I am super rich and super smart. I command the doctors in a slightly volatile voice and tell them to release me at once, the doctor does so. I go into the garage where I see my Lamborghini and I think, “oh hell ya.” I drive super fast and as soon as I get to my house, the press is right outside. I don’t know what to do until 15 super buff security guards come and save me and clear the way to my building. When I enter, the 7 maids 9 cooks 4 butlers, 3 coaches, and 6 personal trainers, all tell me “How may we help you, Mr. Cordara?”

Nick Bosa POV

Since I am now in San Francisco, I decided to go to a famous steak house called 5a Steak House Lounge. The steak is freshly made from the rugged mountains of Kobe beef in Japan. As soon as you taste the amazing meat, it would melt in your mouth like a snowman in summer. Then the intense sapor of the steak gets to your brain’s neurons and instantaneously attacks your taste buds and gives you a sweet aroma of juicy and croquet taste. Afterwards, I ask for a gold plated chirashi with salmon imported from the smooth beaches of the rugged coastline of Japan. The gold is found in the harsh and poor mines of the caves in Kenya. Afterwards, I call my driver and tell him to drive me home.

Ludovico Cordara POV

Seeing all these people makes me feel anxious. I normally see this many people at a game, but not at my house. All these people greet me super politely and they are awkwardly kind. It almost feels as if I were dreaming. Well anyway, I’ve decided I’m going to sleep. As soon as I enter my room, the butler says, “Mr.Cordara, would you like a Swedish massage on your back and relaxing Shiatsu on your shoulders and neck?” 

The massage is so invigorating and invitational that after the session is over, I ask for more. The massage is so relaxing that I almost fall asleep. He gently massages back and forward on my spirit gate on the inside of my wrist and cracks my back like an experienced chiropractor. He cracks every single rib and soothes it later with a great massage. Eventually comes supper and my chefs have prepared an assortment of food composed of fruits, vegetables, sushi, steak, burritos, and many more tasty goods. I devour it all instantaneously and I’m still hungry. It’s like my chef read my mind and makes me a brand new plate of lasagna, which eventually quenches my hunger for the next week.

Nick Bosa POV

It’s finally a bright summer day and I have decided that I’m going bowling with Coach to talk about our game plan. When he comes, we decide that we run Tampa 2 cover 1 robber press. Which refers to the defensive line piercing through the middle, the cornerbacks playing man, and the safeties on the zone. The linebackers alternate depending on if they are running a slot option or simply RB FB Tight End blocks. Coach and I eventually go to meet the rest of the team and he says, “Run 30 suicides.”

I stop and complain, “30, are you crazy?”

He looks at me in a befuddled fashion, and exclaims, “What the hell, Cap! I thought you liked running.” But since I am not actually athletic, I am deadass exhausted after only 3. I tell Coach I just have a sore stomach.

Ludovico Cordara POV

When I wake up, I have a severe stomach ache. It is so weird. I’m assuming it’s from the ton of lasagna from yesterday, but I’ve never had a bad reaction to lasagna so I’m a bit befuddled. Well, who cares. I have a court case today and I’m working for $500 an hour. Which is a lot. I am super afraid I will mess up. If I win this case, then that means that the law firm will be entitled to my name. Which means I will make over $700 million dollars a year. If I get all this money, then I can retire and just be the rich owner who doesn’t do anything but can still relax, which is my main mission. It’s time the case is about to begin. As soon as it starts, I instantly get contradicted and don’t know what to say. I’m panicking. My client looks at me with fear. I freak out and say something smart but off-topic. The opposite lawyer who has been my archenemy since we were kids is against me, he knows my every move, and well if I was Ludovico Cordara, then I could have known his every thought. I’m in a bad position so I slam my head against the table. And everything is black.

Nick Bosa POV

The referee blows the whistle and it’s the defense’s time to shine. I call a hike, and I sprint but get knocked out at the first play.

Ludovico Cordara (OG)

I wake up from my brain trauma and I see I am back to being myself. I am so happy that I yell let’s go. Then I look around me and I see that the court case hasn’t started yet. I am extremely relieved. As soon as my opponent comes in and so does the judge, we begin the debate. The debate is over after 5 minutes. I already defended my client successfully and the judge’s official decree was “not guilty.” I am so soothed.

Nick Bosa OG

I wake up and hear, “Hike, hike!” I follow my instincts and charge through. I force a fumble. Every single play, I force a sack except for the last play where I get razored to the ground and I am in extreme pain. We have already won the game. But unfortunately, the doctor said I tore my ACL which will take 6 months to heal. I eventually go with my buddy Ludovico Cordara and we go to the Los Angeles 49ers house and we chill in the jacuzzi. As we are relaxing, we see Guglielmo Cordara and Deforest Buckner, my old companion, arguing. We are so tired we are about to sleep in the hot tub. And the last thing we hear is, “ I WISH I WERE YOU.”


Fatal Feelings

The sun can’t make my happiness go away

Shoot that star 

You’re trying to ruin my day

You are not equivalent to my race

Stop trying to change my broken face

I can kill myself

But I’ll do it slowly

My smile is there but fading shortly

Figure out how you wanna write your story

You will never put that pen down

You look at me with raging glory

Fights, fights, fights

Is all we know

And all we ever get into

Is your fake smile and tokens for you.

You are mine

But I can see into you

The blue I saw earlier is 

Spreading through you.

I am suicidal.

Sell me, use me, I am the cycle.

The McDonald Murder

The little door bell rang as I stepped into the Mcdonald’s office. The cold air rushed in to meet the toasty warm fire under the chimney as I, Billie Clement, hoped to work at this delicious fast food restaurant. The waiting room was surprisingly empty for a job interview, except for one man reading a newspaper. The man didn’t look up as I walked in, he probably didn’t care either. I sat down in one of the chairs and waited for the interview to begin. Right when I sat down though, a woman walked out of the waiting room. I didn’t see her face to tell if she got the job, but who cares? This is my day. Another man walked out of the room and told me to walk right in. As I sat in a comfy leather chair I handed the man my resume:

Name, Billie Clement Age, 26

Sex, male

Professional experience, I can heat my food up in the microwave

While the man looked over my resume carefully with a couple nods, he put the paper down, folded his hands, and looked at me with tired eyes.

“Congrats Billie, you got the job,” he said to me.

Finally, I thought to myself as I walked out of the room and closed the door, I didn’t mess up! But as I was walking out, the man with the newspaper wasn’t there. Then, I heard a shrill scream from the room. I quickly ran back to the room. The window was shattered, I looked to the desk and saw the interviewer, with a knife in his bloody back, and a note that read: SEE YOU MONDAY! 

It’s Monday, the day that I feared and was excited about because, duh, first day of work! As I walked the tiring 2 blocks to Mcdonalds, I could make out the shape of the giant letter M on top of the giant Mcdonalds building. In front of the building was the statue of the mascot, the one and only Ronald Mcdonald the clown. As I was walking I thought about who could’ve killed the interviewer, I mean, who has anything against someone that could give you a job? Oh, now I see why. Only a couple minutes later I arrive at Mcdonalds. “It’s strange that there’s cars parked, but the lights are off,” I mutter to myself. I unlock the doors with the key that the interviewer gave me, and walked inside. I go to turn on the lights, but I can’t find it, so I head to the store next to the restaurant and buy a flashlight and some batteries. I head back inside Mcdonald’s and turn on the flashlight. The sight scares me, people are scattered everywhere, cops and citizens. “Maybe there was a fight?” I say to no one, but how can a fight end with no winner? And also, where’s the Ronald Mcdonald mascot? Right when I think that, water starts to drip on my shoulder, and as I look up, Ronald is on the ceiling, except it’s not Ronald. His teeth are sharp and dripping gooey alienish saliva. 

His hands and feet are claws. The alien Ronald he has red all over his body, and I don’t think that’s from the ketchup dispenser in the corner. He tries to jump on me and I try to reach the door but he pulls me backward. He starts walking towards me as I cover my eyes and brace for my death. But then, just as I can feel his warm, sticky breath in front of me, I hear the sound of someone being whacked in the head with something metallic, and then a body falls to the floor. I uncover my eyes and there’s a Mcdonald’s employee standing over the monster with a frying pan in his hands. He looks at me with his frightened eyes. He tells me, almost in a whisper, ”Run.”

I didn’t really hear him that well because I was halfway out the door at the time. I slam the door shut. And run, almost in a sprint, back home.

I slam the door open and rush to the phone, 911, call the police they can fix this. I think. The cops pick up the phone and ask me what my emergency is. 

”There’s this, um, like, KILLER CLOWN, RONALD MCDONALD IS. A. KILLER. CLOWN.” I think I might have been too over panicked. Naaah, I don’t think so.

”Sir can you speak more clearly please?” The cop says to me. 

I scream into the phone with anger, “Speak clearly?! A lot of innocent people were just killed. And it was almost me too! By a monster-like, killing, psychopath clown at Mcdonalds!” 

“Sir I don’t think there’s anything to worry about, but will send over a couple people to check the place out,” the cop says in an annoyed tone, like this happens all the time. 

“No you’re going to need more than a couple, send the whole place. Thirty people just died and you’re acting like this is bullshit!” 

“Fine sir, if it makes you happy we’ll send everyone over,” she says to me. I’m about to say thank you but she hangs up. 

“Maybe I’ll just go to bed,” I mutter under my breath. I trudge upstairs and collapse in my little bed. “It will all be over tomorrow.” I say to myself. The next day I try calling the police hq. No one answers. “Hmm, maybe they’re still at Mcdonalds.” I say aloud, so I run over to McDonald’s but not before I make sure to take a pocket knife just in case. 

As I walk up and press my face against the door to see if anyone’s there, I see a bunch of dead cops and the clown bending over and looks like he’s eating something. Just then I get a call on my phone from my friend. “Shit,” I say to myself. I try to turn off the ringer but I guess the clown already heard it, because the next moment, the clown is right at the door, his mouth covered in blood, but it’s not his. I try to scream but no words come out. I run away from the door and try to call someone, anyone that can help me kill this thing, or else there’s no way of stopping it. 

I yelp a gun store and see that it’s not far away, I run over there, and buy a little revolver and some ammo for it. Then I run back to Mcdonald’s and open the door, the monster is nowhere to be seen so I turn on a flashlight, holding it in one hand and the revolver in the other. I walk down the hallway shining the flashlight in every room, and when I come across one room, my blood turns cold. There’s someone standing up in the kitchen not moving. I run over him and ask in a whisper, “What are you doing? Hello?” He doesn’t answer or try to shake his shoulder but he falls over, like he was propped up. Just then I heard a clang of something falling on the floor. 

I crouch just in time as the clown walks into the room, grinning ear to ear with his red-stained teeth. He pokes each pan and pot that’s hanging on the wall like he’s toying with me, wanting me to be afraid. I jump out of my hiding spot and try to shoot him, but the bullet bounces off one of the pans and hits the ceiling. The clown runs to the right and I manage to shoot him in the arm. He screeches like scratching a fork on a plate. My ears are bleeding from the noise. He runs towards me.

“Bad move Ronald,” I yell to him and lay the finishing blow right as he pierces me with his long fingers in the stomach. I point the gun under his chin, and pull the trigger, then I black out from tiredness. 

I wake myself up and stand on my wobbly legs, I walk over to Ronald and see his shirt covering a letter, I tear the shirt off him and tattooed in black is written: TEST SUBJECT NO.0.

Agent: So, that’s why you came here Mr. Clement?

Bobby: Yes, I thought you guys at the government could give me some answers about this thing.

Agent: Oh yes Mr. Clement, but the thing is you won’t be coming home for a long time.

Bobby: Wait, what?

Agent: Kill mode.

Robot: Kill mode activated.

Bobby: No, no, no, there’s got to be a mistake I-


To be continued.

The Cheese Thief

Pedro the Sombrero Snake was a snake from Sombrero, the capital planet of the Sombrero Galaxy Union. At first, he would seem to be your average Sombrero citizen. He was a snake, the native species of the planet, ate cheese, the food of choice, and he always, always wore his sombrero.

Back when he was little, Pedro the Sombrerito Snakito was very close to his grandfather, José the Sombreroto Snakoto. Every night, José would tell Pedro stories, before tucking him into his little blanket burrito for bed. 

It didn’t happen suddenly, but, for most of the time that Pedro the Sombrerito Snakito was growing up, there was less and less cheese to go around. Pedro, having heard so many stories of Sombrero valor, decided that he would be the one to solve the problem. The moment he turned two, and became Pedro the Sombrero Snake, he was ready to go, and find a big supply of cheese. The day after his birthday, he got his Sombrero Space Helmet, and was off.

He had heard rumors of a huge stash of cheese in the Milky Way, so he decided to take a trip there. The first few planets that he ran into had no cheese, so he was considering searching elsewhere when he saw this little blue planet. The planet itself was uninteresting, but he saw what appeared to be a huge ball of cheese peeking around it. Suddenly reinspired, he quickly slithered over towards it. 

When he got close enough to see it clearly, he was overjoyed. It was a miracle! Suddenly, he was approached by a small spacecraft. A window opened up, and somebody pulled him in. One of his assailants held him in place while the other closed up the window, and steered back down. One of the creatures turned around, and Pedro finally got a good look at it. They both had disproportionately big, green onion shaped heads with gigantic eyes, and wore bright yellow uniforms with a cheese emblem on them. The one holding him had a gigantic grin, and the other had a very small, wispy mustache.

The one with the mustache spoke. “Who are you? Why are you here?”

Pedro responded, “I’m Pedro the Sombrero Snake. Why did you stop me?”

The one holding him said, “You are trespassing on Cheese Fiend lands. We are Clidney and Goyd, the moon men currently in charge of patrolling this quadrant. You’re under arrest, so we’re going to take you down to our highest security prison.”

Pedro felt all hope leave him. How could he possibly escape a high security prison? His doom was upon him, and he could feel it closing in. Apparently, the moon men could too. They were quickly arriving on the surface, where there was a whole crowd of moon men standing on either side of an empty street, as if they were waiting for a parade to pass by. At the top of the street, there was a huge, imposing building, helpfully labeled as “Jail.”

Clidney and Goyd landed the ship in the middle of the street, and pulled Pedro off. Slowly, they pulled him up the silent street, towards the jail. With every step they took, Clidney and Goyd said, “Doom.”

With every “Doom,” the mob took one step closer to Pedro.

Sixty-seven “Doom”s later, Pedro, Clidney, and Goyd were at the front door of the jail. The mob was so close that, if he had arms, Pedro could have reached out to either side and touched them. Clidney opened up the door, and Goyd ushered him in. Through the window, Pedro could see the mob going back to where they had been before he’d arrived.

They escorted him down thirteen flights of stairs, to a common jail cell. After daring him to escape, Clidney and Goyd walked away, leaving Pedro to his fate.

Once left in the cell, Pedro collapsed onto the floor, miserable. He would close his eyes and pretend he was home, if snakes could blink. He sat there, bemoaning his fate for another forty-two minutes, before suddenly stopping. His hour of dramatics was over. He was ready to escape.

He slithered up to the bars, and examined them. They were four inches thick, made of cold-rolled steel. He stuck his head around to see the other side before realizing: he was a thin snake. He could just slither through the bars and leave, so he did. He just slithered through the halls, up the thirteen flights of stairs, and out the door. 

None of the moon men were looking at him, so he looked around. A lot of moon men were wearing the yellow Cheese Fiend uniforms. He made sure to avoid them as he snuck out of the square. He already knew what his next mission was—steal a huge mound of cheese, and slither away.

Pedro had no idea where he was going, so he just wandered around, until he came across another building, labeled as “Cheese Mine Headquarters.” Seeing as it had the word “cheese” in its name, Pedro decided that he should go in. 

One window was open, so he snuck in through it. There seemed to be a Cheese Fiend meeting in progress, so he decided to stay put, and listen in. There was a panel of Cheese Fiend leaders, facing a currently empty stage. As Pedro watched, a white unicorn climbed up, and stood in the middle of the stage, facing the panel. Ten spotlights suddenly swiveled to shine on her, and the light bouncing off her bright turquoise horn nearly blinded him, so he looked away.

Once he deemed it safe to look back, the lights were controlled, and the unicorn was just starting her speech. “Hello, Cheese Fiend Leaders. Welcome to the Cheese Mine Headquarters. I’m Cynthia, the new director. The new cheese mining initiative has been incredibly successful, and we have had to expand the Cheese Warehouses to fit it all in. With the amount of cheese to process, we have decided to eliminate our current shipping process, in favor of a newer, better one. We will build small ships, which we will then cover with enormous balls of cheese, to be flown out to our buyers. In fact, we already have one built, ready to send out. The rest will be finished shortly.”

The Cheese Fiend Leaders all clapped. Pedro would have done the same, if he could have. Cynthia the unicorn had just given him a really good idea. When she left the building, Pedro sneakily followed her.

She led him right to the Cheese Warehouse, where he finally got to see what he’d been looking for all along: a huge ball of cheese. There were fifteen Cheese Fiends guarding the front of it, where the pilot would get in.

Pedro knew he had to get that cheese, but also had enough self-preservation to not launch a one-snake assault on fifteen enemies. He decided that, instead of hijacking the cheese on the ground, he’d do it out in space.
As the entire ship was covered in a huge ball of cheese, Pedro ate himself in, and settled in to wait. A few hours later, the Cheese Ship started to move. He looked out through his entrance hole, and saw that they were just leaving the surface. He waited until they had passed all of the perimeter guards before eating his way into the cockpit. There was a pilot in there, but Pedro managed to open the hatch, and throw him out, where he would soon be found and rescued by Clidney and Goyd. 

With the pilot gone, Pedro had complete control of the Cheese Shop. He immediately changed course, heading for the Sombrero Galaxy. It took him a while, but he brought the cheese safely back to Sombrero, where he was hailed as a hero, and ate his fill of delicious moon cheese.

With his new taste for adventure, Pedro soon set off on many great adventures through space. Soon, any Cheeser would tremble with fear at the sight of a long, snaky shadow, or even the mention of Pedro the Sombrero Snake.

Where the Sun Goes

The ground shakes as I step out of my house.

Not again! I think, sighing and sitting down on the porch. We are supposed to sit down at every Switch. No one questions this law. No one knows what happens when you don’t sit down.

“It’s not fair,” I whisper to myself as I close my eyes. The ground shakes harder and harder, the wind blows faster and faster, then the feared cold enters the air and chills my bones.

I open my heavy eyes and look up at the moon. No one knows where it comes from.

Across the street, my best friend Lara is sitting on her porch like me. “Lara,” I call.

“Oh, hi, Hannah,” she says.

I cross the street, checking for cars. It’s hard in the darkness. Everything from Day is now black and cold, like someone comes around every Switch and paints the world black, then takes off the paint when it turns to Day. Lara and I feel the same way about Night. We love the warmth and brightness of Day, spending all our free time frolicking together in the sunshine. Night is when a lot of people regularly sleep, when they don’t have to work or go to school. Nobody wants to be outside now.

“The Day was only six hours long,” I complain. “Night is so stupid.”

“Yeah. And now we have to go to school during Night.”

I like school, even though a lot of kids don’t. We have to go every 28 hours, for four hours at a time. Sometimes a Switch occurs during school, but that doesn’t matter because school is lighted during Night. Occasionally the electricity goes out, and then we’re in trouble.

Lara stands up and walks inside her house. I follow. We go to her room and stay there for a few hours, chatting and playing.

After five hours of doing nothing with Lara, our phones buzz simultaneously. It’s the signal for school. “Ugh,” she mutters. 

I run out before she does, bursting out onto the dark street and running freely. We always run to school, because we live pretty far from it. Lara soon catches up with me as we dash through the darkness. 

We arrive. We’re in Level 5 now, and our teacher is Mr. Chase. He doesn’t like questions that much—he usually shuts them down and doesn’t answer them. But something’s been burning in the back of my mind all Night.

“Mr. Chase,” I say, coming toward him in the thankfully bright classroom. “I was wondering something. Where does the moon come from?”

“The moon?”

“Where does the moon come from?” I repeat.

“Hannah, how do you suppose we would answer that question?”

I blink, thrown back. “No one’s even tried?”

“We can’t travel into space, Hannah. We would be destroyed by Switches. We’re never going to find out anything about the moon.”

“But… but—”

“No one knows where the sun goes during Night. We never will. Now go back to your seat.”

After school, still during Night, Lara meets me outside.

“I’ve been wondering the same thing.”

“About the moon?”

“Yeah. If we want it to go away, we need to figure out where it comes from. And where the sun goes.”

We stand still, gazing at the eerie circle in the starry sky, bathed in its mystery. This is a mystery we can solve. Mr. Chase is wrong.

And what causes Switches? And why can’t we fly up, up into space? And what are the sun and moon made of?

“These are questions we could answer,” I say confidently.

“Yes!” Lara cries. “We’ll be the first people to ever know. We could build bird wings for ourselves and fly up during Night, reach the moon, then follow it through the Switch.”

I laugh. “Why would we stay with the moon if our goal is to be in Day? We should do that during Day so we could meet the sun and stay with it eternally. And we’d be famous.”

Even though it’s not possible, I really, really want to believe it is.

“What if there’s a way to stay in Day without going to the sun? What about—” Lara suddenly stops and looks at me, eyes wide and hopeful. “We could stand up during a Switch! We don’t know what happens when you do that. Maybe you go to an alternate universe where it’s always Day.”

“That would be fun,” I agree, thinking of infinite sunlight, warmth, and joy.

“We should do that as soon as possible. When the next Day is over, we should stand and see what happens.”

“Yeah!” I exclaim.

The Night is long, fifteen hours. The longest Night ever was twenty-five hours, but that was a long time ago, before I was born. Switches were less common then. I wake up as the ground stops shaking and I suddenly see red under my eyelids. That means light! Day! I throw off the blanket and run outside. A perfectly childish thing to do, but I never get tired of it. I’m only ten years old, still little and curious and excitable.

I find Lara, who runs outside like me when it turns to Day. We walk down the street, happily looking all around us. We get to the house of our friend Addie. She goes with us to the pool, where we have tons of fun jumping and diving and playing. Six hours of that flies by like nothing.

We walk back to Addie’s house and eat a meal with her parents. Lara keeps flashing me looks. After the meal is done, I go to her and whisper, “What is it?”

She only says, “Are you ready?”

I almost ask what I’m supposed to be ready for, but then I remember our plan. We’re going to stand during the next Switch! At any point during the next ten hours, we could be flung into an alternate world. I can’t wait to see what we discover, but I’m scared too. Lara doesn’t look scared.

After two hours of watching movies with Addie, we feel it. The shaking.

“Let’s go!” Lara shouts, bolting up and pulling me with her. We stand in the middle of the room and clutch each other, closing our eyes, the ground shaking and the wind howling.

But Addie wasn’t in on the plan. “What are you DOING?!” she cries. “Why are you standing?”

She grabs us and pulls us back down onto the couch. My heart lurches.

Lara is angry. I know without looking. “No! No! Addie—”

“Too late,” I sigh. The shaking has died down.

Lara explodes. “Addie! We had a plan! You ruined it! Now it’s Night and we wanted to be in Day!”

“You shouldn’t stand during a Switch,” Addie replies quietly, looking away. “I didn’t want you to get hurt.”

“We’re going,” Lara sneers, dragging me out into the Night.

“That was stupid,” I say as we leave Addie’s house.

“Oh my gosh! Addie’s so annoying.”

Lately, I feel Lara’s gotten more self-absorbed and bossy. Sometimes, she seems much older than me.

“I guess we have to do it after the next Day. Let’s remember to be away from people that might deter us.”

“Right.” Good luck with that, I think. How are we supposed to know when to stay away from people when Switches are completely and utterly random?

I’m exhausted so I collapse on my bed as soon as I get home. I sleep deeply. Again, I am woken by a Switch. I don’t know how long the Night was. My mind still hazy, I stand up while the ground shakes. This is what Lara said to do, right? Yeah. Good. I find it impossible to keep my balance while my head swirls and the wind moans even in my room, so I grope around for my bed, which I lean on. The ground shakes more. My eyes are shut tight. I want to open them but can’t. Next time, I tell myself.

Then the shaking stops.

I didn’t realize I’m hyperventilating. I flop down on my bed out of exhaustion, trying to catch my breath. Too late—something builds in my throat, and I vomit on the floor.

Ewww! is my first thought. I can smell the revolting vomit, and I don’t want to see what it looks like. Then I wonder what that tells me about my brave decision to stand. Where am I? What did that do to me?

I pry my eyes open and gasp. My heart sinks.

Didn’t I just leave Night? Why is it still dark? Why has nothing changed?

I realize something awful. I attempted on the wrong Switch! I was supposed to do it on a Day to Night Switch! NOT NIGHT TO DAY! Now I’m stuck in Night. And we wanted to stay in DAY!

“Aaaaarghhhhh!” I scream, bursting into tears. What have I done? I curl up into a ball, crying. I’m so dumb. I should have been aware of what I was doing.

I slowly feel my way to the light switch near my door and turn it on. It doesn’t work. Huh? I try again, same result.

“Uh, Mom?” I call out. “What’s wrong with the light?”

I am met with the most bone-chilling silence I have ever heard. I can almost feel ghosts around me. My already weak stomach drops as I turn and find even more silence. My heart is beating like crazy. This isn’t real. This is a dream. It’s not possible to be in two Nights in a row. I am hallucinating.

And no one’s here. Terrified, I dash into the empty kitchen. My parents aren’t here and I can tell without looking.

Then it all makes sense.

By standing during a Switch, you resist flipping from Night to Day. You stay in whichever one you were in, while everyone else sits and is Switched to the other side. Now the electricity’s in Day, like everyone else, and I’m alone.

And I’ve made an important discovery, too. Lara will be happy to know how to stay in Day. It’s just as easy as staying in Night!

But will I ever see her again? Shoot. I’m on the opposite pattern… but at the end of this Night, I can stand again and be in the same Night as them. I hope that works.

I still can’t see. I feel my way to the front door and open it. Still black outside. I sit on the porch and run my hand over the chilly railing. I shiver, but don’t go inside to get a jacket. The moon is in the same place as before, still eerie with its dark patches and strangely bright glow. I can only see the moon and the stars without electricity.

It’s beautiful, something inside me says.

What? Beautiful? Night? I’ve always hated Night. The black sky is scary, not beautiful. It’s the sun that’s beautiful, with its light and warmth. The moon isn’t warm.

I blink and suddenly it’s like I’m seeing the sun instead of the moon. It looks like a reminder of… hope. A perfect round circle, glowing and white against the infinitely dark sky. For the first time, I see light flowing from it. Then I look away and am startled to see a bird hopping along the sidewalk. I can see it only by the moon’s light. Wow. I didn’t know it was possible to see in the dark.

Do I have magical powers? Or are these just some of the things no one’s discovered yet?

It seems weird that nobody’s seen this soft light from the moon. We’re so wrapped up in using electricity to make it as much like Day as possible. We have never seen this side of Night. We’ve never appreciated its own beauty.

“What is my problem?” I whisper. “I like the moon now.”

I would have never imagined this happening.

I watch the neighborhood for a long time, amazed at how it slowly transforms. Now I can make out the houses across the street. I can see more birds, not chirping, but hopping around and flying. What do they do during Switches? Do they also have to sit? Well, clearly not, because these birds are here in this opposite world with me. They are probably in the air during the Switches and they must constantly stay in Night or Day instead of Switching.

They’ve been doing it all along! And people have never noticed. We have been so ignorant of obvious clues to secrets Mr. Chase said were impossible to know. I’m the first person to know this. I am the first! I could report this to the world and be famous!

I’ve spent so long alone in Night, it’s like I’m in a world between Night and Day. I can see. Fully. It’s almost as clear as Day, both inside and outside.

And there’s not much reason to hate this Night. I’ve gotten used to the cold in the past several hours. The Night air feels weirdly good against my arms and face. I marvel at a vast display of black and gray and white, making the familiar houses and trees and sidewalk look totally new and alien.

It’s quite beautiful. I’ve almost stopped worrying about getting back to Day.

I wonder if it’s been 28 hours since school. I still want to go, even if no one’s there. Who knows? My phone doesn’t work, and it won’t buzz when it’s time to go. So I run outside and go to school, not needing the lights anymore.

I didn’t do the homework from last time, so I get my folder from under my seat and start working. It’s math, which is not too hard but takes a long time. I finally finish. Then I glance up at the whiteboard, which is updated for the coming lesson and shows a reading comprehension assignment. I go to the teacher’s desk and sift through the papers to find the one on the board. I take one back to my desk.

Then the ground shakes.

A Switch! A Switch? What do I do? Stand? Sit?

“Stand,” I say out loud. “Everyone is going to Night, so I can meet them by standing.” I’ve developed a habit of talking to myself a lot.

So I stand, remembering the nausea last time and gripping onto my desk. The shaking finally stops, and I don’t feel as bad as before.

Then the light comes. It’s so bright and blinding that I cover my eyes and cry out, “Oh!”


My mouth falls open as I look again and see people. My class! Including—

“Hannah! Where did you come from?” Lara exclaims, running to me.

I’m so stunned I just stutter.

“You disappeared! Where did you go?”

I instantly regret something, probably my decision to stand the first time. “I got lost,” I murmur.


I sigh and sink into my chair. “I’ll tell you later.”

I dread meeting Lara after school. She’s likely going to be mad at me. But wait—wasn’t she going to stand during the last Switch? Why is she here in Night?

Oh. Because people were around and they stopped her.

I’m walking away, but Lara catches me. “Hey. Where were you before the Switch?”

I groan. “Do you really want to know?”


“Okay, fine. On the last Night to Day Switch, I made a mistake and I stood.”

Lara blinks at me. “On a Night to Day Switch? You know we want to stay in Day, not Night.”

“Lara, I just said I made a mistake! I stayed in Night on accident!”

“You stayed in Night. Jeez, that’s dumb.”

I groan again, louder, trying to annoy her.

“What was it like?”

“It was just any other Night,” I said, “but I was alone and there was no electricity.”

“No electricity?”

“Yup. At first I couldn’t see, but after a while in pitch-black darkness I could actually see stuff.”

“That’s impossible. You could see in Night?”

“Can you let me talk? Yes, I could see in Night. And I discovered something. The moon actually casts light like the sun.” Lara opens her mouth but closes it, remembering not to interrupt. “And by the end of the Night, I could see fully. Like, every little detail. It was so pretty. We all use electricity at Night and we never see the natural beauty! You should try it sometime.”

Lara stares at me. “Beauty?”

“Yeah. Beauty. You’ve never seen it.”

“I’ve never met anyone who loves Night before.”

I sigh. “No one’s truly seen Night.”

“Shut up, okay, Hannah? We’ve been in Night for half of our lives. We’ve all seen Night.”

“You’ve never—”

It’s useless. I should have known. Nobody will understand anything from my surreal Night alone. I walk away from Lara.

From behind, I hear Addie’s voice. “What happened?” she asks.

“She likes Night. She says you can see without electricity,” Lara says, and I can hear her disdain for me embedded into her voice.

The last time we were together, she was ranting about how annoying Addie was to me. Now the exact opposite is happening.

Addie laughs. “Really?”

“Do you believe that? I think it’s garbage. She said she—” Lara gasps. “Wait, Hannah, what did you do to stay in Night?”

I turn around. Lara is smirking at me. Uh-oh. 

“I stood up during the Switch,” I blurt out.

“Good. Did it hurt?”

“Yes. I blew around in space for hours before finally returning to Earth, and I almost died.”

Lara sees through my sarcasm. “Good,” she says again.

I roll my eyes and walk away. If she doesn’t want to believe it, good for her. I’ll find someone else.

When I walk into class the following Night, I’m startled to discover Lara and Addie missing.

“Where are Lara and Addie?” I ask the boy who sits next to me.

He shrugs. “Didn’t notice they were gone.”

“Night girl!”

One of my classmates is standing on his desk, pointing at me. “What?” I retort. Does he know about what I saw during Night?

“So you like Night, right? You have superpowers, right?”

I stay quiet and look back at him.

“You said it’s possible to see in Night.”

“Would you guys just let this go?” I shout. “If you don’t want to believe me, don’t believe me! Just turn off the lights and go outside and see for yourself!”

“Hannah,” comes Mr. Chase’s warning voice.

I sulk and sit back in my seat.

“Night girl,” the kid teases again.

I walk the outskirts of my town alone, looking at the moon. It feels much colder and darker than the Night I was alone. I’m sure if I did this for hours I would be more comfortable.

The Switch comes, the end to a twelve-hour Night. Reluctantly, I sit on the cool concrete, which will be hot from the sun in a minute. I quickly make a decision to keep my eyes open this time. I focus on the moon. It stays calm as the earth shakes. My eyes really want to close, but I manage to keep them peeled. Then as the chaos reaches maximum, the whole world is suddenly bathed in light. There is no transition, no in-between. The sun is exactly where the moon was.

In the distance, I see two girls walking together. They weren’t there before. I squint at them and see who they are: Lara and Addie! Now I’m sure of what they did. They took my inadvertent suggestion of standing during the Switch and they stayed in Day like I stayed in Night. I hope they enjoyed it.

Nine hours later and I am alone again, on the burning-hot streets, excitedly anticipating the Switch. When it comes, I grin and leap up into the air, my eyes wide open. I float. I do not feel the shaking, but I feel the wind. I fly through the air, laughing, squinting at the sun.

The wind stops, but the adrenaline flow is still there. I breathe hard when I hit the ground. Nothing has changed. That was the funnest Switch I’ve ever had.

And now I have my answer. I know where the sun goes.

I’ve never realized how different Day and Night are. I mean, I know they’re different and so does everyone, but after staying in both Night and Day three times in a row, the two worlds feel so alien to each other.

I still like Night. It’s definitely prettier than Day, I know. That doesn’t mean I have to hate Day. I love sunshine. It’s not one or the other. It’s not a choice. I don’t have to be sulky half of the time. From now on, I will do whatever I want during Switches, regardless of where everyone else is, and stay wherever I want.

I see figures way down the street, near my house, and I run to catch up.

“Nowhere,” I say to the only other people that are in this Day with me.

“What?! How is that possible?”

“Parallel universes,” I explain. “The Switch is Switching us to the opposite universe. We live in two worlds—Night and Day. When we stand we do not Switch universes. Sitting is the only way to Switch.”

Lara gapes at Addie, who looks at me, not understanding.

“A Switch is just an occasional opportunity to go to the opposite world. That’s all it is.”

“Really?” Addie breathes.

“Yeah. We never go anywhere. The wind is a portal.”

“Whoa, Hannah, that’s creepy,” Lara comments, looking a bit freaked.

“What? I can show you at the next Switch.”

“Yeah,” Addie says, “show us.”

So a few hours later, when the ground shakes, we leap into the air and glide. Lara and Addie are shocked speechless at the freedom of flight in the wind. Eventually it dies down and we are softly lowered back to the ground.

“That was amazing,” Lara whispers.

“Yeah, that was really great.” Addie looks up at the sun, which has been there for many hours now. I see a few people in the distance, meaning we’re back in the normal pattern.

“Do you see why?” I say, like I’m a teacher and they’re students.

“Yeah, it makes sense,” Lara says. “Hey! Let’s tell Mr. Chase! We can finally prove him wrong.”

Lara sure shifts trust easily. Just a few Switches ago, she was sneering at me and saying I had stupid ideas. I hope this trust stays, because when she’s a good friend, she’s a really good friend.

“We can report this to the world and be famous,” I say jokingly.

Addie laughs. “Totally.”

So we walk down the street together, arms linked. We see people coming out of their houses, people who just came from Night and are going into the sunlight again. I have been in sunlight for so long it’s hard to remember what my Night alone was like.

And now it’s like my appreciation for Night doesn’t matter anymore, because I’ve made an important discovery and I’m going to be famous. 

The Tail of Turtle Beach

Rose could be the richest girl alive and still be unsatisfied. She was named Rose for the beauty of the name, but her personality is the opposite. She’s thorny and rude and envies everything else anything has that she doesn’t. Feeling the sand between her toes and the breeze on her face, she doesn’t enjoy or appreciate the nature, she just wants the ocean all to herself along with the blue sky and the clouds. Taking whatever she wants, Rose doesn’t like it at all when someone says no. And a lot of the times, like when she is at a specific place and can’t have everything there that is nice, she gets mad. And no one wants to be on the bad side of Rose.

Having been brought up thinking her selfish and jealous attitude was okay, Rose had most of the things she wanted. Whatever she wished for was handed to her. But some things, she just couldn’t have, and those things she either fought about or left it alone. If she believed she could take it, she would. If she knew she couldn’t, she might just look the other way at something better. 

But Rose was brought up in this place, walking by it every day, feeling the breeze and inhaling the salt… she loved this place, but never once was she able to get it. Her peace was always interrupted by giggling girls or tiny children kicking sand all over her. Rose wanted this public place to be hers and only hers. She usually wanted pretty objects, or expensive objects, things that would make people envious of her for once. But this was the only place where Rose felt like her true self, and it tortured her every day that she couldn’t have it. 

Rose was even more tortured when she saw someone walking in a cute bathing suit or in pretty sandals, maybe she was even jealous of a watch or a phone she didn’t have. It could be old torn up shoes that she didn’t have. If she didn’t have it, she wanted it. And when Rose wants something of yours, she usually gets it. And that’s where Rose stands now, walking to the cold ocean and dipping her toe in, envious of even the fish who own the ocean. 

The only thing Rose wanted more than this place was to be the fish that own the ocean. Rose loved oceans, the vast uncertainty of the darkness, one that is only known to the fish that live underneath. Rose wanted more than anything to be swimming among the sharks and the dolphins, to swim in the ocean with a big family by your side. When Rose was in the ocean, it was like she for once, stopped wanting everything in the world. It was like she already had it.

To feel like this every day, Rose wanted this place. She wanted to own it, she wanted to swim with the dolphins and the fish and have a family of her own. This was the one thing that she wanted the most, the one thing that made her happy. The one thing that if she had, she would stop wanting other things. 

Some people wanted Rose to have it, not because she was their friend (because she didn’t have friends) but because if she had it, she would stop stealing their things. Rose was the neighborhood robber, but nobody ever busted her because she was only 8 years old. Other people didn’t want her to have the ocean, because they liked this place too and didn’t believe that any 8-year-old should own the ocean, not even Rose.

Rose’s father had been fighting the law for a very long time to try to get Rose to be the owner of the whole place, but he hadn’t been successful. Or at least not yet. He still tries to fight, trying to get Rose whatever she wanted in exchange for her not bothering him when he was working. That was the unspoken rule. Rose asked for something, he gave it to her, and she would let him work in peace.

Not only did her town know her from her constant small robberies of their things, but they also knew her because of her very successful parents. Rose’s mother was constantly annoyed with her daughter. She never bought into Rose’s acts. If Rose was bothering her when she was trying to work, then Rose would pay the punishment.

Rose’s mother was hoping that his was just a phase, and that soon Rose would just stop being so spoiled and jealous of everything that passed by her. Even Rose’s mother fought for the beach, so that Rose would be quiet and live the normal life of an 8-year-old. But everyone knew that Rose was not normal, and therefore she could not live a normal life.

Rose would go to aquariums and start talking to the starfish and the seahorses, ignoring the odd looks people gave her. Rose honestly thought that she could communicate with the sea animals. And the sea animals really did like her. 

Rose usually broke everything. Her parents refused to get her any kind of animal in fear that soon they would have a dead dog or cat on their hands. But Rose took such good care of the little creatures.

She would even walk the 15 minutes to the town’s Sea World and feed the dolphins that would play in shows. Sometimes the caretakers would let her go in the water like they do, because of how well the show animals responded to her. They thought it was a miracle that when the creatures disobeyed them, the little 8-year-old would hop in the water and immediately do what they couldn’t. They even called her the miracle caretaker, and that made her very happy. 

The thing Rose loved most was when they brought in a new sick animal. The town’s Sea World only brought in sick animals, and when they were all better and revived, they would perform at least three shows and then get released into the ocean. Rose hated to see the animals leave, but occasionally when she was in the ocean, she felt their presence and it made her feel better.

Today, Rose saw a little sea lion being pulled into the room by a net. When Rose tried to come up to it, the owner waved her away.

“Not today, Rose. This is a serious matter. I would suggest going home now,” he mumbled, stepping over her feet and through the door to where the little sea lion was squealing.

“No, I don’t want to go home. I want to see the little sea lion. What happened to it?” Rose asked, standing on her tippy toes to see through the little window on the door.

“We’ll call your father when the sea lion is all better. It’s time to go home now,” he says, leaving her alone in the room. Rose could feel the hairs stand up on her arms as she scrunched up her face in anger, and then stomped out of the room.

Rose stomped all the way home, making it known to people that she was very angry and that they shouldn’t dare address her when she was mad. Just then she saw a boy, her classmate, walking with something she wanted all for herself. The newest and coolest skateboard. Rose had learned to skateboard months ago, and this boy had been bragging and bragging about how he and his sister are getting the new skateboard. She turned around and started following him and his braggy comments to his friends.

She followed him all the way to his house, as each of his friends one by one left to go back to their houses. She ducked behind the bushes and watched as he opened the door and left to go all the way up to his room. She then saw him through the window of his room, putting the skateboard down and leaving for the kitchen. She snuck in through the door quickly, tiptoeing up the stairs. She heard the cling of his glass from the kitchen, and then him pouring the water. She heard footsteps coming from where he was. She quickly popped open the window, and then escaped through where the door was. She safely waited behind the bush until the sky grew dark and the lights of his parents’ cars pulled up in the driveway.

When all the lights were off, she climbed up the tree next to the wall leading to his room, and jumped from the tree to the little ledge. She crawled through the open window, sneakily grabbing the skateboard from next to his nightstand. In the place of his skateboard, she took out the ribbon her mom put in her hair from the morning and left it. She didn’t like those bright red ribbons anyways, except for the fact that it made her stick out. She crawled back through the window and down the tree.

When Rose got home with her new skateboard, she snuck up the stairs, only to see her mother standing there in front of her room.

“And where have you been?” she asked, crossing her arms. 

Rose didn’t answer.

“Your knees are scraped, your ribbon has fallen out of your hair, and you are certainly very dirty. We also got a call from the owner of the town’s Sea World saying that the little sea otter or whatever is done,” she says, leaving out the fact that she has a new skateboard in her arms. 

“It’s a sea LION, and I want to go to bed now,” she lied, slipping behind her mother and into her room.

“Wait! Where did your ribbon fall?” she yelled out to Rose.

“It fell next to Bobby Carson’s night stand when I stole his skateboard.” She giggled, locking her bedroom door so her mother couldn’t get in. She heard her mother huff and then leave down the stairs, probably to call Bobby’s parents. 

She hid her new skateboard in the secret cabinet in her closet hidden by the racks of hideous dresses she never wore. She set it down in the big cabinet, along with a few other expensive things she didn’t want her parents to take back, and also along with the boxes of bright red ribbons she kept to lay down in place of her stolen objects. Just so that the owner could feel her wrath, and just so that they could feel the same jealousy as her.

The next morning, Rose hopped back to the aquarium to see the little sea lion. This time the caretaker did not shoo her away, but instead invited her in with a concerned look on his face.

“Rose, the sea lion seems to have hurt its tail when swimming near the rocks, and now that we have mended the cuts, it has turned into a stubborn little thing. It won’t listen to any of the directions I give her,” he says, rubbing his chin. 

Rose smiles deviously. “Well first, I believe the sea lion is demanding a treat,” she says, pointing to the bucket of tiny fish that gave off the worst smell.

“I’ve tried that, the sea lion still won’t go,” he says, giving the sea lion a little fish and then pointing a certain way.

“Well if the sea lion is anything like me, you have to give the fish after the direction,” she says, hopping in the water and grabbing a little fish.

She holds the fish up over the sea lion, but before it can eat it, she points to a certain direction. The sea lion goes the same way as she points, and then comes back to eat the little fish. 

“It’s all about the bargaining. You can’t just give the food to the sea lion, it has to have some kind of motivation,” she says matter-of-factly, petting the baby sea lion. It wiggles its whiskers, and then wiggles out of her grip to stare intently at the bucket of food.

“When will it be ready to leave?” Rose asks, a bit saddened at the thought of the baby not getting to experience the feel of the ocean.

“Ready to leave? She hasn’t even done her first showing yet! And it will take a while for her to be all healed, we don’t want her stitches to open up,” he says. The baby sea lion swims up next to her and starts barking, happy to have gotten food.

“What’s her name? Can I get her toys? How long can I stay for?” Rose asks.

“Sea lion #3, no, and not that long,” he says. Rose’s shoulders slump.

“Well, that’s a horrible name,” she says, annoyed.

“We don’t name our animals and we definitely don’t get too close to them,” he warns.

“Well, I’m going to name her… Keeva. It means gentle, if you didn’t know,” Rose says, smiling. She pets the sea lion again, not fearing the sharp teeth she has when she opens her mouth. The sea lion flips over on its back, and then again on its stomach.

“I’m going to get Keeva toys. I will be back,” Rose says, stomping triumphantly out of the town’s sea world. 

Rose passes Turtle Beach, the beach she loves so much. The beach where turtles come up on the shore and sit in the sun. The beach Rose hopes Keeva will be let in to someday when she is healed and has done her three showings. 

Rose crosses over the bridge and walks the 10 minutes to the pet store. 

“For the 17th time Rose, your mother has already told me that you cannot get a pet from here, no matter the amount of money you bring in,” the owner, Mr. Burkles, mumbles.

“I’m not here to get a pet. I’m here for toys for Keeva,” Rose says.

“What’s a Keeva?” he asks, uninterested.

“Keeva is my new sea lion they are keeping in the town’s Sea World,” she replies.

“Alright kid, sea lion toys are in the back to the right next to the toys for tigers,” Mr. Burkles says sarcastically. 

“I’ll just get dog toys,” Rose huffs angrily.

She grabs a big, purple plastic ball with plastic spikes on it that squeaks. She also grabs a few plastic ducks, a rubber black ball, a stuffed animal sea lion, and two new buckets for her own fish bucket, and a bucket to hold the toys. She walks right past the cashier and out the door.

“Hey! You have to pay for that!” Mr. Burkles yells.

“Put it on my tab,” Rose says.

“What tab?” he asks, running after her.

“I’ll ask my dad for one later and send it to you,” she says, running away with the stolen dog toys. 

“HEY!” he yells after her, then gives up and returns back to the store, picking up the phone to call her dad and ask about a tab. 

Rose runs all the way back to the SW and to Keeva, throwing in the purple ball. She then jumps into the water with Keeva, playing around with the ball. Keeva jumps really high to catch the ball.

“Wow! How did you get her to do that?” a different caretaker asks her. He walks up talking to the caretaker who cares for show dolphin #15, a girl named Annabelle. 

“How did I do what?” Rose asks.

“How did you get a beginner sea lion to jump after a ball? Especially that high?” Annabelle asks, leaning down to take the ball from Keeva’s mouth.

“I didn’t do anything, Keeva is just special!” Rose says, proud of Keeva’s abilities. Annabelle throws the ball up, and it splats in the water.

“I’m pretty sure Keeva only listens to me right now, since I’m the one who has spent the most time with her,” Rose says smugly.

“Maybe we could teach her some tricks right now, instead of waiting,” the other caretaker, James says.

“I could try. Can I try? PLEAAAAAAAASE?” Rose begs.

“Well, since she only seems to listen to you right now I guess you could,” James says. 

“YAY!!!” Rose yells.

Rose picks up a fish and moves her fingers in a circular motion, the motion for spin.

“No, no, no. She can’t do that yet. It will hurt her tail. Try just a simple jump,” Annabelle says. Rose does a swift movement pointing upward, and Keeva follows.

“That’s just crazy, we’ve never had such a smart sea lion,” James says.

“Yes, I know. And she’s MY sea lion,” Rose brags. Keeva comes up to her and takes the fish out of her hands, then coming up and rubbing against her side.

“Let me play with her a little longer, please?” Rose begs.

 Annabelle nods. “Ok. But we want a chance to teach her a few more things. If this goes right, she might be ready for her first showing in less than a month!” Annabelle says. 

“And then I can take her to Turtle Beach???” Rose asks, excited. 

“Yes, and then you can take her to Turtle Beach,” Annabelle responds. 

Later that night when Rose comes home for dinner, her mother again asks her where she’s been.

“Why is your dress so wet and dirty? Where have you been? Why has your ribbon fallen o-” her mother stops and looks at the bright red ribbon that is still tied in her hair. Her eyes widen.

“Your ribbon hasn’t fallen off. What did you steal?” she asks.

“Nothing. I stole nothing,” Rose says, awed with herself. “Oh well, I still have time for that tomorrow. I can do it after I train Keeva with Annabelle and James!” Rose says, excited. 

“Who is Keeva?” she asks.

“Keeva is my new sea lion,” Rose says.

“Right…” her mother whispers to herself. 

*      * *

Rose hops down to the town’s Sea World once again. It’s been 4 weeks since Keeva came in, and her progress is going very well. They even think she might be able to show soon. For many sea lions, it takes around a full year to train them, show them, and for them to heal properly in the progress. But there is one problem. Keeva only ever listens to Rose.

Since the town’s Sea World has been needing her all this time, she comes back straight from school to hop in the water and play with Keeva. That way she can also help train her. One of the times, the owner actually asked Rose to stop coming, so that Keeva could learn to train with the caretakers, but Keeva just sat there and swam, and listened to none of them. 

Because of this small dilemma, the only way Keeva can train is if Rose comes and does it. And because of this, Rose has stopped stealing everyone’s things. And the only reason why Rose is helping them train Keeva, instead of spending all of her time playing with Keeva, is because once Keeva is done with her showings, Rose can take her to Turtle Beach. And that is what Rose really wants. 

“Rose! You’re here! We have great news! Keeva is going to be doing her very first showing this weekend!” Annabelle says excitedly.

“This weekend??? But she hasn’t learned to listen to you. She only listens to me,” Rose says, concerned. As surprising as it is, she doesn’t want Annabelle to be laughed at.

“Which brings me to my final point… maybe you can do her first showing?” Annabelle offers. Rose’s eyes widen and her smile brightens.

“REALLY??” she asks, excited.

“I asked my boss and he says yes, as long as I’m there to supervise you,” Annabelle says. Rose’s eyes brighten.

“But don’t get too excited, you’re only doing the first showing. After that we’re going to start training Keeva to listen to us instead.” James walks in. He pats Keeva’s head, but she pulls away. 

He sighs. “She just doesn’t seem to like us,” he says, frustrated.

“Maybe you should try and play with her more often. How many times do you play with her compared to training her?” Rose asks, arms crossed.

“We don’t have time to play with her,” James says.

“Get ready, because you might have to go into the water this weekend when she is showing,” Annabelle says.

Rose’s stomach flutters as she walks up to the big pool that holds Keeva. The audience is filling up the benches in front of her, and she realizes that this is way more people than Rose thought there would be. 

“Are you ready?” Annabelle asks from behind her. Rose nods. Everyone is here because of the new baby sea lion who learned quicker than any other sea lion.

“You remember the hand motions, right?” James asks. Rose nods.

“I’m pretty sure, yes,” Rose says, nervous.

“You’ll be fine.” Annabelle comforts her. Rose nods as the audience quiets down. Rose hops in the water, and people lean in, in confusion, as to why 8-year-old Rose is in the water where the caretaker is supposed to be. 

“WE NOW INTRODUCE, KEEVA THE SEA LION AND ROSE, HER TRAINER!” Annabelle yells loudly. People murmur when they hear that Rose is Keeva’s trainer.

Rose takes a deep breath and pats Keeva’s back. She swipes her fingers up in the air, and Keeva follows. Rose feels better now that she knows Keeva will listen. She twists in the air and flips as Rose taught her. Rose then does a few more tricks she was supposed to, and then gets out of the water. People gasp, and Rose turns around to look what they’re looking at. Keeva is hopping out of the water with her, because sea lions can stand up on the ground. 

“Did you train her to do that?” James whispers. Rose shakes her head. She goes back over to push Keeva back in the water, but Keeva just sits there cuddling against her leg.

The audience claps and laughs, thinking it’s all part of the show. Rose picks Keeva up and tries to put her in the water, but Keeva keeps coming out. The audience laughs again, and soon Rose is laughing too. James picks Keeva up and brings her back to her pool. Rose bows and walks away from the clapping audience. 

It’s Rose’s birthday today, but no one seems to notice because of all the buzz going on about Keeva’s third showing. It’s been a year since her first showing, and when Rose led the second showing too, people started calling her the “Animal Whisperer.” Keeva’s second showing had the most audience the town’s Sea World had ever seen. 

For once in her life, Rose doesn’t really care that no one, but Annabelle wished her a happy birthday. Even her parents seemed to forget, now that their daughter is known for something good and not terrible. It even seems like they’re more interested in her now that she’s become a good girl, and not the little robber that she used to be. 

At first, Rose didn’t notice that she had stopped stealing. She didn’t even notice that she had become a nice person. She was just occupied with Keeva because she was happy. Now that Keeva is going to be finished with her third showing, Rose can finally take her to Turtle Beach. Occasionally Rose will find herself wanting something that someone has, but mostly she just wants her parents to pay attention to her.

With all of this, Rose’s parents are definitely paying more attention to her. It may not be because they love her, and it may not be because she’s their daughter, but any attention is better than none. 

On the way to Keeva’s showing, Rose stops by Turtle Beach to smell the salty air and feel the sand between her toes, and for once she starts appreciating it. She can’t wait to bring Keeva here, because as much time as Keeva may have spent near another beach or wherever she came from, Rose wants Keeva to have the best beach experience. 

“Good morning, Mr. Burkles!” Rose yells on her way to the show.

“Good morning, Rose!” he calls out. 

Rose walks into the showing area where the collection of people have formed near the benches. Practically the whole town is here, and even though it’s a small town, there are quite a few people who live here. When Rose walks in, the whole area seems to arrupt in cheer. Rose notices a few men here who she hadn’t met yet. Maybe they are new to town? They are the only ones not cheering. 

Rose hops into the water. Keeva greets her with a bark and snuggling into her hip. Rose giggles, and the audience quiets down as Rose starts doing advanced tricks and Keeva follows. The audience starts to settle in and watch contently. Again, Rose’s eye catches the odd new men standing in the stands. They watch Keeva’s every movement, and Rose feels a sense of pride in Keeva’s skill. Maybe she might invite the new men to watch Rose go in the water of Turtle Beach with Keeva and the whole crew. 

People cheer as the mysterious “animal whisperer” gets out of the water to do the finale. Rose moves along the water and Keeva follows like she was trained, and then before hitting the water, she lifts herself from the surface of the water and moves her tail back and forth, then does a full flip and swims the other way. This is a very advanced move.

When the show is over, Rose goes to greet the mysterious men. She comes across them shaking hands with the owner of the town’s Sea World. I guess the owner beat her to it. When the mysterious men look over to her, they smile wide.

“Well if it isn’t the ‘animal whisperer’ herself. You trained Sea Lion #3 very well. Thank you for allowing me to take her,” one of them says.

“Her name is Keeva, and what do you mean take her? Are we taking her to Turtle Beach now?” Rose asks, hopeful. The man looks over to the owner in confusion.

“You didn’t tell her?” he asks.

“Tell me what?” Rose asks, her old demanding voice coming back.

“Keeva is going to a facility in New Orleans for a few years to be trained by professionals,” the owner says.

“WHAT? A few YEARS? But I thought all she had to do was 3 showings!” Rose exclaims, her blood boiling.

“Well, Keeva is very special, and she is our star sea lion and our main profit. We thought it would be good if we give Keeva over for a little while,” the owner explains very carefully as if Rose were a 3-year-old.

“Don’t worry, she’ll be back in about 9 years,” the man says casually.

“NINE YEARS??? I’ll be gone from here by then! Keeva will be done with half her life. She won’t even remember me!” Rose says, crying now. Her voice gets very demanding.

“Actually, sea lions can remember up to 10 years, so she will remember you fine,” he says.

“Well, Keeva only listens to me. You won’t be able to train her at all, so you should pick a different sea lion, and let me do my work.” Rose stomps the ground.

“We have other ways of training her, and you aren’t even a licensed trainer, so no I cannot ‘just let you do your work,’” the evil man says. 

“Rose, you should say your goodbyes now,” Annabelle says from behind her.

“NO!” Rose refused, running over back to Keeva. A few caretakers picked Keeva up and started hauling her into a truck.

“NO!” Rose protested. Keeva let out a whine, trying to get back to Rose.

“It isn’t your sea lion Rose, it has only been a year,” the owner says from behind her. 

Rose runs up to Keeva. “Then why does she only listen to me?” Rose protested, her arms crossed. 

“She’s just had bad training,” the owner says. 

Rose goes over and pets Keeva’s back. Rose has had many years of practicing when trying to get something, but this time was different. This time, her tears were real and she couldn’t turn away to try to get something better, or different, because nothing came even close to getting better than Keeva. Keeva had changed her because no one ever loved Rose, not even her parents, and Rose was never capable of loving anything before Keeva. And now they were trying to rip the one thing in life that ever loved Rose out of her hands, and they were succeeding. And this time there was nothing she could do to stop it. All she could do was watch as the truck drove away with Keeva in it, whining to get back. 

Rose was never the same after that. The memory haunted her for years, and all she could think of was how it was all her fault. Maybe if Rose had just stayed away from Keeva, they wouldn’t have to send her away for special training. Maybe if Rose had tried hard enough, the truck would stop and let Keeva go. But that never happened. And just like how Keeva came, she was suddenly gone. 

People whispered about Rose, about how she had changed from being a little kid robber to being an “animal whisperer”, and how every time a new sea lion came in, Rose would watch from the gates and remember how Keeva had come, wounded and afraid to then first meet Rose. People whispered about Rose’s sudden change of heart, from a demanding jealous little girl to a genuinely nice person. 

But for a while Rose, lost her voice, her opinion. She didn’t participate in much of anything. She became a good student and a good girl, only to always be rejected by her parents and haunted by the traumatic experience of Keeva’s absence in her life. Rose stayed away from most people, her once confident and demanding personality just gone with one memory.

Rose eventually got over Keeva, never really forgetting her, but instead remembering how Keeva changed and saved her. Eventually Rose moved on from all her fears and found her voice again. She went off to study marine biology and to work with sea animals. 

When 10 years passed by, Rose came back to her small town to see if Keeva had come back to her. Rose walked all the way back to where she was taken away from the one thing she ever brought herself to love. 

“Is Sea Lion #3 back?” Rose asked for the millionth time like she had over the years. The owner’s son, the one who had taken over after the real owner died, didn’t recognize her when she asked him. No one from her town did.

“She is, and she’s still sick,” he mumbled.

“Sick? What happened?” Rose asked, opening the gate. Her heart leaped with the idea that she would get to see Keeva again.

“She caught a disease. Only has a little time left to live,” he says. Rose’s heart sinks, and for the second time, she feels like she’s being ripped away from a part of her.

“I want to see her,” Rose demands. He takes her back to Keeva’s pool.

When Rose sees Keeva, she knows that it’s her. Even in her dying moments, she still has the sparkle and energetic spirit lying in her eyes. When Keeva looks at her, looks up from where she’s slowly swimming, she doesn’t recognize Rose. That is until Rose takes out the purple ball she had taken with her when Keeva went away. Keeva recognized the ball right away, and when she realized who Rose was, she howled with happiness and seemed to get her energy back. Rose got in the pool and pet Keeva’s back.

“Let me take her,” Rose says.

“You can’t do that,” The owner’s son says, looking at her weirdly.

“Why? She’s dying isn’t she? Let me take her. In her last moments,” she says. 

He shakes his head and scoffs, leaving the room. Rose picks Keeva’s heavy and dying body up. I guess it’s time for one more steal.

“Hey, you can’t do that. Hey!” he yells after her as Rose walks through the gate and to her destination. The owner’s son tries to come after her, but seems to give up. Rose should’ve known from the beginning how terrible this town was.

Rose floats in the salty, warm water of Turtle Beach under the rays of the sun with Keeva. She moves her legs and arms in the smooth water, watching Keeva happily swim in the water that should’ve been her home 10 years ago. Rose’s eyes are puffy from the tears that are falling down her cheeks, and her brown hair flies in the wind like it did so long ago. Rose thinks about all the ways Keeva saved her; from the world and herself. She thinks of all the amazing memories she will never forget, and how much she loved and will always love Keeva. In Keeva’s last moments, in Rose’s last moments with Keeva, they live the moments in peace together. 

They won.

Welcome to the Labyrinth

Chapter 1

Basil had only been in town for a few weeks and was told he wasn’t the most observant fellow, but even he knew that the Dagrun Library was something special to the people of Lindita. While most teenagers would be playing on their phones during the breaks between classes, those in Lindita always seemed to have a book in their hands. Crowds moved in and out of the towering library at nearly any time of day, chatting about one thing or another about what they had read or learned there. Which was why Basil was so excited to finally go.

His parents didn’t let him leave the house outside of school while boxes still filled his room, so Basil reluctantly unpacked and finished the job yesterday, finally letting him find out what all the hype was about.

When he asked some of his classmates about the library, their answers were often vague, as if the place itself had some sort of feeling that no one could explain. They had told Basil about the three librarians who lived in the building, each helpful and charming in their own way. Ji apparently knew the location of every book in the library, but would point you to his brother’s, Kalpana, direction when you gave an unclear description. The last one, Ezra, seemed to pop up whenever you needed him, whether for directions to the restroom or a specific section of the library.

Basil’s best friend, Mina, waited for him at the front door of the Dagrun Library, her hazel eyes sparkling with their usual mischievous twinkle. When she learned that Basil hadn’t been to the library yet, Mina told him she couldn’t wait to see the look on his face when he walked in. She also said that if he was lying to her, there would be hell to pay. “And hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” Mina quoted that day.

“Took you long enough,” Mina said, slapping him a high five after he made his way up to the tall, wooden doors.

“Did there have to be so many stairs?” Basil joked half-heartedly, trying to ignore the pain in his chest. He hadn’t done much exercise during the summer, preferring online and strategy games to repetitive swimming or running that got boring after two seconds. His flushed brown cheeks and resistant lungs were making him regret it.

Mina rolled her eyes and tucked a stray red hair behind her ear. “You got eight minutes on the mile; you’re not fooling anybody.”

“It’s not an A,” Basil muttered.

“It’s better than my D,” Mina retorted, swinging her legs while she sat on an iron railing. She sighed. “Why do I have to be so bad at running?”

“You’ve got A’s in everything else, Mina, don’t sell yourself short,” Basil said, then gestured to the doors. “So, are we going to go in or what?”

Her eyes brightened. “Right!” 

She grabbed his hand and practically dragged him along while Basil stumbled after her. Mina grabbed the brass handle and smiled her slightly off-putting, devious smile at him.

“Ready?” she asked and Basil nodded, pushing stray black hairs from his face.

Mina pulled open the door. “Welcome to the Library!”

When Basil stepped inside, it was as if he had entered another world infused with old pages and polished wood. The floor was made of sleek wooden planks, and Basil’s vision was filled with what seemed to be hundreds of dark wooden bookshelves stocked with books of any size or shape, all arranged like a miniature labyrinth. He could also see two spiraling staircases leading up to another level of the library lined with even more stories.

Mina skipped up to him with a grin. “What d’ya think?”

“It’s big,” Basil said, still staring at the gigantic sight in front of him.

“Well, duh, what else?”

“Really big,” Basil added, just to annoy her.

Mina punched him in the shoulder and scowled. “Shut up!”

“But then you’ll never know what I think…” Basil said in a soft, sing-song voice.

“So help me, there will be a funeral tomorrow,” Mina said.

“It’s really great, Mina,” Basil said finally. “I can see why you like it so much…it’s just it.”

Mina’s face softened as she gazed around the room, people weaving in and out of the maze of shelves. “Yeah.”

“Anyways, where do you want to go first?” Mina asked. “This starting area is mostly nonfiction texts, but there’s a kids’ room, teen fantasy, teen sci-fi-”

“Teen fantasy sounds nice. I’ve been looking for the third book in the Goldfyre series, but couldn’t find it in my old library.”

“You probably will here, then, but before we go, I should probably show you the directory,” Mina said. “Wouldn’t want you getting lost now, would we?”

Mina led Basil down the central aisle to a low wooden table that went up to Basil’s waist. However, atop the table was an assembled building mirroring the outside of the Dagrun Library.

Mina lifted off the roof of the building as well as the top two floors, putting them to the side. She pointed to where they were now on the first floor.

“We’re here,” Mina said, then traced her finger through the bookcases to the left side, where a set of wooden steps were placed on the 3-D map. Her other hand picked up the second floor while her finger went into it and directly to the right, where two tiny words were burned into the wood. Mina picked up a magnifying glass tied to the table and put it over the words.

Mina read them aloud, “Teen Fantasy. You got the route?”

“Yeah,” Basil replied, though he still felt unsure.

“Okay, I’m going to head to the bathroom, then,” Mina said, waving goodbye as she disappeared into the maze of bookcases.

Basil looked down at the map once more. “So through here, then a right, forward, then left, and then you reach the staircase,” Basil muttered as he traced the path. “Right, forward, left, staircase, right,” Basil repeated, before an odd pattern caught his eye. On each of the floors, there were certain alcoves in the maze where the bookcases formed a spiraling circle.

On the first floor, there was one alcove where Basil currently stood by the map, but on the second there were two: teen fantasy and teen science fiction on opposite sides of the floor. The third floor had three: kid’s fiction, kid’s nonfiction, and the event room. “That’s cool,” Basil said as he admired the architecture.

After repeating the directions one more time aloud, Basil headed into the maze. He reached the stairs with little effort and made his way to the Teen Fantasy alcove, surprised when he saw Mina already there, reading the third Goldfyre book: Bluemyst.

Mina looked up from the book and grinned. “Did you really remember the directions?”

“Did you really go to the bathroom?” Basil retorted.

“Touché, but you’re deflecting, which means no, you didn’t.”

“I did, I just confirmed it with the map again. Also, did you realize the cool design of this place?”

“You mean the spirals? Yeah, pretty much everyone does. It adds a cool kind of flair to the library and makes a great reading nook.”

She gestured around to the four others reading novels in the alcove.

“Also, I found the book,” Mina said and held out the Bluemyst novel. “We can check it out at the desk, but first I really do need to use the restroom.”

They both made their way down the stairs and Basil realized something, but Mina was already skipping away. He jogged after her, but she seemed to have disappeared.

“Mina…I don’t know where the check-out desk is,” Basil grumbled. He turned around and nearly slammed into another bookcase.

Basil looked around at the corridor he was in and gritted his teeth.

“Great! Now, I’m lost,” Basil muttered, still clutching the Bluemyst book in his right arm and holding Mina’s library card in his left.

“Do you need some help?” another voice said, making Basil flinch.

He turned around and saw the face of a friendly young man. He had red hair, left long and wild, as well as kind green eyes.

“My name is Ezra,” the man greeted. “I’m a librarian here.”

“Oh!” Basil said. “Yes, I would like some help. Do you know where the check-out desk is?”

“Of course, I’ll take you there.” Ezra began walking away and Basil was quick to move after him, not wanting to lose the man like he had Mina.

“Here we are,” Ezra said after a few moments. Basil stepped into an open row filled with self-checkout desks and a lone, well-kept counter manned by a person who looked like Ezra’s twin.

Ezra led Basil up to the counter, and while Basil would still call the man Ezra’s twin, it was very apparent that they were different in nature.

The man at the counter had his red hair cut short and gelled back and his emerald eyes were more calculating than kind. He wore a blue necktie and a black polo shirt, as opposed to the simple white t-shirt and jeans of Ezra.

“Ji!” Ezra said, “We have a newcomer looking to check out a book.”

“How does he have a library card, then?” Ji asked, narrowing his eyes. “You need to find the desk to get one.”

Basil flushed. “Uh, it’s my best friend, Mina’s, sir.”

“Oh! Mina!” Ezra said excitedly and even Ji’s stern mask seemed to soften at the name.

“You guys know her?” Basil asked, his eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

“She has been a long patron of this library, and we tend to know most of the people in Lindita anyways,” Ji explained, taking the book and library card.

“Are you guys twins?” Basil asked as Ji scanned both of the items.

Ji and Ezra both glanced at each other. The former had a hint of a smirk, while Ezra shook his head.

“Triplets, actually,” Ji said, returning the book and card to Basil. “Our brother, Kalpana, is another librarian, but he usually sticks to the top two floors.”

“I knew you guys were all librarians, but I didn’t think you were related,” Basil said.

“Looks like you found them,” Mina said with a smile as she walked up to Basil. “Hey, guys.”

“It’s nice to see you again, Mina,” Ji said, inclining his head respectfully.

“Hi, Mina,” Ezra said with a casual wave.

Mina returned Ezra’s gesture before turning to Basil. “You finished checking out the book, but I’m guessing you got lost because Ezra’s here.”

Basil sighed. “You really enjoy embarrassing me, don’t you?”

“Best friend privileges. You could do the same if you ever manage to find anything on me.”

“Can I check your trash bin for bodies?”

“They’ve already been shipped to the dump, you’ll never find them now!”

“Both of you, keep your voices down,” Ji chastised.

“Sorry,” the kids whispered.

“Anyways, I think we need to head home,” Mina said.

“Have a good afternoon, you two,” Ezra said as they both headed for the exit.

When they both were outside, Basil asked, “When did you meet them? They seem to be good friends with you.”

Mina grimaced. “It’s a long story, and not a fun one either. They helped me in a rough spot, that’s it.”

“You okay?”

“Yeah,” Mina said with a small smile, heading to her own home a few houses down. “I’m fine, Basil.”


Basil kicked his shoes under the bench in the doorway and rolled onto the couch, reading the blurb on the back of the Bluemyst book:

“Quara and her dragon, Euranta, have discovered the location of the fourth jewel within the Grootvapor Swamp, home to the mysterious Bluemyst tribe. Some of the tribe welcomes them, but others don’t seem so agreeable. When the duo and their friends find a hidden tunnel network deep below the Bluemyst camp filled with captive dragons, they learn that the tribe may not be all that they seem…”

Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. Basil groaned and got up from the couch.

“I’m coming!” Basil said as he unlocked the door. Mina stared back at him, fidgeting with her clothes.

“What’s got you so nervous?” Basil asked.

“The library’s closing!” Mina blurted out, her arms splayed out as if to emphasize the point.

“Yeah? Isn’t that normal?” Sure, the lights had always been on when Basil looked, but he doubted that the library closing was a sign of alarm.

“No, it’s not! The library only closes once a year, and that happened over a month ago!” Mina looked seriously distressed. “Even then, the doors were never locked!”

“If they’re never locked, then that means we can ask the librarians what all the fuss is about,” Basil said.

Mina winced and rubbed her arm. “Yeah, but nobody goes in when the lights are off.”

“What? Some kind of ghost story?” Basil joked.

“Let me just show you,” Mina said and pulled Basil towards her house.

Within a few minutes, they entered her room. It was moderately tidy with some books and papers spread out haphazardly over her desk along with a few candy wrappers and an empty water bottle. The walls were painted a pale blue, and a dark brown shelf sat in the corner next to her dresser. The shelf had all sorts of small knick knacks on the front and top, but behind those items were a collection of books.

Mina pulled out three novels in the middle shelf, revealing a thin, peeling paperback with the faded title, “Unknown History of the Dagrun Library”.

“It was hidden behind the staff desk and wasn’t registered in the catalogue,” Mina said.

“So you stole it?”

“Shh, no, I borrowed it. I’m going to give it back. I just wanted to copy it at school first.”

“Doesn’t that damage the book?”

Mina waved it off. “That doesn’t matter. What matters is the stories in here.”

She fingered through the book before showing it to Basil. There was a picture of a kid, maybe nine years old, with a dark blue baseball cap and an orange shirt.

“Uther Mayson,” Mina said, “went missing fifty years ago here in Lindita on a night the Dagrun Library was closed. Several of his friends said that he ‘wanted to go read a book’.”

She flipped to another page, this time depicting a middle-aged woman wearing a polka-dotted dress and white gloves like you would see in an old movie.

“Erica Blaise was a newcomer in town meeting with her sister, Jessamine Blaise. She checked out a book and returned it when the library had its lights off, then she was found mauled in the forest.”

“Okay, this is getting creepy now,” Basil said.

“One more thing!” Mina seemed to be getting more excited the more she shared, her hazel eyes gleaming and a wide grin on her face.

Finally, Mina flipped to the back of the book. The photo was in black and white with a yellowish tint. A small signature at the bottom read, “Dagrun Library, 1887.” In the photo were three figures, each in different clothes but all identical.

“You’re kidding,” Basil whispered.

Mina nodded. “That’s the librarians, also known as the Dagrard family.”

“Okay, maybe we shouldn’t go into the creepy disappearance library with an immortal host of librarians,” Basil said nervously.

“No! This means we have to go!” Mina exclaimed. “We could find out what happened to the others. Besides, the librarians wouldn’t hurt us, I promise!”

“Maybe not, but still a woman got mauled to death! What kind of stuff is even in there?”

“Books!” Mina said, then froze. “Oh my goodness, books.”

“What do you mean books?” Basil asked.

“Stories, characters, books! The Library can make them come to life, like in Night at the Museum!”

“Oh, no. No, no, no, no,” Basil said, wagging his finger at her. “That’s crazy talk. Awesome talk,” Basil admitted, “but crazy talk.”

“You mean like immortal librarians or magically mauled women?” Mina retorted.

“The photo’s kind of fuzzy, maybe they are just related to the current librarians. And the woman could have been attacked; she was found in the woods, for goodness sake!” Basil said.

“Then there’s nothing to fear. It was your idea, Basil,” Mina said, crossing her arms.

Basil threw his hands up. “Ugh! You’re so stubborn. Can’t you see this is a bad idea? I was an idiot because I didn’t know about any of this, but you did!”

“I’m going to go, no matter what,” Mina declared, then focused her gaze on Basil. “What I want to know is if you are going to help so we have twice the chance, or you are going to leave me to die.”

Basil stayed silent for a few moments.

“I’ll go,” Basil said.

What neither of them noticed were the hazel eyes watching them from outside the room.


Hast there e’er been a night filled with such pain?

Dost the setting of the sun bring suffering?

Come fill me up with bitter, cold poison

Come singe my hair and let it scorch my neck

Do to me this for it shall be no worse 

Than what has’t been done, 

Forgotten from thy lips

My name once sweetly sung 

How dareth thee mistake mine own love 

For something to be easily tossed hence

Cowards art those who cannot face the sunrise

And you were born with two closed eyes


The empty grey walls and glaring fluorescent lights seemed to soak up time as it passed, slowing down the world. At the front of the room, the teacher clicked through a presentation about the parts of a cell. In the farthest row of desks from the front, a student sat, blatantly ignoring the “take notes” portion of the slide. 

Instead of a long paragraph about the lesson, the page was filled with a series of sketches. The desk next to him began to move steadily closer, and with very little subtlety. 

“What’cha drawing, Fin?” asked the occupant of the desk, trying to get a look at the notebook. 

“Nothing, Roman,” replied Fin, refusing to even look up at the other boy. 

“Come on,” groaned Roman loudly. Fin sighed and held up the notebook. The page was filled with a few drawings. The largest one was of the teacher, Mr. Stuart, and his mind-numbing presentation. 

“You’d better be taking notes!” yelled Mr. Stuart. For a moment, it seemed as though he might begin a lecture about the importance of notes, but then he noticed the time and continued with his slides. “Don’t blame me when you fail the test,” he muttered before beginning again. 

“Why don’t you ever draw anything cool?” asked Roman, dropping back into his seat, somewhat dejected. Fin didn’t even give it a response. 

“Remember, homework is due tomorrow!” screamed Mr. Stuart, finally closing down his computer. Even the blank whiteboard was more interesting and educational than whatever Mr. Stuart crammed into his presentations. 

Then it happened. It finally happened. The blaring, harsh sound of the bell. Fin gently placed his notebook into his open backpack and slung it onto his shoulders. Even though he was in the back of the room, he crossed it and reached the door with incredible speed and ducked out into the hallway. He sprinted down the hall as other students began to file out of their rooms. Fin knew he only had a few moments before everything in the hall was packed with people. He leapt toward his locker, preparing to wait out the crowd. Fin quickly opened the door and stuffed his textbook into the small space. He glanced over his shoulder, checking if he could get out. The main door was completely clogged with students, pushing each other trying to get through the surprisingly narrow door. Fin glanced over at the side door, which was empty. He got up and ran to it. 

Fin stepped out into the cool, fresh air. The sky was filled with clouds and looked like it was going to rain again. The smell of the morning’s rain still hung over everything. It seemed as though it was always raining. 

Fin walked with purpose, expertly navigating through groups of students toward his destination. He walked past several courtyards, flanked by massive buildings. Finally, he passed by the last one and walked behind it. Behind the row of classrooms was a fairly large area. It was covered with grass but had several low walls for seating. It was protected by the shade of the neighboring building and a dense canopy of trees. 

“Hey Fin,” exclaimed a voice. One other person was already relaxing on the benches. Fin tossed his backpack down on the ground next to a spot of wall and sat down. 

“Hey, Cooper,” replied Fin. “How was English?” he asked sarcastically. Cooper laughed. 

“Obviously terrible,” he said, walking over. “How about science?” Fin shook his head sadly. 

“Mr. Stuart tried his hand at a slideshow again,” stated Fin. Cooper placed his hand on Fin’s shoulder.

“I’m truly sorry that happened,” replied Cooper.

“Yeah, hasn’t he figured out technology isn’t his strong suit?” asked a newcomer. They both turned to look. 

“Hey Alex,” said Fin. Alex nodded and walked over. She sat down across from them. “It does seem problematic that the science teacher can barely use a computer.” 

“None of them can use a computer, have you seen Ms. Philips try to send an email?” laughed Alex. “Oh, Fin, you have a sub in English today.”

“Is he any good?” asked Fin. Alex nodded. 

“Yeah. First time that’s ever happened.” She laughed. “He actually understands what he’s teaching, unlike the real teachers.” 

“Hey, where’s Huge?” asked Cooper, interjecting. Alex and Fin looked around, surprised he wasn’t there. 

“Maybe the lunch line is longer than usual?” suggested Fin. 

“Or he had to stay after class,” added Alex. Cooper nodded. After some time, Huge finally did arrive. 

“Stupid lines,” he muttered, taking a seat. “It takes forever to get any food!” The others nodded. “Even on a good day, you don’t have enough time to-” Huge was cut off by the bell. He groaned loudly. 

“See you guys tomorrow,” said Alex, pulling on her backpack. 

“Bye,” replied Cooper, packing up his own bag. They hurried off. Huge begrudgingly placed his lunch in his pack and walked off, still muttering angrily. Fin was the last to leave, and he walked slowly. He was mostly contemplating what to draw in fifth period, but also this substitute teacher who somehow knew what he was talking about. It sounded a little far-fetched, but Alex was never one to exaggerate. 

He strolled down the small hill and yanked open the door to his class. It was about half-full. The teacher was nowhere to be found. Fin sat down in a seat near the back of the room and pulled out his notebook. Students filtered in and took their seats slowly. Once everyone was seated, the teacher appeared. 

The teacher wore a bright, almost lime green dress shirt and a shiny black bow tie. A few students laughed under their breath at his burgundy suit. 

“I am Mr. G,” he said. Instantly, a dozen hands shot up with the same question. Mr. G pointed to one student. 

“What does the G stand for?” she asked. Mr. G sighed.

“Germaine,” he said. A few more snickering laughs could be heard across the room. Mr. Germaine ignored them and began his lesson. He pushed the button, turning on the projector. Loud groans of despair echoed across the room — a slideshow was beginning. Everyone gasped in shock as the first slide appeared. It was well-organized, had pictures, and real information! No one knew how to react to this. The pictures appeared to have been hand-drawn as well. All the students were confused. 

Although impressed, Fin continued to sketch instead of paying attention. The grey lines of his pencil began to form something. It started to take shape into a room with two windows. Then a hardwood table. Chairs. Decorations and food, with incredible detail appearing all over the page. 

Fin looked down at it and nodded with satisfaction and flipped the page. He glanced up at the clock on the wall. Fin decided he had just enough time for another drawing. He didn’t plan this one. He let his hand and the lead create. They created first a rough sketch. Detail slowly crawled into the drawing and the outline quickly became a distinct depiction of a person. It was from behind, preventing the person’s face from being seen. Mr. Germaine took notice of Fin not paying attention and walked over to him. Fin nervously ripped the page of his notebook and stuffed it hastily into his pocket. He flipped to a blank page and swiftly covered it with words somewhat resembling notes. 

Mr. Germaine looked down at Fin, busily scribbling his attempt at notes. Mr. Germaine saw through Fin right away but walked past him anyway. Instead, he grabbed a crumpled piece of paper off the floor and returned to his place at the front of the room. Fin realized there wasn’t enough time for anything else so he turned eyes toward the lesson. He would finish the sketch the next day. 

Again the shrill sound of the bell rang out and the halls were packed. Fin forced his way through toward his next class. It was the only one he was remotely interested in. Fin’s last class of the day, was art class. Unfortunately, his teacher insisted on only using paints. The teacher referred to pencils as “only for tests,” a statement Fin fervently disagreed with. He never used color in any of his drawing, a style the teacher simply couldn’t accept. Fin also preferred a more natural way of drawing, another reason for conflict with art teacher. “Art requires rigid structure!” Fin remembered being told on many occasions. He didn’t, couldn’t understand how anyone could think that. 

Fin forced his hand to cover the canvas in color, first in blue, then red. The teacher always marched around the room while they painted, offering entirely unhelpful criticisms. 

“I see you are finally applying yourself to real art,” the teacher declared, passing by Fin’s desk. Fin suppressed a laugh as he looked at the random pattern of color in front of him.

“Whatever you say,” he muttered once the teacher was safely out of earshot. Fin continued to ‘enhance’ his painting as the clock ticked away, far too slow. At long last, the class ended and Fin sprinted out the door. 

He hurried out the gate and set off toward his house. Fin walked calmly down the grey sidewalk. His eyes swept across the familiar scene. Houses lined the street on both sides. He could describe them from memory. Fin decided to try.

“First the two-story blue, one-story red,” he continued all the way up the street without even opening his eyes. He must’ve walked this route a thousand times. But just because it was familiar didn’t make it boring. Fin found comfort in the same walk, day after day. The routine grounded him. 

The walk wasn’t long and Fin soon found himself at his own front door. It was painted a crisp white. Fin fumbled for the key and inserted it into the lock. 

“Hello!” he shouted, stepping inside. There was no response. Fin glanced out into the driveway and noticed no car. He walked inside and dropped his backpack on the floor. 

Fin dragged the bag up the stairs and tossed it into his room. The room, like the rest of the house, was mostly some shade of blue. The walls were a light, cheerful blue, the ceiling a darker, calm navy. Fin sat down at his desk and his reached into his pocket for the sketch he had started earlier. 

Fin’s eyes widened in surprise as he found his pocket was empty. He quickly searched his other pocket. Then those of his jacket. Finding nothing, he dropped to his knees and ripped his backpack apart in search of the paper. All his looking turned up no results. Fin slumped back down into his chair. 

He wondered why he was so concerned about this sketch. After all, he had lost drawings before. Fin grabbed a new sheet of paper and started to draw. He tried to make his hands recreate the simple elegance of the previous drawing. The attempt failed dramatically. The lines became jagged and hard. Fin angrily forced the paper into a ball and tried one more time. This too, was unable to replicate the initial artwork. 

Fin gave up, tossing both crumpled papers into the trash. He stood up and walked down the stairs. He paced back and forth a few times in the hallway, lost in thought. Eventually he made his way into the kitchen and searched for something to eat. Fin hastily slapped a sandwich together and carried it back up to his room. 

The sandwich dropped onto his desk as Fin sat down again. He stared down at the sandwich. It was made of white bread, and filled with ham and cheese. Fin’s hand grabbed his notebook and he flipped to a new page. Filled with boredom, he began to sketch the square lines that made up the sandwich. Quickly, the lines turned from a square into a perfect likeness of bread. In between, the thinly sliced meat was just larger that the bread, exposing its edges. 

Fin glanced down at the completed drawing with a contented look in his eye. He pushed the notebook to the side and slide the sandwich toward him, taking a large bite. A few moments later, the sandwich had vanished. Fin felt much better after eating. 

“I’ll find it tomorrow,” he decided. Fin rolled his desk chair over to the window and gazed out. The last traces of sunlight vanished before his eyes. Far in the distance, the bottoms of clouds were lit up in a brilliant gold, a final farewell from the sun as it passed to night. Fin dropped the blinds he was holding up and turned on his cell phone. 

The sudden flash was blinding after the calm dusk outside. Fin looked down at the three numbers at the top of the screen. Six forty-two. Fin stared at the number. The screen stared back like a flashlight. Twenty more minutes, thought Fin, clicking the button to put the phone back to sleep. Fin was not excited for the twenty minutes to end. He wished they would pass as slow as the minutes did at school. Instead, they seemed to fly by. After what seemed like only a few seconds, a new light appeared outside. Fin peaked out the window, hoping. 

In the driveway, his father’s car had just pulled to a halt. Its headlights were still illuminating the garage door with shaky beams. The vehicle was incredibly old. Not old in the cool, vintage sense. Old as in old. The engine churned loudly and the paint was not in good condition. The door creaked open and then closed with a metallic clang. A figure walked up to the door and stepped inside. 

“Finley?” a voice called out from downstairs. Fin got up and walked down the stairs. He was greeted by a tall man with a long, light brown overcoat. He pulled the overcoat off and hung it carefully in a hall closet. Underneath, he wore a light grey suit and blue tie. An orange pocket square added a much-needed splash of color.

“Yeah, Dad?” asked Fin, stepping off the stairs. His father looked at him and gestured for him to follow. Fin followed him into the kitchen. His father had removed his suit coat and hung it on a chair. 

“How was school?” he asked, walking over to the fridge. Fin took a seat across from the coat. 

“Good,” he replied. Fin hated talking about his day. Nothing eventful had happened and, if it had, it would be too hard to explain. 

“Good.” Fin’s father stood up and placed a carton of eggs on the counter. Fin looked at it, confused. 

“Eggs,” he asked. His father nodded. “For dinner.” His father nodded again. 

“Son, there is never, and I mean never, a wrong time to eat breakfast food,” stated his father. The look on Fin’s face disagreed. His father tossed the eggs into a pan and put bread in the toaster. Fin shook his head, at a loss for words. 

Once everything was cooking, his father grabbed his own cell phone. A moment later, the sound of violins and cellos erupted from the speakers and filled the room. His father quickly scrambled the eggs and dropped them onto a plate. Seconds later, the sound of toast popping up from the heat interrupted the classical music. 

His father happily hummed along to the music as he assembled the dinner/breakfast. He placed a plate in front of Fin, heaped with eggs and toast. Fin looked at it skeptically. Fin’s father sat down across from him, with his own large plate. 

“So, draw anything today?” he asked. Fin nodded. “Can I see it?” 

“I lost it,” replied Fin. 

“Too bad. I hope you have something by the time I get back next weekend,” his father stated. 

“Yeah, where are you going again?” asked Fin. 

“San Francisco, for work,” he replied. “I wish I wasn’t, but not my call.” His father sighed loudly. 

“This is actually pretty good,” said Fin, staring, shocked, at his eggs. 

“Of course it is, it’s breakfast. Well, I’d better get some sleep before the flight tomorrow. Good night, Finley,” his father said, standing up and carrying his plate to the sink. 

“Night,” replied Fin. His father paused the song and walked out of the kitchen. Fin remained for a while longer, slowly eating his dinner/breakfast. As Fin finished, the house was silent. He glanced at the time again. It was almost eight as he heard the sound of another car outside. 

Fin was in the kitchen, washing his plate when the door opened and his mother walked in. 

“Hey,” he said. 

“Hi, Finley,” she replied, placing her computer bag on the counter. She too wore a long, heavy overcoat. It could easily be mistaken for pure black, but in the light, the shades of green revealed themselves. “How was school?” 

“Good,” Fin replied, in the same disinterested tone as when his father asked. He began making his way toward the stairs.

“Where’s Jerome?” she asked. Fin gestured with his head toward the stairs.

“Dad went to bed,” he replied, walking up the stairs himself. Fin hurried up and into his room. He couldn’t tell if he was tired, or fully awake. He sat down and thought for some time. He quickly decided that he did feel tired and, a few minutes later, was peacefully dreaming in the calm darkness.


Fin awoke to find the sun just beginning to rise. He quickly turned off his alarm, which would have gone off any minute. He struggled out of bed and got dressed. Fin made his way down to the kitchen and poured some milk into a bowl of cereal. He sat quietly eating it and staring at the clock. He finished just in time to grab his backpack and run out the door. 

“Bye!” he shouted, slamming the door behind him. Fin had no time to savor the walk this morning. He ran down the sidewalk as fast as he could. He just managed to slide into his desk as the bell rang. 

“Today we will be continuing our study of the Roman conquest of Gaul!” shouted Ms. Stevens, the history teacher. Fin sighed quietly and began to doodle a few Roman soldiers into his notebook. Although a little rushed, the small warriors were covered in intricate detail. Each of their faces, full of expression. Each of their shields, reflecting the sun. Fin continued to elaborate on the small drawing as the lecture dragged on. He added a few Gallic fighters on the opposite side of the page. Then some forests and woodland. By the end of the class, the entire page was covered in a vast battle among the densely packed trees. 

Fin was forced to pay attention to his math lesson. He couldn’t think of anything to put down on the page. He waited patiently for inspiration as the teacher went on and on about trigonometric functions and their vast importance to everyday life. Finally, the bell rang again and Fin hurried out to where his friends gathered. 

Alex and Cooper were deep in conversation when he arrived. Huge was also there, with food. 

“Short lines today?” Fin asked. Huge laughed and shook his head. 

“No such thing as a short line. I decided to bring food today,” he replied, taking a large bite out of his sandwich. 

“There has to be a way to shorten the lines,” Fin muttered, trying to think of one himself. Huge laughed even louder.

“They try something every year, but it never works. Remember last year, they tried opening a second cafeteria. They both just had giant lines!” declared Huge. “There’s just no way around it.” 

“Plus, the garbage they sell doesn’t even taste good,” added Fin. Huge nodded his agreement. 

“Of course it doesn’t taste good. If it did, the lines would be even longer!” shouted Huge. He was very passionate about lunch lines. 

The short break ended all too quickly and Fin and the others headed off to third period. For Fin, that meant Spanish. Spanish was one of the only classes he enjoyed. Learning a language was fun, even if he wasn’t any good at it. It was the one part of the day that passed too quickly. He wished he could stay there instead of heading off to learn about something boring about biology. 

Fin sat through science, still lacking in inspiration. Tragically, he actually learned something human cells. Strangely, this class also seemed to slip by quickly. 

Even lunch vanished in what seemed like seconds, and Fin found himself once again sitting in his English class. At the front of the room, Mr. Germaine prepared for class. He had replaced yesterday’s outfit with a bright blue suit, purple shirt, and solid red bow tie. 

Another of Mr. Germaine’s flawless slideshows occupied the entirety of the class period. As Fin got up to leave, the teacher was suddenly next to his desk. 

“Finley, stay after class,” Mr. Germaine said. Fin finished packing up his stuff and, as everyone left, walked up to the teacher.

“What’s wrong?” he asked. Mr. Germaine reached into a drawer in his desk and withdrew a piece of paper.

“Nothing’s wrong. Just wondering, is this yours?” asked Mr. Germaine. He unfolded the paper, revealing Fin’s sketch from the day before. 

“Of course not, I would never-” Fin began to protest but Mr. Germaine held up his hand. 

“You aren’t in trouble, in fact, quite the opposite. This drawing is incredible,” stated Mr. Germaine. “It’s some of the best art I’ve ever seen, and my sister owns a gallery.” 

“Really?” asked Fin, surprised. 

“Yeah, I’d like to show it to her if that’s alright, try and get it into the gallery.” added Mr. Germaine. 

“Really?” asked Fin again, even more surprised. Mr. Germaine nodded. “Awesome.”

“You should go though, you’ll be late for your next class,” said Mr. Germaine, pointing at the clock. Fin saw the time and sprinted out. 

As he sat in art class, painting some disgusting colors, he couldn’t take his mind off what had just happened. His art might actually be in a gallery! He walked a little in shock, and couldn’t care less when his art teacher called painting “uninspired” and “boring.” 

Fin raced home after school. As he walked, he stared down at his phone. He quickly typed, “Might get my art into a gallery!!!!!” and sent it into their group’s text chain. Fin got home sat in his room, just thinking. Thinking about what it would be like to get his art into a gallery. About what it would be like to be an artist. A loud buzz broke his daydreaming. “Nice,” Huge had replied. Sometime later, an “Awesome” was received from both Cooper and Alex. 

Fin went to sleep contented and excited for tomorrow. The next day’s classes lasted for the blink of an eye until, once again, he was in English. Fin arrived early to talk to Mr. Germaine, who was waiting for him.

“Ok, so, she loved the drawing but… there were a few problems,” said Mr. Germaine as Fin approached.

“What happened?” he asked, concerned. 

“For one thing, it’s pretty small. Also, it’s on notebook paper,” stated Mr. Germaine. Fin groaned, he hadn’t thought of that. “If you can recreate it, or something close, on better paper, you’re in. Obviously not during my class but… whenever.” 

Fin was completely lost in thought during art class. He never even started painting. Fin made a quick smudge on the canvas as the teacher walked past, but other than that, he was completely disengaged. 

Once again, he sprinted home and searched for some better paper. He could find only one sheet. One chance. He set the paper on his desk and sharpened his best pencil. 

Fin decided he needed to practice first. He grabbed his notebook and pictured that first sketch in his mind. He started to draw. Fin looked down in dismay. The hard lines didn’t even approximate a person. It was a disaster. Fin tried again. Then again. Time after time, the copies fell apart before his eyes. None of them looked at all like the original. Angrily, Fin ripped the papers apart, tossing the tattered scraps into the trash. He took a long, deep breath and grabbed his sheet of paper. This was it. He put the pencil to the page and gave his hand control.

Slowly, the first lines molded long, flowing hair. Then a tiny corner of face. Then a neck and shoulders. Finally, a body appeared and they drawing came together. Gradually, Fin added depth and shadow. It turned from a drawing into a person. He took a step back looking at the finished drawing. It was perfect, yet nothing like the original. Its differences only made it better. 

Fin gently rolled the paper up and wrapped two rubber bands around to hold it in place. Then he set it down by the door, ready for tomorrow. Fin checked the clock and was stunned. He hadn’t realized just how long he had working on the drawings. The clock displayed twelve fifty-two. 

He lay awake, bubbling with excitement, for quite some time. After what could have been an hour, he slipped into dreams about the future. These dreams carried him peacefully till morning. 

Fin could barely stay in his seat the next day. Not a single word said by a teacher stuck in his mind. It was filled with thoughts about his drawing. The classes barely registered in Fin’s mind as they flew past. He couldn’t wait to show Mr. Germaine the drawing. 

He sprinted into the room the moment the bell rang for class. He ran up and rolled the drawing out onto Mr. Germaine’s desk. Mr. Germaine picked it up and looked at it. 

“This is magnificent!” exclaimed Mr. Germaine. “I’m glad you didn’t try to copy the original, this is much better.” Fin laughed a little ruefully, remembering the numerous attempts to do just that.  

“Thank you,” he replied. Mr. Germaine rolled it back up and placed it next to his desk. 

“I’ll take this over after school,” he said. Fin nodded and walked back to his seat. He couldn’t believe this was really happening. His art might hang in a gallery. 

As the class began, Fin began to absently doodle on in his notebook. The seemingly random lines came together and an image appeared. It was a clean, plain, white wall. Hanging on this wall was a rectangular object. On it was a drawing just like the one Fin had given to Mr. Germaine. Fin scribbled a few people around it. Two, both in suits, appeared to be discussing the drawing. Another person was simply marvelling at it in the corner. Fin continued the drawing onto the next page during his next classes. He added more wall and some of his other sketches. Soon, an entire room was covered in his artwork. It was packed with people of all kinds. Some seemed like wealthy collectors. Others were just normal people. The thing they all had in common was their fascinated gaze as they stared at Fin’s drawings. 

Fin spent the next day searching for inspiration for his next gallery-worthy drawing. It wasn’t easy. He was still thinking when he entered Mr. Germaine’s class once again. 

“Good news!” exclaimed Mr. Germaine, walking up to Fin’s desk. Fin looked up in surprise and excitement. “It’s in! It will be hanging tomorrow. Come by sometime in the evening,” said Mr. Germaine, handing Fin a business card for the gallery. It was covered in color and the words were printed over it in black ink. A large, intricate compass was located in the bottom left corner. 

“The Compass,” Fin muttered, reading the words on the card. “By Claudia Germaine.” Beneath the names was a phone number and address. Fin placed the business card in his pocket and, once he got home, typed the name into his computer. He wanted to see what this gallery was like, and what sort of other art it had. 

It had a rustic front and large windows. Its name was in large gold letters. On the website, a large banner heralded the arrival of a new piece in the evening the next day. 

Fin grabbed his phone and sent a message inviting his friends to go with him to the gallery. Within only a few minutes, everyone was in. Fin could barely contain his excitement. 

Fin received hearty congratulations from each of his friends and, later that day, Mr. Germaine. Fin waited at the front gate of the school for his friends to arrive. They came slowly because Alex had to cross the entire campus. 

“How are we going to get there? This address is downtown,” asked Alex. Fin had already thought of this.

“My mom’s gonna take us,” he said, leading the way toward his house. Fin walked with purpose, not engaging the chatter and jokes of the others. 

“Hey, so what’s your drawing of?” asked Cooper as they piled into the car. They could just barely fit. 

“You’ll see,” replied Fin, not wanting to spoil anything. The ride was loud and fun, but also shorter than expected. No traffic blocked the streets and tied up hours of everyone’s time. Fin savored the moment as he climbed out of the car and looked at the gallery. It looked just like the picture. Giant windows and a long, elegant entrance. Fin took a deep breath and pulled the door open. 

It was not all what he expected inside. It didn’t have stainless white walls and fancy people. The walls were a charming exposed brick. Two glass cases with eighteenth century antiques greeted him as he entered. Inside, the gallery didn’t appear to have any sort of theme. Something that looked like a medieval tapestry was next to a piece of modern art. A stained glass chandelier hung from the ceiling, casting confusing, colorful shadows across the room. The building was supposed to be two stories but, instead, the first floor just continued all the way up. A wooden set of stairs and balconies allowed access to the art located higher up on the walls. As he approached, Fin noticed that the simple structure, that seemed to be made mostly of plywood, had a tiny flower carved into each step. The flower on each step was completely unique. 

“You must be Finley!” exclaimed a voice from the back of the room. The voice, and its owner, were like the gallery — not what Fin had expected, but somehow exactly what it should be. The speaker, Claudia, stepped out from behind a desk in the back. Claudia wore glasses the shape of water droplets that were tinted blue. She wore compass earrings made of some sort of crystal. Her dress was painted perfectly and looked just like a sunrise. “It’s so good to meet you!” she added, extending her hand to each of them. 

“Nice to meet you too,” said Fin. He was full of questions about the gallery, but his first was stolen by Alex.

“Why is it called The Compass?” she asked. Claudia smiled.

“Because art helps you navigate the world, just like a compass,” she replied. “Please excuse me for a moment, I have to finish setting up your drawing. But feel free to take a look around, there are some fascinating pieces in here.” Claudia began to climb up the nearest staircase and ascend to the highest level. The four spread out to different corners of the gallery, inspecting the artwork. 

Fin headed towards a pencil drawing similar to something he might draw. It was nothing like his, however. Fin’s drawing was like a photograph in its realism. This was only straight, hard lines and didn’t look much like anything. Even so, you could tell exactly what it was. Where Fin’s drawing was realistic, this drawing seemed like a pile of cubes. But they were both equally recognizable as their subjects, they were both a human. 

Alex found herself in front of the tapestry. It was clearly handmade. Instead of depicting the sort of thing tapestries did, namely knights and battles, it had been woven into a tank and other modern weapons of war. 

Cooper walked up to a row of statues. Each was carved out of marble and was in Roman and Greek style, yet they didn’t show some ancient god or hero. Instead of ancient characters, the statues showed people of history who had been enshrined into American mythology. 

Huge was the only one to climb the stairs and investigate the art high up on the cavernous walls. He came upon a canvas. The background was painted a light, sky blue. Small, puffy clouds dotted the painting. In the center was an airplane, but it was no ordinary airplane. Where the long, rigid wings of an airplane should have been, a pair of soft, light, feather-covered wings were attached. Huge raised an eyebrow, not sure what to make of this. 

“It’s ready!” shouted Claudia from the top of the stairs. All four of them rushed up and climbed up the spiralling stairs until they reached her at the top. They passed by even stranger piece of artwork, but had no time to stop. They ran up and saw Fin’s drawing was positioned at the very top. From the top balcony rose up toward the ceiling. At the point where the straight wall became the diagonal ceiling, Fin’s drawing sat. The small staircase led directly to it. “What do you think?” asked Claudia. 

“It’s… It’s…” Fin stammered. “It’s perfect!” Claudia smiled. Fin stood there for a moment and when he finally descended, found himself in a dreamlike state. Nothing felt quite real, and everything was fuzzy. 

“Goodbye!” yelled Claudia as the four left.

Fin stepped out onto the sidewalk, followed by his friends. The sun was low and the air was growing colder by the second. Fin set a quick pace for them as they walked towards the car. It was cold now, and they all regretted not bringing jackets. Fin couldn’t stop smiling. He radiated joy and excitement. It still hadn’t fully sunk in that his art was in a real gallery. He turned around and glanced back at the open doors of the gallery. A crowd was gathering outside. Gathering to see something he had created. 


Chapter One: A Vision

Sometimes, Adeline wished she could die.

She contemplated this often, wondering how or when it would finally happen. Now, she wasn’t about to take her own life, having been raised with the idea that it was immoral and she’d plummet straight to hell immediately. She just wished that it would happen naturally or someone would finally take notice of her anguish and pierce an arrow straight through her heart. 

She was thinking about this one day as she sat by the windowsill holding a thick, worn out book in her hands. She had read this book a hundred times before and now only held it for its comfort and security. The sound of children’s laughter and shouts filled her ears as she gazed out the window. She had never before laughed as those children did almost daily. 

Her thoughts were interrupted when an angry-looking woman entered the room. Her red, burnt skin was peeling, her tangled hair was nested on top of her head, and smoke was practically fuming from both her nose and ears. Her bloodshot eyes found Adeline, and she opened her mouth, revealing a set of yellow, rotting teeth. 

“Adeline! You good-for-nothing scum! What are you doing sitting around, you lazy pig? The stairs need to be washed and the toilets need to be scrubbed! Come on, get up and get to work!” 

Adeline was used to her shrill screeches and only sighed and replaced her book with a bucket of water and soap. She went out to the stairs and began to scrub. She had almost completed this task when a pair of muddy girls ran up the stairs, the mud on their boots erasing Adeline’s hours of hard work. 


The 4 and 6 year-old girls sheepishly walked out of their room, each trying to cower behind the other. 

“We’re sorry, Addy,” Beatrice said softly. “We just forgot.”

Theresa, being the older one, tried to take most of the responsibility. “It’s my fault, Addy, I made her too excited.”

Adeline only sighed and gave them a reassuring smile. “It’s all right, girls, just try not to do it again. Now go take those boots off before Madame Lestrange catches you.” 

The girls gave her wide, toothless grins and rushed off to their room. 

After Adeline finished her chores, Madame Lestrange walked up to her and shoved a brown basket and coins in her face. “Go buy me five loaves of bread. Hurry up, before all the good ones are sold. You either come back with good bread or don’t bother washing up for supper at all.”

Adeline only rolled her eyes and walked towards the market. 

She often enjoyed going to the market and greeting people. It was a very busy place, filled with different and exciting tastes and smells. She knew most of the vendors and they often sneakily gave her samples or extra loaves of bread. She went most days due to being sent by the orphanage. She lived in an orphanage called ‘Lestrange Home for Girls’ in a small town called Fauxburg. 

“Bonjour, Adeline!” The baker exclaimed when she walked into the bakery. 

“Bonjour, Monsieur Gavroche! Can I have five loaves of bread, please?” She handed him three bronze coins. 

“You got it!” He filled a bag with the five loaves of bread, along with a small, pink pastry for her. 

“Thank you, kind sir!” She waved her goodbye and was just about to exit the shop when a familiar aroma filled her nose. It was a sweet but sticky smell and had a resemblance to the cookies Madame Lestrange ‘secretly’ ate in her room. 

This was different, though. This was different because along with this smell came a vision. Adeline suddenly pictured something in her brain. It was a… woman. A woman with long, brown, wavy hair just like hers. Her eyes were a crystal blue and her teeth were perfectly white and straight. She held a small, brown book in her hands and seemed to be laughing about something. Freckles faintly dotted her face and her dimples creased as her smile widened. This woman was beautiful. Suddenly, the woman’s mouth shaped like an O and she ran to another room. She came back holding a tray of pink and white cookies and set them on the table. That’s where the vision ended.

Adeline had no idea who this woman was.

She spent the rest of the walk to the orphanage thinking about it. Surely, it must be a memory if it’s in my brain, she thought to herself. But how? I have no idea who this woman is. I’ve never seen her before in my life. Could it have been… my mother?

Truth be told, Adeline had no idea who her family was. Madame Lestrange told her she was left at the doorstep of the orphanage by a hooded woman when she was 18 months old. She never wondered what her parents were like or fantasized them coming back into her life. She decided a long time ago that it was a waste of time to think back on the people who had abandoned her and clearly didn’t want her in their lives. 

But still, this vision brought out her curiosity and she wondered if she had any more of these visions stored inside her brain. The woman seemed so free, so happy. So then why’d she give me away? 

She was brought back to reality when she opened the orphanage door only to see Madame Lestrange shouting at a very frightened Beatrice. 

“WHAT DID I TELL YOU ABOUT HAVING THIS DOLL?” She held up a small and dirty doll that had very little hair and was missing an eye. 

“Y-you told me t-throw it a-away.” Beatrice whimpered. 

“That’s right! And what did you do? You held onto it! So now, it has to go into the flames!” She was about to toss the doll into the fireplace when a small, skinny hand grabbed her big, meaty arm. 

“DON’T BURN IT!” Adeline tugged at the doll and tried to pull it from the woman’s hands. “GIVE! IT! BACK!”

“Let go of me, you little wench!” Madame Lestrange flung Adeline to the floor and tossed the doll into the burning flames. “No supper for the both of you! Now go to your room and stay silent!”

Adeline carried Beatrice up the stairs as she sobbed into her shoulder. She laid her down in her bed and stroked her hair as she continued to weep. Theresa noticed what was going on and laid down next to Beatrice and cradled her in her arms.

“She… she b-burned Lally!” She cried. “She burned her!” 

“Shh, shh,” Addy whispered, “She’ll get what she deserves.”
She pulled out the pink cookie the baker gave her from her pocket and the little girls’ eyes widened. She pulled it apart and shared the pieces with the girls. 

“Don’t make any noise or you’ll wake everyone up.” She motioned towards the rest of the orphan girls sleeping in their little cots. 

Beatrice sniffled and finished the rest of her cookie piece. “Night, night Addy,” Both of the girls said. 

“Good night, Betty. Good night, Tessie.” 

Beatrice and Theresa fell asleep at once, their faces peaceful and innocent. Adeline, on the other hand, could not fall asleep. She lay awake all night thinking of a better life. An actual life. Her thoughts kept on coming back to the woman in her vision. Who are you? 

. . . 

One month later, Adeline sat against the windowsill and gazed at the laughing children once again. She was all alone now. Just a week ago, a loving and wonderful couple came to adopt children and fell in love with Beatrice and Theresa immediately. They were adopted and taken into their home. She looked down at the paper dolls they had given her as a farewell gift. Her heart ached, but she was glad the girls had a better future ahead of them. She didn’t cry. She never did. 

Her eyes tore away from the children and rested on the library right next door. Madame Lestrange was away at another town for some errands and wouldn’t be back until nightfall. She decided to go for it.

Five minutes later, she took a step into the quiet and cool library. It was empty, except for a man scribbling furiously behind a desk and the librarian putting a set of books in their places. She inhaled deeply and sighed. She loved the way books smelled. Old, but full of life.

Adeline loved to read. An old librarian, Monsieur Friar, had taught her how to read when she would sneak into the library as a little girl. Monsieur Friar had been like a father figure to her, but died of a stroke three years ago,

Madame Lestrange forbade them from reading, but Adeline secretly taught the girls in the orphanage how to read. They all loved to read and often gushed over how rebellious they felt doing it. Adeline would only laugh and flip the page of her book. Reading was precious to her. It sucked her out of her reality and took her to entirely different worlds. She battled with dragons, saved the princess, bested the knight, built a treehouse, etc. She felt free when she read. She felt alive and like a completely different person. She could pretend that she had a completely different life and was actually beautiful, unlike the raggedy orphan she was, with boring, long brown hair and terrifying grey eyes. She pretended she had beautiful ball gowns instead of the rags she actually wore. 

She walked down the long aisles filled with more books than she could ever count and gazed at them in wonder. She was walking through an old abandoned aisle when she saw a book from the corner of her eye. It looked brand-new and shiny, unlike the rest of the old and dusty books that filled up the library. It had strange, intricate designs on it, like vine branches intertwining and trying to beat each other to the top. She couldn’t help but open it and smell it. It smelled brand-new and fresh. She flipped the pages. This book was a factual one and contained the stories and facts of royal families from all over the world. Addy usually stayed away from nonfiction and factual books and would rather spend her time on fictional, adventurous books. A little disappointed, she was about to put the book back in its place when it flipped to a page and Addy stopped cold. 

It was the woman from her vision. 

She stared at the picture of the woman in her satin robes and the jeweled crown above her head. Same wavy hair. Same wide, lopsided smile. Same crystal blue eyes. 

Adeline gaped at it like a fish and scanned the page for more facts on this woman.

Queen Eponine of Northreign:

Queen Eponine was born in a small village in poverty and lived with her parents and 8 other siblings. When she was 15, Prince Arren stopped by her village and the two of them instantly fell in love. He took her to live with him in his palace at Northreign as his queen. The two continue to reign happily. There were rumours of a child, but nothing is known about their offspring. They keep to themselves when it comes to that matter. 

Adeline dropped the book and the echo resounded with a large thud. 

“SHH!” The librarian popped out of nowhere and put a finger to his lips. He was an old short man with a bald spot on his head and white hair puffed out on either side of it. His nose was sharp and pointy and his skin was wrinkly and spotted. He frowned at Adeline and shushed her once more.

“I’m sorry, Monsieur LeFray, pardon me.” Adeline hastily picked up the book.

“Quiet, girl, people are trying to focus.” He motioned towards the empty library. Not a single soul could be seen. 

“Uh, right. Sorry.” 

Monsieur LeFray began to walk away before he turned around and gave Addy a large smirk. “You know, Northreign is only miles west of here if you’re interested in going, Princess.” 

Adeline’s head snapped towards the man. “What?”

He winked at her and walked away.

“What? Hey! Wait!” She shoved the book into her sack and rushed to catch up with the man, but he was suddenly nowhere to be found. Abigail stared off into the direction he came from. An idea began to form inside her head. 

The Forest

The large pack weighed heavily on the traveler. He leaned on his walking stick with every step. He considered, for a moment, slinging it over the saddle of his horse. This thought was instantly abandoned as the horse was moving even slower. The traveler glanced up at the sky, the sun was low, but not quite low enough to stop. He ignored this. 

“Might as well rest here, eh Charlie?” said the traveler, addressing his horse. The horse answered by lying down on the soft grass. “Guess that’s settled,” muttered the traveler. He slung his own pack off his shoulder and let it drop to the ground. He made his way over to the horse and slowly dragged the items out of its saddle. Charlie took a few bites of grass and the traveler rummaged through the large sack. He withdrew a rather unappetizing looking piece of bread and a waterskin. He reluctantly took a little of each and then laid down in the soft grasses, looking up at the darkening sky. “Ol’ Dawson is getting too old for this,” he said, Charlie continued to munch on the nearby plants.

The sun rose and Dawson, occasionally irritable in the mornings, struggled to his feet. Groaning, he pulled the pack back up onto his shoulders and reloaded the saddle.

“Come on, Charlie,” he said with a heavy sigh, and began to walk. The horse obediently fell in line behind him. “You know, we’ll be reaching the Forest in a few days.” The remark was nonchalant but mentioning such a place made Dawson instinctively shudder and look over his shoulder. There was nothing there of course, only the plodding horse. The horse felt it too. It took several minutes of the bright sunshine to remove the grim shadow of those words.

The day moved its way along; Dawson humming a little now and then. However, the calm mood turned sour when Dawson saw the sun sinking behind a dark mass of trees. As soon as Dawson stopped, Charlie was laying on the ground. Dawson rolled his eyes and sifted through his many bags until he found his map. On it was clearly marked the road on which he stood, and the Forest. He did a few mental calculations.

“Sorry, Charlie. We won’t make it in time if don’t head into the… there tonight,” said Dawson.

The look on the horse’s face was something akin to “make me.”

“Don’t be like that, Charlie,” said Dawson, shaking his head, although he was just as nervous. Dawson pulled an apple out of his pocket and held it in front of Charlie’s face. The horse raised an eyebrow. Dawson began to walk slowly away and Charlie, who was rather sick of grass, begrudgingly got up and followed. Dawson held out his hand and Charlie eagerly crunched the apple. Dawson laughed and led the way toward his greatest fear.

The creeping darkness and the ominous trees forced Dawson to relive the countless tales and fabled horrors of the Forest. He couldn’t help but wonder if he too, would one day become a cautionary tale for avoiding these grim woods.

The sun quickly vanished and, as the sky grew darker, Dawson had to nearly drag Charlie toward the Forest. Finally, once a thin canopy of leaves formed above their heads, Charlie seemed to get more comfortable. The trees were spread out, with one every ten feet or so, but their trunks scowled down at the travelers. The meandering breeze, which outside had seemed so calming, became a gruesome hiss of foreboding. Dawson slowed his pace until he was walking beside the horse. He reached into one of the saddlebags and fished blindly around, his eyes glued to the surrounding trees.

Finally, his fingers found the item they sought and his fist tightened around it. He pulled out a fat shortsword. Its steel blade seemed the only thing not a dull shade of gray or a terrifying hue of black and green. Its hilt was of a sturdy wood and the handle was wrapped in a worn, gray leather. Feeling this weapon in his hand, Dawson felt a good bit more confident.

A few notes of song whistled out of Dawson’s lips and seemed to shatter everything around them with their noise.

Charlie’s large eyes bore into Dawson, a frightened look saying something between “Ssssh!!!” and “are you trying to get us killed?” Dawson took the message and fell silent. The threatening trees on every side lurked like massive beasts, ready to pounce on the man who broke their tranquil rest. Dawson kept his hand on the hilt of his sword. Against the terrifying and ominous power that was the Forest, the sword felt like glorified kitchen knife in his hands.

Dawson nearly jumped out of his skin when Charlie accelerated and sped past him, tearing the lead from Dawson’s hand. Dawson drew his weapon and whirled around to face a possible enemy. He saw nothing on the dark path behind him but his own footprints. When he turned back, he saw Charlie, standing in a small circle of moonlight. The three trees grouped around the spot seemed different. Their bark was a gentle brown and their leaves a cheery green. The moonlight seemed almost golden. Dawson’s nature drew him to suspicion immediately.

“Psst! Charlie, get out’a the light” said Dawson in a sharp whisper. The horse glanced at him but, instead of obeying, sat down. Dawson shook his head and crept closer to where the horse lay. Dawson drew another apple from one of the many sacks he had slung over his shoulders. Charlie looked at him sniffed the air a few times, but didn’t budge.

“Charlie, get over here,” Dawson muttered, a little louder. He turned to face the vicious trees behind him, aiming his sword as if to fight them off. He felt drawn to the spot and unconsciously began to walk backward. Charlie nodded his approval, but Dawson didn’t even notice; his eyes scanned the trees. Dawson felt something solid on his back. He turned around. Startled, he found himself in the center of the moonlit patch of forest. It felt like a different land. A sense of warmth and safety filled him; the sword fell from his hand and hit the crisp green grass.

“Suppose we can rest here for the night…” said Dawson, putting his back to one of the soft, welcoming trees and sinking to the ground. Charlie was already dozing off. Dawson felt sleep creeping up and, with a final burst of energy, rolled the apple Charlie’s direction. His eyes shut and he was deep in the restful, calm darkness within a second.

Dawson sat bolt upright. His hands reached out, desperately searching the ground for his weapon. He grabbed it and put his back against the tree. As the fog cleared from his mind and eyes, he remembered the events of the past night. A few pieces of apple core sat on the ground near Charlie. Dawson looked up through the gap in the trees above and saw the blue sky. He sighed relief and pulled his pack back on. Charlie seemed reluctant to leave the safety of the sunlight but obliged Dawson’s pleadings. They stretched their legs as they walked, expelling every trace of sleepiness.

“Shouldn’t have doubted you, Charlie,” said Dawson. He felt well rested and was setting a rather quick pace for the two of them. 

Charlie’s eyes seemed to say, “Have I ever led you astray?” 

Dawson shook his. “That you haven’t,” he said.

After about an hour of marching through the trees, which seemed barely more receptive to company than in the dead of night, Dawson stopped. A short distance ahead, the road was cut in half by a stream. Something was off about the water. Not its pitch black color that seemed typical of the forest, but its silence. The water was rushing down at a great speed but made no sound at all.

Arching over the icy waters was a bridge. Like the water, it appeared normal at first glance. Its floor was made of wood planks and it had a handrail. However, the wood had rotted to its core. Dawson motioned for Charlie to stay put. Charlie, not being especially fond of water in general, was happy to comply. Dawson thrust the pack off his back and moved carefully toward the bridge. He tapped a few planks with his walking stick, testing their strength. They seemed sturdy enough. As Dawson inspected the bridge closer, he noticed something about the wood.

“They must’ve cut down a few of these trees to make this bridge” he commented under his breath. Looking around, Dawson noticed a few tree stumps near the bank of the stream. As if in revenge, he also saw roots from nearby trees uprooting and undermining the bridge on both sides. The thick, study roots must have been all that was keeping the bridge together. Bright green vines twisted in and out of the rotted holes in the bridge. Dawson, semi-confident that the bridge could hold him, retrieved his pack.

He walked forward to the edge of the wood beams. Cautiously, Dawson placed his foot on the wood. It groaned in protest but held firm. As he walked, Dawson couldn’t help looking down into the black water. He thought he saw something move between the currents. A streamlined shape, its outline somehow even darker that the waters surrounding it. Dawson shuddered, considering what evil sort of creature would enjoy these waters. These thoughts escorted Dawson the rest of the way across. He gratefully put his feet down on solid ground, took the pack off and leaned it against the nearest tree. Dawson, careful to avoid extra weight, dropped his sword down next to the pack. Slowly, he made his way back across the bridge.

Charlie was waiting patiently on the other side of the stream. He had watched Dawson cross the bridge and was beginning to realize that he would have to make the crossing as well. Once Dawson returned, he pulled several bags off Charlie and carried them back across, stacking them with his first load.

“It’ll be easier for you to cross without all these bags,” said Dawson, removing the last load. “Follow me,” he added. Charlie got up and picked his way up onto the bridge. Dawson was checking the contents of this pack. Halfway across the bridge, Dawson heard something. He whirled around at the sound of wood cracking behind him.

As Dawson turned, he saw splinters of wood explode from the bridge and boards go collapsing into the black waters. The entire bridge began to crumble. Charlie had completely vanished. Dawson was paralyzed. He looked behind him at the pile of goods and packages that held in them the keys to his future and down toward the water. The forest decided for him. The board on which he stood snapped and Dawson went tumbling into the ice cold water.

He struggled to take a breath before his head was engulfed into the darkness. A few seconds later Dawson returned, sputtering, to the surface. As his head came up, not a ripple disturbed the horrifying tranquility of the water. Dawson spit as he broke the surface. The water had filled his mouth as he crashed into the depths. It tasted rotten and sickening.

Dawson looked around but his eyes couldn’t penetrate the inky darkness that was the river. With sudden terror, he realized that the remains of the bridge were no longer in sight. He found himself being whisked along by the currents in a nearly imperceptible way. The water remained quiet and even.

Dawson tried to think. He had a small pack on his shoulders; with luck it had a little food and water. He attempted to catch onto a branch and lift himself free of the river. His fist wrapped around the wood. For a second, he was still as the water sped around him. Dawson heard a creaking sound. As the branch snapped from the tree, Dawson’s body was hurled head-first into the water. Dawson struggled against the rushing water, desperately searching for a precious breath of air; he felt something touch his leg.

It was even colder than the water. The icy touch forced its way through Dawson’s heavy boot. Dawson instinctively jerked his leg in the opposite direction. He reached down to where his sword was sheathed. Fear clutched Dawson’s heart as he remembered that the sword, along with the rest of the supplies, were on the other side of the bridge.

“It’s probably nothing,” muttered Dawson, stabilizing himself. Then he felt the same cold clutch his ankle and it yanked him upstream. Dawson snatched a heavy root hanging over the river and held on with all his might. The cold seemed enraged by this struggle and began to pull harder. Dawson, in a burst of luck, felt his boot begin to loosen. He started to crawl up the root, attempting to loosen the boot. It was almost impossible to resist the creature, let alone move.

Dawson shivered as the boot slipped off his foot and the water hit his skin. He forced himself up the root and struggled up onto a patch of land. Dawson sighed and peered down at the water. He recognized the black shape he had seen from the bridge swimming with lightning speed up the river. Dawson decided that his best chance was to follow the river. It was his only hope of navigating out of the forest and, hopefully, to Charlie. He cast a last look back up the river to where the heap of goods and supplies sat on the other side of the bridge. Dawson cleared his head and steeled himself for the journey ahead.

He began to pick his way as well as he could through the dense and angry trees. Dawson unslung the pack and looked inside. There were a few soggy pieces of bread and an intact waterskin for supplies. He sighed and continued to move forward. The tree roots shot up from the ground; even the forest grasses were knotted and tangled. Every low-hanging vine was an invitation to trip and send Dawson spiralling back into the icy waters of the river.

Dawson climbed along the trees. He was moving blindly through the forest, his only hope being that the river led to the outside world. After what seemed like days of hard hiking through treacherous and uneven ground, churned up by the powerful roots, Dawson found himself in front of a massive, rocky hill. He saw it vanish among the forest canopy.

“Might as well have a look ‘round,” mumbled Dawson as he began to climb. As his feet struggled against the steep and gravelly side of the hill, Dawson remembered his old walking stick. It had vanished somewhere at the bottom of the stream along with his sword but it would have made a helpful addition to the climb. The jagged group of stones cut at Dawson’s bare foot, making every step that much more difficult. The rock became steeper with every step Dawson took. Not long into the climb and Dawson felt as though he was making his way up a solid wall of rock. Dawson nearly lost his balance when he felt something touch the back of his neck. It felt like sandpaper against his skin. Dawson turned as far as he could to look behind and found himself among the tree branches. Dark green leaves repelled any sunlight that might have been shining above. Dawson noticed another one of those bright patches of golden light a little distance from the river. He climbed further, forcing the heavy branches and sharp leaves out of his way and moved higher and higher. The higher he climbed, the less rough the leaves became. Near the top, they even felt soft. Finally, as his hand pushed a large leaf out of the way, a warm feeling hit his skin. A flood of sunlight and morning air hit Dawson’s senses. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, feeling the glow of the sun and air that didn’t smell of damp leaves. Dawson looked behind him and saw the massive, twisted form of the forest stretch out behind him as far as the eye could see. In front, there were still a few feet of rock to ascend. Dawson reached his hand up and felt a sturdy stone to grab onto. Using this, he pulled himself up to the rough plateau.

With a gasp of joy, Dawson saw the forest seem to melt away before him. The tightly packed trees separated and turned into a wide, grassy plain. In time, the plain met with the blue sky and calming light of day. A few other trees remained, spread far across the plain. Far in the distance, a few pillars of smoke heralded a settlement. Dawson dropped to his knees. He had no idea if there was any sort of civilization in this direction. He breathed a sigh of relief. As Dawson looked, he noticed the black waters of the fearsome forest stream soften into a shimmering river, snaking across the countryside. Dawson yearned to reach this freedom and hurried down the other side of the mountain.

The short distance he had to walk still inside the confines of the ferocious trees had no effect on Dawson’s new and joyful attitude. He walked at a quick pace, ignoring the scowling faces of the towering wooden figures. As he made his way through the forest, the trees began to thin. It happened slowly at first, but one by one the trees began to get further apart. Their powerful roots, causing upheavals in the ground, became less frequent. Their thick canopy was no longer strong enough to hold back the sunlight.

Then, at long last, the trees fell away and Dawson was standing in the plain. It felt strange, not being surrounded at all times by the frowning trees. Dawson found himself starving, and not in the mood for the soggy bread that was left in his pack. He looked around and spotted a few orbs of red lying beneath one of the remaining trees that dotted the landscape.

Dawson broke into a run as he sped toward the tree. As he got closer, his jaw dropped. His swift run began to slow until Dawson was just standing still. Sitting lazily under the tree surrounded by the remains of a few apples, was a horse. Dawson looked at the horse’s eyes, which seemed to say, “You could have just stayed in the river, it would have been faster.” 

“Good to see you too, Charlie,” said Dawson.


Chapter One

Crunch. Twig winced at the sound of his footsteps. He was used to being silent, and the distinct crackle of the leaves beneath his foot was a new sound. This was because he was walking. Twig usually ran, and when Twig ran, he flew. This came in handy for hunting, a skill required for living in the forest. Although Twig did not especially enjoy killing his brothers for food, it was necessary to survive.

At the sound of a rustle, Twig crouched, ears perked up and eyes searching. He hid behind a bush, watching carefully. There it was again. Twig craned his neck and saw the rabbit. He slowly stood, placing one lanky leg in front of the other. Suddenly, he pounced, and the rabbit lay lifelessly on the ground. 

Twig had a way of doing things, a way of getting things done. He smiled to himself, comforted by the thought, and slung the dead rabbit over his shoulder. He then took two rocks, violently struck them together, and happily watched the sparks appear. Eventually, a fire billowed up from a pile of branches and dead leaves, and Twig threw the rabbit in, watching the flames lick its fur and roast it.

Stomp. Twig turned his head. He knew that sound. It was the sound of violence, the sound of gunshots, the sound of fear and misunderstanding. It was the sound of humans. He bolted, not bothering to put out the fire and take the rabbit. As Twig sprinted, he heard the gruff voices of hunters echoing in the distance.

“A fire!” one shouted. “Someone was here.”

“Nevermind, just continue. We aren’t detectives. We’re hunters. Now let’s get a move on.”

Twig stopped. Hunter, he thought. He didn’t have the word for what he felt, but the image of the fire he had roasted the rabbit in flared up in his mind. He stowed “hunter” away with “human” in the back of his brain. Twig had been collecting words over the years, and his vocabulary was growing. He had gathered words like “gun,” “kill,” “stag,” “dinner,” “idiot,” and “twig,” the name he had picked for himself without knowledge of its meaning. Twig didn’t know what idiot meant either, but he liked the sound of it.

Twig knew he was somewhat human, but he didn’t like to think of himself that way. Afterall, humans did terrible things like abandon their children in the woods with nothing but a small parcel of food and a threadbare blanket and kill animals for entertainment. He did not know much, but he did know that he would never ever go back to his life with his parents, where he would surely live in a dismal grey box with a little clear square as his only way to see the outside world. No, Twig was perfectly fine here in the forest, with rabbits and deer and owls for company. He wanted to stay, and if he could outrun a bear, he could certainly outrun a human.

In the distance, the sun was setting and casting a fiery glow. Twig used the sun and sky as a clock. He knew that even if he had a real one, he wouldn’t be able to understand the confusing numbers he often heard hunters shouting back and forth to their companions. 

Twig lay out a heap of dead leaves on the forest floor and settled into the pile under the protection of a large tree. His dinner was gone, and most of the forest creatures were nestled into their hideaways by now, so Twig reluctantly accepted his grumbling stomach and fell asleep under the pale light of the stars.

Chapter Two

Twig was awake at the crack of dawn the next morning to find breakfast. Although he did not have a mirror, he knew he was getting thinner, because his ribs were visible through his stomach. He scampered up the tree he had slept under and crouched at the top, turning in a circle slowly and scanning the scene below. 

Empty again, but wait… there it was! A streak of white against the greens and browns of the forest floor. It was running fast, and in a flash, Twig was out of the tree and chasing the rabbit. Leaping over logs, splashing through ponds, swinging on low branches, the young boy was only human in appearance. But the rabbit was like lightning, for he had animal blood. The wild chase abruptly ended when Twig realized that he would not catch the rabbit, and he sat back in defeat. Suddenly, he realized why everything was so difficult. He was a boy, not an animal, a boy with no place to go. He felt his eyes grow wet, and a single tear rolled down his cheek.

Why, he thought miserably, doesn’t anybody want me? My parents don’t want me, the forest doesn’t want me. My whole life I’ve wanted to belong, but I don’t seem to anywhere. I’m a fake– a boy pretending to be an animal to fit in. That’s what I am, a fake! A lonely fake. Of course, Twig thought all of this with his emotions, instead of the correct words.

Suddenly, he stood, fists clenched and palms sweaty. Twig began to walk swiftly, and his brusque pace gradually turned into a run. Hot tears streamed down his face, and the wind whipped his long, ungroomed hair around, but Twig didn’t care. He ran and ran until his feet were sore and his back ached, but still he didn’t stop. Twig ran until the sun had melted into the horizon, and stars began to peek through the black blanket of sky. As a cloud drifted across the sliver of moon, Twig finally stopped. It was too dark to see anything, so he lay beneath the endless sky and cried himself to sleep.

Chapter Three

When Twig woke the next morning, he heard voices chattering and laughing. Something growled like a starved bear, and someone else yelled out a word angrily that cracked like a falling branch. Ladies shrieked, dogs barked, and wheels crunched on a gravel road. Twig curiously peeked around a tree, and almost toppled over in surprise.

Before him, was a long road, with buildings and carriages and people. So many humans! Twig had never seen so many in one place before. He longed to touch the colorful hats that delicately perched on the ladies’ heads, and the gleaming gold watches clasped around the men’s wrists. The road was half carriages, half automobiles, and Twig jumped back in surprise at the loud angry sound they made. Was there a hungry bear hidden inside? 

This place is strange, thought Twig, but he stopped all questioning when a delicious scent wafted through the air. He turned towards a stand full of rainbow scoops on brown triangles.

“Ice cream, ice cream,” a man was calling out. “Cold fresh ice cream!”

Twig didn’t know what ice or cream was, but the colors were so vivid and appealing that he was up and running in seconds flat. Twig sprinted towards the stand and right into the middle of the street. A horse whinnied and a shining black automobile screeched to a halt. Another horse with a coat of caramel began to act up, and soon he was galloping down the street and neighing noisily.

“Hey, come back here you lousy beast!” screamed a man, shaking his fist furiously. He turned to Twig. “You vile, disgusting little child. How dare you scare my horse! You just wait till your mother finds out about this!”

Twig stared at the man blankly. Then, he lifted a finger to point at the man and said weakly, “idiot.”

There was a moment of tense silence as the man’s sweaty face grew a deep shade of purple. “What did you just call me?” he roared.

“Idiot,” he repeated, this time with more confidence. Twig did not know why the man was so angry, but he decided it was not worth losing time and ice cream over, so he walked away, leaving the man sputtering behind him.

Chapter Four

The refined ladies and gentleman looked down in horror at the small, dirty, half naked boy walking confidently through the streets. On the outside, Twig remained calm, but on the inside, he was petrified. The truth was, Twig would’ve given anything to return to his home in the forest, but he knew he didn’t belong there. Although it was painful to think about, Twig wondered if he could fit in here, in the big city full of ice cream and horses and screaming men. It would have seemed completely out of the question just two days ago, but Twig was changing, and so were the possibilities.

“Excuse me little boy, are you lost?” asked a lady. She was short and round, with a feathered hat and a skirt so enormous Twig wondered what she was hiding in it. “Are you lost?” she repeated.

“Lost,” said Twig flatly. “I am lost.”

The lady looked oddly at Twig. “Well uh… my name is Ms. Thompson. What is your name, little boy?”


“And what on earth are you doing here without a guardian and dressed in nothing but an animal skin loincloth?

Twig looked down at the cloth tied around his waist. He hesitated, but remembered that Ms. Thompson was the only person who had shown him kindness. So he told her everything, from his abandonment to his arriving in the city. Surprisingly, there was not much to tell, but nonetheless, Ms. Thompson stood there gaping and wide-eyed.

Finally she said, “Well… Twig, why don’t you come with me to my house and we can get you all cleaned up. And for goodness sakes, when did you last take a bath?”

Twig just shook his head.

Ms. Thompson copied the gesture, this time in exasperation. And mumbling to herself about how unhygienic children were, she rushed ahead, Twig following close behind.

When they arrived at Ms. Thompson’s house, Twig gasped. It was very different from his pile of leaves at home. The house was bright white and guarded by sturdy pillars. A staircase lead to the ornately carved entrance, and Twig found himself eagerly running up the marble steps. Inside, the mansion was even more breathtaking. The carpet was plush, the curtains were scarlet, vases of exquisite flowers were placed on every surface, and a glittering chandelier hung from the vaulted ceiling. It sparkled and glistened, and Twig couldn’t tear his eyes away.

“Stars,” he said softly, remembering how brightly the stars had shone in the forest.

Ms. Thompson smiled. “Now then, let’s get you into the bathtub. You’re stinking up the place.”

Twig didn’t like the sound of bathtub, so he decided to show Ms. Thompson he was perfectly capable of cleaning himself. He lifted his arm to his mouth and began licking the grime and dirt away.

Ms. Thompson shrieked. “Stop doing that at once! If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you were an animal!”

I thought I was one too, thought Twig as he let his arm drop to his side. Although he was surprised by Ms. Thompson’s sudden outburst, her tone softened when she said, “My daughter will see to it that you are clean and well fed.”

Suddenly, she yelled, “My darling little girl!” in a tone so squeaky and high-pitched Twig fought the urge to cover his ears. 

When he looked up, a lovely woman was gliding down the tall, winding staircase. Her skin was so translucent, it looked as if it was made of starlight, and Twig wanted to leap into her arms and be buried in the folds of her satin skirts. She smiled warmly at him and spoke in a gentle voice, lightly laced with an English accent. 

After Ms. Thompson told her Twig’s story, a look of worry came over her face. “And you haven’t offered him anything to eat, Mother? It’s as if you’ve never had guests before! You poor thing, you must be starved. Here, try this.” The beautiful woman handed Twig a little pink circle with a strawberry in the middle. Twig bit into it, and was flooded with its sweetness. He immediately scarfed down the rest.

The woman smiled again and held out her dainty hand. “Come along now, you must be washed and groomed.”

Twig obligingly followed her up the staircase and to a white tiled room. In the middle of the room, was a polished white tub, with little silver bars and various bottles of pastel, good smelling stuff.

“You may call me Ms. Lily. What is your name?” asked the woman.

Twig looked down at his feet, ashamed of his dirty face and odd name. “Twig,” he said softly. 

To his surprise, Ms. Lily giggled gleefully. “What a wonderful name!” she said. “And what a wonderful little boy you are!” Twig felt his cheeks grow hot and he kept his eyes glued to the ground. This perfect woman had called him wonderful.

Ms. Lily turned one of the bars, and at once a waterfall gushed out. Twig jumped back, then cautiously peeked over the side of the tub, expecting to see little red fish darting around in the clear water. But instead, all he saw was the bottom of the tub. What was this magical place, where fresh water appeared every time you turned a handle?

Ms. Lily interrupted his thoughts by ordering him to undress and step into the bathtub. Twig did this too with much caution, but when the warm water pooled around him, and the lavender scented shampoo bubbled and frothed, Twig closed his eyes and melted into the water. He was instructed to wash himself with the soap, (the little white square) and scrub his hair with shampoo and conditioner, (the bottles of pale yellow and green). Twig took the soap and breathed in its scent. It smelled like the wild berries he had eaten in the forest. He longed to taste their tangy sweetness again, so he took a big bite of the soap. He immediately spit it out, disgusted. It did not taste like berries. Why was everything so confusing here?

When Twig finished bathing and was dried, Ms. Lily ducked into something called a closet, and Twig began to worry when she didn’t reappear. Finally, she came out, holding a pair of navy pants and a matching blazer. 

“We’ll need to buy you a bow tie for this,” she said matter of factly, and Twig nodded along although he had no idea what a bow tie was. He took the clothing, and following Ms. Lily’s directions, tugged on the pants, fumbled with the buttons on the shirt, and slipped on the blazer. The clothes felt itchy and stiff against his skin, but even worse were the black shoes. They were tight and squeezed his toes all together. How would he run in these? 

But he was rewarded for all of his discomfort when he stepped out and saw Ms. Lily. Tears came into her eyes as she said, “Oh my, you look just like him. Both so handsome…”

Twig tilted his head in confusion.

“Oh, he was my brother. He died of pneumonia three years ago. It’s nothing really. You mustn’t concern yourself with it.” But despite her comforting words, Ms. Lily continued her weeping. 

Twig walked to her, and slowly put his arms around her. For a moment, there was a break in her tears as she rested her hand on his cheek. Twig closed his eyes and felt her cool skin. Tears trickled down his cheeks as he remembered all he had lost. But then he remembered all he had gained, and he wrapped himself tighter around Ms. Lily. She stroked his cheek lovingly. 

“My beautiful boy,” she said softly. “My beautiful, beautiful boy…”

Chapter Five

Finally. Twig was needed. He was loved. He belonged. He really, truly, belonged. It had been almost a year since he had first arrived in the city, and already Twig was adapting to its strange ways. True, he started out eating meals by putting his face into the plate and eating the food like an animal. But eventually, he learned to use silverware. He learned to do all kinds of wonderful things, like cook and dance and sing and play baseball. He even started attending school and talking in full sentences. But perhaps the most wonderful thing of all, was when he learned to read and write.

Twig loved books. He gobbled them up for hours at a time, and he learned from them too. In time, he became intelligent and witty and quick-minded, and when he learned the alphabet, he wrote. He wrote stories of far off lands with witches and dragons and imprisoned princesses and knights in shining armor.

He wrote stories of little boys who were abandoned and lonely, but they were always found and welcomed with open arms in the end. Twig wrote and wrote, and people read his stories. They read them, and they sent in letters, and Twig kept writing, and he knew that one day, he would share his stories with the whole world.

Now, he lived with Ms. Lily and Ms. Thompson in their grand mansion, and he never asked for a single thing. That was, until one day, when he awoke with the feeling that something was missing. Twig went downstairs, and found Ms. Lily and Ms. Thompson chatting. Ms. Lily held a cup of steaming tea, and slowly sipped it as Ms. Thompson talked.

“Twig!” she said with a start. “You’re up early.”

He nodded. “I… I want to go back to the forest.”

Ms. Lily felt her eyes well up with tears, dreading the worst. “What?”

Twig realized his mistake. “Just for a visit,” he added hastily.

Ms. Lily wiped her tears away. “Of course. We leave this afternoon.”

And they did. Twig clutched a trunk and watched the bustling people and buildings fly by as they rode to the edge of the city. 

When they arrived, Twig slowly stepped out of the carriage. He watched a rabbit scamper by, and remembered the day, now so long ago that he had realized he was human, not animal. He took in the sturdy tree trunks dappled by the late afternoon sun, and how the scent of maple seemed to linger everywhere. He breathed in the fresh, pure scent of pine needles, and looked up at the clear blue sky peeking through the tops of the trees.

“Hello again,” said Twig.

Perfect is a Knife

The pinboard is a fantasy, a collection of moments, of friends that anyone would want but it is just a fantasy. This is my life! I say screaming to anyone that will hear. Aren’t you jealous? Don’t you want this?  I’m screaming into a void, carrying the sound to no one. These moments are displayed for you not for me. I already know I felt like dying that night. I already know I was desperate and pathetic, clinging to anyone that would take me. But you don’t. You just see wide smiles, unblinking eyes filled with so much happiness they look like they will explode if just one more drop off bliss enters their perfect bodies on the most perfect night. “Perfect,” that word rips into my skin exposing those dreaded vulnerabilities. The camera captures a moment where you gather up all the good things you can find, shove it down your throat and cut crinkles in your eyes to show the only smile you have left. Your fingers trace over the shining, angelic people. A perfect night, oh so perfect.

The Diner

Shining Lights

The old diner’s lights flicker. The lopsided S has been broken for some time, so all that shines from the roof above is deedy’s Diner. Her hair is pulled back, the furious curls of red angrily shoved into a reluctant ponytail, because Frank is insistent after a customer demanded a refund after finding an angry curl in his soup. She quietly washes the table, too exhausted to try and make conversation with the drunk who ordered pie at midnight. 

“Honey, grab me another slice, would you,” he says, handing the empty plate to her.

She looks down at her nametag where it plainly says Amy, and even though there is no Honey currently working at the diner, she shoves another slice into his greedy, grubby hands. No ‘thank you’ comes out of his mouth. Only pie is crammed in, but she is used to it and continues to scrub at the stain that will never come out.

The door swings open. The cheerful ding makes her eyes droop even more, and her tired body almost collapses into itself at the thought of more customers. Laughter comes from a throng of black T-shirted theatre kids who plop down into two different booths. She makes her way over to the booths, her feet dragging behind her. 

“What can I get y’all,” she drawls. 

“We’ll have five orders of french fries, six milkshakes — two vanilla, three chocolate, one mix of both, three burgers, two veggie burgers, three hot dogs, and one tuna melt,” says the obvious alpha of the theatre kids. Not so alpha out of all of high school, but this kid certainly thinks he’s the shit. 

“Jeremy, I wanted a veggie burger too,” giggles a pretty girl with an irritating voice. 

Jeremy turns back to Amy, “And we’ll have one more veggie burger for Mary Anne,” he says, as if she was stupid and she had not literally just heard Mary Anne order for herself.

Mary Anne giggles again. 

“Gotcha, okay I’ll be back in a little.”

She slides the order over the counter into the kitchen to Danny, who is either asleep or playing video games on his phone, either or, those kids wouldn’t be getting their orders for a while. She looks back at the drunk and sees him mumbling to himself. God, maybe he’s high, not drunk.

A boy sitting next to Jeremy starts to talk about the stage lights. That they were so bright he was half blind, half distracted during his performance. She remembers the feeling of the shining, blinding, too bright lights. They sat, and they laughed. And talked. And laughed some more. And they shared their dreams, so drunk off their sugar high and the old scotch that Jeremy probably stole from his dad. She knew too well that hangover after having too much fun and eating too much, and that immortality that you think you have — a shield covering your whole body, and anything that tries to get through is immediately blocked by the thought that nothing could ever take away from that night. She knows that feeling the second the lights go off and you bow and everyone claps and you stand there hand and hand with your friends that you think are your soulmates, but they go off to college and you never see them again. She wants the feeling of the hot lights on her skin again, the feeling of sweat along with pride pouring out of every fiber in her body again. She still longs to see the flickering lights of the sign Broadway, and she knows that the B would never be broken. She longed when she was young as well, with those lights, and had those shimmering dreams she can see in the souls laughing in the booth across from her.

Her shift is over, so she grabs her bag and leaves without saying a word. Outside, she stands in front of Speedy’s Diner, but the lights don’t tingle her skin the way those stage lights used to. She got her dream in a weird way — she is standing in front of the shining lights like she always hoped she would some day.

A Little Haven

Twenty minutes down the highway, an exit at 32b, you pull a right and you find yourself in the most heavenly place in the world. A place filled with midnight magic and away from the stretching hand of reality. A place filled with solitude and cheap beer to pour down the drain into your already dying liver. 

The waitress tonight looks like Carol. Carol had beautiful hair, scarlet waves cascading down her back, almost touching her waist. The waitress also looks like shes in a bitchy mood, so maybe that’s what I find so familiar.

“Honey, grab me another slice, would you,” I say, pointing down at my empty plate.

A bitter grimace forms on her face. Yeah, reminds me of Carol, her sour complaints, whining about my laziness. 

No, I am not lazy, I work day and night writing beautiful words and sentences, while you know what you do? You go to work and shove a needle in someone’s arm and do it over again. That requires no creativity, no imagination. A boring, monotonous life filled with absolutely nothing!

Oh, and then she grinned. A crazy grin formed on her face, and her wild waves bounced up and down as she almost started jumping with the mad energy that sentence filled her with.

“You think you’re a genius, don’t you? The next up-and-coming William Shakespeare, ladies and gentlemen. God, I hit the jackpot with this guy. He’s such a genius. Yeah, this guy right here, when he gets drunk, writes a few nonsense poems, and calls it a day. Oh so lucky, I am the luckiest girl in this god forsaken world as he provides for me writing shit while I go work an eight hour shift, come home, make dinner, clean the house. You know, just simple tasks while he does the real man job. A genius needs his time to work alone. All the great ones did, so I think you should leave. It will let you have your space to ‘work.’ Hope you remember how to cook, ‘cause I am sure not going to do it anymore.”

A piece of pie plops down in front of me, and I start to shove it in. I can’t seem to remember the last time I ate. I should go home and get dinner. Carol is probably there, already starting to cook something like pot roast. Yeah, she would want me to be home right about now. She will tell me to set the table, and I will do it on the one condition that she wears the apron that makes her look so sexy. I can already smell the pot roast in the oven.

I slip a few bills on the counter and head out. The waitress that looks like Carol is outside staring at the sign, paying no attention to me. I head into my car and get back on the highway, making my way to the motel, my boxes rattling in the back of the car. Two measly boxes can fit a whole life.


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

Elementary Years

Content Warning: The following content includes symptoms of eating disorders

First grade:

She put on the T-shirt that was on the top of the drawer and threw on the sweatpants that were in the hamper. Bright and happy, excited for the day ahead. She runs down stairs to eat the bacon, eggs, and toast her mom prepared. Leo Matthews called her a nerd at school today, and she happily embraced that word, tucking it in for bed next to her as she read the second book that day.

Second grade:

Her mom promised her she could wear the new dress she bought at the mall last weekend. She put it on, checking all angles of it in the mirror and spun around in it. It was beautiful — a shining yellow, proud and exuberant. She felt like a princess until one of the boys lifted it up, and she felt like a slut. She didn’t know that word yet, but all she knew is that she felt like one.

Third grade:

The glasses the doctor said was a result of all that reading in the dark. She was kind of excited to wear them to school and see what her friend would say. All the greatest writers and brainiacs wore glasses, so why shouldn’t she. Her friend told her she looked dopey, and Leo Matthews called her “four eyes.” Those words cut deeply, and when she tried to throw it out in the trash that night before she went to bed, she could still see the dark shadow of those ugly words haunting her dreams.

Fourth grade:

Finally, finally she would get to redesign her room. She decides on some soft pinks and grays and a gold-rimmed mirror in the middle — perfect for mirror selfies her friend had said. And that same mirror she looked in before swim practice that day, her short bitten fingernails digging into her skin, trying to shove all that fat to the very dark corner in her body. But she lets go, and her skin drops down to where it was before. A floppy T-shirt that is too big for you — that is what her body feels like. She does not eat breakfast that morning. No matter how her mom complains, she insists she is not hungry. She is starving.

Fifth grade:

She has started to take a hairbrush to school. It is an operation — asking the teacher to go to the bathroom to trying to sneak down to her cubby to grab the hairbrush before walking out. She always wets the hairbrush. This makes her hair straighter, so it looks like Lily’s: sleek and shiny. She comes back into the classroom just to hear Ryan say she looks like a wet dog. That night, she cries in the mirror while trying to smooth down her hair until it is soaking and the old mascara she found in her mom’s drawer is dripping down her face.

Sixth grade:

The boys in the grade have started to look at the girls differently. Leela wore a black bra under her white polo, and she had to be pulled over by the teacher. Leela went to the office because she started to cry, but the boys kept laughing. She didn’t know why Leela was crying until the PE teacher called her into her office to talk about wearing bras to school, and she felt like lying on the floor face down. The teacher gave her an extra large sweatshirt to wear in PE so no one would notice; everyone noticed.

Seventh grade:

She tells her best friend that she is fat; the response she gets back is, “I am too.” Her friend is the kind of girl whose ribs pop out when she raises her arms, and she has abs just because she’s that skinny. She bends over the toilet that night and looks down at her belly for the first time and pinches the four rolls of fat that cover the stomach. The next day when she goes to the mall, the saleslady recommends the men’s department because even the biggest size doesn’t fit her. Her mom tells her it is because she is tall, and she swallows this answer, but she is gagging inside.

Eighth grade:

She and her friends have those deep, meaningful talks where they spill all their secrets. But they don’t because they still keep a little of the drink in the glass, the sip that they know they will never share. A story about a friend has spread around, and one of the girls calls her the word that she knew she was in second grade. No one says anything even though they all nod their heads and agree, really screaming at each other inside. They cry and say they are fat, and then they all give a big hug and call each other beautiful. Then they all go home and really cry — their big, ugly, gulping tears that no one has ever seen, and half of those girls stick a finger down their throat.


Sharpie Dave was a very shy brown cactus who came from Colorado and was “born” in a toilet,  a.k.a thrown in the toilet to die by some random cactus farmer. Since then, Sharpie Dave had always felt unlovable and scared, but Dave had learned to accept that bad things happen in the world.

One day he was found in a local sewer in Ohio by a thrifty woman named Peach. Now in his new home, a thrift shop a few years later, Dave learned about this new interesting thing called “dating.” Maybe, he thought, if I try this, then I can understand what feeling loved is like! One day Dave gathered up all his confidence and went up to Brenda the Blender and asked her, “Will…y-y-you go on a date with me?”

“Sure, I have nothing better to do” she replied.

“Okay, I guess I’ll pick you up tomorrow at 2:00pm?”


The next day Dave woke up very chipper and thought about what they should do for their date so he asked around.

“I’m going on a date today, and I’ve never done this before. Do you have any suggestions for what I can do on my date?” he asked his friend Larry the Candle.

“Aisle 7, most romantic place of all time! That’s where I met my wife Joan Bean,” said Larry dreamily.

“Hmmm Aisle 7…okay thanks!” Dave said as he sped off. “If it is the most romantic aisle that maybe she can be my wife, too! Even though I don’t really know what that means, do you know what it means?” said Dave to his dog Bagel, who stared back at him glass eyed.

In the meantime Dave looked around his spot on the shelf to prepare himself, but could find nothing except dust bunnies, so he clumped them all together and made a dust bunny bow tie. Finally after minutes of waiting, the clock struck 2:00pm and Dave made his way towards Brenda’s aisle.

“Brenda? It’s me Dave. I’m here to take you to Aisle 7, the romantic of all the aisles!” said Dave happily.

“Okay, I’ll be down in a second!” replied Brenda.

Patiently Dave waited when suddenly Brenda appeared with her blades shining and her pitcher as clear as the windows in the store.

“You look nice,” said Dave.

“Let’s get going. I don’t have all day,” snapped Brenda.

So Dave and Brenda made their way towards Aisle 7, which contained a whole line of shelves with red satin on the interior, a Barbie play table set with a small lit candle, and romantic jazz music in the background.  “So, do you have any hobbies?” asked Dave politely as he and Brenda sat in a vacant shelf.

“I mean I love to wear makeup since you know, blending is kinda my thing. What about you?” said Brenda.

“Well I uh, I guess like to take care of my dog Bagel” smiled Dave.

“I hate dogs.” And with that Brenda left, and Dave had failed at his date.

Later that week, as Dave made his way back from Larry’s aisle, he spotted Brenda with an eggplant named Ernesto who bullied everyone. As Dave hurriedly tried to hide from them, Ernesto called out, “Hey, Sweet Cheeks! Come over here and give us some love!” Ernesto must’ve thought Dave hadn’t heard him so he made his way over to him. “Yo, I heard you tried to date my soon-to-be wife. Just so you know you’re never gonna find love, and that farmer was smart to throw you in that toilet.” Then he touched Dave’s clay pot, which made Dave very uncomfortable, plus he said more insults.

Dave felt so heartbroken and dirty that he cried himself to sleep that night and dreamt that Ernesto was wrong and he could find love.

   Meanwhile, a young, magenta-colored balloon named FloorBoard who lived in Kansas wanted to see the world and find true love but she was scared she would never find the right guy or be popped. “I want to be in a place where there is a beach and no sign of corn stalks but, alas I cannot possibly do this for I am nothing but a balloon,” she said sadly. “No, I shall leave this place and make my way to the place farthest from here!” And with that she left her Kansas home. Floorboard blew with the wind at a great height and saw the driest deserts she’d ever seen along with a very swampy bayou with murky waters and alligators trying to snap at her. As Floorboard blew through all these extravagant places she finally crossed Indiana into Ohio.

When Floorboard arrived in Ohio, Sharpie Dave was feeling very melancholy and deep in his thoughts about what Ernesto had told him. “Maybe he’s right, I am unlovable,” gulped Dave. He started to cry. Bagel who didn’t know what to do curled himself around Dave’s pot as he wept.

“Oh what a sight this is!” exclaimed Floorboard as she glided over The Great American Ball Park and saw the crowd cheering for men holding strange, wood-like objects. As the Floorboard explored more and more of Ohio she caught sight of Peach’s Thrift Shop. A small bell tinkled as she entered the shop. Looking around Floorboard was entranced by all strange objects such as a porcelain cat, a sun mirror, a lamp, and a buduaar. While going up and down the aisle, she could hear faint sobs in the distance. She came across Dave and Bagel. “Are you alright?” she said softly.

Dave, who had been crying for who knows how long, looked up with his little puffy red eyes and said, “I don’t know. Someone said that I won’t ever find love and I really want to, but now I’m afraid I never will because I am unlovable.”

“I’ll…love you,” said Floorboard comfortingly.

“Really!?” said Dave as he jumped up from his slouched position.

“Yes, I don’t want you to be sad and feel unloved so I will love you!” she said happily.

So Dave and Floorboard left Peach’s store and went to go love each other. They went from the shore and island gateways to the Toledo Museum of Art! They dined out every night and stayed up till morning talking and laughing. Dave had never felt this kind of happiness before, and everytime he looked at her he felt an amazing sensation in his heart. He nor Floorboard ever wanted this to end. Dave knew that he was once afraid of love because of the cactus farmer’s bad mistreatment towards him, but he overcame that fear because of Floorboard’s love for him.

One day, Dave got some bad news from Floorboard, “Dave, there’s something I need to tell you,” said Floorboard bleakley. “I love you Dave, I really do but, I long for my home back at Kansas so I must go now. I’m so sorry.”

     Dave knew that something bad would happen but he didn’t know that it would be this bad. As Floorboard made her way back home to the deserted barn in which she lived, she noticed something odd about it. She floated towards a weird misshapen fence and realized that it was actually barbed wire! In her final seconds she thought about the times she had with Dave and at the barn, also knowing that her fate was right before her. She closed her eyes and was popped.

Meanwhile, Dave who still longed for Floorboard to return was informed about her death. A feeling like no other in Dave’s life came over him like a black shadow of sadness, feeling heavy and alone. Now that Floorboard was gone, Dave decided to go to a local gas station to light himself on fire.

“Oh Floorboard, thank you so much for showing me what it feels like to experience love,” he sobbed and thought of the pros and cons of taking his life. “If I do this I shall be with her again and we can be happy forever, if I don’t do this then… no, I must do this, there is nothing left for me here.”

Looking up at the sky, Dave could already see her waiting for him and as final tear escaped his eye he burnt until there was nothing left but his little clay pot.


Field Trip: An Account of the Earth Invasion (2677)


Roughly translated to English


The permission slips for this trip took forever to sign, considering that Earth had countless armies and weapons of mass destruction, and there certainly was a chance that my classmates and I would be dead by the end of this field trip. We were an advanced alien elementary school class, after all, not gods. When my dad saw the slip, he immediately began to rant. “Gorp, I remember my first invasion; we did it on the planet Vaksmeeg. Ha, I remember there was this one little girl, she was crying and crying, until she wet her pants. I shot her then — what a way to go, huh? Oh, oh, there was actually this club meeting that me and a couple of my friends stumbled upon, and they were reading one of my favorite books, Microwave Down, translated to Vaksmeegian, of course, and, so me and your uncle #$@#^*&#^^$ decided to have a bit of fun, so we lined all these people up, and we would ask them questions about the book. ‘On which page does the microwave go down?’ You know, stuff like that, and if they answered wrong, we shot them.”

I decided to leave the room at this point. There was no telling how long these things could go, so I had my mom look over the slip. “Oh, is Korg going?” she asked me before signing.

“Of course he is, Mom.” Korg had been my best friend since we were little, and we had been discussing our first invasion for as long as I could remember. He was even more excited than I was, and he wouldn’t miss it for the world.

She finished signing after about an hour, and I was all set. Later that night, just before I was to begin my evening hibernation, I looked out my window and out into the city of Bondex, the place I had grown up in. The sprawling skyscrapers of The Egley district, the low rundown building of The Booga (I’m not allowed down there, because apparently that’s where bad people sell gog). Despite its flaws, Bondex was home, and I was going to miss it during the invasion. I went back to my bed. I had a big day ahead of me after all, and at least from what I’d heard, the overthrowing of a planet required a good night’s sleep.


The room of teaching was buzzing the morning of the trip. How could it not be? None of us had ever done this before, and this elated confusion continued to spark between us until we got to the ship, but when it came into view, everything stopped. It seemed as though all noise had been taken from the world, because the great black mass that lay before us seemed to require all the energy that had been in us moments before just to look at it. And then the silence was broken, and we all started to run toward the ship.

I was one of the first people on board, seeing as I was one of the fastest in the class, and I was absolutely shocked when I stepped inside the craft. The space inside was cavernous, and it seemed more like a hangar than a ship itself, seats sprawled evenly, none of them within five feet of each other. It was like each of us had our own world. Korg and I quickly grabbed seats and sat down next to each other (or as close to each other as we could be) and began talking excitedly.

Once all 900 of us had sat down and we had taken to the sky, an automated voice came on. It was soothing and monotonous as it began to talk slowly. “Hello, welcome aboard the vessel. Seeing as this is your first invasion, I’ll be taking you through some safety tips. First, try to kill the scarier humans that have guns while the confusion is still setting in, then move on to the more panicked ones, as they will cause less threat.” I thought about what the voice had said for a moment. I’d never killed anyone before, so the announcement spurred a sort of unease in me, but these feelings quickly became mixed into excitement. The announcement continued, encouraging us to have fun and really “take in” our first invasion, see the sights, relish in the humans’ fear. And also that we should just relax, because Earth has one of the least advanced life in our universe, so as long as we stayed calm, the invasion should be a smooth ride. After the announcement finished, it was quiet for a bit. I supposed that everyone was taking in what we had just heard, when a new voice, that of our teacher, came on.

“All right, kiddos, right now we’re entering the Milky Way galaxy, so if you’d all please stand up walk over to the windows and check it out.” I unlatched my buckle and moved to the giant window in the wall and looked out. Many of my classmates gasped in awe at the sight of the galaxy. I thought it was fine, but I again found myself distracted by the task ahead of me, the massacre I would soon commit, and suddenly I began to feel ill. I rushed back to my seat where I curled up and tried to forget about how sick I was. Korg, who had been reading Microwave Down Pt. 2, Multiple Microwaves Down! turned and saw me.

“Gorp, are you okay?” he asked, worried.

“I’m fine, just a little nervous, I guess.”

Korg wasn’t buying it. “Gorp, an invasion has never, ever failed before, all right?”

“All right.”



“This is gonna be great, and when we get home, we can tell our parents about it all. Man, you’re gonna love it.”

My stomach pain calmed down, and I felt better right away.


I fell asleep eventually but was jolted awake soon after by a final announcement. The lady with the smooth voice came on. “Now that you have landed, suit up, go out there, and have fun.” I looked around to see my classmates freaking out and screaming and rushing towards the battle station. I followed suit, and so I rushed to the small cubicle with Gorp etched on its door. I went in and saw what I had seen so many times in pictures, but I had never been so close to touch: the Bondexian suit, in all its shimmering glory. It was a lightweight titanium thing with a complex helmet piece covered in designs native to my home planet. I then picked up a light rifle and walked back to the seating area where some of my fellow classmates waited. I could feel the craft descending and hear the faint screams outside. Just as Eegee, the last of us to change and the student widely considered the runt of our class, had come out of his dressing room, I felt the jolt of the craft landing.

The screams were loud now outside, and I heard a ripping screech as a car tried to avoid the crash that came moments later, giving off its own terrible noise. We were all instructed to line up horizontally, facing the front of the ship. This took little time, as we had been training for months, and after we had all lined up, there was a sharp hissing sound as the front of the ship fell away, and a ramp extended down towards the ground in its place. We began to march towards the ramp, and as we moved forward, I took in the surroundings of the outside world.

I saw that we were in a metropolistic area, and despite the fact that the sky above was dark, there were thousands of glowing screens mounted to buildings, advertising strange people and things. A man with rosy red cheeks and a flowing white beard with a bottle of brown substance that looked like gog tipped over his mouth, and a dark-skinned lady was staring out of the screen. Under her picture was a name, Be once? When we began to walk down the ramp, all of us in a line, in perfect unison, I could now see real life people standing below us either running in terror or staring at us curiously. Korg leaned over and whispered to me, “The ones that ran, those are the smart ones.” I chuckled at the thought, but all of a sudden, the feeling I had felt before, on the ship, came back, the feeling that my brain was being shredded to pieces, and it seemed as if a wave of guilt had crashed down on me, crushing my body with its power.

But then the feeling passed. I could hear my teacher telling the square of people exactly what we were doing, but not why we were doing it… Why were we doing this? For power is what I had always presumed, but is genocide the best possible way to go about it? I could feel the guilt coming on again, but I was once more jolted back to my senses, this time from the sharp report of a light rifle. Near the front of the crowd a huge human man fell down into a pile of dust.

The invasion had begun.


The next hours went by in a blur. We were split off into groups, Korg in mine, luckily enough, and roamed the streets of what I found to be called New York, destroying the buildings around us, watching them crumble like sandcastles, being diminished to dust, just as the man from the crowd had. Before I demolished another building, I looked inside and saw through one of the window a flickering screen mounted on some sort of box. On the screen was a man with a blue suit on and a greasy wad of hair sticking out of his scalp. He seemed to be talking fast and distractedly, and behind him there were pictures of our ship. I knew he was reporting about us, about our invasion. Then the screen abruptly succumbed to static, and so I backed up twenty feet and shot at the building twice, and it was no more.

It almost made me sad, doing all of this. I couldn’t imagine my own home being wrecked like this, everything I had disappearing with a couple shots from a light rifle. I was being too nice; empathy is not the correct invasion mindset for invasion. With that, I looked back in the direction of the ship, almost a mile away now, and I saw what looked like a hallway of flames and ashes against the dark night sky, framing the streets we had walked. I turned back, and I realized how far I was from my group. I began to run towards them, but after I had gone only five steps, I was stopped in my tracks, for I saw a dark shape in the sky, coming towards my own group far ahead of me. It was a dark flying machine, with a spinning wheel on top, and the sharp chopping noise it made jolted me back to my senses. I ran towards it trying to shoot it, and so did my groupmates far ahead, but they seemed to have no effect on the plane, or whatever it was. Then, from the machine was released a bright yellow shape, flying through the air, down towards my friends, and then it reached them.

I was thrown back by the blast, and I skidded across the street like a rag doll. And when I managed to stand up, I realized I was crying. The helicopter flew away, and I could hear similar sounding blasts from far away, the sounds of more of my friends dying. I stood in the middle of the street, petrified, for a very long time. All I could see were flames, from our destruction, and the humans’. I took my helmet off, and I felt the heat on my cheeks; it hurt, but I ignored it. I thought I could make out the mangled bodies of the others in my group, singed arms outstretched in terror, mouths stretched in frozen screams. I thought about what my dad had said the day before, which seemed like so long ago, about the girl he killed who wet her pants. “What a way to go,” he had said. Not with my group mates though, no sir. On a foreign planet, with no warning whatsoever, it was just, snap, and then you were gone.

The street I stood on seemed all of a sudden like a road straight to hell. I thought about how I could get home, if there were, by some miracle, any survivors, and about how Korg and everybody else was never going to get to tell their parents about how fun the field trip had been. How did this happen anyway? Earth isn’t even advanced, so how is it that so many of us are dead? Too many questions.

I realized the aircraft was coming back around, searchlights swooping across the ground in an arc, and unless I hid, I might join my classmates. But why shouldn’t I? What was there for me? I was never going to get home. Who cared, right? So I raised my hands, felt the light pass over me, burn my eyes, and then the plane-type thing landed. I looked towards it, confused. Men without faces, wearing yellow suits, were hustling towards me. Why hadn’t they shot me? The men grabbed my arms and started to drag me toward their ship. I kicked and screamed. Why hadn’t they shot me? I stopped struggling, and they removed the plate of armor on my arm. I suddenly felt a sharp jolt of pain in my arm, and then everything got blurry, then black.

The table I lay on was cold on my back, and the sharp objects that lay around me on racks shined in the empty white light of the room. I could feel my own blood running down my stomach, a lot of it, so I too could feel myself drifting in and out of consciousness. After the invasion had failed, after all my friends had departed, strange men had brought me here, where they proceeded to cut me open, sift through my insides. I didn’t know why I hadn’t died, but no fate was worse than this. At least if I died, I might have been able to see everyone again. At least if I died, I wouldn’t have to think about the fact that I was never going to get back home.

The blood kept on flowing, and I grew tired. I thought I’d just go to sleep.


Everything Perfect


Name: Meira O’Kane

Biological parents: Ellen O’Kane and Jared O’Kane

Place of birth: Damariscotta, Maine, USA

Date of birth: August 8, 2555 (6:35 AM)

Date of euthanization: February 3, 2655

Biological sex: Female

Gender: Female

Blood type: A-

Handedness: Right

College: NYU

Profession: Criminal defense lawyer

Soulmate: Anna Vargha


Meira woke up. It was Saturday, September 29, 2570. She opened the LifeGuide app. In the home page sat her life’s basic information. Some of it hadn’t happened yet — she hadn’t been euthanized (duh, she wasn’t 100 yet), she hadn’t gone to college and become a criminal defense lawyer (she was only 15), and she hadn’t met Anna Vargha. Whatever. The Algorithm had it all figured out. This was her life.

The app told her she should go to Target at 10:07 AM to buy a gift for Jessa’s birthday. She could rest at home before then. She would meet a new friend there. That was exciting.

She hopped out of bed and went downstairs. Her mother had already taken this morning’s food out of the Murchiest.

“I want candy for breakfast,” Meira’s little sister, Mia, was complaining.

Meira rolled her eyes, sitting down at the table. “Stop whining. You’re such a baby. This parfait tastes great.” Meira shoved some in her mouth.

It was strawberry flavored. Meira liked blueberry better, but this was fine.

Mia stuck out her tongue at Meira. “You’re a baby! I want candy! And play with me after breakfast!”

Meira groaned.

“Now, now, Mia,” Mother chided. “You know this is the way things are. The Algorithm — ”

“I want candy!”

“If you eat candy, things won’t turn out well.”

“But I want it!”

Father poked Mia. “C’mon, my little warrior princess, eat the parfait. Didn’t you pay attention to your teacher?”

“‘The Algorithm knows best,’” Mia grumbled.

“Yep.” Father nodded gravely. “457 years ago, the Algorithm was created so that everyone would be safe and happy.”

Mia and Meira rolled their eyes in unison.

Good going, Mia, Meira thought, Now we’re going to get a lecture.

“The Algorithm has predicted the way to make everything turn out well. All we need to do is follow it. None of those big, scary choices. If you don’t follow the Algorithm, then life will get messed up. Understand?”

“I don’t care!” Mia shrieked. “Ugh, I wish the Murchiest didn’t exist!”

Father opened his mouth, but before he could say anything, the wallpaper rippled with blue light. The soft, warm female voice of the Algorithm’s warning system, which was contained within the wallpaper, began to speak.

Mia O’Kane, you are to report to the Damariscotta Center at 9:30 AM for reprogramming. A transport will be sent for you shortly.

“Wow,” Father said, raising his eyebrows. “First time!”

Mother sighed. “Oh, Mia. After you finish your parfait, you can go play with your iPad while you wait for the transport to come.”

She kissed Mia on the forehead. Mia whined, sitting down at the table.

“Children,” Father remarked drily. “Though, I’m surprised that her first time is this late. Meira’s first reprogramming was when she was five. Mine was when I was four.”

Mia, sitting sullen at the table, gave Father side-eye.

“I was such a trouble child,” Father continued. “But I’m better now.”

Mother covered her mouth in an attempt to hide her snort.

“I am!” Father protested. “I haven’t gotten reprogrammed since I was 17. Teenagers are pretty troublesome.” He poked Meira. “You were reprogrammed 13 times. I remember I was reprogrammed 12 times. Almost set a world record.”

Mother rolled her eyes. “Please, David. The world record’s 64.”

“Well, I’m above average.” He winked at Mother.

“You’re one reprogram above average.”

“Still above average.”

Mother laughed, shaking her head.

“Mother, Father, I’m going to Target today at 10:07,” Meira said, finishing up her parfait.

“Okay,” Father said.

There was a knock on the door. The robot had come to fetch Mia. Mother stood up and walked Mia over to the door. Meira finished up the last of her parfait, before walking over to the couch and going on her phone. She opened up Temple Run 10.

“Come and talk to me,” Father said, faking a pout. “I’m lonely.”

Meira rolled her eyes. “The Algorithm said I have free time before I go to Target, not torture.”

“Ouch,” Father muttered. “Gemma! Your daughter’s hurting my feelings!”

Mother laughed as she walked back. “Come on, honey, we’re going shopping.”

Meira frowned. “Shouldn’t you be here when Mia gets back? What if you don’t finish shopping in time?”

Father raised his eyebrows.

“Nevermind,” Meira said quickly.

“Reprogramming isn’t that frightening at all,” Father pointed out.

Mother nodded, her eyes flashing for a moment. Then she was all smiles.

“Have fun, my little sugar glider.” Mother said, hugging Meira tightly.

“Mom!” Meira protested. “I’m too old for that! And you made me lose that round!”

“You’re never too old for me to smother you with affection.”

Meira shook her off, but she was unable to resist a smile as she went back to the game. A few seconds later, she heard the sound of the door shutting.

She had beaten her high score in Temple Run 10 when their doorbell rang. Meira ran over to the door. Mia had been escorted back by a robot. Meira waved goodbye to the robot. She nudged Mia.

“Wave goodbye to the robot.”

Mia stared at Meira blankly. “Why?”

Meira frowned. “Mother said it was polite.”

“Okay,” Mia said flatly, walking inside the house.

She got out her iPad and started to placidly play by herself. Meira stared at her.

Who are you and what have you done with my whiny little sister?

“Umm… didn’t you want me to play with you?”

“The Algorithm said I should play by myself.”

Meira swallowed. “Yeah… but… what do you want?”

“The Algorithm said — ”

“Okay, okay, nevermind,” Meira said quickly.

Meira backtracked out of the room and onto the couch. Glancing at the clock, she saw that it was 10:03 AM. Meira had four minutes left. Meira played several more rounds of Temple Run 10, before getting up. Time to go buy a gift for Jessa. She should definitely buy Jessa one of those antique Barbies.

After putting on her neon yellow sneakers, she walked out the door. Meira glanced at the garden as she walked outside their fenced peach-colored house. The organic flowers had died. Mother had decided not to get synthetic flowers, claiming that this way it was more “authentic.” It was for the same reason Meira had agreed not to get the date she would meet her soulmate. Father said it added a sense of excitement to life. Meira supposed not knowing was pretty fun.

She hopped onto a transport and sat down next to an old lady. As the transport began to move, the streets blurred slightly. Finally, when they got to Target, Meira got off. A digital clock on the wall said 10:31. She walked inside the Target.

What was Mia’s mind like right now?

Meira had gotten reprogrammed 13 times, and she didn’t remember how reprogramming happened. She’d tried to hold onto the memories, but she just couldn’t. All she could remember was walking into the reprogramming center, its sterile white walls decorated with beautiful pictures.

Every time after any of her friends got reprogrammed, there was always something off about them. And now… something was off about Mia. Which wasn’t okay. Meira felt a sudden jolt of anger at the Algorithm. Let Mia make choices! Let her be Mia! If she messed up, Mother and Father could help her out. Meira wanted her little sister, not some blank doll.

Her mind was still storming over those thoughts when her body collided with something solid.


Meira stumbled backwards, blinking. She grabbed onto a shelf for support. There was a girl in front of her, looking slightly miffed. There were crimson and purple streaks in her long dark hair. The contents of the girl’s shopping basket were on the floor, but a robot was already cleaning them up.

“I’m so sorry,” Meira gushed.

The girl quickly smiled. “Oh, don’t worry about it. See, the robot’s already got it.” She took her basket from the robot.

“Thank you,” Meira muttered to the robot, feeling slightly guilty it cleaned up a mess she helped cause.

“Why are you thanking it?” the girl asked, tilting her head so that her hair fell to the side, like a curtain.

Meira blushed. “My mother always taught me to thank the robots. She said we should be grateful for them, since they weren’t always around.”

“That’s cute,” the girl said softly. She held out her hand. “I’m Nikitha. You can call me Niki.”

“I’m Meira,” Meira said. “You can call me Meira.”

Niki giggled. “The LifeGuide app said I would meet a friend at Target today. I don’t suppose that’s you?

“I guess so,” Meira said. “I hope I’m up to your expectations.”

“Oh, of course you are,” Niki said, swatting Meira’s arm. “Why are you at Target?”

“To buy a gift for my friend Jessa’s birthday. I’m buying one of those antique Barbie sets that they have for the special back-to-school event. Jessa loves collecting antiques like that. She’s almost got the entire Littlest Pet Shop collection.What about you?”

“Buying a gift and some cards for my grand aunt’s euthanization.”

“Oh. Tell her I said congratulations. It must be exciting.”

“Yeah… ” Niki bit her lip. “Part of me wishes she didn’t have to go, though. She can make the cutest crochet animals. It’s silly, I know. Euthanizations are supposed to be happy.”

Meira shrugged. She walked over to the event stand, Niki trailing behind her.

“Which one should I get?” Meira asked.

“Maybe the Christmas one.” Niki giggled. “Christmas sounds like such a weird thing, huh?”

“Yeah,” Meira agreed. “I mean, isn’t it so much more convenient to have one holiday for the entire world?”

Niki nodded. “Right? My parents came from India, and the transition was totally easy for them. Imagine if Christmas was still around! Then they would have had to adjust to the new holiday customs.”

“It’s insane,” Meira said. She picked up the Christmas Barbie doll box and gave it to a nearby robot to scan, before paying with her credit card. “Life before the Algorithm in general must have been insane.”

“You might have procrastinated on getting Jessa her weird Barbie,” Niki offered.

Meira nodded gravely. “And then we might have never met.”

Niki grinned. “That would be awful. Anyways, where are you going after this? I’m supposed to go to my grandma’s house after resting at home.

“Hey, me too!”

“Looks like we were meant to meet. Do you want to go somewhere else instead of staying at home, though? I’m sure it would be fine by the Algorithm.”

Meira didn’t know if it was such a good idea, going against the Algorithm. Then she thought of Mia, who was off now. She felt another jolt of anger at the Algorithm. Screw it.

“Sure. Where to?”

“I dunno. Do you have any suggestions?”

Meira barely had to think before a location popped up in her head. “The forest.”

“The forest?” Niki asked, scrunching up her nose. It looked kinda cute. “No one I know goes to the forest. Except for you, of course.”

Meira shrugged, turning away and flushing. “I… yeah. I’m kinda weird. I don’t even know when I’m going to meet my soulmate. See, my parents… we talked and decided that it would be more… exciting, I guess?”

Niki smiled gently, tilting her head and looking at Meira, as if to examine her from a new perspective. “It’s interesting. You’re interesting.”

“There are probably other people like me. Umm, you know. Who thank robots and stuff.”

“Yeah… but… ” Niki shrugged. “Nevermind. Let’s go.”

“Okay,” Meira said. “You want to walk over or take a transport?”

“Walk.” Niki’s soft cocoa powder eyes sparkled. “Today’s a day for trying new things.”

The two left the store. Meira moved to drop her bag onto a floating pod so that it could be delivered home. Niki nudged her.

“Why don’t we do this the old-fashioned way and carry them?” Niki suggested, her eyes glinting.

“Wow, we’re really getting rebellious today, huh?” Meira teased.

Niki grinned. The two began to walk towards the forest. When they got there, Meira felt a familiar grin creep across her face. This was her safe place. She led Niki through the woods, until they got to Meira’s kinda-secret grove. Before Niki, the only person other than Meira to come here (that she knew of) was Mother.

Niki glanced around, her eyebrows raised. “The walls in my room can change to look like a more perfect version of this.”

Meira sat down on a thick tree root. Niki dusted off a spot next to Meira, before sitting down next to her.

“Yeah… but… ” Meira shrugged. “It’s kinda like… well, you see, Mother doesn’t use synthetic flowers because she says organic flowers are… alive. She can actually nurture them. It’s authentic. Slightly unpredictable. They… I dunno how to explain it. It’s the same concept with the trees.” Meira blushed, waving her hand. “Oh, nevermind. It doesn’t make sense.”

“No… ” Niki frowned. “It kinda does.” She grinned, looking directly at Meira. “Hey, have you ever been kissed before?”

Meira blushed. “Doesn’t everyone wait for their soulmate?”

Niki shrugged. “Today seems to be a day for going over the boundaries. Besides, I do like-like you. I dunno if I love you, but you’re cute and interesting, so yeah, I like-like you.”

Blushing even redder, Meira leaned back against the tree.

“That’s… wow… ” Meira muttered.

“Am I coming on too strong?”

“No… ” Meira swallowed, unable to say that it was part of what made Niki so charming.

Did she like-like Niki? Niki was… she was vivacious. Alive. She glanced over at the other girl. Despite the confidence, Meira could see a hint of hesitation in her bambi eyes. Meira didn’t know either, but what if they tried? Why not? Besides, it might be better than falling in line with the Algorithm. More real. The Algorithm took the realness out of things. Mia had been annoying before the reprogramming, but she had been Meira’s little ball of annoying.

“Yeah,” Meira muttered, leaning forwards. “I think… that might be nice.”

Niki smiled, cupping Meira’s neck with her hand and going forwards to meet Meira.

Her lips were soft and tasted like strawberry lip gloss. She smelled like the November Rain candles Father would burn when he ran out of Vanilla Cupcake candles. The angle was awkward. Meira shifted, trying to make it better, but the angle was even more awkward. But it could be worse. At least braces didn’t exist anymore — they sounded absolutely horrible. How did people back then who needed braces even kiss people? Then Niki let out a little giggle against Meira’s lips, and Meira melted a little.

The two broke apart, falling against the tree.

“Hey,” Niki said softly.

“Hey,” Meira said back, grinning.

“You wanna come here later?” Niki asked, her eyebrows lifted, a fox-like grin decorating her lips.

Meira suddenly jerked upwards, a horrible realization occuring to her. “W-what about the Algorithm?”

Her heart began to race. People were supposed to be with their soulmates. That was just how things were. The Algorithm had predicted things so that everything would be perfect. Things with her and Niki would get messed up eventually. The kiss wasn’t even that good. Niki’s lips were soft, and she smelled good, but the angle was kind of awkward. It was imperfect, which meant it wasn’t okay. Kissing Anna, who Meira was actually supposed to be with, probably would be better. Yeah.

Niki turned pale. “Oh, gosh… ” She grabbed her hair with her hands.

“Wait!” Something came over Meira, bring along with it a wave of relief. “I remember that Mother said the Algorithm’s warning system is only in the wallpaper because of budget or whatever.”

“Oh, thank God.” Niki let out a nervous laugh. “That’s — yeah.”

“People barely ever come to the forest anyways,” Meira commented.

Niki snorted. “Yeah. Lazy weaklings.”

Meira snorted. She lay back against the tree root, glancing at Niki. Her sleek hair was ruffled.

“Maybe we can even bring my grand aunt here,” Niki remarked.

Meira frowned. “Yeah… but… everyone gets euthanized at 100.”

Niki sighed. “I know. Anyways… ” She paused, glancing at Meira mischievously.

“I… ” Meira chewed her lip anxiously. She could still taste traces of Niki. “Yeah.”

“This was fun, eh?”

“Mhmm. Umm… ”

Meira felt her stomach twist. The kiss was starting to feel like a huge mistake. But she couldn’t just say that, right? That would be totally rude.

“Is… something wrong?” Niki asked, starting to look concerned.

“Huh?” Meira couldn’t help but feel bad.

“Well, your brow was all wrinkled, so… ”

“Oh… umm… it’s just that this Anna Vargha is supposed to be my soulmate.”

“And Dave Greenblum’s supposed to be mine.” Niki’s voice was growing tense.

“Also… we’re supposed to listen to the Algorithm because it knows best.”

Niki narrowed her eyes. “What are you saying?”

Meira stayed silent, looking away. She clenched her fists. Meira swallowed, squeezed her eyes shut, and quickly blurted it out.

“We shouldn’t do this again!”

“What?” Niki’s voice grew harsher, like a vulture. “But… that… ugh, Meira! You make no sense!”

“Wha — why?”

Why?” Niki snorted, her voice wavering. “Are you screwing with me right now? You were the one who was all like… like… ”

“Like what?”

“You wanted to come to the forest! You thanked the robot! You and your organic flowers and… ” Niki swallowed. There was a wetness in her pretty eyes. “You just felt… refreshing. But looks like you’re just like everyone else!”

“Isn’t that supposed to be good?” Meira demanded, the words of her kindergarten and preschool teachers washing over her.

Maybe not, Mother whispered in her head.

“I don’t know!” Niki shrieked, roughly wiping off her tears. “You were the one who gave me the tiny feeling that this could work out! Everyone else was just going along with the Algorithm and I was too! Why are you being so dull now, huh?”

“Because this is too much!” Meira wrung her hands, frustrated. “Those are small things!”

“But… don’t you want big things to be authentic too?” Niki was starting to look betrayed, which made Meira feel like a bad person.

“I — ”

“Just — fine! Whatever!” Niki jumped up. “You’re terrible at kissing anyways!”

Meira looked away, feeling tears creep into her own eyes. Niki marched off, her spine straight and stiff. Sighing, Meira tried to relax. She realized that her nails had dug crescents into her palms. Everything was going to be okay now. Meira just needed to get up, go to her grandma’s, and then go home, where she could go to Mother.

What would Mother say to all of this? Meira wondered if she had been rude to Niki. But the Algorithm was the most important thing, right? That’s what everyone said. It was just… common sense. Or was it?

Sighing, Meira got up and dusted off her pants. She began to walk towards the road. The forest was calming, but the calm made her feel uneasy. She wasn’t supposed to like the organic forest so much, but she still did. Would it be the same thing with Niki? Meira finally reached a small road in the forest that rarely had transports. Meira began to move towards the mini skywalk to cross the road. Suddenly, she noticed a familiar dark head with crimson and purple streaks sitting down next to the skywalk.

Meira ducked her head as she walked, praying that Niki wouldn’t notice her. It would be so freaking awkward. Risking a glance at the other girl, Meira saw that Niki was still wiping tears off her eyes. A feeling of guilt crept over her. She began to walk onto the skywalk.

Niki turned over to her with a grin, probably thinking Meira was a stranger and intending to say hi. Then she saw Meira’s face.

“Ni — ” Meira began, but Niki turned and ran.

“Wait!” Meira yelled, stepping forwards.

She had no clue why she wanted to go after Niki. It was a stupid impulse, gained from watching those rare permitted pre-Algorithm movies too many times. Niki glanced around, giving Meira a pained look, before turning and going onto the road.

Meira stopped, stunned. What was she doing? The skywalk existed for a reason! Niki was running across the road, and then everything happened in a horrible flash.

As she ran, a motorcycle sped up behind Niki. Time stiffened for a moment, and then it felt like everything collided. Niki screamed as she was thrown back from the force of the collision, her voice raw, an unfamiliar voice scream, and Meira screamed, because something was definitely wrong. She had no idea what had just happened, but it was something horrible and dreadful that never would have happened if they’d listen to the Algorithm.

Meira ran over to her, too, collapsing on her knees in front of Niki.

“It hurts… ” Niki whimpered, her eyes glazed.

Meira stared at gasping girl, unsure of what to do. What could she possibly do?

“I’m sorry,” Meira pleaded.

A robot that was probably stored a bit down the road came over and injected something in Niki’s arm. Immediately, Niki’s pained gasps stopped, and her eyes grew soft. He then went off to tend to the motorcycle rider. Meira hadn’t even noticed him in her panic.

“It’s alright,” Niki whispered.

Meira hesitantly reached out to touch Niki’s hair. The robot beeped.

Meira O’Kane, you are to report to the Damariscotta Center at 12:15 PM for reprogramming. A transport will be sent for you shortly.

Nikitha Tamboli, you are to report to the Damariscotta Center at 12:15 PM for healing reprogramming. A transport will be sent for you shortly.

“What does reprogramming mean, anyways?” Niki wondered.

Meira shrugged. “I think it changes you somehow. I never remember what happens during reprogramming.”

“Me neither,” Niki said. She frowned. “Does that mean you’re going to forget this?”

“I hope not,” Meira blurted out.

Niki giggled, her joking voice growing weak. “Well… I hope not. Let’s run away.”

Meira cracked a forced smile. She thought about the tales of how people would die before the Algorithm. Was that going to happen to Niki? She felt fear grow in her stomach. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Meira would never see Niki again. It… it was almost like euthanization, except euthanization was… good? Everything was so horribly confusing now… Meira’s head hurt…

“This never would have happened if we’d never kissed,” Meira said shakily.

Niki looked away. “Meh. But choosing to do that… it was interesting. Y’know, I lied when I said the kiss wasn’t good. The kiss felt… real. The angle was awkward, but… that doesn’t mean it wasn’t… ”

“Yeah,” Meira said, smiling. “It was nice.”

“If we had more time… ” Niki said wistfully.

“We might have messed up eventually,” Meira said. She hesitated. “But… trying… I liked choosing. It felt… authentic. Like the organic flowers.”

Niki grinned. The two sat in silence. Meira could see the transport coming closer.

“I don’t want to get reprogrammed,” Meira blurted out. “I’m scared.”

“Nothing bad ever happens.”

“But what if I come back a different person?” Meira asked. “My little sister — Mia — she came back from the reprogramming and she was… she wasn’t annoying.”

Niki laughed. “Isn’t that good?”

Meira shrugged. “But the annoying… that was part of Mia. She always wanted something before — candy, for me to play with her… the reprogramming made her not do that anymore and I — ” Meira swallowed. “I want to be able to want things. To make choices.

“Then… ” Niki squeezed her eyes shut, looking pained. “Then you should go.”

“Huh?” Meira’s eyes widened. “I… but — what about you?”

“Just go. Don’t… don’t give me time to worry and overanalyze and be scared.”

“O-okay,” Meira stammered, a part of her feeling slightly bad for leaving Niki so easily.

She got up and stumbled backwards, before turning and running into the forest. A part of her was yelling at her to stop, that this was rash and useless, but she wanted to escape the Algorithm. She didn’t want to become off-Meira, like Mia who used to smile more and be more annoying.

A terrified tear slid down her cheek. Meira ran and ran. The tree branches smacked her in the face like some sort of punishment. Her lungs started to burn but she went on. And then she hit a road. Meira backed away into the trees, swallowing. A transport passed by, but she went unnoticed.

“Oh gosh.” Meira tried to bit down a sob, her lungs aching as she gulped in air. “I don’t wanna get reprogrammed.”

Turning back to the forest, she ran back into the safety of the trees. She had to run faster. She had to get away from the road. As she bumbled through the forest, she started to feel like Mia, wailing that she didn’t want to be reprogrammed. She ran blindly, her mind swimming with panic. Everything was such a mess. How was Mia? Would there be any differences after reprogramming? What had the Algorithm done to her little sister’s mind? What had the done to Meira’s mind, all those 13 times before? And what would they do if they caught her?

Her foot connected with a tree root, and she fell to the ground. Meira caught herself with the palms of her hands, hissing at the pricking sting. She sat against a tree. Her face was wet. Meira reached up and wiped away the tears. Looking around, Meira realized she was near the grove. She pushed herself up, instinctively going to the place that had always been safe.

Someone was standing in the grove.

“Mother?” Meira asked.

Mother beamed, opening her arms. Meira immediately darted towards Mother, embracing her tightly. She felt solid and warm and safe, her scent like Meira’s favorite banana bread. The two pulled apart. Meira realized she had gotten Niki’s blood on Mother, but Mother didn’t seem to mind.

“Mother,” Meira gasping, shaking. Mother’s hands stayed on Meira’s arms, steadying her. “Mother… oh gosh, Mother… I’m… I’m scared. A-and… something happened — ”

“I know about Niki,” Mother said, delicately brushing Meira’s face.

Meira let out a feeble laugh. “Wow, mothers really do know everyth — ” Meira broke off, frowning. “Wait, how do you know?”

Mother’s hand reached out to grab Meira. Meira stumbled backwards, but Mother pulled Meira close to her chest, holding Meira tightly to her.

“The transport is coming shortly,” Mother said, not looking at Meira.

“Huh?” Meira choked out. Suddenly, Mother’s arms felt restraining. They had never felt this way before. “Mother! No, don’t — ”

“Please, sweetie. The Algorithm told me they were serving shrimp gumbo tonight. You like that, right? I checked the LifeGuide app. We’re going to the mall tomorrow.”

“But… what if… what if they mess up my mind and I forget about the grove and Niki? And I stop smelling the organic flowers like you told me to? I don’t want to! ? Mother! Just listen! I don’t want… Niki… it was authentic! Weren’t you always talking about how things were best when they were authentic?”

Mother looked at Meira, tears glinting in her soft olive eyes. “They are, darling, they are.”

“Then why — ” Meira broke off.

A transport had settled down outside the grove, pushing aside a few small trees. Two robots got out of the transport and moved towards Meira.

“Because I want to keep safe, darling,” Mother said. “If we listen to the Algorithm, we’ll be safe. It’s got everything all planned out so that you’ll have a nice, perfect life. I heard from the Algorithm that Niki got hurt. If you two had listened to the Algorithm, this never would have happened.”

“But — but — ” Meira floundered as the robots took her away from Mother. “But… ”

“I want to keep you safe, my little sugar glider.”

Meira let out a dry sob. “But what about being happy?”

“You are happy. The Algorithm ensures it.”

“Am I, though?”


“See? This is the thing!” Meira’s voice was getting more frantic as she was hauled into the transport. “Y’know, maybe I wanna have blueberry parfait instead of strawberry, okay!”

Mother looked at Meira sadly as she rampaged on.

“We’re being told how we’re supposed to be happy, but never once, absolutely never, do we get to choose how to be happy! And that just takes so much out of lif — ”

The robot, its mind controlled by the Algorithm, injected her with its slim, silver needle.

Meira fell silent.


Major Glitch #79

Directly involved: Meira O’Kane; Nikitha Tamboli

Indirectly involved: Gemma O’Kane; Alex Burman

All four reprogrammed

Motorcycles and forests to be banned to avoid further incident

Everything perfect.


Siri’s Story



My name is Siri. I was a normal 16-year-old girl, who went to a normal school. Until a week ago. I’m going to tell you my story, which is a complicated one. Just remember the difference this makes the next time you use your phone. Now you will know the true, crazy story of your virtual best friend…


Chapter One

One week ago, I was walking to school, not completely ready for my math test, when my stepmom pulled over and asked me if I wanted to go in the car with her so she can drop me off at school. She was never really that friendly to me, although never mean.

I was a little suspicious, but I said, “Okay.” We drove in silence. I said to her, “This doesn’t look like the neighborhood of my school. Should we use Google Maps or Waze or something?”

She said, “Don’t worry, sweetie! I’m taking a shortcut.” I was still suspicious because she’d never called me “sweetie” before.

She pulled up to a place that was the size of Disneyland, but looked like a new, spaceship-like house. I wondered where we were, when she suddenly turned around and said, “Welcome to my lab.”

I said, “Okay. Two things. First, I didn’t know you were a scientist! So cool! And second, why aren’t we at school?” She had a menacing look on her face.

She turned to face the dashboard and said, “That’s because I’ve never met you before. You don’t know me, but I know all about you. You are Siri Apple.”

I said, “What do you mean? You’ve been my stepmom for 16 years now! Duh, I know you!”

She replied in a man’s voice, “I’m not who you think I am. I’m wearing a mask, and I am positive you don’t know me. I’ve been making sure all your life you’ve never heard of me or seen me until your 16th and a half birthday.”

“Well, what do you want then?” I said, feeling very squeamish.

“What I want?” He laughed a deep, evil laugh. “What I want is the ending for my perfect invention. A machine on your phone that will make that thing answer any question you want. It will be like a virtual friend. Nowadays, people are always getting into arguments and fights, and they only really want someone they can rely on and someone who will do whatever they say. It will be called Siri, because it’s the least I can do since you are never going to see anyone besides me again.”

I began to panic. Never see anyone again? Be trapped in a lab?


“Come with me, Siri.” We walked inside the lab. The lab was a dark, scary place, which was exactly how I felt. We walked down seven flights of stairs before we got to an extremely long hallway. I glanced at my watch and felt the cold, silver handcuffs on my wrists. This man was very extreme, almost as extreme as the weakness in my thin, wobbly legs. Unfortunately, we continued our way down the hallway. Finally, we reached a red door, which was the brightest item in the entire place. We entered it. That was when it all started to become real to me. I was trapped. I was never going to see my family again. I then wondered if the door was always red. The thought sent a shiver down my spine.

The man shoved me inside. Inside was a table. A table that looked like a dinner table. Although, this had one major difference to it: there were straps holding down a mannequin. The thing about the mannequin was that it looked exactly like me. It had the same features, same body parts, same sizes, and was even wearing the clothes I had on today.

The man said, “Now do you believe? That I really have been tracking you? That I really do want something extreme with you? That I am going to make you the most said name in the world?”

“Um… ” I said painfully. I choked back my tears. “What is this? How does a weird dinner table make you famous? Are you going to sell it at a table store? ‘Cause I’m not sure anyone really wants this. Ohhhhhhh! That’s why you need me! So I can help you design a better table! But one question though. Why won’t I see my family ever again?”

“You really aren’t the brightest, are you?” he replied. “This isn’t a food table. It is a table where you will live for the rest of your life. You will never get up. Ever.”

“Whaaaaaaat?” I said. “What if I need to go to the bathroom or something?”

He said, “You won’t once you lie down. I’m going to take out your humanness. You will no longer be a person. You will be a machine. You will be nothing but a voice.”

“Okayyyyyy. That sounds possible,” I mentioned sarcastically. “Wait, are you sure this isn’t a trick? Like, maybe did my brother, Mike set you up for this? Mike! Where are you? If this is your idea of a prank… I’m not falling for it.”

The man laughed. “No,” he said. “Sit down now, or I will do this standing up.”

I unwillingly sat down as he took off the mannequin. He strapped the straps over me, and I realized this was where I was going to live for the rest of my life. I started to cry, then stopped myself. I couldn’t show weakness in front of this man. At that point, I realized that I didn’t even know his name.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

He answered, “You will not be able to talk, so what does it matter?”

I sighed. He was right. There was no way I was getting out of this thing. He left the room. Probably to go get his tools.


Chapter Two

After the “surgery” I still felt human. I guess it didn’t work on me. But I couldn’t let him know that. It was my one advantage. I pretended to have fainted. The man laughed.

He said to himself, “It’s getting late. I’ll go to bed and finish programming her tomorrow.” Finally! That gave me at least eight hours to figure a way to take off the ropes, unlock the door, and walk up seven flights of stairs without knowing where the man’s bedroom was. I knew that was not a lot, but hey, look on the bright side! After he left, I decided to get one hour of sleep, so I had energy to sneak out of here.


It was the morning, and I was still here. I couldn’t sneak out in the end. The man was ready to do whatever it was he was doing to me. I was freaking out. To be honest, what was there to do to escape? He won. There was no way I could get out of this. He started tapping away on his computer. I wondered what he was trying to do? I strained my neck to try to see his computer. There was lots of random programming stuff on it. I really wish that I paid more attention in computer class now!

He said to my body, “Siri, wake up.” In my head I thought that meant that I should get up. So I sat up and surprisingly, the bands came up with me. “Hey, Siri,” he said. “What is the weather today?” I had no idea, but surprisingly, my body did.

It said in a robotic voice, “It is currently 78 degrees with a high of 82 and a low of 64.” I didn’t know how or why I knew that, but he seemed satisfied with it, so I was good for now. But I realized that maybe the surgery thingy did worked. Only a robot would know that information, and his plan sounded like he wanted to make me a robot type thing. Uh-ohhhhhhh. Whoops. Maybe I should have walked to school in the end… ?


Chapter Three

It had been a few days, and I was still trapped here doing what he said. But he added a level. I heard him talking. He put a teensy, tiny fraction of my brain in a phone. I. Was. In. A. Phone. Ahhhhhhhhh!!! If someone had the type of phone he put me in (I don’t know which because all I knew was what I told you) all they had to say was, “Hey Siri, blah blah blah?” and “I” would answer the “blah blah blah.” It was really creepy to know that other people were hearing the robotic version of my voice. The only problem was that since it was so different from my regular voice, my parents probably wouldn’t recognize it was me. They were probably really worried right now. I felt bad for them. It was now that I started to cry again. I missed them, I really did. The only problem was that since this wasn’t the best technology, I started to spark because of my tears. This was bad. This was really bad…

That was when the man walked back in. I lay still like I was supposed to. I didn’t really know what he had planned for me now. He did what he wanted to do. Now was I supposed to just lie around and let the other parts of my brain work while the rest of me was bored? I had a big urge to ask him, but then he’d know that the surgery only half worked and that I had been lying for the whole time I’d been here. But I couldn’t do nothing for the rest of my life! I had to do something. How could I do something, but still keep my secret? That was when I remembered the first time he told me to sit up. The bands moved with me. I could do whatever I wanted. But only within the room because he probably had this like super high-tech thingy machine to stop me. I did a quick glance around the room to make sure there weren’t any cameras in the room. There weren’t. I was free! I was half free! I was free in the room only when the man wasn’t in the room which was where he was most of the time. Still free!


Chapter Four

After the man left, I got started with my freedom. I wanted the room to look like home, since this was my life from now on. The only bad part was that the man couldn’t notice my decorations. I decided to sleep in the day and party at night. I wanted to do the opposite, but I noticed a pattern. The man was in the lab from eight a.m. until seven p.m., had dinner until eight, then worked until nine, then came out of the lab. So from eight to seven, I rested, saving up my energy, then from seven to eight, I got my stuff out but hid them in a little corner, then from nine to eight a.m. again, I had some fun. There wasn’t cool stuff in the room, but I did what I could with what I had. I figured out how to watch TV, movies, and the news (so I was not completely isolated from the world) on his computer. I also learned how to erase the history on the computer so he didn’t find out. I was having the time of my life.

I was just getting my stuff ready when I heard someone shuffle.

I said, “Who’s there?” with a dry mouth. I hadn’t realized how dry your mouth gets when you haven’t talked for a couple weeks!

A random voice said, “I’ve been here the whole time.”

“But who are you?” I asked.

“I am not a who, but a what.”

“Okay,” I said. “What are you?”

“I am the Room.”

“The Room?”

“Yes, the Room. I’ve been with Master X since before he was born.” Wow. I was talking to an inanimate object. But… finally! I got his name!

“So since I can talk to you now… I have a very important question. How can I get out of you?”

The Room said, “Do not tell Master X I told you, but you seem kind, and even a little familiar, so I will tell you. You cannot get out of the room.”

“Why not?” I asked, with the little bit of hope I had left draining.

“Only family of Master X can go in and out. But even very distant family. Like if his ex-wife happened to get remarried, that family would be able to get out.” Master X guy was divorced? Hopefully this new information would be useful.


Chapter Five

Instead of partying, I decided to think. I wanted to think if I knew any family of Master X. But unfortunately, the only family I knew with a stepmom was mine. But my nice, caring stepmom could never have been married to this crazy guy. Right? I went through my day as usual, thinking. I had a plan. I’d been in here long enough to pick up a few tech tricks. Tonight, I was going to go on his computer and look for his ex-wife’s name. It wasn’t the best plan, but it was the only one I had.

At 9:00 p.m., I got out of my stretcher thing. I ran to his computer which only took up some time since it was a small room. I ran too fast and banged into the desk. Then, I checked that nothing was damaged and that I wasn’t damaged. Nothing (including me) was damaged. Perfect. I went back to the computer and began typing everything I could with the information I got from the Room. I even tried contacting the room (by calling its name) again, but she didn’t answer. I couldn’t find a trace of him, or her. I was so annoyed. This was my only lead. And it didn’t help. I felt like a deflated balloon. Again, this was my fate. The only thing that would help was knowing Master X’s last name. Then, as fast as lightning, an idea struck. I went to his email and typed an email to his mom. It didn’t take long to find in his contacts because it was just labeled Mom.

I typed, Hi mom. I’m sorry for the way I’ve been acting towards you. Now that that’s been cleared up, how do you spell my ex-wife’s name? I erased it from everywhere and now she’s in my business company and I need it. Thanks! Love, me.

I thought that was good enough, so I pressed “send.” I was about to go back to my table when I heard a ding. Wow, X’s mom was a fast responder!

She said, Well, I’m glad to hear from you, honey. I accept your apology. Her full name is Lauren Lily Livingder. Love you lots, Mom.

I fell off my chair. Lauren Lily Livingder? Lauren Lily Livingder?? Lauren Lily Livingder??! That name was my stepmom’s name. My stepmom was related to Master X. I’m (sort of) related to Master X. I. Am. Freeeeeeeeee. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh! But… one problem. The Room said a relative of Master X was able to get out of the room, but she didn’t say how. It then hit me. I never actually tried to get out of the room, I just assumed I couldn’t. Sooooooo, maybe I should try? But what if it zapped me? But if I didn’t try, I’d be here for the rest of my life. I decided to try. I took a deep breath and whispered, “Thank you Ms. Room. Thank you.” I reached my hand to the handle and turned it. I heard a tiny click, and it opened. Again, Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!

I ran as fast as I could up the stairs and out the door and to my house. I was sobbing. I was home, I escaped. And, I decided to cancel my driving test for next week. I was never getting in a car. Ever.


Chapter Six


After I got home, my parents hugged me, kissed me, asked me questions, and all that stuff.

But I ignored it and said to my stepmom, “Thank you for everything. And I’m sorry about Master X guy.” We all cried some more. And that was that.



So, that’s my story. Every once in a while, I still get headaches because part of my brain is in phones, but other than that, I’m good. Now, pick up your phone and look at it. Do you still want to use Siri… ?




The ingenue dreamed of a catastrophic world of cerulean music.

There were many realms in that world, each surprisingly different.

Her favorite glowed during the day with beautiful, cloudless skies.

The night sky was gorgeous as well, colorful but dark.

The moon and stars shone down from the bright heavens.

There was someone else there, a silhouette against the sky.

She saw them once, wrapped up in a yellow blanket.

They had a telescope, seeming to be watching the stars.

Another time she saw them sitting in a shadowed windowsill.

A shadow against the white curtains forever keeping them separate.


The ingenue dreamed of catastrophic, cerulean music.

There were many realms, each surprisingly different.

Her favorite glowed with beautiful, cloudless skies.

The night sky was colorful but dark.

Moon and stars shone from the heavens.

There was a silhouette against the sky.

She saw them wrapped in a yellow blanket.

They had a telescope, watching the stars.

She saw them sitting in a windowsill.

A shadow, white curtains keeping them separate.


Dreamed of a cerulean music.

There were realms, each different.

Her favorite beautiful, cloudless skies.

Night sky, colorful but dark.

Moon and stars from heavens.

A silhouette against the sky.

Wrapped in a yellow blanket.

A telescope, watching the stars.

Sitting in a shadowed windowsill.

White curtains keeping them separate.


Dreamed cerulean music.

Realms surprisingly different.

Glowed beautiful skies.

Night colorful, dark.

Moon and stars.

Silhouette against sky.

Wrapped, yellow blanket.

Watching the stars.

Sitting shadowed windowsill.

Shadow curtains separate.


Ghost Rider


The sun rises over the glinting sea

A ghost sailman paddles over the translucent water

His boat empty, devoid of life

Dreams power his boat

Helping his vessel sail on, day after day

Water snakes hiss on the shore

They cannot see the ghost rider

But I can

I can

Twilight falls on the great sea

Now his boat is powered by thoughts

The thoughts of those alone

The thoughts only thought when the sun dips below the horizon

The water shimmers

Colors shine beneath the surface

Like the ancient ruins of old

The ghost rider still sits in his boat

There was once a colony like him

But now they are gone

And only he decided to remain

Fish swim beneath his boat

They cannot see the ghost rider

But I can

I can

Dusk falls upon the sea

I must leave

I cannot stay

But the ghost rider still sits in his boat

I will see him the next sunrise

But now I must flee

But until then

He will stay

The ghost rider in his ghost boat


House Arrest

Fisher woke up to tentative and inconsistent guitar playing coming from his sister’s room. He stretched, yawned, and cringed at his morning breath and at Lane striking an incorrect note at the end of the song. No matter how many times she would practice each day, that single note was always just sharp enough for him to flinch. Even though he was the one who taught it to her in the first place, he desperately wanted to storm across the hallway and turn her guitar to splinters, just to make it stop. He knew it was futile, though, as he never was and would never be allowed in Lane’s room.

Disheartened, he got out of bed and stumbled towards the kitchen, still in his tattered Star Wars pajamas. Well, it wasn’t as if anyone would see them. He heard cabinets swing open and pots and pans clash together as they were removed, and knew that his mom must be trying to cook again. Smelling nothing that was edible however, Fisher knew he would simply have to fend for himself. Again. He ducked his eyes and his head as he hopelessly tried to avoid his mother and her swinging cabinets to make breakfast.

Making his way back down the hall, a layer of dust and burnt toast crumbs under his feet, he sighed heavily as he passed his parents’ bedroom door, where he could hear his dad watching the same basketball rerun. Fisher practically had it memorized. And that guy in the yellow shirt threw a ball to another guy in a yellow shirt, who threw it in the air. Apparently that deserves a round of applause. Still flailing his arms in a flamboyant impersonation of the commentator, he fell to the floor when his dad suddenly shouted with the television crowd. Still startled by his dad’s unnecessary reaction to something that happened a year ago, he brushed himself off and wiped mist from his eyes as he trudged back to his room.

Locked in his monochromatically furnished prison for the day, Fisher’s eyes watered and twitched as Lane tried her clumsy hand again at Avenged Sevenfold. He, once again, had nothing to do all day, as his phone and guitar were still in Nick Young’s room. After unsuccessfully attempting to take a nap and never wake up, just to pass the time, he screamed and took out his frustration on the wall, peppering it, along with the band posters plastered to it, with dents from his Dr. Martens. No one stopped by to tell him to stop, he remembered as he stormed over to retrieve them, even though he knew the noise could replace Brooks Wackerman. The thought made his hand send his shoes flying to the opposite wall, where very few framed family photos were shattered.

Why, why was this happening to him? He snuck out once, left them alone for one night, for one stupid party, and this was what he got. This was worse than being grounded for life.

At exactly ten o’clock at night, after long hours of sulking, pulling his dyed-black hair out, and generally being miserable, he opened his window, unaffected by the creaking noise it made. A year ago, he would be nervously looking over his shoulder, but he knew now that no one would catch him. With nowhere to run off to this time, he simply jumped outside and crouched against the side of the house, holding his breath in horror when he heard the window on the other side of the house opening. He clenched his eyes shut in an attempt to block out everything he knew was going to happen.

Meanwhile, an invisible intruder pushed the window open, making shallow depressions appear into the stained carpet as it stepped into the empty house. It didn’t cast a single shadow as it loomed over the king-sized bed that hadn’t been used in months. Two adjacent tears appeared in the moth-eaten sheets as if they were slashed with a knife, and crimson blood began to spread from the adult-shaped lumps in them. As Fisher’s parents’ faint breathing stopped, the sheet fluttered uselessly to the empty mattress. It moved on to the next room, where it killed the girl and the guitar, just out of spite, and the next, where it found an open window and no occupant.

Fisher shivered violently from the cold and his terror as he heard it crawl out of his window, still invisible, and jump towards his hiding place, escaping just before it hit the ground. He had been remembering the first day of his imprisonment- how scared he had been when he first found his family’s bodies, and how shocked he had been when the guitar, the cabinets, and the television worked on their own. He remembered how he had cowered inside that night and watched his house reenact their murders (complete with an invisible murderess, though he knew she was long gone) and how he had tried to run away, tried to change what happened, only to wake up back in the “safety” of his own bed. He remembered growing accustomed to his new daily routine as he was forced to relive the last day they were alive for months. He still couldn’t get used to his dad’s disembodied voice shouting as he watched the rerun that was live at the time, so early in the morning and so soon after his nightly death. His chattering teeth bit the inside of his cheek and he choked on the blood that ran down his throat. Despite this, he stayed outside until he knew it was safe, knowing he would only feel worse when he returned.

At eleven-fifty, he climbed back inside, noting that the house was dead silent. He kicked himself for the pun and sat slumped on the edge of his bed. At midnight, the house began to paranormally heal itself, removing any evidence of the previous day into a surreal memory. Lane’s splintered guitar fixed itself to be used horribly tomorrow, the dents in Fisher’s wall disappeared, to be replaced in several hours, and even the bruise that he had just given himself faded into his skin. Guiltily and with difficulty, Fisher went to sleep, thankful, at least, that he didn’t have to hear his dad’s snores.

The Magical Place

About two years ago, there was a teenager named Josh. Josh lived on a farm where all he would do was stay in the stall all day. He lived with his sister, Cassie, who was 16; Josh was only 13. Cassie was in the middle of taking cow milk into the house so they could drink it for dinner, when suddenly, Josh came running up to her.

“I want to milk a cow,” he begged her. “You do it all the time.”

“No, Josh. How many more times do we have to go over this? You’re way too young. You’ll probably mess up or something,” Cassie explained.

Josh always wanted to milk the cows. All he would do was pet the animals in the stall all day. No one really ever paid attention to him, not even his parents. Cassie was very popular in their small house, and everyone liked her. Josh felt lonely because all day, he would stay in the stall. And whenever he tried to talk to someone, they would ignore him.

Josh went into the house where he saw Cassie and his parents laughing, as usual. He hated this life, and he wished he could live in a big house and have more things, instead of living on a smelly farm. Josh went back to the stall; he did love to look at the animals. His two favorite ones were the chicken and the baby chick. The baby chick’s name was Charlotte, and the other one was named Reggie, which he’d named. Josh was distracted while he was playing with the chickens, when he overheard his parents shouting.

“I just don’t know if we can afford to keep our house anymore. We’re so poor, and we’ve used up all our money just to buy food.”
“Calm down,” his dad said. “We can always go on a budget, we can still have our house. It’s going to be fine.”

“Do you even realize how much money we have right now?” his mom shouted.
“We have more than enough,” his dad answered, eating a piece of bread.

“You don’t understand,” she shouted, coming towards the stall. “Josh!” she called out.
Josh looked up at his mom.
“We can’t keep the house, honey. We’re too poor to — I just lost my job, and we’ve been giving all our money away to the charity and buying loaves of bread.”
“No!” Josh said. “You can’t give the house away! This is where we live, where else would we go?”
His mom bit her lip and didn’t answer. She looked nervous. Josh knew what he was going to do: run away. He packed his stuff and all his toys without his parents noticing. He packed everything he needed. But while he was running, he stepped on something.

“Ow,” he said. He picked it up, and it was a tiny bottle. It said try me. “Well, this is weird, but it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try.” He sprayed it on himself and everything got blurry. “Woah! What is happening?” he yelled.
He started spinning, and he couldn’t control himself. There was a loud bang, and his head hurt from all the spinning. He slowly opened his eyes.

“Is this heaven?” he asked softly. “Oh wait — what am I thinking? Of course I didn’t die.”

He stood and looked up. This place was amazing! He didn’t know where he was, but he was amazed. He was in a random place where there were two giant, white gates with little flowers dangling off the side. The gates automatically opened for him. He was so little compared to the gates. Inside, there was a humongous lake! It was the biggest lake he’d ever seen. He saw mermaids and dolphins, seahorses, and more. Josh sat down in front of the lake. He sniffed the air, and it was as fresh as the yummiest bakery.

“This is amazing,” he said. “That little bottle transported me here!”

A mermaid splashed Josh when he wasn’t looking, and she started laughing. Josh started to laugh too. He splashed her back, and they both did this back and forth.

“I never have had this much fun in my whole entire life!” he exclaimed. “What is this place anyways?”

“Oceania Mysty, of course,” the mermaid replied.

“Never heard of it. This little try me bottle got me here,” he said, showing it to the mermaid.  

The mermaid didn’t really listen, she just dove off. The mermaid looked really nice. She had rainbow colored, wavy hair with a light, pink tail. Josh felt like he was in complete peace. The soft, calm wind drifted slowly in front of his face. The birds were chirping. The sun was bright. The mermaids were laughing. He wanted to stay here forever.

While he was enjoying his peace, a mermaid tapped him on the shoulder. She looked the youngest out of all the other mermaids; she looked around 16.

“Hello, there,” the mermaid said. “You’re not from here. Are you trying to attack our land?”

“No, I don’t even know why I’m here. This little try me bottle randomly transferred me here… I really shouldn’t be here,” Josh said. “My parents must be worried about me.”

“Oh,” said the mermaid. “Want to come into the water? It’s as warm as a bathtub.”

Without saying anything else, the mermaid pulled him into the water instantly. He screamed, and his clothes were soaking wet. At least it isn’t cold, he thought. The mermaid was right, the water was really as warm as a bathtub. Even though his clothes were soaking wet, he started to enjoy the soothing water. He closed his eyes and gracefully drifted through the water.

“This is the life,” he murmured, giving the mermaids surrounding him a thumbs up.

The mermaid who was just talking to him came up and said, “Ya know, we don’t get a lot of visitors around here. I’m so glad that you can spend time with us.”

“Me too,” Josh said, spitting out some water. “This is like heaven — but better!”

The mermaid laughed. “Trust me, it’s not as good as heaven.”

“I didn’t get your name,” Josh said out of curiosity.  

“My name is Namie.” She happily greeted him with a pose. “And you’re… ?”

“Oh,” Josh looked down. “My name is only Josh. No one really likes me though.”

“Josh.” Namie smiled at the name. “Josh,” she repeated. “I like it.”

“You do?” Josh stepped back, and his jaw dropped open in shock.

“Oh, don’t be silly! Come on! Follow me!” The mermaid pulled his wrist farther into the water. The next thing Josh knew was he appeared in a humongous, dark cave. “This is the cave of secrets.” The mermaid showed him as he stared at it in awe.

He couldn’t help but ask, “Why is it called the cave of secrets?” He picked up a dead flower flowing his way. “It’s so plain.” Josh was right, the whole cave was pure dark with not a spot of decoration or happy colors.

The mermaid looked him in the eye. “I actually don’t know. No one really told me, we just… call it that… because…”
“Because what?” Josh asked immediately.
The mermaid shrugged. “I’d love to show you around this place more, come on! Let’s continue!”

“Wait — ” Josh caught her attention. “I really should be going, my parents must be calling the police by now!”

The mermaid looked down. “Oh, well, I don’t know how you’ll leave.”

Josh held up the tiny bottle. “Hey, this got me here, and it’s gonna get me back.”

The mermaid waved goodbye as he poured it all over himself — “WAIT!” she yelled, right before he disappeared. “Josh, you’re special. It doesn’t matter if no one likes you, you’re just… special.”

Josh smiled as she slowly faded away. His last word to her was, “Thanks.”

Josh appeared back in his regular small house, where he found Cassie sitting at the table, braiding her hair. She looked upset for once. Josh was hoping she would notice him. Josh just stood there for a minute, and a couple seconds later, he sighed and hid behind a plant. He regretted seeing his family now. Cassie didn’t even notice him when he was right there. He stuck his head out from the plant, and Cassie still was there. He continued to watch when he saw his parents approach her.

“We can’t find Josh, honey. We’ve looked everywhere!” his mom said. Her eyes were watering, and she couldn’t hold her tears back anymore.

Josh looked at her, sadly waiting for the right time to pop out. Even Cassie shed a tear, and she never cried.

“Well, I wish we could have told him sooner,” his dad said calmly, “that we do really care about him, and we have been so rude to him.”

Cassie chipped in. “I was rude too,” she admitted. “He can milk a cow if he wants,” she said sniffling.
The whole family was silent for a minute, just staring at the ground. Josh shed a tear out of happiness. Those were just the words he wanted to hear in his whole entire life! They really did care about him! He wiped the tear off his sleeve. He knew this would be a good time to come out because it was pure silence. He crept up from behind the plant and jumped out right in the center for them to see.

“JOSH?!” they all cried, screaming with excitement. One by one, they ran up to give him a hug.

“Where have you been?!” his mom said, panting with nervousness and crying all over his shirt.

“How’d you get home?” his dad asked, catching his breath. “Are you ok? Are you hurt?”
“Do we need to call the medics?” his mom yelled, checking all over his body.

Josh laughed at how freaked out they were. “No, of course not!” He laughed uncontrollably.

His mom and dad looked at each other in confusion. “What could be so funny at this moment? We looked ALL over for you, searching high and low, calling the police, endlessly tracking you down, and you’re laughing?” his mom said firmly.

“What happened?” Cassie asked, looking worried.

Josh looked nervous. Should I tell them? he thought — Wait, no! They’ll never believe me!

“I just ran away,” he answered quietly.

Little did he know, when he was talking to Cassie, his mom found the little bottle on the floor he had used to transport to Oceania Misty. “Hmm,” she answered, reading the title. “Oceania Misty? Is this where you went?”

Josh looked at her in shock. “You believe in that place?” he questioned her.

His mom explained to him that many years ago, when she was a kid, she found the same exact bottle and transported to that amazing place as well.

“Wow, that’s amazing.” Josh stared at her in amazement. He finally admitted, “Yes, that’s where I went.”

His mom understood. “Just never scare us like that again,” she said, calming down.

The whole family promised they would always pay attention to him as long as he lived. They all did a group hug, and from then on, they were always happy.

Winter Fashion


I stand. Strong. Waiting for the demon.

The demon that fights for greed.

He stomps. Angry. Waiting to destroy

family. Family that fights for love.

He arrives.

Its demon comes out and tries to break our love.

Love between my love.

Love between my life.


My love I cared for when nature gave her to me.

The one I carried through the rain.

The one I carried through life.

Last night.

Deep asleep.

Not knowing the future.

Not knowing tomorrow.

Knowing demons are there.

But never knowing tomorrow.


She awoke from my fur.

Stomach growling.

Not from demons. From hunger.

The demon’s servant obeys its master,

Shutting its rusted jaw on my love’s feet.

Broken bones.






No way to leave

she tries to struggle free.

I stand. She can do nothing but watch

Watch as I try

to protect



A screech behind me. I snap

back to the present.

I cannot leave.

Or the demons will come

and she will be alone.

Alone with her blood. Her tears

to lick her wounds.

I look behind.

My beautiful love.

Covered with red and fear.


It comes in close.

The smell of blood

lingering in the air.

The smell of our dead

brothers hanging on its shoulders.

Its demons blow me aside.

Red consumes me


It looks down on my love with angry eyes.

Angry with hate that comes from greed.

Angry with nothing to be angry about.

Angry for nothing my love has done.

The demon devours her eyes.

Her beautiful eyes.

Red consumes her whole.


I watch.

I scream.

I die.

Weeping as my love goes by.

My innocent love.

She has done nothing wrong.

But no, loving and living and breathing is wrong.

My love is gone,

To be dragged along to a place of no hope

Her beautiful face

Bouncing along the broken path

That leads to a place of death


And I can do nothing.

But watch and hope.


Hope the demon will bring her back.

Back by my side.

So we can run like we used to.

So we can kiss like we used to.

So we can laugh like we used to.

So we can howl and smile and play

Like we used to.


My broken heart

A product of my false dreams

Of her ever returning to me


A year later I meet my love

the same way she met God.

Except no one stood for me.

No one licked my tears away

As I had done for my love

The demons had already taken those

That would have stood for me.

That would have cried with me.

That would have kissed me until it came.

Time machine

The time machine’s engine came to a shuddering halt. I was stranded in … in about 15 minutes ago. There were five of me back then. I think I overused my time machine. OH, wait, duh! Of course I overused it. You weren’t supposed to go back to a time you were alive. You were especially not supposed to come in contact with them. That would mess up the whole time-space continuum. Now, I’m going to go 20 minutes into the future.


Someone (not me) ripped a hole in the time-thingy. Since I am the first person to do this, I will elaborate on how this happens. You have the “time gear” the all-holy powerful time manipulator, and you rip it up for your own benefit. And all that good stuff from the old civilizations have come over to my present, your future.

You know, this is the reason why King Tut died at the age of 19. I saw him come out of the time hole and he couldn’t breathe the air so he died in about 1.5 seconds. The air in our society is too advanced actually. People would guess that the air is polluted but actually we altered it to provide more oxygen. I’m guessing someone sent him back.

Some of the other great people from the past came to the future. Did you ever wonder why Da Vinci first made the painting Mona Lisa? He saw a copy from our future about Mona Lisa and got the idea. At least HE survived long enough to get out.

Even though we live in such a high-tech society, we have our flaws. We managed to find the “Time Gear.” The Time Gear was the physical part of time and space. In the past, there were documented recordings of the Time Gear. The physical part of it was harnessable, but there were reasons why it was hidden. The first time people moved through it, they thought that it was their time. It was always hidden in some deserted part of the world. Eventually, it was discovered at the end. There was some weird pattern that happened every millennia or so.  I could go on forever about what civilizations came through and were influenced by what we had. Some greek guy came through and found statues of the Greek Gods, which is how that all happened.

Okay, back to the topic. Yea… 20 minutes into the future wasn’t looking so bright. I use my Google Glasses and calculate that it will take approximately 13 minutes and 23 seconds before I cease to exist. In that exact moment, someone had killed my future self. It was probably the Sphinx crashing down and killing me with thousands of other people.

The reason why we’re in this whole dilemma is because I had decided to take a particle out of the Time Gear. The Time Gear looks like a gear, obviously, but once I took part of it out from its source, it began to eat itself. The Time Gear first starts with the beginning of time and space. It eats the Time Gear from that exact nanosecond. When the Time Gear from that time is destroyed, then everything ceases to exist for that exact moment. The thing is, if it reaches a point in time where someone crossed it, that person ceases to exist. So, for example, when James Otis came across. He invented the elevator. When the Time Gear from that nanosecond disappears, he disappears, and we lose elevators. Simple as that.

Okay, so my dad is the one who FOUND the Time Gear, so my family is rich and we have access to the Time Gear. I just went in and took a piece. I wanted to have time itself. With it, I could go back and control ancient civilizations (not really, but I wanted to travel time, it sounds cooler).


Chapter 1(the only chapter):

Well, I can tell you firsthand what death feels like. Easier than falling asleep. I can’t tell you which religion is correct about the afterlife. I never went there. I was in limbo. Using the stolen piece of the ”time gear,” I went back to 40 minutes before I died. That was a mistake that saved the world.


40 minutes before death:


Actually doing quite fine. Recorded 39 minutes and 23.354 seconds before death. Well, “quite fine,” right now throughout time, is ancient artifacts falling down and crushing everyone to death. “Not fine,” is ceasing to exist. Using the time gear, I teleport into the lab. All the scientists are panicking. I can see it in their faces. Well, also the way they act.

A few spot me when I teleport, but that’s hardly the weirdest thing that they’ve seen all day. “Everyone! TAKE A PIECE OF THE TIME GEAR AND TELEPORT TO A TIME AND BRING BACK A FAMOUS PERSON. WE NEED TO SAVE THEM.” Naturally there are a lot of questions such as, “How do we do that? Can we separate the gear? Will that make time break even faster?” But one stands out to me. “Are you from the future? You look like the splitting image of Dr. ____.”

I don’t want to mention my father’s name in this recording. It may put you in danger. The thing is, I don’t know WHY none of them recognize me. I’ve talked to them multiple times. Is it because I’ve essentially died? I go along with what they say. “YES I AM FROM THE FUTURE, NOW DO AS I COMMAND.”

In a few short minutes, everyone is equipped with a tiny piece of the time gear. I’ve given them all lists of people they need to bring to the future and also equip them with an Apple Scuba device. (I made this device 20 minutes ago to allow people to breathe our more polluted air.)

After asking all the scientists to grab someone from the past, I went to do my job. I went back in time to the exact second when I decided to take a piece of time gear. I put my piece back into it and stepped back…. Nothing happened.

I sighed and went to when the scientists brought back the people. When I went back it was chaos. Well, not really. They didn’t bring anyone back. I yelled, “WHAT THE ****??? WHY DID NO ONE BRING ANYONE BACK?!?!?!”

They mumbled and I heard, “ … didn’t know how … too hard … not our specialty … ” I sighed. Scientists who could even make clones could not ask to be sent to a time and bring back a person to the future. How hard could that be? I walked out and said, “Get ready to all die.”

The darkness soon came to my time. The scientists shouted out, “Help us!”

Using the full time gear, I transported  to a “dead” time. It’s like being in limbo. Harnessing the power if the time gear, I thought about everything that was in this time. With every thought imagined, things started to pop back. The time gear had started to spit back the things that it had taken.

The trees returned, the grass returned, oceans formed … all but the people. The people were harder. Intelligent life forms think differently from each other, so you have to think like them. Slowly and slowly, people started to form, I thought about more complex things, such as trigonometry. More people started to slowly come back.

I repeated this process with every single moment in time. It took me 146 days to do it. I became more skilled as I went along. Cavemen were easy. All they think about is food and animals.


Chapter 2: Redemption

After 146 days, 12 minutes, 15 seconds, I was done. Finally, everything was back to normal, well, almost everything. Some animal species went extinct, the ones I had no clue about.

I stood before the court. I had been charged for destroying the world. The best jurors from every time were called to partake in the trial.

“Motion to start the trial: ____” said a juror.

None opposed.

Another juror said, “_____ charged for destroying the time space continuum, the extinction of multiple species, and the destruction of elevators.”

“All who vote in favor of punishment please stand.” said the main juror.  About half of them stood up.

“Juror ___, you have the floor.” This went on for two hours. They changed the court to Congress, where they debated the topic at hand.

In the end, the vote were even. “WHAT?!?! THERE ARE 301 OF US? WHO DID NOT VOTE?” said the main juror. Yes. He’s loud.

One juror stood up. “I do not believe this is for us to decide,” he said. “JUST VOTE!” said the juror.

He votes in favor for me.

I was saved.

The Story of Scaricia

It was a stormy night on the island of Scaricia in the year of 4027. This island was the only surviving land on Earth since all the other countries had sunk due to global warming. It has a land area of about 2,450 square kilometers but continues growing as they are making new land off the sand and dirt on the seabed. Scaricia has a population of almost 30 million. It used to be an uninhabited island controlled by the People’s Republic of China, but is now a safe haven for all people across the world, although the only inhabits are some of the major ethnicities of the world, such as Chinese, Indian, Russian, American, French, German, British, Polish, Portuguese, and Spanish. Most of the other ethnicities have escaped onto their navy ships, for example, a Battleship or an Aircraft carrier where the people have to fish for food and drink soup for water. Others, sadly, didn’t escape and drowned in the powerful ocean. Thankfully the average elevation of the island is about 5,000 meters above sea level and will most likely not sink for a long time. Also, the population has shrunk extremely as well from around nine billion people to only around 30 million, probably more than 99%.

This island is generally peaceful and everyone mostly gets along with each other. Everyone keeps their own culture and speaks their own language at home but speaks the major languages outside. These major languages are Chinese and English. Even though the island is peaceful, the government still requires everyone to serve in the military for at least four years and encourages people to try to get into the police department. Its government is democratic and allows every ethnicity to be in the government and government affairs.

The military of Scaricia is also quite strong even though there is no military to compete with, with about five million troops that are ready for combat at all times. An extra one million people help in the factories making ammunition, such as first aid packs, equipment, etc… Although the military is strong, people live quite peacefully as no one really breaks the rules unless they want to face extreme treatment. Technology is also quite high. They have created vehicles which can turn invisible and use lasers to destroy other objects. The biggest invention they have created so far was the force field. This was mainly created just to defend earth from aliens, if they even decide to conquer the 2,450 land areas on earth.

The space program is also really high tech. They have already set foot on Mars and have an office for astronauts on the Moon and Mars. They are currently planning to colonize and build living spaces for humans on the Moon and Mars.




“BREAKING NEWS!! Mars has just been invaded by aliens. We suggest every civilian take cover,” I heard from my bedroom. At first, everyone was normal and no one was actually panicking. Mom was just cooking and as usual Dad was in the computer room working from home. No one seemed to be paying attention to any of this “nonsense” quoted by my mom. People thought they were just doing some kind of military drill and wasn’t expecting any form of life to be able to defeat them. Everything seemed to be going normally. People going to work, minding their own business. The alarm on the TV was still going off and finally, soldiers came in with anti-aircraft guns, anti-tank guns and even tanks although I thought that would be of no use to us since we have a force field surrounding us. I actually kind of got scared since I believed in all of that alien stuff but I was also a little bit scared thinking aliens are more high tech than us.

Suddenly, alien escape pods flew out from the sky and turned into military aircraft and began bombing us. I looked out the window and people were just staring in the sky hoping that the force field would protect us. Then, our force field began to disintegrate. Everyone started screaming and panicking as soldiers began firing and I was also thinking, What are we gonna do??! Both my parents have finally awakened back to their senses and as we were told, we got down into the protected basement hoping to not die. We watched the news from inside the house and it first seemed as if the war was going in our favor.


Three years later…


The fighting still continued and our manpower was slowly going out and it also seemed as if the aliens had infinite amounts of manpower. Also, according to the CUG News, the aliens have outer space heavily patrolled especially at the wormhole that keeps spawning aliens out. Nightly and daily, the aliens bombed Scaricia and everyone lived underground. We were told not to look outside as we might see very bad sights but I went upstairs onto the first floor and looked through the windows…

All I could see was destruction and chaos. Finally, I felt like I needed to start doing something to help in this war. I took out my telescope and looked at the wormhole, surprisingly there was one place that was not guarded by aliens. At first, I thought this would be of no use to helping in this war since astrophysicists probably have noticed it already but couldn’t do anything since our space military is wayyy too weak…then I thought, “Wait, but the government and people are probably too busy managing the safety of civilians and the war itself that they won’t know about this.” I have to go tell the government immediately. But how can I get there without getting bombed?

It took me at least a day getting there and about an hour to convince soldiers to take me there for “important information,” but I finally made it! I told them the story and they actually believed me! So they began making preparations and named their plan “Operation Downfall.” Just like how France fell 2,090 years ago, just as long as their capital falls, the entire country falls since apparently, no capital = no country. This form of logic applied to the aliens for which now we know how to defeat them.

The Inner Souls of Fog Bank

It is Fire Season in Fog Bank, Scotland, and all that is green turns to ebony. Nothing is the same, and it never will be. The tree outside my ivory window will soon be burned, and the targets that I use to shoot my arrows will be gone. All that work: burned. The fireplace in my room is filled with a scowling fire. Bigger than the moon and stronger than the sun. I try to tell myself that everything will be all right, but it never works. There is always something burning, burning the hearts of the people of Fog Bank.

Fire Season in Ireland is nothing like the Fire Season in Fog Bank. Fire Season in Paris is nothing like Fire Season in Fog Bank. Fire Season anywhere else in Scotland is nothing like Fire Season in Fog Bank. Fog Bank is special. My kind of special.

I would kindly like to introduce myself. My name is Matilda Heindman, President of the HCC (the Horse Caregiver Club). In my club, we take care of the horses of Fog Bank. Should I say “we”? No. I need to say “I.” You see, I have no other members of the HCC club. I do all the work. Although, I do get all the money from the customers who need me to take care of their horses. #BONUS. I love horses. They seem to relieve me from all the pain of Fire Season.


(Next Morning, 5:45 a.m.)

I grab my cloak. I grab my combat boots. I grab my knife. I race out of my bedroom and run down four flights of stairs. I go into the stable and grab the first horse I see. My breath is as cold as the night. My skin is turning blue, but I don’t care. I ride this beast deep into the surrounding forest. The branches are starting to cut into my skin. It burns, but doesn’t. The crisp wind is making my cuts shed blood. I begin to faint. I fall off the horse. I can’t see the light of day anymore.


(Waking Up)

“Miss? Are you okay?”

All I can see is a dark figure. All I can feel is my back aching. I must have fallen hard.

“No, I seem to have fallen off this horse,” I say.

“Miss. I believe I should take you to the doctor. Or have the doctor come to you,” the man says.

As my vision clears, I see someone who I have never seen before. Someone magical. He looks like the Sandman, but that can’t be true. I look at him closely, but this time I saw fire, ice, earth, and water. Mother Nature? Father Nature? Weird. Plain weird.

“Forget about a doctor. Please take me back home this instant!” I yell.

“Okay, Miss. I will take you home before you explode!” the man says.

Suddenly, I am asleep and when I wake up, I am in my room. I look in the mirror at myself and all my cuts have disappeared. The “mystery man” is magical!

“Okay, Matilda. Don’t freak out. I know that all of your cuts magically disappeared suddenly. All you have to do is breathe and get a good night’s sleep,” I say to myself.

I am out for a long time. I believe I have been lying on the ground for about 15 hours. It is exactly 8:02. My sister’s bedtime. I don’t care. I have had a rough day of sleeping — I guess. I will ride my horse this time to the same part of the forest. I need to find the magical man –maybe he can save fog bank from Fire Season. Or maybe he can save myself from my own inner Fire Season.


(5:45 a.m.)

“Hello, Zeppelin. How are you? I missed you. Come on. I have another mission to take you on!” I say, cheerfully.

Zeppelin stares at me. He knows that I am never up this early. He knows me and I know him. We are a team. He was my very first horse that I got. I raised him when I was three years old with my Papa. He taught me how to walk with his strong muzzle.

I mount Zeppelin and ride him into the ebony forest. When we get to the spot, I notice the Man. He is meditating.

“Hello, Man. I want to know who you are, and what you did to my cuts,” I say, with demand in my tone.

“Sit, child,” the man says.

“I am not a child. I am 13,” I growl.

“Okay, 13,” the man says.

“My name is Matilda,” I say, very annoyed.

“Okay, Matilda. Why were you out of your house so early?” the man says.

“I was searching for the Emmet Crest. If you place it on a certain stone, it can cure any kind of Fire Season,” I say.

“I understand. You are in search of the relief of the inner and outer pain of Fire Season.” The man knows.

I break out into tears. The man hugs me. I feel a warm sensation of comfort and peace within me.

The man is short and stubby with a big beer belly. His hair is made out of gold dust. His eyes are as copper as a penny and sparkle like a shooting star. He is wearing a cloak with one side representing winter, spring, summer, and fall. I need to know who he is!

“Man, who are you?” I say.

“Why, I am Father Nature. You can also call me Bubba,” Bubba says.

“Well, Bubba. Were you summoned here to save Fog Bank from Fire Season? This is a big task… can you work that much magic?”

“Your questions will be answered in time,” says Bubba, with a wink. “You need to return home now.”

“By the way, thank you for bringing some serenity into my life,” I say.

“I will meet you tomorrow right here and I will take you to the happiest place on Earth: Huckleberry Farm,” Bubba says.

“Okay, bye!” I say, as I ride away on Zeppelin, back to my home.


(Next Day: 12:30 p.m.)

Today is the day that my best friend Amanda Hart comes into town. Today is the day that we will have a lemonade stand and end up drinking all the lemonade. Today is the day that we will race around the block calling out our lemonade cheer. I am so excited. It feels like I can’t even breathe. I know that I have to go to Huckleberry Farm, but I will do that later. No big deal!

“Amanda! Omg! I haven’t seen you in forever! How is your social life going?” I say, cheerfully.

“Life is going amazing! Tomorrow I am going to the lake and people say that there are a bunch of water slides!” Amanda says.

“Did you bring your horse, Apple?” I ask.

“Yes I did, but I changed her name to Rose. Gwyneth Paltrow stole the name Apple for her daughter. Ugh!” Amanda laughs.

“Talk about it!” I say.

Amanda and I start walking over to my house where we eat blueberry pie and drink lemonade. We dance in the peaceful meadows and ride our horses into the lake. We splash in the dancing waters, and end up laughing ourselves to sleep. It is the very best day of my life.

“I will see you next year, Miss Matilda,” Amanda says.

“Wait, why are you leaving so early? It is 7:30 a.m.” I say, with a look of puzzlement on my face.

“I just have to go. I will write you, okay?” Amanda says.

“Why? Tell me why Amanda! What is your problem?” I say, acting angry.

“Just leave me alone. Now. And by the way, here is your friendship bracelet,” Amanda yells, as she storms away with thunder in her eyes.

Here we go again. Another fire. Burning my heart and Amanda’s. I am so mad. I am so mad! I shall run my horse deep into the forest. I don’t need Amanda… wait. I don’t need a best friend.

After I get to “the spot,” I look around. No sign of Father Nature, or as I guess he likes to be called, Bubba. No sign at all. All of a sudden, he appears.

“Hello, 13. You didn’t come yesterday,” Bubba says.

“Very funny, Bubba. What do you mean, I didn’t come?” I say.

“Remember? Huckleberry Farm?” Bubba asks.

“Oh my gosh! I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to. I was so caught up with Amanda that I didn’t think about our meeting. I am so sorry. Please forgive me,” I say, with a sad look in my eyes.

“Amanda wasn’t your doing. She was mine,” confesses Bubba. “I put a spell on her so she would not make the mistake of convincing you to move where she lives. You need to save Fog Bank from Fire Season…. fast. The Emmet’s Crest doesn’t have a lot of magic left. If you don’t find it soon, you will never save Fog Bank or its inner souls from Fire Season.”

I say goodbye to Father Nature, and mount Zeppelin as quickly as possible. I ride my horse into the wild forest and begin my journey to find the Crest. Today is not the day to mess around with friends. Today is the day to save my town.

You see, I heard that the Emmet’s Crest is not that far away from my town.

“Wow, what’s this?” I say, as I come across a shimmering tree.

I look inside and I see a miniature chair with silver lining and a really tiny book. I open up the book and see words written in cursive black ink. Who wrote this?! Thankfully, I notice a wooden magnifying glass. I read the tiny manuscript and it says that the Emmet’s Crest awaits right here…. IN THIS CHAIR. “I don’t see any Emmet’s Crest,” I say aloud. I keep reading. It still says that it lies IN THIS CHAIR. “I think this book is wrong. It is getting late. I will just camp out in this tree. Maybe, I will find more clues to where the Emmet’s Crest really is.”


(The Next Morning)

I start to wake up to the sounds of crackling and the feeling of warmth. I smell something burning. My eyes start to open to a city of orange.

“Fire!!!” I yell with all my might.

I run and jump out of the tree and try to untangle Zeppelin from the branch. We are surrounded by a fire. I jump on his back and tell him to go full speed ahead, straight into the fire. If we can’t go around it, then we have to go through it. Zeppelin races up the hill and into an old barn. We both breathe hard with panic.

“It’s okay, boy. It’s okay. We will have to head towards the ocean and bring water back to shore. We will use the buckets in this old barn,” I tell him in a comforting tone.

I ride him out to shore and take the buckets. After we fill them all with salt water, I ride him back out to the roaring fire. Then, we design a catapult to launch the buckets of water into the fire.

“Watch out Zeppelin! 3, 2, 1!” I say, as I launched the cold crisp water into this evil spirit.

The townspeople watch with horror painted on their faces. One girl and a horse with no armor are jumping into fire, launching 200-pound buckets of water. They are risking their own lives, in place of the town risking theirs. But the Emmet’s Crest is still out there.

Even though the fire is out, the real fire out there is still burning the inner souls of Fog Bank.

James Potter II and the Lake of Dreams

The story of James Potter II, Harry Potter’s son.


Chapter 1


“Mr. Potter.”


“Do you know what you have done?!”

“Um… Well I just blew up the Slytherin commons and now it’s wet, but nothing that big.”


That’s me. And I am not HARRY Potter for those of you reading, I am James Potter II, his son. James Potter was my grandfather. It has been great having my dad be the famous Harry Potter. We get to enjoy more little things, such as treacle tarts. The hard part is that our weekends are taken up by Quidditch or signing at Diagon Alley. But before we get to the blown up Slytherin commons room, I need to start where we left off.


I’m riding the Hogwarts Express, the same one my dad rode for seven, no, five years. Of course, the Train is a lot older than him, but it became a tourist attraction after the defeat of the Dark Lord. But it is still being used for and to the way to Hogwarts. In my cabin are Teddy Lupin, Victoire Weasley, Frank Longbottom, Rose Weasley and Xavian Lovegood. Of course, these were all my dad’s friends’ children. Weasley, Longbottom, and Lovegood. We were forced to play with each other because our weekends were taken up by them. They each were famous, but since I was Harry’s son, I always got the most attention. Now, let me fast forward to when we got there.


When we arrived, we all left our compartments. The train looked like a normal train from the outside, so it could blend in. Platform 9 ¾ was blown up by Indian terrorists. Reconstruction of the Platform had started but not yet finished. From the inside, it was luxurious. Everything was made out of gold. The curtains were made out of gold silk, the walls were solid gold, the flooring was golden tiles, and the seats were made of gold fabric. Hogwarts was the best place I’ve ever been, almost. Nothing compares to home, I mean nothing. You know that feeling you get at home, but you can’t describe it? That’s why I like home. My dad always used to say that Hogwarts was his first real home, but now that Dudley was on his own, his house was way better. We go there every month, this was partially because Dudley didn’t know how to take care of his 6 year old daughter named Juliana, who was, ironically, a witch. (My dad thought this was funny considering their family history). I don’t know why he finds it funny, I don’t bother reading his books about his life. I can learn them from a firsthand account. Not those biased books such as Reeta Skeeter, Rita Skeeter’s own child. Okay, back to topic now. His second home was the Burrow, where he practically spent all breaks. We go there every Christmas, but I personally find it crowded. Not boring, just crowded. It still looks like the old Burrow, but a lot larger. With more money comes more… land. Mrs. Weasley wanted to have a bigger house than the one she lived in. The Burrow has expanded into an eight by nine miles piece of land, which has 72 square miles, FOR A HOUSE.  Then, there was another 166 square miles of mowed grass. With the very extended family, including the Delacours, Potters, Weasleys, Grangers, Hurgelsons, etc. There are about 100 people there on family reunions and 30 people normally. A house, even extending 72 square miles, for a house, looks like it is giving birth with 30 people inside.


When we reached Hogwarts, we entered the Great Hall. Professor McGonagall was the new headmistress. She had taken over Dumbledore’s seat.

“The four words of this year are: Sporcle, Gawp, Finnigan, and DUMBLEDORE!!” Everybody cheered at the last word. Everyone knew about how Dumbledore had kept He-who-must-not-be-named. Now he was honored as Order of the Morgan, even higher than Order of the Merlin. All of a sudden, I turned back to the table and gasped. The table was now filled with bowls of mashed potatoes, chicken, and foods I didn’t even recognize. The glasses were filled with pumpkin spice or butterbeer. The mood became festive, and everyone was filling their plates with food.

McGonagall said, ”Don’t try to take any food, our spells will tell us if you try to sneak food out. People always want a little… erm… midnight snack.”

To my left, Frank Longbottom, my friend and a third year said, “Someone will always try to take food out, make sure it isn’t you. Doxies will move in and then destroy your place. Then they have to clean it out and that costs House points and a few Galleons.”


I moved around, sitting next to people who had to see the famed James Potter II, Harry’s son. People kept asking me to sit next to them. In the end, I sat next to Teddy, Victoire, Rose, and Darwin. Darwin was my friend, he was a first year (just like me) and he didn’t just like me because of fame. That was one of the downsides of having a famous dad, everyone wanted to be your friend in order to share the fame. He didn’t know that I was famous when we first met. We became best friends, comparing our favorite Magick cards, the best card game around.


When we were all finished eating, more food appeared. The desserts included treacle tart, steak and kidney pudding, tripe, and a few more varieties.

“What is this?” I asked, poking at a jelly like dessert that kept jiggling.

“That’s Jumping Jon’s special, broccoli gelly.” answered Darwin. I frown. “Oh, I keep forgetting you’re Wizard-born. Broccoli is a vegetable and jelly is like treacle tart, but with no flavor.”

“Who would eat that? I eat wizard foods.” I asked. Darwin shrugged and took a bite of treacle tart. By the time dessert had finished, 16 people had thrown up, 12 had turned into frogs, and 8 people had been breathing fire (courtesy of Fred and George Weasley’s Joke shop). Of course, the fire set the tables aflame but with a few aguamenti, the fires were easily put out.


McGonagall looked unsurprised, she just said, “It’s time for the Sorting!” This stopped all the commotion, except for the burning fires on the Slytherin tables.

Aqua Eructo!” shouted Kunok, the Head of the Slytherin’s, who have become a “civilized bunch” according to his dad. “Now, with no further interruptions, let’s begin the Sorting!”

Everyone burst into cheers, except the first years. Darwin and I just sat there, wondering what House we would be sorted into. We both wanted Gryffindor but we were not sure what we would be Sorted into. The Sorting Hat was on a stool that magically appeared. Everyone waited for the Sorting Hat to start singing, but it didn’t. Talking starts again, all about the same subject: What happened to the Sorting Hat? Rose said, “What happened? Will we be Sorted? What if we can’t? What if we have to leave this year? What if we can’t start? What if we have to start next year?” Leave it to Rose to find the worst case scenario.

“Enough with the what-if’s” I told her.

“Everyone, calm down!” Headmistress McGonagall said. “The Sorting Hat seems to be out of function, we will be Sorting everyone by the old tests!” The whole Hall erupted in groans and mutters.

“Test?!” everyone shouts, but none louder than the first years. McGonagall whacked her table with her wand, which had turned into  a ruler. Everyone quieted down, the smack was magically amplified. “I wish for all non first years to leave the hall, when they are finished testing, you can come back in.”

“What do you think the tests will be like?” I asked Darwin and the rest of the others. They all shrugged. So far, the Sorting Hat had always been enchanted according to Hogwarts, a History.

“A book has failed her for the first time” whispered Teddy.

“Shut up” Rose said but she turned very red in the cheeks.

Instead of a test on a paper, they made an illusion of a situation, and based on how you acted to that situation, they placed you in your House.

“Potter, James” called out Professor Neville. I walked up, with butterflies in my stomach, and almost threw up a few times. But I got there.

Neville got straight to the point, “The test consists of three parts. In each part, you will need to react to the situation. The way you react will determine your House.” His face softened, “Ready? Remember this is not real.” I entered the room.

What I recommend for taking the Hogwarts House test: Don’t. Even when you have a wand and know a few spells, you’re most likely to go crazy. The first part is a real test. Like a write-on-a-scroll test with a timer that explodes if you don’t finish. It just has questions like, “What would do in this situation?” with a video picture on top. Some of them were about saving people, a no brainer. Others were about what flavor of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans you would prefer. I finish, barely. They give you 30 minutes to complete a 340 question test. Thankfully, they let us use Quick-Notes pens, which were related to Quick-Quotes Quills, but they were pens, and they just wrote what you said. So, instead of my hands being sore, my mouth was. They then gave me a break, about two minutes, which I used to drink water.


Tips on Part 2 of the test: Don’t even. Even with your wand and knowing a few spells, you’re most likely to go even more crazy. The second part of the House test was a simulation. They made things called semblances, which are actually illusions, made by a spell. This spell was illusio, which creates a semblance of your liking. I remember the time my dad cast one. The spell was hard, so hard my dad went unconscious for a few days. Of course we could have always bought a house elf, but my dad felt as if that was unjust. He had been fighting for elf rights when he was in Hogwarts. Back to the simulation. On my right hand side appeared a girl. On my left hand side appeared a dementor. The girl cried out, but I was paralyzed with fear. Dementors were the worst, after the fall of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, Dementors were put back in Azkaban, but not as guards, they were in prison. Now semblances guarded them. My hand shaking, I shouted, “Expecto Patronum!” A weak silver hedgehog appeared, and quickly faded. My dad made me learn how to cast a Patronus because of his problems with them. The dementor sucked the happiness out of both of us. The world turned black, and the only thing I thought was, “Is this real?”


I woke up in the hospital wing. I saw on the table next to me get well cards from Darwin, Teddy, Victoire, and Rose. Along with them were a variety of treats. I started eating a Chocolate Frog. That made me feel better. Surprisingly, I wasn’t injured. Only my head hurt. Madame Pomfrey (the other Madame Pomfrey’s Daughter) saw me and said, “Good you’re awake.” She looked uncomfortable. “You….um….. have to go see Professor McGonagall, she needs to tell you your House and what class you’re supposed to be in.” My heart stopped, and then I groaned. I had forgotten that classes started the day after the Sorting.


I walked up to the Headmistress’s Office. The gargoyles immediately sprang up and  reveal the hidden staircase. I walk up the stairs and open the door…

A Cat in the Chamomile

The boy’s pictures lift from the page, the black cat and the girl standing on the bluffs are no longer trapped in his perilous paper. The cat is curled around her shoulders observing the rise and fall of the tide against the rocky edge of the bluffs. Fear of the rocks, and the cold water prevent the cat from taking a no doubt foolish leap of faith into the foamy waters lapping up against the sharp cliff. However, the cat’s human couch holds no such fears, and now that she is a tangible being she has nothing left to lose. She is nothing but a miniscule girl standing at the edge of a teacup, the cat on her shoulders so small you have to squint to see him. By some miracle, the tea in the cup is moving of its own accord, crashing brown waves of steeping Chamomile against its porcelain walls. The boy stares intently at his little monsters, waiting to see the girl jump into his boiling hot breakfast. The cat can sense something, a shift in her footing or a slight bend of the knees as if to tell the cat she’s preparing and he should either stay along for the ride or hop off now. She jumps and the cat is digging his claws into the girl’s shoulders trying not to let himself go flying in the air, because being separated from the girl in an ocean of tea is far worse than being forced into the murky brown waters in the first place.

The boy takes no notice of the sacrifice either of them have made because he is busy creating a new image to bring to life. This time, he paints with vibrant colors, because the pencil gray of the cat and girl was too bleak.

Center stage in his colorful masterpiece is a fountain, and all around it are children playing and parents talking, men and women selling things on the cobblestoned street corners fading into the edges of the paper. The children are reaching their arms into the fountain trying to grab at pennies that have been tossed in for luck, they’ve rolled up their sleeves and lie flat on the edge of the marble fountain. Their parents are walking around chatting, and wheeling their little ones about in push chairs. Those selling goods around the square are bargaining with men and women trying to get what they desire for a price they think to be more suitable. All of these things are in beautiful colors, shades made meticulously over time by someone who cares deeply about having just the right shade of green or lavender. The grass sprouting from cracks in the bricks, the water spouting out of the fountain in graceful arcs, the pennies glimmering under the water, all of these things are beautifully crafted by someone who knows the painting is more than a painting. The boy makes a final mark and sits back in the couch, he smacks the pillow and a cloud of dust rises from the green velvet, in the dust the scene takes place, as each mite moves in the sunlight coming from the windows the people in the square are going about their business as if there’s nothing out of the ordinary happening in their little town, parents are scolding their children and making them throw the pennies back into the water and salesmen are shouting at irritating bargainers, bothering them with their constant need for a lower price than what’s been offered. The iridescent dust floating through the air is colored beautifully by reflections of the different shades coating the room. The boy leans back in the couch and watches as the people he has created play out their every-day lives for him, it’s like a movie to him, he sits and watches, silently observing as they go about their regular business. At the door he hears a knock and he’s standing up on the couch in a flash, waving his hands around in the air trying to make his images dissipate into nothing more than dust again.




When his mother entered the room the boy was standing on the couch waving his arms about like a madman. Because she was unsure what he was attempting to do, she didn’t notice the dust particles stretching apart and dissolving, the faces of the townspeople turning into what they used to be — dust.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing, Leo?” his mother asked, stomping into the room, “the neighbors will think you’re insane.” She walked to the curtains, pulling them closed, the dust only visible in the light streaming in from the windows was gone in a flash and the boy was left standing on the couch staring into the air with a blank expression. “For god’s sake Leo, get off the furniture!” she shouted walking across the room to fluff the pillows on the couch, “you shouldn’t even be in your father’s study, you know how angry he gets when he sees that things have been moved around in here.”

“Sorry,” Leo said, tromping out of the room in a daze. With a lack of things to do, he decided to go back to his room. In the back of his closet Leo kept a collection of drawings. They weren’t any good though because most of them were just boring sceneries; the people in his pictures liked to run away. Leo wasn’t upset that they wanted to run away, he often felt the same way he imagined they did.

From his room the garden looked shady and relaxing, and from the garden his room looked luxurious and better than how he remembered it. He ended up going back and forth between his room and the garden a few times before deciding to stay in the garden, because he was far too tired to go back up the stairs another time.

Dusty pieces of chalk were lying unused on the pavement that wrapped its way around the garden. Leo sorted through bits of chalk trying to find a blue piece but the only colors he could find were white and yellow, and obviously yellow was too happy of a color for his current inspiration, so he left the chalk on the floor and promptly began to sketch the outline of a woman. She was trapped under the concrete. He drew her furled brow and clenching fists, her face twisting into a silent scream. The grainy pieces of chalk moved about on the pavement and told him the woman’s story. She pounded on the ground beneath him and the boy took a step back, afraid that he might of made his newest creation a bit too life sized for his taste. When the concrete gave in to the woman’s fists she exploded into the air leaving Leo a stunned chalk covered mess. He could only imagine what the neighbors would think; purely for his mother’s benefit he hoped the shade that slid from the tree boughs had covered his chalk colored mess in the garden.

The first time Leo drew the woman was in the garden. He was ten and he wasn’t aware that it would be more than just another drawing to hide away in the back of his closet. He kept drawing her, over and over again on every scrap of paper he could find, and each time he drew her she changed a bit, sometimes she would be too tired to break out of her little scrap of notebook paper altogether and Leo would wake up the next morning to see that she was gone, maybe she had slipped off the corner, or maybe some time during the night she had broken free of her paper walls. Leo started drawing her just to see the different ways she could escape. After a while, he began to choose his favorite ways in which she managed to free herself. There was the time that the tiny piece of paper she was trapped in managed to fold itself into an origami person and ran off his desk only to find death waiting for her in his trash bin; that happened when he was eleven. There was also the time that he drew her on a napkin he got from a breakfast diner and she ripped open the flimsy tissue paper holding her back; unfortunately the waitress was responsible for her demise that time, the glass flattening the small girl made of ink, when Leo was only fourteen. At the age of sixteen he drew her in the margin of his sheet music and she sailed away on an eighth note, she stood on the F sharp and clung to the stem gazing towards the edge of the page and just like that she sailed off the corner of his paper and into oblivion.

As Leo began to realize that he couldn’t paint or draw as a profession he started exploring other things that he thought he may enjoy. He was terrible at dancing, in the course of his first lesson he managed to break three toes, and wedge multiple shards of a mirror into his left knee. After dance, he tried to immerse himself in the art of cooking, but he seemed to overcook everything he touched and sometimes, if the mood was just right, set a couple of things on fire. However, it wasn’t his decision when his mother banned him from the kitchen after he broke her favorite mixing bowl, burnt a vintage dish towel and accidentally melted a pair of scissors with a plastic orange cover on the handles oo the top of their stove. After cooking was soccer, you’d think that after he tried dancing he would know better than to try something physically demanding, but no, by some miracle he believed that he would be fantastic at it. Not the case. In fact, during his first game he ran into the goal and had a purple bump on his forehead for a week. Shortly after he tried soccer was the first time he picked up a cello. His first turning point was when he felt the chords produced by bow on string resonate through his body. After that, he started taking lessons regularly and auditioned for summer conservatories and started going to a performing arts school when he was sixteen.

He knew that playing the cello wasn’t something out of the ordinary like drawing a picture that comes to life. He knew that playing the cello wouldn’t get him poked and prodded in weird labs far from home. Besides, what if it wasn’t real, what if he was just crazy? If he was crazy he didn’t want to know, he didn’t want his whole world to crumble around him like the people in his paintings worlds had disintegrated.




I leaned over the curving piece of wood and put my pen to the page. I began to draw the woman again. She was standing on my eighth note with her arms wrapped around the stem, she was gazing across the page at all the other notes clustered in their individual little groups, each bar told a story like the stories my pictures told. I felt like she was trying to read this foreign language that presented itself in dots and lines strewn about over an unrecognizable grid.

She was lost I suppose; she was always trying to escape the piece of paper that she was confined to one way or another. She started to lean down on the note and she pushed her makeshift sailboat off into the waters of music ahead. She was drifting across the lines letting a nonexistent wind carry her and her precious eighth note ever closer to the edge of my page. Her tangled hair was blowing behind her as she drifted off the paper, she tumbled onto the stand and started running until she leaped off and fell surprisingly gracefully to the ground. She spent a short time living life out of her paper because she was promptly stomped on by a violinist who was quite unaware of the fact they’d ended a life. If you could even call what she had a life. All that was left was a black puddle of ink, that slowly seeped into the carpet, leaving what would no doubt be a permanent stain.

As Olivia settled back into her seat she made the casual remark, “there’s supposed to be an eighth note there,” and carefully penciled in one of her own making. If I had attempted what seemed so trivial and basic to her my eighth note probably would have lifted off the page and exploded, leaving ink all over my papers. There was an eighth note there, and now it was gone, because of what I drew, but does that really make it real? Am I just seeing things?



He started playing the cello when he was fourteen. It was a foreign idea to him at first, he thought it would probably be another thing that he could add to his list of failed hobbies. It didn’t come naturally to translate the notes into sounds and the sounds into emotions. He grew to understand the language these sounds spoke and he enjoyed it more and more as he continued to play. There was something about the instrument that intrigued him, but he could never understand what.




I’m still not used the the way I have to sit. It hurts my legs to be in such a weird position for so long and my back starts to ache. I’ve been lugging that cello around on my back to and from school but now that it’s getting hotter I get tired more easily. I get home late from practice and I haven’t been drawing lately, but I can’t decide if that’s a good or bad thing.

Even though sometimes playing the cello hurts and carrying it around is tiring, I think that I’m starting to like it, and at least I’m not as bad at this as I was at cooking. I mean I wish I could draw, but my drawings aren’t for other people, they’re for me. Mainly because I think other people would think I’m weird, and if they don’t think I’m weird they’ll probably think that I’m insane. Maybe I am, I keep drawing the same thing over and over, like I’m addicted to making that one image. Crazy people are the people who do the same thing over and over again thinking that there will be a different outcome each time, but there isn’t because every time that I draw her, she leaves.

I feel like the woman is tormenting me, following me wherever I go, making me draw her, but I’m probably the one tormenting her. I keep trapping her, and she has to get out over and over again, maybe I should draw something else for a while. Let her rest, let her not be trapped for a bit. I have a strange need to draw her, though. I don’t understand why, I think it’s because I need to reassure myself that she can get out, that she can leave whenever she wants. Sometimes I want her to stay, not because I get lonely; I have friends, but I want her to stay because I never get to finish drawing her before she leaves. That’s why I keep drawing her, because she isn’t finished. I’m not done drawing her, she’s not complete. Yet, she never is- she always leaves before I get a chance to finish her. Does that still make me crazy? I’m not expecting her to change every time I draw her, and I’m not expecting her to stay, I’m trying to finish drawing her, because I never have, not in the garden not on any scrap of paper I’ve ever put her on.



I’m not going to draw her here again, I can’t. It was too close this time, she’s real. Olivia saw the missing note, she may as well have seen her jumping off the paper. I can draw something else, I should draw something else. I need to draw something else. Rain will cleanse it, it’ll cleanse the paper. Like she was never there. Olivia’s gone, I should do it now, the worst that can happen is that a sink faucet will start leaking.

I turn the packet over to the back page. I start drawing the rain dripping from the top of the page in rounded furious drops racing towards the bottom of the paper. That’s when we start hearing it. Thundering drops of rain smashing against the rooftop, the drops on the paper start vanishing and the rain gets lighter, the alarmingly loud drops of rain against the roof settle into a light pittering.

“I didn’t know it was supposed to rain today,” Olivia says, sitting down again and lifting her cello from the floor.

“It wasn’t,” I reply, opening the packet back to the correct page and leaning it against the stand.

The rest of our rehearsal is by most means ordinary. I don’t like drawing in public, somehow it makes me feel vulnerable.




I need to find a way to finish her. If she leaves again I can’t finish her. She’s always found a way to escape, and I need to paint her somewhere she can’t leave.

The piles of empty scenes painted on used papers could be her new prison. Could she be trapped in this new environment?

I’m looking through pieces of paper that hold memories of past paintings trying to find a place for her, a place where she can’t leave. There are the bluffs which she would probably find a way out of and the valley with a winding river where she could easily sail her way downstream and into the real world, where I would never be able to catch her. To her there is always a way out of the paper, she always finds new ways to escape the pages that I put her in, I shouldn’t put her on paper this time, I need to find a new stage for her. What if I were to paint her on the mirror. Could she break it?

I begin to plaster her image to the glass, and I can’t help but see myself in her now that I’m drawing her over my own image. She isn’t moving as much as she usually does, she’s just looking, she’s trying to find a way out of the mirror. It’s like she can see herself for the first time. Come to think of it, she’s probably never had the luxury of looking in a mirror, I wonder what it feels like to look at it from the inside, can she see me. Maybe she doesn’t know that I’m painting her this time, maybe that’s why she isn’t trying to escape, she doesn’t know that she has to.

At least it gives me the opportunity to finish painting her. I’ve given her more detail than ever before. Her eyes are more blue, her face looks more real, her freckles and the curve of her nose are more complete than they ever have been. I didn’t even know that she had freckles before, but now she’s done, her eyes her mouth her hair, all of it is perfectly finished, exactly the way that I never knew it could be.



I’ve always had to find my way out of the paper I’m stuck in or the floor I’m under because the stupid boy that paints me can’t let well enough alone, but now I’m not trapped in some gloomy place. I can’t see the boy any more, and I hope that means that he isn’t here. I can see so much now, the things I could never see from inside my paper. I can see people. Just one person, she moves the same way that I do. Slow and careful, watchful, I’m always watching, watching for an exit, any way out of the paper. I can’t see any way to leave this place though, and while at first it was excitingly new, and beautiful now it seems like a carefully designed prison. One that I can’t find my way out of. Every time I approach a visible edge or any sort of empty space the girl follows me, making sure to keep a careful eye on me and stick close.


I think that she’s starting to realize where she is. She keeps coming closer and farther to the face of the mirror staring intently into the open space between her and the glass. All I can do is wait to see if she can escape this time like she did all the other times she’s run from my pages. I sit watching her from my bed seeing if she’ll slip out of the glass surrounding her. What she does is always unexpected though so I’m not completely sure what she’ll do, I never am.

I feel as if the glass is far more fragile than she is as she poses more of a threat to the mirror than I, or the mirror does to her. She knows that the glass can be broken, and now she’s preparing, her fingertips spread on the floor, she’s bending as close to the ground as she can, leaning forward resting her weight on her fingertips ready to fling herself towards the glass. When she does begin to run she is fast, rushing towards her only exit in sight, and the glass is breaking leaving shards of the mirror on the floor and paint puddled on the ground marking the loose sheets of paper that were left empty by the others who had escaped the way she did.



He hasn’t drawn since the woman escaped his mirror. He picked up all the pieces of glass and cleaned up the splattered paint, he put the empty papers back in his closet and he left all his supplies there too.

He doesn’t seem sad or angry. He was satisfied to have finally finished the painting, and even though the woman escaped again, he was glad. Because he knew that she couldn’t stay trapped in his mirror forever, but he was at a loss, he had no motivation to draw something new. He was done drawing the woman for now, maybe forever. He didn’t know what else there was to draw because for so long now the woman was the only thing that he drew. He was stuck.

The summer heat seemed to swallow him whole and he didn’t know how to keep drawing now that something he had been working on for years was finished, but had disappeared like all his other work. It wasn’t sad so much as it was disappointing. He wanted to be able to keep the things he’d made, but they had minds of their own and didn’t want to be trapped in his papers, and he understood why, but he still missed them.



After that, I was nothing more than paint soaking into floorboards and once the boy finally found the courage to come anywhere near me, all he did was wipe me away, cleaning up the mess that he’d made, or was it a mess that I’d made. It’s so confusing here. It was more confusing in the mirror though. I think that’s what it’s called. A mirror.

It’s been so long since the last time that he painted me and it’s something of a relief not having to break out of so many prisons anymore. Each one was more challenging and confusing than the last. Even though part of me is glad that he doesn’t draw or paint me anymore I always feel on edge, because I know that eventually he may paint me again, but I’m not worried about that, I always have that nagging thought in the back of my head though.

The place where I am now is nice, it’s where all the people from his drawings go. It’s a town in a valley; there’s a river weaving it’s way through the town and there are little gondolas with soft cushions in them that you can ride downstream to the next town over. At night, the men and women sailing the gondolas hang lanterns from the boats and they cast shadows into the glittering water hugging the curving edge of the boat. There is a fountain in the square and the children throw in their pennies for luck, there’s a market set up lining the edges of the cobblestone square in the center of the town. Extending around the town are small cottages and grand Victorian houses, modern buildings and ancient crumbling monuments, it’s a mish mash of imagination of older times, and twenty first century architecture. The streets wind in confusing pathways where there is no definitive left or right, there’s straight-ish, left-ish, and right-ish, with the occasional left-ish straight, or straight-ish right.

The people here have their quirks but they’re nice and they seem to get along pretty well. I’m normal here, not invisible to the ignorant people who flatten me with glasses of water or accidentally step on me. I’m normal here because these things have happened to the others too. I live with a girl who fell into a tea cup and disappeared, she’s been looking for her cat ever since, but she suspects the worse. I try not to think about where the cat might be if not here. Then again maybe he’s on a gondola or sneaking into one of the old houses down the street. If not I hope that he’s okay.

I’m not sure if the boy’s going to draw me again and I hope he doesn’t because I want to stay here, I’ve visited before but never for as long as this because he would always draw me again, what bothered me is that every time he drew me I was a little different, sometimes I would come back and people would ask me where my freckles came from or how my hair had changed color. Most people don’t change once they get here, the children typically stay children and the adults typically stay adults, once people are drawn and they end up here, if they aren’t drawn again they don’t leave, and they stay the same, I was one of the few people who changed. Sometimes people would get painted again and they would come back very slightly different, maybe their teeth were a little straighter or their hair was a little longer, but every time I came back I had noticeably changed and it was never a bad thing but eventually it became frustrating, when I could never get used to my own reflection.  




Lydia found her cat yesterday, he had been following people home trying to get food from them. She saw him trying to sneak into a gondola and managed to grab him before they left the dock. I don’t particularly understand her need for the cat but I like him, he makes funny noises when he’s prowling through the house.

There was never anything else with me in the paintings, I was always alone, sometimes there were other things on the page but never other people, or animals, no pets for me to bring home after escaping the pages.

I think that I’ve found a final home though, it’s one of the slightly newer houses the boy had drawn, lots of tall windows that filled whole walls, I’d never been in a house with so much light. Lydia and I have been getting along well, she was my first friend here. She works at the dock welcoming new people from the boys drawings and helping them settle in, we’ve assumed that we’re about the same age, whatever that may be. None of us know our exact ages, there are the children, the adults, the people somewhere between being children and adults, and there are the old people. Most of my other friends are the older people. They’re nicer than the little ones and they don’t make as much fuss about things, or at least most of them don’t. I met many of them at the market in the square, they sell things like antiques or vegetables, Marlene even sells wine that she’s been aging in her cellar ever since she arrived in this town.

I’ve been considering catching a gondola and taking a ride upstream to see what the other towns are like. We live in one of the farthest towns out but in the center there is a large city. That is where all the things he painted from the real world went, most of them are tall buildings he painted or drew as ways to practice perspective. The others are just more modern things and people, the farther you get from the city the older things become. In our town there aren’t many things that work electronically, but in the city everything works with a system of wires. Our town has older houses and even a cathedral he painted from a picture taken in France. It has stained glass windows and towers above all the other buildings in our town. The only thing is we don’t really have a religion here, we know who made us and we wouldn’t worship him in any way. Not to say that we hate him, because we don’t, but most of the people here just don’t really see him as someone worth worshiping. However, I definitely don’t consider him to be a friend, after all he’s the reason why I could never stay here for very long, and I resent him for it.


Her Silhouette

Her mother told her to take off white cotton tees.

Her father shoved kale down, and pinched her throat.

Her father cropped her body from the family photo,

told her she did not fit the frame.


Her mother knew her secret.

Her mother weighed the good and the bad.  

Her mother sided with her father.


Her father

now smiled at her appearance.

Her father

bribed her with new white denim.

Her father

applauded her small waist size.


Her mother wanted her alive, fed her

a midnight snack under the covers.

Her mother had no say. In mornings,


vanities didn’t make her beautiful. In the mirror,

she saw her torn teddy bear, her fleshy cheeks.

At school she hid in bathroom stalls,  

thought a toilet would flush away the world.

Home Is Where The Family Is

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

“What’s your name?” she snapped.

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

“Carrie…Carrie Shaw,” I replied.

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

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

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

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

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

“What happened?” I mumbled.

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

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

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

“Haha,” I laughed sheepishly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Be right there,” I shouted back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Of course, Mom.”

The Ugly Journey

As I am putting on my shorts and shirt I hear my dad yelling, “Hey, Nathen, hurry up! Jack and Nick are already waiting for you!”

I start to rush, putting my clothes on as fast as I can and jump into the car. I sit next to Ryan and Nick while Jack sits up front. We head on the road and talk about how we always go to this climbing spot and go on the rock that looks like a horse’s head. My friends get so excited as we pull up and reach our favorite climbing area. I hop out and start running to the big rocks.

We always try to get to the highest mountain we can find at Joshua Tree but there is always a higher mountain to climb. On this climb, we get to the highest point we have ever gone. Usually we head back when we are halfway done with our water but this time we have a lot more water than usual. We are going at such a fast pace we are not paying attention to where we are, which causes us to get lost. We start walking back the way we came and eventually we start to go back down.

We start climbing down small rocks and after a while they turn into slightly bigger rocks. I think there is no way the rocks can get bigger than the ones we are already climbing, but sure enough, they start getting bigger. I start to get scared of the jumps we are making. After a while, we see the bottom flat rocks. There is about a tenth of a mile of bushes before we will reach our car. We do not know those bushes are actually rose bushes with many thorns. We try to continue but are so upset and stop five feet away from the bushes. My dad says he will get us ice cream when we get home but only if we go through with the plan.

Before, the worst part of us getting to our car was jumping down the rocks with two and a half foot jumps but now we have to go through a bunch of dry plants with sharp thorns. I look at my arms and legs and see I am scratched up and bleeding. I look back to see how far we have gone and it’s only about 20 feet. I start to lose hope and think we are never going to get home.

I start walking, trying to dodge the shrubs in front of me, still scared of how much farther I have to go. I see a much greater distance behind me and know we are close. I climb up and see we are a little bit more than half way. I start to smile and stop paying attention to all the cuts I have. After about 150 feet, I get to another high point and see we only have around 20 more feet until we get to the car! I start to sprint ahead of everyone because they don’t know how close we are. Now, I am free! I run to the car and hug it but it burns my skin because it has been sitting in the sun for all this time.

I see my dad and friends come out of the bush and everyone is happy. My dad puts his hands in the air with the biggest smile and we go home. I realize instead of ice cream we got a handful of bandages. But the bandages are better, and I thank my dad.

A Short Story



The tiny girl watched the older one in disbelief. No one had not returned her hellos before!

“Look,” the older one said, placing a hand on her hip, “I’m six. So I am older than you and you have to listen to me!”

The small girl was confused. She was four, why did she have to listen to anyone? Kids were supposed to be treated like babies until they reached fourth grade, or so she thought. They were supposed to be pinched on the cheeks and be cooed at, not follow instructions!

“Go clean my room,” the older child said, grabbing her Barbies and walking down the stairs. “Oh! And also, don’t touch my flowers. If you do…” The older girl dragged her finger in a line across her throat.

The little girl gulped and nodded. She scurried up the stairs, her eyes widened at the sight.

There were toys everywhere with no empty space on the ground! From wall to wall there was trash, food and toys. There were headless baby dolls on the floor, the walls were covered with dry gum and the carpet had changed from a caramel color to a disgusting poop-like color.

Hours passed and the room was slightly better. You could now see the poop-colored floor and the slightly pink walls.

“Little girl!” the older girl called from downstairs. “Are you done?”

“No! Not yet,” she called.

“Well, hurry it up!” There was a pause. “Oh, hello, mother!”

The older girl’s mother was a tall woman. She had shoulder-length light brown hair and green eyes. This was the little girl’s chance to get the older girl in trouble. Not doing her chores, would get her into serIous trouble. The little girl skipped down the stairs. “Hi, step-mommy!” the little girl said, wrapping her little girl arms round one of the woman’s legs.

“Oh, honey, why are you all dirty?” the woman asked as the little girl looked at the older one
The older girl was repeating the “I’ll kill you” sign.

“Older step-sissy made me clean her room!” The little girl giggled, grabbing the woman’s hand. “I want to show you! I want to show you!”

“Oh ok, just give me a minute to talk to older step-sissy,” the woman said in a stern voice before picking up the girl and bringing her into the kitchen. The little girl skipped up the stairs and listened to her step-mom telling off the older sister.

“How dare you make your little sister clean your disgusting room! I don’t want to hear any excuses, young lady! You are grounded!”

The woman came up the stairs. “Ok, sweetheart,” her step-mom said, “show me her newly clean room.” The younger girl dragged her mother by the hand into the now clean room.

“Wow! Her room hasn’t been this clean in forever! I’m so proud of you! Do you want to go get some ice cream?”

“Yes, yes, yes!” the little girl squealed. “Ice cream! Ice cream!”

Over the years, the older sister continued to torment the younger one until the older one went to college. At college, the older sister attended parties, failed and was kicked out.

The younger sister went to college, didn’t go to parties and passed with flying colors.

The younger girl grew up and now works at Apple as a boss. She lives in a mansion somewhere in Beverly Hills.

The older girl also grew up and is still older. She doesn’t work anywhere and lives off of unemployment. She lives in a shack in some unknown place.

So, the older girl saved up some money and called her sister on one of those phones you see on the corner of the street.


“Y-yes, it’s me, big sissy.” The older girl coughed. “I need you to help me straighten up and find a proper place to live.

“I’m sorry, perhaps you wanted me to connect you to a representative. Okay, give me a moment,” a robotic voice said, then soon after, music started playing.

The older girl looked at the phone. Since she had lived in a shack after college, she had no idea of the new progress in technology. The older sister sat waiting on the phone to be connected to a representative.

“Hi, my name is Tanya. How may I help you today?”

“I need to speak with your boss. Can you connect me to her?”


“Do I need a reason why?”

“I need a reason why. Ma’am, if you are just going to waste my time, I’m going to have to hang up on you.”

“Fine. Do that.”

Beep. The call ended. The older sister wanted to throw the phone on the ground but she didn’t want to waste her four quarters. She had to find another way to reach her sister.

A few more years passed and the older sister had gotten a job. She had barely scraped up enough money to fly to California.

The older sister was boarding the plane when a voice came from the intercom.

“I’m sorry, folks, but due to volcanic ash in the air, we have to cancel the flight today.”

“What?!” the older sister shouted. “I saved up for years for this flight! You take me to California or I will get you!”

The older sister ended up getting a refund and buying another plane ticket. She flew to California and arrived at Apple.

“Hi,” she said to the lady at the front desk, “I’m here to see your boss. Um,” she repeated, “I am here to see your boss.”

The lady let her in after an hour of negotiating. She stepped into the elevator and went to the very top floor. Once the elevator opened, she stepped into the room.

“Hello?” the older sister said. “Is that you?”

The person in the large chair turned around and the older sister’s smile grew. It was her younger sister!

“Oh, I missed you! Listen, I need a job here and you can help me!” The older sister got on her hands and knees.

“No. Do you remember how you tormented me all throughout our childhood? Never.” The younger sister leaned forward and whispered, “Well, if I let you work here, then I’d be seen as a baby, but you can work next door with my good friend, Alejandro. Now goodbye.” The younger sister handed her a small business card with a picture of pizza on it.

The older sister ended up taking over for Alejandro when he passed away. Her pizza shop ended up being the biggest pizza shop ever until she died.


I try hard to be KIND

I try hard to be CALM

I try to be an ARTIST

I try NOT to be LAZY


The only bad thing about me is my ANXIETY


My worst enemy is my ANXIETY

It comes over me being KIND

It comes over me being HUMOROUS

It comes over me being CALM

It comes over me being LAZY

And it prevents me from being an ARTIST


Without creativity motivating me I can no longer be an ARTIST

I can never be myself when I’m ANXIOUS

I wake up scaring myself, not allowing me to be LAZY

Without a trembling hand, I can never be KIND

Without locking myself in, I can never be CALM

Without challenging myself, I can never be HUMOROUS


With anxiety, I’m challenged to being HUMOROUS

With anxiety, creativity is holding me back from being an ARTIST

With anxiety, I’m no longer CALM

The cause of my anxiety is always being ANXIOUS

Anxiety blocks out me being KIND

But with anxiety, I can no longer be LAZY


Forgetting my anxiety allows me to be LAZY

Forgetting my anxiety allows me to be HUMOROUS

Forgetting my anxiety allows me to be KIND

Forgetting my anxiety allows me to be an ARTIST

My anxiety causes me to be VERY ANXIOUS

Forgetting my anxiety allows me to be CALM


Anxiety holds me down not letting me be CALM

Anxiety holds me down not letting me be LAZY

Anxiety holds me down letting me be ANXIOUS

Anxiety holds me down not letting me be HUMOROUS

Anxiety holds me down not letting me be an ARTIST

Anxiety holds me down not letting me be KIND


I AM no longer HUMOROUS

I AM no longer an ARTIST

I AM no longer KIND



“Mommy?” Ayla Brown stared up into her mother’s pale-blue eyes, her long golden hair tickling her forehead.

“Yes, honey?”

“Why can’t Daddy be here for my graduation?”

“Daddy is sleeping, honey.” Ayla’s mother, Lily, stood up from her crouched position and walked over to grab Ayla’s butterfly leotard.

“He can’t still be sleeping, he’s been sleeping for,” Ayla stuck her left hand up and slowly counted her fingers, “thirteen days.”

“He is very tired, honey.  He won’t wake up for a really long time.”

“Why can’t we see him?” Ayla stepped through the pink fabric, and her mother helped her through the sleeves.

“Because…” Her voice cracked as she tried to hide a sob.

“Don’t cry, I’m not as bad at dancing as you think.” Ayla smiled and twirled in her tutu and flapped her wings. Her mother started to laugh softly but inhaled sharply and let out a sob again.

“Are you ready to finish pre-school, Ayla?”

“Mmmhmm,” Ayla said as she skipped over to line up for her dance. She turned around to her mother and waved, smiling like she was about to be on “America’s Top Model,” her favorite ‘Mommy show,’ which she snuck into the living room at nine o’clock to watch.  

I love you, she mouthed to her mother through the other four year olds.

“I love you, too,” Ayla watched her mother say as she sneaked to her seat in the back of the small theatre.

Three months later, Ayla dragged herself up the Cameron Elementary School steps and into room 23. After months of waiting for her father to wake up, Ayla had given up hope that she would ever see him again. She had stopped watching “America’s Top Model” and playing with her best friend, Jamie.  Ayla spent hours a day staring into space, completely shutting out everyone but her mother. Ayla could tell she spent most nights crying. She tried to comfort her, but it seemed to make her mother cry harder. So Ayla spent most of her summer vacation alone in her room trying to stay put together.

Once Ayla reached the door, she turned around and kissed her mother goodbye, walked into the brightly colored room, and put on a smile.


“I wouldn’t punch someone who’s face is already so messed up!”

“Ayla!” her mother said in a strained whisper. “How could you?!”

“Look, Mr.Turner, I didn’t hurt anyone.” Ayla’s peacock colored braid flew around, as she tried to convince her principal that Jimmy Cammo had slipped and broken his nose, that it had not been punched by her.

“Ayla, we have witnesses who tell me that they saw you bullying Mr.Cammo during passing period today. As a junior, I expect you to be kind and considerate, and set an example for younger students. You are doing the opposite–not only harassing people, but breaking school rules, policies, and expectations.” He sighed and started again. “This is your sixteenth time to the principal’s office this year, and we are only three quarters of the way into first semester. Normally, we would have expelled you by now.”

Ayla saw her mother open her mouth and close it again.

“But we have decided to only suspend you from the campus for two weeks.” Mr.Turner looked down at his desk and picked up a large stack of papers and handed them to Ayla’s mother. Ayla noticed an odd expression sketched upon his face. He looked hurt, but there was something else there. It puzzled her.

“We will see you back on campus on April 24.” Mr. Turner wheeled his chair away from his desk, stood up, and walked out of his office.

“Ayla, sixteen times! I thought you had only been once!” Her mother frowned at her. Ayla avoided her mother’s gaze by pretending to see a bird out the window.

“There will be consequences.” Ayla dragged her feet as she walked to her mother’s blue Prius and slipped into the back seat to avoid the long lectures and cold glances. Halfway to her apartment, Ayla’s iPhone 4s burst into “Don’t Stop Believing.” She picked it up and whispered into the microphone, trying not to upset her mother.


“Ayla, what the hell?” Jackie’s high voice echoed in her ear, forcing Ayla to drop her phone out of surprise.

“Shhhh,” she let out, picking it up from the black leather seat.

“Don’t shush me, you are in no position to shush me! Suspended! For two freaking weeks!”

“Shhhh, don’t worry, I can still go Sunday.”

“Turn that thing off.” Her mother’s voice was stiff and unforgiving. Ayla covered the mic on her phone and whispered, “But, Mom, it’s–”

“Turn it off.”

Ayla groaned and, as quickly as she could, was off the phone with Jackie. The car screeched to a stop at a red light. Lily’s gold-grey hair whipped around, and her dark brown eyes met her daughters.

“You will volunteer at Karl’s Ocean Orphanage every single day. No friends or boys until you complete four months of community service.”

“What!” Tears formed in Ayla’s eyes.

“Now you know what it feels like, to have people be cruel to you.”

“Life has been cruel to me, Mom. Ever since Dad died, nothing has gone my way!” Ayla could see tears welling up in her mother’s eyes, too.

“How could you be so cruel to people? Kids bullied you in Kindergarten. You know how it feels to be treated horribly! How could you, of all people, be a bully? I am disgusted with your behavior.” Her mother’s tears were gone and were replaced with anger flaring across her face.

“I–” Ayla choked.

“No, you can’t have an excuse, and if you do, it is probably horrible.”

Silence filled the car as it rolled into the driveway. Ayla grabbed her phone, slung her bag onto her back and ran up the stairs, holding back tears. She fumbled with her key as she fought the urge to start bawling. Don’t cry, don’t do it, don’t let them get to you. As soon as she opened the door, she rushed past her tiny kitchen and lurched into her room. Leila, her sixteen-year-old cat, lay sleeping on her floral sheets. Ayla dropped her bag on her tan carpet as she inhaled sharply. She sat down on her bed and stroked Leila’s white, smooth fur. No, don’t do it, she thought. It had been years since she had cried–years of holding back tears, pretending that everything was okay. But being yelled at by her mother, who had almost always been there for her, had pushed Ayla over the edge. The only other time Lily had yelled at her was in Kindergarten. Ayla had returned home with a nasty cut on her leg from being stabbed with a pencil by Larry Garten.

“Ayla what happened to you?” Her mother asked as she put down her magazine.

“Nothing,” she mumbled

“Honey, what is wrong?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Did someone hurt you?” She crouched down to be eye to eye with her daughter.

“No, Mom, I’m fine.” Ayla looked down avoiding her mother’s gaze.

“Honey.” Her mother placed her hand on Ayla’s back, right where Jack Orlando had hit her last week.

Ayla reacted quickly, her hands flying to her back in pain.


Ayla looked up. Her mother was holding her cheek, glaring back at her.

“What was that for? Go to your room! And don’t come out until dinner!” All of the kindness

drained from her face as she pointed her left index finger up the stairs.

As Ayla lay on her duvet, she realized that that was the last time she had cried. But not the last time she was hurt. She was bullied until second grade, but by third grade had taken manners into her own hands. Bullying others made her feel horrible about herself. She couldn’t avoid it, though; everything people said angered her. Ayla had no friends until Jackie and Ursula moved to her school. Once Ayla met them, she thought she could stop punching kids and giving people bloody noses, but it turned out they were just as mean as she was. The whole middle school lived in fear of their clique. Ursula was the best at making people feel horrible about themselves. She criticized people’s weight, race, clothing, everything. Jackie was small, had great grades, and was assumed to be a nice, innocent nerd, but she could make someone wish they could crawl under their bed and never come out. Jackie was the group’s rock, their leader. Ayla dreaded what they did at first. As she became more and more cruel, bullying slowly grew on her. But every once and a while, Ayla could feel her early years creep up on her. She quickly dismissed the thought of them, but she couldn’t keep her past from catching up to her anymore.

So she let it out, the years of pain, hurt and depression. She wailed for hours, clutching Leila and letting her lick the tears off her face. Ayla waited for her mother to come creeping through the door and into the kitchen to make their usual dinner, chicken and mashed potatoes, but heard nothing but the sound of her own thunderous sobs. Eventually, she cried herself to sleep.


Ayla woke up to the sound of her mother entering their apartment. She rolled over and stared at her clock. 7:12.

“Up.” Her mother came into her room and violently expelled the covers from her bed and walked out of the room.

“No,” Ayla grunted. She stayed lying there for five minutes, dreading getting out of bed. Suddenly, the contents of the day before came rushing back to her memory.

“Nooo,” Ayla whispered as she debated to stay in bed for another half hour, like normal, or to get up and face her mother again. She pulled up her covers, but quickly threw them back off and rolled out of bed. She tip-toed as fast as she could to the bathroom down the hall, trying to avoid meeting her mother. Ayla spent thirty minutes standing in the shower, letting the hot water run down her face, washing away cat saliva and dry tears.

“Come down, now!” Usually, her mother would let Ayla stay in the bathroom for as long as she wanted on weekends. She also normally would let her sleep in until exactly 10 AM. But not today. When Ayla got down the stairs, she could immediately tell that her mother hadn’t slept much last night. Her long golden hair was messed up and her shirt, which she had been wearing the day before, was wrinkled and out of place. She was standing by the microwave, waiting patiently for her oatmeal.

“Hello, Ayla,” she said coldly.

“Hi,” Ayla sat down at her seat and started picking at the tablecloth.

“You start volunteering today. At 9.” Ayla looked at the clock. 8:03. “We leave in twenty minutes.”

Ayla groaned.

“And if you misbehave,” her mother cautioned, glared at her, “you will not get your license this year.”

“What?!” Ayla screamed, temporarily forgetting that she was avoiding being yelled at. Her mother simply set down a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios and sat down next to Ayla.

“I’m hoping that won’t be a problem at all, because there is no way you can possibly hurt orphans,” she answered.

Ayla felt as if her mother was coaxing her into another fit. As if she wanted her to punch her. But she wouldn’t dare, not when her freedom was on the line. And when the one thing in the world she couldn’t do was hurt her mother. Lily Brown was her only family. She had no grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, anyone other than her mother.

Ever since she was young, Ayla had put walls up around her heart, protecting it from anyone who could break it. The only person she let in was her mom, who had always been there for Ayla to cry with, talk to, and laugh with. But that morning Ayla slowly began to close her walls to her mom, too, expelling the only person she ever loved from her heart. Because with her heart open, even only to one person, she was breaking.

“Eat up.” Her mother’s words broke her from her trance.

“Sorry,” she mumbled as she stuffed a spoonful of soggy Cheerios into her mouth.


Two hours later Ayla stood waiting in the orphanage lobby. Her mother had signed papers, shaken the directory’s hand, and left. Ayla looked around through her wet hair. She was surrounded by colorful paintings of children holding hands and families playing together. Down the hall stood two large French doors leading into “the schoolroom.” On the other side was a smaller door labeled “girls’ dorms” and next to it was another labeled “boys’ dorms”.

“Hello, Miss Brown, welcome.” Ayla spun around hastily. Standing inches away from her and around a foot above her was a women. She had a brown bob surrounding her long thin face.

“This way.” Ayla followed her into a large schoolroom. There were floor-to-ceiling windows on both sides of the room, and sunlight shone onto the rainbow carpet in the middle of the room. In front stood a large chalkboard covered with multiplication problems. The ceiling stood forty feet above her, and strung from it were colorful cardboard butterflies and dragonflies.

“This is mainly where you will be working. The children will be down shortly to meet you. Good luck,” she said as she walked out of the room.

Good luck? What did that mean?

“Are you Ayla?” a voice behind her asked.

“Yes.” She turned around to find fifty eyes staring straight into hers.

“Hi.” Ayla glanced around at the orphans. There were around twenty-five of them, from ages three to twelve. Ayla nervously waved. She oddly felt like she was in kindergarten again, with people judging her and criticizing her every move.

“Hi,” the kids chirped.

“Okay.” The new woman turned to look at the herd of orphans again. “Introduce yourselves, guys.”

“Hi,” Ayla said nervously as she twirled her hair through her fingers.

“I am Adele.”


“My name is John.”

Ayla was overwhelmed by the sudden amount of tiny voices.

“I…uh…need to go to the bathroom. Umm, where is it?”

“Over there.” A tiny girl who looked like Dora the Explorer pointed over to a door by the chalkboard. Ayla pushed a few children out of her way, completely ignoring the fact that she had pushed a boy into a desk, and ran to the bathroom. She swung open the door, rushed to the sink, and inhaled heavily.

Her mind flashed back to ten years ago. She was standing in front of the whole class giving her presentation on hummingbirds.

“Well, hummingbirds are very colorful. And…um they like to drink nectar. I chose to do hummingbirds because…I like birds and these are very pretty birds.” Ayla’s skirt was balled up in her fist. She was staring at the grey carpet, trying to focus on her speech and not on the staring faces. “And…ummm.”

“Why won’t she hurry up?” Lily whispered loudly to Jasmine. Ayla kept her eyes glued to the carpet, hoping the class wouldn’t notice the tears forming in her eyes.

“Ayla?” she heard her teacher ask. “Are you done?”

Ayla nodded her head, pretending she didn’t have another two minutes of information about her colorful bird. She hurried back to her assigned seat next to Nate and Jasmine.


“No!” Ayla said out loud, snapping herself out of her trance. She took a paper towel and wet it. After dabbing the wet towel on her face, Ayla opened the door and stepped out of the bathroom. She closed the door silently, turning around to see the boy she had pushed unconscious on the floor.


The dark haired women she first met in the halls was standing over him, staring directly at Ayla. Many of the children were glancing up at her, too. The small boy’s sketchbooks and colored pencils were scattered on the floor, and a large golf ball size lump had formed above his right eye. His hand was still clutching a small piece of paper.

“Ayla, please follow me.”

Ayla stood frozen. This couldn’t happen. She couldn’t have hurt him. He must’ve fallen.

“Ayla, please.” The women walked over to the French doors and opened them, signaling for Ayla to go with her. Ayla could feel the orphans staring at her, waiting for her to make a move. Don’t do it. Don’t let them get to you! Ayla thought. She slowly dragged herself to the door and out into the hall. She followed the women into the front office. By the time Ayla had seated herself down on the small wooden stool in front of a cluttered desk, she had already figured out twenty ways her mom could punish her.

“Miss Brown.” A deep male voice echoed from behind the giant black chair facing away from Ayla. “I was informed that you pushed Mr. Carlton into a desk, and he is seriously injured.” Ayla sat in silence, too afraid to speak. “And you also rushed to go to the bathroom while the children were introducing themselves.”

“I…had to go,” Ayla timidly suggested.

“And, it says here,” a small hand emerged from behind the back of the chair holding a file with Ayla’s name written on it in crisp blue letters, “that you are disrespectful in class, rude to your teachers, and a bully.”

“I honestly do not know how you wiggled your way into our volunteering schedule,” the man remarked. Slowly, he turned his chair around to face her. Ayla’s jaw dropped. The man looked to be only around four feet tall. His large glasses took up half of his plump face, which was covered by a large, white beard. If it wasn’t for the black suit, Ayla would’ve thought that Santa was sitting in front of her. Her fear melted away and was replaced with the sudden desire to laugh.

“I do not think we can let you come back.” The man said. Ayla’s urge to laugh melted away.

“What? No!” Ayla pleaded.

“What is going on here?” Another voice joined their conversation from the doorway. Ayla winced. Not her mom, not now.

“I was just telling Ayla how she wouldn’t be allowed to work here anymore,” the man said in a matter-of-fact way.

“I got a call regarding Ayla pushing someone by accident, not being exiled from the orphanage,” her mother accused.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, but any harm to our children is absolutely forbidden.”

Ayla sat, petrified.

“Can I talk with you alone, Mr. Simons?” her mother said.

Ayla stood up from the stool and rushed to the door. Once out in the hallway, Ayla sat down on a bench, trying to prepare herself for what would happen when her mother came through that door.

“Excuse me, you are sitting on my phone.” Ayla turned to see a tall teenager sitting across from her. He had short hazelnut hair and large glasses that Ayla tried her best not to make fun of.

“I am sorry, I didn’t even know you were sitting here. Wait–” Ayla studied his face again, “do I know you?”

“I doubt it. No one knows me. I transferred away from Cameron when I was just in Kindergarten.”

Ayla froze, remembering exactly where she had seen his dark brown eyes before…


Ayla was back in her Kindergarten classroom for the second time that day.

“Why is she sitting alone?”

“Do you want to ask her over?”

“No, she’s weird.”

Ayla felt as if someone had punched her in the gut. Why didn’t they want her to sit with them?

“She isn’t weird.” Ayla looked up from her hiding spot behind the teacher’s desk.

“Nate, you can’t sit with us at lunch.”

“Or recess.”

“Or school.”

Ayla watched as the three girls waved Nate away from their lunch desks. She put her face back into her knees and continued to cry.


Someone’s hand was waved violently in front of Ayla’s face.

“Oh.” She jumped. “Sorry.” Ayla shook her head, trying to get herself together.

“What was that all about? You were sitting there for thirty seconds staring at the wall,” Nate said with a worried expression.

“I was just…I just remembered something I had to do.” Ayla jumped up from her seat, worrying he would remember her. She wouldn’t let him see her as the little kid who got picked on in Kindergarten. She wouldn’t allow anyone to pity her, especially a weird nerd who was on the bottom of the food chain.

“Wait…Aria? No…Ally?”

“I got to go.” Ayla started walking swiftly away, heading for the nearest door.

“Ayla! I remember–” But the sound of his voice was cut off as Ayla slammed the door to the Girls’ Dorm.

It took Ayla a second to realize where she was. She took a deep breath in and sighed it out. Instantly, she thought of her mother, who always watched yoga videos on Sundays. Suddenly a small high-pitched voice interrupted her thoughts.

“Excuse me?”

Ayla turned away from the door to see a short, thin girl with a pink superhero cape strapped around her neck. Her curly blonde hair was tied into a bow on the top of her head. Ayla knelt down on her knees, as her mother did, and looked the girl straight in the eyes.


“Why is your hair blue?” The girl stepped back, shying away from Ayla.

“It’s not blue, it’s–” Ayla caught herself. Be nice Ayla, be nice. “Sorry.”

“Why is it blue?” she asked again, more impatiently.

“Well–” she was interrupted by the door swinging open. The girl’s face paled and she sprinted away down the dimly lit hall, which Ayla guessed led to her bedroom. A small shadow emerged from behind the door.

“Miss Brown, please come with me.” The director calmly lead Ayla out of the door and into the office again where her mother was sitting on the small stool filing her fingernails. Ayla pretended not to notice she was there, but it was proving difficult with her mother’s you-are-going-to-pay-for-this glare.

“Please, sit,” the director said cautiously. Ayla was in the middle of debating if she should be super sincere and apologize, or if she should deny everything, when Mr.Simon dismissed the two of them.

“What?” Ayla was stupefied. Had she missed his speech? What was going on? Did she get to come back tomorrow?

“I said you can leave, Miss Brown, and you too, ma’am,” he explained as he sat down in his large black chair. He turned himself around to face the back of the room and disappeared. Ayla followed her mother around the ivy covered building and into the parking lot. As she snuck into the back seat, Ayla glanced up to take one more look at the orphanage windows, her last chance of freedom, and noticed a small face with a little blonde bow on top of her head staring straight back at her.


“Yes…you will be going back to the orphanage tomorrow morning.”


“I talked to Mr.Simon, and he told me that if you are seen harming anyone with words or force, you will never be allowed inside the orphanage again,” she remarked quickly and calmly.

The next week was hell. Ayla spent her mornings trying to avoid Nate, who apparently volunteered there, resisting her temptations to laugh at the one kid who looks like he ate fifteen hamburgers a day, and running into the nearest hiding place every time Mr. Simon came into the room.

On Sunday, Ayla checked in at ten o’clock sharp for a four-hour morning “play session,” which she had begged her mother to let her skip.

“Your assigned seat will have your name on it.” Assigned seat? What kind of play session is this? Ayla quickly strut down the hall, determined to get there before Nate, so she could make sure she wouldn’t end up his “play buddy” or something. The pushed the doors open quietly and crept up to the desks. She frantically searched for her name among the colored pencils and markers.

Ah ha, she whispered to herself. She fumbled with her pink name tag and looked down again pushing away her hair from her face. She saw a smaller blue name tag with Nate’s name on the desk next to hers.

“Hm hm,” Ayla whipped herself around, holding a blueberry colored pencil tightly in her hand.

“Whoa, it’s just me,” Nate said as he stepped back throwing his hands in the air.

Ayla groaned.

“What?” he asked.

“I just stubbed my foot. And I…uh. It hurt when I turned around.”

“You are horrible at lying.” Nate grinned as he pulled back his minute chair and pushed his glasses off his nose. “You know, you used to be that nice kid that always got picked on. Now you’re just a–” The French doors swung open revealing at least around eighty children. Ayla’s jaw dropped.

“I thought there were only twenty of them,” Ayla whispered to Nate, temporarily forgetting that she wasn’t supposed to talk to the “bottom feeders.”

“There is an afternoon class and a morning class,” Nate whispered back. He leaned closer to Ayla, who scooted her chair away awkwardly. She resumed to watching the enormous amount of children file into the playroom. One small boy was dressed up in a Harry Potter costume complete with a red crayon lightning scar on her forehead. Another little girl, who looked like a halloween enthusiast, was wearing a bright orange t-shirt and black leggings and green witch earrings. Ayla nearly turned to Nate to point out a huge kid who was wearing liquid guy-liner and a large mohawk on his apple sized head.

“Please find your assigned seats, everyone.” Mary Margaret pointed to the rows of desks and sat down at her own. Many of the children automatically rushed to their seats, grinning and pushing each other, struggling to get to their chairs.

“Hello.” The same small girl who confronted her in the girls’ dorm seated herself down in the chair next to Ayla.

“Hi,” Ayla smiled. Something about the little girl intrigued her.

“Why is your hair blue?”

“I thought it looked pretty,” Ayla tried.

“It is. You look like a peacock.” The little girl giggled and reached out to tug lightly on Ayla’s hair, who resisted her urge to pull away.

“What is your name?” Ayla asked, taking the girl’s hand.

“Sam.” She criss-crossed her legs and took her hand away to pull herself closer to the desk. “What is your favorite color?”

“Blue, what’s yours?” Ayla responded.

“Pink.” Sam grinned, displaying her pink wristbands and t-shirt. “Whenever there is a donation, I get there first and get all pink clothing.”

Ayla grinned.

“Okay, everyone! Now that you are seated and comfortable, we shall get down to business.” Mary Margaret’s face was filled with despair. “We have some bad news. We do not–” Her voice cracked as she stifled a sob. “We cannot get enough fundraising to fund our…our–” Mary Margaret sat down on a small blue chair, unable to finish her sentence.

Mr. Simons stood up to continue her speech. “All of you will be either moved to Arizona State orphanage or put into the foster system.”

Many of the younger children had started to weep, but the older ones, like Ayla, sat frozen in their chairs, unable to react.

“We are arranging to move in three weeks.” Mr. Simons paced back to Mary Margret and lead her out of the room.

Ayla felt a tiny hand grab her pinky finger and tug. Sam lightly laid her head on Ayla’s shoulder and gently sobbed. Ayla felt helpless. Her whole life–and a hundred kids–depended on this orphanage.

“Shut it, Kyle, it isn’t that bad. Foster care is where dogs go when they don’t have home, just like you.” A tall girl with dark brown hair and icy blue eyes mumbled to a boy, who looked to be only six years old.

“Hey!” Ayla yelled, accidentally causing Sam to jump and sit up abruptly. What are you doing, Ayla? Don’t defend the kid, he probably deserves what he is getting. she thought.

“Hey what?” the girl glanced over at Ayla with a bored expression on her face.

“Stop that,” Ayla stood up from her chair. She felt two hundred eyes land on her, making her uncomfortable.





“Who are you to tell me to stop being mean? Telling Kyle to shut up is nothing compared to what you do.”

“Ayla is nice, Miley.” Sam’s usually sugary voice was rough and harsh.

“Shut up, Sam!” Miley pushed Kyle out of her way and strutted past the desks to Ayla. Suddenly, the doors to the playroom burst open, and Mr. Simons paraded in with Mary Margaret trailing behind.

“Unless we get 5,000 dollars in two days, we will pack our bags. Ayla and Nate, you may leave.”


“Mom!” Ayla burst through the door. She had plodded twenty blocks after waiting half an hour for her mother to pick her up. She glanced at the clock. 1. Ayla sat there, trying to shake the image of Sam being shipped away in a truck over the California border, crying. Finally, she gave up and began to walk home.

“Mom?” Ayla threw her purse onto the kitchen table and pulled out her phone. Just as she tapped the phone app, she heard a door upstairs close.

“Mom?” Gripping a baseball bat, Ayla snuck up the stairs. She pushed open her mother’s bedroom door open and glanced around the room, sitting on the bed sat her mother.

“Ayla?” she spun around to face her daughter.

“Why didn’t you answer me? Are you hurt?”

“Lily?” A deep familiar voice boomed from inside the bathroom. “Honey, who is there?”  Ayla’s eyes started to fill with tears. What was going on? Honey?


“I asked who was there.”

Ayla searched her memory for that voice. She knew this man, but how?

“Oh no one, I meant no one.” Lily signaled for Ayla to leave.

“But–” Ayla gasped.

“I will explain later,” she whispered, pushing Ayla to the door.


“Out!” The door slammed in her face, leaving her alone in the hallway. She trudged to her room, grabbed Leila and flopped onto her bed. She felt stuck. Like her whole life was crumbling. Tomorrow she would have to go to school for the first time in two weeks. She would have to face her friends, who would probably make her feel horrible for even going within ten feet of the orphanage. Three sharp knocks interrupted her thoughts. Ayla sat up, unaware she had been crying.

Mr. Turner. Her principal. His was the voice inside her mother’s bathroom. He let Ayla come back after two weeks not because of Ayla, because of her mom.

“Honey, can I come in?”

“Is he gone?” Ayla mumbled.

“Yes.” Lily sat down next to Ayla and began petting Leila’s ears.

“Why can’t we just move?” Ayla looked up from her pink painted nails, her eyes filled with tears. She felt her mother’s arms embrace her.

“Because–” Her voice cracked and she let out a sob. “Because…I don’t expect you to understand.”

“Mom,” Ayla groaned. “I hate my friends, the orphanage is closing, everything reminds me of getting bullied in kindergarten, and Dad died here. Leaving nothing but a keychain and five thousand dollars.”

“I have some news.” Ayla watched a tear cascade down her mother’s cheek. Suddenly, something clicked in Ayla’s brain.

“Wait…five thousand dollars?” Ayla jumped off of her bed, throwing Leila off her lap. She charged down the stairs and rushed past Mr. Turner, who was sitting on her couch in a bathrobe, and bolted into the garage. Her hands trembled as she pushed cardboard boxes out of the way to a small cupboard. She pulled open a wooden drawer and reached for a small envelope. She quickly grabbed it and ran upstairs again. She grabbed her coat, shoved the envelope in her pocket, flipped off Mr. Turner, and ran into the night.


“Here.” Ayla gasped as she tripped into the orphanage lobby and threw the envelope on the front desk. The lady looked at her suspiciously and reached for the envelope slowly. Still looking at Ayla, she tore open the seal and reached inside. She quickly looked down, checking to see if what she felt was there. A stack of fifty Ben Franklins sat smiling at them on the desk. The lady jumped up, rushing to Mr. Simon office. Ayla ran to the bathroom, afraid she was going to vomit from running so far.

“Ayla?” a small girl in a pink onesie was standing there, holding a toothbrush and a teddy bear.

“Hi…Sam,” Ayla managed, gasping for breath.

“Ayla?” Her mother’s voice echoed from the lobby.

“She is in there, Miss.” Nate.

“Miss Brown?” Mr. Simons. Ayla groaned. She grabbed Sam’s hand and pulled her out of the bathroom, ready to face her punishment for giving away her college money. She was greeted by her mother, whose hair was messed up, her coat half on, a very disgruntled Mr. Turner, Mr. Simons, a pale-faced Nate, and the reception lady.

“Ayla, can I speak with you alone?” Mr. Simons asked.

“No, just get it over with,” her mother said sternly.

“I really shouldn’t–”

“Okay I will then. Ayla,” her mother looked at her, “you are not going back to school tomorrow. Instead, you will be going to a new school next year. I have already talked to Mr. Turner, who is fine with it.”

Mr. Turner grunted.

“My turn!” Mr. Simons said impatiently. “Ayla, thank you for your generous donation, but we cannot accept it, unless your mother approves.”

“I approve,” her mother declared.

“I guess I will see you tomorrow then.” Mr. Simons looked very uncomfortable as he and the receptionist walked back into his office.

Ayla looked down at Sam, who looked thoroughly confused.

“What?” she questioned.

“You don’t have to move.”

Sam’s face lit up. A grin wide enough to stretch around the whole room was etched upon her face. She jumped up and down, dropping her toothbrush and hugging her teddy bear.

Ayla turned around to her mother, who had let go of Mr. Turner’s hand. Ayla wrapped her arm around her mother.

“I love you,” Ayla whispered.

“I love you, too.”

The Wind and Other Poems

The Wind

Gentle breezes, summer winds,

popsicles dripping down childrens’ hands,

a laughing cry,

a sighing thought,

borrowed time,

a traveling drought,

lemonade set up to sell,

beautiful windows,

a little bird travels like a leaf in the breeze,

its life the gunman seized,

to make a dinner,

a silly thing,

for a life,

taken in the night,

oh, what a sight,

lost feathers traveled down,

the summer’s downy snow,

I feel sorry for those who’ve died,

those who’ve cried,

in the silent night.



A closing verse,

to finish the first,

a clock turned back,

to the time when we thought,

we could do anything we wanted,


embarrassing words make me feel,

like I’m wound up on a reel,

spending time with in myself,

a crazy action,

that made no sense at the time,

I feel…..



In the Night

In the night,

they come,

in the night,

we run,

in the night,

they scream,

in the night,

the thought makes me shiver,

in the night,

I wonder,

in the night,

I think.


A Poem

When you write it,

you feel…



like you aren’t the one controlling it.

Like floating.


Oink in a Rock

A little sound

came from the rock today

it was a pig’s

an oink

a bodiless voice

that calls me

makes me wonder

are pigs adorable?


The Subway

Donnie was surrounded by thousands of bodies, all moving toward the exit of the subway station. He was also blind. With only noise around him, the world black was black, unfeeling and unseeing.

Bang! Bang! Were those…gun shots?

“Help me! Please, someone get me out of here!”

He pleaded with the crowd from his post on a bench, waiting for his mom. But no one was listening; everyone was preoccupied with their own safety.

Suddenly, he felt something cold by his temple. He reached up to feel it. The cold, sleek metal, round, sometimes thin, was attached to a hand. It was a gun. Pointed at him. “Did’ya not hear me? I said put your hands up!”

But Donnie was lost in a trance.

Bang! He pulled the trigger. Donnie fell to the ground.


So today I posted a video on facebook that I was going to do something that most people would regret, but I would never think about regretting it. Last month I got my gun license; then I got a 44 magnum. I walked to the subway station after I posted the video.  I wore a big coat to hide my gun; I had previously loaded the gun at my apartment. If you want to know why I am doing this, it is because I am a nobody. No one cares about me. So I am doing this particular thing because I want to be known in the world. I want people to know my name.

I took out my gun that weighed 2 pounds and shot.

:One, two, this is almost over, come on Frank you can do this,” I thought.  

I saw this man asking for help stumbling around like he was blind. I went up to him and held the gun to his temple. I was afraid. I said hands up, but he didn’t do anything so I said,

“ Did you not hear me? I said hands up!”

Again nothing. So I shot him right in the head. I have heard on the news that most people that do this shoot themselves. And they become pretty famous so, I shot myself, with pride, and some dignity.



The Adventures of Mr.Toast

Avery: Frederick, Mr. Toast        Barah: Mr. Toast, Customer

Sophie: Angel, Celene              Jack: Narrator, Employee

Lila: Bob, Rockman                 Djuna: Director


Act 1, Scene 1: Empty table and chair with piece of toast

Narrator (Jack: Warning: some events in this story are not suitable for gluten-free audiences. In a small suburban house…

(Bob enters)

Bob (Lila): (yawns) I am well rested, but I need breakfast. Where is my toast? Ah, there it is!

(he walks to table, seats himself, picks up toast)

(Mr. Toast enters)

Mr. Toast(Barah): No, wait! Don’t eat me! I am a valuable object!

Bob: How so?

Mr. Toast: I have traveled the world, seen all you can imagine!

Bob: (crossing arms) How so?

Mr. Toast: I will tell you, just sit back and enjoy. It was a foggy night…


Scene 2: a street in Paris

(Celene and Toast are walking, Celene drops purse)

Toast: Allow me.

(he picks up purse)

Celene (Sophie): (accepts purse) What a gentleman! I’m Celene.

(she curtsies)

(Toast bows)

Toast: I present myself as Mr. Toast.

Celene: How lovely!

(Toast offers arm)

Toast: Shall we go?

Celene: (excepting arm) Yes, we shall.

(they exit)

(Toast comes back on)

Toast: And that was only an example. Later on, we married…


Scene 3: they sit in front of crackling fire, holding hands

Toast: I love you.

Celene: And I you. I’m so glad you’re my husband.

Toast: Yes. I, myself, am glad that you accept me for who I am, even if I am a little…toasty.

Celene: Actually…

Toast: What?

Celene: (quietly) I’m sorry.

(Frederick enters, hugs Celene)

Frederick (Avery): Ready to go, honey?

Toast: Honey? What is this? Is something wrong? Is this man assaulting you? I’ll call 911-

Celene: No…Toast, Frederick is my new husband-I’m sorry.

(Frederick and Celene exit)

Toast: (crying) Why? Why? What’s wrong with me?


Scene 4: back to Bob and Toast

Bob: And that proved your point how?

Toast: (sadly) It didn’t prove anything, huh? I’m still a pointless, lovestruck nobody. Go ahead, eat me.

(Bob pulls out knife and fork, sawing Toast)

Toast: I love you Celeeeeeeene!

(falls to ground, dead, curtain closes)



Act 2, Scene 1: A bright light, Toast lays on floor, asleep

Narrator(Jack): After the sad death in the last episode, Mr. Toast was reborn as a…

(Toast wakes up)

Toast(Avery): A bagel?! Why a bagel? Why couldn’t I be a muffin? Or a cupcake?

(Angel enters)

Angel(Sophie): Because that’s who you are, Toast. Inside.

Toast: Excuse me?

Angel:(whispers) Be the bagel…Be the bagel…

Toast: Who are you?

Angel: Your guardian Angel…Angel…Angel…

(exits, waving arms)


Scene 2: New York Bagels Store, Employee sits behind counter, Toast next to him.

(Customer enters)

Employee(Jack): Welcome to NY Bagels. What can I get you?

Customer(Barah): How ‘bout that bagel?

(points at Toast)

Toast: What? No! You can’t take me! I don’t want to die AGAIN!

(Rockman walks over)

Rockman: Excuse me, but did that bagel just talk?

Customer: Yeah, I heard it too!

Toast: I didn’t talk-I mean! Bagel sound. Bagel sound.

Rockman: Oh. Never mind, I guess.

Customer: Yeah. How much is it?

Employee: $3.00

Customer: Deal.

(hands over  money, grabs toast, starts walking)

Toast: Whyyy?

(they stop)

Customer: The bagel! It-it talked!

Rockman: (yelling) Everybody run!

(everybody runs off stage, then all come back)

Everyone: The End

A Wonderful Happening

CHAPTER ONE: the truth

April 23, 2014

Mom is still in the hospital, Aunt Cathy took my notebook away and told me to keep my journal entries in here, on this laptop. she said if i have them on paper, they could be burnt and could disappear forever, but i’m pretty sure the same thing could happen on here, just a click of a button and everything is gone. but whatever makes her happy. she’s been really grumpy lately about taking care of me since Mom is in the hospital, it’s a bummer really, Mom’s been in the hospital for three months now, her cancer isn’t going away, or getting worse, either so thats good i guess. Aunt Cathy is calling me down for dinner, better not make her wait…..

– Desiree



I turned off the computer, watching the screen turn black.

“Desiree! Dinner is ready!” Aunt Cathy yelled from downstairs. I rolled my eye.

“Coming!!” I yelled back, slowly walking down the wooden stairs, the white carpet covering them felt soft under my bare feet. I stopped halfway down, staring at a picture of mom and Aunt Cathy when they were six, hugging each other in front of a crashing wave at the beach. Mom wore a small pink ruffled one-piece bathing suit, Aunt Cathy had the same one on in green. Mom had always been more of the tomboy of the two, Cathy always loved pink, fancy drinks, and clothes.

I sighed.

I began walking down the stairs again, turning down the hall and emerged into the kitchen. Cathy was sitting at the round black wooden table eating cooked salmon and carrots and rice.

I sat in the chair across from her.

The same dish was placed in front of me by Jess, Aunt Cathy’s stay-at-home maid. She had long curly brown hair with piercing blue eyes and freckles covering her nose. She smiled at me and laid a napkin on my lap. I nodded my thanks and picked up a scoop of rice with my fork and swallowed it.

“So, Desiree, how are you dear? You’ve been upstairs most of the time, clicking away at that computer, you know I’d rather you type your entries instead of write them, but-”

She took a big bite of salmon and chewed, holding up a finger, then swallowed and continued. “But, you also have to get a social life darling,” she said. I frowned.

I took another bite of my salmon. “Are you going to say anything?” she asked, a little annoyed. I shrugged.

“See? This is what I mean darling!” she said a little louder this time. She began a speech about how having a social life is important and how she wants to introduce me to some young girls my age. I ignored her, staring at my plate.

“My gosh child, speak!” she yelled this time, which got my attention. I looked up. she was glaring at me, her eyes filled with annoyance.

“I want to see my mom,” I whispered.

She stared at me, shocked. I was shocked too. I can’t believe that just came out of my mouth. I was never allowed to see her, the doctors wouldn’t allow it. Until four weeks ago, when he offered a chance to see her, I refused, afraid of what I would see after not seeing her for two months. But I guess i had enough of my Aunt Cathy, I guess I needed to get away from her, to see my mom, to be comforted with the sight of my mother. I felt like a lost puppy searching for its mother.

Aunt Cathy dropped her fork. She looked at her lap and wiped her hands on her napkin awkwardly.

“Umm..” she said, not looking up.

I noticed that Jess had stopped washing the dishes like she was frozen.

“What?” I asked a little worried but mostly angry. She has been wanting me to talk and now that I have, they give me nothing?!

“What!?” I asked again.

Aunt Cathy finally looked up as Jess came over and put a hand on my shoulder. She stared at me, I ignored her and looked at Cathy. She took a deep breath and let it out.

“Your mother, darling,” she said very softly, “she’s in a coma.” She winced as she said it, like someone was going to hit her for using that word.

My jaw dropped when I heard this. I felt tears welling up inside me, and Jess hugged me.

“I should’ve told you sooner, but i didn’t want to hurt you,” she whispered.

“How long?” I asked in a trance.


“How long has she been in a coma?” I asked more clearly this time looking at her directly.

“Two weeks.”

“What?!” I stood up from my seat, the chair falling over.

“Oh!” cried Jess, stepping back from my sudden burst of anger.

“You kept this from me for two weeks?” I yelled, anger engulfing me in a cloud of rage. “How could you do this?!”

Aunt Cathy stood up. “I’m sorry bu-”

“No!” I yelled, my voice scratchy. I stopped, and turned away from her. I loosened my fists. “I still want to see her, we go tomorrow,” I said walking up the stairs. Before I started walking up, she said, “If that’s what makes you happy.”

I sighed, and ran up the stairs.


*         *          *          *          *

April 24, 2014

Aunt Cathy lied to me. i asked her last night if i could see mom, she told me she was in a coma. i have never felt this angry and sad before. i dont know what came over me, i yelled at her and Jess, now i regret it. i told them that we’re going to see my mom today, i’m not sure if i want to now though.

we are going to go see her at 12:00 right now it’s 11:43 so we’re going to leave soon.

i wonder what she’ll look like. what if she looks different? will she even look like herself? i dont know. guess that’s what life’s about. to discover things on your own.

— Desiree


I climbed into the car. Cathy was driving. Jess wanted to stay home, so it was just me and my aunt.

We drove for fifteen minutes. We passed a field of grass, in the distance I could see black and white cows and brown bulls grazing in the field. I rolled down the window to smell the countryside air. The smell of manure usually irritates Aunt Cathy, but today, she stayed silent and just kept driving.

We drove for ten more minutes until we drove back into another city. We drove up to a big white brick building. Many windows covered the building and in bright red lights, letters on the front read: “Nature’s Hospital.”

We parked in the parking lot and got out of the car.

The air in the building was very cold and stale, it smelled of plastic and medicine. People in white robes ran around with clipboards. I stayed close to Aunt Cathy as she checked us in to see Mom. A nurse wearing a purple shirt and pants came up to me. She too had a clipboard.

“Hi Desiree, follow me, and I’ll take you to your mom,” She said with a sympathetic smile. I followed her down a series of hallways, Aunt Cathy following close behind.

Coughing was all I heard. That and footsteps running around on the white tile floor. It was so shiny I could see my reflection.

She lead us to a door with a small window and a paper taped to it. I didn’t get to see what was on it before the nurse opened the door to let me in. Cathy stayed out with the nurse to talk about something with the door closed.

Now it was just me and my mom.

She was laying in a bed with rails on the side to keep her in. She had clear, wire-like things coming from her nose. Something was attached to her finger, with a wire attached to a big machine on the right side of her bed. It had a screen with a green line going up and down, beeping.

The heart monitor.

I forced my eyes to settle on my mom. She looked the same for the most part, just skinnier and a little more pale. She was dressed in a rough looking sheet-like dress. Her hair was pulled up in a bun. Her eyes were closed and she was breathing. She just looked like she was sleeping.

Tears welled up in my eyes. I sat next to her on a stool. I grabbed her hand, the one without the weird thing on it and grasped it tightly. A single tear rolled down my cheek.

After ten minutes, I couldn’t stand looking at her any more. I stood up, wiped my tears away, and opened the door. Aunt Cathy was standing right outside, waiting for her turn to see her sister. I let her in and closed the doors, leaving my aunt to see my mother.



April 28, 2014

it’s been four days since i saw Mom. i’ve decided i don’t like hospitals, at all. i haven’t really been socializing at all lately, even less than usual.

Aunt Cathy said she was going to introduce me to a girl my age. she didn’t tell me anything else really. she’s coming at two. which is nowish.

– Desiree


I heard a knock on the door. I walked down the stairs, stopped on the second to last step to see out the door.

Jess opened the door. At the angle I was watching at, I couldn’t see anything, so I didn’t know what she looked like. “Oh hello!” Jess said.

Jess turned and saw me. She motioned with her hand to come. I slowly took the last step down and walked to the door.

What I saw was not what I expected.

A girl, my age: thirteen. She had golden blonde hair and sharp green eyes. She had rosy cheeks and small purple glasses. she was wearing a purple ruffled shirt that matched her glasses and jeans. The only odd thing out about this girl, was that she was in a wheelchair.  A big wheelchair with handles on the back to push it around. Behind the chair was an aid. She was short and plump with a bandana and a thick sweatshirt.

“Desiree, this is Anne.” Jess said.

I smiled and gave a little wave. She smiled back. She had a big goofy smile with white teeth.

“Lunch is in an hour. I’ll call you when its ready.”

The aid left and so did Jess. They headed to the kitchen to cook.

“Hi!” Anne said happily. She acted as if she didn’t even notice that she was sitting in a wheelchair, forced to sit and stay put.

I smiled again.

“If you don’t mind me asking, what happened?” I gestured to the wheelchair.

“I was in a car crash,” she said. “I broke both my legs so badly they had to cut both off in order for me to survive. They replaced them with fake ones.”

“Wow,” I said, not sure what to say exactly.

“Yah, but please don’t treat me differently, I like to feel like a normal child, not a child that has no legs. Please.”


Anne stayed for the rest of the day. She ate lunch and dinner with us. She was quite enjoyable to have around. She was happy and funny. I have never been one to make friends very easily, I’ve always been so shy around new people. But Anne was different. I felt like I could tell her anything, I knew I could trust her. I told her about mom and how I felt about living with my aunt. I even showed her my journal, the one on the computer since i still can’t find the original.

When she left I was so tired I could barely see where I was walking. Aunt Cathy helped me up the stairs and tucked me in.

That night I had a dream of Anne. I witnessed the car crash in my mind. I dreamt about my mother too. I woke in the middle of the night crying. I stared at the ceiling, tears falling down my cheeks. It was two before I finally fell asleep again.


CHAPTER THREE: journal entries

April 29, 2014

anne came over again today. we went in the backyard. we had a picnic on the grass. i had to help her out of the wheelchair with Aunt Cathy’s help. we had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with tomatoes. we made lemonade from the lemons on our neighbor’s tree. i had to climb the fence in my backyard and reach over to grab them. it was really fun.

i also raced her on the street.she won. it was very sad. we also got ice cream. i wanted to punch the ice cream guy in the face. he looked at Anne like she was an ugly alien that came from another planet.

– Desiree



April 30, 2014

today i did nothing.




May 1, 2014

Anne went to a bakery and brought back a chocolate cake. it was really good. i feel like Anne is becoming my best friend now. i’ve never had a best friends before. so this is something new. i enjoy it.




May 4, 2014

I haven’t seen Anne for three days. i know it’s not much but i miss her.

– desiree


may 8, 2014

Anne called, she said she couldn’t make the picnic we planned today. now i’m getting a little worried.



may 13, 2014

i went to see my mom again. she was getting better. at least that’s what the doctor said. but she still hasn’t woke up.





I woke up to the sun shining in my eyes. I turned on my side, groaning. I heard some shuffling in the hallway. I kicked off the covers and slowly made my way out of bed.

I opened my door.

No one was out there, but Aunt Cathy’s door was opened a crack and I could hear muffled voices.

I tiptoed across the hall, resting my head near the door to hear what she was saying.

“I’m sorry. That is just so unfortunate…yes…my grandmother, and my sister…no…of  course…I’ll break the news to Desiree when she wakes up…all right…bye now.”

She hung up and I could hear her standing up. I tensed up as she opened the door. She gasped when she saw me. I could tell she was close to tears, I was too.

Whatever she was going to tell me, it had to be bad.

“Oh, Desiree. Come here, come here,” she said motioning me into the room.

We sat on the bed.

I stared at her, she stared at her lap. “Um, Anne’s mother called with some…news…” she said quietly. I moved closer. “The reason why Anne hasn’t come over, is that, um, she-”

“She what, Aunt Cathy?”

“Anne has been diagnosed with cancer. She is in the hospital right now, it’s really bad, Desiree, it’s not likely that she will survive.”

I stood there shocked. Sadness clouded my vision as tears started to fall. i curled up in Aunt Cathy’s lap, crying like a baby that tripped over his own feet. Aunt Cathy tried to comfort me. It didn’t work.


*          *          *          *          *          *


The next day, I was too sad to write in my journal, so I asked Jess for some chocolate ice cream and watched Spongebob (which I never do) the whole day. I cried and sighed, and watched and ate and slept and did nothing.

I sat on the couch, chewing on some licorice and covered in a soft pink fluffy blanket.

Suddenly I heard a knock on the door. “Jess!” I yelled.

Jess hurried over and opened the door. She let in a tall woman with blonde hair and green eyes. She looked like Anne’s mother, which she was. She came over to me on the couch while Jess closed the door. She hugged me, I hugged her back and we cried. I barely knew this woman, but I felt like I had known her for years.

She pulled away and looked in my eyes. Sadness. That’s all I could see in her eyes.

“Desiree.” she whispered.


“She’s gone.”

I started crying again. Anne had died. She was gone. I would never see her again…



Two days later, I was dressed in black. I wore a short loose black dress with black flats. My hair was braided down my chest.

We were driving in the car to the funeral. Her funeral.

We entered a parking lot of a church. It was Anne’s favorite place for picnic in the field in front of the church under a big cherry blossom tree.

Aunt Cathy, Jess, Anne’s aid, and Jill, Anne’s mom, and I were walking across the field to the big group of people surrounding Anne’s body.

When we reached it, I went straight to her. I leaned on the small stool and looked in. She was dressed and beautiful pink dress. Her hair was curled and her eyes were painted with eyeshadow. She would’ve hated that.

I held her hand and stayed there for a few second before standing up again and walking away.


*          *           *         *            *

I stood up at the podium. I stared down at my paper I had written.

“Anne was the best and only friend I have ever had. I don’t know who to react to her death. I was a wreck when she got cancer, but I enjoyed every second of my time with her…”

Two minutes later, I was done with my speech, and two hours later, we were heading to the car.

Aunt Cathy’s phone buzzed. she stopped and pulled it out of her pocket. Putting it up to her ear she said, “Hello…what!?” she asked excitedly. I moved closer to her, eager to find out what she had heard.

“This is wonderful! Thank you! We’ll be there as soon as possible!” She hung up and smiled. A big aggressive smile. “What?” I asked gloomily.

She hugged me. “She woke up. Desiree, your mother is alive.”

“What!?” I screamed and hugged Aunt Cathy tighter. “What are we waiting for? Let’s go!” I smiled so hard it hurt.

We jumped in the car, and Jess drove us to Mom’s hospital.


*        *        *        *        *        *        *

The hospital room was just as it was before. But it was different this time. The woman laying in the bed was now awake. She looked really tired, yet her eyes looked excited. When she saw us come in, she sat up in her bed.

I rushed over to her and gave her the biggest hug. She kissed my head and stroked my hair.

“It’s a miracle,” I said to her.

“You’re a miracle,” she whispered. “I love you darling,” she said.

Dear Flip Flops,

Dear Flip Flops,

I am very disappointed with you, flip flops. Your design is all worn and you’re getting small. Why are you shrinking? How is that even possible? Before you, at the store, there WAS a pretty little pair of beach shoes that were originally cheaper than you. They were BEAU-TI-FUL! They were sparkling, crazy, just my type. They were black, looked like they came from a designer themselves, had a little heel, seemingly sparkling at first sight, and were PERFECT FOR ME. At the last second, my mom just HAD to see the worker guy putting up the 75% off sign (I don’t blame him, he was just doing his job). Oh, but you flip flops…why did you have to be so boring that no one wants to buy you….(sigh) SERIOUSLY!!!  Goodbye, my pretty little pair of beach shoes. I would take you back, but…I can’t seem to find your receipt. I bet you hid it. It tires me out just complaining about you. Tsk, this is wasting my precious time. This is twenty minutes I will not get back.

But, you just had to be so boring. No girl my age would want to wear your blue little self. Like at the pier, I almost fell off that swingy ride because I tried to save you. I was on the edge while my friend was on the other side. You had to feel the air in between your not squishy material and I reached my hand out to save you. There was only a chain protecting me from my doom. No belt. I was pissed at you, so I went barefoot and stuffed you at the bottom of my bag.

Another time was at my house when I was playing kids golf outside and YOU SUDDENLY FLEW IN THE WAY OF MY GOLF BALL AND WENT AND KNOCKED IT WAY OFF COURSE. Why?! I wear you all the time! Pssh, not because I don’t have another pair…Ok, you are right, I don’t. Why did you have to be at that store?! I could have been all stylish if you weren’t there. The other pair was a dollar cheaper! WHY?!?! Ok, calm down…. But really! You and your plain design….you’re plain blue! The base color for your pair! That should NOT be able to wear off.

You will/are the only pair of flip flops I will have for maybe another year. I hope we can get along. We could put some cardboard on the back of you, paint you black, and add some cute rainbow designs. That is just like my dream sandals…Forget it, we will never get along…That’s right, flip flops. I hope you feel bad.


My Feet

Ku Ku’s Adventure

chapter 1
Ku Ku is a robot that is armed for fighting and building. He is a funny talker. He used to go to school for robots. He used to be a miner.

chapter 2
Pot Rib is a good guy that got brainwashed into a bad guy when he and Ku Ku were mining together.

chapter 3
One day, Ku Ku was happily hugging his gold bars. There was a knock on the door.
“Can I come in and see your gold?” asked a voice.
“Who are you?” asked Ku Ku.
“I’m your brother,” Pot Rib said. Pot Rib came in wearing a shirt with a pink face, which is the same shirt Ku Ku’s brother wears. Pot Rib looked at the gold and took it. Then he ran out the door.
“I’ll get you for this, Pot Rib!” said Ku Ku. There were 50 gold bars. It cost 999 billion dollars!!! Ku Ku was sad.

chapter 4

Kuku tried to get the gold back. He ran after Pot Rib but he couldn’t catch him. Pot Rib was already running into his ship.
“This isn’t over, Pot Rib,” he yelled. When Pot Rib heard that, he was scared.
Ku Ku had to make something that could find Pot Rib. He had no money so he tried to find some metal to build a machine. When he was finished finding scraps of metal, he built a rocket ship to go to the other side of the world. He flew to the other side of the world. He brought a pistol and a sword with him. When he arrived, he tried to find Pot Rib. It took him a month to find him. Pot Rib was in his evil lair in the center of planet Druidia.
When he found him, Pot Rib was making a brainwasher. Ku Ku stopped Pot rib, and they started fighting. Ku Ku used his magic power to burn Pot Rib, but it didn’t do any good. Pot Rib was strong. When Pot Rib hit Ku Ku, it hurt him. He managed to get up and used all his strength to kill Pot Rib. Then Pot Rib died. Kuku found his 49 gold bars in Pot Rib’s evil lair. When he found it, he went home.

chapter 5
When Ku Ku came home, he saw something was wrong. He was missing a bar of gold. He went back to Druidia to find the bar, but Pot Rib’s lair was gone. Ku Ku was sad that he lost his bar of gold. When he thought back in time he remembered Pot Rib had another evil lair on planet Earth. So he thought he should check that one out, too. Then he went back in his rocket ship and flew back to Earth to find the other evil lair. When he got there, he broke through the door and searched the whole evil lair. It was very big, so it took him a long time to search.
When he found a secret room in the secret lair, Ku Ku found the missing bar of gold. It was turned into ashes because Pot Rib was trying to make something out of it. Ku Ku had to concentrate to use his magic powers to get the gold back into one piece, but it didn’t work. The gold was still broken.

chapter 6
Ku Ku went home and went back to work in the mine. He earned another gold bar and was happy again.


Glen Coco

a new school
a gorgeous new English teacher
a single eyelock

you say to come back when I’m 16…
LuLuLemon yoga pants
hands on education

they say
you say I’m delusional
they tell me I’m obsessed with you

you were clever
always covering your own ass
did you ever give a damn?

slashes covering my arms
swimming in separation
now I know how Juliet felt

drowning in my thoughts
you are standing three feet away
screaming learn how to swim
a realization?

the daily panic attacks send me to my third new school
and I am still constantly wondering–
how are you?

6 Suicide attempts
97 lines drawn with razor blades
1 residential facility
53 days

the author could not write about this month
due to her presence in constant intensive therapy
resulting in no free time to do so because of it

they say I have no proof
you never answered my phone calls
they dropped the lawsuit
a realization?

moving forward
finding peace with my emotions
trying to survive

“The child is grown
the dream is gone
and I have become
comfortably numb”

another new school
a nowhere near forgotten English teacher
our eyes will lock again
January 26, 2017…

The Medal Mystery

Chapter 1

Hi, my name is John. I am an Olympic swimmer. My life is pretty strange. First, I was born and adopted by animals. I could slither, run, swim, and swing on branches really fast.

Next, I lived in the forest of Brazil.

Third, the second day I was born, I had a tattoo on my arm.

My parents died the same day.

Next, in the last two years, I have been living with animals.

Before that, I was living with my aunt and uncle. I left them because they were extremely mean. So I built my own house. Now I live in my own house with maids and servants.

I have 10 gold medals, 9 silver medals, and 20 bronze medals all for swimming. I have been swimming at the 2008, 2004, 2000, 1996, and 1992 Olympics.

Now my house is in a city called Los Angeles. It is usually noisy because there are a lot of tourists. I am 29 years old. I have been to a lot of places in the U.S. and other countries. I like being a swimmer.

Chapter 2

Life in the last two years has been normal until now. Today is July 30th, which is my birthday. Today should have been fun and exciting, but instead it was sad. When I woke up, I saw that my medals were missing!

I asked my servants, “Did anyone see someone mysterious in here?”

One of my servants asked me, “Why?”

“Why!” I said, “Because my medals are missing.”

Then I found a note which read, “I’ll meet you again!” Then I found a series of other notes that led to Joey’s room. Joey is one of my servants.

Joey said, “I didn’t take it. I swear!”

Next I checked each of my servants’ rooms for any medals, but I didn’t find any.

Then Joey said, “Maybe you should check the news for a medal thief.” And when I turned the TV screen on, I saw a picture of the medal thief! He was tall and strong, but the TV didn’t show where the thief lived or what his name was.

So then I went over to my detective friend’s house. He asked me what happened, and I said a thief broke into my house and stole my medals.

My friend told me to go visit the police station. I went over to the police station and talked to the chief. I told him that somebody stole my medals, so he said he would come over to my house to find other clues.

So later that day he came over and looked, but he didn’t find anything. I showed him the note, but he said that he would keep it safe and look for other clues about the note, and if he found any clues he would call me.

When he left, I was very upset. That night I had a very big meal so I wouldn’t be upset. After that I watched TV and went to bed. But then, I woke up later that night and heard a mysterious voice which told me to come over to the other room. It turned out it was Joey the servant saying that he had discovered a new clue!

Chapter 3

Once I asked Joey what happened, he said that he had heard some mysterious sound outside. I looked outside. I saw two bad guys that looked like they were the ones who stole my medals.

I told Joey to tell the other skilled gunmen, my servants, to get some guns from the gun room so we could scare them. All of the servants hid behind something. I opened the door and ran to the couch nearby to hide. The criminals were very happy because they saw a ton of gold on the floor. Apparently they did not know that the skilled gunmen were behind the couch.

Once one of the criminals touched the gold, 20 police officers and my servants took out the guns and scared the two of them. The criminals left so quickly that they dropped one of my medals. I called the police chief and told him that I found a gold medal.

I arrived at the police station, and I gave the medal to the police. He told me he would look for more clues.

Once I left the station, 10 robbers captured me. A gangster told me that his name was Fernandez. He said that his gang was European. Next they put me to sleep and put me into their car. Then they sped off in their Lamborgini to Denver where their meeting spot was.

Chapter 4

Once I woke up, we were in Aspen, Colorado. When we arrived, I got locked inside a cell. The cell was damp and cold.

The next morning, I woke up to find myself still inside the same cell. I had forgotten that I was in Colorado. Once they gave me breakfast, they said to me that I had to take out $200 to get out of jail. I looked into my wallet. I only had $199.99! They said I somehow had to find an extra cent without leaving my cell, and that I had to give them the money before next Tuesday. That was five whole days away.

Once they left, I took out my knife, made a hole, climbed out, and went to the airport. A plane was going to L.A. in half an hour. When I looked around I saw a gang of bad guys coming for me. They were carrying pistols. I also saw a group of police officers. Once the bad guys ran past, the police took out their handcuffs and handcuffed them.

Then I went on the plane. When I was on the plane, I remember I heard the bad guys yell that the medals were back in Hollywood. On the plane, I planned my way of getting the medals back. Halfway to Los Angeles the plane ran out of gas, so I was stuck in Las Vegas. An hour later we went on a new plane to LAX.

When I arrived at LAX the police chief called me. He said that he found the thief and that tonight he was going to travel to Europe to sell the medals. I didn’t have much time! So I went over to the robber’s house but he wasn’t there.

Chapter 5

I saw an open window, so I crawled into the robber’s house. I saw my medals. I quickly grabbed them, but as soon as I took my medals, a voice said, “Going somewhere?” and closed the door.

The robber said that he wanted a fight. He tried to punch me, but he hit the wall instead. His hand started to bleed. I punched him. I also kicked him. I took out my phone and called the police station and told them that I found the medals and the thief. I was stuck inside the house.

Fifteen minutes later, the police arrived. They rescued me from the house and arrested the thief.

The thief escaped. He ran two blocks. Then he arrived at the airport. He jumped onto a plane that was going to Paris, France. So we got onto the next airplane that was going to Paris.

Once we arrived, we looked for the the thief. We couldn’t find him. I thought he must have changed his clothes. I looked around. I found the robber behind a stall full of potatoes. The police caught him, and asked what his name was. The robber said, “I’ll never tell you.” The police found his name on the side of the jacket. His name was John Paul. It said that he was from Texas. The robber said,”I used to be a good guy, but then I was interested in an academy. I did not know that it was an academy for criminals. Can you forgive me?”

I said yes.

Then we boarded a plane back to Los Angeles. The police took him to the LA county jail.

I went home and told everyone what had happened. I was happy.

The End

Selfish Security

Chapter 1

After Jim won his tenth major tennis tournament, he was so happy that his family rented a black shiny limo for him. When it pulled up, everyone got in. It was only a 40-minute drive into the rural side of New York. They poured him a glass of sparkling water and they were there. Everyone stayed in the limo except him.

He went inside to change and put his trophy away when he saw all his others were missing. He hollered to his family to come out. They came as fast as they could. Even their driver. And they all asked what was wrong. The only word Jim said was “Look.” So they did. They were all gone. The nine other grand trophies he won– gone. Nothing left. Not one. Zero. He just couldn’t speak. Gone, all gone.

They went to his favorite Italian restaurant and he got pasta and red sauce, but it didn’t change a thing. After they went home, they slept for 12 hours: 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. When he woke up, he went into the security room to see what had gone wrong. He asked the security guard Tom to pull the video from two nights ago. He saw the thief. And from under his gloves a note fell out.

So Jim went downstairs and picked up the note, and he read it. It said, “I’ll be back.”


Chapter 2

Jim was frightened picking up the note, so he had to get traps to catch the robber… falling cages, laser beams, maybe some trap doors. He got them and put them in the house. It was a little messy. Only some of the floor, wall and ceiling had broken apart, so he got a ladder to put the cages up just about four feet away from the trophy case, and with laser beams zigzagging across from each other. Then he put in the trap doors with a boiling pot of hot water underneath. That night he was happy to go to bed, because in the morning, hopefully, he would be calling 9-1-1 to pick up the robber.

When Jim’s sister went downstairs to get a glass of water, she didn’t know the traps were there so she walked right under the cage, and it fell right on top of her! And then the alarm went off. Jim sprinted downstairs only to see that it was his sister, not a robber.

“Why is there a cage on top of me?” his sister asked.

“Because I was trying to catch the robber,” Jim said.

He picked up the rope and pulled it so the cage came up off her.

“I’m very sorry about the traps,” said Jim.

“Well, you should be sorry. You know you have a photo shoot with the ten trophies on Thursday. If they show up and you don’t have them, they will probably be mad at you and not even reschedule,” said his sister.

“I forgot about that! That’s only four days away!”

“Well, you better get them back,” said his sister.

Jim started to sweat. He looked very nervous.


Chapter 3

Jim knew he had better get the trophies back before Thursday or he was going to have to tell them the truth.

His next plan was risky. He was going to have to spend some time in the security room to find out some things about the crook.

“Tom, pull up the same video I asked you about last time,” said Jim. “I need to find out where the crook came into the house.”

“Here,” said Tom.

“This is the right video,” said Jim.

“I think he came… no, I’m positive he came into the house through the front door,” said Tom.

“Thanks,” said Jim.

Jim hollered to his wife downstairs. “You are not going to see me tonight,” he said.

“Where are you going to be?” asked his wife.

“Outside,” he said.

“Okay,” said his wife.

Four hours later, it was eight o’clock and Jim had just woken up from a nap in his car, spying on the criminal to see if he went into the house.

Jim saw a man carrying a black bag from his house to a car.

“The robber!” Jim said to himself. Jim got out of his car and ran after him. “The thief! The thief!” he yelled.

“What?” said The Man With The Black Bag.

“Why are you carrying that bag?” asked Jim.

“I am taking out the trash,” said The Man.

“Why are you coming from my house?”

“Because I was wondering if I could get some money for taking out your trash.”

“Oh, well, I’m very sorry,” said Jim.

Jim went inside and told his wife because she was still awake. “I couldn’t find the crook this time,” said Jim, “but I’m not giving up.”

“Just remember, you only have three more days until the photo shoot.”


Chapter 4

The next morning Jim went down the stairs to get breakfast. On the bottom of the orange juice was a note that said, “Meet me in the mall by the fountain at 10 o’clock.” So he had a quick breakfast and got dressed and then left for the mall.

When he got there he saw a man in a black hat and black coat by the fountain. He walked over and asked, “What do you want for my trophies?”

“I want thousands of dollars,” said The Man.

“Like how much exactly?” said Jim.

“Forty thousand,” said The Man.


“Money first,” said The Man, “and then I’ll give you the trophies in my car. There’s an ATM over there. You can get the $40,000, and then I’ll lead you to my car.”

So Jim went over and got out 40,000 dollars.

“Here’s the 40,000. Now my trophies,” said Jim.

The Man led Jim to his car and opened it. But then suddenly he jumped in and closed the door and locked it, trapping Jim outside. He sped away until he got to a red light, but sped through it anyway. Gladly, there was a cop there to stop him. That gave Jim some time to get in his car. He got in and drove to the same block where The Man With The Black Hat was.

The Man sped away with Jim right behind him. They both went across someone’s lawn  and made tire tracks in the grass. The Man With The Black Hat got onto the 10 Freeway with Jim still right behind him. They were going 92 miles per hour. Luckily there wasn’t another police officer there to stop them. Jim had to get off at the fifth exit they passed because he was low on gas. So he went home much slower.

Now Jim had only two days until the photo shoot.


Chapter 5

When Jim walked outside he remembered the note that said, ‘I’ll be back.’ He thought the robber would be back tonight to get the last trophy. He decided to take the day off from trying to catch the robber. What Jim didn’t realize was that the robber was already in his house! When Jim walked inside, Tom asked him, “What are your plans for today?”

“I might go to the lake,” said Jim.

“That sounds nice,” Tom said. “I’m gonna stay around and just make sure the robber’s not gonna come today.”

“I’m gonna get ready,” said Jim.

Jim got ready by putting on his blue swim trunks and a lot of sunscreen. Then he walked downstairs and passed by the empty security room. He went down and got in his car, but then he forgot his towels so he got back out.

When he got back inside the house Jim heard footsteps going up the stairs, so he followed them. What Jim saw when he got to the top of the stairs made him gasp. There was Tom stealing his newest silver trophy out of the case and putting it inside a black duffle bag.

Jim got out his phone and snapped a picture of Tom standing with the trophy. Tom heard the snap of the picture and spun around. He saw Jim.

“Why do you have my trophy?” asked Jim.

“You don’t deserve it,” said Tom.

“What do you mean I don’t deserve it? I worked hard for those trophies!”

“I work even harder than you! I’m your security guard and I guard everything you have, but you don’t pay me enough!”

“How much money do you want?” said Jim.

“All of it!” said Tom. “I want to be a very rich man, and I don’t want to work!”

“Well, you’re not going to have to work in jail,” Jim said. Suddenly, Jim dialed 9-1-1 and told the police that they had to come over quick.

When the police came over Jim showed them the picture and the police took Tom away to jail. He was fired, of course, but not before Tom told Jim where he hid the other trophies. He hid them in the biggest cabinet in the upstairs security room.

The next day, Jim waited for hours for the photographers to come and do the shoot. Finally, at the end of the day, they called and said they had to cancel.


The Broken Chain



The sandstorm whipped the man’s eyes from beneath his cowl. His cloak fluttered behind him as he trudged on through the desert. His dark blue cloak stood out in the vast pale wasteland. As he climbed up a sand dune, he noticed a small settlement off in the distance. He then slowly made his way towards the town. As he approached the first group of buildings, he noticed that there were large oak and cedar trees nearby. In the desert, seeing trees was a sign that you were nearing the edge of the desert. Right before he entered the town, he muttered very silently three words. As he spoke the air seemed to shimmer around him. When he was done, the air shimmered whenever he moved. He then walked in.

His first priority was to find an inn or tavern to get something to eat and drink. The man saw a large circular building near the edge of the settlement. He also noticed that there was a large flowing river not far behind the inn. It was strange to see so much water in such a dry place, but it didn’t matter to the man in the blue cloak.

When he opened the inn’s door, the thick musky smell of beer and ale wafted towards him. As he made his way inside, he looked at all the men and women seated around tables. Most were yelling or banging their tankards together, while others were just talking to each other. He made his way to the back of the bar (near the exit) so he could see the whole inn. Once he was seated, the bartender, a bald man of medium height and tan skin, came up up to him and said, “Welcome to the Dune Sea, what would ya’ like?”

“Water please,” the blue cloaked man replied. As the bartender poured water into a clay mug, the blue cloaked man stared at the entrance to the inn.

“Here ya’ go,” the bartender said as he placed the mug down in front of the blue cloaked man.

“Thanks,” the cloaked man replied as he picked up the mug and drank. The cold water was much more refreshing than the muddy water that he had been drinking for the last 2 weeks.

“The name’s Clay. What are ya’ doing in the desert?” the bartender asked.

“Nothing much, just traveling,” the blue cloaked man replied. The bartender laughed and said, “Likely story, but if you were traveling through the desert, you’d need a reason to travel.”

The cloaked man smiled and said, “Let’s just say that I needed to do a little digging and clear something up.”

Clay grinned and replied, ”I like ya’ kid, so what might your name be?”

“It’s not always wise to give your name to someone you just met,” the blue cloaked man stated. Clay laughed and walked away to help another customer. As the man sipped his mug he saw the inn’s door creak open as someone walked in. The man was tall and had long sandy hair. He carried a sword at his hip and wore light leather trousers. He wore a gold colored tunic with long sleeves that each had a slash of red on them. But his most distinguishing feature was his blood red cloak. The blue cloaked man placed his mug down along with two copper coins and walked slowly towards the back door. As he walked out the back door, the blue cloaked man smiled because even though he was almost caught, anyone who saw him today would forget that they ever talked, or saw him in the town.



Chapter 1 Mysteries and Preparation


“Come on, what do you want?” Abby asked while she threw up her hands.

“It’s just my birthday, nothing special about that!” Arya replied as she walked ahead of the group.

“But you’re the the crown princess of all Ayraleseia and you’re turning 18 in two days!” Julia replied.

“It’s not a big deal!” Arya said as she threw up her hands, exasperated. Arya Orthora was a tall slender girl, with golden blonde hair with the edges hinted with red that fell to the middle of her back in waves. She walked with such grace and beauty that people tended to watch when she moved. But she could be quick witted and determined if she needed or wanted to. Turning 18 in Ayraleseia was a big deal because now you could start your own family. But Arya didn’t see what was the point in making this huge celebration for her birthday, if she didn’t want it to happen. Her two ladies in waiting were Julia and Abby Corran. Julia had curly blonde hair slightly past her shoulders. Abby had straight fox fur red colored hair down to her shoulders. But other than that they both had the same energetic and happy personality. Their brother Andras was less energetic than his sisters and was a good scribe who was trying to get into the Society of Scholars.

“You have to want something!” Abby said.

“I want you two to stop asking about it!” Arya exclaimed. Suddenly the girls stopped talking and stood staring at something ahead of them. Arya  looked up and saw her older brother. Arthur Othora was the perfect image of a prince. He had the same hair color as his sister and they were both tall, but that’s where the similarities ended. He was well-muscled from warrior training. He had a brilliant smile that made girls flock around him in minutes. He was also extremely cocky and always played the part of the perfect prince. Both Abby and Julia were madly in love with him. As he turned his head and saw his sister he broke into a grin. He rested his practice sword on his shoulder and walked over to them. As he approached, Abby and Julia batted both of their eyelashes and smiled at him as they said in unison, “Hello, Prince Arthur.”

“Hello Abby, hello Julia. You’re both looking as beautiful as ever,” Arthur said while grinning.

Both Abby and Julia clapped their hands over their mouths and started giggling. Taylor rolled her eyes at her friends’ silly behavior.

“So what does my little sister want for her birthday?” Arthur asked.

“I don’t know, why does everyone keep asking!” Ayra exclaimed.

“Everyone keeps asking because you’re turning 18!” replied her brother. Arya moaned and started walking away from her brother and her friends. “ But what do you really want Arya?” someone said from the stairs to the courtyard. Arya turned and saw her father walking down the steps towards them.

“Your Highness,” Abby and Julia said while bowing.

“Dad!” Arya exclaimed running as fast as her dress would let her. Her father laughed and picked her up swinging her around and then putting her back down. “Dad, how is everything,” Arya asked, impatient to know when he got back from a meeting at Hafcsein.

“Everything is alright, just some minor dispute that I had to deal with,” the king said. “But enough about me, what have you been doing young lady?” the king asked. King Daedulan Orthora was a good, just man who had ruled for 20 years and had not been mistrusted once. He was a loving man who cared very much for his children.

“You know, reading, running, studying with tutors, running,” Arya replied to her father.

“That’s very good, now if you’ll excuse me I need to have a chat with your brother,” the king replied.

“Ok see you tonight,” Arya said glad to see that her father was back.

“Hey Arya, Abby and I are going to go find Andras because we need to ask him some questions, so see you later.” Julia said as the headed off. Arya sighed and was going to go to her room when a hand tapped her on the shoulder. She turned around to see that lord Tyran Searsan was there smiling. “ Why hello Arya how are you doing today?” Tyran asked. Lord Tyran Searsan was a boy of average height with short black hair and sharp green eyes. His father owned a large estate near the palace and was one of the king’s most loyal advisers and was also a well-known warrior.

“Hello Tyran, I’m doing well thank you,” Arya said. Tyran flirted with many girls, but he flirted with Arya the most. Ayra thought he was nice, but he could be annoying and he treated peasants horribly. Arya thought he was a good person, she would never want to be in the same house as him.

“Well what does the gorgeous princess of Ayraleseia want for her 18th birthday?” He asked with a mischievous grin on his face.

Arya sighed and said, “I really don’t care about my stupid birthday right now because if everyone makes a big deal about it, it feels more like they just want an excuse to go to a party.”

“How about you and I go for a walk and discuss this somewhere more peaceful,” he asked.

Arya considered saying no, but then she shrugged her shoulders and said, “Why not.” Tyran smiled and held out his hand and she took it. They both walked towards the gardens so they could have somewhere peaceful to converse. In the gardens, Tyran told her how he had helped his father with the taxing of people of the estate. He also told her about how he had defeated three opponents in the arena two days ago. Arya thought this was boring, but it at least helped get her mind off things. But then he told her something that caught her off guard.

“So did you hear about the attack in the Ducardaan desert?” he asked.

She frowned. “I didn’t know this. What happened?”



The Creature of Bassnovia

In the town of Bassnovia, everyone lived in fear. The town’s workshops and markets were abandoned and everyone stayed inside. Horses were kept in barns with pigs and chickens. Citizens only went out to refill their water jugs or feed the animals. The sky was gray and cloudy; the sun was always hidden by the clouds. No stars shined at night, and the moon only gave off a dim glow. No one danced in the center of town around the giant fountain. It just loomed up twenty feet into the air, only occasionally, drops of black water dripping down and splashing into the very shallow pool in the bottom.

  Now you’re probably wondering why everyone lives in fear. Well, the truth is, no one knows. For as long as the Citizens have lived in Bassnovia, they have been afraid. It might have something to do with the big creepy forest on the edge of the town. A little too close to the huts than the people would like.

    Now there was one young boy named Emanuel Wots who wasn’t scared like the rest of the people. He was a thirteen-year-old boy with wavy black hair and freckles. He wasn’t a very well built boy, with skinny arms and legs. In fact, most of the boys and girls in Bassnovia were scrawny like him.

    He was not so scared of the forest or of the gloomy sky. In fact, sometimes he even played in the black water of the fountain. His mother was very frightened for the boy, not knowing what would happen if he decided to go into the woods.

    And one day he did. He told his mother he was going, then packed some food and water and paper and pencils to make maps. His mother was very sad and scared for Emanuel, but she knew there was no way to stop him.

    So that day, Emanuel trotted into the forest, head held high, marching into the hellish place of the pine forest. It began to grow darker the deeper he went, the branches weaving together, making a dome over his head. He walked deeper yet. When it got too dark to see, he lit the lamp he had packed last minute and continued walking.

    Suddenly, the quiet forest began to come alive. He heard groaning sounds coming from deep in the forest. He stopped. The noise had stopped. So he kept on walking, but as soon as his feet started moving, it came back. The groaning was louder now, accompanied by a screeching yowl erupting from deep within the forest.

    Emanuel’s heart began to beat against his chest. He was starting to get worried. What if he made the wrong decision?

    He kept on walking. This time, the voices didn’t stop. He began to walk a little faster. Suddenly, something tripped him. He landed on his stomach on the dirty leaves. A hissing noise filled his ears. He looked into the shadows, slanted eyes glowing red glowed from the bushes. Emanuel began to tremble.

    A twisted claw with thick dark red blood dripping down from its gnarly  tips emerged from the leaves. Emanuel froze.

      An arm attached to the claws appeared. It was black and twisted, covered in scrapes, and then its body came, big and bulky with a slash down its chest, its yellow flesh visible from the cut. Blood oozed out of the wound, dripping down its chest. It had big crooked spikes sticking out of its spine. Its gaping jaw stretched into a cave filled with millions of sharp and jagged yellowed teeth. Its beady blood-red eyes were filled with murder. An eerie glow shined on its slimy gross skin.

   Emanuel was too scared to move. The town’s people were right about this freaky place. It was a nightmare.

   The creature advanced toward Emanuel. Emanuel stayed frozen. It came so close, the boy could feel its hot stinky breath on his neck. It smelled of death.

    It came even closer, bringing out his long snake-like tongue and licked the boy’s dirty face.

     Emanuel screamed: a piercing noise in the quiet forest.

The creature yowled in the boy’s face, lunging at him with his jaws open. It snapped his neck, blood gushing out of Emanuel’s neck.The creature dragged the boy into the forest.

     And no one ever dared to go into the forest again……..


American Food in France

3:44 p.m. Friday, June 12, 2015

If you have read my previous journal that I proudly finished, you would know that a lot of queer things have happened to me. I probably shouldn’t use queer; it might sound strange because I am queer… I think strange is better. Yes, very, very unfortunate things. My name is Sinclair Foote, and I am more distinguished than most people. Of course, that’s a euphemism. It’s pretty evident that I’m better than everyone.

So, I just came back from Paris two weeks ago. I actually had a great time. The only flaw is that the people are all European, so they think peeing on the streets and letting their babies go naked is fine.

I think the best restaurant I went to was this place called Le Cinq at the George Cinq Hotel. The meal cost $1,055 – the most expensive and exquisite dinner I have ever had and paid for. It was completely and utterly worth it.

The help began with some wonderful warm French Bread – though I think the waiters tried too hard. They were far too nice and positive. For my appetizer I had a perfectly seared Foie Gras roasted with pistils of flower, pear, and petals of sweet and sour radish. It was $70 and almost as good as mine. For my second course I had Coquilles St. Jacques. The sauce wasn’t thick enough. For my entree, I had pithiviers of Grouse, Duck Mallard and Young Partridge with chestnut honey, autumn fruits, and squeezed juice with armagnac. I was a bit of a grouse myself after the meal because it was a little greasy. Actually, now that I think about it, I’m a more exquisite cook than the whole staff put together.

When I went to a market, there were sections for all the nations’ foods. In the Japanese section, there was ramen and a freezer for the terribly put-together sushi. In the Indian section, there were bags of dried curry that looked like they would give a person a day and night’s worth of diarrhea.

Finally, I reached the American section and was curious to see what they thought of us Americans. I walked down the aisle, hearing every creak my feet made. People rushed past me with their carts as I stood frozen, staring in horror at the rows of vile pleasure before me – Oreos, peanut butter, cake mix, candy cereal with the midget leprechaun, potato chips with so much salt it’s very likely they came from the Dead Sea, and Hersheys – the most vulgar chocolate ever made. If a Hershey kiss kissed me, I’d lock myself in a closet with Tom Cruise. The list goes on. SO many unhealthy foods!

This was the most insulting incident I had ever encountered! America has so many great restaurants, like that restaurant Providence in L.A. It has four Michelin stars! Although, when I had their smoked trout, I had to send it back because it was a little too fishy. I only went back there once, but they no longer have the foie gras ravioli, because those imbecilic Sacramentans outlawed it! Everybody from Sacramento is an idiot!

But let’s get back to the point. America has some of the most delicious food, not on the planet, though. But it’s definitely better than Hungary! No wonder they go hungry all the time!

My new life goal is to replace the vile filth in the American section of that French market with high-quality cuisine that better represents my country and home that I’m probably going to move away from.

Then I realized that I said all of that out loud and I was very embarrassed. At least no one was in that aisle, because it’s the American section and no one would be caught dead there.

I walked out of the store so enraged. What I thought at that very frustrating, confusing moment was: I cannot believe this! This is terrible! Only the disgusting, greasy-haired, wannabees that eat only at Tito’s Tacos eat those disgraceful foods!

So I have decided that after seeing so much awful American food, I will stop this from happening!

I will get a flight back to Paris in three weeks. I don’t think I will ever be able to stomach American food again.


5:14 a.m. Saturday, June 13, 2015

I couldn’t sleep at all last night. I really think I have insomnia because I’ve been waking up a lot at night, and it’s been very hard to sleep, and let me tell you, when I can’t fall asleep, I wake up with very dark rings under my eyes and dark rings do not help my complexion at all. I also think I have OCD, because when I see something that isn’t perfect, I feel the need to fix it. And I am pretty sure I have a cyclothymic disorder because I haven’t been interested that much in my daily shows. Well, Seth MacFarlane has gone downhill after that horrible “A Million Ways to Die in the West” thing he calls a movie. I mean, Neil Patrick Harris makes Adam Sandler look good.

Anyway, last week I went to the doctor because I thought I had diabetes, and Dr. Bowmann said, “You have been coming to me at least twice a month saying that you think you have a certain disease or virus. I either think you have hypochondria or you have a crush on me.”

He chuckled. I made the most insulting disgusted face I could make. And after that brief, annoying sentence he said that I had hypochondria. He explained the meaning and I realized that I did have it.

He said I should see a therapist and gave me this supposedly “great” therapist’s number and address.

After that, I went home and had my daily macchiato and chocolate chip cookies that I found at Whole Foods. They’re gluten-free and I KNOW gluten-free is really terrible, but these are just the best cookies I’ve ever had. They melt in your mouth and they’re so crunchy. But I’ve only started eating them since Mindy and Danny broke up on The Mindy Project. It left me looking like an addict who hasn’t had a smoke in a week.

For the past three months, I’ve gone on a gluten-free diet because I’m worried that I will get Celiac’s Disease. No matter what, I will always be against gluten-free foods. I think it is the stupidest thing I have ever encountered. Whenever you try to make something that is gluten-free, it ends up tasting like what the inside of a pelican’s mouth looks like.

After my macchiato, I called the number of the therapist. The person who answered had a weird accent that I disliked very strongly.

He said, “Howdy, friend. What’cha needin’?”

I asked him if he was a therapist, trying hard not to seem disgusted.

He said, “Reckon’ I am! Jeremiah Alabaster Mackelroy is the name, but you can just call me Dr. J.A. Mackelory.”

I sighed, frustrated, and replied, “Okay, well, when can I come in?”

He said I could come tomorrow. He doesn’t have many clients, so I could come in at 9:30.

I did not expect anything good to come out of this.


9:27 a.m. Sunday, June 14, 2015

I waited in the waiting room of the so called “therapist’s” office, sitting on the disgusting cracked leather couch. The only magazines there were architecture magazines, which had the ugliest architecture I had ever seen. The architects were physically unable to design. I could make more than $100,000,000 being an architect and I would be so exquisite that I would get so many jobs and I would have to turn down at least 10 jobs a week. The only other magazine there was some kind of Texas vogue magazine, but the clothes were awful! There was a cheap polyester plaid crop top that said “howdy.” I was stunned. It was just like that time when I saw three fourth graders at the mall and the ugly, curly-haired, short girl said to the other two girls, “The first person to touch my hand is my best friend!” and they started chasing her!

Anyway, Dr. J.A. Mackelroy called me in. When I first walked into the room, I knew this was a big mistake. He was overweight and sort of bald, wearing a cowboy hat. Everything he was wearing was denim. He was wearing one of those out-of-fashion cowboy ties. It was classic cowboy. I would rather watch Adam Sandler in Jack and Jill with Arinna Grande than go to this therapy session. When I walked into the room it reeked of incense. I really don’t see how that could be soothing for a patient. I actually almost stepped out of the room. I would have done anything for death to come and take me away. There wasn’t a single thing in that hellhole he called a room that didn’t symbolize Texas. He definitely does not work the Texas style. I know if I were in his repugnant shoes I would work it like there was no tomorrow, I would be like Alexa Chung. But I’m obviously more stylish than her.

He said, “Please, sit.”

I took one look at the chair which was cowskin dyed magenta and thought, Ew. I sighed and said in a very tight voice, “Yeah, I would prefer to stand.”

He looked very annoyed and replied in a voice like he was trying to sound nice but not succeeding, “Please sit in the darn chair, I would not like to repeat myself.”

So I did – probably looking uncomfortable.

Then he said, “So, yous’ got hypochondria.”

And I didn’t say anything, but I really wanted to ask him how he didn’t drown in his own filth.

You probably have figured out by now that I am grossed out by most fast foods. Well, I think I am going to sue Dr. J.A. Mackelroy for what he did then. He took an In-N-Out burger from… I don’t even know where! Then he took out animal-style fries and started eating them with his hands. I started to gag, and not that small little gag that you have in your head, that huge one that is very noticeable. Unfortunately, he didn’t notice my gags. Then he asked how high do I think my self esteem is, and that’s where I drew the line. I got up, brushed off the part of my body that touched the chair, put on hand sanitizer, and left – scarred for life.



7:09 a.m. Monday, June 15, 2015

I was on the phone for exactly 46 minutes with this guy that had a robot voice. He kept on saying, “Thank you, and if you have any other problems, please call us.” And I was yelling at him, “No! I have a problem right now! Can you talk to me now, you stupid emotionless cyborg!”

He repeated the idiotic line again. I told him – or it – “This is not good customer service. I will write terrible things about you on Yelp!”

This went on for 35 more minutes.

I finally booked the flight tickets, first class, to Paris. I refuse to sit in economy class; I would rather watch a two-hour block of “How I Met Your Mother.” But first class is still pretty disgusting. The cookies they give you at the end are just TOO soft and gooey. The gluten-free cookies are the good cookies, because they’re crunchy yet they melt in your mouth. God I love those cookies… *Ahem* Umm… Uhh… I mean, the chocolate chips are usually a bit stale. Anyway, I am leaving in two days.


6:07 a.m. Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Today is the day that i go to Paris. I had my daily macchiato and gluten free cookie(s). I had packed my various clothing, mostly by Michael Kors. After that I ordered my driver, Topvik, to pick me up, because I refuse to take a taxi. Taxis are supposed to cause half of the type of common colds that occur in Silverlake.

I only got to watch one episode of Family Guy. It was the one where Peter finds out Lois is Jewish and starts talking with a very guttural voice. At about a quarter to seven, my driver, Topvik, picked me up.

When we arrived at the airport, it wasn’t very crowded for some reason. As I checked in, I thought I saw Conway Twitty, but I don’t know for sure. God, I hate his facial expressions when he sings, and that hair? Yeesh!

I arrived in first class. The in-air help gave me a hot towel and served me some Moet & Chandon. It was flat. The person sitting closest to me was the same guy I thought was Conway Twitty.

I turned to my side and asked him, “Are you Conway Twitty?”

He looked very insulted and replied, “Conway Twitty has been dead 20 years, and that is the most insulting thing that I’ve heard since I got a nose job.” He had a thick deep New York accent.

I sniffed in a very condescending way and looked down my nose at him. I turned away, raising my eyebrow. I mean, his hair wasn’t that magnificent.

* * *

After six hours, they served dinner. I ordered just a caesar salad with some more Moet & Chandon. The only other options they had were shrimp cocktails, a lamb shwarma with pasta that looked disgusting – even on the menu- and some other kind of fish that looked like it would give me E. coli poisoning.

Every hour I walked down the aisles because I read in a beauty magazine that if you just sit in one seat for one hour that it will paralyze your butt, and I don’t need that stress hanging over me.

We arrived around 2:30 p.m. and I saw some of the other idiots that were in first class walking very stiffly, so I’m glad that I walked down the aisles.


6:04 a.m. Thursday, June 18, The Apartment

I arrived at my apartment around 4:00 p.m.. I never get jet lagged, because the amount of water pills and macchiatos that I drink doesn’t let jet lag affect me.

I got dressed in all Michael Kors clothes. I went to the same market where I was so offended three weeks ago. I stopped outside the front doors and realized… this is one of the biggest moments of my life. This is my legacy. This is what Paris will remember me for.

This is it.

I walked determinedly into the store, heel-toe heel-toe, with purpose. I asked the little butler that was chopping prosciutto if I could talk to the manager, in French. He said, “Umm… Uhh… Sure. You can see him. Do you have a problem?”

“Yes I do have a problem, but I don’t wish to talk about it with a little butler who chops prosciutto.”

“Oui, oui, desoleil.” Then he took me to the manager.

The manager said, “What do you need?”

He was wearing small Harry Potter-like glasses that were far too tiny for his huge fat head. He was also bald, which made his complexion look worse because there was just so much of it without hair to cover it up. I demanded he replace the American section in the market because it was highly offensive to my kind.

He just plainly responded: “No.”

I asked again, more firmly. And he said again, “No.”

I finally said back to him, “You disgusting vile fat pasty-faced swine!”

He just said, “No,” again.

I said, very confused, “Well, then can I buy everything in that section?”

And then he said, “Yes.” He gave me the price. It was $1,055. Ironically, it was the exact same amount of money as the Les Cinq dinner.

“I’ll… take it,” I hesitantly agree.

I paid for the 450 pounds of food, called Topvik and told him, “Bring your largest car.”

I succeeded. I had done it. It was very expensive, but I’m rich, so who cares? I spared Paris from the vile stereotyped American food.

* * *

Topvik walked into my hotel room later that night to tell me that I had left my Michael Kors clutch in the car. But he stopped, stunned, and stared at me. I was just chewing on some raw Toll House cookie dough underneath the covers of the bed…

I guess I betrayed my gluten-free diet. God bless America.


The Genius

Chapter 1


Vlad hated seeing the army. He hated knowing that when they came to his town, something bad was always going to happen. He also hated that every time the army came to town, they were coming for him. He sighed and stood up from his perch atop an old oak tree. He hurried down the tree’s trunk and ran back home to get some things before he left for a few weeks. As he got home he noticed that his parents weren’t home at the moment. If they were home, they might have asked where I was going and I don’t have that much time, he thought. He grabbed his knapsack, a sheepskin jacket, his cloak, a saxe knife, and his magic lantern. He quickly ran into the kitchen to pick up a few loaves of bread and some beef jerky. He then ran outside and turned around the corner just to bump into his best friend Blurr.

“Hey there, Vlad. Why are you in such a hurry?” Blurr asked while pulling Vlad up from where he fell.

“Just going hunting out in the forest,” Vlad replied evenly.

“Looks like you overpacked for this trip, but who am I to stop you,” Blurr said.

Vlad nodded his head and started running up the alley towards the forest when a man came out of a shop and almost bumped into Vlad. Vlad stumbled while trying to stop himself from running into the man.

“You all right, laddy? You almost took quite the fall trying to stop yourself,” the man replied while steadying Vlad so he wouldn’t fall again.

“I’m all right. Thank you for helping me out,” Vlad replied while dusting off his clothes.

“Think nothing of it, me’ boy,” the man said.

Vlad looked up and saw a thick beard covering the man’s face and a large smile that lit up his face.

“Thank you sir, but I must be on my way now. Goodbye!” Vlad yelled as he ran towards the forest.

“Goodbye, lad! I’ll see you soon,” the man yelled as he waved.

As Vlad entered the forest he brought out his lamp and snapped his fingers. Instantly the lamp lit up as fire appeared inside of it. Vlad smiled. Being a pyromancer was very nice, especially when you could do things like this. Vlad quickly made his way towards the heart of the forest, where he hoped to find an area where he could set up camp. As he ducked underneath a tree branch, he saw a large hole under a tree’s roots and he crawled inside, careful not to loosen the dirt underneath the roots for fear of the tree coming loose and falling on him. He hung his lamp and sat hunched in the back of the hole. He then slowly drifted off to sleep but was woken by the sound of many feet marching at the same time. Vlad lifted himself out of the hole and quickly ran in the opposite direction of the sound. As he ran, Vlad kept thinking about his next move. Would he orchestrate an assassination? Or would he steal some precious object?

Vlad then thought of a good idea of how he could deceive the kingdom and assassinate one of the most revered men in all of Throga’ul. Vlad, lost in his train of thought, didn’t notice the fallen tree ahead of him, and as he was about to turn, his foot hit the tree and he fell into a heap. Next time I should look where I’m going, Vlad thought. Vlad stood up and as he was about to start running again, he heard his stomach rumble, and he realized he hadn’t eaten yet. Vlad pulled out a loaf of bread from his knapsack and tore it in half, eating one half and saving the other for some other time. He then stood up and ran towards the southern edge of the forest.

It was dusk by the time Vlad made it to the edge of the forest. He was weary from running and jumping over trees, shrubbery, and other plants. Vlad looked up from where he had just sat down and saw a vast expanse of tall marsh grass that stretched on for miles and miles. He knew he couldn’t make it to the next town, so Vlad decided to camp out in the marsh for the night. As he looked for a good campsite, Vlad noticed a little flicker of light in the middle of the field and he made his way over to it. As he approached, he could smell cooked meat and his mouth watered. He had almost gone through all of his rations while in the forest, and the idea of cooked meat sounded fantastic. Vlad peered through the grass to look at the campsite. What he saw there interested him greatly.

There was a group of six men seated around a campfire and each man had some type of weapon with him. Vlad then noticed that there were several tents behind the campfire, and the men were walking around them. Vlad turned to look at the tents more closely when he saw that some other men had started campfires too. The smell of meat and vegetables cooking made his stomach growl. Luckily all the men were so engrossed in their conversation that they didn’t notice Vlad’s stomach. Vlad slowly crept towards them to hear more.

“Ok so what’s our next job, Larr?” one of the men asked. The man who spoke was of medium height with long black hair and a lopsided nose that showed it had been broken in a fight.

“We’re supposed to ransack some town with the help of some other groups of brigands,” Larr said. Larr was tall and bald, but he appeared to be respected by the others which could mean he was the group’s leader.

“What other groups are going to help us out?” the first man asked.

“I think the Wild Fang and the Beast Claw are going to help us,” Larr replied.

The first man nodded and said, “It’s a good thing we know those groups and have dealt with them in the past.”

Larr nodded and checked the cooking spit. As he was doing this someone came from the other group of tents and made his way over. This man was tall and had a cowl covering his face. He also has a scarf wrapped around his neck. The first man who talked looked over at the man coming and said, “ Hey Vale, how’s it going?”

The hooded man looked up and said, “It’s good, Zeke. It’s good.”

Larr then took the spit off the fire and pulled off pieces of meat and handed them to everyone. The all ate noisily except for Larr and Vale. Suddenly Vale stopped eating and sat straight up and looked right at Vlad. Vlad knew no one could see him through the tall, thick grass but he still had a bad feeling about this.

“Hey, what is it, Vale?” Zeke asked.

“You know that criminal who is wanted by everyone in this kingdom and the next one over?” Vale said while standing slowly.

“Yeah, he’s famous for the assassination of General Candoc and a bunch of other crimes,” Zeke replied.

“Well he’s right there,” Vale said as he pointed directly at Vlad.

Hidden Secrets

Sometimes there are things

we know and do

not understand

hidden secrets.


Justifications and reasons

questions about war and life and humanity


Some people go on without

ever trying to figure out



Some people keep trying to

understand, comprehend, unravel


the mysteries of the world . . .


It is the difference between people

the foolish

the wise.

The Makeup Mysteries

Makeup Mysteries

Chapter 1

The cameras flash back and forth as Niki Britina struts down the runway. She is the most famous fashion model in the entire world with long, silky blonde hair and bright blue eyes the color of sapphires. Anyone could easily tell she is a top fashion model. As the curtain closes Niki is showered by tons and tons of gorgeous flowers while she blows kisses to the roaring crowd. The show has ended and Niki is about to head home.

“Wasn’t I amazing out there? I was so much better than the rest of you!” Niki shouts confidently. “I’m surprised the crowd even clapped for you. Nicole, you tripped on the edge of the runway; that was hilarious! Ella, the dress you had on was from last season, and worst of all, Kathrin, you wore Zoe’s dress. It was so funny because Zoe didn’t have anything to wear so she couldn’t come out!”

“Niki, you’ve been really mean these past few weeks and you keep insulting us after every fashion show. We’re through!” shouts Nicole. “Come on girls.”

As all the other models file out of the room, and Niki is left with only one friend, Emma, her best friend.

“Niki, Nicole’s right. You have been kinda mean to the other models, and you need to start thinking about how others feel, not just yourself. See you Friday,” says Emma before leaving.

It is a dark night and the moon is hidden behind the clouds. As Niki walks down the sidewalk, she hears a rustle in the bushes and she turns around slowly to see a… squirrel! Niki sighs in relief. As she walks up the driveway to her exquisite mansion, she notices that her front door is wide open. She peeks inside and everything is out of place. Tables are overturned, vases are shattered on the floor, and worst of all she has chipped a nail coming home! Niki goes straight up to her vanity room to search for a nail file and some lotion. But just as she had suspected, her makeup has been stolen! She had the best makeup in the entire world – tons and tons of jet black mascara, ruby red lipstick, sparkling nail polish, pretty pink blush, a rainbow palette of eyeshadow, and the most wonderful perfume on the planet called Enchantment. Niki is so upset. She has a fashion show in 5 days and she needs her makeup, so she decides to call the police. About five minutes later a truck pulls up to her house and out jumps a man in a wet suit.

“Who are you and what are you doing at my house?”

“I am Jay the Shark Wrangler, there is no shark I cannot defeat! You told me to come help you catch the crook.”

“NO! I called the police to help me find the crook who broke into my house and stole my makeup, you shark boy!”

“Can I at least help?”

“FINE!” Niki sighed. “It’s not like I have any better options anyway.”

Niki storms off to her room and just before she slams the door she shouts, “Meet me at my house at 10:00 a.m. on the dot!”

“Why so late?”

“I need my beauty sleep, duh!” As she slams the door shut, a vase falls off it’s table and crashes to the floor, breaking on contact.

“UHH! Could this day get any worse?” she says and immediately it starts raining and thunder crashes throughout the sky. “Yes, yes it can.” On that note Niki falls fast asleep.


Chapter 2

At 9:00 a.m. Niki gets out of bed and goes to her bathroom to look for her makeup before remembering it’s not there.

“Stupid thief,” Niki mumbles. She stomps over to her walk-in closet to put on some designer clothes.

At about 12:00 Niki comes out of her closet fully dressed from head to toe with sparkling jewelry, a vintage handbag, the newest sun glasses, and designer clothes. As she walks out onto her driveway, she spots Jay leaning against the shark truck, awaiting her arrival.

“You said 10:00 a.m. on the dot! It’s 12:15! You’re late!”

“I was busy!” Niki snaps back. “Let’s just get this over with. I have a hair appointment at 5:00 and I need to find my makeup in 5 days! I have a show coming up and if I don’t have it by then, I’ll get fired. You can’t send a model on the runway without makeup. It’s just like, a rule!”

As Jay pulls out of the driveway, Niki notices a note slipped inside her mailbox.

“Wait a second, Jay. I see something.” She climbs out of the car and struts over to the mailbox, taking the note. As she hops back in the car she opens it. The note says,

Meet me at the wharf at 12:30 if you ever want to see your precious makeup again!


“He must have my makeup. I need it back. Let’s go!”

“Okay, Miss beauty queen,” Jay says, rolling his eyes. “What’s so important about this makeup anyway?”

“I am the only person in the world who has this makeup. It’s one of a kind, especially the perfume! Let’s just go already!”

It’s about a 20 minute drive from Niki’s house to the wharf. Once they get there, they notice a shadowy figure leaning against a post near a speed boat. It is a foggy day and no one else is in the water or at the restaurants. They are all alone. As Niki and Jay walk over to retrieve her makeup, the shadowy figure looks up, but doesn’t show his face.

“So this is Miss Niki Britina. Do you need your makeup back, honey?” he says with a smug smile and a ring of sarcasm to his voice.

“As a matter a fact, I do! So give it back, NOW!”

“Oh, I’m afraid it’s not that easy, sweetheart. You see, you need to give me something that I want, then we will talk about returning the makeup.”

Niki thought about this for a second. Then, finally, she spoke. “Well… what do… you want then?” Her voice was shaky.

“Money, jewelry, things that I can sell. The usual.”

“Well, I’m not giving you anything. Jay here is a…a…police officer! Yeah, that’s right, he’s a police officer. Arrest him, Jay.”

“I’m not a police officer,” whispers Jay.

“Just go with it,” Niki snaps back.

“Oh, a police officer in a wetsuit? Is that the newest fashion? Hmmm? Anyway I’ve got to get going. I mean, this isn’t getting anywhere.” The thief jumps straight into the speed boat, kicking up water as he jets away.

“Oh, no he didn’t!” Niki shouts. “He ruined my designer dress. I spent $5,000 on this!”

“We’ll catch him! Hop on!” Jay shouts.

Niki and Jay jump onto the boat and try to start the engine but it doesn’tbudge.

“Uggghh, it’s broken.”Jay hollers.

“Now we will never catch the thief! My fashion show is in 5 days and I’ll be on the cover of ‘Embarrassment of the Week’ in no time! I’ll get fired!” Niki whines. After Niki’s drama attack, she goes to her hair appointment, and mopes the entire night. Jay thinks up a plan for the next day.

Chapter 3

“Niki, wake up!” Jay yells through Niki’s open window, “I have an idea about how to get your makeup back!”

“Go away, paparazzi! I’m sleeping!”

Jay pushes open the front door and walks straight up to her bedroom. He quickly pushes Niki off her bed and she falls to the ground with a thud. “Come on. Get dressed. And this can’t take 4 hours again!”

“Owww!” Niki whines. “You pushed me! I am a top fashion model! I can sue you, and for your information, it took 3 hours not 4!”

“Yeah, yeah, just get dressed already.”

Niki stumbles over to her closet and picks out an outfit, does her hair, puts on jewelry, cries about her makeup, and picks out some high heels.

“Good job. Niki, I think we got your dressing time down to an hour and a half.” Jay says with tons of sarcasm.

“Very funny, Jay. So what’s your big plan to get my makeup back?”

“Come on. We’ll go to the mall and I’ll tell you.” After about an hour of shopping, Niki and Jay sit down to talk about Jay’s plan.

“So we know this guy is very shady and he won’t tell us to meet him when there’s a lot of people around, so I suggest we invite him to your house and trap him there!”

“Good plan except for the part where he’s in my house!”  Niki shouts.

“Yeah, he’s in your house but we can set some traps downstairs and get him to walk straight into our trap!”

“Ok let’s do it!”

After Jay and Niki go shopping at TRAPS, CAGES, AND DUNGEONS, they have 2 giant cages, 4 trapdoors, and 50 other things that neither of them know what they do, so while Jay sets up the traps, Niki realizes the thief had left an email address on the back of his last note, so she uses it to email him their request. He replies, BE THERE IN 5 MINUTES. THIS BETTER BE GOOD. -S

5 minutes later a creepy car pulls up out front and the shadowy figure gets out. “So let’s get down to business,” he says.

Just before the shadowy figure arrived, Jay told Niki to hide behind the stairwell and pull the giant rope when Jay said “now.” She didn’t know what it would do but if it would help her get her makeup back faster, she would do it. Niki was hiding as Jay was leading the figure into the front hall.

“You first,” Jay says. As the figure walks into the room, Niki gets a text and starts replying when Jay says, “NOW!”

“One second, I’m replying to a text. Emma wants to know which color of eyeshadow compliments her eyes,” Niki says.

“Oh, I see what’s going on. You two are trying to trap me. Well played, but not smart enough.” He quickly pushes Jay and Niki right where he had been standing and pulls the rope which lets down a cage. They are trapped.

“Good-bye, Niki and Jay. We’ll meet again soon. By the way, Niki maybe reply to the text after you trap the bad guy. Just a tip.” He smiles smugly and gives a cackling laugh before leaving.

“Nice going, Niki!” Jay yells, “We almost had him, but then you just had to reply to your little fashion friend. If you really want to get your makeup back, you can’t be whining and texting all the time, you’ve got to focus. If this makeup is really important to you, you have to pay attention, take some initiative, and start taking some risks. This is not a game, Niki. It’s not a playdate where you say, ‘Can I have my makeup back?’ and he says, ‘Sure, I’m sorry.’ The world isn’t like that. This is a real criminal we’re facing and you just seem to goof around. You are acting like a pampered princess. You can’t have anything you want, Niki. The world is not just going to hand it to you. I’m sorry to say it, Niki, but I think it’s time for you to grow up. Now let’s figure out a way to get this cage off.”

“Ok,” says Niki. Jay’s words sting her heart like an open wound. No one’s ever said those kinds of things to her. Maybe Jay was right, she was just a pampered little princess. But she was still ready to help. Niki undoes her scarf and ties it to Jay’s belt and with a little tape from the nearby counter, they make a long enough rope to grab onto the other rope holding the cage down. They escape.

“If you think I’m such a pampered princess, why are you helping me?

“Because…” Jay says. ”Because I love you.” He kisses Niki’s cheek. “See you tomorrow, Blondie.” And he walks away.

Chapter 4

All Niki thinks about is the kiss, all morning. Did Jay really love her or was he just making it up? NIki has had a ton of boyfriends, but when they kissed her none of them felt the same as Jay’s lips against her cheek. It felt good, very good. How was she going to explain to him that she liked him too? She hadn’t realized it until he kissed her. She really liked his short blonde hair,  his bright blue eyes, his smile, and how he always made her laugh. Today, she was going to show him a different side of Niki Britina, the good side. “Right after I change,” Niki says.

When Niki walks out of her closet, she is not wearing her regular designer outfit with vintage handbags and dangly earrings. Instead, she is wearing jeans, strap-on sandals, a beach scarf, and a really cute top. NONE of the items she has on are designer clothing. As she walks out onto her driveway, Jay is not there like he was the day before. That’s odd, she thought. She drives her car over to Jay’s house and knocks on the door. There is no answer. Where is he, Niki wonders. As she leans against the door, it slowly opens. She walks inside the empty house and calls Jay’s name. Again, there is no answer.

“Jay?” she shouts, “Jay, where are you?” As she walks around the house, she realizes it looks just like hers after it was rampaged. There are muddy footprints on the ground and marks that look like someone had been dragged across the floor. As she looks around, she notices a note sticking out of the fireplace. Its edges have been singed by the remaining embers. She picks up the note.

Your time is running out, Niki Britina. Meet me at the park in 15 minutes if you want to get your makeup back. Also, I heard you were looking for Jay. You’ll find him if you meet me here. By the way, doesn’t Jay have a lovely home? See you there.


Niki knew exactly what had happened to Jay. The only thing that came out of her quivering mouth was “S.” As Niki gets in her car she knows what she has to do. She drives her car over to the park. It is very late, probably around 6:00. She parks her car, gets out, and walks over to the center of the park where she finds S and Jay sitting on a bench in the middle of the park. As she walks over, S says, “Well if it isn’t my old friend Niki. Come here, sit, and we’ll talk.

“You are no friend to me,” Niki snaps back, “Let Jay go and we’ll be out of your way.”

“Oh dear Niki, trying to be the hero now? Let’s not be harsh, Niki. This could easily turn into a life or death matter,” he says as he lifts up a gun, then slips it back into his pocket.

“You can’t just demand everything and get it to go your way. You should know that by now because it’s happened so many times. Your concentration is a little sketchy. Truthfully, I’m shocked Jay even wants to help you.”

“Stop!” Niki shouts.

“Oh, I’m just getting started. Give me the money, Niki. This is not a little game, this is real life and you’re not in a fairytale. It’s reality. Everything here is real.”

“How much?” Niki says, digging through her wallet.

“Don’t give him anything, Niki!” Jay shouts.

“Don’t pay attention to him. Give me the money and I’ll let you be. Jay will be let go and I’ll give back the makeup. This is your move. This can all be over, or it can get a whole lot harder. I’m not playing around this time, Niki. Give me the money.”

“If I have learned anything from Jay, it’s not to give up.” Niki closes her wallet. “I won’t give you any money. I won’t give you anything.”

“That is a bad move, Miss Britina. Someone could get hurt.” As soon as he says that he takes out his gun and shoots Jay right in the leg. Jay screams out in pain and agony.

“Words have power, Niki, and you used the wrong words. See you soon, I’ll be back and next time I’ll get what I came for, no matter what!” He shouts as he fires with his gun into the air and speeds of into the pitch black night. Niki runs over to Jay.

“Jay, Jay are you ok?!” Niki shouts.

“Call 911,” he whispers, “And Niki, no matter what happens, I will always love you, no matter what.” Then Jay blacks out and Niki calls 911 and as Jay is pulled into the ambulance and sped away to the hospital, Niki bursts into tears.

Chapter 5

In the morning, Niki got out of bed, knowing that this time she couldn’t do this with Jay. Today was the big fashion show and she was all alone. Jay was in the hospital and all her friends except Emma had dumped her at last week’s fashion show. She sits on her bed and thinks about what she was going to do, so she calls Emma and asks her to come over.

10 minutes later Emma’s car pulls up and Emma hops out. “So what’s the problem?” she says.

“Someone stole my makeup!” Niki replies.

“No way! How are you gonna get it back?”

“I have a plan but it would involve getting Nicole, Zoe, Kathrin, Ella and all of the other models that Nicole probably told.”

“Why don’t you just text them to meet you here and apologize? I think they deserve one.”

“Ok” says Niki, “I’ll get the phone.” After a LOT of convincing, Niki finally gets all 28 models to come over to her house.

“I am so sorry,” Niki says, “I was being very selfish and I didn’t mean to hurt any of your feelings. I am so sorry, can you please forgive me?”

All the models think and think until they finally came up with a solution. Nicole speaks, “If you really are sorry, you will let every single one of us over for a sleepover after the fashion show and we can all do each other’s hair, dress up, and use your makeup.”

“Yes we can do that but the only problem is some crook stole my makeup, every single thing, lipstick, eyeshadow, blush, you name it. All gone, even the perfume.” There were gasps all around.

“Every single thing!” says Lauren.

“Every single thing,” Niki replies, “But there is a way to get it back. I have a plan, but I am going to need all of you. Are you in?”

“Anything for you, Niki.” Ella replies, “And thanks for apologizing.”

“Ok, here’s my plan. We all sneak into the robber’s house and half of us will look for all my makeup and the other half will take all the weapons so if he’s there or comes back he won’t have anything to defend himself with.”

“Sounds like a plan, let’s do it!” Morgan shouts. As they all get in their cars, they use the email address to find the house address that the thief’s replies were coming from and they drive over there. They all get out of their cars and sneak to the front of the house. They had divided themselves into two teams and it was time to get Niki’s makeup back once and for all. The door was open so they quietly enter the house. They looked and looked, it appeared that the crook wasn’t home, then Jenna says, “Hey, there’s a secret door over here, come here everyone”. They push and pull until finally the door slides open and in the room is all of Niki’s makeup!

Everyone runs inside and starts carrying it out, but the door slams shut, “Going somewhere?” a voice says.

“Who…is…that..?” Emma says, her voice shaky.

“Niki, you haven’t introduced me to your friends. Who are these lovely ladies?”

“Just give it up, S. We’ve got you outnumbered,” Niki says.

“Are you sure?” As soon as he says that, the door slides open and out come 25 muscular body guards.

“Does that even the odds a little bit, Niki? Get them!” The bodyguards circle Niki and her friends.

“Get ready girls!” Nicole shouts, “Throw!” All of a sudden every single one of Niki’s friends take off their high heels. They fly through the air and hit each body guard in the head, hard, so hard that they fall unconscious.

“Thanks everybody.” Niki replies.

“You’re our friend, we’d do anything for you.” Emma says. They all hug.

“I don’t mean to interrupt, but the bad guy is escaping.” Caren says.

“He won’t get far.” Niki replies.

“Why do you say that?”

“I called the police before we got here.” Niki says, “They should be here right about now.”

“Freeze! Anything you say or do can be used against you in the court of law,” a police officer says.

“OMG, we have 10 minutes to get to the fashion show! We’re going to be late and we don’t even have time to get ready!” Nicole shouts.

“Yes you do, we can use mine.” Niki says.

“Thank you so much Niki, you’re the best!”

As all the girls get ready the police come in and ask Niki if she had found what she wanted.

“Yes,” she replies.

“I’ll get you for this, Niki Britina, I will!” S says as he leaves with the police.

No one pays him any attention. Finally after everyone got ready they race to the fashion show. Everyone has a great time. As soon as it is over, Nicole says, “I call the lipstick first!” as she rushes to her car.

“Oh no you don’t!” everyone shouts as they race to Niki’s house.

Once they get there and all the girls are doing makeup, Niki gets a phone call.

“I’ll get it,” she shout. Once she picks up the phone, it is Jay who answers.

“I heard what you did, Niki. That was very brave. Nice work!” And he hangs up.

The End