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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“YOU WILL FAIL!” she screamed. 

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

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

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

“GPA?” an agent asked. 

“4.9,” Jane said. 

“That’s impossible.”

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

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

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

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

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

Natalie, Luke, and Michelle


There’s a lot that you can buy with a stolen 20 bucks. Especially if your mission is to sneak to CVS from school and see how long it takes until your mom notices you’re missing. Then you get to walk down every aisle. When you have $20, anything is possible. Well, anything that you can do with 20 dollars. But there’s a certain kind of freedom that comes with being on your own with money. I browsed through the aisles, getting whatever caught my eye. Oreos, mallomars, . I spotted the aisle with gum and backpedaled before snatching two packs off the shelves. Ooh, nail polish. You can never have enough nail polish; there are millions of shades that can make or break an outfit. While looking out of the massive glass windows, however, I spied a red Tesla pulling into the parking lot. It was Mom’s car! There was no one in the line at the checkout though.

I awkwardly stumbled over to the checkout. I hope no one saw that. I surreptitiously glanced around. No one in sight except for the bored looking checkout clerk who I think was a senior who had nothing to worry about. His faded shirt didn’t look like it had been washed recently so I tried to breathe through my mouth, but he asked me if I wanted a bag. He would have thought I had some sort of problem if I only nodded, so I had to answer.

“Um, yes,” I answered, trying my best not to seem rude, but really? I had seven items (yes I counted correctly for once; the only math skill I seem to possess) of course I wanted a bag!

While the clerk silently put my items into the white plastic bag, I spied my mom walking into the store with a purposeful stride and an ice cold glare, her stylish fall jacket accentuating her silky auburn hair. I knew that my mom would never make a scene in public, so I raced to think of a way to delay the checkout clerk.

“Hey, um, so how much were the Mallomars?” I asked, purposely drawing out the question.

“Uh… they were $3.99,” came his slightly suspicious answer. I don’t think he got asked many questions in this job, and my question definitely came as a surprise to him.

“And if I were interested in joining the rewards program, would I have to pay for it?” I squinted at his cheap plastic name tag with a barely legible scrawl written on it. “And, Alex, what benefits would I get?” My mother had caught up to me by now and was standing next to me. I could practically feel the anger rolling off her in waves.

Alex was definitely confused now. “Well, you don’t have to pay to sign up, but I’ll need your email and or phone number.” He was speaking in the perfected speech that all store employees probably had memorized. “You will get storewide benefits, and rewards such as discounts on everyday items.”

By now, the hairs on the back of my neck were raised from the furious look my mother was giving me. I think Alex had figured out what was happening, based on the surreptitious glances he was giving my mom’s face.

“Would you like to sign up today, or would you like to hear more about the many benefits of the CVS ExtraCare rewards program?” he asked with a pointed look and a small smirk playing at the corners of his mouth.

“That’s ok, we can get going now,” my mother cut in smoothly with a voice that would seem polite to everyone but me. She whipped out a credit card from her clutch with perfectly manicured nails. Alex fell silent while she inserted the card and waited for it to process, tapping her high heeled boots on the floor obnoxiously loud. The slow machine finally finished, and my mom swirled the pen on the screen for a brief second before snatching up the bag and giving a curt nod to Alex. I hesitantly followed her, pausing only to ogle at the Jolly Ranchers on display near the exit. My mom stalked to the car, skirting around a particularly murky puddle. She unlocked the doors and gracefully settled herself into the leather seat.

I could feel the tension in the air; you could have cut it with a knife. Some awkwardly silent minutes later, I took a break from tapping my nails on the dashboard and shattered the silence.

“So….” I started guiltily.

My mom’s shoulders visibly tensed up, letting me know that I was in for it. We had reached home by now, so I pretended to be preoccupied with untying my laces and putting away my jacket. I silently padded up to the kitchen, plopping down at the island to wait for dinner, my stomach grumbling painfully.


There were fifteen minutes of peace in the house. I could usually be found in my bedroom, slaving away at my homework, but given that no one was home I took the chance to lose myself in some quality TV. Then I heard the garage open. Mom was back with Nat. I hurriedly shut off the screen, and made a mad dash to my bedroom, diving onto the bed and taking a nonchalant pose just as the door to my bedroom swung open to reveal a stressed looking Mom in the doorway.

“Hey, Luke. I got her- she was hiding in CVS,” she said tiredly.

I nodded, sighing inwardly. Natalie was being rebellious. Again. Why did you sneak out again? I think. Do you know how much Mom worries about you? Of course you don’t… you think Mom doesn’t care at all. She does, though. A lot. And you really freak her out when you do stuff like this.

Me, I’m the perfect child. After Dad left us, I kept it together, for Mom’s sake. I did what I was told, I didn’t argue with Mom, and my grades stayed constant. But my sister, didn’t. Her grades started slipping, her focus went onto all the wrong things, and she lost her motivation to do anything important. Mom and Nat have been at one another for the past year. Mom will scream at her for being on her phone too much, and then the next thing you know, they’re yelling about how Natalie is a disgrace to our family. Our broken family. It’s in little pieces, scattered around like glass shards on the street. Natalie’s waiting for Dad to come and pick up the pieces and glue them all together. Mom’s waiting for Natalie to attach herself back to us, and pretend that the bottle is back to normal, ignoring the way cracks that are inching up again and the fact that even the slightest gust of wind will send us into little pieces again, meaner and sharper than before. And me? I’m trying to work out how to put the shards back together, but I don’t want to get cut, but the pieces are oh so sharp, and one slip of my hand and I’ll get blood on me.

Michelle (Natalie and Luke’s mom)

I took out my anger by ripping off my unsuspecting stockings. I stood there in my bedroom, with my fists balled. Dinner had been icy, no one talking. Natalie never even made eye contact with me. Slowly, with every minute that passed without conversation, my heart had broken a little.

I automatically looked over at my dresser, at the framed drawing that filled me with love as I examined it. I gently stroked my fingers over the bright, childish colors of the crayon. Nat and I. My daughter and I.

Nat had drawn it, when she was five. She was sitting in her room, drawing it, not even letting me inside her room for fear that I would see what she was doing. The next day, Mother’s Day, I was awoken by small feet climbing over me. She had a frame grasped in one hand, and a plate of bacon and eggs, perched precariously on the bedside table beside me.

“Hi sweetie!” I had said, while stroking her hair away from her face.

“Hi Mommy!” she replied, so lovingly, so happily. “Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy!” She grinned, brandishing her drawing and suffocating me in a hug. It was me, wearing the red dress that she knew was my favorite (a beautiful red triangle), and her, beaming, hugging me with stick figure arms. Framing it was a baby pink frame, bearing the words ‘I love you’ and a teddy bear on it. I had kept it on my dresser ever since, and every day I looked at it before I left for work, to remind me that I loved my daughter and my daughter loved me. Loves me.

But lately, I had to constantly reassure myself of it. I often found myself questioning the fact, and my suspicions were only confirmed further when we had another argument. I reminded myself that my daughter was downstairs, sitting at the island. Safe. Home. But what did home really mean? Was home a place to relax and feel happy? For any of us? Luke, or Nat, or me, even? I would be kidding myself if I said yes.


My mother walked into the kitchen, and upon seeing me on my phone, immediately snatched it out of my hands.

“Wha..?” I was about to start complaining but I knew better than to fan the flames of an inferno waiting to be unleashed upon me.

“You aren’t getting your phone for two days, young lady. And if you have a problem with that, then maybe you should use your phone to text me your location once in a while!” My mother ended in a furious tone that left no room for argument. But, of course, being me, I found some.

“That’s so unfair! Why can’t I have a little freedom without you having to know where I am all the time?” I cried out, making the situation worse.

My mom’s eyes looked murderous. “I am your mother!” she yelled. “And I have a right to know where you are at all times in order to keep you safe! If you sneak off to CVS then how do I know where you are? There could be a terrorist attack in that building and I would think you are safe at home!”

I resisted the urge to roll my eyes but I couldn’t hold back the sarcastic retort that had been circling around in my head.

“Really? Would you really be worried? You don’t even love me.” I challenged vehemently. “I bet you would be glad that your stupid, worthless daughter is dead.”

She glowered at me, but her eyes looked glassy. “How dare you speak to me with that tone? I can’t believe you would think-” her voice wobbled and I couldn’t stay after I said that to her.

I stalked out of the room and slammed my door shut as hard as I possibly could. I curled up on the floor, regretting everything I had just said. Those aren’t words that you could just take back.

My mind kept replaying the way her eyes had looked, when I said that to her.

How could I?

All she had wanted was to know where I was!

One side of my mind tried to convince me that I was justified, and she was being overprotective. But it was fighting a losing battle, as my anger ebbed away and the weight of my words sunk in. I was trembling on the cold floor, with tears running down my face. Trying, trying not to think of my mother doing the same.

Before I could give the topic any more thought, the signature thumping of my younger brother came from outside the door.

“Nat?” came my brother’s voice through the crack at the bottom of the door.

Quickly wiping my face and pasting on a smile, I got up and opened the door to allow him in. With an awkward chuckle, he stepped in and flopped on my beanbag.

“That was…” he trailed off.

“You heard that?” I grimaced. I had forgotten all about Luke in my anger. I was afraid to meet his eyes, knowing they would be frosty and filled with hate. He would never love me again. Not after hearing me say that to Mom.

“They probably heard that in China.” He raised an eyebrow at me. “But they wouldn’t understand anything because they don’t speak English; they speak Chinese!”

I rolled my eyes and laughed a breathy laugh of relief while messing up his hair.

“You know for an eleven-year-old, you’re pretty stupid, Luke.” I grinned at him.

With mock indignation, he turned away from me and buried his face in my throw pillows.

“No!” I shrieked. “You’ll get all your face oil on them!” I yanked them out from under his face.

“Face oil? Really? That’s the best you could come up with?” He laughed and slid to the ground, landing on my plush white rug. “So, anyway, what’s the deal with you and mom?” he asked, turning serious.

Deflecting the question, I squealed instead “OMG, this is one of those rare occasions where you’re serious!”

Pouting at me he went back to his usual goofy state. Phew. I didn’t want to have to talk about that with him. Didn’t want him to think of me as a monster.

“Can you help me with my math homework though? Probability is weird.”

“You must be truly desperate to come to me for help,” I said, imitating Loki, my favorite Marvel character.

“Yes!” He laughed loudly. “Loki is awesome!” He bounded out of the room laughing and cheering all the way.

Giggling, I followed him into his messy room. I nearly tripped over the dirty laundry on the floor, catching myself on a low shelf, which in turn released a torrent of comic books onto the floor.

“Luke!” I howled.

He grimaced. He kicked the comics under the bed with a sheepish grin.

“How is it even physically possible that your room is so filthy?” I exclaimed.

He rolled his eyes and waded through the trash on the floor to what could be considered a desk. Hidden under a mountain of clothes, the custom designed desk was wedged into the corner of his room. On the other side was his bed, heaped with candy wrappers and his homework. I took a flying leap to the bed and I landed on top of him, unleashing a yell of indignation from his lips. I had loaded up on dinner, stress eating, and I probably weighed as much as a baby elephant. Half an hour later, Luke’s homework had been conquered, and I had almost forgotten about the war I waged with my mother. Almost.


My breath trembled as I exhaled. I was in my bedroom- I hadn’t bothered to shut the door, and I could hear everything that was happening in the room next to me. Giggles emitted from Nat’s high pitched voice.

She had probably forgotten about the whole meltdown in the kitchen. I hadn’t, though. Her last words still echoed around my head. I wasn’t sure if this was Natalie being her usual melodramatic self, but the words stung all the same. Was that really what she thought? That I didn’t love her? Had I shown that over the past three years? We certainly had had more disputes than bonding moments… in fact, we had exactly one mother-daughter talk in the past year. Truth be told, Natalie had always been a daddy’s girl. And when he left, to go with a stupid, brainless, bimbo who-

I exhaled sharply to stop myself. I shouldn’t let myself let carried away.

Natalie and her father could always be found together, giggling about something, making something. One week, they had decided to make a treehouse. Natalie had been ten years old, insisting that tree houses were cool. They started building it, and a few weeks later, Natalie had gotten bored. The wood lay, discarded in the tree, the rope ladder dangling uselessly in the wind. Then, the dreaded talk. We sat down both the kids and told them that their lives were about to be flipped upside down. Natalie cried. I heard her, every night, muffled sobs coming from her room. The second I went in there though, she would order me to leave her alone. Luke didn’t talk about anything. He would pretend as if nothing had happened. Every time I had insisted that we talk about it, he had responded with the same answer; “I understand, Mom. You and Dad didn’t get along. It’s okay.” Never being able to get anything out of him, I had slowly given up. Soon after, we became a three-person family. I caught Natalie in the garden, trying to build the treehouse on her own, hauling wood across the yard, drooping under the weight, but I didn’t want to interfere.

Natalie went to her first day of middle school. Luke went into fourth grade. Natalie caused trouble. Luke got amazing grades. Natalie was popular. Luke stayed a role model. And I didn’t think to talk to either of them. Not Natalie, the struggling teenager. Not Luke, the quiet elementary school kid.

Wow. Divorced, and isolated from your children. Not where I envisioned myself to be at this time in my life. With that cheerful thought, I rolled over and tried, unsuccessfully, to fall into the vacancy of sleep.

But I couldn’t help thinking about my kids. Take Luke for example. We had always been closer than Nat and I, going on expeditions to football games and parks together. When the divorce happened, I had spent more time with Nat, trying to pry out feelings and emotions. I had talked to Luke too, of course, but I had never given much thought to the fact that Luke’s answers never seemed realistic. It was always, “Yeah, I understand that,” and “I’m alright, you don’t have to worry about me.” Never answers that we had to talk about at length. And when he saw that I reacted positively to the answers he was feeding me, he realized that those kinds of answers would make me happy. So that’s how he always answered. Trying to please me, not wanting me worried.


I woke up with much difficulty. I lay in bed for a while, listening to the sounds of my mom in the kitchen. The sounds sent a shock through me as I remembered yesterday evening. Heaving myself out of the bed, I began my morning routine slowly. Glancing at the clock as I considered what to wear, my eyes widened in horror. It was 7:25! My bus would be here in less than five minutes! I quickly grabbed an outfit out of my closet, still shoving my arms through the sweater as I ran downstairs. I grabbed a protein bar and yelled a quick goodbye to my mom and Luke, then I slammed the door behind me and speed walked as best as I could with a backpack on to the bus stop.

I arrived just in time, noting the yellow bus turning the corner in the distance. The other kids eyed me, but I was too relieved to worry about them judging me.

It was Monday morning. Most people hated school. I didn’t. Not because I was super smart; I was not, to the despair of my mother. But in school, I was a different person. I was no longer Nat, who was a disappointment to her mom because she wasn’t responsible enough or hard-working enough. I was Natalie Mercier, the most popular girl in school.

My friend’s voice shattered my thoughts, and I came back down to earth in time to hear her say “So then she said no! She said she doesn’t want rejects from the queen bee!” Beth was looking right at me, obviously expecting a reaction.

“Oh my god!” I exclaimed too late.

Beth, not realizing my lack of focus, continued with her rambling talk, trailing off when she noticed me still staring behind her.

She snuck a look over her shoulder and blushed excessively when she saw who it was that I was staring at. A small smirk played at the corner of my lips in anticipation.

“H…hi Ryan!” Beth stuttered, her embarrassment showing on the tips of her ears as she beheld her crush.

“Oh…hey.” Ryan scratched awkwardly at the back of his neck, looking for a way to get out of this conversation.

Deciding against my better nature, I intervened.

“Hey, Ryan!” I exclaimed excitedly.

“Oh hi, Natalie!” He responded with a confused smile. Why was the most popular girl in school talking to him?

“So what are you doing after school today?” I asked, raising a perfectly arched eyebrow.

“Uh, nothing, why?” He asked me hopefully, thinking he knew what was happening.

“Well, Beth’s free too, and she’s been talking about you for a while, so…” I smirked at the disappointed expression on his face, and sashayed off, a crowd of wannabes already swarming around me. They began to talk about mundane, trivial things, not noticing when I zoned out.

Everyone knows me but no one knows me.

No one knows the insecure struggling teenager who goes by the name of an insect. No one knows the girl who only lives with her mom. The girl who was told to go visit her dad every month, but refused, because she wouldn’t swallow her pride. The girl who lost her relationship with her dad, and didn’t try to mend it before it was too late. The girl who doesn’t talk to her dad at all. The girl whose dad left her and now has another kid. The girl who only loves one person in the whole wide world. The girl who doesn’t love her mother, but loves her brother.

No, they know me as the sarcastic, stylish, pretty girl, hated by few, loved by most. And I’m confident. No one tells me what to do. No one can make me feel like the little child I know I am.



Hey. It’s me, Mom. Mama. Mommy. Do you remember when you used to call me that? Seems like a long time ago now. Another lifetime, really. The last time you called me that was when you were eight. You were still in that innocent age where everything is exciting and cool, and you didn’t really care what other people thought. Well, that’s a lie. You’ve always cared about what other people think of you. It’s one of your best and worst qualities. Don’t get mad at me for saying that; hear me out. It definitely makes you a better person. You’re different around others, and you strive to be the best so that others will like you. But sometimes you care too much. And you’ve become such a different person that I feel like I hardly know you anymore.

You think that I don’t care about you except for your grades. You think that all I want from you is a good daughter who also gets a great job and becomes successful in life. That’s true, I do want that for you in life. But I still love you, care about you, want to be there for you. I wish you knew that. I know that I’m not always there. I know that you and Luke have to be there for each other when I’m not. But if we all trusted one another, then we could be a better family, and we could all understand each other better.

Urgh. No. I couldn’t just write a letter for my daughter to try and make up with her. I balled up the letter and tossed it into the garbage. I should just tell her that, to her face. But would it be enough? That was the question. Would this be a solution for all our problems? Would the issue of her father just go away, like that? Would the broken relationships? The icy walls that everyone had put up? No, of course not. We still hadn’t confronted the whole issue together as a family. In fact, I had never really had a serious conversation with Luke about the whole topic. I grimaced inwardly. I hadn’t exactly been the star parent, ever since I became a single parent unit. You would think that it would be easier in some aspects; no other parent to go crying to when the other’s screaming at you, one tyrant- sorry, parent, in charge. Well, no better time than the present, right? I set my shoulders and lifted my chin up high. Today I would talk to my children. Properly.


The front door swung open and I glanced up in time to see my mother enter the room. She looked around and seeing that I was in the living room she smiled at me, before frowning at the TV.

“Luke! I told you no TV on weekdays, until you’ve finished your homework!”

“Sorry, mom,” I said guiltily, not meeting her eyes. My mother was a formidable force when she was angry, and no one wanted to experience that.

Nat walked into the room just then, excitedly exclaiming.

“Luke! I have time now if you want to play that game we were talking about before.” She noticed our mother standing in the doorway and immediately became stone-faced.

“Never mind.” She said with a bitter tone. “I shouldn’t be having any fun; I should only be doing work. Definitely not on a Monday afternoon.”

“Natalie,” Mom sighed exasperatedly. “We are going to have a family meeting at seven, so be ready in fifteen minutes.” Mom turned to leave the room but Natalie interrupted her.

“You mean like how it was before Dad left?” My sister’s voice had lost its meanness, instead it was filled with a sort of sadness and longing. Within seconds, however, she realized that her mask and slipped, and hastily rearranged her face into the stone cold look of anger again.

Mom sucked in a breath. I could tell she was remembering, and it pained her.

“Yes, exactly like how it was before Dad left, Nat,” Then Mom turned away, up the stairs, and into her bedroom.

I looked up at Nat from my position on the soft white couch.

“What do you think it will be about?” I asked her.

She opened her mouth, about to answer, before she realized that she was still fuming at our mother.

“Nothing. I don’t care.” Natalie left the room, leaving me with my thoughts, as usual.

I speculated the cause of the meeting. As Natalie had mentioned, we hadn’t had a family meeting since …the divorce. The separation. The splitting of our world. The disaster that destroyed our family, never letting it be whole again. When for the first time, as a young, sheltered eight-year-old, I had been overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with feelings.

I never shared them of course. Who would I share them with? My father was out of the question. He was gone, living with his girlfriend and his son in a little house in California. My mother, well, my mother was going through a lot. I couldn’t dump this whole load of feelings on her, could I?

So I didn’t answer her questions. She had asked me if I was doing okay. I always answered, “Yes, of course, I am.” She had talked to me about how life was going to change. About how Dad wasn’t going to be there anymore. About how it was ok to be angry, to be sad. I always answered, “Yes, I understand.”

Now, after watching movies, and reading books, I realize that I should have confronted my feelings. But, there was no way to do that. Sure, my best friend, but what would he know? His parents were getting along great. They were even expecting a baby. He could never relate to me. His family was perfect. His mom would offer us snacks, and then his dad would come home from work, and then they would hug, and the mom would ask the dad how his day was and they were all happy.

Who else could I talk to? Natalie, my sister. I don’t know for sure, why I never talked to her. But, truth be told, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to tell anyone how I was feeling. I don’t have secretive issues, like Nat, but sharing such a deep, important, personal part of my soul felt… weird. Those are my feelings, thoughts. Why should I share them with anyone? They couldn’t help me by talking. At least I didn’t think so, even though the evidence from movies and books were blaring in my face. But they would never apply to me.

Talking; does it help? Maybe for other people, but not me. I prefer to listen. To listen to other people’s stories, whose stories are more interesting, more exciting, more important. It keeps me safer. I don’t have to worry about people knowing my personal thoughts. Learning about other people, that’s what I like. Not telling people about my life. I would like to think it’s genetic. My mother bottles everything up, rarely talking about her feelings. And Nat is loud and unapologetic, but when it comes to things that matter, she’s secretive and no one can tell what she’s feeling. It’s a recipe for disaster, according to the laws of a family. We’re all supposed to be open with each other.

I read somewhere that family is the most important thing…

Is it really?


My nails dug into the couch, where I sat next to Luke. Family meeting…family meeting. The words haunted me. The last family meeting I attended had left me destroyed. I remember the swirling storm of despair and loneliness and anger, all bottled up inside me, coming out of me in teenage rants and rages. Only at home, of course. At school, I was a cool kid. I talked back to teachers and students, earning respect from almost everyone. I was cool, and everyone envied me. Few know that my parents are divorced, and the topic has rarely come up in conversations among my peers and I. No one at school knows how my home life is. They know I go on expensive vacations, and that’s it. They don’t know how my dad abandoned us, abandoned me. He promised me that he would always be there after I had a nightmare. But he lied. He did leave. And he wreaked a storm on our family.

Mom strode into the room, and I immediately snapped my head down and inspected my socks studiously.

She hesitated for a moment, before opening her mouth to speak.

“Luke, Natalie,” she gazed into our eyes respectively. Me second, of course I thought to myself angrily.

“We need to have a talk. As a family. I know that all three of us are naturally secretive. None of us opened up to each other, when…” she trails off for a moment. “When Dad left. And I know that none of us confronted our feelings, and we didn’t get over it-”

“Get over it?” I interrupted, angry tears springing to my eyes. “What do you mean, get over it?”

“That’s not the right word-” my mother tried in vain to explain to me. But I was on a rant now.

“We can’t get over it! Don’t you get it? Dad left! We’re not the same family we were before! Now we’re just three! We aren’t the same as we were before!”

My mother wasn’t saying a word, she just stared at me with an unreadable expression in her eyes. It seemed, almost…satisfied?

“Do you know how I felt when Dad left? Do you?” my voice dropped down to a shaky whisper. And then I opened my mouth again, and there was no damming the flood of emotions. And five years of feelings came rushing out.


I gaze at my daughter with a mix of admiration and wonder, urging her to go on.

“Why did he leave us, Mom? He said that he would always be there for us, but now he’s gone. He said he would never leave!” Her voice breaks, and my breath catches in my throat with the emotion in her voice.

“How did it make you feel?” I ask, my voice barely above a whisper. My mind flickers back to books I had read on children and divorce, remembering to not make any assumptions about what she’s feeling.

She hesitates, not sure if she could share these emotions. The familiarity of keeping secrets bottled up was a familiar feeling for me. I silently plead with her to answer the question, to release the feelings that she’s kept tucked away for five years.

She blurts out, “Sad.” she looks at me with tears welling up in her eyes.  “So sad. It was like half of my life was gone. I would come back from school, and no one would be waiting there for me. I would come home to an empty house, all alone. Luke was coming back from school, and you were at work. I couldn’t talk to anyone. And I used to go into your bedroom, and just sit there on the bed and cry.”

“Why didn’t you tell me any of this?” I ask gently, not wanting to break the spell.

Her head snaps up and the tears are gone, the only evidence that they were ever there are her puffy eyes.

“You divorced him! It was your fault! If you two had just gotten along, he would have stayed here! We wouldn’t even be having this conversation!”

I’m shocked into silence by the sudden mood change. I blink slowly at my daughter, standing in front of me, trembling with anger and the remnants of sadness. Her fists clench together tightly, the skin a pale white. She suddenly releases them, and her palm is indented with crescent moons.

“We can’t fix this without Dad! If he came back, everything would be sorted! We would all be happy, and we’d be talking and laughing all the time, instead of screaming and crying!”

“Natalie.” I interrupt, with a sudden sharpness in my voice. “Look at me. Dad can’t come back. So we’re going to have to find another way to solve this, without Dad. We can be a family, just the three of us. But to do that, we need to talk about what happened, so that we can put it behind us.” Natalie opens her mouth to interrupt, but I quickly finish my sentence before she can input any more into the conversation. “And go back to talking and laughing and being a family.”

“Yeah, we don’t need Dad to help us!” a voice chimes into the conversation. “We can do this on our own! We need to talk to each other, and help each other move on!” I try my hardest not to stare in shock.

It’s Luke.


I can feel Natalie’s icy cold eyes on me, and they’re daggers of intense hatred and disgust. I’ve never been the receiver of this frosty a glare, seeing it in action on others instead. It’s as terrifying as my mother’s withering look.

I gulp, nervously, before I continue.

“We don’t need to have Dad here to solve this problem. We can do it ourselves. If we all talk about how we feel, then we can help each other!” I quote directly from a book, not meeting my mother’s eyes, not wanting to see her incredulous expression.

“Did…did you get that from one of my books?” she watches me with creased eyebrows.

“Yeah…I used to go read them after…,” I take a harsh intake of breath. “I figured that I should find out all the information on the topic. I’d have a better success rate-”

“Success rate?!” my mother cries. “What do you mean, success rate, Luke? This is life!” I cringe at the harsh words.

“Well…” I stutter. “There was a problem; the divorce, and so I did my research; reading your books.”

“But Luke, that’s not how it works! Didn’t you pay attention to anything that the books said? We need to talk to one another!”

“But will that really help? I mean, what does talking ever do for anyone? Other people can’t help you solve your own problems…your own feelings!” I answer, doubting my logic even as I say it.

To my suprise, it’s Nat who speaks first.

“Luke,” she says, and my head whips around to look at her.

“I understand I’m a little hung up over Dad,” she corrects herself “a lot hung up over him. But, if we all talk about him, and how it wasn’t going to work out, I would get over it a little.” she seems to be talking to herself, realizing the truth of her words.

“When you talk to other people about your problems, you share what seems scary to you with someone else. And, yes, that’s a little terrifying. But…in the long run, it helps. They can help you, teach you. And in general, it just helps you cope with it. Hearing the words come out of your mouth, you realize things.” She finishes her little speech and she seems…lighter somehow. Her shoulders, once slumped, are now set back proudly. A small smile is growing on her face, and I haven’t seen it in so long that it makes me realize the truth in her words.

She’s right. It does help. I can see the evidence right in front of me. Not from a book, not from a movie, but from my sister, and for me, that’s all the proof I need.


As I say the words, it dawns on me that I’m not just spouting nonsense from one of Mom’s books, or one of the stupid assemblies on bullying. What I’m saying is actually true. With this realization, the weight that had been residing on my shoulders, dragging me down everywhere I went, lifted. The black cloud hovering above me lifted too. My lips started to turn upwards, the ghost of a smile playing on my lips.

I meet my mother’s shining eyes, and she’s smiling at me. Her eyes are so full of love, it’s almost radiating out of her. I offer a hopeful smile back in her direction, and her beam widens even more.

My eyes dart over to Luke, gauging his reaction. His face is morphing, from a timid, unsure expression to one of realization, probably mirroring my own.

And he opens his mouth and words come tumbling out, rushing, falling over each other in a mad rush to get out.

“Nat, you’re right. Thank you. For…” he decides to ditch the sappy speech and cut to the chase- what he’s really been feeling, all these years. His words pierce my soul, the meaning behind them, the emotions behind them having been shoved inside a forgotten closet, one no one bothered to check, but if they had it would have led to Narnia.

By the time he’s done, my eyes are wet, and Mom’s long gone; tears rolling freely down her face leaving sticky tracks.

“Luke, sweetheart, why didn’t you ever tell me any of that?” her voice breaks on the word tell, and I feel a tug at my heart.

“I… I didn’t want you to waste your attention on me,” I see my name start to shape on his lips.

“Luke!” my mother cries “It wouldn’t be wasting! Your thoughts deserve and need to be heard. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel otherwise!”

He opens his mouth to respond, no doubt something selfless again, then he hesitates and shuts it. When he speaks again, the word inspires such sadness in me that a lone tear runs down my cheek.


“Yes. Really,” my mother answers, her voice torn between disbelieving heartache, and a joy that I’ve not seen on any of our faces in a long time.

His eyes flicker up to both of us, and a small tentative smile breaks through. I smile back, a genuine one, filled with all the love I have in my heart and a little more than that.

You, Simply

The sunshine was hot and bright, reflecting on the stream like rippled fireflies. I could feel the world around me, moving, changing too fast. Sometimes I felt like it was moving without me, like it needed to move without me; like I was running and I couldn’t keep up. Jared walked slowly beside me as we made our way through the old, abandoned park.

“I notice how cynical you are, Karrie Rainier,” he remarked, feeling in front of him with his shiny, black cane. He smirked a bit. “Why?”

“There doesn’t have to be a reason for a person being cynical, Jared Hale. People just are,” I reasoned, chuckling to myself. I ruffled the back of his hair.

“Okay, let me reword it: why do you hate people so much? You don’t talk to all that many people besides Pema and me. What’s your thing against the world?” he asked. His voice sounded sweet and innocent, but also distant, and wondering. Jared was curious. It was his mission to truly seek people: who they were, who they were going to be. He wanted to know people like he knew himself.

Well, that was the only way that he could know people, through their personality. It wasn’t like Jared could see anyone, literally. He was blind. He saw through his fingertips and his mind and his hearing. He could feel, with his heart. Maybe that was why he asked so many questions, so he could see clearly enough. He had a chiseled face and fawn-colored hair, cropped neatly with a nice wave in the front. He was kind of pretty.

And me? I was Karrie Rainier. I could see just fine, and I think that was my biggest enemy.

How do I explain this? I guess you could say I was the bruised apple, or the broken window. I was the girl who would get passed by in the hallway and could hear the terrible things that strangers said about me as they walked by. I was the girl who would get on the weight scale and see the number that made me guilty until I couldn’t go back to sleep. I was the girl who read the magazines and the health websites and never got any better. I’m “undesirable.” “Imperfect.” “Ugly.”

I came up with an idea about it in my mind: I called it an ocean. I just kept sinking in it. I kept sinking in it because I was not worthy of swimming back up. No one would save me, they were willing to let me drown, probably because I wasn’t pretty enough to deserve life. Yeah, I simply stated it. I knew it. I knew what I was. I didn’t want to have to put up with lying to myself like most people do. Honesty was the right thing, right? That was why I was honest with myself. I was honest that I was a disappointment, and I wasn’t getting better.

To answer Jared’s initial question, I avoided people because they didn’t want me. They never did. I didn’t even want me. There’s no way I would tell him that, or so I thought.

I used to wonder why I was still here. Society silently discarded their undesirables, so why hadn’t I followed along? Wouldn’t it be easier to be in a place where I could feel…



Somewhere better than this god-awful place. Somewhere on land, not in my ocean. Maybe not even on land, but in the sky. That beautiful, heavenly place. So far, far away…

I stopped in my tracks, shaking away the frightful thoughts.
“Well?” he demanded playfully, smiling.

“You wouldn’t get it,” I warned. “Nobody does.” Jared punched me gently in the arm.

“I will, trust me,” he promised. While there was laughter and innocence in his honey-sweet voice, there was also truth. Reliability. I was like a puzzle to him, and he couldn’t quite piece me together. We had known one another for over a year now, and I still hadn’t opened up to him.

Would he think any different of me if I told him how I felt? Would he imagine me as some piece of shit? How did he see me now? How would he see me afterwards?

Then I realized, if Jared was really loyal, if he was really worth it, he would see me the same. Right? He wouldn’t care. I had to trust him. He would understand.

I would not replace his eyes with the eyes of society.

“Fine, I guess,” I promised reluctantly. “But you better not tell this to anyone.” But what would be an easy way to tell him? Would it ruin his innocence? His faith in the world? His faith in me?

I knew I was really, really overthinking it. It sounded more and more pitiful as it rolled over in my head. But the rock in my psychological ocean started to sink. Down, down, down…

Down into the deep pits of the midnight zone.

Past the sunken Titanic of feelings I don’t like sharing.

Down to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, where the horrible insecurities banished themselves.

And dizziness rang in my mind.

“Sometimes, I know, in the back of my mind, I feel… different,” I confessed to him. I felt my palms get sweaty and my cheeks get hot. If he could’ve seen me then, he’d probably have laughed at how uncomfortable I looked. He didn’t say anything, he just kept walking, not looking at me.

“I feel like I, well, I don’t quite fit in. Like, I was born not to fit in and everything I do makes me even more desperate.” I continued, “And nothing I do works.” The ocean of emotion started to rumble, making me feel seasick inside.

“I don’t quite get it,” Jared told me. His confusion startled me. I started wondering: what was that life like? Not knowing? Not feeling the social walls built around him? I realized how little I knew about Jared. Who was he? Why was he so…

Well, I wouldn’t say “perfect” was the right word. More like, pure? Or was he lying to me, to try to push me away. I wanted to know. What was behind the glassy, sightless eyes?

Unable to get the right question out, I continued to elaborate.

“I guess I feel like I’m not as pretty as people want me to be. I know, people tell me it’s not important. Judge on the inside and that’s what counts. But we all know that society tells you differently. Why else would there be a million diet options hovering around radio stations and magazines and on TV?” I found myself ranting. Damn it! Had I gone too far? Was Jared getting tired of this? That was when, of course, his words knocked me away. I didn’t know he would address the situation so beautifully, so gracefully. He opened his mouth to speak.

“Have you ever heard the saying, ‘beauty is the eye of the beholder?’” he asked curiously.

“I mean, maybe on the Twilight Zone but probably nowhere else,” I started.

“Well, I guess it means that what you look like doesn’t matter in the long run because everyone sees you differently,” Jared explained. “Like, there’s no point in conforming to society. There’s no exact definition of pretty, you know?” I tried to understand, but I felt like I had heard the same lecture before. I didn’t know exactly what anyone meant when they said that. It was the default phrase, an overused lecture.

“Jared, you can’t be naïve,” I murmured. “I think we all know — ”

“No, wait, hear me out. Think about it. Some people can’t see, and we still have valid opinions. I think that counts for something.” He started talking louder. I could hear the truth singing in his clear, low voice. He had a point, and I still didn’t understand. But somehow, I felt like he really, genuinely wanted to show me something I had never heard before. Curious and frustrated, I pushed on.

“I’m not trying to offend you or anything, but I don’t think you see it,” I tried to reason. Jared fiddled with his hand. He exhaled.

“I think I see it,” he said, almost to himself.

“Yes, but I feel personally like I’m not good enough. Like, I can see. A lot of people can see. What they see is me. Just me,” I scoffed, running my hands through my hair. I felt a bead of sweat.

“Yeah, but that doesn’t matter is what I’m saying,” Jared argued. I didn’t know what to say. I bit my lip.

We had reached a little gazebo by a stream, where Jared sat down. I stared into his glassy, sightless eyes and wondered what he was seeing. What he was trying to make me see.

“I know we’re both confused about each other,” Jared pointed out. “Me being blind and all, and you, with your problems.” He said it so bluntly, but it was still gentle. It didn’t hurt when he said “problems.” It might’ve been the beautiful softness and gentleness of his tone.

“I just don’t understand what you’re trying to convince me of. Or how you’ve never felt different or excluded… ” I began.

“Well actually, I guess I wasn’t clear before. I have felt different or excluded,” Jared admitted. The pain in his voice made me upset. I almost wanted to fight all the demons in his head, face-to-face. They were not allowed to hurt him. It also made me realize that Jared was battling his own fights. He just fought them differently than I did.

“What do you mean?”

“I felt different before, but maybe when I said I don’t really get it, I don’t get how people think those things are so bad.” His words just confused me. But he kept talking. “I guess being excluded taught me the beauty of being blind. I was different. Yeah, I couldn’t go anywhere without a little extra help, and I’ve never been able to read like a normal person, but also something else. While everyone else was judging people by their looks, writing diet tips in magazines, editing false images, I’m only exposed to words and actions and feelings. Looks are totally void to me.”

I listened curiously. I felt like I was starting to grasp it, what he was telling me.

“I know that whatever voices in your head are telling you that you’re ugly don’t have to matter. I know that you can live your life only seeing what is inside. I see people for who they are. And I think you should too,” he explained. Pause. Silence. Thoughts and contemplations.

Suddenly, when I looked into those glassy eyes again, a whole new meaning emerged. Jared was not sightless. He could see everything. Everything that truly mattered. I could not speak. I could only feel the connection between his eyes and the truth. Jared was not blind. He just saw a little differently. Through one small conversation, the only one that mattered, he showed me this new idea.

“Jared, I never knew you thought of it this way.” I noticed that my voice had lost its hardened, cynical tone and came out quiet. My own voice, sounding unfamiliar. Possibly because I was taking up most of my energy thinking about myself. Realizing, maybe, I could be beautiful to somebody, because their opinions are valid too.

Or not really. Not in the obvious way. But Jared, he must’ve imagined me beautiful. If he cared about me that much because of the way I am, am I beautiful? If he analyzed my personality as beautiful, would that make me beautiful too? It was a weird thing to wrap my head around. Being beautiful.

I had never been beautiful before. Or maybe I had. Maybe all this time, I was beautiful in ways I did not realize. Me: beautiful. Me: pretty. Me: desirable. Maybe I was worth it. Maybe whatever creator up there blessed me with this incredible life because I was worth it.

Back in my metaphorical ocean, I stopped sinking. I felt myself suspended in this one moment of time, unable to quite understand anything. It was that moment of thought, when nothing moved except for the heart in your chest and the blood in your veins.

Suddenly, I saw a light at the surface of my emotional ocean. A boat. A hand reached down from the boat, prompting me to grab on. Was it worth swimming back up? Trying to clean up my emotional mess? Or should I just keep sinking? Should I conform?

No. Because I was beautiful and worth it and good. Jared reassured me of that. I was something I should fight for.

I could feel my head reaching the surface of the water, and I could breathe again. Even if just for a second, I felt free. Free from my anxiety, free from society, free from my ocean of self-doubt. I smelled the fresh, salty air of self-acceptance.

I knew it would be a long journey back to the land. But Jared had started the journey for me. My journey to self-acceptance, the one thing that I might’ve needed. If I could will myself to swim all the way to the land, even if it would take me years, it would be a story that would change me and maybe the world forever.

I sat in that gazebo with Jared at my side. Never before had his poetic, aesthetically pleasing way of life affected me this much. This boy, this boy who I had hardly known. This boy who was not blind but was the best seer of the age.

“Thank you.” Those were the only words I could squeeze out of my mouth. And then, the long pause of silence. The blind boy who could see. The girl with the underrepresented body who was beautiful. That was who sat under the gazebo. We were proud, even just for one moment. One little string of time.

“Karrie,” Jared interrupted. I liked hearing my name. Something I thought people cringed at saying. My name sounded nice, like it was meant to be said. We looked at one another, no words exchanged. We both knew that neither of us had much more to say. Just think.

I guess I walked away from that gazebo and that day a little differently. It still loomed somewhere in my mind, maybe forever, but the rest of my life slowly started to change. I noticed it change, even when I got home from that walk. It kept changing with each passing day.

I ate more, a healthy amount. I would exercise but not force myself to pass out. Maybe I even opened myself up more. Just a little. Still, it was change. It was change if I ever saw it.

Sometimes I still look in the mirror and see the self-conscious girl who would only wear baggy clothes and who would cover up her face with her hands. The girl who was submerged in her own water. Don’t get me wrong, she’s still there.

But she at least had something else in the back of her mind, that while society’s expectation seemed so real, it was really fake. Some people lived wonderfully without it. Some people whose eyes work just as well. They might just see some things in a different light. So even if she was still there, she had something to look to.

I never forgot that walk. I never forgot those silky words that helped me escape my ocean of dread. I never forgot peeking out of the waves for the first time. That day told me that living another day is an accomplishment itself.

I didn’t want to go somewhere else. I didn’t want to fly away with all of society’s discards. Because I was more than that. Everyone was more than that. Jared helped me to see that.

Slowly, I cut through the blue waters. The land was getting nearer. Not the sky, the sky can wait. No, I wanted to live. On the land. That was where the other girls who needed help were waiting.

If I were to reach out to another girl, maybe my age, who was struggling and fighting and just couldn’t catch her breath, I would probably tell her something like what Jared told me:

That she is everything she thought she wasn’t good enough to be and more. Her ocean’s surface isn’t far away. Sometimes the world will ask for you, changed.

But really, all you have to be is you, simply.


Damaged World

The light was just coming up while Abby Red crept along the side of the river. The cries of the werewolf echoed in the distance. Glaring out of narrowed eyes, she hid behind a tree as the werewolf slunk past her. Abby breathed out.

“Abby, are we ‘afe?” her little brother Theo whispered, his front toddler teeth still somewhat nonexistent. She was about 15, her little brother about five. He looked up at her with wide brown eyes, his dark curls bouncing in the soft breeze. Abby’s eyes widened as she noticed the movement, grabbing Theo’s hand and pulling him along the path to town. She stopped after a while, licking her finger and holding it up to the breeze. Theo watched her intently.

“It’s going… east. Okay.” Abby glanced down at Theo. “Our scents will be blown to the werewolf, and then where will we be?” Abby looked up and screamed, shoving Theo out of the way. He tumbled to the ground, looking ahead just in time to see Abby get snatched up by the werewolf.

“ABBY!” he yelled.

“Run!” she shouted to him, kicking the werewolf so it would drop her. “Liam, this isn’t you!” she yelled at the werewolf, breathing quickly. “Let me go!” Theo couldn’t look away as the werewolf bit Abby, tearing her up and throwing her to the ground. Theo got up and ran, yelling for help from the other warrior patrols that were stationed out in Foxtail Forest. At last, he got to the Thundersong’s base, unable to get out any words but “dead.” Patrols went out to look, but they didn’t see anything besides a large amount of fur and a huge claw stuck to a tree.


Chapter One

I live in a damaged world. My old town, which I can’t remember anymore because I was barely one year old, burned to the ground when a group of pyromaniac elves got hold of Yoli County’s flint and steel supply. My old city’s inhabitants left when the famous Foxtail Forest werewolf, formerly known as Liam Towers, attacked Abby Red and we had to evacuate. Now I live with the Thundersong, a group of amazing people who are all dedicated to defeating evil. My dream in life is to be a warrior of the highest order. To be honored and respected. For people to know my name all over the world.

“Alexa! Are you up?” I look up sharply from my careful writing, accidentally smudging the last word in the paragraph.

“Yes, whoever you are, I am up. I was just finishing the summary of my entire goddamn life.” My little sister Katherine struts into my room, wearing a brand new, stretchy fighting suit. She’s about 11. My mother died just after she was born, so the only memory I really have of my mother is her brown, curly hair. I inherited it. Kathy twirls around, grinning at me, and I raise an eyebrow.

“What do you think?” she asks eagerly.

“Sweet,” I say, shutting the door to my tiny room in the Thundersong base. “Who got that for you?”

“Jacob. He’ll make one for you, too, if you want.” I shake my head, leaning back on my chair and putting my legs up on the desk. My room is one of the bigger ones, with oak paneling and a rug made from wool. I actually have windows to the outside. My bed probably has the best sheets, except for the hospital room. My desk is one of my prized possessions, except for my leather gripped daggers. One of them, which I never use, has a real ruby on its pommel. I’m a skilled knife fighter. It’s my calling card.

To the fighting suit I say, “Nah, that’s fine. Purple isn’t really my color.” Kathy moves my head up a little and ties my dark brown curls up in a ponytail. Most people at the Thundersong northern base have dark hair and dark eyes, skin of all colors, but I’ve never seen somebody with blonde hair and blue eyes up here. I myself have hazel eyes, a healthy mix of brown and green. Different people see different colors, usually — I like to ask.

“Okay, then. He could make one in blue or something,” Kathy says about the suit. She knows better than to press me, on anything, letting the subject drop after the last sentence. “Alexa, did you know that Theodore Red is going to join the Northern Thundersong base? I’ve heard he’s hella dreamy.”

“Theo Red?” I repeat, incredulous. “But… doesn’t he… he has post-traumatic stress disorder. Right? I mean, he saw his sister get bitten by a werewolf only miles from here.”

“I would think he has PTSD, it makes sense. But rumor has it — and this time the rumor is correct — that yes, Theodore Red is coming up North.”

“Wow,” I breathe, exchanging a look with my sister. “That’s actually pretty cool. He’ll have the best room in the base. Ya know, his sister was an honored warrior. And when she got bitten, Theo started training right away, so now he’s a really important person. At least he was, until he moved down to the South base and had to start all over again.”

Kathy finishes with my hair, handing me a mirror she got from one of our friends in the South.

“So, you’ve been working on your writing assignment?” Kathy asks me, peering over my shoulder to see what I’m doing. I nod, handing it to her.

“Yeah. I accidentally smudged the bottom word, but I’ll turn it in anyway. See how I do.”

“It’s a competition, right?”

I roll my eyes.

“Obviously. So apparently I win a training lesson with some really skilled dude. He’s only really skilled if his — ”

Somebody screams from down the hall. I’m on my feet in an instant, grabbing my shotgun and racing down the hall. My sister stops in her room to grab her katana. Adrien Young from the downstairs boys dorms comes sprinting up the stairs as we’re going down, causing a slight collision.

“What’s going on?” I yell, struggling to regain my balance without shooting anyone.

“I don’t know,” Adrien says, breathing heavily. “I just ran out of there. I think it’s a mutant or something.”

“Mutant what?” I demand, grabbing Adrien before he can run out.

“I don’t know!” he wails. I shove him and Kathy, and I run down, out into the main hallway. It’s a mutant, all right. Two huge wolves, no doubt from Foxtail Forest, are circling two of the youngest recruits of Thundersong.

“Eloise and Brianna,” Kathy tells me, looking pretty heroic in her new fighting suit. Her katana has a new handle cover, and it’s pretty awesome. “Hang on guys, we’ll be right with you!” she yells to the other girls. Brynn, Lee, and Josh are already there, trying to figure out a way to distract the wolves. Brynn tosses her black braid, pacing just like the wolves when she sees me. As I mentioned before, I’m a very skilled warrior, if I do say so myself, and I am respected. I worked hard to be where I am today. I started from basically nothing, joining the Thundersong just a little after the Abby Red scandal when I was seven.

“Okay, Alexa, what’s the plan?” Ross asks me, coming beside Kathy and me.

“I’m not sure,” I reply. “I want to try get someone on top of the wolves, and then we can try to stab them. Once one is down, the other one will either run — ”

“And we pursue it and kill it.”

“ — Or we trap it and find out how it got so… big and ugly.” Kathy laughs. Ross nods pensively.

“I think Kathy’s pretty nimble.”

“No, she’s not getting up there,” I say protectively, flinching when I imagine Kathy getting either thrown off the giant wolf or maimed by it.

“Got it. Katherine, run across the room and tell Brynn, Lee, and Josh what the plan is.” Kathy nods, zipping across the room and talking quickly to Brynn.

“Stay!” I yell. “I’ll go up!” I hand my shotgun to Ross. “Throw this to me once I’m up there.” Closing my eyes, I bend my legs and run. I leap on top of one of the wolves, just barely getting onto its back and getting a good grip. Ross hurls the shotgun up, but I miss it, just barely. The wolf howls, bucking wildly, and I yell in spite of myself. “Oh, God,” I mutter. I grab one of its ears, hanging on with my left arm while I try to reach my dagger at my belt. People are yelling, but I can’t focus on what they’re saying. Cursing softly, I grab my dagger and struggle to cut its neck deep enough. It yowls with fury as I score its neck, cutting the skin just barely. Desperately, I sink my knife into the wolf’s neck and surrender to gravity. I land on the floor nimbly, glancing up and feeling almost like I’m in an action movie. People clap, and I smile slyly to myself as I get to my feet. My ankle cries out in protest as I put weight on it, but I ignore it.

“Alexa, what was that?” my sister demands, running over to me furiously. “We all thought you’d fall off. Or die!”

“But I didn’t,” I say easily, brushing off my legs. “Nope, on the contrary, I killed one of the wolves.” Kathy rolls her eyes. “Let’s just focus on the last wolf.” We look up at the other giant wolf. It’s starting to fidget nervously, ticked off by the death of its friend. Brynn and Lee are taking turns slashing its legs and tail. By now, more warriors have arrived, including the heads of the North Thundersong unit, Jack Miller and Liana Beacon. Their son, Matthew, is my age and one of my closest friends.

“Dean, what’s going on?” Jack demands. We’re actually friends outside of battle, but right now he has to call me by my last name. I quickly salute the pair of superiors, explaining the situation with tense terms. The other warriors have caught the wolf and have it tied up in a corner. Matthew, who must have joined the fight, runs up to his parents and me.

“Should we kill it, Miller?” he asks formally, running a hand through his dark brown hair.

“Don’t kill it. We’ll do some experiments on it. But we do have to have it hidden somewhere before Mr. Red comes. I don’t think he would appreciate the sight of a mutant wolf,” Liana interrupts.

“Do we maybe have a spare building we can put it in?”

“We can put it in the empty basement,” I suggest. Liana nods, calling a couple warriors over and giving them orders to drag the wolf away.

“Are we going to try to shrink it down again?” Matthew asks.

“I guess? We’ll figure it out.” Liana and Jack walk away, leaving Matthew and I alone in the middle of the battlefield.

“Hey,” he says, as I start to walk away. “Did you start working on that writing assignment?”

I nod, turning around. “Yeah. What did you write for it?”

“Eh, just some crap about how I’ve lived with the Thundersong all my life. Honestly, I don’t know what they expect from me, that I came from three different villages and six different cities and that I want to be a blacksmith?”

I laugh. “What about you?” I’m about to answer when Matthew answers himself. “Actually, let’s head up to my room.”

“Okay, let me just grab my dagger from that wolf.” I quickly run and grab the dagger from the wolf’s neck, cleaning it off with my sleeve and sticking it in my belt. We walk together up the spiral stone staircase. “So, basically I wrote about how I came to the Thundersong. It’s not that interesting.” We turn left, scouting our way through the boys dorms and coming up to the biggest one. I love Matthew’s room. It has the most amazing bed, with giant windows that open to the forest. He has a dark brown rug with the Thundersong logo on it, a golden eagle with a silver lightning bolt going across it and a silver circle around the whole thing. I have one too, but it’s just a tapestry. I flop onto Matthew’s bed, staring up at the ceiling.

“I’d love to read it sometime,” he says, grabbing my ankle and pulling me off the bed. I flinch as my foot twinges again. He tries to discreetly pull his sword out, testing my reflexes, but my dagger flies out and blocks the sword. Matthew sighs playfully, tossing the sword casually to the side. Its rubber cover makes it bounce harmlessly off the floor.

“En garde,” he says, smirking. I smile, holding my ankle close to my chest.

“I need to go to the hospital room. I banged my ankle when I fell off the wolf.”

Matthew grins.

“Say no more.” He leans over, scoops me up in his arms, and we head down to the medic center. I laugh, hanging out of his embrace. He laughs too, grabbing my dangling arms. Our relationship is so easy because we’re nothing but friends, and probably won’t be anything more.


Me, the Woman and the Man

In the corner of an illuminating empty, dull, gray room, I stand with pale hands that shiver like a shower in mid-December, shaking like the earth I am on. All over this neighborhood are factories, left to right. There is not a single park here. The smoke stacks develop into the sky like an evil crop of corn, and they give off these fumes which cover many of our homes with dust. It almost looks as if I had put black paint on my hands and rubbed it all over miniature, lego-like houses.

Who am I? I ask myself. The idea of not having anyone with me, by my side, is destroying me.

And yet, to this day, I still get these dreams — very vague and foggy — of when I was eleven years old and on a planet similar to Earth, but one that was rust and sepia-colored, and dusty.

The dream started with a woman talking to me…

“Bellumy, we’re finally here — we can start a new life,” this woman told me with a relieving voice and brown eyes which were oddly familiar.

“Where are we… ?” I stated with that sweet wonderful voice. “Are we going home now?”

This is our home now,” she cried.

As soon as I hear the word ‘‘home,’’ I always wake up from my foggy day dream and find myself on a piece of rock I would call Earth. I feel as if I haven’t had a drink of water in years, and my mouth is drier than the Sahara Desert. The sweat from my armpits and forehead reach my feet like an appalling waterfall.

“Oh my God, Bellum! You are sweating like crazy,” a nurse worryingly states. “Here. Drink some water… you’re dehydrated for god’s sake.”

“I am so sorry, Adjútor, I had those nightmares again.”

“I don’t have the time for it. I have to clean your mess,” she yells.

I want to tell her my weird dreams of this woman calling me honey or little sunshine, but I can not bring myself to it.

“Why don’t you care?” I question.

“You can always tell me but not right now. I need to clean your room while you’re eating lunch,” she explains.

“Aren’t you going to have food with me Adjútor?” I ask.

“What did I just say? I will talk to you about your dreams later, after I am done with cleaning your room. So just get your butt up and eat your lunch,” Adjútor commands me to do.

One day I will leave this wretched, scummy place, and I will leave and go somewhere better… somewhere where I belong. There is this program, a program that fixes damaged brain tissue and replaces a broken micro chip with a new one. Well you see, I have had a broken chip since I was ten years old. These microchips are implanted in every baby that was born after 2025. The MCO’s, or MicroChip Organizations, are made in various versions. For example, some improve the brain for those who are mentally challenged or have other physical disabilities. Still, others were implanted in the brains of those who’ve migrated to other planets as a backup plan to ensure the safety for every person adapting to a new environment.

When I was born, I had these tremors. Theses tremor are an involuntary, rhythmic muscle movement. These movements are often back-and-forth actions of one or more body parts.
Most tremors can affect the hands. However, tremors can occur in the arms, head, face, vocal cords, trunk and legs. Other children like me with tremors often have back-and-forth or oscillating body movements. Kids also like me have a shaky voice. Tremors can affect fine motor coordination, such as writing and gripping objects. Tremors become more severe and may be triggered when I am stressed or feeling strong emotion.

Ever since my chip was broken, a point at which I did not remember, there was a sudden increase in my tremors. I needed a nurse to take care of me. She was annoying at first. She never listened to me and never wanted to talk to me. Now, she’s both annoying but empathetic, too. Some days she seems to care, and yet on others she does not because she is busy with some kind of work.

My tremors don’t prevent me from doing work, like delivering pizzas or even taking customers’ orders down. You see, I am currently enrolled in physical rehabilitation program, which simulates real world jobs for people who lost motor skills who want to get a job in the real world. I cannot work in a stressful environment or my hands shake like they do when I get those dreams. Each day I work, I get more exhaustion and more rest. That sounds like a contradiction, but my over-tiredness helps me enjoy my time sleeping in bed much more.

A few nights later, the same old dream initiated in the peace of my subconscious with the woman droning on and on…

“Bellumy, we’re finally here — we can start a new life,” the woman had told me with a relieving voice.

“Where are we… ?” I stated with that sweet, wonderful voice. “Are we going home now?”

This is our home now,” she cried as I could see the reflection of hills in her brown eyes.

Who was this woman? Why is she haunting my dreams? What home is she talking about? I need to get my chip fixed; I need these nightmarish dreams to go away.

I immediately need to ask a doctor to fix my chip so I can get this dream off of my mind for good. I alight off my hospital bed and go on a mission to find the doctor that can help me.

Running faster than the Flash, I collide with my nurse.

“Bellumy are you okay?” Adjutor worriedly asks. “You can’t leave your… ”

“I am leaving this place… I need to look for the doctor who can fix the chip,” I yell at her, pointing to my brain.

I do not want to even talk to her — I just need to find the doctor.

“Calm down, Bellumy,”Adjutor whispers right in front her boss.

“Who is he? Can he fix my chip?” I shout.

“Bellumy, I’m Dr. Medicus, I need you to come with me,” a man with broad shoulders and chin politely asks.

“Bellumy, the chip you’re talking about is causing a decline in muscular movement. This prevents you from doing certain day to day chores,” Medicus informs.

“Sir, is it possible to change the chip?” I curiously ask.

Giving me a contract, he states, “Well, yes, but there is a long waiting list — you would have to wait a couple of weeks.”

“These chips are meant for babies and can only be repaired for babies; it will be dangerous,” Adjutor worriedly states.

I had a lot to consider about this issue.

As the weeks passed, I kept getting those nightmarish and dank dreams. Every day I have to hear ‘this is our home now.’ However, the thought of having my brain chip repaired helped me leave my room with a smile on my face, slowly realizing that I can have a better life without these nightmares. Goodbye brown-eyed woman, I shout in my head.

And then it happened.

One unusually sunny day, the doctor came with the news I was waiting for.

He stood in the doorway like a smiling scarecrow and simply asked, “Are you ready?”

I didn’t have to answer, but he knew what I was going to say.

I slowly entered the surgery room. It was so silent, but the machines were humming, and the oddly shaped tools were shining like the sun on the horizon of some new wonderful land while the nurses were looking at me.

“Sit here,” Medicus commands.

I couldn’t say anything. I was shocked that something this thrilling would ever happen to me. So they gave me anesthesia, which is the injection of drugs before surgical operations which puts people to sleep.

After the surgery, I had to rest and couldn’t do anything physical. I had to sleep and eat through an IV tube.

My mind felt very calm as if this was a sign from God that I am disconnected from my pain. But that feeling of being released from the pain was soon to be crushed by the same repetitive dream and the same brown-eyed woman. However, this was not a dream — it was longer, a man appears to be next to the same brown eyed woman…

“Bellum, do you know where we are?” the man asked me. “We are on Mars.”

“Bellum, let’s go to our new rooms,” the brown-eyed woman ordered politely.

With a happy, relieving voice, the man exclaimed, “This is our home now, I hope you love it.”

“Are you ready to go to school today?” the man asked.

“Yes, I am going to school,” I firmly replied.

I got ready and rushed to the door and leapt towards this floating car that had been given to us by the government.

Hours had passed since I was dropped at this building — so bright, white, and hovering over the entire colony of Mars. This building is like a 6-foot tall man compared to a toddler.

At the end of the day, I saw the same people who had dropped me here, and then I heard an explosion, so loud it shattered my ear drums and broke every bone in my body.

I heard a loud scream echoing through my head saying “Bellum” over and over again.
Even while asleep in this dream like state, this new influx of “dreams” felt real… not like dreams at all.

I woke up, but felt more sweaty and felt more dehydrated than ever before. Suddenly, I remember the rooms filled pictures of me — the woman and the man. We are hugging near these reddish hills; these were not like the ones on Earth which are grassy and green. Slowly trying to sit up, I immediately dropped down to the center of the bed.

I woke up the next morning, relieved that it was all over, and I desperately need to talk to a psychologist or someone like that. My dreams are getting more intense.

As soon as I saw Dr. Medicus, I tried to ask him if he could give me someone I can talk to about my feelings. Medicus gave me a number to this psychologist — her name was Sandra Hollingworth.

Later this week, I met with her, discussing my dreams and describing them with great detail. I notice something strange. She has these tiny tears slowly running down her face. She hands me this newspaper with the headline, Tragedy On Mars 2055.

“Read this article. Take your time,” she offers. Clearly she had lost someone and is still mourning because of this incident on “Mars.”


I grab the newspaper and skim it. There was nothing until I come to a picture of a kid, a brown eyed woman and a man. The woman was laying down with all torn clothes and bruised; the man is all bloodied up, eyes closed and grasping for life. Then, the kid is on his knees, tears down his face and fist clenched.

“Do you recognize the lady and man in the picture?” she asks. “Are these the people that were in your dreams?”

“Yes, she is the one that says, ‘This is our home,’ and the man is just a man!” I exclaim.

“These aren’t dreams, these are memories. You had experienced a very traumatizing event, and your brain had cancelled these memories,” she explains to me.

Wait a minute? I thought to myself. The woman in this picture looks like the woman in my dreams, and the man looks like the man in my dreams that had occured not too long ago. The kid looks just like me but only tiny and skinny. The woman has the same color eyes as me, same jawline, same nose shape… same everything.

“Uh — can I go back?” I had wondered.

“Well, yes. Things have changed; those who were injured or survived the 2055 accident can have a free pass back,” she continues to explain. “All the necessary changes have been made to the Colony I, so it is safer to live there.”

I completely ignored what she said, and I packed my bags and rushed out the hospital.

There had to be something more than a hospital bed, solitude, and empty terrestrial life. My destiny lay in another place… one that was red, familiar, and the resting place of the “brown-eyed” people I love.



There were many documented experiences of people who survived the voyage from Germany and other war-affected countries to America, but this is one that truly stood out. This is the story of a six-year-old boy named Yanek Levine, who journeyed to America by boat at the age of 10…


It all started the day Mother insisted that we wore bands with a star on our arms and pins on our school uniforms. Mother told me that it meant that I was extra special and not to ever take it off. My three best friends whose fathers were often picking up their tailored suits at my father’s shop no longer talked to me. While I was inside reading a book with my papa, my friends Louis, Leon, and Noah were with their fathers on the street corner, monitoring our neighborhood where everybody wore an arm band. Except for them.

In the coming weeks, even more stiff soldiers with red armbands began lining our streets. Every time we passed them, Papa squeezed my hand extra tight, and I did the same to him because I thought it was a game. When I went to Papa’s tailor shop with him, the same soldiers walked in to pick up their uniforms, but Papa did not seem to take any money like he usually did with other customers, and he didn’t smile either.

The tension really started picking up when Papa and Mama were making latkes for our neighbor’s Bar Mitzvah. As I was getting ready for bed, we received a knock on our door from our neighbor, Henrike. He muttered something in Hebrew to my father. Immediately afterward, Father pulled his yarmulke off of his head and clutched it in his fist, close to his heart. I slowly stepped back into my room, and all that I could hear was the wailing sounds of the sirens and the piercing sounds of bombs cascading through the sky and falling around us. Moments later, stern German words from angry Nazi soldiers invaded my home. I wondered if they were the same Nazis that watched our every move. As I was hiding in the closet of my room, the voices became louder and louder. I could see the tip of a rifle poking my belongings. From the kitchen I could hear my mother screaming my father’s name in Polish —

“Wake up! Wake up!”

Then a bang suddenly silenced her too.


When there were no more polished boots shuffling around my flat, I climbed out of the broken window and onto the street where the smell of fire filled the air and ash trickled down from the sky. Giant trucks drove past me loaded with frightened people anxiously wondering where they were headed. I knew my mother told me never to take the armband off, but I felt the need to. I ran past Papa’s tailor shop, but found that it had been destroyed. I stood motionless, staring at what was left of his humble business, until I heard loud men screaming in German and dogs barking rabidly. I ran and ran until I reached the Baltic Sea, which was several miles away from my home. I sat near the edge of the ocean and from my pocket I pulled out a latke that my mama had given me before I went to my room. I began to eat it. With every bite, I thought of her more, and my heart felt heavy with memories. In the haze and confusion of the night, I fell asleep.

I was abruptly woken up by the sound of a man yelling from a boat. I quickly got up and almost ran in the opposite direction because I thought the soldiers were coming after me, but the man threw a blanket in my direction, so I sensed he was nice. I was still a little uneasy, so I slowly walked over to him. All of a sudden out of nowhere a little kid appeared from behind him. He was speaking German. I couldn’t really hear what they were saying, but I grabbed the blanket as the father reached his hand out toward me and pulled me onto the boat. On the boat, I studied the little boy and noticed that he looked about my age and had blonde hair and blue eyes unlike me. My curly brown hair fell just above my green eyes. The boy, Abe, motioned me downstairs to the bottom of the boat where other Jewish families were quietly huddled together. We arrived at nearby location where we picked up another woman. The lady grabbed Abe and gave him a kiss. His eyes lit up, and I could sense she was his mom. I saw their warm exchange and felt a sense of jealousy because I yearned for the safety of my mom’s arms. The kind man docked the boat in front of a small stone house. He aided everyone get off the boat. We all walked up a pathway where the mom took everyone else into a bunker and told Abe to bring me inside their home. Abe initially just looked at me but did not respond.

The mom became firm and said again in German, “Take him in the house now!”

Once we arrived in the house, they set me up in Abe’s room with him.

That night as we ate dinner around the table, the mom in a soft voice said, “You are one of us now too.”

As the dad looked over, he stopped eating his mashed potatoes and rustled my hair and smiled.

After one year of finally settling into my new life, news got out that the Nazis were starting to invade nearby towns. Fearing that we were in danger, we got back onto the boat with the other families who had been staying in the bunker. As we set sail, the water became choppy, and ships started coming our way. One ship came too close and overturned our small boat. Before we knew it, we were tied up to a post on the larger German ship. The ship quickly docked and brought us to a camp that I now know was constructed to work us to death. We were separated by men, women, and children. My curly hair fell at my feet as my hair was shaved off. They took my clothes and gave me an oversized prisoner’s uniform, which had blue and white stripes on it. I was beaten every time I stepped out of line or did not finish my work details. I was given broth and hard bread to eat which made it very hard to function since it was my only meal for the entire day. What scarred me the most though was watching the other prisoners get tortured to death especially, Abe.

This monotonous pattern of my day to day life lasted nearly three years. On May 8, 1945, the guards had woken us up early and shuffled us out of the camps as far as they could. All of a sudden, they brought us to a halt and forced us to kneel down, and they started executing random prisoners, but in the midst of all of this chaos planes flew from overhead, and shots were fired not at us this time but at the guards. We all looked at each other trembling in both fear and jubilation. Moments later, the area was surrounded by French soldiers who took us to a displaced persons camp in Austria.

The conditions were far better than what I had experienced in the Dachau, concentration camp, north of Berlin but were still rather challenging. For example, we were provided clothes and food, but it was difficult to recuperate. Many suffered from malnutrition and other diseases that they acquired at their camps, and nearly everyone was suffering from posttraumatic stress. One of the French soldiers named Abrial who oversaw the camp took a special interest in me and helped me find distant family in America.

During the war, only 16,000 individuals were allowed into the America. However, after the war, under the Displaced Persons Act of 1948, I along with 205,000 DP’s and 17,000 orphans were permitted entry into the United States. I was brought before a board in Hamburg, Germany where I was screened to make sure that I was suitable for entering the country. I suppose I passed the interview because a few weeks later I boarded a C-4 Troopship headed toward America. The voyage was estimated to take ten days. The mood on the ship was bittersweet. Many were aware that they were leaving their country where they were raised as well as a very dark past. Yet we looked forward to starting a new life.

On the tenth day we arrived in America, I was greeted by my aunt and all of my distant relatives. The only time they had seen me was in pictures before the war had begun. As I looked deep into her eyes I could see my mother’s reflection, and I knew that I was going to be okay.

My new life in Pennsylvania was exactly what I needed to recuperate. I was able to lean on the sewing skills that my papa had taught me as a young child back in Poland. Sewing helped me block out the bad memories of the war and brought me closer to Papa. Sewing indirectly saved my life at Dachau too because the soldiers’ uniforms often needed mending. After graduating high school in Pennsylvania, I met the love of my life, Linda. We moved to New York City where I opened up my own tailor shop which I called Morty’s in honor of my father. Soon after Linda and I settled into our new life together, we had our first child — a boy, whom we named Abe. Abe Levine’s blonde hair, blue eyes, and kind heart will forever connect me to the Abe Müller that helped me persevere through one of the hardest times of my life.


Countdown to Freedom

The turquoise water shimmered. Small waves flowed onto the black sand of the beach before heading back into the sea. The island positively glowed with sunlight reflecting off the water while palm trees provided shade. It was picturesque, except for the old, wooden mansion that stood tall in the middle of the island. The house was old and creaky with age, interrupting the natural beauty of the island. It hadn’t been used as a residence for ten years, ever since the volcanic explosion of 1962. Fortunately, the only effect was black sand. Still, humans had never stayed on the island again, though that was about to change.

A small helicopter landed on the beach, and six girls climbed out. One held a dog, the others ladened with backpacks. The hired pilot saluted, and the helicopter lifted off, stranding the girls on the island.

“Bye!” they chorused, watching their ride leave.

Once it was out of sight, they conferred on where to explore first.

“I think we should explore the house!” Iris exclaimed.

“Or the beach!” Rosa called out.

“The beach sounds nice,” Jule agreed. “Much more so than that dirty, old house.”

“I think the house could be interesting,” Abby countered.

“What do you think, Vanessa?” Danica asked.

“Anything’s fine,” Vanessa said.

“Okay, let’s take a vote?” Danica suggested. “All those who vote ‘house’, raise your hand.”

Iris and Abby rose their hands, along with Danica.

“What?” She shrugged. “I’m curious. Now, everyone who votes ‘beach’, raise their hand.”

Rosa and Jule raised their hands, Vanessa just shrugged. She didn’t want to go to either, and she knew another suggestion would only be met with dismission.

“Well, I suppose it’s the house then,” Danica said.

The girls headed to the mansion, with Iris running ahead and Vanessa trailing behind.


CREEEEAK! The ancient door squealed. It slowly pushed open, revealing the dirty, dark, and dank interior of the dilapidated mansion. A spider scuttled out of the corner, hissing at the light. The house itself seemed to lean towards its visitors, hungry for fresh meat.

RUFF!” Buster barked, springing at the spider.

It scrambled back to its web, and the unfortunate dog came out with a sticky nose and his tail between his legs. Buster whimpered, rushing to hide behind his owners. Six girls peered into the mansion, their faces hesitant.

“Cool!” shrieked Iris, scrambling inside.

“Iris!” Danica chided.


“We should all go in, together,” Danica said pointedly.

Iris stopped exploring the first floor and slunk to the back of the group, mumbling under her breath. It reminded Buster of the time Iris had recklessly led them into a cave system, despite Vanessa’s warnings, and they ended up spending five hours lost in the tunnels. It had brought them closer, though. Buster hoped this would be a bonding experience; then, at least something good would come out of spending a week isolated on this island. Looking around, the dog noticed an ancient garden peeking around the back of the house. Vanessa tilted her head and saw it too, gasping a little with excitement.

“Danica? Can we go to the back of the house first? I think I saw a garden and…” she trailed off, quietly murmuring to herself.

“Or we could go to the second floor!” Iris yelled over the poor girl as she shrunk back.

Buster wagged his tail in agreement. The house smelled musty, like no one had been there for a long time, but it also had a peculiar scent of metal. Iron, Buster thought. He padded into the house and leapt over to the stairwell, testing it with his paw. It seemed sturdy enough, so he barked for the rest of the girls to come over. Iris dashed over first, with Danica following her, and then Abby, Jule, Rosa, and lastly, Vanessa, trailing behind the group.

The second floor consisted of creaky, wooden walls in a single hallway and doors on all sides. Vanessa shrunk back, squeaking with fear. Danica examined the doors, while Jule complained about the quality of the house.

“But it’s so… dirty!” Jule whined. “Couldn’t Abby have dared us to stay somewhere modern at least?”

“I thought it would be a fun challenge — ‘fun’ for some of us more than others,” Abby looked at Iris, who was currently trying to find buried treasure under the floorboards.

“What?” Iris looked up from prying off floorboards and put on her most innocent face.

“Nothing,” Abby smirked.

Iris just shrugged and returned to exploring. Rosa bounced to the front of the group, smiling.

“I think a vacation to an old, spooky, maybe-haunted mansion will be fun!” Rosa said, almost too quickly to catch.

Buster licked her hand in agreement. But he could tell there was something off about this place…


A mutilated body laid on the blood-stained ground, its limbs at impossible angles. The head rolled over, and Iris’s face stared at them without seeing. Buster yelped and leapt back from the door. Vanessa let go of the doorknob, screamed, and ran, covering her eyes from the bloody sight. Danica just froze, her eyes the size of dinner plates as she gazed upon her lifeless friend. Jule gasped and started sobbing, while Abby stared into the distance, her face static. No one went further than the doorway, where the body lay.

“IRIS!” Rosa screamed, falling to her knees in front of the body.

Her yell echoed throughout the hollow house, where only five girls remained.


Buster howled forlornly. The remaining girls had robotically walked into separate rooms and “gone to sleep”, though he could hear soft sobbing from Jule’s room and murmuring from Vanessa’s, while the sound of pacing emanated from Danica’s chamber. Abby and Rosa’s rooms were quiet, but Buster knew no one was asleep that night. He laid on the cold, wooden floor, next to Iris’s body. He wondered where he would sleep, now that Iris was gone. Would he still be welcome in her house? Maybe he could live with another girl, Buster thought. But he didn’t want to be with anyone but Iris. He refused to leave her like this. He would find out who’d done it.


The next morning, Danica was up first. She shuffled into the worn-down kitchen and stiffly grabbed a granola bar from her duffel, chewing without seeming to taste it. Soon, Vanessa joined her, the dark bags under her eyes suggesting a sleepless night. The two girls ignored each other, lost in their own thoughts, until Rosa bounced into the kitchen. Seemingly undeterred by last night’s tragedy, Rosa told jokes and stories to her unresponsive friends, trying her best to cheer them up. Her smile never wore down in front of them, but when she turned away for a moment, Buster could see her deflate like a popped balloon before she mustered her strength, plastered a grin back on her face, and continued her efforts. Meanwhile, Abby wandered out of her room and began contemplatively walking through the house. She had no desire to listen to Rosa’s one-sided chat, nor to join Jule, still weeping in her room, so she explored the old house. Abby mumbled to herself as she walked through the rooms, searching.


“Group meeting,” Danica called weakly.

The grandfather clock struck noon as Abby, Rosa, Vanessa, and Jule entered the room. Buster trotted in after them, wanting to hear.

“What is it…?” Vanessa asked timidly.

Danica simply raised an eyebrow, and everyone nodded in understandment. The rotten stench of Iris’s corpse could be sensed even at the other end of the house, constantly reminding them all of her fate.

“Iris…” Danica murmured. “How did this happen…?”

She looked from face to face. Rosa’s constant smile drooped, tears still ran down Jule’s cheeks, Vanessa’s eyes grew huge, and Abby just looked thoughtful.

“There’s no one here but us,” Abby pointed out.

Everyone turned to listen.

“We’re the only ones here, and only a person could have done that to Iris…” she suggested.

“Are you saying it’s one of us?” Jule bit her lip. “You’re saying one of us is a… a murderer?”

“I don’t like to think it, but it’s the only thing possible.”

Sweat beaded on Jule’s forehead, and the girl promptly fainted. Vanessa rushed to her aid, checking for bruises and lifting her unconscious friend onto a chair. Buster whimpered and sniffed Jule to make sure she was okay. Relieved that there were no obvious injuries, he scampered back to the group, Vanessa following. Danica giggled nervously and banged her fist on a counter.

“Back on topic,” she said, clearly tense.

Forcing her gaze away from the sight of Jule slumped on a chair, Danica coughed.

“Abby, why would you believe it was one of us?” she asked.

“Yeah! We’re best friends!” Rosa chirped.

“I have to agree,” Vanessa remarked. “Why would any of us do something so callous?”

“I don’t know,” Abby declared. “But I’m aiming to find out.”

Words of agreement filled the room, mixed with approving barks from Buster. He agreed with Abby; Buster knew that one of the “friends” killed Iris. What he couldn’t fathom was who, or why part of such a tight-knit group would turn on the rest.

“So it could be any of us…” Danica said in a slightly menacing tone.
Abby nodded grimly.

“I know we’re all anxious,” Vanessa said, trying to stay calm. “Maybe we should sleep on it?” she asked, motioning to the dark sky out the window.

“Fine,” Danica replied emotionlessly.

“Okay,” agreed Vanessa, and Abby simply nodded. The girls headed towards their rooms, Danica’s firm steps echoing on the wooden floor. It was the last thing Buster heard before his head drooped, and he inevitably fell asleep.


It wasn’t until the next morning that someone noticed Jule. Her limp form remained sprawled over the chair; she had never gotten up. Abby’s eyes widened as she prodded her friend, trying to get her to wake up. But despite her best efforts, Jule wasn’t moving. Abby turned her over and discovered a peculiar rip in her friend’s shirt, covered with a brown stain that sharply contrasted Jule’s light blue top.

“Girls!” she called out. Several teens stumbled into the room, curious but tired.

“Abby?” Danica asked.

“Morning,” Abby replied. “Hope I didn’t wake you.”

“I wasn’t sleeping anyway,” Danica sighed. “This is just terrible.”

“Yeah,” Vanessa agreed sadly.

Rosa wordlessly sat down, her mouth wavering as if struggling to produce a smile.

“I called you all here because something else happened,” Abby said sternly. “Who knifed Jule?”

A collective “WHAT?” shook the room as everyone gasped. A look of horror filled their faces as they looked over and saw their friend turned over, with a small cut marring her back. Somehow the perpetrator had gotten close to Jule and stabbed a vital area, quickly paralysing her without anyone noticing. Dried blood clotted the wound and a small amount on the chair previously hidden by Jule’s body. Abby repeated her question.

“Who wasn’t in their rooms last night?” she asked.

“I didn’t hear anyone,” Vanessa pointed out, puzzled. “Did any of you? I know most of us didn’t sleep last night…”

“I didn’t,” Danica confirmed.

“Me neither!” Abby pondered.

Buster barked in agreement. He carefully stepped over to Jule’s body, sniffing the wound. He knew it hadn’t been there last time he checked. Buster thought about this. It was between when Jule fainted and now. That didn’t help him much; it had been hours since the incident. Buster’s tail drooped, effectively reminding him he was a dog. He had a tail, sensitive hearing and smell, and was close to the ground. Maybe it was time to use that to his advantage. The canine sniffed Jule’s shirt, shuddering at the smell of death that blanketed her. Past the metallic and cold smell of decay, Buster thought he smelled… dirt? Yes, he got a distinctive smell of soil. Buster had a lead. However, none of the girls had even a hint of earthy scent on them. They simply looked at Buster in confusion as he leapt from girl to girl, sniffing and barking. Finally, Buster gave up, lying down in defeat. Abby rubbed his head, looking at him sympathetically.

“Alright then,” Danica said, desperately trying to regain control. “So it’s either Abby, Vanessa, or Rosa?”

“Hey!” Abby yelled. “You could have done it, same as anyone!”

Danica gulped.

“But I didn’t do it!” she retaliated.

“Mhmm,” Abby said discerningly. “Sounds like someone is trying to take the focus off herself.”

“What? I am not!” Danica yelled.

Abby raised her eyebrow.

“You know, you’re right!” Rosa gasped. “Danica is trying to pin it on us!”

Three angry heads swiveled towards Danica.

“Girls, I think we have a culprit,” Vanessa said slowly.

“Hang on!” Danica shrieked desperately. “Wasn’t Abby awfully quick to point the finger at me? Maybe she did it!”

“All I hear are excuses,” Abby said menacingly.

Vanessa rose, glaring at Danica, and Rosa followed suit.

“Well,” Abby said darkly. “The only thing to do… is murder the murderer.”

The other two nodded, firm expressions on their faces. Buster whimpered.


After Danica took a rather unfortunate “tumble” off the second-floor balcony and snapped her neck on the rocks below, Abby seemed darkly satisfied.

“Glad that’s taken care of,” she said, dusting her hands.

Vanessa nodded in complete agreement, while Rosa was mourning.

“I know she was a murderer, but we had so many good memories,” Rosa sniffed.

Abby patted Rosa on the back.

“I know, but we have to let go,” she sympathized. “Maybe we should camp somewhere else on the island instead. This place holds too many bad memories.”

“But we’re safe now,” Vanessa pointed out. “Why don’t we do what we came here to do — explore the place?”

“I dunno,” Rosa hesitated. “This place stinks, metaphorically and literally.”

“Hey, it could be fun!”

“Aw, why not?” Abby agreed.

“Can we finally go to the garden?” Vanessa murmured.

However, this time, she got results. Abby and Rosa agreed, and Vanessa smiled proudly, leading them to the garden. The walk was treacherous, even for someone with four paws. Buster found himself almost lying down while trying to evade thorny, skeletal shrubs, and the girls were hopping past overgrown vines and trying not to touch anything that looked poisonous. Buster jumped away from a particularly large insect and found himself in a patch of what used to be roses. The flowers had long since turned to dust, but unfortunately for Buster, the thorns were still there. He yelped and leapt into Vanessa’s arms. She carefully plucked the thorns from Buster’s backside, petting him to make him feel better.

Meanwhile, the other girls were growing bored with dead plants and stinging bugs.

“Can  we go back now?” asked Abby.

“Yeah,” agreed Rosa. “This place is boring.”

“Fine…” Vanessa agreed reluctantly.

Abby gladly led the group back to the mansion, where they decided to retire for the night. It had been a long day, after all. Only Buster decided to stay awake. He suspected something wasn’t right, and he intended to find out what.


It was three hours after the girls headed into their rooms, and the house was quiet. Buster was listening to the wind as it whistled through the cracked walls, silently standing sentry. It was an extremely monotonous job, but he was determined not to miss a thing. His resolve served him well as he heard a creak. A figure slipped from behind a door into the hall, hiding in the shadows. Buster internally gasped. He tracked the creature, silently following it until it pulled open another door.

Buster flowed into the room behind it, and found himself in a bedroom. The loud snores emanating from the bed identified the occupant as Abby and covered up any sound the intruder made. Buster hid under the bed, watching the figure’s feet move about the room. It was difficult to keep track of; it seemed to blend into the background most of the time. Eventually, it approached the bed. Buster’s heart hammered, and his mouth went dry. He heard a muffled thump, and the underside of the bed shifted as though someone were moving about on top. Buster didn’t dare to move, but he had the opportunity to carefully observe the feet of the figure. They were surprisingly small and dainty, and seemed familiar, but he couldn’t place them.

Just as he was devising a way to sneak out, the feet moved away. The intruder slipped through the door, and Buster chased on instinct. His paws thudded on the floor, all subtlety forgotten with the excitement of a chase, and the figure turned at the sound. Moonlight revealed a girl’s face, the cruel intentions toward whomever had been following her clear in her expression. Until her face softened, and she picked up the horrified Buster.

“Oh, it’s just you,” Vanessa whispered.

Buster, overcome with shock, fainted in her arms.


The next morning, Buster slept late. He was usually awoken by Abby’s footsteps echoing through the house, but not today. He continued to snooze on Vanessa’s bed until screams caused him to leap out vehemently. He ran to the source, not noticing that he’d slept in so late until he discovered the reason why.

Abby laid unmoving under her covers, a pillow over her face. Rosa was staring at her friend, eyes wide with shock and fear. She placed a shaking hand on Abby’s heart. It wasn’t beating. Buster’s howl echoed.


The sounds of grief alerted Vanessa, who was calmly eating a breakfast bar in the kitchen. She knew Rosa had discovered her latest victim, and relished in the knowledge that her task was almost complete. Grabbing a knife from a drawer, she headed to Abby’s bedroom. Soon, no one would ever walk over her again.


Rosa wailed, her grief over Abby mixing with the shock that Danica wasn’t the killer after all. She couldn’t believe she had taken part in the murder of her innocent friend, and the guilt was destroying her. Buster nosed up to Rosa, trying to comfort her. However, he cowered in fear when he saw a silhouette in the doorway. He tried to move, but his paws seemed stuck to the floor. When Rosa felt the stab in her heart, she just assumed it was her inner pain. She was wrong. Rosa collapsed to the floor, her tears still warm on her lifeless cheeks. Buster leapt away in shock, getting a bit of Rosa’s blood on his fur. Vanessa chuckled.

“All done!” she chirped.

Though her voice was still quieter than the whisper of a freshly turned page, no other voices were there to talk over her. For once, she could be heard. Vanessa smiled. Buster whimpered, alerting her to his presence in the corner. She slowly walked over to the dog, and his heart beat harder with her every step.

“Hi, Buster!” she cooed as she pet his coat.

Buster blinked, surprised. Vanessa took advantage of his shock to pick him up and walk out of the room. They traveled to the front of the house, Buster squirming in Vanessa’s arms. She washed the blood out of her hair and his fur, and careful as to not get any more blood on her, dumped the bodies into the ocean. Buster’s eyes grew huge as he watched the girls he loved sink below the water, lost to the world forever.


Buster and Vanessa spent the rest of the week on the island, doing trivial things like exploring the rest of the island and making sand sculptures. Vanessa built a rather realistic knife out of black sand and “accidentally” crushed the mound Buster was trying (unsuccessfully) to mold into a girl’s face with his paws. He growled, but there was nothing he could do.

When the helicopter came and picked them up, the pilot was confused as to why he only had to fly back two passengers instead of seven. Vanessa, fake tears in the corners of her eyes, simply told him she didn’t want to talk about it. Shrugging, the pilot strapped them in and took off. During the seven-hour flight, Buster was secured to Vanessa’s chest by the seat belt. He silently resented this at first, but it was hard to hate Vanessa when she was scratching that special spot behind his ear. He soon lulled off, only waking up when they landed hours later.

They strolled through town, Vanessa holding Buster to her chest and smiling. Vanessa’s small stature and big eyes were the picture of innocence. If anyone passed by, they would only see a teenage girl walking with her dog. Buster was the only one who saw the malice in her grin, the murder in her eyes. When a police van rolled by, Buster leapt through the open window and barked to get the driver’s attention. The policeman followed him out of the vehicle and to Vanessa. Buster barked and jumped around the girl. The policeman picked up the defenseless dog and handed him to Vanessa.

“Is this your dog?” he asked in a gruff voice.

“Yes, sir,” Vanessa replied. “Thank you for returning him.”

“No problem, miss,” the officer grunted.

He got back into his police car and drove away.

“Silly Buster,” Vanessa giggled.

Buster grimaced. Vanessa only smiled, and they walked on until they got to her house. Her parents were animal lovers and happily introduced Buster to the family’s other three dogs. He got along with them but found them to be too bland. The other dogs acted happy all the time and wouldn’t listen to anything bad about their humans. Buster shuddered to think that he might act like that one day and vowed to never give up. But try as he might, he could not alert anyone to what happened at that mansion. Without a human voice, he couldn’t deliver justice.


However, Vanessa’s crime did not go unnoticed. Soon, the other girls’ families began asking why their daughters hadn’t come home. Vanessa quickly fabricated a story about how the girls had gone on a boating expedition, using a raft that Iris crafted. However, the raft broke apart far away from the island, drowning everyone on it. Vanessa said that she and Buster survived because the dog refused to go near the water, and she stayed on land with him because she wanted to make sure he didn’t hurt himself in their absence. Vanessa was a good actress, and her clear love of animals only added to the story’s credibility. She fake-cried when telling the tale, making it seem like she was upset about her friends’ deaths. Her performance was in every way calculated and perfect, and though the island was investigated, she’d left no trace of what she had done. Therefore, she managed to get away with murder. After all, the only other being who knew couldn’t tattle.


After years of trying to tell someone what Vanessa did, Buster rested into his fate. He began to act as submissive as the other dogs, manipulated by an easy life and Vanessa’s unconditional kindness towards her pets. It became easier to forget the horrific things she had done so many years ago. The short memory of a dog kicked in after a while, and Buster simply saw Vanessa as his owner. He forgot about the other girls entirely, and the whole ordeal erased from his memory.

Vanessa became a successful public speaker, speaking up for organizations that held good causes but had low members and funding. She became known as a charity worker and an overall good person. Vanessa gained a fortune from raising charities, from small to famous, and in time moved into the old mansion on the island. She had it renovated into a modern home and lived there with Buster and her other pets for the rest of their days.



Waking up is a shock, a flash to reality I do not desire, a pain put simply. I keep my eyes closed, just like I always do. Blackness is preferable to the greyness of life. And just as it always does, the fan with its choppy hum brings the whisper to my ear. What had once been affection is now a stab from the knife of everyday life.

“What did you dream of?” it would whisper.

A wince would always follow, and through closed eyes, my dreams would reply. And a lie would sputter out of my mouth.

“Stars…” I would whisper back.

Lies always helped. Denial felt preferable. I couldn’t admit it, for was it really true? Was it a dream? And whether or not it was real or not, I would relive the night again. The night my life took this turn into despair.


It was a night like every other night, curled up with some book or another, sitting on the sofa, facing the bright lights of Los Angeles. The telephone rang, and I picked it up slightly annoyed, for I was at a good part.

“Good evening, who’s calling?” I casually spoke into the phone.

A sob followed, strange in truth, but I remained on the line. Then the voice picked up, and I reeled in confusion.

“Hello… This is Logan Abernathy… I am your wife’s cousin…”

The breaks into silence were weird, and so were the sobs, but Margaret’s family, through their hatred of me, had always been a strange one. The fact that one of the Abernathy’s had even decided to call me was a shock, and no matter how much it made me want to chuckle a bit, I held it in, for I had won the stalemate we had held for years.

“Yes, Logan, why is it that you have called me?” I responded in a calm tone.

“Two days ago there was an accident. The roads here in Montana are icy now… It was instantaneous…”

It was a punch in the gut. Worse, it was inconceivable how it felt. Disgust, hatred, depression, fear, shock. Every feeling but happiness all at once. Pictures flashed through my mind:  when we first met at the pier, our wedding day, our honeymoon under the sun in Mexico. Brief flashes of my life, and my life which was forever changed.

I pulled off my spectacles and held back my tears…

“When will the service be? Where will it be, Logan?” I responded in a calm tone, as sobs and winces broke through my demeanor.

“It was yesterday…” he said in an almost sorry, consoling tone.

I did not say anything back. I just sat there, tears falling down my face in silence. I put the handset down gently onto the telephone. Sitting there, with the same feelings tearing at my insides, I felt everything, but happiness, all at once. How would life go on without Margaret… Rage took over. All sounds and all colors drained from the world. Lights dimmed, and all seemed grey, dark, unforgiving, like a motion picture without the emotion. I grabbed the phone, taking it from its cord, and threw it against the large windows. The windows shattered through the silence, and I flashed back to real life.


The whisper of the fan ends, and my dream is always the same, but Margaret is not here to listen to it. She is not here to console, to listen, or to be there for me, for her absence is the root of my problems. Her death had killed me, and yet I remain with nothing left. A big house, a good job, food, water, a feather bed, for I own it and have no one to share it with. I feel like I’m drowning and can’t die, like my suffering will not end, and I can’t bring myself to the surface.

All the while, I stare at my ceiling, and I cannot even remember the color that it is. There is no reason to care. All these things I own but do not want, and I must keep them in my possession. I sit up and begin my routine, another day at work. It goes like this:

I shower, brush my teeth, dress in the required attire, grab my camera, my suitcase, and the papers I have graded. Jenny has already made breakfast. She will be back in a few hours, but she will be gone as soon as I arrive home. How ironic that the only person I share my house with is never in it with me. But I eat and exit the door to another day at the university. All these tasks are chores, just as I feel my life itself is. My dreams from when I was a young boy have come true, but I was more happier as a moody teen than I am as the successful adult. My neighbor stops me, and I chat, agree, nod, laugh, and smile. Ms. Smith is always kind to me, why should I have a broken face then?

“Are you okay today? You are looking a bit glum, sweetie,” she says, her sweet, old lady voice, full of concern and worry for her neighbor of all people.

“Yes, I am quite alright, Ms. Smith. Just had a bit of insomnia is all, but I am sure it will all subside in time,” I respond cheerfully to her.

Sighing under my breath, I sit down in my car.

She walks up to the window, taps on it, and says, “Well then, have a great day!!”

Waving goodbye, I wave back with a smile and let it go. I am alone again, left to my thoughts.

I will miss you most, Ms. Smith…

I open the glove box to my car, grimace, and pull out the revolver, with no rounds in the cylinder. I practice how I will do it later by putting the barrel against the roof of my mouth and pulling the trigger. As expected, a click follows and I am still there, but soon it would be different. I will miss you Ms. Smith… But soon all this suffering I have will end, all with a click and a bang.

All the way to the university, I practice with the barrel of the revolver against the roof of my mouth. Again and again, I pull the trigger to hear the click and no bang, and I still remain in the car, driving into Los Angeles, with the sun’s light slightly piercing over the hills to his right. Every so often, someone notices the gun in my mouth and the pulling of the trigger. Their puzzled looks turn to horror, but back to confusion when the gun doesn’t fire. And, every time, I would flash a grin to them. For today is the happiest day I’ve had in a year. Today I will finally be rid of all the suffering and would return to Margaret, wherever she may be in death. Today will be carefree, and everything I see will be the last time I saw it. Even if my grey world is still grey, I feel it brighten to know when and how I will die. I will have no fear in my last few moments, only anticipation. Pulling into the university, I feel a bit of sorrow as the students pass me, some smiling, some waving to me. I realize that perhaps even my smallest ounce of joy was poured into those students, or at least the ones who cared to pay attention.

I sigh to myself, take one last look at the key to my escape, and close the glove box it sits in. I grab the suitcase, the camera, and take a look at the photo that sits on my dashboard. Margaret sits in the grass, simply smiling. I smile back at the photo.

Not even glimpses of before can ever be in color… Soon I will be with you.

I open the door, straighten my tie, and begin my walk to the Arts Wing of the university. Students, teachers, and visitors sit on the green, smiling in the sun, chatting away, and laughing with each other. I throw some waves at people I know, shocking them, for did I ever once appear happy to them? Can they see the flaws in my facade this day? Can they see that, this day, I appear happier than most? I walk at the same pace, perhaps even gloating about this strange enthusiasm I feel. Get through the day, and it will all end.

Just then, a scrawny, shy boy appears next to me. Oh no… It’s hi–

“Professor… Professor! Please wait up for me!!!” he shouts, chasing after me.

It is John Titor. He is, perhaps, the worst student in my class. All his talent, all his potential, and he does not express it. He failed on purpose, and I never had the energy to try and reach out to him. But the fact that he walked up to me is weird, and exciting, breaking the monotony of everyday life for me.

“You surprise me, Mr. Titor, coming up to me on a day like this, when you could be skipping class…” I tell him in an irritated voice.

I am almost sure he wants to break my peace in his own special way, and I do not want to bother with this wasted talent, especially when my time is soon to pass.

“Professor, please, it’s not some joke or anything…” he pants from his run. “I know it’s late… but I have the project to turn in to you.”

He hands me a photograph, along with the paper that is meant to go along with it. I reluctantly grab the papers from his hand and take a glance. It’s probably the same as the others, a failure in photography.

“Come to class on time, Mr. Titor. You are lucky I am taking this from you,” I reply with a sigh.

“Thank you so much, sir… I’m sure you’ll like it!!!” he yells, running off to some other place.

And so I continue on to my room, and my mind wanders as I walk in. The hot air is a smack in the face as I pull off my jacket, loosen the tie, and sit at my desk. I sit there, flipping through photos, repeating the critique over and over in my head.

The school spends thousands of dollars on these cameras, and they waste them on family photos and pictures of trees… I will be rid of these students soon.

Flipping through them, and throwing them aside, I reached one for one that catches my eye. There was no happy family, or no trees, or beaches, or pet dogs. It was simple, yet heart-

wrenching in its own way. An indigent man sat on the ground crying and huddled in ragged clothes. Close to him, two well-dressed, wealthy-looking people stood up, eating ice cream, and paying this poor man absolutely no mind.

This person… Whoever they are… They deserve a perfect grade… This… This captures life… Its morals… Its truths.

John Titor walks in, and soon everyone files into the room, looking at the shock, despair, and awe on my face. We sit there for minutes, and everyone looks in an awkward demeanor around the room, except me, still staring at this photo.

Minutes later some random person calls out in question.


They are clearly uncomfortable saying anything.

I stand up from my chair, pick up the photo and hold it up. It is too small to see, but it is a master piece in the darkness of my life.

“What did I name this project? Anyone, tell me please,” I said, in an inquisitive, driving tone.

“Glimpse into life,” someone called out.

“Yes. Yes. Glimpse into life. I tried to challenge you, my dear students, to do just that, to show me a glimpse into real life. To show the emotion, the challenges, the real aspects of life in a single photo. To tell one million stories, in one moment, that you can capture in time with this device.” I held up the camera. “But all of you… all of you failed. You took family photos, tree photos, beach photos, anything that you thought looked pretty. You captured that moment in time with this precious device. A photographer is useless if he cannot capture in time what makes life life. Your family does not display life, trees do not display life, the damn beach is definitely not life.” I describe, my voice rising.

I take a pause, letting that sink in, and continue.

“A photo should tell one million stories. I should learn some moral from your snapshots and looking at this damn beach snapshot 20 times over from different people tells me nothing. All of you failed… All of you. But you, Mr. Titor, you pass the grade. You pass. A-plus for you, dear friend. You are an artist. Take your snapshot, show it to the world, and let everyone learn what you did. And all of you, besides Mr. Titor, enjoy your F, and have a great rest of the day. ”

I grab a stack of photos, throw them in my garbage can, and throw my lighter in with it. It catches fire. I walk up into the row of desks, and I hand John his photo very quickly and awkwardly.

“Congratulations…” I mutter, before storming out of the room.

Walking down the hallways is a blur. Anger, disappointment, happiness, and awe… they all fill me at once, take charge, and lead me directionless around the campus. Where am I going? What purpose do I have now?

The dean runs up to me and pulls me roughly on my shoulder.

“What the hell were you doing back there, Professor?”

I relent and punch him in the nose, my feelings in control.

“Telling those shits the truth is what I’d call it.”

He pinches his nose to stop the blood, and curls over in pain, the red liquid pouring down his face.

“GET THE HELL OFF THIS CAMPUS, YOU’RE FIRED!!!” he yells, as I stomp off to my car.

Sirens ring off in the distance, as a small tower of smoke rises from the Arts Wing. Crowds of people pour out in front of the building, panicking, crying, in complete shock at the madness that just occurred. In front of the crowd, I see John, standing completely still, just staring at me, his eyes wide with awe. I rip the door to my car and slump down into the seat. With a frown on my face, I began to sob, the pain on my soul too much. I slam the door closed and rip open the glove box. As I sob away, I pull up the gun and the heavy steel feeling almost natural in my hand. I try a few more practice shots on myself. I’m almost there… I’m almost there, Margaret. I slam on the car horn as I tear out of the parking lot. I catch one last look at John, as his shocked stare pierces deep into my soul.


“Professor, get down from that ledge!!!” John desperately shouts at me.

Somehow the boy had found me, standing on a concrete ledge next to a small bar, on the edge of the Los Angeles River. My gun is loaded, and the least I want to do is get drunk before I off myself, but somehow, he had followed me all the way here.

“Get the hell out of here John!!! Just leave me in peace!!!” I shout back in slurred speech.

“Professor! Get down from there… You’re crazy… Just talk to me and let me help you!!!” he argues back.

I down another large sip of amber whiskey from the bottle and wipe it away with my sleeve before shouting, “Look who’s talking, how dare you call me crazy… you… you–”

“Professor, am I the one holding a half-drunk bottle and a gun, standing 100 feet above the LA River?” he says in a calmer tone.

I can sense his game. He wants desperately for me get off the ledge, but I won’t let some stupid kid ruin this. I was finally going to have peace.

“Don’t mind me, John. Just go. I’m not your professor anymore. Just go home, please… leave me in peace,” I sob, dropping the bottle and slumping down to a sit on the ledge.

I hold the barrel of the gun against my temple. The cold, steel eggs on my release from the mortal plane. But… I can’t. I just can’t no matter how much it tears at me.

He sits down at my side. Just sitting there. He sits in pure silence as I cry. I lose all understanding of time. All that exists is the two of us and that ledge.

After what seemed like hours of my awkward crying, he opens his mouth. In a very calm voice, he asks, “Professor, what’s wrong… what happened… why are you like this?”

I sniffle a bit, and almost laugh, for an ignorant child had talked me out of my month-long plans. I open my mouth stating, “This… this is where I met her… well, not here, over there in the parking lot.”
I point into the lot, and the day, 15 years ago today, rings through my mind as if it were yesterday. I am still fresh in love with Margaret.

“Who, professor?” he said.

After I explain, he contemplates my words.

“This is where I met Margaret, the love of my life.”

“What happened to her? She was your wife?”

“Yes, yes, we were married for 10 years, and she died last year in an… accident.” I manage to say before tears stream down my face again.

John sits, contemplating, and while his look is of concern, and sadness, I can almost see a hint of understanding in his eyes. That look where you understand everything that is said, but can’t bring yourself to say that you feel the same way. For it is too hard to admit that you feel exactly the same.

“I feel like… I feel as if I am drowning, trapped underneath the waves. And everytime I try to escape, I just sink deeper. And no matter how much I want to escape, I can’t. No matter how much I want to drown and end this torment, it won’t happen. I’m trapped. Trapped by 10 years of marriage. I loved her so much, John, I really did. She was my life. She was the beauty in this world. Without her here, I have nothing, I am nothing… No big house matters, no money, no material matters, lest we can share it with those we love… And me, I have nobody to love… So… So will you please leave me to my fate, John? Will you allow me to finally be rid this feeling, this hatred, this–”

“Give me the gun, professor…” he mumbles, his head still pointed towards the ground.

“Leave. Now… Or I’ll take you wi–”

“GIVE ME THE DAMN GUN!!!” He shoots up from the ledge, his fists balled, and his eyes popping with rage.

I could see the tears in his eyes too. He felt the exact same way. I did not know what it was. But everyday he came to school, put on his face, and struggled to interact. No matter how deep his depression, here he was, shouting in my face, talking me down from giving in to my wish for death. While any day he could have done what I was doing now. He endured. He stayed strong.


He jumps forward in a rage, ripping the pistol from my hand, the loaded rounds sliding out of the cylinder. My only chance for escape, spills on the ground, and into John’s hand as he draws it back. It’s a fluid motion — the snatch and the throw, arching back at a sharp angle, his arm sailing forward, and the gun flying out into the dark of night, to the concrete expanse of the LA river. I lose sight of it as it flies into the black, and the only hint that the gun had hit its target is a far off plop into water.

He lets out a sigh, and slumps back down onto the ledge, his face buried into his palm. I slump down next to him, staring dead forward, in a daze, not dreaming, not thinking, not knowing. Where would he go next, how would he carry on? What would he do now? I turn my neck back, and look out into the black, the edge facing out to the river, plummeting immediately down into black. I look down and scoop up my half-bottle of whiskey. I take a long swing, the golden liquid burning the inside of my mouth. But I feel completely numb, still completely empty. I tap John on the shoulder with the bottle

“Drink.” I mutter.

He grabs it, takes a long drink from it too, and gives a refreshing gasp when he stops gulping down the amber whiskey.

“This your first time drinking?” I mutter. “You could be a professional drunk from the way I see it.”

We laugh exhausted laughs out into the night as the dim lights create a relieving, yet almost unsatisfied mood. I only feel worse.

“Let me get you something, professor, we’re right here.” He points to the bar.

The taint of alcohol iss on his breath and slurs his speech.

“Another bottle of whiskey and a pack of camels for the road,” I mutter out, in a sort-of drunk and carefree chuckle.

He gets up from the ledge, and begins to stumble over to the bar. When he is halfway there, I call out to him, in the same drunk chuckle as before. “John!” He looks back at me. “Thank you for everything. ”

“It’s no problem, Professor!” he calls back before stumbling off to the bar.

When he enters the bar, and the door swings closed, I stand up and step up onto the edge. First, I look off into the black expanse, at the street lights across, and then down, to the darkness below. I sigh and close my eyes. The pictures flash before me. I see Margaret, when I first met her, in this parking lot, our first dinner together, the first time I pronounced my love to her, our wedding day, and our honeymoon. Relaxing under the Mexican sun. The last time I saw her, walking her out of the door. Stopping at the car door.

“I love you, David,” she whispers to me.

“I love you, too,” I whisper back to her.

We kiss each other, but only for a second. If I could have stayed there, stayed there forever, I would have. I would die and live again a million times to go back to that split second. That one moment of eternity. I would kill, I would murder for her. For Margaret. She gets in the car, and as she drives off, I see her for the last time. We lock eyes. She smiles. I smile back, and she is gone. Gone forever. I would never leave you, Margaret. I will be there soon.

My arms are out. I feel the wind in my hair, on my body, blowing me away from the darkness where I will go. I open my eyes to the night.

“I love you…” I whisper to the wind as it buzzes in my ear.

“I love you too,” the wind whispers back.

I look down one last time, take in the last sight I will ever have in life. The lights across the river. The cars driving by. The Hollywood hills standing imposingly over this city.

“PROFESSOR!!!” The shout shatters all of silence there had once been.

I look back. John is there, standing at the doorway. His left hand is clenched around the neck of the whiskey bottle, and his right is holding a pack of cigarettes. His face is in pure shock, pure awe, pure pain, and anger, and everything in-between.

I turn my neck around, facing the black again, and fall forward.





Be it Children Running in the sun

Or an Old Couple picnicking in the Shade

They Watch

Be it Campers Joking in the dead of night

Or hikers smiling at the rising sun

They watch

Singing and Dancing in a sunny forest

Sleeping under the stars after a great day

They watch


They applaud as they watch the beauty of life carry on.


The Longing


The Polaroid camera sat on display pleading to be used,

It itched to capture the colors of the rising sun.

It longed for a chance to snap the wind

rustling the leaves of a scarlet oak tree,

or shoot droplets on a leaf after a rainy day.

The camera was hungry for a chance.

To grasp the gleaming sun through the red and orange autumn leaves

would be the opportunity that the camera is waiting for.


The Lost Sky



A girl disguised by the somber mists of taunting loss,

Glooming shadows escaping the night’s bitter sky,

The latent stars vanished without gloss,

Wishes muted by a concealed lie.


The damaged dominos,

Steadily collapsing,

From one heart to another,

The ghost emerging from the shattered spirit.



I was once the light of a radiant character,

The breath of a cub,

Gentle kisses extending the sky,

Now a shadow absent from the dust,

No bear to protect my warmth,

Like a music note that has never been played.



A girl surrounded by an ocean without water,

Yearning for a sturdy hand to hold,

Instead, she is trapped in her own echoes.


I once held that little hand,

I was the bear that shielded her from the terror of this world,

But now I lie in the vacant sky.




Depression is my remedy,

I soak in my loss,

Constantly gazing at the sky for a source of existence,

Yet all I see are the faint memories dying in the darkness.



Suffering with a damaged soul,

The girl lingered in this horror story,

The disappearance of two bears at once,

One puzzle piece gone, another misplaced.



It took years of suffering for a sense of wholeness to appear,

Slowly my mind slept from a fear,

I recognized my worth of gold.


We are all not presented with chance at life,

The world works in a incomprehensible fashion,

We see the stars, the sun, the rainbows,

We experience the rainstorms and the hail,

So when life presents you with the gift of growth,

We must understand our fitting puzzle piece.


I now walk in my crooked footsteps,

Indenting a distinct shape,

My mind was once possessed by a devil,

But now an angel has stolen my soul.


The devil remained in my presence,

Reminding me of all the absence.


I am my own angel who represents self-concept,

Identifying my past ratifies my future.


I often attempt to erase the visions that blur my mind,

Of the distant thoughts it features,

I am the figure I never had.


My cubs carry fur of enchanting colors,

With a shaded bear to shield them from the terror of this world.



The girl grasped her own dilemmas,

Conquering the rings of misfortune,

She even played the unknown note of melody.


Whatever wind blows past your fragile ears,

Whatever pain that cramps your body,

Life is a mystery,

Like a dead plant placed in front of sunshine,

The rain does not wash our future away,

Instead it paints a fresh picture,

A life for us to start,

I am proud of my girl.


Three Dreams


A Dream of a Butterfly

Everyday resembles a blank canvas,

Any color can accommodate the dull lines,

Our dreams arrange like butterflies in the rain,

Pattering down in rattled drops as the sun beams beyond them.


An idea forms simply from effortless imagination,

Processing concepts to ratify their senses,

Then blossoming into an established innovation.


Sometimes pain attempts to keep us locked without a key,

But our wings are stronger,

Not only do we fly,

We soar above the chants.


A Dream of a Starfish

I grow,

I create,

I manage,

I build,

I express,


I fail.


I grow again,

I create again,

I manage again,

I build again,

I express again,


And just like a starfish,

I succeed.


A Dream of a Tree

I sprout from roots that simply hold my weight,

A superior force of foundation beneath me,

My bark is solid in firmness,

Its fresh scent of wet leaves absorbed by the humid air,

A strength that yields away the controlling wind.

I continue to grow upwards,

Now small segments of colors burst at the tips of my twigs.

My branches sway in the luminous path of sunlight.

My wood constantly develops in short portions of purity.

My leaves now create a beautiful image of reflection.

I stand above the constant echoes of dying plants,

Their somber remains disappearing,

Plants that didn’t thrive in their negativity.


But I am still here.

I am the dream of a tree,

A dream that unlocked the chamber, even without a key.






The pale, waning moon is wearing a frightening mask.

We have the love of a thousand seas.

We are laughing at the Nazis.



My mother, the angel, the one that never cries.

She told me to bring harm.

She told me trust no one and hide.

My father, the devil, the one with the dark hair who usually lies.

Told me to never bring harm.

He told me to trust everybody I meet.

He told me people are good.

His towheaded hair kissed his face.

Fantasy living its domestic despairs.



My mother on the canopy bed, her French nails covered in blood.

My father wearing the Nazi symbol-covered.

The ground looked like it was bleached as the snow hit the ground.

Alone, the bomb and my mother’s pretty gowns.



My father, the great, big, hateful beast.

He cannot swallow his pride.

My mother says, “He’s a good man,” and she’s his bride.

He wears a red and black symbol on his arm.

He says it’s a “good luck charm.”



The bomb took my mother, she was sleeping on her golden bed.

Blood and darkness, the only thing I saw.

Her face was dark and traumatized.

Blue lilies near the table where she lies.

My father, the great, red and black alien, told me that she’s in a better place now.

Picking flowers from the pond.

The Nazis were the jokesters, the ones that made me laugh.

They were also savages with their barbarian cries.



I’m lying on the cold, wet canopy bed.

But the crows won’t sleep, silly birds.

My body is damp and shut in.

A tube around my nose, pills filling my mouth?

This must be hell or a white haven.

I haven’t been in my dress in weeks.

My house dress that I wear, my pretty gowns.

Oh god, I’m so pathetic.

I’m so weak.

I’m such a hysterical woman.

My lipstick is scarce and my neck is bruised.

I feel so used and unclean.

My French nails covered in blood.

Bleed… out…

This must be hell or a white haven.



March 1923, Tommy Malone walked down the dimly lit Brooklyn street, the dirt street soft with the heavy rainfall. Tommy stopped his trudge through the mud and hid from the rain under a drooping awning. He reflected on his day at work as he lit up a cheaply made cigarette. It had been, as always, a simple day at the factory. Everyone’s coveralls had been caked with the black grease of the machines, and the drunkards of the factory were on edge, every second seeming like an eternity due to the prohibition on alcohol.

He closed his eyes and he drew from his cigarette, then dropped it and squashed it with his muddy boot. He continued on down the street, adjusting his trench coat and bowler hat every couple of seconds to keep as dry as possible. After what seemed like months, he arrived at 2120 Hopkins Street. Walking up the concrete steps, Tommy stared at the cracked, rotting walls, deciding, “This is hardly even a life, but it’s the closest to one I got.”

All the way up, he balked at the sounds of despair that permeated throughout each floor before finally arriving home.Tommy, relieved to be home at last, proceeded to the large brown door, before noticing that it was cracked open.Without hesitation, he pulled out a heavy object from his pocket, a large revolver, loaded with ammunition. Tommy peaked in through the crack of the door. A large figure sat at the kitchen table, seemingly in waiting.

“1…2…3,” Tommy whispered, he kicked down the door and BANG!!!!

The figure at the table roused himself and ran from the table to the bedroom, locking himself in. Tommy lunged towards the door and slammed his fist shouting, “WHOEVER YOU ARE GET OUT NOW!”

The man behind the door answered quickly, saying “Tommy…T..T…Tommy, it’s me, your old pal Nick.”

At the mention of the name, his best friend before he had been shipped to Europe to fight, Tommy kicked the door down, carelessly breaking the lock before giving his old friend a hug. “I thought I’d never see you again, man!” Tommy cried with relief and excitement.

Nick sighed. “Man I thought that when those cops jumped you, you would be off to prison for life. But then I hear from a buddy that you’re back in town, after fighting in the war, so I knew I had to stop by.”

“Well it was prison or Europe. The right one’s pretty obvious.”

Tommy sat down at the kitchen table with Nick, after almost five years of separation. “I would get you a drink, but we all know the circumstances.”

The mention of the prohibition lit up Nick’s eyes, and he almost immediately said, “Well…That’s why I came here, I got an idea.”

At the mention of an “idea,” Tommy knew that it was another of Nick’s famous schemes.

“Man…I dunno, I mean I got an honest job, an honest life really. I can’t just jump right onto your schemes. Even you should know that they’re dumb anyway.”

The word “dumb” made Nick chuckle. He laughed to Tommy saying, “Come on, this is a good one. This is what we’re gonna do-”

“You just always think I’m on board, don’t ya?” Tommy interjected.

“I just know you won’t turn this one down, man,” Nick replied, his mood turning weirdly serious. “Well I got this cousin, Giovanni, he’s a taxi driver out in Kentucky. Well, he met this girl, Darla, and it turns out that Darla’s brother is into Moonshining. My cousin married Darla and he’s moving back here. I heard from him that Darla’s brother, who’s Randall by the way, that he’s pretty eager to set up some stills here in the city to get brewin’, so I’m thinkin we meet up with Randall, and we set up some stills together out here.”

“Nick…It’s time to go. I’m not going back to crime. It got me into a muddy trench in Europe dying of dysentery and bein’ shot at. I already took that choice, and prison ain’t any better.”

Tommy got up and ushered Nick to the door, but he fought stating, “Even if you do get busted, at least you’ll eat three meals a day, sleep in a warm bed every night, and if you don’t then we can be the biggest bootleggers in this city.”

Tommy pushed Nick out the door, looking into his eyes stating, “I’ll sleep on it.”

Nick jumped with joy shouting, “Trust me man, you won’t regret this! Meet me at Smilin’ Jack’s Pancakes next week so we can work things out.”

Tommy replied, “I haven’t slept yet,” before slamming the door on Nick.

Tommy walked to his room before hearing Nick shout one last thing through the door. “You won’t regret this man.”

Tommy looked at the floor, and reflected saying, “Beats this life.” He closed the door, and slept on it.


A week after Nick’s visit to the apartment, Tommy skipped work to visit Smilin’ Jacks. It was what many would call a “Greasy Spoon Restaurant,” nestled between a couple of factories in Brooklyn’s industrial district, but despite that, the food was better than government ham and cheese every day.

Tommy dressed up his best that day, wearing his trench coat and bowler hat over bits of his uniform from his army days. As Tommy walked up to the restaurant, he saw its occupants, factory workers: men and women covered in thick black grease, with calloused hands, wearing heavy boots. At least I’ll fit in. Now, where is Nick?

As Tommy walked into the restaurant a bell rung and a heavyset man in a oil stained apron appeared. “Welcome to Smilin’ Jacks, how may I help you?” he asked in a voice rattled by grunts.

“I’m lookin’ for Nick Dimaggio, he been here at all, with anyone?” Tommy responded, hanging up his hat and coat on a rack.

“Yeah, they came not too long ago, look in the back, round the bend,” he responded, trudging back to the kitchens.

Tommy didn’t give any thanks, and he walked, as told, “to the back, round the bend.” In the last booth of the row, Tommy saw Nick and his company, A man that was startlingly similar to Nick, heavyset with thinning brown hair, as well as a man with outgrown red hair, greased back into a mullet. The red-haired man had wild eyes, and he had a thick mustache peppered with droplets of black coffee. Tommy walked up to him and Nick looked back, a grin growing across his pudgy face.

He got up, giving Tommy a hug saying, “Sit down, sit down, meet the opportunity.”

Tommy sat down next to Nick, with the latter introducing the men to him. Giovanni, the man who appeared to be Nick’s cousin, stretched out his arm to shake hands. “Nice to meet you,” he said with the same accent that every Italian had in Brooklyn.

Next the red-haired man wiped off his hands, before stretching his lanky arms to shake hands. “I’m Randall, good to finally meet you,” he said with a very strong mountain accent.

“Now let’s get down to business,” Nick explained, eager to explain his proposition. “Now we all know what the stupid yuppies who run this country did about booze…They banned it, as if it were as harmful as the smoke that pours outta the factories. We all got talent, we can make some serious cash here if we work togetha.”

“Nick…Can you get to the point already?” Tommy sighed in boredom.

“Alright, alright…Now I’ve been hearin’ from some of the guys that some people are brewin their own booze, from right here in Brooklyn. I heard they’ve been pulling in some serious cash, and I’m about done with livin like a pig. It’s time we did the same. Randall, you say you’re the best brewer out in Kentucky. You think that you can do ya thing, so we can sell it just like the guys I heard about?”

Randall looked up from his plate of pancakes and swallowed the rest of his coffee, then answered, “I’m sure I can scrounge up somethin’ to make stills out here, it’ll be strong as hell, it’ll be booze.”

“Good.” Nick responded “Now, Giovanni, you got your cab company out here in Brooklyn. I want you deliverin’ shipments of juice to whoever wants it. You also make sure that they pay for it too. We’re not givin’ away our alcohol for free. So, you down?”

“Course cousin, you can count on me,” he responded, with a proud voice.

“Now what I’m gonna do is pay off cops, make sure our operation is safe. I’ll also work out the deals with clients,” Nick claimed.

“Now wait Nick, whatta ’bout me?” Tommy asked with surprise in his voice.

“Now you Tommy…well you’ll be runnin this thing. I know you learned a lot in the army, and I’m sure you could do betta than any of us. I also want you on security. See if you can contact any army buddies. If we can get a serious gang on our side. Honest cops will think twice ’bout tryin’ to mess with us.”

“Well then,” Tommy boomed, expressing his new role. “Let’s work things out. Randall, I want you to start makin’ stills. Also see if you can get anyone willin’ to work with you, teach them your trade. You, Giovanni, go to your cab company, find anyone willin’ to get their hands dirty delivering the booze. Also get some cars that can hold crates full of bottles. Now Nick, I need you to find a place to set up operations. I don’t care what you have to do to get it, just do it. Make sure it’s got space, and that it’s not too obvious. I’m gonna contact my old buddies in the army, see if I can get some of them to be the muscle. I’ll also get firepower, so I’m on that…Are we all clear?”

The group exchanged glances at each other, and they nodded slowly.

“Well then, let’s get brewin’.”


In less than a month the group had almost everything squared away. They had their base, an old factory in the part of town no cop dared visit. Randall had got a few guys off the street who showed promise, old brewery owners and vineyard workers, who accepted the job due to lack of work. They had built five stills, and they had all the chemicals and crops to make a strong moonshine. Giovanni’s cab company had plenty of willing criminals in its ranks, who all went out and stole enough trucks to make deliveries at anytime. Tommy had kept up his end of the deal, and the gang had plenty of muscle to defend shipments and deals from any customers or cops stupid enough to tread on them.

Tommy looked out to the factory floor from an old catwalk, when suddenly Nick ran up to him, pure joy in his eyes.

“Tommy!! I just got a called by some yuppies on Long Island. They heard from someone that we’re brewin big time booze, and they’re willing to pay 40,000 for 200 crates.”

The sound of hearing what Nick said made Tommy jump in excitement too. He yelled down from his catwalk to the moonshiners at the stills saying, “Hey boys, we need 200 crates in the next three days, get workin’ double time now!!!”

The brewers also yelled with excitement, and Tommy saw how their pace immediately increased after hearing the statement. He then looked to Nick saying, “Call them back, tell them that we’ll meet them in three days, and tell them to choose a location for the meetup, okay?”

“Yes sir buddy, I’m on it,” Nick answered with excitement, running back to the office.

Tommy looked down to the factory floor again. He saw the brewers brewing, the taxi drivers on standby for any minor deals, and the security on guard for any threat to their operation. For once… Nick had a good idea. Looks like it’s about to pay off. Tommy walked off the catwalk into the office, he sat down at his desk, and began to plan their first big deal.

The dark warehouse of the nameless, small Long Island town, was illuminated by old oil lamps. As the five large cabs pulled into the small yard outside, Tommy looked out the window and saw the clientele. Five silhouettes stood next to what appeared to be a large truck. Nick saw his concern saying, “This is gonna go right, trust me, I know.”

Tommy looked in his direction. “I know man…I’m just a bit on edge…this is a big deal.”

The cabs parked in random directions and the numerous gangsters got out. As Tommy stepped into the humid air he shouted to one of his nameless goons saying, “Get a sample for the clients.”

Tommy and Nick walked side by side into the warehouse, towards the clients.

“Hello…I’m Mr. Carteret,” said the middle silhouette as Tommy and his gang approached. The dim light from the street lamps gave way to a brief look at his face from Tommy.

“Show us the cash sir,” Tommy said in a gruff voice, facing the client.

One of the gangsters with Carteret stepped up to Tommy up saying with a cautious voice, “Don’t talk to Mr.Carteret like that.”

Tommy looked the muscular man in the eyes saying, “I’m sure you want booze too pal, calm down if you really do.”

He stepped back at the slight mention that he might not get any. As he did, Tommy looked eagerly at a suitcase held open by another of Carteret’s goons. Tommy quickly took the case and handed it to Giovanni, who stood behind Tommy, next to Randall. “Count it,” he said, not expecting to receive an answer.

“Now let’s get down to business Carteret,” Tommy said, grabbing a crowbar and cracking open the crate, revealing the moonshine.

“I’m sure it will be good,” Carteret claimed, grabbing the bottle from the crate.

Carteret popped off the cap, then sniffed it. He didn’t say it, but Tommy saw the wrenching look that grew across his face. Carteret silently took a sip, and relentlessly spit it up, dropping the bottle.

Tommy and his gang erupted into laughter. Tommy knelt down besides Carteret as he threw up from the unbearable mixture in the mouth of a man who drank soft liquors. Tommy gloated in his face saying, “What were you expectin’, frickin wine?”

Carteret stood up, his mouth open from what must have been a sensation of pure fire in his mouth, and remained silent.

“I hope you and your family enjoy it. BOYS!!! GET THE REST FROM THE CARS,” Tommy said before shouting to his goons.

Tommy faced Carteret, but said nothing, Carteret embodied everything he hated, the rich minority of the country. At least his money will go to good back home.

The silence of the scene however, was suddenly broken when Giovanni came running back shouting, “TOMMY!!TOMMY!! THERE AIN’T 40k IN THE CASE!!!!”

The thought of being cheated entered his head, Tommy grew furious. In an instant, he ripped a revolver from his pocket and grabbed Carteret, pushing the barrel against his head. The remainder of Tommy’s gang all pulled out the weapons as well.


“It doesn’t have to end badly Tommy…I’ll give you the money I swear…Just…Just Please…Let me go!!!” he shouted in retaliation.

“LET GO OF MR.CARTERET!!! DON’T SHOOT…DON’T SHOOT!!!! LET US SEE THE MONEY OR WE’LL MAKE SURE YOU DON’T LEAVE ALIVE!” The screams of the gangs to each other filled Tommy’s head. The tension was high, and Tommy aimed the barrel at one of the goon’s heads.


“Don’t shoot boy…please don’t…I’ll pay you…just drop your guns,” Carteret interjected over the screams of angry men.

Carteret’s goons reluctantly dropped their weapons, and Carteret reached into his pocket, and pulled out a billfold. Tommy snatched it out of his hand and walked away, stating, “You yuppies can never be trusted.” Tommy walked off to the cabs, telling a goon, “Bring them the booze.” Ringing filled his head, and when Tommy entered the car, he fell into a deep sleep.


“You can’t just give away all our cash like that Tommy, we worked hard for it and now you just gonna give it away,” Nick protested on the crowded street.

Months had passed by since the gang’s first big deal, and the people of Brooklyn were now feeling the results. The people of Brooklyn now saw Tommy as a sort of Robin Hood, as he was giving all his profits back to them.

Tommy and walked down an old dirt street with Nick at his side. He carried a large satchel, and inside were stacks of cash, enough to provide plenty of families with months’ worth of food. As Tommy passed by homeless children and desperate factory workers begging, he gave money to each of them. Throughout the journey, Nick had constantly protested, and as they walked down this final street, Tommy finally paid attention.

“Nick I’ve struggled with these people my whole life, they’re my people, and it’s time I did something to help them along.”

Nick had a shocked look on his face, as if he had been betrayed. He finally blurted out amidst the shock. “This was supposed to be our opportunity, not these bums.”

“You know what Nick…Like it or not we’re the same as these people, so you can go now”

How can Nick be so careless, we grew up the same as all these people here, and now he just acts like he’s betta than them.

“Fine…I’m done here Tommy. You’ll find me back at the factory…I hope you straighten up or somethin!!!” Nick shouted in anger at Tommy before storming off.

“Now Nick come on. Now you know–” Tommy tried to protest before pausing and shrugging.

Letting Nick walk off, Tommy continued down the street, passing out money to whoever was in need, carefree about how Nick could retaliate.


“BIG TIME BOOTLEGGER’S A NEW ROBINHOOD” is what NYPD’s new forensic detective Leo Ford read off of the newspaper he’d bought at a stand on 8th Avenue. Never thought it would be criminals who saved Brooklyn. He walked down the street. As he walked, his assignment and his bosses’ words rung through his head.

“We need to find out who these people are. We need any leads, and I know you’re the best to find them Ford…Go out, find anything for us, then report back,” was all his boss had said.

Ford continued down the long blocks of 8th avenue, the tall buildings blocking the bright May sky. Ford was on the hunt for any leads, and he knew where he had to go. He was on the hunt for the city’s scum, the drunkards, and outcasts of NYC society, because if there was one thing he knew, it’s that they were the key.

Ford knew all the places in Manhattan to look, and it didn’t take long to get his wish.

Ford found the nameless dark alleyway that was infamous throughout the upper class of Manhattan. It was lined with beggars searching for a fix and bloodstains from constant violence over the residents’ insatiable need of narcotics and alcohol. Time to make a mark on this city for good, Leo thought before stepping into the alley.

Despite the bright daylight, the alley seemed darker than the night sky itself. Rats scurried along the muddy ground, picking up bits and pieces of god knows what from the ground, the only real edible thing they could afford to take back to their dens. Coughing and crying rang out throughout the small den, the smell of disease and rot permeating throughout. Even Brooklyn can’t be as bad as this, Leo thought, as the idea of the hardship across the East River pulled at his mind.

That’s when Leo spotted it, the silhouette of a man, obviously spoiled drunk, with a bottle beside him, filled to the brim with what smelled like moonshine. JACKPOT!!! He shook the man from his shoulder, trying rouse him from his drunken stupor. Hungover, the man barely woke up before shouting out nameless, jumbled up insults that even Ford couldn’t understand. Still shaking the man, he pleaded for him to wake up saying, “Please wake up, if you do, I can promise you a hot meal and a warm bed.” This was what ultimately roused the drunken man.

Stumbling around the dark alley, he claimed, “Les go now” before trying to walk off. Following him was easy as could be for Ford, but getting him to a diner where they could talk was the hardest part. It was as if the alcohol had made him a two-year-old again, who struggled to walk as it gathered its bearings. It got to the point where the drunken man slammed  into corporate executives and blue-collar contractors as he walked down the crowded street to the nearby Tick-Tock Diner. Eventually, after a grueling attempt, Ford stumbled into the diner, with the beggars arms sprawled out on his shoulders. “Booth for two,” Ford called to a bored waitress, who instantly escorted them to a booth with a view of the street.

“What will it take for you to talk?” Ford asked the man.

“A cup of black coffee, with the irish breakfast and a side of toast and pancakes.”

Glutton, Ford thought, but he reluctantly pulled out a wad of cash and called the waiter over, paying for the feast that the beggar requested. As the beggar stared out the window in anticipation of his upcoming feast, Ford called to him saying, “Now I have questions for you. Answer, and I won’t tell them to cancel the order.”

“Ask ahead.” He replied

“I saw that you had a bottle of unregistered alcohol, where did you get it and from whom?”

The beggar’s eyes widened before shaking his head saying, “No…I can’t answer-”

“Just do it man!” Ford shouted to him, angry over his denial.

“Alright, alright,I got it from Nick Dimaggio, he and his crew are set up in Brooklyn…My buddy told me he was sellin’ so I used my cash from beggin’ and I called him. He told me he split with them, but sold me his extra bottles.”

THE KEY!!! I need to find Nick, he can lead me to the source.

“Do you have his address, or anything else I can use to find him?” Ford asked with a sense of urgency in his voice.

“I do, but it’ll cost you extra,” the man claimed, haggling his way into more cash.

Ford, enraged at the scheming of the man, threw fifty more dollars into the man’s face.

A smile spread across the man’s face. He took a scrap of paper from his pocket and handed it to Ford. “Here you go, kind sir.”

Leo immediately stood up from his seat, and remembering the deal, he pulled 200 more dollars from his pocket.

“Find yourself a nice hotel,” he said as he rushed out the door.

When he stepped into the city air, one thing was on Ford’s mind: he needed to find a payphone. Walking down the crowded streets, Ford’s eyes scanned the terrain as a hawk would. Then, he saw it, a simple, rusty phonebooth. Not even stopping for cars, he ran across the street. He inserting one quarter into the booth and dialed the number. The old phone did not even ring as Leo waited in anticipation. Then, all of a sudden, a voice picked up stating, “Who’s this?”

“This is Leo Ford I work with the NYPD, and I want to cut you a deal.”

“Straight to the point ehh,” Nick claimed with a chuckle. “Well, what’s the deal?”

“I’m lookin’ into the case involvin’ illegal bootlegging around the city. I hear you worked with one of the top rings but left. Our precinct is offerin’ you 200,000 dollars if you give up the location of the ring, and help us in our raid,” Leo told him.

“Give me a second to think,” claimed Nick.

Tommy’s been my pal all my life. I know he cheated me by givin’ away the cash but I can’t just betray him……….Tommy needs to see that he can’t just cheat me. “I’m in, it’s at an abandoned factory in the industrial district, meet me there at midnight.”

Leo sighed a breath of relief. “ We’ll be there.”

Nick hung up the phone and Leo ran down the avenue to break the good news to his boss.


Tommy stayed behind that night. He was guarding the place just in case something happened.

He sat in the office, working numbers. Due to their latest big deal, their ring was pulling in thousands of dollars a week, and it was really helping the people of Brooklyn. Tommy was roused from his work by a voice of questioning.

“Tommy?” It asked.

Tommy looked up to see Nick standing in the doorway

“What the hell are you doin’ here, Nick? I thought you were done.”

Nick had an obvious look of sorrow on his face. “Man…I…I’m sorry.”

“Why is that?” questioned Tommy, now standing up.

“Cause of this,” Nick mumbled pulling out a gun and firing.

The bullet flew quickly, and Tommy couldn’t even react. It pierced his chest and he fell to the floor, blood gushing from his chest and mouth. He tried to put pressure on the wound, but he could feel the life seeping out, along with his blood.

“Wh…Why…Why Nick–” Tommy struggled to let out, in obvious pain.

“You cheated me Tommy…I helped you start all this, and then you don’t let me take my fair due…How do you think that’s fair?” Nick shouted to him in rage. “The police are comin’ and I’m gettin a large payout for bustin’ you, so I guess I can get my revenge first before this place goes up in flames.”

“Flames? Wha…What do you mean Nick?” Tommy questioned, fearful of the mention of flames.

“If I can’t have the cash, no one will. I’m destroyin’ your empire, and leavin’ nothin’ in return for any of your goons to rebuild with,” Nick told him, proud of his plot.

“You think you’ll destroy all we worked for Nick…Guess again.” Tommy said, raising his gun in the air.

“What are yo-” Nick shouted in anger before being cut off by the sound of fired shots. Tommy’s bullet flew through the air, and with a sickening crunch, entered Nick’s head and exited out the back.

As the blood spilled out of Nick’s skull, Tommy stood up, he exited the office onto the catwalk before, BOOM!!! One of the stills went up in flames. Then Tommy saw it, gasoline was spilled all over the floor, and flames spread all over the factory floor.

No I…I need to get outta here, screw the cash, screw the stills, he thought as he ran down the stairs. As Tommy reached the landing of the steel steps, the worst thing that could happen occurred. The fire spread there as well, to the point where the whole factory floor was in flames.

I’m trapped, what should I do what should I-THE WINDOW…I could use the window.

With blood gushing out of his wounds, he stumbled up the stairs, he walked into the office as it was plunged into a cloud of smoke. The air left Tommy’s lungs and it was replaced with black smoke. I need to get out……….I need to find the window.

Tommy stumbled around the office, choking on the impure air. He coughed in agony, feeling the walls. He felt and felt before feeling a panel of glass. Tommy pulled out his gun and fired, the sound of shattering glass making way to that of fierce thunder and a raging storm. Tommy stumbled to the hole in the wall, stepping into it. Glass shards pierced Tommy skin. He couldn’t even scream, but he pushed on, stepping out onto the ledge, the rain falling on his skin and washing away the thick red blood. Tommy stood in triumph before letting go, and falling off the edge.


Tommy woke up in the back of a wagon moving down a nameless Brooklyn alley. In his daze, he could barely hear. He tried to move his hands but they were stuck in irons that were chained to the wagon. Opening his eyes, he saw hospital staff and police officers sitting around him as the wagon dragged on. He looked up at them, unable to say words as he breathed out the last of the smoke.

One of the blurry figures noticed him. Tommy could now see the man. He looked to be a young man. He wore a police uniform, with a tag that said Forensic Detective. His name tag spelled out his name: Leo Ford. He was speaking to him but Tommy could not understand. But, ringing sounds left his ear, he heard one last thing.

“You’re going away for a long time, Mr. Malone,” was what Tommy managed to make out.

I should’ve never trusted Nick. Figures he’d get me into prison. I could’ve helped those folks without the booze, gettin’ them drunk wasn’t the right way…But hey, at least I’ll have three meals a day and a warm bed to sleep in.

Tommy let out a faint chuckle, and closed his eyes, falling into a deep sleep.

Ghost Girl, Chapter 1


The cream colored yellow house stood poised at the end of the road, standing in a position quite unlike the other houses, which were an infinite labyrinth of similarity, their shapes and forms identical to one another. The very last house, although it did not seem to be shunned from the rest of the neighborhood like an outcast, was vastly different. While the remaining houses were small and simple, with four windows and a single door at the front, the last house had exactly seventeen windows and one door at each side. The so-to-speak, “normal houses” each contained a mailbox at the right side of the house, coated in black paint and marked with a golden two digit number. The final house at the bend in the road had a tendency to break the rules of the development, commonly known as Kings Point,  had an ocean blue mailbox with handprints of every family member and two crimson numbers marked near the opening of it. The mailbox also stood at the left side of the driveway, puzzling occasional visitors.

People rarely drove all the way down the cul-de-sac. Some were unaware that the house at 31 Kings Point even existed, except for one man driving along the boundless, newly-paved road at a quarter to midnight. His slick white Volkswagen avoided all streetlamps and the breathtaking crescent moon hanging low in the late night sky. He parked his car just before 29 Kings Point, attempting to avoid the eyes of suspicious strangers.

The man quietly stepped out of his car, the sounds he made, faint, as he closed the car door gently in his wake. It was cold for midwinter, and the leaves, scraping roughly against the road beneath his feet, were swept into the air and blew around him in an exhilarating burst of wind. But this was no time for admiring the beauty of a silent snowy night. No. He had to push the rusty gears embedded in his brain to get them running again. He could not focus on the eerie nature surrounding him. He had to snap out of his daze. This man had a job to do.

After walking up the steep hill, his legs throbbing, his pudgy reddened face contorting in pain, he reached his destination. His target. His endpoint. The climax of his storybook. The untimely demise of his wicked rival. The end of another’s chapter, but a whole new beginning for the victor. The man could just taste his win on his ruby red lips. He could smell his delight, suck on his vengeance, as if it were a mint.

The man eventually reached the steps to the house, the glossy doorknob shimmering in the beam of the porchlight, moths flying amongst the microscopic cobwebs. He closed his eyes, taking it all in. This was the path he was taking. The man’s fate lied in the hands of none other than the man himself. This selfish, cruel man was invading another family’s life, staining their own fates, their own dreams and destinies.

No, the man thought, shaking his head to bring about his senses. This is not about what they want. They don’t have a say in this. This is what I want. This is what I need to do. This is what I should’ve done a long time ago.

“This is my time,” he said aloud, sucking in an uneven breath, his lips parted in the shape of an “O”. “This is my time,” he repeated, more sure of himself. “In five minutes, this will all be over, and I will be a mended man. My broken stitches will be sewed. I shall breathe again.” He let the words sink in, letting the word “breathe” hang in the air and blanket the darkness. It seemed to turn all the neighborhood to stone, frozen in time.

Was it right? Was it right, to pluck at the heartstrings of the young and innocent, to grasp their lives in greedy hands, to hand their souls over to the master of Death? Was this what he had become? Was this who he was?

The man blinked twice and shut the voices up inside his head. They were useless. He could feel the doubt, the guilt, the hesitation closing in, leaving cold chills snaking up his back. He could not give in to that. He couldn’t. Not so soon. Not so suddenly.

Slowly, with no regrets, the man turned the knob and entered the mansion. The plan was set. It had to be done.

The solid oak door shut behind him, the man cringing at the screech it made across the carpeted floor. He tried not to focus on his loud entrance, but instead tiptoed across the hallway and into the den. The man gasped as he opened a pair of glass double doors. He stood there, his mouth agape at the sight, then decided it was best to enter rather than sightsee. Shelves upon shelves of books lined the walls, moving along from the classics to modern fiction. Small chairs fit for one person stood in the corners, some with newspapers folded on the cushion.

“A library,” he breathed, cupping his hands over his eyes, sliding them down over his cheekbones.

The man wandered over to a rickety table where an old record player stood, ready to be played away. Burning with curiosity, not caring who would hear him, he blew the specks of dust off the disc and slowly brought the disc to life as it spun faster and faster.

To his surprise, his favorite John Denver song, “Leaving On A Jet Plane,” filled the den with music, a guitar strumming in the background. Tears stinging his eyes, the man began to hum the sad serenade, a song he knew by heart.

All my bags are packed/

I’m ready to go/

I’m standing here outside your door/

Already I’m so lonesome I could die/

When he reached the chorus of the song, the tears he had held back choked his words, making the lyrics unsteady yet beautiful.

So kiss me and smile for me/

Tell me that you’ll wait for me/

Hold me like you’ll never let me go/

Never let me go. The words cut through him like a sharp blade. They persisted through his body, stinging and picking at his blackened heart, bruised from hate, scarred from a craving of vengeance.

Evelyn,” he murmured, her name even painful to say. He had betrayed the lyrics to the song, for he had let her go. He remembered the day he left her, her bouncy bobs of curly blond hair straightened, some wisps adhering to her tear streaked face. Her perfect, doll-like face full of sorrow. The man saw her bloodshot eyes, her smile gone forever, but her four words still haunted him, words that would follow him to his grave, perhaps beyond.

“I still love you,” she called to him from the sidewalk, gingerly rubbing her pregnant belly. Her words were full of hope and courage, like someday the man would return. Evelyn had given him a second chance. He could return, and if he did, all things from his first to last days with her would be forgiven.

He never did come back, however. Gambling and drinking had taken him away from his life, his real life, and to his despair, Evelyn died two months later in childbirth, her son, his son, along with her. She was almost thirty-one.

The man wept, burying his face in his hands, wanting to wail like a child, maybe like his own child would have done. His past had all to do with him. It was all his fault that his wife and son were dead, and that he was too caught up in his addictions to barely notice his family slipping through his fingers.

He and Evelyn could have been happier together, maybe could have raised a larger family in that cottage beside the woods. Evelyn could have finished up her writing courses at graduate school. She could have gotten her master’s degree by the end of the year, even with a baby to raise. Evelyn could have even decided to pursue her dreams even further, just like she wanted, and the man knew she’d worked so hard to become a published author.

In a way, when he left her, it was like he killed Evelyn. Her spirit, her love, her dreams, her happiness. Her son. Their son.

The man wiped the tears away, a waterfall cascading down his cheeks. Reluctantly, he meandered into the family room, where a wrap-around leather couch sat in front of a large flat screen TV. He walked up to the mantle, studying every single photograph. One was of his enemy’s wife cradling an infant in her arms. He smiled at Kristina, seeing a bit of resemblance to Evelyn in her. A ping of jealousy surged through him, remembering his feelings for Kristina Thomas.

She was the only one there for the man when no one else was. She, too, like Evelyn, believed in second chances and helped him recuperate from the drugs he had abused himself with. Still, he was wrong about Kristina. Soon after, her college friend, James, proposed, and the two married under a canopy of cherry blossom trees, all in full bloom for the early springtime.

The man turned away from the picture, unwilling to look at the child in Kristina’s arms. That should’ve been his future with Evelyn.

After searching through other rooms, the man finally came to the conclusion that the family wasn’t home. Dismayed, he was about to beeline for the door when he heard the sound of a grand piano from upstairs. The man stopped in his tracks, spinning around on his heels to face the staircase. He listened once more for the sound of the piano, for the keys to be banged, creating a mighty crescendo. A sly smile spreading pervasively across his face, the man creeped up the winding stairwell, being cautious not to make a sound.

He eventually reached a narrow hallway, where he could hear the piano’s gorgeous melodies ricochet off the walls, echoing throughout the entire house. The man pressed a cold ear to the wall, trying to follow the sound until he reached his destination. He skidded to a stop, discovering the source of the music. He listened carefully, hearing Mozart through the crack in the doorway.

The man was surprised to find an eighteen-year-old girl in the room, perched like a bird on the piano bench, letting her long fingers dangle over the keys. So this must be Sara, he thought, thinking back to the child on the mantle, and suddenly, the pieces of the complicated puzzle came back together, uniting once more.

His crystal blue eyes softened the more he gazed at Sara. He felt almost guilty about what he had to do, but then, the words that stabbed the navy blue night came back to him, emphasizing the point.

This is my time.

Sara turned around as soon as she finished her last note, falling off of the piano bench in fear. She stared at him for a moment, her eyes shooting lasers at the man.

Her voice came out meek but angry. “Who are you? What do you want from me?” She wasn’t afraid to look him in the eye.

The man, speechless by how brave she sounded, did not answer at first, his utter shock depicted on his face like a splash of colors to a painting.

Sara huffed, her words spoken with less stutter. “Look, sir, if money is all that you want, you’ve come to the wrong place.” She took a step back towards the window, her body hunched over.

The man chuckled to himself. What she told him was a lie. He knew her parents were extremely wealthy people, what with James being a businessman and Kristina a lawyer.

“Sweetheart,” he began, his voice patronizing. Sara stiffened. “I’m not here for your money. I’m not here for anybody’s money, actually.” The man ran his hands through his hair in mock frustration. “Good God, why does everybody assume the silliest of things these days?”

He waited for Sara’s reply, but nothing came.

“I knew your mother,” was all the man could get out, wanting to stump this young girl.

The crease on Sara’s forehead eased back, though not enough to change her tone. “And how did you know my mother, may I ask?” she snapped, her arms crossed over her chest. She backed away from the window.

The man decided to give her a taste of her own medicine. “Well if you must know, Miss Thomas,” he said, raising an eyebrow. “Before you were born, I was going through a rather difficult time in my life.”

“I can imagine,” Sara scoffed, the sarcasm punctuated in her voice. Her eyes demanded more information.

“I had some serious drinking problems, not to mention my gambling tendencies. I was using it as a distraction from reality. My wife had just died in childbirth, making me a childless widower.”

Sara stopped glaring when he mentioned Evelyn and his dead son, but she continued to stand her ground. The man carried on with his story, learning that Sara had nothing to add.

“Anyway, Kristina…” He cleared his throat. “I mean, your mother, noticed me one day, I don’t recall how, but she took me in, giving me the chance to start my life over.”

“Yes,” Sara replied, her words more smooth and empathetic. She smiled at the ground. “She’s given second chances to a lot of people.”

The man nodded in agreement, forgetting about why he had come to Kings Point in the first place. “And she did change me. Gave me a new outlook on life, actually. She has a heart of gold, your mother. A true saint.”

Sara blushed, beginning to feel more comfortable with his presence. Maybe this man wasn’t so bad after all. He seemed kind and loving, especially when he talked about Sara’s mother. They seemed so close.

“But your father led her down the wrong path,” the man said cooly, his voice composed.

Sara’s face drained of color, and she took a step back. There was something wrong about this whole conversation. She tucked her chestnut brown hair behind her ear. “What do you mean?” Her hands clenched into fists.

The man took a step towards her. “I was in love with Kristina for quite some time–”

Sara cut him off. “What about your wife? I thought you were still in mourning. I thought you loved her.” Her legs trembled from underneath her. She wanted to run, wanted to hide.

“Will you just listen?” the man shouted, startling the teenager. Even though he wasn’t right next to her, he towered over Sara. “I loved your mother, maybe even more than Evelyn. It was James that interfered. He didn’t appreciate my past or where I came from. I was there the day he proposed to Kristina in her office. I was distraught. The traitor. Took my one chance away from me.”

“My father is a great man!” Sara snarled, her power rushing to her. This man was not to be trusted. This man was relentless, regarding the people she loved most in the lowest form of respect, trying to make her surrender to his opinions.

“If only you knew your father like I did, Sara! You don’t know anything about him, so don’t even try to defend him.”

“Oh I will!” Sara said, her shouts bouncing off the walls. “Especially against someone like you!”

The man breathed heavily through his nostrils.

This is my time.

He reached into his pocket, pulling out the object he was looking for.

This is my time.

He pushed Sara harshly against the wall.

This is my time.

“Let me go!”

This is my time.

Sara kicked and thrashed, but the man held her firm, pressing a hairy hand into her shoulder blade.

This is my time.

“You can’t do this,” Sara rasped, tears welling up in her eyes. “This isn’t right.”

This is my time, this is my time.

The man quickly realized this girl wasn’t talking about herself. She meant Kristina.

This is my time, this is my time.

He clutched the knife in his hand, and without a second glance, pushed the knife into Sara’s chest. When he finally released, Sara shrieked and fell to her knees. Blood pooled down her stomach, hitting the ground like raindrops.

“HOW COULD YOU?!” she screamed, compressing the wound with her bloody hands. “AFTER ALL SHE DID FOR YOU, AND THIS IS HOW YOU REPAY HER?”

The man looked back at Sara, who was crying not from the pain, but for her mother. For his betrayal.

“I’LL NEVER FORGIVE YOU!” Sara coughed, choking on her blood and vomit.

The man bent down to face her, lifting up her chin, so she could look him in the eye. Sara did not try to look away. “Oh, don’t you worry, Miss Thomas,” he said. “You don’t have to.”

The man twisted the knife into her chest a second time, and Sara crumpled to the ground, the blood she lost making a circle around her. She didn’t fight or protest. She didn’t beg or plead for mercy. Instead, she watched the man shut the door behind him, locking it from the inside for good measure.

Sara tried to crawl on her hands and knees to reach her iPhone, but remembered that she left it downstairs in the kitchen.

“I’m really going to die tonight,” she whispered, withdrawing her hands from the wound, letting it bleed out on the carpet. Sara winced in pain, wanting to turn back the time to two hours ago, when her parents were just about to leave for their friend’s dinner party. She dreamed of them running back to the house, sensing that something horrible had happened to her. She imagined them bounding up the flight of stairs, two at a time, to her little music studio. Her mother would rock her in her arms, telling Sara that she was going to be okay. Her father would already be on the phone with 911, stroking her hair with one hand and holding the phone to his ear with the other.

But that wasn’t what was really going to happen. It wasn’t even bound to occur. Sara’s parents were half an hour away from Kings Point, unaware that their daughter was brutally stabbed and severely close to dying.

Sara laid her head down to the floor, crying for her own loss. No one could save her. No one had seen the man come in and barge into the room. She would not be spared. Her parents would always remember February 16, 2014, as the day their daughter was killed by some stranger she didn’t even know. And who was the man anyway, and why was he out to kill her?

Sara tried to shield these thoughts as her body stopped shaking from the impact of the weapon. She closed her brown eyes, thinking about what Heaven would be like, if she even deserved to be up there. With her body shutting down, Sara felt Death close in on her, and in one swift motion, Death extracted her soul out of her body and carried it up to where it belonged.

End of Chapter One.

The Pull

As I spread my wings to capture more air, the crisp October wind flutters the feathers on the end of my tail. A squawk escapes my beak, signaling my flock to turn. We curve across the sky like a majestic arrow. I’m flying point.

I am Sona, the first female leader of the Fortis-Volant gaggle, and close kin to our original ruler, my birth father. He is the one who named our group, after something he heard in the language of the walkers. When I reach the end of my term, it is my responsibility to christen our flock. But that problem will only arise once I have successfully led the gaggle to The Pull and back. I clear the thought from my mind and shift left.

Nudging in the same direction as me comes the second-in-line. His name is Relk, and he would have been the one to occupy my position if my egg was faulty. He lets out a throaty honk, and we fully shift position. A twinge of envy thrums in my heart as he places lead and directs the group. It’s more uncomfortable along the edge, as the wind that slides off Relk’s wing bounces off my side. I press in tighter.

“Sreeris!” I squawk out.

My sister peers over at me from her position. When she sees my discomfort, she nods her long, slender neck and swaps places with me. Now to Relk’s right, I hover in closer to him so he can hear me.

“Relk.” I hiss. “Turn the flock away from the wind. If we ram straight into it, we’re going nowhere.”

He gives me an annoyed look, but obliges, and the rest of the gaggle seems to relax the tension in their wings. I glare at Relk. If he doesn’t learn to fly true before it’s his turn, he’ll be in trouble.

A sparrow whips by my head, distracting me for a second. I watch the brown blur whiz through the air, loop-the-looping until he tightens his wings and drops down to earth in a breathtaking dive. Just before he hits the leafy canopy below, he opens his wings and soars. He’s mocking us, I know, so I ignore him and stare down at the scenery below.

Canada isn’t the most interesting of places. From the air, the only thing anyone can see is green and brown. Trees and shrubs and soil. In the place of The Pull, there are sandy beaches and sparkling waters, and all the walkers wear bright feathers. They travel in noisy swarms, honking and squawking without saying anything, and scattering paper that smells like old food all over the ground. Sometimes, they throw the food, and that is the best treat of all.

I look down and see another color, one I didn’t expect until far later: white. I shudder and puff up my feathers. This is what we were worried about. It means that winter is approaching, fast, and we need to go before it swallows up our home. It came earlier than last year. That can only mean no good.

“Sona, Sona, do you see the white?” Sreeris babbles, a tinge of fear in her voice. Relk looks over at her, briefly abandoning his position. I narrow my eyes at him, berating him in my head.

“It’s worrying, Sreeris,” he says comfortingly. “But we shall be far away before the cold comes.”

I start nudging to the front, ahead of time. It’s rude to cut one’s lead off short, but I am the leader, and he is not doing his job. Relk nudges right back out at me, extending his wings to push me back. How dare he disobey!

“My turn for point,” I say coldly. He stares at me, but with a dark look, he scoots left. I’ve scrambled the order, something no leader should ever do, and I feel my flock’s eyes burning holes in my back. But I shake them off and push onward.

“Sona,” Sreeris tries again, “what if we don’t escape the white?”

I feel myself smile. She would never give up on me. I rack my brain for an answer, and reply with, “We find a shelter. Those human farms are everywhere, we’ll be sure to find one abandoned. It’s not necessary, however. We’ll be there before winter comes,” I say as confidently as I can.

A frigid gust of wind blasts into me before I can finish, and I spin off balance. As I try to right myself, I collide into Relk who pushes me right back. The rest of the flock watches me, not reassured and unimpressed. My cheeks burn in embarrassment.

“Maybe we should rest. We’ve been flying all day. And I don’t think its best, in this case, to ‘follow the leader.’” Relk cuts in sardonically.

I stifle a honk of anger and turn to the gaggle. Noticing weary eyes and ruffled feathers, I reluctantly lead my group down to the ground. We swoop over the lush canopy, before alighting down on a grassy meadow. Sreeris seems the most happy out of everyone; she lets out a happy squawk before plopping down and snuggling into her feathers. I, too, feel relieved to finally stop flying, as I stretch out the ache in my muscles. But I wouldn’t admit it. Leaders are supposed to be ever strong.

As soon everyone huddles together, I survey our group. All five members are accounted for: Relk, Sreeris, Kalyna, Aijel, and of course, me, Sona. Kalyna and Aijel are the silent ones, the ones who always fly back while Relk and I grapple for the top spot and Sreeris babbles. Relk is bossy and arrogant, and seems intent on stealing my position as leader away from me before it’s his turn. Sreeris is by far my favorite. She’s my birth sister, kind, and sensitive, and would stick with me through anything.

“Sreeris,” I call out. She peeks out from under a wing. “Come on. I want to talk to you.”

“I’m tired.”

“You’re tired? What do you mean, you’re tired?!”

“I mean, I’m tired!”

“Sreeris, I am your leader, come here right this instant!”

My good-for-nothing-sister ignores me, burrowing her beak under her wing. I huff and curl up on the ground, tucking my feet neatly underneath me. Winding my graceful, long neck to settle my head on my back, I let out a sigh and let my beak squish into my velvety, soft feathers. My glistening eyes close, and darkness settles over me.

“Rise and shine, sleepyhead!” I open my eyes, feeling as though I had barely just closed them. Sreeris stands above me, beaming down at my bedraggled form. I bounce to my feet and steady myself, glaring furiously.

“Looks like our leader didn’t get the chance to get her beauty sleep,” a mocking voice bites from across the meadow. Relk sneers at me, preening his feathers. He would be the one to instigate our flock, getting up so… up so… unreasonably early just to taunt me! Aijel stares at Kalyna in that special way of his, and she returns the look. I feel a prickling feeling on the back of my neck. It alway seems that those two are somehow communicating.

“So, we shall head out now?” I try to sound important.

Sreeris beams, nodding her head frantically. “Yeah! I can’t wait to fly lead!”

I fall quiet, staring at her. Relk smirks and turns his back.

“Excuse me?” I ask my sister softly.

“Relk said that you said I could fly lead for most of today! I’m so, so excited!” Sreeris

honks happily. I shoot a venomous glare at my fellow flock-mate. He still isn’t looking at me.

“Why aren’t you smiling?” She asks, confused. “Aren’t you happy? I can… I can still fly lead, right?”

I take one look at her innocent, pathetic expression and break down. “Of course, Sreeris. Don’t forget to soar strong!” I let out a nervous honk as she laughs happily and waddles over to nuzzle Relk.

As we get into formation to lift off, I notice some clumps of white around the meadow. Despite the blazing sun, they refuse to melt, and it sets a chill up my spine. We have to leave soon. Winter is coming. I close my eyes and turn towards Sreeris.

I was originally destined to have two siblings. In fact, I was second-in-line to become leader before the cold happened. There was a third egg, older than me, who was also nestled close to me and Sreeris in the nest. It was supposed to be a brother, they tell me. One who would be brave and strong and complete the task of flying to The Pull better than I ever could. One who would follow my father’s wings. One who could take care of Sreeris and all her nervous babbling tendencies, and who would comfort me in the worst of times, whenever Relk bullied me when I was a chick.

Instead, the flock got me. The cold ignored my egg, but it shook Sreeris up enough to come out wonky. She doesn’t have the skill to fly. The stakes are too high.

“Aijel?” I ask, turning towards the bird. He flips his neck over to look at me, an unreadable expression on his face.

“You’re flying next to Sreeris, right? Okay, make sure she doesn’t screw up, and take over as quickly as you can,” I finish and dart over to the back of the V. I sigh. The back is only for the lowest class fliers. In fact, Sreeris would be here if I could trust her not to get in trouble!

Sreeris takes off. Lopsided, of course. Relk darts up to steady her and resumes his position as the second row propels themselves in the air, and finally, it’s my turn. Kalyna and I push off the ground, flapping our wings to catch some wind. I hate to admit I struggle a bit. Kalyna gives me a sort of funny look, and I glance away.

“Okay, Sreeris!” I yell forward. “Once you’re high enough, catch the thermals. That should bring you a little ways, and then from there –”

“Let Sreeris handle it herself!” Relk shouts back at me. He’s grinning. “She’s a big girl.”

I fall back a bit in shock at being spoken to in such a way. And he’s wrong. Sreeris is not a big girl, she’s totally incompetent no matter how much I love her. I can’t believe I ever agreed to this…

After that, I fall silent, biting back scathing remarks. My sister is just as bad as I thought she’d be. No, she’s worse. Her wings tilt the wrong way, she’s smashing against the wind, and neither Aijel nor Relk has offered to switch with her! They must be against me as the leader, it’s the only possibility. So I screw my eyes shut and try to ignore those traitors, the mocking of Kalyna’s looks, and my sister’s horrible, horrible flying.

Ignoring must take much more effort than I originally thought, because I soon grow fatigued. Nobody else in our gaggle is complaining, however, so I just keep flying. After a while, I can’t take it anymore, and I turn towards Kalyna.

“Aren’t… you… tired?” I huff. She gives me a look and shakes her head.

“Exhausted already? We’ve barely flown!” She’s glaring now. “Horrible, isn’t it? When you’re horribly fatigued, but your leader keeps pushing you more and more? She’s at the point of the V, after all, so she gets to make the decisions. And you have to follow the leader, no matter what, or you’re left at the mercy of the wind.” She turns away, seething, and guilt writhes in my chest.

I thought flying back would be much more easier than the front. The leader, after all, is the one who has to avoid smashing into the wind. But there are no thermals in the back, no little gusts of warm air that can help me soar easily. When Relk and Aijel manage to catch one, I am left flapping after them desperately. Whenever I slip out of formation, a gale of frigid wind sends me flying.

We forge on for about an hour before Relk notices my state.

“Oh-HOH? Is our little leader tired?” he mocks. I glare at him, and real concern slips over his face.

“Sona, we’re barely over halfway done!” He drops down beside me, and Kalyna gladly surges forward. “And why aren’t you in position? If you break out of the V, you have a whole sky’s worth of air slamming into you from all sides.”

“Look, I’m tired, okay?!”

“We need to rest,” he says importantly. “Flock! Fly down!”

I yawn and follow everyone else. We’ve barely reached the ground when I start snoring.

It’s dark when I wake up. The stars flicker like lightning bugs in the sky, and the moon is swathed in clouds. I feel alone and frightened, until I hear the gentle snores of my flock-mates, at the other side of the clearing. Shame burns within me. I guess no one, not even little Sreeris, wanted to sleep beside me.

“Our flock would be better if my brother was here,” I admit to myself, bowing my head. “He would be respected, the perfect leader. Everyone would get equal roles, and he would know how to fly in every position.” I flop down and glare at Relk, he’s fast asleep and curled next to Sreeris.

Something crackles in the leaves next to me, and my breath catches in my throat. Terror rushes through me, and I go stiff. There’s another crackle — footsteps. But not goose footsteps. They’re bigger. The thing murmurs something, and I recognize the sound instantly.

Walkers. I relax my tense body, because walkers are harmless. They’ve never hurt me or my flock. I stare at my gaggle, wondering if I should alert them. I decide against it. They would just get mad at me for waking them up. I bristle. Because everything is my fault, isn’t it!

“Thar theer arr!” A walker says in a quiet hiss. Their language is unintelligible. “Neese en fat, hua-hua-hua.” He chuckles.

“Un shoot weel tak them down, jess oo wait. Plump en juicy, goosey, goosey.” More laughter. I don’t understand a word of it. They must be telling jokes.

Something clicks. I open my eyes. That doesn’t sound natural. Suddenly, a thought comes to mind. I’ve heard stories of walkers with sticks that shoot fire. A nearby gaggle once told me that if the fire hits you, it will burn a hole straight through your entire body, and the walkers will carry away your carcass to… devour. I’ve always thought these so-called hunters were a myth. I hope I’m right. Another click, and I jolt my body backwards.

“BAM!” Something explodes inches away from my face, and I leap. A scream rakes out of my throat and the rest of the flock is to their feet.

“Walkers! Walkers with fire sticks?! Hunters!” Geese can’t run, so I jump and start flying. I don’t get anywhere before another something explodes, whizzing by my tail. I’m in the air before I remember my sister.

“Sreeris!” I yell. A scream answers. The hunters aren’t playing games anymore, and fire comprised of silvery pellets rains down on my flock. Aijel and Relk are already long gone, but Kalyna and Sreeris are still down there.

“Sona! Help!” Kalyna shrieks somewhere below. I flap above the clearing, waiting a second too long.

“Luk! Thar enether goose! Shoopt! Shoopt quickly!” A silver something whizzes by my tail, smacking against the feathers and whirling me into a nearby tree. The leafy fronds swallow me up, and I’m caught helpless in the branches. All the hunters are focused on me now, and they send their fire flying. The pellets sparkle in the air like deadly stars, but the tree is protecting me. I writhe free and take to the air, my throat raw from screaming.

“Kalyna! Sreeris!” I shriek. A tiny body pinwheels into the air. I recognize it as Sreeris, and my stomach lurches as I see her left wing drenched with crimson.

“Kalyna? Kalyna, where are you?!” Nobody answers. Still, I linger in the air until I hear a heart-throbbing wail. I feel bile burn my throat.

I don’t look back for my fallen flock mate. The only thing I can do is press close to my sister and try to steady her. I can see Relk and Aijel ahead, their anxiously waiting bodies illuminated by the moon. It’s full, pure and white, glowing like a halo in the sky.

“Oh, Aijel.” I sob, looking at that all-too-familiar, unreadable face. But I can see his eyes. They’re searching for his sister.

“Sona! What happened to Sreeris? Is she okay? Where’s Kalyna?” Relk says with a gasp. I almost begin sobbing. I need to be strong, a leader.

“I — It was hell down there,” I say in a wavering voice. “No fire burned me, but it got Sreeris’ wing, and I don’t know how fatal it is. There was no time to check, I just had to get out of there with my sister. K — Kalyna didn’t make it.” Aijel stiffens as I finish, his unreadable expression slipping into pure terror. Then, anger claims his face. A dark, cold fury like nothing I’ve seen before.

“Oh, Sona, I’m so sorry,” Relk says sincerely. “We’ll have to rest soon, and check up on her wing.” Sreeris is growing faint beside me. “We’ll have to rest in the forest though. Can’t risk… them finding us again. Sona, will you lead?” I shake my head.

“No,” I say stubbornly. “You and Aijel do point. Make sure Sreeris is okay.” I take a deep breath. “I’ll fly back.”

This time, I ignore any ache I experience. Everytime I glance over to my side to ask Kalyna if she’s holding up, I remember she’s not here and feel my heart drop to my talons. Aijel isn’t speaking to me, but Relk and I have momentarily put our differences aside due to our concern for Sreeris. I never realized before how much he truly cared for her. It almost makes me sympathize with him. Almost.

“Relk!” I say. “There’s a small patch of grass down there in the forest. It’s surrounded by trees. Resting place for Sreeris?” That’s another thing. Whenever we discuss a place to take a break, we always tag on, “for Sreeris” to clear up we’re not doing this for each other.

“Mmm… no. There could be predators.”

“Our time is running thin, Relk! Do you want my sister to collapse out of the very sky?”

“Fine. We can take a brief rest.”

Relk swoops us down.  As I plop to the earth, I immediately turn to Sreeris, who has fainted. Relk leans down to tenderly preen her feathers, and Aijel waddles off to the far corner to grieve.

“Oh! Oh, Sreeris, look at how you’re breathing. And bleeding!” Blood trickles down a hole in her side, staining her feathers crimson. Thankfully, the situation is a lot less dire than we originally thought. Her wing is uninjured, promising that if she survives the wound, she will be able to fly again.

As Relk fusses over Sreeris, I graze on some of the surrounding vegetation. Hunger always follow stress, and I’m currently starving. As my sister comes to, I nibble half-heartedly on a tender grass sprout.

“Sreeris? Sreeris, you’re okay!” Relk rejoices. I waddle over to her as fast as I can, letting out a squawk of joy.

“What happened?” she murmurs, twisting around to face me. “Is Kalyna okay? Sh — she was down with me… promised we’d come out together…” She yawns, and her eyes tear up. “I was about to promise her back when there was fire in my side, and sticky liquid started filling me up inside and coming out my eyes so I couldn’t see. I just kept flying, but the fire was burning me, and then I heard her scream that she was exploding, and then…” She shakes her head. “I don’t remember the rest.”

I sigh and let my beak run through her silky-soft feathers. As Sreeris falls back to sleep, this time snoring, I cleanse the blood from her body.

“Sona,” Relk says, staring at the sky.

“What?!” I snap at him. He looks at me, startled, before narrowing his eyes.

“I didn’t want to tell you this before, but now that you’re being so rude, I won’t hesitate –” I snarl. He hisses back, and continues.

“We’ve been flying off track.” Silence.


“I said, we’ve been flying off track!”

I stare at him. “That’s impossible.”

“No, it’s not. Funny, I think that’s the first time this has happened. You really screwed this up, didn’t you Sona? Completely butchered your mission.” He shakes his head in mock sadness. “Your father would be so disappointed-”

“Shut up!” I scream, flapping my wings threateningly. “Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!” He turns away, so I must be mistaken when I think I see a flicker of shame cross his face. I march to the other end of the clearing and plop down. Something akin to guilt wallows in my stomach, but I ignore it. I close my eyes, still seething, and drift uneasily to sleep.

Sleep is such a beautiful thing. It heals your broken body, it washes away your fatigue, it hides you away from the problems you have to face in your waking hours. I relax myself as I drift off. At least now, nothing bad can happen to my flock.

There is the soft sound of trotting footsteps somewhere to my right and the feeling of being watched. I burrow my head deeper under my wing. Another footstep, closer to me.

“Sreeris…” I mumble, my voice muffled by feathers. “Sreeris, I don’t wanna wake up.” I stretch. The soft morning sun shines its gentle light over me, warming my night-cooled feathers. Crickets chitter in their cheerful choir. A slight breeze whooshes through the leaves, imitating the sound of the ocean. All of it wraps around me like a heavenly peaceful blanket.

A yawn splits open my beak, and I sleepily let my head emerge. Blinking bleary eyes, I find myself face-to-face with…

In a snap, all my drowsiness has disappeared.


A snarl rips from the beast’s velvet muzzle, and he leaps. I feel razor-sharp claws rake over my stomach, and downy feathers fly through the air like dandelion seeds. A ghastly pain spreads through my torso, but I can barely feel it. My eyes are focused on the beast’s dagger-like teeth, as he opens his mouth and lunges at my throat.

“Sona? SONA!” Somebody yells. I whip my head and the fox’s mouth snaps right where my neck used to be. In desperation, I kick out my webbed feet at its unexposed belly and flail my body as much as I can.

Somebody launches himself at the fox, and manages to tackle it off of me. The horrible weight lifted, I writhe to my feet and awkwardly flap out of the way. Somebody else leaps forward.

“Sona! Come quickly, you’re hurt.” Sreeris honks desperately, flapping her right wing. It’s ironic that she is now the one to protect me. I turn to face my saviors.

Relk is at the strongest I’ve ever seen him. He thrashes at the fox, clawing at its eyes, and pecking sharply at its skull and ears. Aijel nips at the beast’s crimson tail. They both saved my life. Much as I dislike them, I have to join them. It’s only fair. After all, I am the leader.

“Relk! Watch out!” I yell a warning as I fly at the fox. Relk ducks out of the way of my talons as I land on top of the creature that almost killed me. With a final scream, the fox shakes me off and darts into the shrubbery. All three of us hunch together, panting.

“Okay,” Relk states, straightening. “That’s done. Sona, any injuries?” I inspect my chest. The feathers have parted where I was clawed, and angry red marks streak across my skin. They sting horribly. Still, the wound is nothing compared to what I could have had.

“None.” I assure him. He nods and turns towards Aijel.

“Aijel, any — ”


“Okay, then. It seems we have rested enough to start traveling again. Is everyone okay with this idea?” I wince. The assurance in his voice, the way he speaks, he sounds like a true leader. It almost hurts.

Everyone declares themselves awake and ready to face the day, even Sreeris. She is cheerful as ever, still conversing with her same bubbly tone, even with a hole burned in her side. The bleeding has stopped, meaning the fire probably glanced off her in such a way, it didn’t dig in deep. The wound is neat, which is good. A perfectly round red hole.

“So, shall we lift off?” I say dully. I’m still staring at Relk. He just seems so confident in himself! When you’re directing a ragtag bunch of geese, it should be impossible to be that self-assured. But he is, and it gives me a sinking feeling in my chest.

“Yes, let’s.” He confirms. “You’ll be flying front, I assume?” The statement is like a blow to the heart. Does he really think, right off the bat, that I would be spoiled enough to automatically fly in the most important position? Does he think I’m just a stuck-up leader? I puff out my feathers indignantly, trying to recover a few scraps of pride.

“Of course not!” I honk angrily. “I’ll be flying back. Aijel needs to learn how to avoid flying against the wind.” Aijel gives me a look, not an angry one for once, but more… confused. Relk actually smiles.

“Sreeris, your wound is okay?” I ask my sister. She nods, a stoic look in her eyes. Sometimes, she seems the strongest out of us all. AIjel shifts into position behind Relk, as quiet as always. But I can’t help analyze him, and the grief of losing his sister still lingers in his expression. I shake off my thoughts and ready my wings.

“Flock! Get ready to fly in three! One, two…” I realize for a second how much my wings ache. But if I have to sacrifice them for the flock, I will. It’s my duty, after all. Relk launches off first. Then Aijel, and finally my dear sister. I am last to take to the air, and as the wind rushes through my feathers, a sense of elation I’ve never before experienced rushes through me.

Even when I’m not in the front, flying still feels amazing. I stretch out my wings to their full extent, and swoop to catch up with the rest of my gaggle. Sreeris is inches in front of me, teetering slightly because of her injury, but still soaring stronger then I never noticed she could. It almost gives me a sense of pride. That’s my sister, the girl who survived being rattled by winter, who learned to fly even with my poor leadership, and who pushed through a could-be-fatal injury.

Relk curves us against the wind as we fly, and it slides right off of our V. I don’t have nearly as much resistance as when Sreeris was leading. Once we’re high enough, he switches off with Aijel. I think it may be his first time being the point in his life! And… he’s almost as bad as my sister. Relk murmurs to him urgent instructions, and I make sure to make my voice heard.

“Lower your head a bit, so the wind doesn’t smack it!”

“Quick, quick… turn now!”

“Wait, not that way!”

“Perfect! Now, swoop upwards, there’s a huge gale coming! You won’t be able to curve around that.”

“Not downwards, you numbskull! Up!”

Relk quickly switches out with him in time to avoid the huge blast of wind. The rest of the gaggle follows. It’s stunning how capable he is. A flush of pride creeps through my feathers. I taught him that…

As we resume flying, Aijel and Relk continuously swap out for front. Sreeris even gets a few seconds to lead the group as well. I actually enjoy myself as I watch them fool around. The whole flock is laughing for the first time in days… no, weeks… No, they’re laughing for the first time since this mission started! Even Aijel spares a few chuckles. As we spread our wings and soar, I can’t help but remember my last assignment: I still have to name the flock. It seems impossible. We’ve been Fortis-Volant for what seems like forever. What name could possibly capture the essence of this group?

I think of the hunters that took Kalyna’s life and the crimson of the fox that nearly stole mine. I think of the red burn on Sreeris’ side and then, of the everlasting loyalty to my flock, a flame that can never be extinguished. And then a name emerges that is perfect for everyone. Perfect for Relk’s flaring stubbornness, for Sreeris’ dancing happiness, for Aijel’s burning grief over his sister. And perfect for me, too, in a way.

“Fire.” I whisper to myself. Fire is beautiful and deadly and relentless. “The Burning-Fire Gaggle.” It seems to fit.

A squawk escapes Relk’s beak, signaling our flock to turn. We curve across the sky like a majestic arrow. I’m flying back. We’ve been traveling for more than a month by now, and we still haven’t reached our destination. But we’re drawing close. This, I know for a fact.

Somewhere, mere miles away, the place of The Pull is peeking over the horizon.

A New Beginning

In his dream, Brian was in the hospital, and he couldn’t move his arm. Gears whirred and metal scraped. Then, the room exploded, and he woke up.

The landscape around him was scorched and burned. Fires raged everywhere, buildings were decimated, steel destroyed. There was no sign of life anywhere.

Brian was shocked. What happened? He remembered living a normal life in the city, talking with his friends, until a bomb hit, and he lost his right arm. There was the hospital room, and then the replacement arm. And then, after weeks… nothing. He couldn’t remember past that. Where was his family? Were they dead? Or were they somewhere waiting? Reality cut through his dream and sleepiness.

Brian suddenly thought of the replacement arm, which had haunted him since he lost his organic one. It was made of coltan, steel, and tungsten. Synthetic muscles replaced the ones he lost, and gears functioned as joints. The doctor had programmed it to be exactly like a normal human arm, except much stronger and more resilient.

He didn’t know what to do. The number one thing he still wanted to know was what had happened. He needed to know what had happened before anything else.

Suddenly, Brian heard footsteps. He seemed to be outside, sitting on the ground. The ground was burnt, upturned, and there was no grass. A million thoughts raced through his mind, mostly about death. Brian grabbed a rock for a weapon and turned around. The footsteps got closer, and Brian desperately wanted to run away, but he needed to see who it was. Eventually, a figure came into view, and it was a young boy, just like Brian.

Brian stared and shouted, “Jack, what are you doing here? What happened? The hell is going on?! Where are Cooper and Henry?!”

Jack limped towards Brian and muttered, “You don’t want to know.”

When Brian was still living in the city, he had several friends, and one of them was Jack. Jack was full of energy, passionate, and loved playing guitar and heavy metal music. Now, it looked like he hadn’t slept in three days. His right leg had a cut, and his pants were stained with blood.

Cooper and Henry were also their friends, but they weren’t here. Brian asked Jack again, “Where are Cooper and Henry?!”

“I don’t know! They’re dead! Dead! Listen to me! Everyone’s dead!”

Jack sat down on the ground and told Brian everything that happened. The reason Brian lost his right arm was because a group of renegades, who were called the Outsiders because they did not live in the city, were determined to take over the city and claim it as their own. First off, the city was where the lucky people lived after World War III; as a result, people built new communities there. However, some did not take the chance to enter these new cities, so they were stuck in the wilderness. Eventually, while the cities grew, the Outsiders banded together and started their own community. Now, they were determined to take over the cities.

One day, the Outsiders flew over the city, dropping bombs and blowing up Brian’s arm.

After Brian received a metal arm, life remained normal for weeks. Then, the Outsiders launched a full blown attack on the city. It was living hell. Fighter jets destroyed the Control Center, and soldiers stormed the ground. The only reason Jack got away was because at the time, he was taking a walk outside and escaped the carnage.

Brian had been inside his house in the living room, the sturdiest part. All the wreckage fell around him. Then, a bomb hit ten yards away, and the force caused Brian to fly through the air. When he landed, his head hit a rock, causing his memory loss. Later, the Outsiders took over the Control Center and claimed this city as theirs. Brian and Jack were stuck outside, while the Control Center was the Outsiders’ to keep.

“So, we’re basically screwed now,” Jack finished up.

Brian stared into the distance. “Well, it’s probably better to die now than to risk being captured by the Outsiders. What do you have in mind?”

Jack thought for a bit and remarked, “Well, I don’t think suicide is a very healthy way to go down. Let’s keep on walking for a bit and see what we find.”

“That’s a stupid idea! We’re gonna die!”

“Better than committing suicide!”

Brian shoved Jack. “I’m not listening to your idea!”

Jack shoved Brian back, and they started fighting. Brian was very weak, but he had his new arm, so he easily overpowered Jack. However, while they were fighting, they came across a dead soldier’s body, and a piece of paper next to him. Paper was rare, as new ways of displaying information called holograms had been invented.

Brian pushed Jack on top of the soldier and saw the paper. He ignored Jack and studied it. It appeared to be some kind of map. Jack stood up and grabbed the map. Brian elbowed Jack with his robotic arm, and Jack went tumbling three feet away. Brian was impressed.

Well! This new arm is way cool!”

He picked up the paper.  It showed the city, the wilderness around it, and a mysterious path from the city to a triangle shaped building. Jack stood up, rubbing his ribs and wincing in pain.  

Brian showed Jack the map. “Hey, what do you think this is?”

Jack peered at the map and was silent for a few minutes. Eventually, he muttered, “I think we should go there.”

Brian exploded. “What the frickin’ hell are you talking about?! We are going to die soon! We have no resources, and you are fantasizing about doing idiotic things! Are you sure you didn’t hit your head on a piece of rubble?”

Jack sighed. “Brian, you might be right. However, if there’s one thing I want to see, it’s that triangle thing. If we die, at least we tried and saw the thing, or maybe we might even survive and get there! I know I’m sounding a bit cliché, but I wanna try. Either you come with me, or I go by myself. Either way, I’m going. And you can’t stop me.”

And Brian stood there, unable to think of anything to say.


They had been traveling for three days now, following the map. Their share of food, all from the dead soldier, was getting low now. All the way out there, the remnants of the city were becoming less and less. However, there was one thing bothering Brian. Where were all the bodies of the soldiers or anybody else? Did barely anybody die? It was all very confusing for Brian.

Jack was in front, staring at the map and trying to figure out where they were. Along the middle of the path, there were many rocks of all different sizes. From a far distance, all these rocks together looked like a rectangle. On the map, there was a rectangle next to the pathway, meaning Brian and Jack were at that area.

Jack looked up. “Hmm. On the map, there is some kind of rectangle formation made of stone. Brian, can you run back and see if this looks like a rectangle?”

Brian harrumphed, but sprinted back. Around 150 meters back, the rocks did look like a rectangle, and from even further distances, it was certain. Brian jogged back to Jack and told him, “Yeah, we’re here. Give me the map.”

Brian looked at the map, and the rectangle was next to the path.

He thought, If we’re at the rocks, then we have one-half of the path to go. That means around four more days. If only we could get more food somehow..

Over the next two days, the pair followed the map, keeping on track with other landmarks shown on the map.

By the end of the fifth day, they had no more food left. Jack kept on trekking along, while Brian wondered if his mechanical arm was wearing down. Brian had a fear that whenever he received anything new, he would wonder if it was breaking down. He always had this problem, but now it seemed to be overwhelming.

Brian knew this trip was suicide. However, hadn’t he asked for suicide? He wanted it and didn’t want it at the same time. Mind-boggling questions tortured Brian about life or death.

Suddenly, Jack shouted, “Brian! I found a dead soldier! He might have food with him like the last one!”

Brian sprinted towards Jack and saw a soldier lying sideways. He couldn’t see any sign of injury.

“Get some food quickly,” Brian instructed. “I’ll see if he has anything else that’s useful.”

While Jack collected food, Brian searched the soldier’s other pockets. After ten minutes, Jack had found dried fruit, water, crackers, cheese, chili with beans, spaghetti, and beef stew. Brian had discovered a knife, a pistol, and a flashlight.

That was all that they could carry, and they continued their journey.


On the seventh day, the triangle came into view. It was made of metal and was the only modern thing around. In front, there was a hole that lead inside. Brian and Jack approached it, and neither wanted to get any closer. They argued with each other, until Brian went first, holding the pistol, and then Jack. There was nobody inside, and stairs led to mysterious places. Brian wanted to get out but a man stepped into their view. He had black hair with tints of gray. He was smiling, tall, and seemed to be muscular. Brian screamed, and prepared to shoot when the man spoke.

“Wait! I see you have the map. Lucky! Well, follow me!”

Brian and Jack were bewildered. What was this place?

They walked down one staircase and entered a small theater with a screen. The man introduced himself.

“I am John, the leader of this operation, which is called Technology and Resistance Movement, or TARM. You’ll learn a lot here. But don’t worry. This isn’t a trap or anything.”

Brian was even more confused. What was going on?

The screen started playing a video, and Brian and Jack were intrigued. The screen showed videos of the city manufacturing the signature Outsider planes and vehicles. The city secretly transported the technology outside the walls, while telling everybody the Outsiders were a rebellious group. Then, the movie cut to the top leaders accepting money in exchange for doing what the Outsiders wanted. The leaders were bribed, and every time, they accepted it. Finally, the screen showed machines building a very strange shaped base in the wilderness, far away from any civilization. The leaders were entering the buildings along with other officials. The screen cut off, and darkness filled the room.

John spoke again. “The Outsiders are fake. The city is corrupt, and the leaders have a hidden base. Overall, that attack on the city was completely orchestrated by the city itself in order to destroy most of the city and restart the process.”

Brian stuttered, “Most of the city? We didn’t see any of the city left standing!”

“Well, the very middle has a cloaking device, therefore tricking anybody still alive into thinking the city was completely destroyed,” John replied.

Brian wanted to ask another question, but his brain was overloaded trying to process the other information. The Outsiders were fake?!

John kept talking. “Before the attack, we found out about it and sent everybody who wanted to live, here. You two probably didn’t hear about it, and you’re very lucky to have found the map leading here. Anyway, the real reason the leaders decided to attack the city was to reduce the population significantly and restart the city. They only wanted the elites to live with them, the people that they knew personally and could talk with, work with. They didn’t want those lower people who wasted food, money, time, and didn’t benefit the city. It’s a twisted form of a proper society. They did not think of all the lives that would be lost, or how the civilians would feel. They only knew of their own benefits.”

Deep inside Brian, something snapped. Then, shattered. And finally, disappeared. He had wondered where his family was. But now, he knew. They were dead.

“Our plan is to attack the leaders’ hidden base. It might seem crazy, but we have to do it.”

Jack spoke up. “That’s suicide! I don’t know whether this base is powerful, but we are severely underpowered! I saw no artillery or anybody else!”

“Not so fast hotshot, just wait and see.”

John led them into what seemed like the main chamber. It had a tile floor with many lights illuminating the area. On the walls, there were many racks of guns and weapons. The most amazing thing was that there were people. Around 200 people were milling about, doing their work. Brian was shocked. This many people had come here? He had no idea.

John said something into his radio and out came two boys. Immediately, Brian recognized them. They were Cooper and Henry!  They seemed to be stronger and tougher. Brian and Jack were shocked again, as both of them thought Cooper and Henry were dead. They bolted up to Cooper and Henry.

The pair laughed and said, “We have a lot to catch up on.”


Cooper had been trained in archery and basic sword fighting, while Henry had learned about running operations and analysis. Brian decided to learn how to take advantage of his metal arm, using its strength and its resilience. He became the best shot TARM had ever seen. Lastly, Jack trained in stealth and shotguns, and he could sneak up on anybody.

Eventually, TARM got ready to attack the hidden base after months of training. However, on the day of the attack, Brian fell down the stairs and sprained his ankle. Everybody was in shock. How could they defeat the city if one of their main attackers was out? Brian wasn’t this clumsy! Well, sometimes he tripped and didn’t watch where he was going, but he never fell down the stairs!

“Screw it, just go. It’s not that hard, is it? Besides, this will heal soon. Go!” Brian winced at the pain.

All the fighters boarded a helicopter-like transporter and took off. Henry, along with other intelligence officers stayed to monitor the battle and fire the heavy artillery. Brian received a healing accelerator and watched the battle through cameras. The second he saw the fighters get off the plane, Brian knew something was wrong. The ground was shaking, and no enemy soldiers came out to greet them. Then, it all happened.


On its way back, the transporter dropped onto the landing pad, just before the engines started smoking. The fighters slowly climbed out, some not even able to walk. The transporter had picked up all the soldiers they could from the battle and flown them back, sustaining heavy fire. Jack and Cooper were lucky, as they were not as injured. Henry and Brian, with his sprained ankle, rushed up to them, and started spewing questions at them. Nobody knew the leaders would be that ready and powerful.

Cooper sat down and sighed,“The base had a hidden weapon. Right after we got off the helicopter, the ground shook, and we all fell. The shaking got worse, and right when we thought it would never stop, it stopped. However, soldiers sprinted from the base, shooting their guns at us. Most of our soldiers were shot, but because we’re twelve and thirteen, they didn’t see us. Jack and I climbed back on the transporter with other soldiers, and we took off. So you see, they have a super-weapon. Brian, I knew we would need you!”

Brian was flattered. “Need me? What could I have done, except run around in circles? I’m not that useful!”

“Well, your arm doesn’t feel pain, so it could withstand the earthquake. Then, you could, um, well…”

“See! I couldn’t have done anything!”

The medical staff rushed to treat the wounded, while the group of friends went down the stairs into a fancy parlor. They sat in silence until Jack stood up and said, “Well, let’s get to work.”


The wind blew in Brian’s ears. The rifle on his back seemed heavier than normal. It had been seven months of training and retraining since the last battle. Henry was at TARM’s base, running ops as usual, while Cooper, Jack, and Brian, along with other soldiers, were on their way to a final assault on the base. They were riding the transporter. Since the first fight at the base, TARM had damaged the base with heavy artillery and spied on it with drones. It was now or never.

Brian was carrying a sniper rifle and a smaller, faster rifle. Cooper had his bow and different types of arrows. Lastly, Jack carried two different shotguns, all ready for use.

Suddenly, Henry’s voice crackled in their ears through their earpieces. “You ready for some action? Yeah, you are. Cannon control, standby. Three, two, one, fire!”

Back at TARM, heavy cannons were firing missiles and rockets at the hidden base. They flew past the helicopter, leaving a trail of smoke and plasma. There had been a breakthrough of engineering when the United States was still intact, the time before the cities rose.

The leader’s base lit up, then partly exploded. Many of their anti-aircraft guns were destroyed, leaving an opening for the transporters.

Brian called Jack and Henry over and shouted over the wind, “Alright, let’s go over the plan. A, drop in front and just attack. B, flank from the left. C, come from the right, enter the base, and deactivate security. D, drop from behind, picking off whatever is left, move into the base, and confront those leaders. You ready?!”

Jack and Cooper both replied, “Yup!”

Soon, they were in range of the base. The pilot screamed, “We’re taking too much flak! Brian! Shoot the AA guns!”

Brian unslung his sniper rifle. It was made of wood, like a hunting rifle. However, inside, there were plasma magnets that powered the bullet, making it a very effective weapon. He aimed at an anti-aircraft gun and fired. The bullet flew through the air and ripped the cannon into shreds.

With the gun destroyed, there was time to land and get all the soldiers off. When the transporter was fifteen feet above the ground, Brian, Jack, and Cooper jumped off. From another helicopter, Squad D also landed. Out in front, A was busy soaking up the front line of defense and distracting the base’s soldiers. B was picking off the edge of the the soldiers, while C was fighting to get in the base.

Brian screamed to Jack and Cooper, “Alright, let’s go!!”

Jack grabbed one of his shotguns, a modern, black, and metal one. It was partly plasma-powered, which was even more devastating. Cooper’s bow used a machine to help pull the string, and had many types of arrows, like explosives, EMP, electricity, and scatter arrows.

The ground had already been marred with the signs of war, and mangled bodies lay motionless. Brian immediately turned away and tried not to vomit.

D Squad sprinted forward into the fray of battle, and instantly, a few soldiers went down. Brian had come into this battle unwilling to kill anybody, but when he saw his fellow fighters die, he knew he had to do it. Ignoring his sniper rifle, Brian unslung his smaller, fully-automated rifle, which was also plasma-powered, and fired at an enemy soldier. The bullet flew straight through his helmet and entered his head. Brian looked away and tried not to think that he killed someone.

Jack was busy sneaking off, using his stealth to his advantage, while Cooper was shooting all types of arrows. High in the sky, two orange-ish orbs were falling down.

Brian cursed and screamed at Cooper, “Hey! Two bomb-things are falling from the sky! We better run!”

Cooper and Brian bolted far away from the orbs, and when they hit the ground, most of D Squad was gone. Brian felt broken. This was going to fail. His despair turned into fury as he set his sights on another enemy soldier and fired. He fired again. After he had run out of bullets in one clip, around thirty soldiers had fallen, the number of bullets in a clip.

Cooper chose an explosive arrow and shot it through a window, straight at a group of enemy soldiers. Suddenly, right after it exploded, Jack spoke over the line.

“Aww, Cooper! I was sneaking up behind them. They would’ve been really surprised! Anyway, come over to me. I’ve got to show you something.”

Cooper and Brian ran past a few buildings, but were blocked by another building.

Cooper said to Brian, “Well, we could blow that door off, or-”

“Nah. I’ll just punch it.”

Brian used his metal arm to completely punch the door off its hinges. “See? Much more efficient.”

The whole base wasn’t one building. It was a complex of many other buildings leading to the main one. When they reached Jack, Henry screamed in their ears, “Incoming enemy fighter jets! I’m firing the long range missiles.”

The jets flew over the battle, dropping bombs and causing destruction. A bomb hit fifteen yards away, the explosion knocking the trio into a wall. Then, several missiles came screaming towards the jets, destroying them, creating great explosions that lit up the sky.

Meanwhile, three platoons of enemy soldiers started firing at the group and the thirty friendly soldiers. Brian cursed and ducked beneath rubble. Bullets flew over him, making him feel safe, until someone tossed a grenade at him. Brian panicked, until he remembered he had a metal arm that could withstand gunfire. He grabbed the bomb and threw it high and far. It landed in the middle of the platoon, and exploded. Soldiers scattered, screaming, while TARM soldiers took the chance and started shooting. Cooper fired electric arrows, while Jack pumped lead. Brian fired also, turning the ambush around.

Just when it seemed TARM had won, more enemy soldiers arrived. Brian and Jack were hysterical. However, Cooper remained calm. He took an explosive arrow and blew up the soldiers. Again, Brian mowed down dozens of soldiers, reloading and reloading again. Finally, there were no more enemy soldiers.

Henry spoke again. “Everybody except C, head towards A. They’re having trouble. C, keep on trying to get in.”

Jack, Cooper, and Brian rushed to A, where tons of enemy soldiers had pinned down A. Brian, along with everybody else, unloaded their weapons into their targets. After they had finished, Henry came over the line.

“Well, all the outside soldiers have been killed. Now, all of you, attack the base and get inside. C has already weakened them. Go!”

The base stood high and tall, even after the battle. It was silver, metal, and gleaming. It was shaped like a circle, round and able to be defended everywhere.

The D leader planted a charge on the outside, which created a hole in the wall. Gunfire followed, and the whole D Squad was dead. Brian ripped a grenade from a soldier’s belt, and tossed it in the base. He threw two more. After they exploded, the firing stopped, and Brian shot down nine more soldiers.

He signaled to Jack and Cooper that it was safe, when all of a sudden, a bullet hit his metal arm, bouncing off. In the base, very high up, protected by metal and forcefields, a lone sniper stood. Brian rolled to the side, and using the infrared option of his scope, detected him. It would be a very hard shot, even for him, as a metal bar blocked most of his view. Brian aimed at the assailant’s left hand and fired.

The man dropped, his rifle falling. Brian fired again for good measure, and the trio ran into the base. Once again, five platoons of enemy soldiers lined up.

Jack sighed and groaned, “Again?!”

Brian grinned. “Last time. I know it.”


They had cut through the base’s soldiers, albeit running low on resources. Brian only had ten bullets left, Cooper had five arrows, and Jack, seven shells. Brian contacted TARM, saying that all the soldiers were dead.

When they responded, he expected it to be Henry, but it was John. “Nice work there. I’m sending you a map of the place, and we’ve located the leaders. They would be the red dots. Get to them, and do whatever you want. However, get some information from them first. Oh, and this is to everybody. Out.”

The trio, followed by all the TARM soldiers, made their way to the leader’s secret room. On the way, there were a few enemy soldiers left, but they were killed instantly. When they reached the room, the door was locked, but this was nothing guns couldn’t fix.

The room was rectangular and the size of a football field. Inside, computer monitors lined the room. Graphs displayed the city, and many other ones too. It was all white, modern, and sterile. The holograms seemed almost real, while the leaders did not. They were all pale, with dread on their faces. All the TARM soldiers pointed their weapons at them, until one pressed a button. Plasma guns appeared from the walls and started shooting. Brian’s fully-auto rifle, Cooper’s bow, and Jack’s shotguns were ruined. Brian raised his metal arm, which very luckily, blocked a bolt flying towards his face and blocked lots more.

Eventually, the plasma guns were destroyed, thanks to the other soldiers, and the leaders were dragged out. Except one. He was the Head, and it was the trio that were to deal with him. He had been shot in the arm.

“You! You killed our families, destroyed our lives! Who are you?” Brian shouted.


Cooper grabbed his last arrow, a normal one, and thrust it into the Head’s arm. “How about now? Explain!!”

He winced from the pain. Only then did Brian realize how ugly he looked. Dark hair, freckles, a scar on his face, a crooked nose. How surprising for a man who had everything.

He replied, “Still no.”

Brian stepped up and punched the Head in the face.


The man cleared his throat. “The world was already ruined. I had made a new utopia, the city, where we lived in peace! But you poor people that contributed nothing kept stealing our resources we worked hard for! You are a disgrace!”

The group didn’t understand. They were thinking of more ways to hurt him when Brian remembered the sniper rifle on his back. He unslung it and aimed at the Head’s stomach. “Explain more!”

“I was building a new community with people that helped society! You’ll never understand!” The Head was hysterical now, spittle between his lips. “Why don’t you die! You ruined my plans!! I hate you!!!”

He seemed to be losing control, going insane. “You all will die! Along with me!” The Head pressed a button on the wall, committing suicide. His body flopped on the floor with no control.

Suddenly, the whole base started to shake. The commander of A screamed, “We need to get out of here, fast!”

Everybody ran out of the base just before the whole thing cracked in half and blew up. It looked like an orange and red orb had surrounded the base, then, erupted. Pieces of metal flew into the sky, and the orb launched itself into the air, and split apart. The transporter was there, waiting for them, as part of the orb was falling towards them.

When they were running out, Brian noticed the leaders on the floor, crawling with blood around them. It disturbed him greatly.

On the way back to TARM, everybody congratulated each other on a mission well accomplished, but Brian stayed separate. The Head’s last words haunted him,I was building a new community with people that helped society! I hate you! You will die!”

On the ride back, Brian conferred with Jack, Henry and Cooper.

“I think he hated poor people so much, that he wanted a perfect world without any of us. Nothing was going to stop him,” Jack said.

“No. I don’t think he wanted anything.” Henry smirked. “He was just mentally retarded and insane!” He burst out laughing through the earpieces.

Cooper shook his head. “Nah. I think he was smart, but insane, and it twisted his view of the world so much. He actually thought he was right.”

Brian spoke last. “Well, I agree with Cooper. Before, he was normal and benevolent, but he became insane, resulting in a goal that he never accomplished.”

When they arrived at TARM, everybody cheered. The lights became strobe lights, and a party started. Brian and his friends stood in a corner, insulting each other and trying to beat each other up like normal teenagers. It was hilarious.

After two months, TARM had set about building a new base in a spot closer to natural resources. They decided on a democracy and not to follow in the city’s footsteps. Building was easier, and new technology existed to help. Holograms depicted exactly what to do.


Brian was skipping rocks, and it was frustrating. It had become harder somehow. He liked being out in nature. Even after the new base was built, he still went outside. He thought it connected with his days of finding the previous TARM base, and staying there. While he had stayed there, it felt like it was part of nature, a sanctuary to help the wounded. Now, the new base was modern, without the feeling of nature. He had looked for a replacement, until Brian settled on Nature herself.

Brian thought it symbolized something. His new arm with nature. New with old. Suddenly, his friends came. They screamed, “Brian! Come! Let’s party!”

Brian smiled. And he ran with them.


On a bright, spring morning in Central Park, sunlight pours through paper-thin leaves suspended on branches overhead. The sound of traffic and angry drivers is gone as soon as one enters through the gates, as well as the stench of car exhaust and stray trash cans. Squirrels scamper alongside curious pigeons hiding in the bushes lining the narrow walkways.

Here, I could get away from all of the city’s bustle and noise, and just think. Because these days, the thing that I needed to do the most was think, and remember, and guess. The satisfying crunch of gravel underneath rubber soles was the only sound I made as I treaded through the park, seeking solace among the trees. When I found a bench free of people, I sat down quickly and closed my eyes. It had all happened here. I could imagine it all now.

A young boy, skipping down the path. The breeze ruffled his dark hair, causing it to pull away from his face long enough to reveal eyes wide and glittering with joy.

“Look, Skyler!” The boy, so small he barely reached his sister’s knees, twisted about so he could find her. “Look-”

“What do you want me to look at now?” Exhaling with annoyance, Skyler collapsed on a nearby bench and rolled her eyes dramatically. “I can’t deal with you anymore. Can you just let me have a moment of peace?” She shut her eyes and took another deep breath. But when she opened them, he was gone.

I came back to myself with a jolt, shaking my head to bring my thoughts back to the present. Because that boy was my brother, and that girl was me.

When I returned home, I raced to my room without a word of greeting to my parents and jotted my latest memory down in my notebook. It was all coming together now: the day my brother disappeared and left me to find where he was. For the past week, the memories have been returning in bits and pieces, hiding clues to my brother’s disappearance. Bailey, my therapist, had explained to me this was called “repressed memories,” when the mind unknowingly tries to push back memories because of extreme trauma or stress. Somehow, her telling that to me made me feel immensely lighter, as if knowing this was an actual condition other people went though made me feel less alone.

I sat back against the creaking headboard behind me, leaning all of my weight into its polished, reassuring surface. Somehow, I knew this latest memory was the most important: after all, it was the last moment before Jayce had disappeared. I reached out a hand and grasped the stiff binding of my memory notebook, smoothing a finger over the hanging threads dangling from the edges of its worn cover. Taking deep breaths as Bailey had taught me, I calmed myself down enough to clear my overworked brain, so I could think. When I had calmed myself down, I reopened the book to the memory I had just scribbled down, scanning the hasty lines for a hidden clue. What was it that my brother had told me to look at?

The muscles near my eyes twitched and I clenched my fists tightly, my fingernails digging into my palm. My lips tightened and my head began to throb painfully with the pure effort of remembering.

Jayce contorted his body so he could look at my face. “Look, Skylar,” he called.

My eyes snapped open, and I remembered. I scrawled out two words in the notebook, threw it on my bed, then leaped out of the room.

The flowers.

Downstairs, my mother was tying together flimsy stacks of papers, and she jumped when I came bolting down the stairs.

“Oh, Skylar! Good thing you’re here! Would you mind hanging these up around town for me?” She handed me one of the stacks, facedown, her false cheeriness seeping through her words and watery eyes. Months of pretending and acting had carved wrinkles and lines around her eyes and lips, as well as creases in her forehead.

I sighed. “Sure, Mom.”  

My mother, being the overbearing, constantly concerned person she was, had declared right after the kidnapping to the rest of the family to make our circumstance a “family matter,” meaning only me and my parents could talk about the situation — with the exception of my therapist, of course.

“And besides,” my mother had added that day, “we don’t want to make a big deal out of this, do we? At least if we use flyers or something, the police won’t think it’s too serious and won’t get involved. We should try to solve it ourselves, in case the police go after the man and he ends of hurting Jayce more and–” at that point, she burst into tears and ran out of the room. She was frightened of the notion that the kidnapper might do something terrible to Jayce to “get back” at us if he was caught. Weeks later, I tried to convince her that she was being ridiculous and had to report it to somebody, but she was firm about her stance and we never spoke about it again.

As I stepped outside, I flipped over the papers and glanced at them. In bold letters, they announced “Missing: eight-year-old boy,” as well as a description and picture of Jayce. I stood in shock. My parents were just going to put up ads for him, as if he was a runaway dog? And they expected me to put up these advertisements for my own brother as if it wasn’t a big deal? I was mortified, but I did as my mother asked me to do. No reason for adding on to her stress when she was clearly constantly worrying.

Half an hour later, I found myself standing in front of a local supermarket, willing myself to enter. It was as if my feet were stuck in cement, and I needed all of my strength to move them. I dragged one foot after another, pulling them until I stood at the entrance of the store. All at once I was inside the store, and facing the row of pre-wrapped bouquets. Sunflowers, daisies, roses, baby’s breath; the colors were intoxicating. I began searching for a clue, or a message of some sort. Although what I was searching for wasn’t exactly clear, I knew I would know it when I saw it. Right?

“Miss?” I looked up at the kind, smiling face of the shop’s manager. “Do you need anything?  I noticed you’ve been here a while, and you seem to be having trouble with these- these flowers.”

“I’m okay, thanks.” I wasn’t in the mood to reveal my situation right then.

“Okay. I just wanted to let you know the store will be closing in ten minutes.”

I blinked. “Oh. Sorry. I’ll — I’ll go now.” I was stuttering, and I could feel my face getting red, but I fled.

I continued back home through the city, shoulders hung dejectedly. Bailey always told me in that soft, soothing voice of hers to “feel strong, look confident,” and repeating that phrase over and over always used to help me pull myself together and quiet my mind. And now, I could feel the corners of my mouth dipping, my brow scrunching, but I made no attempt to change that. I knew I should be imagining my “happy place,” “practicing self-love,” and all of that other crap everyone tells me to do, but I felt discouraged, so why couldn’t I look discouraged?

This angry rant had been playing in my head for a few blocks when suddenly, I paused. On a streetlamp near me hung one of the signs I had posted earlier that day about Jayce, but next to it was another paper that wasn’t there before. It was a small square of computer paper folded in half, with my name, Skylar, printed in a plain font on the outside. I whipped my head around, chest thumping.

How did he know I would pass by here? How does he know my name? What if someone else had picked it up? Then one, last thought: What if he’s following me?

I was frantic. Should I take the note? Obviously, it was intended for me, because it was near impossible to find someone who had a name like mine. All I wanted to do was be safe at home. I was at a loss for what to do.

With one last second of hesitation, I grasped the note and ripped it free of the lightpost, a stray piece of tape detaching and fluttering to rest at my feet. Then, I turned around and ran, feet pounding against the pavement and the note crumpled tightly in a sweaty fist.
The next morning, I was awake and alert by dawn. No one was awake except me, so I crept out the front door, last night’s note folded neatly and pressed against my thigh.

What I had found inside the slip of paper shook me. It contained only a few typed lines of information, telling me Jayce was kidnapped and hidden somewhere in the city. The longer I took to find him, the more I would have to pay to get him back. Having this knowledge simply made me more determined to get my brother back, so I resolved to find him soon.

Along with that came a few stray insults about my parents, including that my mother was a “nosey know-it-all” who had no business doing anything with me. In fact, it specified I was not to let her help me or let her know about my situation. I was tempted to disobey the note, but who knew who I was dealing with? Better play it safe.

I wandered along, resuming my search for flowers. What could that mean? I walked down block after block, turning my head left and right as if I were a broken record. Still, nothing. My feet began to throb and sweat trickled down my back, and for the second time in two days, I felt completely, utterly lost. There was no way I would ever find Jayce in this maze of a city. It would be so easy to just give up, go home, and leave it to the adults. When the sun had crept halfway up to the top of the sky, I found myself back at the gates of Central Park. I was drawn by the joyful shouts of children laughing on swingsets and scrambling about on their light-up sneakers.

That’s when a wave seemed to hit me and I sank down to the ground immediately, spine pressed painfully against the sharp iron rods of the park’s gates. The memory washed over my mind and obscured my vision, forming a new scene:

Continue reading Vanished

The Last One’s Plague

Darkness. That was all Zephyr felt. It was one of the rare times when he had gotten scared. His arms and legs turned cold. Beads of sweat formed on his temples. He started to hyperventilate. He had no idea where he was, what he was doing, or even what time period he was in. He could not remember his past and wanted answers desperately. The only things he could remember were his name, an explosion in a lab, and… something about him surviving a genetic breakdown.

Zephyr had been in that exact spot for a whole night. Or more. The sun rays had found their way through the cracks in the concrete that encased him. He felt heavy, weary, and solid. He tried to move his legs, but couldn’t. He forced his arms upwards and pushed away the concrete on top of him. He found an isolated metal rod that gave him leverage to help him remove the concrete that was lying on his feet.

On the ground near him, he saw a dead person. He ambled up to examine the corpse. The eyes were not in their sockets, and the skin around the mouth and nose were peeling off. Dried blood was on the ear lobes, the skin under the eyes, and the philtrum. The person’s body looked like he or she had not eaten in several days. The skin around the chest could not be seen, exposing the rib cage and the shrivelled organs underneath it. He bent down to inspect the lung. It had several dark spots and looked like it had imploded or had been eaten from inside out.

“Ew!” he exclaimed.

As he stood up, he looked around at his surroundings for the first time. Worn down, abandoned buildings with broken windows and paint peeling off of the walls. Fires, raging inside the buildings and smoldering the grounds near them. Smoke was rising into the air from various places, intoxicating all the oxygen, and giving a pungent taste to the air. The blazing sun had camouflaged itself into the vain, orange sky.  Dawn became dusk.

Smoke clouded his lungs. His throat felt dry, and his eyes felt like they were on fire, thanks to the dust that was polluting the air. His clothes were torn and ragged, showing off his once lacerated skin. On his shirt pocket, there were large bold letters: O-M-E-G-A.

Did I work there? He pushed that thought away. His shoes were piles of mud. He assumed that it had come from walking around on the turbid puddles on the ground. Nasty.

As he looked up from the ground, he saw a shrewd building. It was a bit bigger than the size of an average house. If he squinted, he could make out the larger version of the letters on his shirt on the front of the building.

“Omega, huh? Seems like a pretty big deal!” he shouted. His voice broke the sound of silence, with the exception of the roar of the fire.

He walked over to the once architectural masterpiece. The doors would not open, so he went in through the rear, watching what each of his feet stepped on. When outside, it looked like a modern house some rich guy owned, but when inside, it looked like a high-tech, next-level lab of some sort. Although it was completely obliterated, he thought it looked kind of classy, apart from the broken windows, of course.

Zephyr traipsed over to the nearest fallen desk and picked up a file. He opened it up to see a table with multiple names:


As he looked down to the bottom of the list, he saw his own name.


And the page stopped there. He wanted to… No, he needed to know more.

He went over to another desk and picked up another file. Nothing. He picked up a file on the floor. Nothing. He went over to a cabinet that had fallen over.

Subjects: List A-180 – A-230.

Weird, he thought. There were only 228 people, but the label said there were 230.

“Maybe they got the label before starting the program,” he laughed to himself.

He kneeled down and reached for the cold, rusted metal door. He yanked at the handle; it wouldn’t budge.

“Locked? Darn it!”

He sauntered towards a misshapen piece of metal. He firmly grasped at the part that looked like a pole and went back to the hindering cabinet. He brought back the metal and swung down with a brutal amount of force on the hinges of the door. The screws came out the side.


He took another two swings at the other hinges, and one of the doors popped right off. He groped inside at a handful of folders and pulled them out.

He found the one with his name on it and picked up a chair from the ground.

“This should be interesting.”

He sat down and started reading the file’s contents:


Was this really his past? He struggled to remember the past. Struggled to think about where he came from. His wife and son. Were they still alive? If they were, where were they? Questions raced through his mind. The rest he thought was just a bunch of junk about his genes and some survival stuff.

He scavenged what was useful: some frozen food, two-and-a-half bottles of water, and a flashlight without batteries. Maybe he would find some. He also took the clothes off of some dead guy and put them on. Gross, but still better than his. After an hour of scavenging, he also found a nine millimeter pistol (not that he would need it) and a picture of him with a lady holding a child. Maybe his wife and son? He had found a blade that he could use for cutting things, a lighter, and a torn, worn out backpack. He put whatever he could inside and left the building.

Nighttime. The sky was so clear. Stars visible every time he looked up. He somehow knew the names of some constellations. Orion — the hunter. Both Ursa major and minor — the great bears. Gemini — the twins and other different star formations.

The cold was killing him. He sat down and pulled out his old clothes — yes, he had kept them — and used his shirt to wrap it around his body. He took out his lighter and lit his old pants on fire for warmth. He opened his backpack and took out some of the frozen food. He was lying down in a small hole formed by the fallen rubble outside the lab. The light of the moon found its way into the nooks and crannies of the top of his shelter. He closed his eyes and slept a dreamless night.

He woke up at the first light and made his way back to the lab. He had to find a way to contact another person. He rewired the satellite dish on the top and connected it to a broken holo computer on the ground. He pulled off the energy cable and connected it to solar panels on the roof. Nothing. It was not getting enough energy. He made a series circuit and connected a transformer cord. The light blinked on. Yes! He took the headset off a corpse on the ground and plugged it into the auxiliary port.

He spoke into the microphone: “Hello. If you are receiving this message, please trace the signal back to origin. Please try to make contact. Broadcast this message near you, so that we can gather together to do something about our present situation.”

He took apart the mainframe of another broken computer and installed it into the one he was using. He formatted it so that when he received a message, it would amplify an ear-piercing screech to let him know that there was someone there. Over the course of the next two weeks, he tried sending out smoke signals and shouting for anyone who was possibly near him.

He had gotten quite familiar with his surroundings, so he knew where everything was. A demolished supermarket was his new source of food. Dusty, moldy, cold food. A condominium that had fallen down was where he spent the night. The lab’s computer room was where he was during the whole day.

After spending a month or two surviving, he went over to the open computer screen and searched up how to clone. A few websites came up. He wasn’t expecting it to work, since he assumed that the ISP servers were down. That was great! He pulled up a website saying that he first needed an advanced gene separator and a cloning machine that could process the chip. He would then take a sample of his blood and give the genetic code to the machine, and a clone of him would grow in the capsule on the back of the device.

This was starting to seem impossible. But he had to do it!


6 weeks later

Zephyr had finally built the cloning machine. Metal combined wires and glass. Next-level genetic processors and the latest technology installed. It was a beautiful sight to see. Hard work and sleepless nights had gotten him what he needed. Hunger and fatigue had consumed him over the past few weeks. He had lost his strength. Mentally and physically. He had been thinking about where his family was and what they were doing.

Are they dead? Maybe after the repopulation of the world, I can go and find my family.

All he needed now was a sample of his blood, and his genetic code would create a clone. The blood was easy, but how would he get his genetic code? Back to the internet.

The internet was no longer available. The servers must have crashed. What now? He treaded over the dust covered concrete and went to the old cabinet to seek guidance. He got down to his knees and pulled out some books. He found one that said “GENETICS” on it and put the other books away. He moved his hand along the front of the book, both dusting the cover and feeling the cold, rough, red leather.

The book had said that the process of extracting somebody’s genetic code required two people. You had to take a cell sample from the blood sample and decode it. The danger in this was that because there was only one person, taking a cell sample could infect him with the virus going around. It would infect the open wound and go into his bloodstream. His anti-gene would fight it, but would it be strong enough? He would have less time to decode it and push the big red button on the machine to finish the cloning process. If he did this, there was a high chance that he would die without the clone. But the chance of dying with a clone gave him a sliver of hope.

He got to work. “Step One: Find a sterilized syringe,” he read out loud. That was easy. There were many of them in the cabinet in the infirmary. He took one out and went back to the device. “Step Two,” he continued, “Extract blood sample.” He had to do this quickly. After this, he did not know how much time until he turned into the other corpses. It was a risk he had to take.

He jabbed the syringe in his right shoulder and took some blood. The impact hurt him, but when he took it out, his arm immediately became half-limp. The plague was in the air, and it was infecting his wound and weakening him. His arm was becoming pale, and the black spots started becoming visible. He had to hurry. He skimmed the next few steps and rushed all of them.

Every minute that passed by, he got closer to death. The black spots started to take over his skin. He had gotten his genetic code in a test tube and dawdled with it over to the machine. He stopped for a second and looked outside. The buildings started jumping up and down. With each jump, a part of them fell off, showing off the metal rods and pipes holding it together. The ground started swaying left to right to left. The first building fell into the other, creating huge dust clouds. The sky turned a dangerous grey, and the sun parted from the sky. The building started shaking. Earthquake.

He had to hurry. His arms started to lose skin. Bones became more visible. Blood clouded the vision of one of his eyes. His mouth and throat became dry. His hands became sticks, and one of his knees buckled. He crashed face first in the ground. Scars covered his face. He crawled over to the machine. Another great shake. The machine fell over. The tremors became more common. The ceiling was falling apart. A huge piece of concrete crushed his leg. The blood warmed his body. He was stuck. Since his leg was already limp, he decided to cut off his leg. He grabbed the nearest sharp piece of metal. His bones gave a crack. He could feel each strand of muscle tissue disconnect from the other half.  The pain was unbearable. The pain lead to rage.

He would not go down without pressing the button. He crawled using his only available limb, his left arm. His head vibrated. Something was growing in there. Time was running out. He reached the machine. He opened the datapad and activated the gene reader. Another tremor, and he lost hold of the test tube. Time slowed down as the beaker made a leap out of his hand. The beaker broke, and the contents poured into the datapad.

“Yes,” he exclaimed with a smile on half his face.

The bleeding had worsened. His intestines had caught onto something and unwinded as he moved. He saw his liver fall out of his fleshless belly. His torso had multiple openings and bled violently. Blood came out of his chest. One of his eyes fell out, and he could not open his mouth without puking out liters of blood. His throat shrunk, making it hard to breath, choking him. Taking him closer to the Light. His face was losing skin by the layer, and his ears would not stop ringing. The rubble around him cut off his air supply. The toxic air had burned the exposed skin. This was pain. Living hell. Mental and physical torture.

The button was inches away from his hand.

“Start,” it flashed.

So close. The button was taunting him to press it. He did not have the reach. Another tremor. The rubble was caving in. He could feel the energy radiating off the button. He screamed as he gave it all to stretch. He pressed the button.

He had done it! Saved humanity. He could die knowing he did the right thing.

As he closed his eyes, the ringing went away, and he heard a robotic voice.


The rubble caved in, and he couldn’t feel the pain anymore.



Isolated From Home

Adam stared intently at the engine, trying to find out what was wrong with it. He glanced around the engine room. Machinery and wires stuck out from the cramped walls of the room. He sighed in defeat, realizing that he couldn’t fix it. He heard the sound of something hitting the ship, rushed out of the engine room to a window near the control panel, and saw a planet growing larger. He fiddled with the controls, trying to turn the spaceship around, but nothing happened. The planet continued drawing nearer. The spaceship started speeding up as it entered the planet’s atmosphere.

He was supposed to be analyzing soil samples from other planets, seeing if they were capable of growing plants, but now he could see death drawing closer with every inch the spaceship traveled. Adam felt his heart beat faster and he thought, I wish I could go home and be with my wife and kids.  

He looked out the window and saw the planet looming over him. It was large and grey with no signs of life. The planet’s gravity pushed the spaceship downwards and the force of the impact propelled Adam backwards into a wall and he passed out.

He woke up to a crackling sound. He sat up groggily and looked around for the source of the noise. The face of someone appeared on his radio.  He was wearing a dirty spacesuit without the helmet. He had messy brown hair and had brown eyes staring intently at Adam.

“Hello?” Adam said. “Who are you?”

The person said, “I’m Kevin, my ship crashed on this planet days ago. Who are you?”

“I’m Adam, my ship also crashed here,” Adam replied.

“Where are you?” Kevin asked.

“I have no idea,” Adam responded.

“Do you have any food?”

“I should have some food in the kitchen.”

“That’s good, carry some food and try to reach the mountain,” Kevin instructed.

“How will I know if I’m at the right mountain?” Adam asked.

“It’s surrounded by craters and has a crashed ship next to it. You’ll know what mountain I’m talking about once you see it.”

“Also this planet has breathable air, good luck,” Kevin said sarcastically.

Adam headed towards the kitchen. While walking, he thought, Can I really trust Kevin? He might be tricking me. But Adam didn’t let these thoughts bother him. He opened the fridge and stuffed most of the food in his bag. He slung the bag over his shoulder and walked out of the ship. He scanned the vast empty land and saw a mountain in the distance. He started walking towards it.

“I’m currently walking towards a mountain,” Adam informed him.

“That’s good, continue walking,” Kevin said.

Adam continued towards the mountain looming over him and examined his surroundings. He saw many craters in the distance and a vast grey desert and prepared himself for a long walk.

* * *

Kevin bent over to place the landmines around the mountain. He carefully armed them and covered them with small sheets the color of the planet. He smiled slyly once he finished. He walked into a tunnel he carved into the mountain leading into his lair. He sat down in his chair and glanced at his different monitors. On one was a map of the planet and another showed a desktop with lots of folders containing his plans. Another showed a proximity alarm. He looked at his map and pinpointed Adam’s location using his radio signal.  He smiled, knowing that Adam would fall right into his trap.

* * *

Adam stopped at the edge of a crashed ship. He reached for his radio and said, “Kevin? I found another crashed ship.”

“You did?” Kevin replied, pretending to be surprised.

“Yeah, should I explore it?” Adam asked.

“I think you should, it might have more provisions for us,” Kevin answered.

Adam turned off his radio and entered the ship. He walked down the corridor until meeting a door. Adam tried opening it, but it seemed stuck. Adam ignored it and walked down a different hallway. Adam soon entered the kitchen and checked the fridges and any other food containers. All the food was spoiled or rotten.

The kitchen was connected to the sleeping quarters. Multiple backpacks littered the floor. Adam picked each one up and checked for things he could use. He found multiple glowsticks and a flashlight. Adam stored them in his bag and kept poking around in the room. In the corner of the room was a small portable generator.

He picked it up and asked Kevin, “I found a portable generator, should I keep it?”

“I think you should, it might be useful later on,” Kevin replied.

Adam picked up a backpack on the floor and stuffed the generator inside. He slung the backpack strap over his shoulder and walked down another corridor.

* * *

Kevin sat impatiently in his seat, anxiously waiting for Adam to arrive. He got up and paced around the room. He picked up his radio and spoke into it. “Adam? Are you ready to keep traveling?”

“Not yet,” Adam replied. “Still have a few more rooms to check out.”

“That’s good, but you need to get here quickly.”

Adam questioned that, “But why do I need to get there quic — ?

Kevin turned off his radio and sighed. If only I weren’t stuck on this wretched planet… and it’s all NASA’s fault, sending me to here, Keven thought. Kevin loathed NASA. They sent him to that planet and didn’t care about what happened to him.

* * *

Why would he want me to arrive at the mountain so quickly? Adam thought. A flicker of doubt crossed his face. He walked out of the ship and glanced around ahead of him. A giant crater stood in front of him blocking the way to the mountain. Should I walk around or across it? Adam pondered. He decided to walk across to save more time. He slowly slid down the walls of the crater. When he reached the bottom, he stared ahead of him looking at how much distance he had to cover. He turned on his radio and tried to call Kevin. He didn’t respond. Adam tried again and this time Kevin responded.

“What do you want?”  Kevin asked.

“I just want to talk,” Adam answered while still walking to the other side of the crater.

“Sure what do you want to talk about?” Kevin asked.

“Why did you want me to arrive at the mountain so quickly?” Adam pressed.

“I…uh…wanted you to arrive as quickly as possible, so we can…escape from this planet together,” Kevin lied.

Adam detected Kevin’s lie, but decided not to question Kevin. “Okay, I’m almost there I just need to cross this crater.”

“That’s good, keep walking,” Kevin said.

Adam turned off his radio and thought, What is Kevin up to? Maybe it’s just a trap to use my resources. Adam shook his head in disbelief. Adam looked up not realizing he was at the edge of the crater. He grabbed the rim and hauled himself over the top. He stared at the mountain looming over him, casting a shadow over him. Adam took a step forward and tripped on a rock. He picked up the rock and threw it forward. It landed on a bumpy spot on the land and Adam heard beeping. Instinctively, he dove into the crater. Soon after the beeping was the sound of a deafening explosion.

* * *

Kevin heard the explosion and rushed out of the tunnel. He ran toward the sound and was blinded by a cloud of smoke. When the smoke cleared, he looked around. Seeing no trace of Adam, he grinned. Satisfied, he strutted back into the mountain without bothering to look for a body. He walked into a room and picked up a chisel. He carved a mark among the 13 other marks.

“14 times astronauts have landed on this barren planet and 14 times I have outsmarted them and tricked them,” Kevin muttered to himself, “Soon, NASA will see how brilliant I am and will beg for mercy.” Kevin nodded in agreement to his own plan and walked into his planning room. He readied his laser preparing to shoot down another ship scheduled to pass by.

* * *

Adam crouched below the rim of the crater. He peeked above it and saw that nobody was there. He took off his backpack and lay it on the ground. He circled the perimeter of the mountain until finding the entrance. It was a simple metal door with no locks. He peeked over the corner of the door and entered slowly. He crept into an empty room with a chisel on the floor and marks carved into the wall. The emptiness of the room made a chill run down Adam’s back. He peered over the corner to see Kevin ranting to himself.

“Then I will go back to Earth and blow up NASA,” Kevin ranted. “After that, I will blow up all other astronaut programs!”

Adam gasped silently in astonishment, and continued to explore the mountain. He came to a room with a giant laser. The room had a retractable roof and was basically empty. He gazed at the circuitry protruding from the machine. He looked at a control panel and pressed the off button. All lights on the machine blinked off. Adam sighed in relief and heard footsteps coming in his direction. He looked around and saw no hiding place so he ran outside and hoped for the best. Behind him Kevin chased him with rage. He ran after Adam while screaming a string of insults.


Adam ignored these insults and noticed that Kevin hadn’t bothered to fix his laser. He hoped he could survive long enough to escape. Adam ran back inside the mountain and hid behind a large shelf. He held his breath as Kevin walked by seething with rage.

Adam then heard a loud noise that sounded like something large was landing. He heard the sounds of Kevin heading towards the exit. Adam stepped out of his hiding place and went to see what was happening. Adam slowly crept towards the entrance, hearing gunshots. He ran outside and saw Kevin shooting another ship that had just landed.

Adam snuck up behind Kevin and tackled him. Adam kicked the gun away from Kevin’s reach. Kevin lunged for the gun, picked it up and shot Adam. Before Adam could react the bullet pierced his flesh. My life is at stake, I’m fighting a maniac on a distant planet…What do I have to lose? Adam thought as he felt a throbbing pain in his shoulder.

He pushed away the pain and hurled himself at Kevin. Kevin dropped his weapon and fell to the ground. Adam picked up the gun and pitched the gun onto a landmine. The landmine exploded and created another large crater. Adam stumbled. He realized he had been running on adrenaline the whole time. Kevin stood nearby with a murderous look in his eye. Adam slowly walked toward Kevin while gripping his injured shoulder.

The hatch on the landed ship opened and a group of people stepped out. One of them handed Adam a bandage which he wrapped his shoulder with.

“Kevin, we need to talk,” Adam said.

“Why would I listen to you?” Kevin responded.

“Why are you doing this?” Adam asked.

“Because… ” Kevin sighed, “NASA left me here. When I crashed they never responded for a whole year, they abandoned me on this planet. When a rescue team came finally I shot them down with my laser that I created out of parts from my ship.”

The group of astronauts tapped Adam on the shoulder and said, “We’re your rescue team. When we heard that you crashed, we came here as soon as we could. We’re here to take you back to Earth.”

Adam said to the group of astronauts, “We need to secure him, he’s dangerous.” Adam, and the other astronauts, surrounded Kevin while he kicked and punched him. Eventually they held him down and bound his limbs.

Kevin sneered at the group, “What are you going to with me?”

Adam replied, “We’re taking you to where you belong. Prison.” Adam and the other astronauts, dragged Kevin, as he thrashed around in his bindings, onto the spaceship, where he was locked in a room. Kevin pounded on the door, “LET ME GO! I DEMAND IT!” Everyone ignored him and went to their stations while the captain stayed with Adam.

“What are we going to do with him?” the captain asked.

“I think we should confront him to gain more information,” Adam replied. The captain nodded and they unlocked the door. They opened it and Kevin turned towards them.

“Have you finally come to let me free?” Kevin asked with a murderous tone in his voice.

“We’re here to ask you some questions,” Adam replied. “Why did you shoot the first rescue ship after it came to get you?”

“It’s because NASA left me on that planet for a whole entire year. Leaving me to live off the little provisions I had with me,” Kevin answered, “But I managed to survive. NASA had lots of budget cuts and decided it would cost too much to organize a rescue mission, so they left me there to die.”

“That isn’t true,” the captain said, “NASA was trying to locate where you crashed, so they could send a rescue team.”

“Really? Is that true?” Kevin said softly.

“It’s true,” the captain replied. Then Adam and the captain left the room.

* * *

As the door slowly closed, Kevin felt a sense of dread cross his face. How could I have done this? Make false assumptions and kill 13 people because of it. If only I could turn back time. Kevin planted his face into his palms and felt tears flow down his cheek.

* * *

The captain asked Adam questions about his adventure then let Adam rest. After two weeks, they finally arrived back on Earth. Adam dragged Kevin out of the ship and gave him to the authorities. Then Adam and the rescue team was called to the head of NASA’s office. It was a big room with a wall covered in awards and medals. On another wall sat a big bookshelf filled with binders, folders, and books. At the middle of the room sat a desk with the head sitting there.

“Thanks to your bravery, you managed to rescue Adam,” the head said to the rescue team.

He turned to Adam. “Thanks to you, our astronauts will be able to travel safely across space.”

Adam received praise from the rescue team and he smiled in accomplishment and then went to visit Kevin.  Kevin was locked up in a tiny grey holding cell. There were no windows and a single light bulb hung on a wire on the ceiling. There was a stone slab with a pillow and mattress in the corner of the cell.  

Kevin was shaking the bars of his holding cell. As soon as he saw Adam he stopped. “Have you come to gloat, Adam?”

“I’m just here to check on you,” Adam replied calmly.

“Oh, you know, I’m in prison ready to be executed, so I’m totally fine,” Kevin said sarcastically.

“Executed?” Adam questioned.

“I killed 13 astronauts, so yeah…” Kevin said.

“I’m sorry Kevin, it didn’t have to end this way,” Adam said.

Adam started to walk towards the door, but Kevin shouted to Adam, “Wait!” Adam turned to look towards Kevin. “I just want to say that I’m sorry too. My anger got the best of me.”

Adam walked to the doorway then stopped. He turned towards Kevin, gave him a sad smile and nodded in understanding.

* * *

Kevin watched Adam slowly close the door.  Light from the outside slowly faded away until all the remaining light there was, came from the single light bulb hanging from the ceiling. Kevin collapsed on the ground. “I’m sorry Adam, I’m sorry NASA, I’m sorry everyone I killed…” Kevin whispered to himself. Then he closed his eyes and started to cry.

Cross-Country Menace

One Week Before Tryouts

Jessica and I were talking and laughing on our way home from school when I decided to tell her my news.

“Hey, have you heard about the cross-country team tryouts? This is my only chance to prove to Coach that I’m capable of running. Every time I try out for cross country, I always end up in the Junior team, which really sucks. But not this time. I’m going to show him that I care and very determined to be on the Senior team. That means I gotta start training!”

Jessica instantly replied, “Good luck with that, I’m gonna be at the finish line cheering you on.”

We had a moment of silence, until Jessica said, “I can’t wait till next week!”  

And I knew why. The world’s soccer playoffs were next week, and Jessica was CRAZY about soccer. But that was the least of my worries. I was very nervous for the cross country tryouts, and I meant what I said, I really had to start training.

That was what I had been waiting for, for the last three years. I was determined to fulfill my dream and my mom’s, who had sadly passed away last year when I was only 11 years old. She was a champion runner. One day, possibly next week, I’ll be the champion runner on this team, and carry her legacy. I hope all of my training helps me win my way up to success.

I was always an under-confident girl, but there’s this one quote which my mom used to say, which always helped me, “No pain, no gain.” Every single day when we gathered around the dining table before we ate dinner, we had a tradition where we prayed before we ate. And everyone around the table picked whatever they wanted to say, mostly famous quotes that help your way up to success. Now, with only my dad and brothers, we just silently eat at the table and we don’t pray. Without Mom, my whole family just seems like complete strangers to me.


The Day It all Depends On


I knew this day would come eventually, and I was prepared. I was walking out my driveway, waiting for the school bus to come. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Jessica. She was in her front yard, probably also waiting for the bus. She was dribbling a soccer ball and doing all funky and really cool moves. She mastered a move called the “Ronaldo Chops,” invented by Ronaldo the Great, a.k.a Cristiano Ronaldo. I ran over to her.

“Hey Jess, are you ready to cheer me on today? I’ve been waiting for this day for nearly a month now,” I asked.

Her expression changed from really excited to not so excited. “Yeah, I can’t wait!” she sarcastically exclaimed. I knew something was up with her, but I wasn’t going to let that bother me, at least not for now.

In every class I seemed to pay less attention. I was really nervous, but also very excited. I was confident I would make the Senior team. Every day I jogged for at least half an hour or more with my dog. I also took dance, which helps on flexibility. If you have flexibility, you tend to run faster and you don’t get sore muscles easily. At the last period, the bell rang so loud, I was literally knocked off my chair. It was time.

Half an hour later, we were all were spread out across the starting line. I took a quick glimpse around to see who I was racing against, and I saw a familiar face.

It was Jessica!

I couldn’t believe my eyes! I knew something was up with Jessica, but I didn’t know it was trying out for the cross country team! She looked down at the ground as if she were trying to avoid me.

There wasn’t enough time for me to go to her and ask her what she was doing here. But now it looked pretty clear to me. The coach had blown the whistle to gather our attention. It was time for the real deal. I clenched my fists.

“Alright runners, today you will be running two miles. This is going to be timed, and your time determines if you are going to get on the team or not. At the count of three, you guys start running. Get ready! One… two… THREE!” yelled the coach.

I ran fast as soon as I heard his loud voice on three. I didn’t bother running to Jessica, because I knew that if I talked, I would’ve grown tired. I was running, keeping a pretty fast pace. Along the way, I saw people kicking a ball, which had to be soccer tryouts.

Then I began to think, Jessica knew all this time that she was trying out for cross country, then why didn’t she tell me? After I saw the one-mile sign covered with many bushes and plants in the forest trail, I looked back to see who was catching up to me which I know you should never do when you are racing.

I wasn’t looking ahead, and my leg got stuck in a bush. I tried to to jiggle it out, but instead a thorn pushed against my skin, and my leg started bleeding. I kneeled down, trying to pull out the thorn from my leg. I watched as people ran by including Jessica, leaving me behind in the dust. She gave me a nasty look. I didn’t bother, I had a much bigger problem to deal with. I took a leaf and some sap off a tree, and tried to pull the thorn out, and it worked! I figured that the sap would have a good grip on the thorn, since it’s sticky. Who knew that paying attention in my biology class actually helped in real life. Thank you so much, Mrs. Barnett, our biology teacher, I thought to myself.

I stood up, and this time I was fully determined to win and continue my mom’s legacy. This meant everything to me. Nothing mattered more to me now. Just winning. This is the moment where I show myself what I was cut out for. Being a true winner and fulfilling my mom’s dream, or betray my trust and my mom’s trust. This all added up to everything. All that training and time that I spent on cross-country. I started crying inside my head, this was the hardest part of becoming a champion, showing that you were a champion, and it was totally worth it.

You can do this Amber, you can do this, I kept repeating in my head. I whizzed past many people, including Jessica. She didn’t expect me to pass her, kind of like the story of the tortoise and the hare. I came across the 1.75 mile sign. 0.25 more miles left, I thought, and the torture would soon be over. My legs were getting tired and I started breathing heavily, but continued to run. I could see the finish line from here. I felt a wind pass by, and realized it was Jessica. Typical Jessica, trying to beat me and come first in the race, but I caught up to her. Then, I realized that Jessica and I were the only two who were in front of all the runners.

Great, I have to be competing against my best friend. Thank you so much, God, I thought. We were side by side, neither of us seemed to be getting ahead of each other and we stayed exactly at the same pace. I could hear Jessica’s loud, and hard breaths. Suddenly, I felt a grip on my back, lost my balance, and fell on the ground. Luckily, there was just dry mud which looked a lot like sand. I saw Jessica smirking and eying me. Right there, I realized that she pushed me, so she can beat me and come first. Then, and right there, I saw my destiny, for now.

My mind couldn’t think anymore. All I was focused on was reaching the finish line. I got up and sped across the finish line, passing Jessica. At that same moment I thought that this was the best moment of my life. I would never get that moment back, but I would always remember it.

I sprinted as fast as I could to the finish line and heard the coach say, “Whoa, Amber, you really did it this time. I’m really impressed with you for coming in first place this year. You really worked hard to get on top, and I have a feeling you’re going to be my best runner. Keep up the  great work.”

Jessica passed the finish line, and glared at me. I saw her grab her water bottle. She took a few sips and came to me. There was a sad and guilty look on her face. I stood there, frozen in happiness but puzzled at the same time.

“I’m really sorry about everything. I’ve been a really bad friend lately. I’ve been meaning to tell you this and it was really hard to try to hide it from you. I’ve been training to get in the cross-country team for a long time now, and finally prove to my mom that I’m capable of being responsible and dedicated. My mom always looks up to you and she really likes you, which I totally understand. It’s just that my mom thinks that I’m not capable of handling anything and she thinks I never devote myself to do anything. But I didn’t want to tell you because I know that this is really important to you and you’re doing this to make your family proud, especially your mom.”  Her eyes looked like they were made of glass. “And now, I’m positively sure that once they found out you came in first, they will definitely be proud. So, I’m really sorry. I was being a really unsupportive, terrible friend, and I hope you could forgive me.”

There were a million questions I had to ask: “First of all, why didn’t you try out for the soccer tryouts, when you told me you were going to? You have a real talent in soccer. You know that, don’t you?”

Jessica blushed a bit. “You might think that, but it’s the total opposite. Plus I never really had a passion for soccer. I hated it last year, and the kids used to tease me and make fun of my fails at attempting the moves and skills. I wanted to try to do something new, but I never meant for us both to compete.”

I stared at the ground for a few minutes. I was so still it looked like I was a statue. I had to think this through carefully, because I knew this was an important life decision that could affect me in my future.

“I know the pressure sometimes that parents put on you and even me, and I know you weren’t truly trying to hurt me. I know that in life you will never have the perfect friend but you having a really different personality makes you my friend. So I forgive you, and I really think you deserve to have a second chance. Honestly, everyone makes mistakes. Remember the time when I accidentally set your hair on fire?”

There was a moment of laughter, when I heard the voices of my brothers, my dad, and my dog barking. My dad looked happy for the first time since my mom died.

“You made all of us proud, Amber, even your mom. She would’ve been really happy to see you standing proud,” dad said happily. My dog barked as if agreeing to my dad’s statement. I was filled with joy. Jessica nodded in agreement.

My younger brother said, “How about we go to our favorite ice cream place, we haven’t been there since mom…. “ his voice trailed off. Everyone had a sad look on their face. But I wanted to end this once and for all.

“All we’ve been doing since mom died is just crying and weeping, but it’s time for us to change that. I say we to go to the ice cream place and celebrate. I’ll pay for all of you guys.”

“No Amber, this one’s on me. I think we both know that I owe you BIG time,” Jessica uttered. We both looked at each other with deep meaning.

“No,” my dad suddenly said, surprising us. “It’s on me. You deserve it.” He gave me a meaningful look, and I knew that he was talking about more than ice cream.

“We all do,” I said.

This was just one of my many problems I will face in my life, but my mom’s quote will always stay with me and encourage me to stay confident and believe in myself in whatever I do: “Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and it’s only when you accept everything you are, then you will truly succeed.”  

I took Jessica’s arm as we were leaving the school. The sun was setting, the trees were swaying, and I realized we were the last ones there.

“Come on,” I said to everybody, “let’s go.”


THE END.                                       

Hacking into NASA

Around 11:00 p.m., at 1000 Chicken Avenue, Murica, Florida, somebody decided to hack into NASA’s most secret files, the ones that neither the public nor even the workers at NASA knew about. This 14-year-old boy, Aldrin, had been studying how to hack into many different systems since he was four. He wanted to do this because his grandfather mysteriously went missing eight years ago after he visited NASA to check one of their rockets.

Aldrin finally thought he was ready, and started looking for a way in. Apparently NASA had been putting anti-hack softwares, so Aldrin had a hard time getting into NASA. After a while, however, Aldrin finally found a way in. It was very ironic that NASA managed to install an anti-hack software for world-class hackers but didn’t do it for a method that virtually anybody could do. He quickly went into the mainframe, and a screen popped up with a bunch of files. Some folders said, “General Information,” while others said, “Classified Stuff.” There was one unique folder called “Top Secret Files,” and that was that was the one he needed.

He tried to go to the Top Secret files, but his computer immediately went into lockdown, and literally nothing could move. He was not scared because he knew exactly what to do in this situation. He typed into his keyboard, “F4_break_freeze” and clicked enter. His computer immediately opened the Top Secret Files. There was a lot of boring text with long words about “keeping your oath for your country” and other stuff. There were pictures too, but he had to download them because they were so big.

His parents had no idea that he was hacking into NASA. They always thought he had an average mind, but in reality he was smarter than they thought. He tricked them into thinking that every kid easily gets an A plus-plus every time.

His parents did not pay much attention to him because they had time-consuming work, so Aldrin also thought that he would finally get their attention for longer than just five minutes. With these thoughts in his head, he glanced at the clock, and he was surprised that he had spent more than an hour on this, when it only felt like a few minutes. Aldrin left his laptop running because he was too tired to continue, and then he went to sleep.

Aldrin woke up at around 5:30 in the morning to experiment with NASA’s top secret files. The first file he downloaded into his laptop was 8,800 pixels. Since his laptop only held 440 pixels at a time, he had to wait almost a full day for the picture to download entirely. Finally the picture downloaded, so Aldrin opened the file. He saw a chart saying, “Extra Terrestrial Officer Ranks.” In that chart there were a bunch of words that Aldrin did not know. The words sounded like Latin, so he searched up a translator that transferred Latin into English and vice-versa.

Aldrin typed in the name that was on the lowest rank, Vexillum, into Google translate. It showed that Vexillum meant standard. Aldrin thought that he was on o something. Then he typed the highest rank, Vix, and it showed scarce, which is a synonym for rare. He knew he was getting closer to the answer, but not there just yet.

He then typed in Jerry Armstrong, his grandfather’s name, and one result popped up. His arms and legs felt very weak as he moved his cursor to that single result, knowing that this would affect him in a big way. His cursor hovered over Jerry Armstrong, wondering if he should click it. As if in slow motion, Aldrin clicked the name, and it transported him to a page with the NASA background, and the title was, “NASA Offenders.”

As soon as Aldrin started reading, somebody banged on the front door. Aldrin jumped up and ran downstairs to open the door. Without checking who it was, Aldrin opened the door. The next thing he saw was five men holding guns, who were wearing black uniforms with badges that looked like “Δ.” One of them asked, ”Are you Mr. Aldrin Armstrong?”

Fear of getting put into jail for lying, he told the officers yes. Another one said, ”Sorry, sir, but you have to come with us. You hacked into NASA and read the most secret files. You cannot be trusted to be out in the public.”

Aldrin decided that, however stupid it sounded, he would try to knock out these people using his powerful yellow belt skills. Just as he tried a roundhouse kick on one of the security guards, another guard immediately pulled out a taser and electrified him. So much for powerful karate skills.

The last thing Aldrin could remember before passing out was the guards carrying him outside.

A few hours later, Aldrin woke up. He was in a room that was completely white with a NASA logo, and it smelled like disinfectant. It was just a closed-off room to any normal person’s mind, but Aldrin saw NASA’s plan. One wall was a different color white from the rest, and there were little visual holes. He was looking straight at a one-way window, and he knew that there were many people looking right back at him.

A voice boomed from hidden speakers, saying, “Aldrin Armstrong, you have violated America’s laws by hacking into NASA. Why have you done so, and how have you done it? We will give you some time to think of your answer, and then you shall give it to us. If you say something that is impossible, you will be executed.”

All this time Aldrin was thinking, Oh God, what should I say? Should I tell them the truth or some made up baloney?

Then Aldrin saw an air vent leading out of the room. It was near the floor, just about five inches off of it, and it had a NASA design on it. He pretended to go to sleep near the vent, so the people looking at him from the other room would start getting bored watching a boy sleep unsuspiciously near an air vent.

After thirty minutes, when there was no sound coming from the room, Aldrin pulled out a Swiss Army knife, only there for emergencies, and started unscrewing the bolts one by one. He then heard a shout from the other room, and collapsed, hoping that nobody noticed.

He heard footsteps in the room, and something sharp started poking him. After the poker guy was satisfied that Aldrin was asleep, he walked away. Aldrin kept up the act for a few more minutes, and then hurriedly started unscrewing.

He pushed down the air vent, and it fell with a loud thud. Aldrin knew people were looking at him because of it. He quickly climbed into the vent, with the sounds of people’s voices shouting behind him. Alarms started blaring as Aldrin crawled, the sound was deafening.

He saw an opening and started banging on it, hoping that it was weak and would fall easily. As Aldrin predicted, the vent opened after a few more bangs, falling and bringing Aldrin with it, who had no time to move out the way. Aldrin ran down a hallway, following a sign that said, NASA Systems MAIN II. The hallway was completely white, except for the occasional NASA logo.

The hallway went down a few miles, or at least it felt like that. Finally, he reached a huge computer, with the NASA logo bouncing around. Aldrin clicked “enter,” and the computer said to put in the password. Looking around, Aldrin also found a machine glowing beside the huge computer, and it looked like a finger-scanner. Since Aldrin spent most of his time hacking, he went for the computer. He spent a lot of time on trying to hack into the computer, but none of his techniques worked. He tried Ctrl-Shift-Alt-P, but that did not work. He tried P-F7, but that did not work either. His last technique was the old-fashioned “guess the password,” but of course that did not work.

Aldrin was thinking about different ways to hack in, and his eyes suddenly caught the fingerprint machine. He suddenly remembered an old Scooby-Doo episode, where they escaped an electrical cage that only worked on fingerprints. Aldrin found some powder from a battery, also called battery acid. He ripped a piece of his shirt off, and after carefully sprinkling the battery acid onto the finger-scanner, he gently pressed the cotton down. This technique was supposed to trick the scanner into thinking that the intruder was the one with the real fingerprint because the actual person’s fingerprints were still on the scanner if they didn’t clean it.

Suddenly the computer’s screen changed, and a voice said, “Welcome to NASA Systems MAIN II.” Aldrin quickly typed in “Jerry Armstrong” again because he knew that he was running out of time. Only one result popped up, the same one as last time, but this one was a different color. Aldrin clicked the text, expecting the same page again, and that was what he got.

This website looked exactly like the other one, but there was a new tab on it, This tab said, “Whereabouts.” Aldrin again suddenly felt very weak, the weakness starting small but spreading faster each second. He clicked it, and it said, “Offender in NASA Lockdown Area, in Prison 7, Area 51, 7.23 km deep.” Aldrin did not know anything about what these even could mean, but he was so happy he finally knew what he was doing.

Aldrin suddenly heard footsteps getting closer and closer, and heard a deep voice saying, “Check MAIN II, he might be checking the files. You three, go check Prison Seven, he might be freeing his snoopy grandfather.” The footsteps got closer, and Aldrin did not know what to do. Without thinking, he dove behind the huge computer, knocking down the fingerprint machine. The footsteps stopped, and a shadow came into the room. Aldrin held his breath for the longest time he ever had, until his face started turning blue. The footsteps came even closer, inspecting every part of the room the person could. The person picked up the scanner, inspecting if it was broken or not. A loud grunt sounded in the room as the person threw the fingerprint machine back onto the floor, this time the machine breaking into pieces.

Aldrin finally couldn’t hold his breath anymore and took a deep breath. The person suddenly stopped, and the footsteps came closer. A face peered over the huge computer, shock expressed on it. Aldrin could not think at the moment, and the first thing that came to his mind was the worst idea possible.

Aldrin stood up, and seeing that there was nobody else in the room, he jumped up and started punching the person in the face as hard as he could. Surprised but not hurt, the man pulled out his taser, but as he was taking a shot, Aldrin’s completely off-target fist knocked it into a funny angle. Already pulling the trigger, the man looked at where the taser was pointing, but he could not do anything about it. The taser end was pointed straight at him. The man collapsed instantly, and Aldrin could not believe that his amazing technique had worked.

Aldrin knew that the others would soon be looking for him, and he needed to take advantage of the time he had. He took a phone-shaped object and some keys from the unconscious guard, thinking that it was to communicate with the other NASA guards, he typed into it, “He is not in here, I think he escaped from the building.” Plenty of other messages popped up, all of them saying that they were going outside to check.

Aldrin then went onto an app that had the NASA’s logo on it. He searched up “Prison Seven, Area 51, Jerry Armstrong” and a map showed up. A red and blue dot showed up on the screen, and in the key it said “Red Dot = You Are Here, Blue Dot = Location Inserted.” Aldrin started walking towards the blue dot, occasionally checking to see if there was any people in front of him. He was in a tunnel-like area, with ceiling lights every 100 feet or so. Finally, it said he was 5.232 meters away from his grandfather when his eyes left the screen.

Aldrin was expecting many prison cells lined up against the wall, but there was only one. He walked to the front of that cell, his legs feeling very weak and shaky, his heart pounding, and he looked inside. Aldrin saw a crouched person on the floor, a pair of similar blue eyes looking at him. Nobody spoke for what seemed like hours, the silence so loud.

His grandfather shakily got up and walked just like a baby horse would, his legs wobbling and in danger of falling at any time. Finally he reached the iron bars and grabbed them so that he could lean on them for support. Now Aldrin clearly saw every single detail of his grandfather that he did not notice the last time they had met, which had been over eight years ago. His grandfather looked much older, with wrinkles and grey hair. He stood hunched, like a stick that broke but not completely, and definitely much weaker. He was dangerously thin, and Aldrin wondered when the last time he had had a meal was.

He wore a tattered blue button-down shirt and black pants with the knee part completely ripped, as if his grandfather had been dragged while wearing them.

Jerry Armstrong whispered so softly that it was barely audible, “Aldrin, is that you?” His face was bathed in shock and gratitude, because even though this person might not be his grandson, his motive was clearly to rescue him. Aldrin had been imagining this moment for years and thought of exactly what to say, but it seemed as if his voice was not working at the moment. He just stared at his grandfather, slightly nodding.

“Hello, Grandfather, I have come to save you.” His voice seemed to work automatically, Aldrin did not even think about what to say.

Slowly the other parts of his mind started to function, lastly his ability to think. As Aldrin was still in dumb shock, his grandfather hoisted himself up, thinking that he should now look strong for his grandson.

Soon after Aldrin’s mind was running again, he finally thought of the situation at hand. Aldrin pulled out the keys he got from the unconscious security guard and unlocked the prison cell. He still was in amazement that he managed to pull this entire NASA thing off, but he told his grandfather, “We have to get out of here before any guard finds us.” Immediately after Aldrin said that, alarms started blaring.

This time his grandfather said, “How could they have known?” Aldrin, still wondering, looked up at the ceiling, where he saw it littered with all kinds of security cameras, probably so if one person hacked into the cameras, they would not get the full view.

His grandfather also looked up, and a deep scowl crossed his face. It was now Jerry Armstrong’s turn to speak, and he said, “I know an easy way out of here.” Without pausing to see what Aldrin would say, he turned around and approached the side of the wall with the least cameras and what seemed like a faint square of light. Placing his hands on the block, Aldrin’s grandfather pushed, and the faint square of light turned into a secret tunnel, probably forgotten.

As they entered the tunnel, the door behind them slid shut, hopefully not trapping them. Aldrin was now pestering his grandfather with questions, from “Why did NASA lock you up?” to “Do you know my dad?”

His grandfather abruptly stopped, causing Aldrin to slam into him and bounce off. Jerry Armstrong slowly turned around and sighed. “NASA locked me up because I found out something that NASA didn’t want the public to know.”

“And what did you find out?” Aldrin asked.

Jerry Armstrong looked Aldrin straight in the eye and said, “For a while, NASA had alien contact.”

“That’s amazing! Why would Nasa want to keep it a secret?” Aldrin exclaimed.

“Unfortunately NASA thought that the majority of the public would go completely ballistic, so before anybody found out about the incident, all of the aliens were killed,” his grandfather replied with tears in his eyes.

“Yes, but now is not the time to dwell on that matter, since we have to escape.”

A few moments later they came to a dead end, and this time there was no hint of light.

“Now what are we going to do?” asked Aldrin. “It’s not like we could just push through the wall this time.”

“Think again, Aldrin. This wall is an optical illusion. Look closer and you will see what I am talking about.”

Aldrin looked closer and he saw. It looked like a dead end but it was actually a door. It was definitely the most convincing illusion.

His grandfather, clearly annoyed by his grandson’s habit of getting lost in thought, said, “There is no time to lose, mister. Now HUSTLE!”

They both opened the illusionary door, and walked into a huge office. In the middle of everything sat a huge desk, with a nameplate that was too far away for Aldrin to read. They moved closer and saw that the nametag said, “President of NASA, Charles Bolden.”

In the back right corner of the room was a glowing sign that read, “EXIT.”

Yes! Exactly what they needed. They started to move towards the door, but as they passed the desk, flashing red lights and alarms started blaring.

The door in the back right opened and a security guard angrily stomped in. He had a red face and a black eye. Aldrin recognized this officer as the one he had knocked out earlier. They were close enough to read his name tag, and it read, “Charles Bolden.”

The officer yelled loudly, “You have broken into the most secret of NASA bases, and have collected valuable information. You will not be able to leave this facility, in means that may be harmful.”

Aldrin knew that it was only one person, but before he could react, hundreds of soldiers marched into the room, crowding up the exit, and making sure the president of NASA was safe.

“Bring among the co-presidents of NASA, they are the only ones I can trust.”

Two people walked into the room, and Aldrin could not believe his eyes! His own parents walked in confidently, but it all wavered when their eyes caught his. His mother’s eyes reached his for a moment and her expression changed to shock for the tiniest millisecond.

“Reporting for duty, sir,” they said loudly.

The officer said, “I want these criminals to be locked up in Gate Z, where they will be killed.” His mother’s eyes flashed in alarm, but she said nothing. His parents walked up to his grandfather and him, where they turned around and announced, “We will take these fools down to Gate Z, but we do not need any help.”

The officer obviously trusted his parents so he just slightly nodded his head.

After walking for a few minutes in complete silence his parents turned around sharply and started yelling at him.

“What in the world are you doing here?”

Aldrin said, “I came here to save Grandpa, what are you doing here?”

His parents suddenly became quiet and looked at each other. “Well, see son…,” his father began.

“And what about Grandpa –– why didn’t you tell me about him?” Aldrin continued.

His parents were not even getting a chance to explain themselves. They nervously looked around to see if anybody was watching.

“Are you people even listening to me?” Aldrin yelled.

“Stop it, Aldrin, people are still in this building,” his father shouted.

Aldrin’s mother motioned for him to stay silent as his grandfather looked like he wanted to jump into the argument.

“There is not much time for you, so you are going to do exactly what we tell you to,” his mother hissed.

Aldrin was still in shock about the previous close call that he could not move his mouth even if he tried. “Yes, mom,” Aldrin said, and with that statement the family moved down the hallway, following the signs that said “EXIT.”

Twenty minutes later, after a series of dwindling pathways, Aldrin’s family stood at a door that read, “Exit.”

“What are you guys going to do when the officer realizes that we escaped?” Aldrin asked his parents.

“There is only one thing to do now, and that is bow down to the law and take our punishment,” Aldrin’s dad replied. Aldrin’s mind took a moment to process this information, and when it did he wished he never knew what his dad had meant.

His grandfather thought for a moment before saying, “There is another solution, and this one will keep all of us safe.”

Aldrin’s parents looked at his grandfather before Aldrin said, “Well, you could let us go right now and then hand in your resignation letter, so by law they cannot harm you at all because they would have no proof.”

“Brilliant plan, Aldrin,” his grandfather said. “That was exactly what I was thinking.” His parents looked like they were deep in thought trying to find flaws in this beautiful plan.

“Fine,” his dad said slowly, as if he didn’t like agreeing to a plan that his son made up, “but you know you are grounded for three months after this.”

“Wait, but why didn’t you ever tell me about Grandpa, or that you worked for NASA?” Aldrin asked his unanswered question.

“We didn’t want to tell you because we thought you might blab about it in school,” his dad told him, saying it surprisingly gently.

“Why didn’t you just quit or something,” Aldrin asked, his voice low and barely audible.

“They said that they would kill your grandfather if we quit,” his mother said. “But now, since he’ll escape, they won’t have anybody to kill.”

“Why would they even want Grandpa anyways,” Aldrin asked. “No offense, Grandpa, but why would they want you this badly?”

“NASA did not want him because of his skill,” Aldrin’s dad replied. They kept him because they thought he would tell the public about the information he found.”

“Sorry to interrupt this moment, but we are still being hunted down by one of the world’s most important organizations,” his grandfather said. “We will have a chat about this at home, but now is not the time.”

“Right,” his dad said.

Aldrin’s father swiped a card with the NASA logo on it, and a red light above the door that Aldrin had not noticed turned green. He shoved Aldrin through the door and waited for his grandfather to walk through the door. Without a goodbye, Aldrin’s father threw the car keys to Aldrin and quickly shut the door. Aldrin heard footsteps walk away before turning to his grandfather and handing the keys to him.

The ride back home was extremely quiet, the only sound being that of the radio. There seemed to be many more cop cars roaming the streets today, Aldrin thought as he looked out the window. I wonder why NASA wants my parents so badly that they would use a family member to do it, Aldrin spoke in his mind. Maybe they are some kind of super-smart prodigies that can benefit any company. Nah, if they were really smart than they would have tried to make me that intelligent. What if… THEY’RE ALIENS!?

Great, now I am babbling random stuff that makes no possible sense. Why in the world would my parents, the ones that raised me from birth, be some kinds of aliens? Fighting with NASA might have taken a huge toll on my mind. I should probably go to sleep.

No matter how hard Aldrin tried, he could not manage to sleep. He just kept thinking about different possibilities of why NASA wanted his parents so much.

Finally, Aldrin’s grandfather broke the thoughts by pulling into the driveway of a huge hotel. “We will stop in here for a few weeks and try to get off the radar,” said his grandfather. Aldrin switched on the TV, where the first thing that came up was, “NASA Security Breached?” Aldrin switched the TV off and then decided to go to bed, still thinking about the crazy things that had happened in the last few days.

In the morning, after a long night of laying in bed, Aldrin got out of his bed and went to his computer, thinking about if he should tell on NASA or not. He wondered what he would have done before this crazy adventure versus what he would do now. In the end he decided that he did not want to create any drama for anyone anymore and just live his life.


Three Months Later…

“Aldrin, come down for breakfast,” his dad yelled from the kitchen.

“He looked around his new room, satisfied that it was much bigger than his old room, but still had his old computer. He’d changed his IP address so nobody could track him from previous encounters. His mom and dad announced that they were moving just after they came back from resigning from NASA. Aldrin knew exactly why they were moving though. It was so that they could throw NASA off of their trail. His family had been acting completely normal in the past few months, but Aldrin still had nightmares from NASA.

“Aldrin, hurry up, we’re having pancakes today, and your mom and I still have to go to work.”

“Coming, Dad,” Aldrin replied. His parents seemed to be giving him more attention after the NASA catastrophe, and Aldrin was still getting used to it.

His parents quickly found high-paying jobs as web designers. Luckily they did not keep secrets from him this time and told him exactly what happened at work whenever he felt like listening.

His grandfather had adjusted pretty quickly, considering that he spent over five years in a prison cell with hardly any food and water. His grandfather had eaten a lot when he first came back, and he looked much healthier than he did when Aldrin saw him at NASA’s headquarters.

“Aldrin, come down here right now or I will come up and make you come down,” his father shouted.

Aldrin was glad that he finally got his parents’ respect and attention, and even more glad that they spent more time with him, but he was still nervous that NASA would find him someday.

All these thoughts swirled through his head as he went downstairs, but they were lured away with the amazing smell of warm pancakes with maple syrup.

His grandfather sat on one of the chairs, looking very happy as he munched on his waffles. He stared at the TV, which was showing the daily news. This time it was showing the weather patterns for next week. It said the weather was going to be perfect, all above 70 degrees.

“Good morning guys,” Aldrin said cheerfully. “I am just going to take five piles of pancakes, don’t mind me!”


Meanwhile, at the headquarters of NASA…


“We finally found out where the boy lives,” a general told the back of a man’s seat. “The ex-agents might have thought we couldn’t find them, but we managed to do it.” They changed their address, phone numbers, houses, even all of their IP addresses.

“Excellent job, Marcus,” the president of NASA said as he swiveled his chair. “We will first go for the parents, which will make the boy and his grandfather go crazy. Once the grandfather and the boy come to look for them, we will snap them up and place them in Prison One.”

His mouth curved into an evil smile as he said, “Beware, Aldrin Armstrong, you have messed with the wrong people.”

To be continued… 

A Lesson Learned

Ethan walked into his house and took off his backpack. He ran upstairs to his room, only to see his parents standing in front of his door.

“What’s going on?” Ethan asked.

“You and I both know what’s going on,” his dad answered.

“And what’s that?” Ethan said, trying to act innocent.

“You know… your graffiti that you left on the school wall,” his mom said. “Ethan, this is the 16th time this has happened. The police came over and told us. We’re very disappointed in you. As your punishment, you are grounded for life.”

Ethan stared at them, pushed his parents out of the way and slammed the door shut, then quickly locked it. His parents pounded on the door for a few minutes while occasionally yelling. Eventually it stopped. Ethan started gathering his clothes and put them in a small suitcase.

“I’m obviously a disappointment to them. They probably don’t even want me,”  Ethan muttered to himself. When he was done packing his clothes, he went to the kitchen and grabbed sandwich supplies and stuffed them in his backpack. When night came, he grabbed his backpack and suitcase and quietly walked downstairs. The stairs creaked as he walked down them. When he arrived at the front door he slowly opened it, stepped outside, then closed it.  

He sprinted down the sidewalk, dragging his suitcase behind him. He turned the corner of the street and headed toward the forest. The trees loomed over him, casting a dark shadow. He sprinted toward the center, crunching leaves and snapping twigs. He slowed down and sat for a break.

He heard rustling and he turned around. Behind him was a map taped to a tree. He grabbed it and opened it. It showed a strange world with four giant land masses at each direction. He pressed his finger against the map and instantly disappeared.

He reappeared in a desert. The sun was very dim and his eyes took some time to readjust. He glanced around. There was little life except some cacti and the occasional rats. His head throbbed with questions. He looked at his hands. He just realized that he was still holding the map. His backpack had also disappeared. He laid the map across a flat rock and pressed his finger on the map, waiting to be teleported. Nothing happened. He panicked. He started rushing around trying to find help, but it seemed like the desert continued forever.  Why am I here??? I was just in a forest and now I’m suddenly in a desert?  he thought.

He finally stopped to take a break. Behind him he heard a rustling sound. He whirled around to see what it was. It was just a raven. In its beak was a scroll. He jumped at the raven to get it, but the raven would just teleport a short distance away.  Eventually he got so frustrated that he picked up a rock and chucked it at the raven. It hit the bird, and the bird slumped over. He picked up the scroll. He opened it.

Inside, it read, Hello child. I know you want a way out of this endless desert and only I have the answers. To get the answer you must first complete two tasks for me. If you succeed then go to this same spot and you’ll get your reward. Here are the tasks I wish for you to do for me. First you must find the oasis. There will be a door. On both sides of the door will be a panel full of numbers. You must type each number within 1 second of each other. Here is the passcode you must type in, 1 (left), 6 (right), 4 (left), 9 (right) and 2 (left). Each time you fail you will be incapacitated with great pain.

For your second task, you will climb up a mountain. At the top are two doorways. Each doorway leads to twice as many doorways there has been before. When you step in the doorway on the left a sheet will appear having the answers to the doorway on the right. But if you leave the sheet will temporarily disappear until you step back in. Everything I told you also applies to the doorway on the right except it contains the answers to the doorway to the left. If you step in the wrong doorway you also will be incapacitated with great pain and will have to restart. Only one of you has to go through the last door to complete it. When you complete a task, you will earn food and water to keep yourself alive. From: The One Who Watches.

Ethan rolled it up and put it in his pocket. Ethan looked up at the sky and shouted, “This is impossible! How am I supposed to do this alone?”

Suddenly another scroll dropped from the sky and landed near him. He picked it up and unravelled it. Inside it read, I will be sending another child who is also stuck in this desert like you to help.

Ethan then dropped this scroll and looked around. It seemed like there was no help coming toward him. He turned around and suddenly another kid was there standing face to face with him. Ethan backed up. The kid was tall with impatient green eyes and messy hair. Ethan jumped back in surprise.

“Are you the help the scroll sent for me?” Ethan asked.

“I guess,” the kid said, “My name’s Michael, but call me Mike. Yours?”
“I’m Ethan,” Ethan replied. “Why are you here?”

“I ran away from home to a forest. Found a compass. As soon as I touched it, I got teleported here,” Mike said.

“Same. Except I found a map instead of compass,” Ethan replied.

“Well Ethan, let’s get started then.”

“But… where do we go?”

“Ethan use your brain. You’re holding a map.”

“Oh, right.” Ethan hadn’t even realized that he was still clenching the map in his hand.

Ethan grabbed his map. It showed the same land masses he saw in the forest. The biggest one was covered in sand, so Ethan assumed that he and Mike were there. Mike leaned in to get a look at the map. On the map it showed little symbols. There was a raven, a mountain and a lake with trees.

“So. We’re at the raven, right?” Ethan asked.

Mike grunted, “Think so. I saw a raven flying by who gave me my scroll.”

Mike snatched the map out of Ethan’s hands and held up his compass. “We need to go north,” he announced. Mike rushed forward while Ethan lumbered behind. Eventually they found the oasis. It seemed so out of place. A pool of water and some palm trees in an ocean of sand. Ethan’s stomach grumbled. Ethan looked around. “Do we have any food?”

“No, but the scroll said that if we complete a task we will earn food. Can’t you read?” Mike answered.

“Let’s do it, then!” Ethan said. He ran toward the door, eager to get his meal. Ethan tripped on a rock and fell face first into the sand. He wiped his face and stumbled and fell in the pond. Mike stood behind and laughed as Ethan climbed out. Ethan just turned around and tried to ignore Mike laughing at him. He took out his scroll and looked at the passcode then at the door looming in front of him. The door was at least ten feet tall and six feet wide.

He pressed the first number then rushed to the other side. Suddenly he dropped. He felt like molten lead was being poured on him. He wailed in agony. His vision became blurred. Then everything went dark. He woke up with Mike staring at his face.

“You okay?” Mike asked.

Does it look like I’m okay?  Ethan wanted to say, but it hurt too much to talk, so he managed a weak nod. Mike grabbed his arm and heaved him upright. Ethan leaned against Mike for support.

Mike said, “What were you thinking, trying to finish the first task by yourself? You must be really stupid or brave to attempt that.”

“I wanted a meal,” Ethan said as his stomach grumbled.

“If you waited until I was there we could’ve done it in no time.”

“Okay, let’s do it now.”

Ethan stood on the left side while Mike stood on the right. Mike brought his own scroll out and glanced between the number panel and the passcode.

Ethan held up his own scroll and said, “Ready?”

Mike nodded, “Ready.”

Ethan pressed the first button. Then Mike glanced over and pressed the next button. They continued until the last button had been pushed. The door hissed. Mike and Ethan stepped back. The door continued sliding open. Ethan stared into the doorframe. Inside was just white. A glowing white that shone light. Then two horses appeared. They had saddles and reins. The horses walked out the door then the door slowly closed.

Ethan said, “Is this our food? Are we supposed to eat the horses?”

Mike rolled his eyes, “Shouldn’t we check the saddlebags first?”

“Oh right… yeah,” Ethan muttered.

Ethan walked up to the horse. The horse seemed friendly and didn’t seem to mind Ethan rummaging through the saddlebag. Ethan pulled out a hamburger, a backpack, and a note. The note read, I heard people like eating these… hamburgers, so that’s what I decided to give you. Return this crown to me after you’re done with your second task.

Ethan opened the backpack. Inside was a crown. He slung the backpack over his shoulder and put the note in his pocket. He quickly gobbled down the burger. The hamburger tasted like cardboard, but Ethan was too hungry to complain. Mike also got a note and hamburger in the other horse’s saddlebag. He put the note back in the saddlebag and ate the hamburger. Once he finished he said, “Well, let’s go complete the second task now.”

Ethan nodded. Mike jumped on to a horse and turned around. “Why did you run away?” he asked.

Ethan sighed and said, “I’m a graffiti artist and I sprayed the school building. My parents found out and don’t love me anymore, so I ran away.” Mike nodded and spurred the horse kicking sand in Ethan’s face. Ethan wiped away the sand and jumped onto his horse and rode after Mike.

Once Ethan caught up with with Mike he said, “Wait, where are we going? Shouldn’t we check the map?”

Mike grabbed the map from Ethan’s pocket and looked at his compass. Then looked at the map. “We’re going the right way,” he informed him. “Follow me, so you won’t get lost ‘cause I know you will.”

Ethan muttered an insult under his breath while Mike forged ahead. Eventually when they arrived at the mountain they realized that it was surrounded by water, meaning that they had to abandon their horses and swim across. The water was very deep and dangerous and sharp, jagged rocks jutted out from the water.

“How do we get across?” Ethan asked.

“I don’t know,” Mike said.

“Do we search around for a way across?” Ethan suggested.


Mike and Ethan walked around the perimeter of the island and found two small wooden canoes. Inside each canoe was a note that read, Good luck surviving.

“Wow. What a helpful note,” Ethan said sarcastically.

“Well, let’s get to it,” Mike said.

They climbed into their canoes and pushed themselves into the water. Immediately Mike propelled forward, toward a sharp, jagged rock. Ethan pushed forward with his paddle and when Mike’s canoe was in reach he grabbed it before Mike crashed.

“Thanks,” Mike said.

“No problem. Without you I would be stuck here forever,” Ethan said.

Ethan and Mike continued struggling towards the island until they finally hit land. They climbed out and looked around.

“Now we climb the mountain, right?” Ethan said.


Mike and Ethan headed towards the mountain looming over them. Soon Mike and Ethan got separated because the mountain was surrounded by thick vegetation.

“Mike, where are you?” Ethan yelled.

“I don’t know, where are you?” Mike yelled back.

Ethan thought, Wow really helpful Mike. Thanks. Ethan looked up trying to see where the mountain was but his vision was blocked by the canopy of the trees. He decided to follow his instincts and continue moving forward. Eventually night fell and Ethan  was still lost. I wonder how my parents are. They probably don’t ever miss me.  They are probably celebrating my disappearance.  Shadows were cast upon the ground. Ethan decided to give it a break and continue when morning came. He lay down on the ground and prepared for sleep, but then he heard rustling. He sat up and looked around. Suddenly a figure burst out of the bushes. Ethan jumped back and started backing up until he realized that the figure was Mike.

“There you are!” Mike said.

“How did you know where to find me?” Ethan asked.

“I heard some noise, so I headed toward the sound.”

“It’s too dark to see. We should wait until morning,” Ethan said.

Ethan and Mike lay down on the ground and slept. Ethan woke up to Mike shaking him repeatedly.

“C’mon. Let’s go,” Mike said.

“Why do we need to leave so early?”

“I just got a note that said that  if we don’t finish this in the next day we’ll be stuck here forever.” Mike said.

Ethan got up quickly and said to Mike, “I’m ready. Let’s go.”

They walked up through the forest until they got to the base of the mountain. Ethan hadn’t realized just how steep it was. Mike searched for a handhold and heaved himself up. Ethan followed. They made progress going up the mountain. Then Ethan grabbed a loose rock and fell. His fall was stopped by Mike who quickly grabbed his shirt and pulled him back up. They found a ledge and rested.

“Thanks for saving me,” Ethan said.

“No problem. You saved me before,” Mike said.

They sat down until they started climbing again. Ethan’s muscles ached as they approached the summit. Mike stood up and pulled Ethan up. The two doors were at the middle.

“I’ll take the left side and you take the right, okay?” Ethan said.

Mike nodded. They headed towards the doors. Ethan opened his door and saw a sheet of paper. It read, Second door (from left to right).

Mike shouted at Ethan, “Go to the first door!”

Ethan shouted back, “Left to right, right?”

Mike replied, “Yep.”

Ethan then said, “Second door from left to right.”

They continued until Ethan came across a trick. On his paper it said the door from right to left. Ethan hadn’t realized this until he heard Mike scream in pain.

“MIKE!” Ethan shouted.

“Yeah?” Mike said weakly.

“What happened?”

“I got teleported outside.”

“I came across a trick. It said right to left even though all the other ones said left to right. I’m coming back, ok?”

“No, don’t,” Mike said. “You’re on the last door. Just pick one and hope for the best.”

Ethan wanted to disagree, but they were running out of time. He walked up to the 17th door out of the 34 doors and braced himself. Instantly he was teleported outside. Instead of feeling great pain, a door appeared with a backpack and a note. He picked up the backpack. Inside was a scepter and more burgers. The note read, Please return the scepter and the crown to me. You know where to find me. Ethan gave the backpack to Mike and said, “So now we go back to the desert?”

“I guess,” Mike said, “but shouldn’t we eat first?”

Ethan hadn’t realized how hungry he was until now. He grabbed a burger and ate it. The burger tasted just as bland as the last one.

Mike put the backpack on and walked through the door. Ethan followed behind him. They appeared at the desert. They followed the map and compass and reached the raven symbol. There was nothing around. Suddenly a doorway materialized out of the air and a hooded figure stepped out.

“You have completed both tasks I sent you to do. Now to return home you must return my items,” the hooded figure said.

Ethan presented the crown and Mike gave the hooded figure the scepter.

“Very good children. Now I will tell you why I sent you here.”

“You sent us here?”

“Yes I did. I did to help you children learn how to work with others. Both of you hated working with others so I grouped you together so that you would learn your lesson. You are now free to go.”

Ethan spent some time taking this in. Wow. Was I really like this?  Well at least I’m a better person now.  Then he said, “Bye, Mike.”

Mike smiled, “Bye.”

They walked through the door and were teleported away. Ethan appeared in the forest holding the map in his hand. He left it where he found it and ran home. The door flew open and his mom yelled, “Where were you! You were gone for two days. We were worried.” Ethan stared at her. She looked like she might burst into tears.

“Worried? I thought you didn’t care about me anymore.”

“Ethan. Even though we were mad at you, that doesn’t mean we don’t care about you.”

“But why did you ground me for life?”

“Maybe we were a little too harsh,” his mom admitted. “I think you deserve a second chance, Ethan. As long as you try to be nicer and stay out of trouble.”

“Okay, Mom.”

“Where did you go?”

He reflected on everything that had happened. Maybe it wasn’t just a random occurrence.  Maybe  I deserved this.  He smiled. “I just got lost.”

Express Yourself

Rain In My Head


All drizzling down,

Each falling fast,

Collecting on the ground,

Forming clear droplets of water,


Gray covering the sky,

Dullness filling the air,


Just wishing it would end,

The thunder holding me back,

Compacted and shaking is what I am,

My mind without empty space,

My tears float down,

The darkness once within,

And now without,


So please, go away,

This day of black luster,

And as it does,

Clear the droplets from my mind.



A System Within


Nothing much does he look,

But in his mind,

His spirit has been poked then swallowed,


He is one of the simples,

One who portrays a deepening vision in every letter,


His eyes do linger,

Staring at the words is what he did,

But they lack the description of scribbles,

They display his inner mind,

The mind who desperately yearns to heal,

The one who is floating in black,


His eyes resemble the opposite,

A playful day,

Is nothing more than a dying soul,


So he writes,

Not of his sorrowful expressions,

But for what he hopes,

What he wishes.




Is it really something on which we dwell?

Or is it thoughts with which we comply?

What a twisted mind ponders?


Can colors change with hate?

The brightness of a shining day,

To the dullness of an empty night,


The missing pieces of a neglected heart,

All lost in hatred,


Life continues on with every golden rain storm,

And hatred is the black of the sun,


A barrier that blocks,

It tightly dismisses dreams,


So forever forget,

The meaning of an untruthful word,


And discover the door to the beautiful world,


The Legendary Magician

The old woman reached for the letter opener with a bony hand. Cutting open the envelope, she found a yellowed piece of paper:


A long time ago, in western Europe, there lived a man, myth, and legend who was simply known as the Miracle Worker. His abilities stunned the world as he pulled off many astonishing crimes, such as a string of robberies, and somehow the assassination of the leader of an army of mercenaries. However, the man became a legend when he  stole every pound of gold from the corrupt Kingdom’s treasury and vanished without a trace. Nobody knew him, except for me, and today I will tell you this man’s story from the beginning to the end.


Magiano was a boy who could never keep out of trouble. He stayed alive in the once-known kingdom of Shoto by stealing food and water, and begging in the streets. Sometimes, as practice, he would steal the swords out of the sheaths of the passing soldiers in the street.

As time went on and the boy grew older, he was introduced to the world of gambling. He caught on very quickly to how the games worked and, after watching over some experienced players for some time, he worked up the confidence to try and win a game of cards using his stash of stolen money in order to bet. To further ensure his win, he had an extra set of cards hidden up his sleeve.  

As it turns out, he was naturally lucky, along with his quick hands, to pull the cards he needed. With his abilities, quick hands, and craftiness of a cheating gambler, it was no wonder he caught the eye of Sergio, an older magician who later became his mentor. The mentor believed that he had similar beginnings as Magiano, and eventually they became great friends. By age 15, Magiano began training under his new mentor, and by 16, he mastered the act of magic. At 17, Magiano performed a trick in which he levitated six audience members from the crowd onto the roof of the venue, earning him the reputation of the greatest magician of all time, to the joy of his mentor.


Now, I know you’re asking: how did the Miracle Worker turn from a performer to a thief, killer, and ghost? Well, you will find the answer to that question through a girl by the name of Casey. She was beautiful, with long dark hair and a smile that could evaporate the bitterness from a person’s soul.

She and Magiano met when he spotted her in a crowded square one afternoon, browsing the sweet selection of roses the vendor was selling. For the first time in his life, Magiano had experienced love. It is one of the most incredible love stories to date, in my opinion, because in order to impress her, he walked up to her with a closed palm and blew a kiss in her direction. She had a confused look until she realized that after he had blown the kiss, he opened the palm of his hand and a bright red rose emerged from seemingly nothing.

They soon continued to date each other until they were married a year later at the age of 20. We all know the feeling that comes with young love, and how it lightens the soul and brings joy to our hearts. That was what Magiano felt, but sadly fate decided strike the proverbial spear of tragedy straight through his heart.

During this time there was a rebellion raging throughout the kingdom. It was a rebellion against a violent and unfair king who had just raised taxes to half a pound of gold per person, and triggered a building tension in the working class of Shoto’s civilians. Alas, while on an outing at their favorite restaurant, Magiano and his wife were caught in the middle of the most violent protest in the history of the kingdom.

“Down with the king!” someone shouted.

Magiano turned to see the door being busted down by the broken body of a man who had been trampled under the great mass of rioters.

“R-run,” the man managed to whisper before he collapsed onto the floor of the restaurant. Magiano grabbed his wife and swiftly led her out the door by her hand.

He managed to keep himself and his wife safe from the hail of arrows and projectiles raining on the mob of people in the strangest way. Nobody knows if it was luck or magic, but every time an arrow seemed like it would kill either of them, the arrow would miss or get blown off course by the wind or some other force.

By the time Magiano and his wife reached the end of the crowd, the path which they had run through was the only spot not covered in arrows or dead bodies. They kept running until they thought they were a good distance away from the action. Thinking they were safe, Magiano relaxed and looked over to his wife just in time to see a stray arrow pierce its way through her heart. Catching her as she fell, he had no time to say any last words before realizing she was dead.

After this happened, some say that a part of him, the good part of him, died with her, and what do you get when the peaceful side is gone?

You get the boy who lost everything, you get a fighter, and, lastly, you get the dark side of the Miracle Worker.

After that day he abandoned his practice and show altogether and gave ownership to his mentor. He then disappeared, never to be seen for a few months. Some say he moved to a foreign land where his wife had been born, and others say he threw himself off a cliff overlooking the sea.


Yet what the public did not know was that Magiano was not one to give up. After his wife’s death, Magiano emerged as one of the greatest criminal masterminds of his time. He went back to his old ways of stealing anything he could get his hands on. However, unlike his 12-year-old self, he went beyond stealing and even became a master of murder.

It first started with a bad business deal with the leader of a notorious street gang known as the League. The gang dealt in assassinations, drug trafficking, and the forced “protection” of establishments at certain prices. During the months after his wife’s death, Magiano had gotten into making deals with this gang in order to sustain himself with proper income, and was constantly scamming them with fake drugs and other forged products.

It eventually got to the point when the leader of the gang decided he was fed up with Magiano hindering his business. He began threatening Magiano and directing his gang to harass the citizens of the Kingdom in the hopes of drawing Magiano out of the shadows.

Soon, the crime rates of Shoto were shooting through the roof, with an estimated 80 percent chance of being mugged in the streets. All this, just for Magiano to turn himself in to the gang and allow himself to be punished. Instead, two weeks after the increase in crime, the king’s police found the leader of the League lying on his living room floor, dead. On his body was a note reading, “The king claims peace yet uses this man’s gang to collect money for his ‘perfect kingdom.’”

People still say to this day that Magiano achieved the perfect murder – no evidence, no witnesses, and no sign of any sort of struggle. It was as if the gang leader had just laid down and fallen asleep. I would later ask Magiano how he did it, and he would repeat the phrase you hear most magicians say: “A good magician doesn’t reveal his secrets.”

Besides not having to deal with the gang members constantly in the streets, Magiano became somewhat of an urban hero. The public attempted to identify him by many absurd names, but eventually decided to settle on the Miracle Worker. And so, out of a violent and tragic background, the legend was born. From that day forward, more and more of the king’s corrupt supporters fell to this mysterious embodiment of death.

It was months after the day of his first murder before the Miracle Worker struck again. This time, he killed the head protector of the Kingdom’s treasury. The protector was a trusted and good friend of the king, and was mourned throughout the king’s castle after his body was found slumped over on the king’s throne with the words, “Throne of lies” written in blood across the floor. Due to this, the king decided to increase the security of his castle with the addition of more soldiers and a very experienced head guard of the soldiers watching the vault at all times. With such high security and experienced guards, the king thought no one would ever dare try to set foot in the castle, let alone steal all of the money. Despite the logic of this statement, the man had forgotten that Magiano was someone who had defied reason time and again.

This replacement occurred during the week that the king was sent a message with an open challenge from the Miracle Worker himself. The message read,

“Meet me out in the central square if you want to know what I am going to do next. Bring your guards if you want. You won’t catch me.Max.” (You may be wondering about the name change, but I will get to this later.)

The king’s face paled at this, but thankfully, nobody was around to see it. He quickly called every guard in the castle with him and set off to the square.

The king arrived at the square and looked around for a familiar face. He eventually found it when he saw the Magician appear to materialize out of the crowd and into the square.

“Oh my god,” the king whispered to himself. It can’t be, he thought.  He should be dead. There is no way a mere boy could survive on these streets.

After spending so much time on this planet, I have become very good at reading people’s emotions through their faces. In the king, I saw anger, fear, and, to my surprise, a small sign of remorse.

It was the standoff of the century: the infamous Miracle Worker standing face to face with a corrupt king and his army of guards. It was an extremely surreal encounter with both of the men staring each other down. I’m actually pretty convinced I saw tears in both of the men’s eyes, but considering their reputation, they did a good job of hiding whatever emotions wanted to escape.

However, the one thing people did notice was the slight physical similarity. Despite being much more heavyset and shorter than Magiano, the king seemed to have similarly colored eyes. This is much more of a big deal than you might think, because the king’s stood out for their rose-like tint, and Magiano’s seemed to posses that same red color. Yet, in the king’s face, I saw something thought to be impossible: guilt.

The king finally spoke. “Whoever you are, I don’t care for your reputation.” The stony-faced king continued,“You are still a criminal who has committed many crimes against me and the citizens of our nation, and for that you shall be arrested and hanged!”

People cried out and a tremor spread throughout the crowd. I was tempted to walk away as I sensed the tension spreading through the masses, but I had to make sure Magiano would be okay, even though I knew he would be. Suddenly, a voice came from underneath that dark hood, and the Miracle Worker spoke.

“And what have you done? You force people from their homes, steal their money with absurdly high taxes to fund your own personal projects, and to top it all off you work with organized crime bosses to get what you want.”

He then lifted his head so his face was visible and said, “If it were up to me and the rest of the people you rule with such an iron fist, you would have been executed for your crimes the day you clawed your way into royalty.”

Magiano spoke softly, yet his voice projected across the entire square.

“You know who I am, and you see what I have become. You created your own demons, and I am going to make sure you regret everything you have ever done. Also, thanks for the money.”

And with that, he vanished into the crowd as quickly as he appeared. The king stood puzzled, until another realization finally dawned on him.

“Hurry!” he shouted to his guards. “GET BACK TO THE TREASURY!”

As he and his royal guard retreated to the treasury, a low yet powerful noise could be heard from the mob that had been watching.


It was the start of a revolution.


I’m sure you have already figured out that by the time that the guards managed to get back to the unprotected vault, every single ounce of gold was gone. In its place was another note. The message on it read,

I will never forgive you for what you have done, and now I have been given the revenge I have waited so long for. I will not kill you, I will no longer bother you, but I’m afraid you have literally just paid for all the pain you have caused me.

Signed, the Royal Prince


That was the last the public saw of the Miracle Worker, but not me. He came to me the night after the great heist for a last talk together before he disappeared for the last time.

I had just finished leading some soldiers away who were hunting for Magiano when he came to see me. I heard my back window open and there he was, still in his magician’s costume with a black hood and cape.

“You’ve been causing some trouble,” I said casually.

“Thought you were done with those fancy disappearing acts,” he replied to me in a stoic voice.

“Yeah, well, I had to make an exception for that man. We both know that he is one politically corrupt animal.”

We then sat down and I began my last conversation with my old friend.

It’s almost as if he was making some sort of confession to me. He told me about how he was so torn apart by the death of his wife, and that key motivating reason for him to go after the king. As he spoke of this, I noticed how the emotionless shield which he usually wore began to fade as he discussed the past events. As he began to speak of his murder of the gang leader, I had to stop him and mention how the way he pulled off those tricks was incredible, even to me, so I asked him.

“So, my boy, how did you pull it off? How did you steal all that gold? In such a short time as well!”

Once again, with a devious smile on his face, he replied with a familiar phrase,

“I’m a good magician, and good magicians never reveal their secrets.”

As he was about to stand up to leave, I had to ask him one more thing. “I noticed the king’s reaction when he saw you.”

Magiano’s hands that were usually steady had begun tapping a fast rhythm on the table beside him.

“It was almost as if he were seeing a ghost!”

I then took a deep breath and stated the last fact which I was sure connected Magiano to the king, “You also have those same, distinct, red eyes.”

After looking at the floor for what seemed like an eternity, Magiano finally whispered, “Yes, you would be correct to assume he is my father.”

“Then why are you not the prince?” I exclaimed.

I would have jumped out of my seat as I said this, but my age prevented any sort of sudden movements. “This whole damn country would have been in much better hands with someone like you in control!”

He once again looked down to the floor. “I was good. Too good for my own sake, I guess,” he said, taking his hands away from the table.

“I had been stealing things practically since I was able to walk. Then came the day when I thought I would be able to get away with stealing one of my father’s personal robes for a homeless man I had spotted outside the castle. As you can expect…” He sighed. “I was caught and swiftly brought to my father, and we all know his attitude toward the people.

“Well, to him, I guess I wasn’t any different, and I was banned from the castle.”

Magiano then closed his eyes, and, with a broken voice, said, “I remember he last said to me, ‘You like homeless men, boy? Then why don’t you become one!’ and with that, he threw me out.” Opening his eyes he continued, “After that, I decided I couldn’t bear to keep the name Max which he had given to me, so I went by Magiano instead.”

I sat there with a grave face, one of sympathy and understanding. We were both silent for a while until he stood up at last and whispered, “Goodbye, my friend.”

With that he, he glided across the room and slid out the back window without a trace. I got up and prepared to go back to my bedroom until I noticed something on the carpet, in the spot that Magiano had been hanging his head. There was a single tear stain, one of satisfaction and grim revenge. When I saw that, tears welled up in my eyes and I cried the hardest I had ever cried in my 87 years on this planet.

I’m not going to lie, it took me a very long time to get over Magiano’s disappearance. I knew the boy would be something special, yet he was a candle meant to burn brightly, but shortly. I know you have experienced enough sadness in your own lives, so I will spare you from the burden of my own.  

Allow me to explain what happened after Magiano’s disappearance. Soon after the loss of the nation’s treasury, the king eventually went bankrupt and was overthrown. During the debates about how to run the kingdom, a single cloaked figure apparently ushered one of the political heads into a room to have a private discussion. It was after this discussion with the mysterious figure that he suggested the country be run as a democratic republic.

Now, enough about the old news. Let’s get to the point of why I wrote this letter. You may be asking what happened to the money he stole from the king. Well I’ll tell you, he left half of it for me first of all. At least he still cared about an old man such as myself, who was practically a father to the boy. However, he has left the other half for you. Go to his wife’s tomb and dig under the tree next to her gravestone. There you will find Magiano’s last wishes along with the gold which he left for you. Magiano and I send our regards.


To: The Family of Casey

Signed, Sergio (Mentor of the Miracle Worker)

The Paradox

Jason woke up to the sounds of families shouting and running. He sat up groggily on a pile of blankets that he had stolen and glanced over to see what everyone was so excited about.

He saw groups of families rushing past, not noticing Jason in the alleyway. While looking at the families, a big poster caught his eye. It said, “Come see time machine at the Invention and Technology Convention.”

Jason suddenly had a wild idea. Maybe he could go back in time to prevent his parents’ death. Jason doubted it, but he would do anything to get his parents back. He would never forget five years ago when he was seven years old and their car crashed and how he was the only survivor… He quickly tried to think about something else. Thinking about their loss wouldn’t bring them back.

He walked over to the poster and checked the address. The convention was taking place at 123 Street St. It wasn’t too far from where he used to live while his parents were alive.  In the five years since their death, he had been living in the alleyway begging for money and food. At times he was very hungry and at other times he was thirsty, but he pulled through. He winced at the memory like it was a knife, but that gave him more determination to bring his parents back.

He ran toward the convention as fast as his legs could carry him. When he arrived he bent over and tried to catch his breath. He walked into the gates of the convention where he was stopped by an admission booth. Since he had no money he tried sneaking around, but there were guards around the convention that would catch him. Then he devised a simple plan that would draw the guard’s attention to something else. He took a match and lit it. After that he threw the match at the greenery around the convention. All the guards went to put out the fire, so he climbed over the fence without being noticed.

While he walked around trying to find the time machine a lot of people were giving him strange looks. They were probably wondering why he was dressed in torn muddy clothing. He ignored them and kept looking. He marveled at the different inventions the people made. He saw hover boots to flying boats. Eventually Jason got lost, so he asked one of the inventors where to find the time machine. The inventor gave him strange looks, but he told Jason the directions.

When he got there he could see the time machine propped up on the stage and the inventor Bob Jones talking about it.

“Okay, so the time machine is a delicate piece of work. It can travel through time, but if you’re not careful it could also tear a hole in fabric of space,” Bob lectured. “And at times you could even create duplicates of yourself.”

Jason ignored the lecture and snuck over to behind the stage (where he could see a bunch of guards trying to put out the fire) and lunged forward towards the time machine.  It looked like a tall metal box with various assorted wires and things Jason couldn’t identify. Bob tried blocking him, but adrenaline boosted him and he ran into the time machine and desperately pushed random colorful buttons.

The machine door closed and he saw a flashing red light appear. He heard Bob pounding on the door and shouting,“Wait! That’s a delicate machine you could destroy the world…”

Then Jason and the machine disappeared. He felt like he’d been put in a washing machine in a blender. He sat down trying to feel less dizzy. When Jason felt better he looked around the time machine.

It was cramped and the size of a phone booth. There was a panel with an assortment of unlabeled buttons and levers. On another side of the wall there was a screen where you could enter the date you would like to go to. Jason decided to look outside the time machine. He saw a forest near a mountain with a cave in it. He also saw various different dinosaurs. He stepped back inside the time machine and tried to get back to the present, but then he realized why he had stolen the time machine, so instead he entered in the date when his parents died on the panel and the machine disappeared.

He appeared at the yard of his old house and saw his parents getting in their car with young Jason following behind them. He hid the time machine and followed them. He suddenly remembered that they were taking young Jason to a hockey game. He used to love hockey when he was little. Jason tried to think of ideas on how to stop him but couldn’t think of any. He thought about popping the tire, but he couldn’t think of anyways to do it. He decided to go back to the garage and find something sharp. He tried getting in, but the door was locked. He tried to remember where his parents kept the spare keys, but he only remembered the keys were hidden somewhere on the yard. Jason paced around the neighborhood trying to think of ways to get in.

He finally decided to just search the entire yard. He first checked in the bushes. He crouched down and crawled around the bushes examining where the key might be. After a long time he went over to the trees and he climbed up to the low branches to maybe find a key resting on one of the branches, but he didn’t find anything. Jason eventually got so frustrated that he kicked a rock only to find the key under the rock. He picked it up and brushed away the dirt. He walked over the door and inserted the key and twisted. The door unlocked with a satisfying click.

He stepped inside cautiously and once he knew no one was home he walked over to the garage and saw multiple items that could be used to pop tires and grabbed a branch cutter. He strolled out the front door, locked it and put it back where it was. Then walked to the time machine (with the branch cutters) and entered the time before they left on the panel and disappeared.

He appeared at the same spot and peeked around the tree to make sure they hadn’t left the house yet and then he went to pop the tires.

Suddenly the garage door opened Jason’s dad stepped outside and yelled, “HEY YOU, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? THAT’S MY CAR AND BRANCH CUTTER!!! GET OUT NOW!!!

Jason quickly fled to the end of the streets when another time machine appeared. Bob Jones stepped out of it and glared down at Jason. “Heh heh heh. What do we have here?” he said.

Jason looked for an escape and saw only one, the time machine. He tried diving into the time machine, but Bob blocked the door.

“Not this time,” Bob said. “Now tell me why are you here?”

Jason thought of lying, but decided against it. “I’m here because my parents died and I want to resurrect them.”

Bob’s expression softened and he said, “Nothing you can do about it. It’s best to keep things the way they are.”

Jason thought about what he said and decided if they were alive, reality would change, but for the better or worse. He decided that it would be worth the trouble. He ran towards his parents’ house to his time machine.

He stepped in the time machine and traveled to before Bob came. He walked to the car and let them go, then followed them. He glanced behind him hoping Bob wouldn’t follow him and saw himself talking to Bob. He decided not to waste any time talking with Jason or have the chance of being captured by Bob, so he continued following them. Thankfully there was lots of traffic that slowed them down so Jason could keep up.

Then he walked over to the car and stared at them. He looked at his parents’ distinct yet familiar features. His mom’s brown hair and white smile and his dad’s warm brown eyes seemed to fill him with joy. His mom was stroking young Jason’s hair and laughing.

Jason paused and then said to his parents, “Don’t go, I’m Jason from the future and you’re going to die. I’m here to prevent your deaths.”

Jason’s dad stared at him and said, “Wait. You’re the person who tried popping my tires.”

Before he could finish his sentence the car behind them honked because they had been holding up traffic so they rolled up the window and drove away. Jason watched them as they went in a hurry and crashed into the car in front of them.

Jason sagged his shoulders in defeat realizing that if he hadn’t talked to them they wouldn’t have been in such a hurry and wouldn’t have crashed. He plopped down on the sidewalk and mourned for their loss. He looked over to the crash and found hope. He walked towards the time machine and closed its door. He sat down trying to think of ideas, but all that came to his mind was that he caused their death. Jason decided to go back without a plan, hoping maybe a plan would enter his mind. He set the date on a panel and teleported back in time.

He stepped out of the time machine and saw himself running towards the car. Jason (#2) gave a surprised look, then realized it was him from the future or past.

He sprinted over to Jason #2 and said, “Wait, don’t go. Mom and Dad will die if you do this.”  

Jason #2 gave a skeptical look and reluctantly said, “Okay, what do we do?”

“Just wait here.”

Jason #1 and 2 waited and watched the car go. The car went forward and suddenly a newspaper got caught by the wind and splattered against the windshield. The car flapped its windshield wiper trying to remove the newspaper and crashed forward.

“Well your plan didn’t work,” said Jason #2.

“We’ll have to try something different then.”

“Let’s go back to my time machine and try again.”

Both Jasons squeezed into the tight space and teleported backwards. They stumbled out of the machine and went to stop Jason #2 (of the past).

“Don’t go,” said the future Jasons in harmony. Then a time machine appeared and another Jason #1 went to stop Jason #2 (as shown above), but froze in his tracks. All Jasons looked around in confusion.

One of Jasons said, “Why are there so many Jasons?”

“I don’t know,” replied another Jason.

“Let’s just prevent the death,” said another Jason.

All Jasons agreed and went over to the car.

“So the car crashed because a newspaper flew into the windshield,” explained Jason. “So what we have to do is stop the newspaper.”

The Jasons looked around for the source of the newspaper, but couldn’t find anything. Then one of Jasons spotted a man on a bench nearby throwing the newspaper in the recycling bin. The wind picked it up and it splattered against the car. All four Jasons groaned and went back into their time machines to fix it. They appeared and rushed to four confused-looking Jasons.

“No time to explain, just try to stop any newspapers from going towards the car,” said one Jason.

All eight Jasons went the where the man was sitting and waited for the man to throw the newspaper. When he threw it all eight Jasons rushed forward to stop it. One Jason caught it and triumphantly yelled. The car moved forward without any trouble and made its way to the hockey stadium.

“Okay, so now that we fixed it… which Jason is going to the present?”

All Jasons debated about it, but couldn’t find an answer. One Jason decided on a competition on who can run to the time machine. All Jasons agreed. They lined up and faced the time machine.

“3, 2, 1… GO!”

All Jasons sprinted to the time machine, but since they were all the same person they were evenly matched. They then argued even more who should go. Eventually after lots of arguing one Jason had an absolutely brilliant idea. He said that they should spin a bottle and whoever it points to gets to go. They circled around a bottle and spun it. The bottle slowed until it landed on a Jason. The Jason who got picked cheered in excitement. All other Jasons gave disappointed looks while the one other Jason stepped towards the time machine.

“Wait, I’m the original Jason,” said the original Jason. “I should go back to the present.”

“Then prove it,” replied the Jason that was going to the present.

“Well… I have more memories than all of you.”

“Prove it,” replied the other Jason.

“Every Sunday my dad used to take my to the Baxter Park to play hockey.”

“How do we know you’re not lying?”

“Umm… because… uhh… it’s… true?”

The other Jason rolled his eyes and strutted towards the time machine. Suddenly the original Jason pushed the other Jason and ran into the time machine and quickly returned to the present. Maybe my parents won’t be what I want them to be, thought Jason.

He appeared in the alleyway passing a sign for the convention and sprinted to his house forgetting the time machine. He slowed down at the sight of his house. An image of the house before he changed reality appeared in his mind. There was an old house with broken windows and paint chipped away in some spots. Now the house had clean windows and what looked like new paint.

Through the window he saw his parents making dinner. His mom laughed at something his dad said as she inserted a platter of spaghetti into the oven, Jason’s favorite food. He cried at the sight of them. He wiped away the tears and walked to the house. When he reached the door, it opened, revealing his parents.

“Where were you?” they asked. “And why are your clothes muddy?”

“I was playing hockey with my friends and tripped and fell in the mud,” lied Jason.

“Well, happy to see that you’re back home,” his mom said.

Jason smiled and hugged her. “Happy to see you too.”

Touches from heaven

One Day Until:

When I signed up for camp, I didn’t sign up for what happened.


The Morning Of Camp:  

I woke up in bed, knowing that this would be the last morning where I would be cushioned underneath, without a sore neck and back. I decided that I needed a good reputation for the first day, so that I could make new friends. I hunted through my closet, ripping everything off the hangers anxiously. I needed something stylish, but not too fancy. I remembered back to the last day of school, this girl named Mary had worn this amazingly cute outfit. These high pants with three buttons, with a flowy white tank top. That was what I was going to try to do.

The only high-waisted shorts I had were a tye-dye blue pair with rugged edges. It could work. In my closet I came across a white V-neck, but I couldn’t wear anything flowy, too fancy. So I slipped the shirt over my head, noticing that it would look cuter if I tucked it in.

Hmmm, shoes? What was Mary wearing again? Right, converse sneakers… I don’t have those. The floor of my closet was filled with shoes, even though I hated most of them. They were either too dirty, too weird, didn’t like them, too old, didn’t fit, too girly, too boyish, wait…

I spotted my pair of black vans, perfect!

I glanced in the mirror, turning my body to view all the angles of my outfit.

“Jamie, come on, we’ve gotta leave!” my mom called.

I closed the door behind me, taking one last look at the room that I wouldn’t see for a while. I kissed my door as a sign of goodbye, and stomped down the stairs.


First Day Of Camp:

Taking tiny steps, I walked into the cafeteria where all the other campers were gathered. The sun created a beam of light peeking through the window. It cast a shadow into the room, creating a vast silhouette of a guy’s figure upon the dented and washed out wooden-colored tables.

“Hello, campers!” said a tall woman, with a sweet, high voice. “You are going to have the best two weeks of your lives here!”

The woman babbled on, when suddenly the most gorgeous sight appeared, matching the shape of the shadow. I’m not talking clothes, I’m talking face, eyes, hair, body, muscles, everything about him was perfect. His eyes were a light blue, they sparkled as he continuously peered around, I could look at them all day. Dimples that seemed to be made of sunshine formed as he laughed at something the woman said. And his arms, bulges of muscles, made his shirt look tight to his skin. His fluffy hair was combed to one side, and his tan face was the most adorable part of him.

Maybe the woman was right, these were going to be the best weeks of my life.


Second Day Of Camp:

“Let’s get up my girlies!” a lady outside my tent hollered in all directions. The next thing I knew she was pulling my blankets roughly off me and clapping repeatedly in my face.

“Girls, line up!” the lady called again, indicating a warning to every tents’ campers.

I stepped out with a yawn and stumbled over to where a straight line of girls was forming. We skipped along a dirt trail until we arrived in front of a lake. It was a lengthy lake, and staring at the calm water peacefully flow, it seemed never ending.

The day was perfect. Fluffy clouds of dreams blended into the dark shaded sky, which had an ombre effect into light blue. It was gorgeous and sent a relaxed chill directly through my body.

“Girls,” the counselor started motioning with her hands as she spoke, “Get with a partner of your choice. Our first activity is canoeing. Don’t canoe that far though.  Remember, here at camp the climate changes unexpectedly and frequently, that is why you can’t travel far, just in case. Anyway … ”

I looked around for a partner. I hadn’t come with a friend, and it seemed as if everyone else did. If not, they had already made a new friend. I began to wander to other campsites, when I saw him. Today he looked even more beautiful than the sky. Even better, he also seemed to be looking for someone to work with.

Okay, I whispered to myself, You’ve got this. My head drifting up, I gave him a tiny wave, and a small smirk.

“Hi, um do- you- have- a partner,” I stuttered, trying to stare directly into his distracting, glowing eyes.

“Uh.” Oh my gosh, he had the voice of an angel. “Sure, I don’t have a partner,” he responded, moving closer to me.

“Yes!” I said, a little too loud, “I mean cool, haha.”

Oh my god, Jamie, you’re so weird, why’d you have to say ‘Yes,’ now he automatically thinks you’re odd.

The boy’s smile transitioned to a confused look.

“So, your name?” I asked.

“Oh, right, I’m Logan.” Uh, such a fabulous name.

“Yours?” he followed up,


“Really? That’s my girlfriend’s name!”

With that, I slumped my hands down, and scrunched my eyebrows tightly together, my smile now a frown. It was like a brick just hit my face with immense power.

Noticing my expression he now looked concerned. “You okay Jamie?”

I glared at him angrily, not blinking once. “Jamie?” he said again.

I blinked, snapping back into reality,

“Yeah I’m fine.” My words were delayed and lifeless.

He turned, now resting his hand gently on the top of my shoulder. His touch was like a pure piece of heaven. The soft feelings sent energy back into me, forming another smile. Maybe I just had to win his love?!

As I focused on the softness, perfectness, awesomeness, greatness, and everything about the feeling of him touching my bare skin below my hair, a man began to speak in a low and heavy voice, “Hello campers.”

As he spoke, my head dozed off into the ideal land…

There was a humongous castle built of gold with touches of silver rhinestones, and turquoise metallic window frames built especially for Logan and me. We spent most days in the backyard, tending the garden that contained vibrant colors of sunshine, exposing radiant light into our deepest emotions. And we walked in the park outside our home, we held hands, watching the calm river beside us soothe our inner soul just as Logan was about to kiss my lips, and I…


“JAMIE!” I felt a nudge at my side. I jumped abruptly at the touch. It was Logan.

“Didn’t you hear, we have to get life jackets on and then we have to go to our assigned canoe. Ours is number 23.” He motioned for me as he picked up a bright orange life jacket.

“Turn around,” he asked. I did as he said. I felt the padding of the jacket fit into my shape, and he fastened the buckle. “Tight enough?” he followed up.

“Perfect,” I answered, gazing into his eyes of beauty. They looked bluer than ever against the sky.

“Um, I must’ve missed it, how far do we go out?” I asked, laughing at ease.

“He said to wherever, as long as you can still see the campsite, so I guess not too far.”

“Oh.” I had imagined us in the sight of no other, as we romantically talked about life.


The Start: Canoe Trip

“So do you just want me to row?” he asked.

“Ah, if you want, I’m not very strong, you’re probably better, but if you want me to I can though, whatever you want is good, I don’t care, ya know whatever you want.” Omg, I sound even more weird.

“Okay, I can do it.” He began to firmly pull the paddle back, and I could see his muscles as they flexed through his shirt. He must spend hours working out for strength like that.

For a couple of seconds, silence took over, it wasn’t for that long, but it felt so much longer than it really was.

“So, this is going to get really awkward if we don’t talk,” he finally said, looking down.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “So what’s up?”

“Um, well, to get to know each other, I play soccer!” he began.

“Really, me too!” I shouted.

“So in school last year, I had this crazy teacher. She was our health teacher. Taught me nothing, everything that came out of that woman’s mouth was useless,” I said, changing the topic for some reason. I guess I felt insecure.  

“Yeah, I hate those teachers.”

I was tempted to interrupt and say that he doesn’t even understand how boring she was, but he continued, “Talking stress… my girlfriend has really been stressing me out lately.”

I was taken aback from the sudden statement.  It was like fresh air was being pumped back into weakened lungs.

“What do you mean?” I followed up, my face bringing complete brightness back into it, as I intently examined his eyes.

“She’s extremely demanding, everything I do has to be perfect,” he sighed somberly.

I expressed concern, but was unsure what to say. “Oh,” I finally blurted.

“Yeah, you’re probably bored, sorry I don’t have to talk about — ”

“No, no,” I cut him off, “It’s totally fine. I get it, sometimes you need to let people know about emotions, like you just gotta talk to somebody. I get that way all the time!” I smiled, giving him a sweet giggle.

“Exactly,” his eyes widened, “Like, I drive her to school in the morning. I told her I would be there at 7:30 and I got there at 7:32 and she cursed me out!”

“What?” I agreed.

“Right? And then because I did that she made me take her shopping and buy her whatever she wanted!” he continued, now getting angry.

“Oh my god, that’s so bad!” I hollered, backing him up, not really focused on him, but his stunning appearance.

“Yeah, and, I don’t know, it’s just annoying!”

I held my hand in front of my eyes, for the sun was cast directly into them.

I guess he noticed. “Here, switch seats with me. The sun’s in your eyes Jamie,” he offered, starting to get up.

“Oh no, that’s really sweet, but it’s okay. You’re already doing all the paddling.”

“Take my glasses at least.” He took his sunglasses off, like they do in the commercials from the designer brands. Now I could see his gleaming eyes. By the tone of his eyes, I could tell  that he wasn’t going to give up until I took them, so I slowly grabbed them and placed them gently on my face. The lingering smell of his cologne reached my nose.

“Jamie, I don’t know what to do about the other Jamie,” he kept going.

“Just break up with her,” I suggested, really hoping he liked the idea.

“I can’t. If I do, she’ll spread something about me to the entire school. No joke. She is the most popular girl and so everyone believes her or whatever. I hate it, I mean I know she will do it. It  happens every time, she’s already dated three guys this month!  Jerry, then Mark, then me. It’s not like she even likes us, she just thinks we’re handsome ‘cause she obviously doesn’t like me. I’ll try to make a joke, but she tells me I’m stupid. She only has boyfriends because she thinks it’s cool. Sorry I’m talking way too much.”

“No it’s all good, Logan,” I said, “but how come you ever asked her out?”

“I didn’t.” Now he was actually mad. “I saw her in the hall and nobody likes her but she’s ‘popular’ so everyone wants her to like them, ya know how it is with all of that?”

“Yeah,” I said, gazing into his gorgeous eyes.

“So anyway, I was in her class and she came up to me and goes ‘nice hair, dude.’ I was like ‘thanks.’  And then the next thing I knew she goes, ‘Pick me up at 8, wear something nice.’ Then she walked away. I had no clue what just happened, but I really didn’t want to go out with her, and then all my friends were like, ‘Dude, you’re crazy, it’s Jamie, the hottest girl and you don’t want to take her on a date…

‘Dude, it’s JAMIEEEE BLANKYYY! You have to go out with her. Dude, she’s hot!’ Brian had said.

‘Yeah, if you don’t go out with her, then I will,’ John had added.

‘Yeah but I don’t like her!’ I kept telling them.

‘Yo, it’s Jamie. Do you Know what She’ll do?! If ya don’t go, she’ll literally ruin your life.’

‘Well I’ll just tell her that I don’t have her address.’ They looked at me strange and I was confused so I go, ‘What?’

John and Brian exchanged looks and seemed scared for a moment.

‘Um,’ John started, ‘Well, you see, Jamie kinda made us give her your number so she’s gonna text you her address.’


“I was really mad and I couldn’t use that as an excuse, ‘cause then I got a text from her. Then I felt really scared if I didn’t go. You see, Jamie always had to have a boyfriend and she broke up with Mark that day, so if I didn’t go on a date with her she would kill me.”

“So did Mark break up with her?” I asked, surprised.

“Yeah, he was like, ‘Jamie, you’re really sweet and so nice of a girl. And I really enjoy being with you but right now I don’t want to be in a relationship. Then she was like, ‘Are you breaking up with me you (beep)!’ Then she kicked him right in his, his, spot, and punched him and then on her Instagram she wrote some pretty mean things about him. He didn’t come to school for a month after and even then he had a black eye. That’s what I’m scared about!”

I stared at him for a moment, thinking about what I could say.

All I could think about was this:  

“So when I met you, and I told you my name, Jamie, you sounded … excited. But wouldn’t you be sad to hear that since it reminded you of your girlfriend?” I asked, really desperate for an answer.

He looked at me, and suddenly his face turned the color of a cherry.

“Be-cause, you- seemed really nice, and it gave me hope th-aat, mayb-ee, you could be my girlfriend,” he stuttered, now looking directly down, and stopping the rowing.

I looked at him, ”Ya know, you don’t have to be embarrassed.” I smiled. He faced his eyes up to mine now. Why can’t he be brave? Gosh!

“Look, I saw you and you’re really–” Now my face was red. “You’rereallygoodlook-in.”

He smiled. “I feel like I get that a lot.”

Wow Logan, way to make me feel special. I still liked him by his looks so I continued, “I like you.”

We both glanced at each other and didn’t know what was next. Finally he put out his hand. I lay mine on top of his.

“I-I-I likeyoutoo,” he said.

I put my hands out, giving him a hug. It didn’t seem right. I quickly stopped and got off of him.

“Wait,” I said, my eyes watery, “What about … the other Jamie?”


Our Truth:

“What about the other Jamie?” I repeated.

He rolled his eyes sorrowfully.

“I don’t know. Our hopes are over. I can’t be with you. I don’t even live near here.”

“Where do you live?” I asked, waiting desperately for answers.

“California.” Wow, that was far from New York. Why didn’t he tell in the beginning?

“Well, we can text can’t we?” I suggested.

“Jamie, it won’t work.” He shook his head.

“Well, why can’t we try?” I asked, wondering why he was just giving up like this.

“Jamie, just stop, it’s over. We’ll have a nice two weeks, and then we’ll be done.”

My mouth lay wide open. “Are you kidding me? You’re just gonna give up on me like that?” I was furious.

“Jamie, I do like you, but we can’t be together, it isn’t practical,” he repeated, totally not looking at me.

I was mad. I had dreamed about him. I literally was set on Logan.

“Logan, I sat here listening to your stupid stories about your girlfriend that you obviously want more than me. And now you’re just giving up on me.”

I could tell he was trying extremely hard to stay calm.  “Jamie,” he raised his voice, his eyes now staring into mine, “I like you and you are a nice girl. And you really have encouraged me to break up with — with the other Jamie. If you didn’t want to hear the stories, you could’ve stopped me. You told me to keep going. And I really do — I — do — I — I — like you, but I can’t be with you, I just can’t, you know it wouldn’t work. But I just want to let you know that you have allowed me to build up courage. When I go back to California the first thing I will do is break up with Jamie. So thank you for that.”

“Yeah, no prob.” I sarcastically smiled. “Ya know what you taught me? … That you can’t lay eyes upon someone and plan your future from there. You need to get to know them better.”

Now I looked deathly into his eyes. “And you’ve taught me that even if you like the looks of people, turns out they’re nothing like you EXPECT,” I raised my voice. “They will give up on you! That’s what I learned. So thanks soooo much for that LOGAN!”

I smacked my hand on the side of the boat.

We sat there in silence.

“I know you’re mad, but you have to get over it — ” he began.

“No, I don’t, you’re the one who needs to learn that you are so selfish and that you should care about others’ feelings. I liked you Logan, and then, then, you just — ”  

Suddenly I looked up. The water was becoming rougher, as the canoe bounced in it swiftly. I turned and saw a mountain at our side. I stared up at it, and it seemed as tall and menacing as Mount Everest.  



He moaned, facing up to the sky as the cloud rolled into a darker and more eerie gray

“Where are we?” I asked. My heart pumped faster now, and my eyes were not blinking.

The wind picked up and soon we were headed in the opposite direction. With all his strength, Logan pulled eagerly at the water, the paddle quickly moving. His face wrinkled and his eyes seemed to clench together. Suddenly — crack — the paddle snapped.

I felt a drop of liquid slide down my arm. Looking up, I now saw what was to come.

Rain fiercely trembled down, pounding harshly in the boat. I was drenched within seconds. Through all of this, I managed to stand up and firmly roar, “I wish I never met you Logan!!!”

Trying to sit back down, the wind struck me, and I smashed my head on the boat.

I collapsed.

All I remember is, “Jamie, Jamie, JAMIE!!! Are you okay? I’m sorry.”

I squinted through one eye.

“Jamie, keep your head upward.”

I weakly put my hand to my head and absorbed a wet, thick stream of blood as it continuously flowed down the side of my head. I remembered back to my crazy teacher last year. I knew that she had said something about a specific amount of blood that leads to death. With the agonizing pain, I was sure this was too much blood.

I felt a slight nudge then. “Jamie, I like you.”

It’s too late now, I thought. This is all Logan’s fault, and he knows it.

I could see a tear floating down Logan’s cheek, and his eyes full of the deepest sorrow. Finally, he feels the pain that I have dealt with this whole time.

His hand gently brushed my arm after a quiet kiss on the lips. My head soon felt no pain at all and my eyes went blank into whiteness.

When I signed up for camp, I didn’t sign up for this.


China Doll

Mother once told me a true gentleman always comforts a lady, even when breaking up. But things hadn’t gone as planned and I wouldn’t actually call Jess a lady. I will never let being the “only guy without a girl” blind my judgment again.

My feet hit the cement and cold air filled my lungs as I started to escape the double date nightmare at South Brick Pizza. Pushing the pizzeria’s door open, I could hear Jess getting out of her seat and blabbing to the hostess at the front.

“Yes let’s have a reservation for December 24, here’s my card, oh yes and it’s my birthday dinner, so let’s make it fabulous.” I had made my way down the front steps, eager to run free. Her voice made the nearest squirrel shiver as she called out, “Daniel.”

I hadn’t liked her two months ago. If I hadn’t been such a good best friend I would never had gone the first time when Ryan asked me to accompany him with his date, Fiona. “It will be fun,” he had said. Two dates, one party, and a dinner and I’m feeling stuck in my relationship with Jess, but tonight I was through taking it.

I heard the clicking of her shoes against the sidewalk. I turned my face back to the wind and saw a red-faced, blonde-haired girl, who was looking fairly angry, start to make a run from the restaurant. I took a breath and raced forward, looked left and right, and walked across the street, but the stupid honks gave my angle away. I felt in my heart she was coming close. So I jetted to the left, right behind an AT&T store and let myself think a minute. I knew this town well and if I could get to the ice cream shop which was a street and a half away, I could slip in and be safe. Hopefully.

I hadn’t heard any other indication, but the silence was too eerie to just be about nothing. So with the moonlight to guide me, I made my way down the block, blending in by keeping my back against the store’s walls. I felt my gelled hair surrender to the sweat coming from my head and a big brown wave got caught in front of my eyes. Perfect timing.

I heard a person scream, “Get out of the way!” and knew it was Jess. I raced down two stores and tried to go. Looking left, I saw an alleyway and dove towards a trash can.

“Dan,” a deceivingly sweet voice echoed. “Dan, I made the birthday reservation! I think we should wear matching outfits, got to make a good impression for my fam, don’t you think?”

She went on, “I know you’re here, so come on let’s hang out, have some fun.”

She was 100% the type of girl who has her head in the clouds, all obsessed with herself and not afraid to show it. Confidence is totally great, but she just took herself as an untouchable obsession.

I cleared my throat for lack of not knowing what to say. What was the use; she knew I was here. I felt her oversized shadow advance. “Danny, baby, let’s go back, what do you say? You come over to my house, you can even spend the night.”

I felt as if I could barf. Then another sound and some small light. I peered my head out and it was Ryan and Fiona — they had come to save me.

“Hey there.” Ryan peeked around the corner and awkwardly spoke to Jess, while holding hands with Fiona. He made eye contact with me, and I ducked my head even further.

The couple advanced into the alleyway as another one of Jess’s monologues was about to begin.

“Isn’t it so sad?” Jess dramatically turned and put a pouty face on her lips and a hand on her heart, “that Danny is so in love with me, he can’t hold himself back in front of you guys, so he felt the need to run. I am a loving person…..Am I not?” she pitifully said.

She waited for an answer, then asked again, “AM I NOT?”

With no answer she shrugged, “I am. So you see, Danny sweetheart, I love you too baby, It’s okay you don’t need to hide your true feelings, I-”

“I don’t think you are getting this right Jess,” Ryan started to say, then Fiona took over. “Jess, I think you should give Danny some space.”

“Is my presence too incredible for you to handle?” she sighed, but actually meant it.

A true psycho. I gave a sigh, waiting for an answer in the trash can that still smelled better than Jess and her flower spray.

Jess flipped her blonde waves over her head and her green eyes stared into mine, which had just peeked out for a moment to catch the action.

“Sweetheart,” She smiled foolishly and advanced, “Tell us your feelings, we all want what’s best for you, don’t you see?” She talked with her hands in a hazardous way. Her stride carried her to the edge of the dumpster, where she decided to lean on it with half a butt in my face, and half a cheek out.

Ryan and Fiona looked at each other confused until Ryan spoke up, “Jess, you’re a great girl….”

“Hush, hush Ryan, I knew that, my handsome boy must say his thoughts so I can officially prove you all wrong.”

I took an unpleasant gulp made up of a combination of relief that this was going to be over, and felt an odd sense of guilt.

“Jess you know that you are a super girl but–”

That’s when the works came to play. With an artificial sigh she put her hand to her head and bent her back out, “Oh dear me, stop playing these silly games, we know the truth so..”

I could remember the first day I met Jess. Her reddish brownish skirt that hung above her knees, and brown top that was fitted great. She wouldn’t look like the type of person who would be as crazy as she was.

“Jess,” I stood up now from the dumpster, and some litter toppled from my head and fell to the ground. Why was this so hard? What was stopping me from getting what I want?

I took a breath and then decided to improvise some break-up speech that I only thought about in my remaining seconds sitting in the dumpster. “Everyone is unique and different in their own ways,” I started. “Some things are meant to be, just like some people are meant to be together. I think that us — ” and I motioned to the space between me and Jess — “is not necessarily meant to be.” I gave a weak smile to show I was finished. Jess gave a laugh, more of a pretend cackle.

“Honey, we are on different levels, but we will make it work.”

She took my hand and hung it over her shoulder. “I just love us, we’re as cute as Minnie and Mickey or Rose and Jack!”

“Jess, please. I just need some space,” and tried to wiggle my arm free.

“But I like it when we’re closer.” Jess bumped her hip next to mine, and put both her hands around my neck. She gave another giggle.

“Well, I don’t, Jess. Can you just respect the fact that I need some time?” I was doing the best I could to stay cool. Ryan and Fiona still stood, but had inched back behind the corner of the alleyway.

I wanted to sink back into the garbage can. She nuzzled her nose up to mine. “And I think we are perfect for each other.”

“Enough!” I shouted, more exasperated than intended. I harshly pulled my arms back and backed myself away. “Jess, I’m done!” I stated. “D O N E!” my voice echoed within the alleyway perimeters. “I’m sick of this relationship, and of the fakeness, and not being able to speak,” I ranted. “I don’t like you and am going to stop pretending that this is okay.”

I had motioned between us. “Just go and think you’re so much better then everyone, Okay?”  My ears were swelling with the unidentifiable silence. Just pure quiet. I looked to Jess’s face and witnessed her rosy cheeks lose their color and turn into a weird pale. Her eyes weren’t watering, but they were looking to something else, they weren’t looking into this situation. Her lips were in a line and didn’t look like they would be open anytime soon.

“Jess, I’m so sorry.” I woke to my senses. Sure, Jess may have not treated me the best, but she couldn’t really help it. I treated her much worse, I had been mean. I reached out for her arm, expecting she would have shaken it away after I had just broken up with her, but she hadn’t.

“So — so this is over?” she monotonously stuttered, while my hand touched her arm.

“I hadn’t meant to be so harsh, I’m sorry, you’re awesome and I’m sure you will find someone … soon …” I tried.

“No, no worries.” She looked up at me and pushed my arm away. She gave a forced, small smile and backed out of the alleyway. She looked at Fiona. “What about my happy ending?”

Fiona raced up to her in a hurry. “Oh Jessie.” Her eyes looked like they had so much commentary, but all she did was hug a somewhat vulnerable Jess, and carry her away.

Over Jess’s shoulder she mouthed, “Why would you do that?”

I mouthed, “ I’m sorry, I didn’t know what to do.”

Jess broke from the hug and robotically walked to the alley’s opening.

“You have no clue, no clue about Jess,” Fiona fiercely whispered to me.

“I think everyone always knows when she walks in a room.” I did my best to politely say she was a drama queen.

“I wish the truth was easier, you would never understand.” Her voice was as low as if telling a secret. The wind picked it up, and whispered this in my ear.

* * *

For the next couple of days, Jess had been a thing of the past that every now and then made me feel like a terrible person, but things had to be done. Everything else seemed normal-ish. That is when December 24th rolled around, forgotten by many but not one.

“Hello, this is South Brick Pizza calling, is this Daniel speaking?”

“Yes?” I had questioned this more than answered.

The man’s’ Italian accent now flared with annoyance, “We have a birthday dinner booked for right now, and it is currently empty. You’re just a kid but you’ve got to understand pranks like these aren’t funny-”

“I am so sorry  sir, but I never made a reservation for a — ”

“Your blondie girlfriend did, left her whole card and everything, You’re a lucky man, you must never have to pay for a check.”

“What? Then why are you calling me?”

“She left both your numbers, so are you coming or not?”

“Not that I know of … ” My voice trailed off, then I interjected my own thought, “Wait, what had she said?”

“The girl wouldn’t answer, we should probably hook up a text machine thingy, maybe then we’ll get answers.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“You know how much business I lost from this kid? Gosh,” and he slammed the phone.

After the lovely call with Mr. Angry Italian guy, I  took a trip over to Jess’s. A little bit annoyed, I also didn’t want any charge on my card.

When I got to the door, I was greeted by Fiona.  

She ran her fingers through her auburn hair and gave me a sweet smile. “What’s up?” she asked, behind her a floating birthday balloon.

“Hey there Fiona, so I need to talk to Jess about the birthday festivities … ”

Fiona cut me off, “You know, I don’t think she’s up for talking at the moment … ”

“Okay, you see, this is kinda urgent she booked a party on my — ”

But I was cut off by a violent scream.

“I’m sure she accepts your apology, ” Fiona stuttered, and turned her face up the staircase.

I felt that it was my duty as a human being that I had to ask what that scream was about.

“Is everything alright?” I knew it was not.

“Yes, sure everything is — ” Fiona started. Her lips were pursed, as if they wanted to open, but there was some force greater, weighing down on her lips.  As if some emotional force struck Fiona with fear and she started shivering a little.

“No — everything’s not fine, why must people be so cruel? What did Jess ever do to them? Poor Jess’s birthday is ruined!”

I was confused, and a guy, how could I tell what was happening? I bent down and put a hand on her shoulder.

“What’s going on? Fiona, talk to me.”

“I — can’t,” she said to the ground. Her eyes fixed on the tip of my shoes.

“Fiona, I’m sorry I can’t come to the party, Jess and I aren’t dating anymore so it feels kind of awkward to go with her and her family to celebrate her birthday, but please tell me is everything okay?”

Another scream sent chills down my spine which took over my mind. I walked into the house with one hand holding Fiona’s torso up. She couldn’t even speak, she pointed up to Jess’s room.

I strode up the long, brown staircase. The wood floor slid beneath me as I skidded past two rooms, then finally when the scream was too close for comfort, I peeked back and saw a plain white room, with only a small window that had the blinds closed.

There was Jess, slouching and crumpled in a dark corner of the room. The lights were off, and she had her hands scrunched up close to her face, her blonde hair covering her eyes. Her loud sobs echoed out and rammed against the walls.

She was a Jess I don’t think many people, maybe no one, had ever seen. This Jess’s hair was not perfectly curled, it was crumpled in a messy bun. This Jess was in sweatpants and a sweatshirt, not any heels for sure. This Jess’s face had completely misplaced its charming smile for a scary frown that must have only been worn on a top-secret occasion. Her mascara coated her cheeks and drips of makeup revealed the Jess that no one knew.

I stopped for a second, soaking all of this in. Could this have been my doing? I thought. Was I a terrible heartbreaker? However, these thoughts all slipped away when Jess turned and began to get up, taking deep breaths. Jess’s eyes caught mine but quickly diverted, clearly thinking about something very consuming.

I approached the room cautiously, uncertain of what to expect. My head was circling its thoughts and all that was happening. I went to Jess’s bed, covered in perfectly white sheets. I took her hand and held it in both of mine.

“Jess,” I spoke, somewhat shakily. She kept trying to squirm her feet. “Jess,” I spoke more directly and in that scary but special moment, our eyes caught onto each other.

I led her to her bed and had her lie down. She squished herself into a tiny ball and started rocking back and forth. I put my arm around her back and started rambling about stuff.

“Jess, I’m sorry, I never meant for this to happen.” I rubbed her back and stared into her lost eyes, a forest of green. “Please, please don’t do this, take a break, take a breath. This is all my fault, I never meant to hurt anyone, I hate that you are so upset, really, I hate when anyone is this upset. I’m so sorry.” I sat there on her bed for only a few minutes, until finally, but slowly the rocking stopped and Jess started to blink her eyes.

Through her slurred mumbling, she was denying the fact that I had done something. “It wasn’t you.” I held her curled up body in my two arms and kept instructing her to be strong. “I was sinking, and I needed some sort of an anchor, you looked like a good one.”

Those words meant so much to me, yet I wasn’t even sure why. I had never been so important to anyone before. My friends never would have thought about me being someone who stops them from drowning. I gave her hand a slight squeeze. “You sure?”

And she nodded, breaking out of her gaze in the window. She gave the slightest of smiles to the ground, but then it disappeared. Jess let her head slide to my shoulder, and she lazily closed her eyes.

“You know, I don’t know what you’re going through or anything, but the beginning of this year was rocky for me. My friends kind of left me and in a way you were somewhat of an anchor to me too.”

Jess moved her back up and sat with her legs crossed. She fixed her posture and said, “Can I tell you a secret?”

I shrugged.

“I haven’t shared this side of me with anyone, but you’re my … ” she couldn’t find the word, “friend, right?”


“Okay,” she took a deep breath, “My parents, they refused to come to my birthday party, they can barely stay together on one planet.” She looked up at me and solemnly stated, “You know, no one came.” She breathed through her nose and let out one of those sad laughs, “No one came.”  A tear started to trickle out of her eyes, like a leaf casually tumbling out of a tree. She used the back of her hand to wipe it. “I’m officially 18, I never expected it would be like this. I’m an average student I guess, no talents or friends, or even family … ” She sniffed her nose. “I’m a mess.” She bent over crying, her head in my lap.

I picked her back up, and looked her in the face as she silently weep.

“Hey, you’re not that much of a mess.”

She gave me a semi-smile.

“But seriously,” I continued, “You are so much stronger than you feel, all these events, they blur our vision of what the truth of is.”

She wiped her eyes again and off came a black streak of mascara. “I am a mess, an ugly mess — ”

“No you’re not, you’re amazing, this is honesty, this is the truth. Life isn’t like how it is in the movies. You are you, and honestly, Jess you’re great.”

“Who am I?” she asked to the air. “A overdramatic girl who is conceited and selfish and aggressive … ” she answered herself, speaking softly.

“I may have said that before, but this is a different side of you, a broken but … but …” I struggled to find the word, “a broken but beautiful mess. But sometimes that’s life. “

“Oh shut up,” she playfully snapped. “Stop being all smart.”

“Hey, you’re my friend, don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. I like people for their true selves.”

The room was silent.

Jess sighed, “You know, I have never really had a true friend, besides FIona of course. When my parents got divorced, my Aunt and Uncle, Fiona’s parents, took me in, we grew up together.”

“I haven’t had friends either.”

“Yes you have and you know it.”
“Friends, yes,” I sighed, “but not a true one, I think you could be one.”

“Could be?” She sniffed again, obviously unsure if I was joking.

“You seem like you could be good friend material.”
“What about best friend material?” she asked.

I replied, “We’ll see.”

And that’s how I started piecing together a fragile china doll, who seemed so perfect, but easily could start breaking apart.

“We do still have a reservation … ” I said.

She smiled and slipped her hand in mine.

Patrick Star and Spongebob

Patrick wanted to eat a Krabby Patty at Krusty Krab because he was hungry for lunch there. He went to Squidward the cashier and he asked for a Krabby Patty and Squidward said, “That will be $3.99!”

Patrick got his money out and gave it to the cashier. And then Spongebob cooked the Krabby Patty, gave the Krabby Patty to Patrick, and ate the Krabby Patty. After he finished his Krabby Patty, he left the Krusty Krab and headed home to his rock. He watched TV in his rock home for an hour and after that, he went to Spongebob’s Pineapple home. Spongebob wasn’t home. He was busy working at the Krusty Krab for 12 hours.

After he was done working at the Krusty Krab, Spongebob walked home to his Pineapple. And then he was going to feed Gary the Snail dinner for 10 seconds. After Gary’s dinner, Spongebob went to bed with Gary the Snail.

One morning he got up at 7:00am and put on his pants. Spongebob went downstairs and ate a bowl of kelp cereal and got ready to go to work on time at the Krusty Krab. He got ready to cook the Krabby Patties on the grill.

The Customer came up to the cashier and Squidward said to the Customer, “Welcome to the Krusty Krab! May I take your order?”

The Customer said, “I would like to have a Krabby Patty deluxe!”

Squidward said, “That would be $5.99 please?”

The Customer took $5.99 out of his pocket and gave his money to the cashier.  He said, “Thank you! Come again!”

And Spongebob cooked the Krabby Patty deluxe with lettuce, tomato and the cheese. He gave the Krabby Patty deluxe to the Customer and left the Krusty Krab for five minutes!

Mr.Krabs said, “There are a lot of customers at the Krusty Krab ordering some Krabby Patties!”

Plankton was trying to steal the Krabby Patty formula out of the Krusty Krab and Plankton said, “The formula will be mine!” He went to Mr. Krabs’s office and tried to steal the formula out of the safe.

Mr. Krabs saw Plankton trying to steal the Krabby Patty formula and said, “Aha! looks like you’re stealing my Krabby Patty formula! Plankton!” because he was stealing the formula and going back to the Chum Bucket to make Krabby Patties.

Plankton escaped from the Krusty Krab and Mr. Krabs caught Plankton. Mr.Krabs took the Krabby Patty formula away from Plankton and Plankton ran away from the Krusty Krab, back to the Chum Bucket. He failed to steal the Krabby Patty formula and told his Computer wife named Karen.

She told Plankton, “You should try again.”

Because he didn’t get the Krabby Patty secret formula! And he came up with Plan B and tried again for the 1,001th time to steal it again. He tried to spy if Krabs was busy trying to watch Plankton try to steal it again! He spied the door and tiptoed quietly and jumped up to the safe to get the secret formula again out of the safe. He tiptoed back and squeezed through the door and got out of the Krusty Krab. He went back to the Chum Bucket to make the Krabby Patties.

Back at the Krusty Krab, Mr. Krabs was mad because his Krabby Patty Secret formula was gone! Mr. Krabs came up with plan to get the Secret Krabby Patty formula back! and Mr. Krabs called Spongebob and Squidward to come up to his office and they came up with Plan D to steal it back.

That night, Squidward and Spongebob and Mr. Krabs used laser to cut the front back up with a circle. They used a rope and jumped down. Spongebob went first to jump down in the Chum Bucket and second, Squidward went down. Last but not least Mr. Krabss went down last with Spongebob and Squidward.

After that, they tiptoed down and opened the door quietly when they saw Plankton busy looking at Species. Plankton didn’t see them because he was too busy looking at Species.  

Mr. Krabs, Spongebob and Squidward saw the formula on the table and they took it back to the Krusty Krab. But they were too late! Because Plankton said, “Freeze!”

Plankton tried to trap Squidward, Spongebob and Mr. Krabs, but they still they escaped with the formula and went back to the Krusty Krab at 9:50pm. After that Mr. Krabs went home and went to bed. Squidward and Spongebob locked up the Krusty Krab at 10:00pm and they went home and went to bed, too. They were happy and put the formula back in the safe. THE END!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               



Often the worst news comes right when you’re least expecting it, like how great people always die right in the prime of their lives. Harry Houdini, the amazing magician, claimed he could take a hit to the stomach and survive. A man decided to prove it, and punched him in the stomach before Houdini had even prepared for the blow. He was suffering from appendicitis at the time, and was just about to go on one of his spectacular shows. After the man hit him many times in his already weakened stomach, Harry continued on with several of his shows even with a ruptured appendix and a high fever. He died soon afterward. It was unfair, but that’s how life works.

My bad news came like a blow to the stomach during my second year in middle school. I had been playing basketball in the dim, hot gym that reeked of sweat from games fought and won, when a sharp pain stabbed the side of my knee. My leg buckled from underneath me, but I caught myself and continued on, shooting basket after basket and dodging the opposing team. A few minutes later, the sharp pain started up again, but I ignored it and kept on playing, despite my slight limp. The soft whoosh of a basketball flying through the net calmed me down, and I soon forgot about the strange pain I had felt.


My mother called out to me from the living room, “How was your day, honey?” I slammed the door shut behind me.

“It was fine,” I shouted back.

“Are you sure? Is anyone hurting you? Are your teachers okay?”

I rolled my eyes at the usual string of concerned questions. “Yes, I’m sure.” I ran up the stairs and into my room before my mother could ask me anything else, and flopped down onto my bed. And all of a sudden, the odd discomfort came back to my knee, causing me to wince and curl up into a ball on my bedsheets. The pain faded away after about ten minutes, and I bent over to inspect the spot. It seemed a bit swollen, as if someone had punched it and  it was now bruised. I thought back to my day in school.

Maybe I had bumped into something, or maybe during gym I… my thoughts trailed off as I remembered gym class. There, the pain had happened to me too. I rolled over on my stomach and stared at the wall in front of me. The wallpaper was adorned with golden swirls, and matching white and gold furniture sat around me. I pushed myself off of the bed and walked over to my desk, where I sat down and pulled out my backpack to start homework. But even as I tried to calculate math problems and write essays, my mind kept wandering back to what ifs, and maybes. I couldn’t concentrate. Sighing, I put everything away.

“A break might help,” I muttered to myself. So saying, I promptly collapsed onto my bed once again. Soon enough, the wall became the ceiling and the ceiling became the sky and everything was nothing at all.


“Stephanie? Stephanie! Dinner’s ready!” My mother’s harsh voice interrupted my sleep, grating against my mind, and I jolted awake. Ever since I was little, she has always been there, watching my every move and aggravating me enough to almost always spark an argument.

“I-I’m coming!” I shouted back, blinking rapidly to clear my head. I rushed to the staircase and ran down, leaping down two steps at a time. I abruptly grasped the side handlebar to steady myself, as a wave of pain radiated out from my knee. I wrinkled my forehead in concern, but decided to ignore it, as the soreness had already partially dissipated. By the time I got downstairs, the round table in the center of the kitchen was already set and heaping with every food imaginable–typical of my mother. My father was sitting placidly, his short black hair sticking up in various directions.

“Come, sit,” he called to me. Seeing the grimace on my face, he asked, “Is everything alright?”

“Oh, everything’s okay,” I answered, trying to hide the look on my face. I didn’t want to worry my father, who was always so sympathetic and kind to me.

“Okay, just checking. Why don’t you come sit while we wait for your mother to join us?” he suggested. I nodded and began to sit down, when the ache in my knee started up yet again. I gasped and fell to the ground, hugging my knees to myself.

What is this? Why does it keep happening to me? I thought, frustrated. And why isn’t it going away? Before, the hurt had gone away quickly, and I had forgotten about it as soon as it went away. Now, the ache was staying for longer and longer, and it felt as if it was coming from my bone, pushing up towards the surface like a swimmer desperate for air. Except the swimmer was determined to hurt me, so it punched every inch of flesh it could reach along the way.

“Stephanie! Steph! Steph?” My dad clumsily pushed back his chair and hurried over to my vulnerable form, huddled on the kitchen floor. “What happened? Answer me!”

“I-I’m alright, Dad. I just-” My eyes squeezed shut again and I inhaled sharply as the tortuous agony began again.

“Sarah!” At the urgent tone of my father’s voice, my mother ran into the kitchen, her hazel eyes widening and her lipstick-ringed mouth puckered up in a small circle. Everyone was moving, but all I felt was fear. Fear of what was happening to me, fear that maybe I had done something wrong in my life and now I was going to die young. All at once, I felt my head spinning and before I knew it, I had passed out.


“What monkey put left?”

“For now, you should table her rest.”

“We diagnosed her, and…”

Gradually, my vision cleared and the gibberish I thought the doctors were saying turned into comprehensible sentences.

“She’s awake! Oh, Steph…” My mother’s face was a mess of tears and troubled creases. She burst into tears and ran out of the room. Just her dramatic exit made me want to roll my eyes and sigh impatiently at her, like I do almost every day. After another couple minutes with nurses nervously glancing around at the beeping machines and the sterile, blindingly white room, one of them stepped forward.

“Stephanie, I’m afraid to tell you that — I’m really sorry — you have osteosarcoma,” she said quietly.

I tilted my head and cleared my throat, already feeling sick with worry. “Sorry, what was that?”

“Bone cancer.”

I closed my eyes. This is what it is. This is what I came here for. This is what all the pain was for. I understood, and I started to cry. Silently, each of the nurses exited the room. I wanted to shout to them, to ask them not to leave me. But no sound came out of my mouth, and so I placed my head back on my tear-soaked pillow and closed my eyes again, one final tear leaking out and staining my cheek.


After that final teardrop, I didn’t cry again. I had shed all of my tears, and now I couldn’t cry anymore. I still couldn’t accept the fact that I had cancer, so I tried to block the thought out of my head. I lived without living, nodded when my doctor told me something, ate when they told me to eat, and slept when there was nothing else to do. And yet that stabbing pain was constantly there, haunting me and reminding me that I had a fatal disease and that I could never get away from it. I never played the sports I used to adore playing anymore, and never spoke to any of my friends anymore. Apart from the occasional get-well card, I was cut off from the world I used to live in. Now my friends were replaced with adults wearing masks and long coats, my usually busy life and many hobbies replaced with constantly sleeping on a narrow, firm cot. I didn’t pay attention to anything, and my normally vivid mind became dull and never interested.  My parents occasionally visited me, and whenever I saw them I would beg them to stay, never leave me again, and to stay with me because I was afraid. That was the only feeling I felt anymore. And every night, when I fell asleep, I slept longer and longer, yet my sleep became lighter and more restless. Slowly, I was slipping away from the world.


One of the only other vivid memories I had was here at the hospital, a couple weeks after I had first arrived. I had been staring aimlessly at the ceiling, when a nurse tapped on my door, cracked it open, and snuck into the room. Gently closing the door behind her, she approached my bed and peered at me over her rectangular glasses perched on the tip of her nose.



“It appears that you are to receive chemotherapy?” The statement, worded like a question, took me by surprise. My overbearing mother must have requested the medication for me, and I shook my head angrily. Chemotherapy seemed like something only cancer patients had. Even though I knew I had cancer, it didn’t seem like it was real. It felt like I was living a dream, or someone else’s life, someone who just happened to have cancer.

“Your treatment is to start tomorrow morning, and…” the nurse mumbled something under her breath and shot me a look full of pity, then quickly left the room. Four hours afterward, the same word echoed through my head: chemotherapy, chemotherapy, Chemotherapy, CHemotherapy, CHEMotherapy, CHEMOTHErapy, CHEMOTHERAPY, CHEMOTHERAPY, until it enveloped my mind and was all that I could think about. Nothing made sense anymore.


The doctor who came to inject something into my veins was gentle and kind. This treatment made me lose my hair, lose my appetite, and lose my mind. It made my cancer feel better, but it made me feel worse.

I heard from whispered discussions nurses held outside my door that other cancer patients could go home between treatments, and that they had caught my cancer too late. I didn’t understand them. I didn’t understand anyone. I could hear what they were saying, but I didn’t comprehend it; I was too afraid, and tired, and just dead to the world.


I don’t want to live anymore. Life is too hard. Life is not worth living. This was what I repeated to myself, over and over until I was numb, every time the shock of what I was going through hit me again.


“Steph, how are you doing?” My mom entered the room, dark shadows circling her bloodshot eyes.

“Just go away.”

“Why are you always so angry at me? I try my best to be a good mother, and I don’t even know what to do anymore.”

“A good mother? A GOOD MOTHER? WHAT GOOD MOTHER DOESN’T LET HER OWN CHILD GO ANYWHERE WITHOUT GOING CRAZY AND INTERROGATING HER? AND BY THE WAY, THIS CANCER? IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT.” In a fit of uncontrolled and unreasonable rage, I screamed at her and was startled to see tears slipping out of the corners of her eyes.

“I’m sorry, honey.” She turned and stepped out of my room, her head down and cheeks flushed.

“No, I’m sorry.” I whispered as I watched her back retreat from my view.


Later that night, I heard a nurse discussing my situation with my doctor.

“The light is gone from her eyes.”

“Don’t worry, I’m sure she’ll make it through. Chemo makes some people like that.”

“Some people go through depression? Are you sure? I heard her talking in her sleep the other night, and it didn’t sound too good.”

“Patients always go through a period of time when they just feel down all the time, but she’ll get over it.”

“Whatever you say, Doctor…”


I feel dead.


“How’s the chemo going?”

“Great! She’s responding really well.”

“I can tell when you lie. You smile with all of your teeth, your eyes get bigger, your-”

“Alright, alright, I lied.”


“The cancer is gone, but so is she.”

“What do you mean?”

“She’s virtually dead. She doesn’t feel the need to live. When you don’t have the motivation, you don’t live. She doesn’t have the will to live.”


I want to die. What is the reason of living anymore?


A scene, a scene from long ago, from when I was still happy, developed in my mind.


“Now, for our MVP… Stephanie K!” Applause filled the hot gym as I, a girl with brown, curly hair and shining eyes, stepped forward to receive my award. “Steph has helped out our team so many times, and she is truly a player that we- and I’m speaking for the entire team- appreciate and value.” The coach smiled kindly at me. I grasped the trophy in my small hands and triumphantly held it over my head, beaming from ear to ear.

From that moment on, I knew what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to be a pop singer, or a veterinarian, like other kids in my class. I wanted to be a basketball player.

My mother, a woman who was always anxiously hovering over her only child, saw that the award that now stood on our kitchen counter was a boost of confidence to me. The award helped me realize what I loved doing, and that I was good at it. It was part of what shaped me into the optimistic and athletic girl I became.




But I still don’t want to live.


A gentle touch on my shoulder.


I can’t live.


A warm hand stroking my face.


I won’t live.


“I love you, Steph.

Do you love me too?”

My mother.


I love you too, Mom.

“I- I love you too, Mom.”

A gentle whisper, then a final sigh. The world became black.


Opening Doors

By the Window


Her eyes always open

her mouth closed

when she watches outside

looking through the window


She seldom hears the truth

mysterious because no one ever knows

she sees the flower dance through the window


reality seems so far away

but yet it seems so close

from watching the world through the screens of the window


her family was absent

her heart a broken mess

the window was the only place where she wept


her bodies scarred with malicious words all the things that people said

it knocked her down so deep and hard

by the window is where she is instead


she looks at life in a different way

The curtains rarely close

because the way she sees things is from the window

the wheels are always turning

taking everything in

she always seems

to be somewhere studying


studying the way the neighbors laugh

studying the way they do their hair

studying all their friends, that party

every friday without a care


She always stays by that window

never opens the door

she sees all the adventures

but she never explores


But school is out

time to start again

find herself

make other friends

get out from the window

go to the stream

and wash away

the hateful words that viciously stained

and soon enough

she will be again

a girl no different


Under lock and key

His image stands with popularity misunderstood

everybody always talks

he never gave any love a chance

no ever has found the key to his locks


his heart has been protected

and a door of bricks that pile up and block

with layers of insulation

that can’t be opened with any lock

his mind is always running

but he has only one dream

to find someone who will open the lock

and not label him as what he seems


His smile is too charming ,

he’s so good at playing the game

but he never truly wins

and it’s only himself to blame


his words are few

although everyone seems to be obsessed

he gets confused easily

but understands how to comfort  others who are depressed

his locks are made of gold

but are starting to get rusted

he refuses to open them

to someone who can’t be trusted


And so he waits and hopes one day

someone won’t see him as a jock

he is waiting for that not so perfect stranger

who might be worthy of opening his locks


Opening Doors

She watches as

he gives a haircut to the grass

the blonde curls sunshine out

she smiles to herself and the moment lasts


He can’t believe

that everybodys at the pool

but he’s mowing the grass

trying to make some money, for school


She dares again

to sneak a look at him past

the window, their eyes meet

but she turns away too fast


He’s catches sight

a coco brown, intriguing eyes

a pair that sees your soul

he can’t deny


she comes across

a feeling she has never felt before

her heart tells her

its time to open up the door


He feels a wave

of something he sort of feels

of what those eyes just saw

the part that’s he never reveals


She tells her head

he’s just the boy from across the street

but every single second he comes to mind

her heart skips a beat

He never used to think

of that familiar girl

who lived across the street

but was always in some other world


she saw him the other day

with his big crew walking their way

she turned her head, cheeks flushed

but she wished he would have stayed.


He thinks his summer is going fine

nothing too thrilling

but there is still that hole of unacceptance

that no one is filling


She sees him there

and out of excitement taps on the window tiles

the sun is shining so he shades his face

looks by the windows way, and give her a smile

He heard a noise

it got his attention

he saw the girl,

smiled through the window’s protection.

She couldn’t believe

that the smile was her own

and she cherished  that smile

more than he’d ever know


He was about to leave but

he looked back, with confusion not doubt

shook his head to himself

wondering what that spark was about


She knew what it was

her very own spark

that boy was opening up

something special–her heart


He wanted to go back

wanted to see her again

wanted to figure what they could be

if they tried out as friends


She was delighted

for the next few hours

she felt a hope in herself

she sang to the flowers


He keep glancing at the window

the sunshine reflecting her face

to his surprise

she came out of the place


she felt a shiver

that comes with feeling alive

it was a voice

that had called her inside

He saw her coming

didn’t know what to do

he decided to be himself

his first time being totally true


She had a smile on her face

she was feeling no regrets

the door spilling sunshine in

she feels limitless


He waves hi

he sees her blush

and thinks it’s cute

maybe he has a crush


She’s flooded with words

she wants to say

to this stranger

who she trusts undeniably


Their eyes meet

no other people around

exchange a smile

lost in the sea of chocolate brown.


He feels a shock

he thinks it’s too abrupt

what he getting himself into

when he has never been loved?


She observes his thoughts

and sees the wheels turning

is it possibly he

doesn’t feel the same yearning?


He shakes her off

why even try

how does he know it’s different

he won’t be anyones guy

She holds back tears

it was her first attempt

her first time opening the doors

thinks, how foolish that he’d accept.


He wanders home

and keeps reflecting

he wasn’t seeing how

they could be connecting

He decides

he needs to get out

and at the same park

is that girl running in it thoughtout


She feels the need

for some fresh air

she’s surprised to meet

that boy but doesn’t seem to care.


He saw her face

it was like watching a show

she was running away from something

maybe the reason he might know


She searches her heart

and competes with her mind

she has already sat by

for this love she will have to fight blind


He gets a little startled

wants to run away

when she starts to run

over his way


She smiles for real

and this time even speaks

and makes it obvious that

his care is what she seeks


He tries his best

to find what he wants

he is compelled to her

but afraid it will be a mistake that haunts


She sees him outside

and instantly gets the door

her feet felt enlightened

sure that this time she’ll soar


He had made up his mind

after estimating the chances

mistakes were always taunting and

he didn’t know if this relationship would take advances


She went outside

and with self pride

asked the stranger his name

he let off a strong vibe


He smiled slightly

to the girl and said

he was Jake

with the golden curls on his head


She said she liked it

and ruffled his curls

she said she was Danielle

and he said she was a beautiful girl


He took her hand

and they were assured

this was the love

they were living for


She had the key

it fit in his heart

he opened the door

and let the adventures start


He had found someone

who had fought for his lock

who had valued his carefulness

and understood why he kept up those blocks


She found someone

who brought her outside

he made her feel

like she was alive


They both found a person

who brought out their best

who understood their hearts

and they lived truly blessed.


Everyone needs someone

to help them out of their door

and together you work as a team

and you find your own roar.