The Lost Mom of the 3 Worlds

Chapter 1: BREATH

“Are you excited for our family reunion?” my dad had asked. Excited? How could I be excited? Mom left when I was three and I haven’t seen her since. Family reunion, more like no mom reunion.

With all these thoughts going through my head, I could barely take the one breath I desperately needed. The one breath that could have given me security about this family that I hadn’t seen in years. The last family reunion that we had was when I was three. To get you more caught up, I am now seventeen. That means I haven’t seen them in fourteen years. All except for my dad, at least. I wasn’t ready for this. I was scared of meeting my family again. The only thing I could do right now was go to sleep.

RING, RING, RING! Yawwnnn. The bright sun shone on my face like a warm tornado. I breathed in and then out. Finally a breath of relief. I did it again and I felt calmer. More relaxed.

When my eyes slowly opened, I could see my aesthetic, blue room. I could see blue clouds above my bed, all my blue stuffed animals, my blue blanket, and my blue open doors with light shining in from the deck. I could also see my dad hovering over me and my blue blanket with his scary statue-like glare and body position. Although, I knew he wasn’t mad. He had that same facial expression since Mom left. It was almost like a curse.

Chapter 2: CURSE

Oops. Did I say it? The C-word. Yep, that’s right. My family is cursed. Ever since my mom left, our family has been cursed. My dad has the curse of that glare, but I got the worst curse. I can’t talk. Not a single word. Sure, I’m smart, kind, and strong. Those were my blessings when I was born. My family used to be the blessing kind of family. We all had our own blessings, and those blessings made us special in our own kind of way. Except for my mom.

Well, now we’re talking about my mom. She was the curse to our family. She was the one who was cursed by an evil witch who took away her blessings and claimed them for herself. Now she is a wreck living somewhere unknown. Although I know, deep down inside, she is still the kind woman she used to be. When I close my eyes, I imagine her loving heart still inside my mind.

Chapter 3: BACK TO MY DAD

Like I said, my dad was standing over me in his statue-like position. 

“Get dressed,” he said, “I’m going to take you for breakfast.” So I got up, went to my closet, and took out a pair of denim shorts and a peach crop top. I went over to my dad, and we started walking in the direction of Jouns, a sweet, little cafe. It sucked that I couldn’t say anything to my dad. I couldn’t even tell him that I loved him. All I could do was nod my head.

When we got to Jouns, I pointed at a seat that I wanted to sit at, but he didn’t see my finger, and he took me to eat inside. I hated sitting inside. The loud noises haunted my ears. But what could I do? I couldn’t talk and I only knew the slightest bit of sign language. I couldn’t even tell my dad that I wanted to learn sign language.

We took a seat at a small table with two, little, white chairs. A nice waiter greeted us.

“Should we start with some drinks?” she asked. 

“That shall be lovely,” my Dad said. “What will you be wanting today?” the waiter asked.

“One small latte and one large orange juice,” my dad told the waitress. Orange juice was my least favorite juice, and now I had to drink a large. But how was I supposed to tell my dad that? I needed to go somewhere alone. And I didn’t just mean outside. I wanted to go on a trip. Not to Hawaii or California. I wanted to find my mom.

Chapter 4: STORY

I was in my blue bed with my donut pajamas and my dad beside me. I know, I know. I’m seventeen, and my dad shouldn’t be tucking me in, but it felt good. I had no one else to love. No friends, no brother, no sister, no mom. Who else was I supposed to trust?

I blinked really hard at my dad. This was my way of telling him I wanted to hear a story.

“Okay, okay,” my dad started, “I think you’re old enough to know this. Remember how the evil witch crashed our family reunion when you were three and took away your mom and her blessings? You know how the witch was unknown? Well, the witch is not unknown. She is your mom’s evil sister. She was jealous of your mom, so she cursed her and the rest of her family. Not just you and me. Pops is blind. Gram Gram is always grumpy. Grandma and Grandpa are poor and homeless. Julie can’t fall asleep, and Aunt Harmonica is so unsmart. Uncle Jerry has it the worst, though. He is so greedy and always wants more.”

“Anything more?” I say in sign language.

“Well, there is one more thing. It is the mother’s daughter’s job to travel to all of the three worlds in which your mom could have been banished, find her, and heal her of her curse. When you do, our family will be the blessing kind of family once again. You will take this bag. In this bag is the cure to give your mom and a tool for each world you go to. You will leave first thing in the morning. Don’t come to me to say goodbye, just knock on your closet door three times.” He kissed me on my forehead and then left. I guess you could say I was happy. I got to make my decisions. I hadn’t done that in fourteen years.

Chapter 5 – April 24, 1976: THE JOURNEY HAS BEGUN

RING, RING, RING! sounded my alarm clock. I had set it to 5:00. I got in my closet and changed into blue-ribbed leggings and a pink crop top. I tied a sweater around my waist.

Before knocking on my closet, I grabbed the bag my dad had said to take and, at the last second, I grabbed a fresh journal from my shelf and shoved it in the bag along with a pen. I went into my closet and closed the door. I knocked once, twice, three times.

Chapter 6: TIME

It didn’t happen suddenly. It took time. Maybe five or ten minutes. I took that time to write.

Dear Diary,

Finally, I get to defend myself in the world. I guess I’m happy. Finally, no Dad ordering me a large orange juice at a restaurant. I can order a large apple juice! Not that there will be juice or restaurants in the three worlds. No one to tell me, “Time for bed, Pearl,” or “You love orange juice, don’t you, Pearl?” I’m free for the first time in fourteen years. But part of me worries. What if I can’t help our cursed family before the reunion? Or what if I can’t help my family at all? Will I die? Will my family die? Will my mom die? Will my family stay the same? Will my mom stay the same? Thanks for understanding, Diary. Just arrived. Talk to you later.

Chapter 7: JOY

I stepped out of my closet and onto a rainbow floor. I saw a girl with her head in her hands, crying. I went over to her. I couldn’t even ask her what was wrong. Maybe she knew sign language.

“What’s wrong?” I said in sign language.

“This is the planet of joy,” she said. I let her continue. “You’re supposed to be joyful! But what if I’m not?” A shiver I had never seen before ran through her body. I laid my head on hers. I couldn’t even ask her what was wrong. I couldn’t even tell her about my life to make her feel better. But what if I could?

I put out a finger to represent one second and I went into my closet to grab the bag my dad had given me. Inside was a speaker. Not like a microphone, but a fancy speaker. This fancy speaker’s magnifier was not supposed to be around in 1976. I felt like I was in the future. This wasn’t a regular speaker. I could talk with this speaker! I put this fancy speaker on and I tried to mouth the word “Test.” I could hear my voice going through my body. I was speaking for the first time in fourteen years. A note on the microphone said you have ten sentences. This meant that I had used one and had nine left.

I went over to the girl a second time. Her makeup was messed up, and her tears were now dried up. “I have nine sentences on this speaker,” I told the girl. “What’s wrong?”

“My mom wants me to marry this man,” she said, “He will make me happy and joyful. But he doesn’t make me happy. He makes me upset. He swears and gets mad at me for the tiniest things. For heaven’s sake, this is the planet of joy!”

Now I knew, this was the planet of joy. I had eight sentences left. “Why can’t you tell your parents that you don’t want to marry him?”

“They will be disappointed in me. They just want to make me happy. Besides, who else will I marry? Do I even have to marry if I don’t want to?” I shook my head, meaning no.

“Take me to your parents,” I said.

“Okay,” she responded. I followed her through rainbow trees, crowds of joyful people with bright clothes, and finally a rainbow cobblestone step leading to a bright, orange, two-story house with a nice, red deck. I thought about ringing the doorbell, but then the girl stepped right through. Inside, I could see a rainbow couch, a bright blue TV blaring many colors, and two moms watching the TV in matching, green dresses. They weren’t staring at the TV, though. They were staring at each other. Here it comes, I thought. I was right. Smooch smooch smooch. I hadn’t seen that in fourteen years.

“Mom, moma! I told you not to do that infront of me.” One mom blushed.

“Sorry hon, didn’t know you were there.”

“Today’s their honeymoon,” the girl explained.

“Your daughter has something to tell you.” I got right to the point. I had five sentences left. I gestured towards the girl.

She took a deep breath and then blurted it all out. “I don’t want to marry Tom! He swears and gets mad at me!” She turns her voice into a whisper. “He-he doesn’t make me joyful.” 

“Oh honey,” The other mom said, “Marry who you want.” 

“Really?” said the girl.

“Of course,” both of the moms said. They go over to hug the girl. As soon as that happened, my speaker dropped to the floor, I went right back to my closet, and it took off.

Chapter 8: DEAR DIARY ENTRY #2

Dear Diary,

I just helped a girl (I don’t know her name) be joyful. I talked for the first time in fourteen years and I saw true love for the first time in what seems like forever. Longer than fourteen years, I’m sure, because my parents didn’t kiss or even show they loved each other during or even before the reunion. I do know one thing, though.  I have to save my mom before the family reunion. I have to make sure my parents fall in love once again. Or, I don’t know what will happen. Probably something unknown and so very frightful. I wonder if the witch is still alive? If she is, will I have to face her? If I do, will I win? I am starting to doubt myself. Thanks for listening, Diary. I have just landed and have to go, bye.

I know what you’re thinking. You treat your diary like a friend! You make the D in “diary” uppercase! Remember, I don’t have any friends. Besides my dad, I can only talk to this Diary.

Chapter 9: THE PLANET OF LOVE

I stepped out of my closet. I saw a pink heart. No, but seriously big. It covered a whole room. And yes, I had landed inside, inside a small room. I knew that because I saw a wall about ten feet away from the ground. I heard a conversation coming from another room only a few feet away from where I was standing. I walked closer and peeked my head through the door. I could see a boy trying to kiss a girl, but the girl refused.

“Get away from me Jeff!” the girl said. Then she spotted me. I tried to quickly but quietly move away and act like I was never there, but she beat me to it. “Who are you?” she said in a snobby voice.

No turning back now. I stepped in a little bit and said in sign language, “I can’t talk.” She didn’t understand. I could also see that Jeff was confused as well. He was staring at the woman (maybe twenty-five or thirty) with loving eyes. I was going to have to do this the hard way. I pointed at myself. I pointed at my mouth. Then I made an X with my fingers. The woman finally understood. 

“You can’t talk,” the girl said in a surprised voice, “My name is Hannah. This is Jeff,” she said in an exasperated voice. Well, the Jeff part.

I once again put a finger out to represent one second and ran to my closet. Inside the closet was my bag. Inside my bag was a note. This is what it said:

Dear my dear Pearl,

This couple is like a broken heart. You need to help this couple get back together before the sun sets on this day. Your estimated time is seven hours. If you do not help this couple in time, the world of love will turn to darkness, and you will get sent back home without saving your mom and your family.

– Good luck, DAD

If I didn’t help this poor couple, I would be dead. Dead meat. I couldn’t go home without saving my mom. What would my dad think of me? What would my family think of me? I couldn’t do this. I went to a dark corner in the room, rolled up into a ball, and started to cry. Tears ran down my face like big puddles. 

After a few minutes of sulking, I could hear something. Something in my head. It was saying: “We’ll always love you. No matter what. Amen.” I could remember this place. It was the day of the reunion. My family all next to me, smiling. In my little high chair I felt so proud. Next I saw pictures flying in my head. I could see the witch’s wart. Big, on the side of her nose, liquid oozing out of it. The green was a pop of color compared to her plain, peachy-white skin. Next, I saw her wand zapping and making a big firework-like show that caused a boom and made a hole in our wall that my dad had to fix later. Then I saw me and I heard the last word I ever said which was AHHH! I saw my mom get picked up by the evil witch’s wand and leave with the evil witch. 

I woke up in the same darkened corner of the room. My eyes darted around. I could see the shape of the heart, the door leading to the next room, my closet, and my pile of tears around me. I felt sweat, warm and sticky all over my body. I saw Hannah standing above me, Jeff beside her. I handed Hannah the note.

“This note was probably not made by your dad. First of all, Jeff and I were just in a fight, but we’re still together. She went over and kissed Jeff on the lips. I sighed a sigh of relief. “Second of all, this looks a lot like the evil witch’s handwriting. Every planet knows the evil witch. She’s infamous everywhere.” I gulped. “She lives on the planet of dismay along with a mom she kidnapped. I can take you there, but it’s a pretty long journey.”

I stopped her. I pointed at myself. Then in the air I spelled out: M-O-M. Before she could be surprised, I took her hand and pulled her into my closet. I knocked three times on the door.

Chapter 10: DEAR DIARY ENTRY #3

Dear Diary,

I met this woman named Hannah. She looks around twenty or thirty, and she told me the most surprising fact. Guess what! My Dad didn’t send me that note, the evil witch did. I don’t understand. He said he sent me something for each world. But he didn’t. Do you know what could have happened? The other thing is, I should have known my mom is in the world of dismay. Why would the evil witch send her to a world of joy or a world of love? Well, I guess I can’t continue unless I solve the problem that’s going on in the planet. But on the love planet Hannah and Jeff solved the problem. I guess I was my problem for that world. Maybe the planet of Love and the planet of Joy were obstacles to get to the planet of Dismay? We’ve just landed. Have to go, Bye Diary!

Chapter 11: THE PLANET OF DISMAY

I stepped out of my closet and I got goosebumps from a cold rush of wind. I took my sweater and put it on. Hannah put on a sweater as well. I grabbed my bag and put it on like it’s a purse. When I was done with all of this, I took a moment to look at my surroundings. First thing I saw was that Hannah was in shock, her mouth was wide open and she couldn’t even mumble out one word. Welcome to the club. I saw Darkness, lots of black and no happiness, and big black pieces of dust. I saw huge pictures of the witch and flashbacks from the reunion building of huge monsters towering over me.

But in the middle of it all, I saw my mom. She looked older. Brown curly hair like mine and brownish-tan skin like mine. But her face was more wrinkled. Not too wrinkled but the slightest bit wrinkled. I did some quick math and realized she was in her late fifties. 

I slowly walked over to her, and Hannah did too, trailing behind me. I walked over to my mom and laid my head on her shoulder, and she laid her head on my head and started sulking. Hannah sat beside me feeling sorry for me in the best possible way. I took out a bottle, and gave it to my Mom. I imitated drinking something, and Mom knew what to do. When she drank the bottle, her tears ran dry and the dust went away and turned into a beautiful sun. Then I saw the Witch cackling.

“Think you can get away!” The witch said, her wart still looking the same. I grabbed my mom’s hand and we ran. We ran past the evaporating dust, and the big rocks, and the long, tall grass. We ran even though the witch was above us, cackling like she was mad. We ran fast, until we realized that Hannah was gone. We turned back through the long grass and the big rocks, and the evaporating dust. We saw Hannah had tripped over a rock, and blood was all around her neck. We have to think fast, but I couldn’t stand looking at blood, and the witch was an inch away from us! With no hesitation, my mom grabbed Hannah and held her above her head like a fireman saving someone from a fire. Next, we ran past the evaporating dust, the big rocks and the tall grass. We quickly ran to the closet with the witch behind us, her cackling loud and clear. My mom didn’t hesitate and she ran fast, even though Hannah was on her back and there was a witch behind her. The witch got close, too close, and I could feel her breath. It smelled like human flesh. She reached out her wand, but just in time I slammed the closet door and knocked on it three times. 

Chapter 12: DEAR DIARY, LAST ENTRY

Dear Diary,

I finally found Mom. She is now forgetful of what just happened and is asleep. She won’t wake up until we get home. She won’t have a single memory of this whole adventure. I found that note in my bag. Another thing is that we dropped Hannah off at the world of love. I wanted to stay and make sure she was ok. I wasn’t able to say goodbye and I feel bad. When I had to leave Hannah I cried up some tears. But at least we left her in the right hands. This is my last diary entry of this journey, so goodbye forever dear Diary. Just landed.

Chapter 13: APRIL 27, 1976 – THE JOURNEY HAS ENDED

I stepped out of my closet into my aesthetic, blue room. Mom acted like this was a normal day and nothing happened. “Change out of that outfit, Pearl honey. It’s filled with dust.” I smirked. 

“Wonder where that dust came from,” I said. Huh, I said. I said!

“Me too,” said Mom.

I changed into a plain white shirt and skinny jeans with 3 buttons on the top. I walked downstairs and over to my dad. “Why didn’t you send me any material for the world of love?” I asked.

“I didn’t send anything for any world. You knew what you needed, you thought about it, and you got what you wanted. As for the world of love, well, you were your obstacle. If you didn’t break down, you would’ve gotten past that world in a matter of seconds.”

“You were watchin-” I started.

“No more talk about this nonsense dream you had,” he said and winked at me. I smiled.

The End

The Picture

Chapter 1

SHOOM! BLAM!

I looked on as my torpedo exploded a wooden boat, exactly on the middle point. I could see the broken parts of the ship floating away into the Pacific ocean. I glanced to see the surface of the water just in time to pull up my Mitsubishi Ki-30 up to a high altitude. I could feel the air push up against my face. I couldn’t help but wish that the exact same fate would be what would happen in the upcoming battles, to the American warships, instead of me. 

Turning on the afterburn of the thrusters, I zoomed past to the aircraft carrier ahead, the Chiyoda. I dove down and pushed down my landing gear as I put my thrusters to 30 percent, landing perfectly on the carrier. At that exact moment I wondered if I would live to see the carrier again. 

As the plane already landed, I opened the cockpit and stepped, looking out into the horizon. I never knew it could be as peaceful as this even in a time of war. But no, tomorrow the horizon would be filled with smoke and the smell of full chaos, and the screams of death.

“Hey Mitsuwa! How was the practice run?”

I turned around to see my best friend, Takehiko Ena.

“Not much, perfect as usual.”

Before Takehiko could respond, a voice called out from behind.

“Maybe if you weren’t gossiping all the time you would be able to do perfect test runs like Col. Nagoki, Lt. Ena!”

I turned to see General Yamamoto behind me. He was the commander of the aircraft fleet. It was an honor to see him as he was the leader of the military all together. In his lavish uniform and confident gaze he looked extremely intimidating.

“Yes sir, sorry sir!” replied Takehiko, very scared.

“Good now, get out of my sight. I have to talk to Mitsuwa, in private.”

“Yes, sir!” said Takehiko, walking out of sight.

“Hmmm. Good,” he said, his tone turning even more serious. “You have been invited to join the Divine Wind, the bravest of all in the world, ready to sacrifice their lives to destroy the evil Americans.”

I was suddenly taken back. The kamikazes? I would never think of getting the honor of joining the core. They were the bravest of the Japanese Air Force. But I couldn’t do it. I had sworn to destroy America for as long and as much as I could. Dying would mean my dream would never happen. I would never meet my dad in America. I would never be able to hug and laugh with my father as he had done before the war.

“I am truly sorry General Yamamoto, but I cannot. I have swore to find my father and finish the American navy, and all who support its victory. Therefore, I must refuse the offer with great respect, sir,” I replied.

“I am very sad to hear this, but I hope you all the best, and a valiant day ahead. I will tell you, you can always join, and my offer will always be on the table,” he answered. 

I watched as he left, turning to go to the main port office.

Chapter 2

2 years ago, when I was 18 years old, I received news of my fathers imprisonment in America. I was enraged. I couldn’t believe that the American government was arresting innocent Japanese citizens who had nothing to do with the war. The next day I swore to kill every American I saw, soldier or not. Soon, I found myself at a recruiting station ready to join the Air Force. 

But today was the day I would be finally ready to fulfill that wish. Today we were ready for battle.

I left my bunk, putting on my uniform and my pilot’s cap. I adjusted my goggles, opening my plane’s cockpit. At that moment, I knew what I had to do. Kamikaze or not, today was the day I was going to die. 

Chapter 3

As I began to get the thrusters to life, I heard an explosion. 

SHOOM! KABLAM!

I glanced in front of me, and I saw the hull of the ship cut off and severed. The Americans were here earlier than we thought. I put the thrusters to full, as my plane ran through the runway, as wind pushed against my face, I went up the sky with my body filled with rage. 

The American fleet was going to die today. 

Chapter 4

As I zoomed into the sky, and glanced forward I could see a fleet. I could see about five ships. Going forward, I saw even more. Instead of five, there were 45. This was going to be the biggest battle I had ever been in.

Gaining speed, I looked at my speed semi-parameter. 488 km. That was enough to make the dive. Pushing my control-nozzles down, I dived right towards the ship, firing my machine guns hoping to hit the steam compartments to ground it. 

As I aimed my shots, I could see that my machine guns were losing ammunition. Now it was time for the torpedo. I aimed right at the middle, just like in practice. 

SHOOM! BLAM!

I looked down to see the torpedo cut the ship in two hitting right in the middle. I could hear the screams of sailors as I fired my machine guns to kill any sailors that were jumping off. 

Ready to turn, I put my control-nozzles into a northeast direction turning right up to see more ships. Diving in at another destroyer, I fired my torpedoes and bombs, damaging it badly. 

PKOW! PKOW! PKOW! PKOW!

I maneuvered through, narrowly dodging the machine gun fire from a nearby F4U Corsair. I turned full up, trying to lose him in the sky. But the bullets kept coming, quickly getting closer.

BBKRAW! 

I looked at my wing to see it fully turned off. I tried to eject myself, but it was too late, as my plane headed straight down for the water, crashing below.

Chapter 5

SHOOM!

My plane dived into the water, as saltwater splashed into my eyes. Pain burned in my eyes. I couldn’t see. Worst of all, I was drowning. Trying to resurface, I moved my hands around the plane to see if I could feel the cockpit opener. 

I could feel it, a bumpy handle! I pushed up with all my strength. Soon, I could feel the water crashing down in the cockpit. Swimming to the surface, I cleared my eyes of saltwater, and glanced up. I could see the Japanese fleet being pummeled by the F4U Corsair’s circling above. 

We were losing. 

I glanced around to see anything that could help me escape being in the middle of a naval war ground. 

PKAW! PKAW! PKAW!

I could hear gunshots in the distance. I looked at the direction they were coming from, seeing a nearby island with soldiers boarding the islands from amphibious cars. Judging from their uniforms they were American. 

Consumed by rage, I swam to the island with a feeling for murder in my heart.

Chapter 6

On the shore, waiting for the American soldiers to get far away, I looked around for anything I could use to ambush the unsuspecting American soldiers. After looking around for a while, I suddenly heard a loud sound in the distance.

BLANG! BLAM!

Turning into the direction of the sound, I could see a Japanese Type 97 tank firing shells on the American soldiers from above a small hill. The American soldiers scattered behind nearby trees and bushes, trying to return fire and survive the massive barrage of shells. 

PKOW! PKOW! PKOW! PKOW! 

Their bullets ringed in the air, but the tank was too well protected, as the bullets barely hit the foot of the hill. The soldiers quickly began to drop like flies, as the tank retreated to other skirmishes in the distance. Only a few soldiers remained as they regrouped tending to the injured while some looked on, to see any other unforeseen dangers. 

Taking my chance, I ran to a dead body that was not too far from my spot on the shore. I looked at the body. It was a young American man with pale skin and blue eyes. From looking at the wounds, shards from a shell had impaled him in the stomach. 

“Poor kid,” I muttered. 

Looking for weapons I looked at the body quickly finding a picture of him and a man. The man was a sailor, and the caption looked as if it said he had died during Operation AI, or Pearl Harbor. He looked happy, and the death had obviously caused him to join their Army. 

Searching the body more,  I found a rifle, along with two grenades, and a pocket knife. Loading the rifle I aimed at the clutter of Americans and fired. Loading and firing, I could hear the screams of confusion and death as the soldiers scattered for cover. 

Quickly reacting, I threw both grenades in their area killing all of them. Sprinting, I ran through the path looting all of the bodies ready for battle.

Chapter 7

Going across the path, I looked at the map one of the soldiers had. It had English, and was hard to read with the messy handwriting, but I understood the landing point. As I looked at the drawn compass, I saw a Japanese airfield to the northwest of where I was.

Turning in that direction I began to sprint trying to get back to the battle, and my promise to kill. 

Chapter 8

Arriving at the airfield, I could see the ensuing battle. Japanese tanks and soldiers fired at the F4U Corsair circling above. American soldiers were also charged at the airfield trying to take it over and stop any aircrafts arriving to attack their fleet. Trying to help, I ran over the American line, with a newfound courage in my heart.

“BANZAI! Amerikahito o korose! Kazoku no tame ni tatakaimashou! Kōtei no tame ni tatakae! Kodomo-tachi no tame ni tatakaimashou! Sokoku no tame ni tatakae!” I yelled, charging at the Americans.

Firing at the line I threw all the 12 grenades I had on me. As I heard the explosion, a stray shard stabbed me in the shoulder. Pain filled my heart, as blood began to cover my shoulder.

Using my other shoulder to fire and load my gun, I glanced around. Other soldiers and tanks began to charge along with me as we destroyed the struggling and outmatched Americans.

I looked around looking for any aircrafts I could use to advance forward. I saw a Kawasaki Ki-10 in the distance as I opened the cockpit and climbed in, quickly turning on the thrusters as I zoomed into the sky.

To tend to my shoulder wound, I ripped off some of the leather covering the control nozzles, and wrapped it around my shoulder after ripping the shard out.

As my altitude climbed I glanced around to see if any ships were near. I saw a P-38 Lightning circling around a troop of Japanese soldiers, firing its machine guns. 

Trying to surprise the plane, I got behind its tail, and aimed right at the cockpit, firing away my machine guns. Glancing back I saw the dead body of the pilot as it crashed down into the water. 

Looking around for more targets I circled back seeing a destroyer in the distance. I knew what I had to do. Turning on my afterburn, I dived into the ship, ramming it as the plane broke down into pieces, making me black out. 

Chapter 9

“He geut uhp, yau Japp!” a voice yelled.

I suddenly woke up. My mouth was salty and my body was soaked. My eyes burned from the amount of salt that was around my body. My left arm looked really banged and teared up. 

I looked around to see a pistol aimed right at my head. A group of American soldiers were surrounding me, and they looked scared, as if this was the first time they had ever seen a Japanese soldier.

“Heu’s awakened,” one of them said. 

Even though I had learned some English from my father it clearly wasn’t enough to actually fully understand what they were saying.

From their expression they wanted me to surrender, and they looked as if they didn’t really want to hurt me, they looked as if they wanted to help me, and get me out of this mess.

“He looks really banged up,” another one of them said.

“We should bring him back to base,” a taller one said. 

Trying to signal my surrender I tore a piece of white cloth from my uniform waving it around, to try to give a bit of a thought of surrender. 

Seeing this one of the soldiers behind them stepped up to see me. He looked Japanese, and looked older than the rest, and had an old wooden pair of glasses. 

“Sorry if you can’t understand these soldiers, but they are trying to help. Please surrender,” he said.

He had the exact same voice. I knew who he was. He was my father. I suddenly realized this, getting up to give him a hug. Other Americans stepped out of the way, as I finally hugged my father.

Today was the day the sky was at peace. Today the lesson the picture had taught me from that soldier was now emitted in my heart. Sometimes revenge isn’t really the best thing.

More Information

The battle of Leyte Gulf was the biggest naval confrontation in history , with over 200,000 sailors dead, and more than 20 ships sunk during the battle. The battle was the first time that kamikaze pilots were ever deployed in battle. Many kamikaze pilots died.

Takehiko

Takehiko is a real person, who was a real person and kamikaze pilot during WW2. He fought as a kamikaze pilot, and later crashed during a battle into a naval ship but luckily survived. He wrote a book about his experiences of being a kamikaze.

His book showed that most kamikazes weren’t actually radical, and hated Americans to the core, but were forced to sacrifice their lives for the Japanese cause.

He was in the movie, Wings of Defeat. 

Kamikaze

Many people have seen kamikazes as radical and staunch supporters of Imperialist Japan. However, many of these kamikazes were forced by the government and army to sacrifice their lives for the desperate hope of winning.

Kamikazes were first used in 1944 as a demonstration of bravery, to try to gain morale for the war. 

However, kamikazes usually came dead, leaving most families in support for the American side. 

End of War

WW2 ended with the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Many people believe that the bombing created a new era of arming of bombs and military weapons. But one thing’s for sure, the era of kamikazes is very done. 

A Teacher’s Worst Day EVER!

PROLOGUE

Have you ever woken up thinking It’s going to be a great day, but as soon as you get out of bed, bad things start happening? Well, I know exactly what it feels like. My bad luck began on what I thought was going to be a lovely Monday morning….

CHAPTER ONE 

Sorry. I was so focused on my bad day yesterday that I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Isabell Hogginshwarts, but my students call me Ms. Hogginshwarts. I know, it’s hard to pronounce. 

I am a 4th grade teacher, and I take running the classroom very seriously. Even Matthew listens to me, and he is a real troublemaker. Last week he put fake poop by my desk! I got so mad that I had him in detention for a whole hour. That’s not the first time he’s done something like that. So far Matthew has not caused any more trouble. So not to brag, but I am one of the best 4th grade teachers in the school. Well, normally one of the best teachers. Yesterday I had a very bad day. Let me tell you….

CHAPTER TWO

I woke up on Monday morning with the Sun streaming through the window. I thought to myself, It’s going to be a great day. Boy, was I wrong. As soon as I got out of bed my bad luck began. I took one step and then BANG my head hit the floor.

“Is everything okay?” my husband called from my son’s room.

“I’m FINE!” I called back. I twisted myself around and saw my son’s toy by my feet. “Aarrg!” I said while heaving myself up. “How many times do I have to tell him to clean up after himself?” I said through gritted teeth. Luckily nobody was around to hear.

 I was still dizzy from falling flat on my face so I accidentally put cocoa powder into the coffee maker instead of coffee grinds! Blech! 

Finally, finally, I got out the door but unfortunately, my bus left at 8:00 and it was already 8:15! And the next bus doesn’t arrive for another 20 minutes, so now I have to walk 18 blocks to get to work! 

“Uggg!” I said, exasperated. I was so frustrated. “Why can’t this happen to my husband? Oh, wait, he works at home!” By now it was 8:20 and I ideally want to get to the school by 8:25, which is 10 minutes before school starts so I can set up the classroom. Well, no way that’s going to happen, I thought grimly to myself. I’ll just have to hope for the best.

CHAPTER THREE

Meanwhile, in the classroom…

 Music is blaring, chaos is everywhere. 

“This is the best day EVER!”

“Yeah, but I wonder where Ms. Hogginshwarts is”

“I don’t care! This is awesome!”

“Mathew, get off the table!”

“Jeez, Jessica, calm down, I thought you were Ms. Hogginshwarts,” Mathew yelled over the music. 

“Maybe I am!” Jessica laughed but still looked worried.

“Oh, shut up,” 

“I agree with Jessica.”

“Oh, shut up, Elise,” Mathew said as Elise looked around the room. The chairs were all knocked over and desks askew. Music was blasting and there was no order. Jessica followed Elise’s gaze across the room at the people cracking jokes. To the girls’ relief, Mathew left to join them. 

“This doesn’t feel right,” Jessica said. “ Ms. Hogginshwarts is almost never late and NEVER this late.” Just as Elise opened her mouth to respond, The door burst open.

CHAPTER FOUR

“WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!?” Everything stopped. The music stopped, the jokes stopped, the laughter, singing, and dancing stopped. Time itself seemed to stop. 

“Well?”

“Well, what?” A stupid kid named Jacob asked.

“WHO? Who ever told you that it is okay to do this?!” I practically screamed. I was so mad that I could feel my face turning as red as a tomato.

“Do what?” Jacob asked, almost innocently. A small nervous chuckle went around the room.

“This!” I swept my hand around the room. “Who told you it was okay to knock over chairs, blast music, tell jokes, and worst of all, laugh?” I strode into the room, but I was only five steps in when BANG I tripped over a chair and landed on my arm.

 “Aaaarrg!” I was momentarily blinded by the pain. I could faintly hear voices. I finally had the strength to heave myself up. My left arm was trembling with pain. I hobbled over to the other side of the room to call for a substitute. I am so dizzy and I collapse into the nearest chair. I faintly hear someone call an ambulance right before I pass out. 

Next thing I know, I am lying on a hospital bed, dressed in a white hospital gown. I consider pulling myself out of bed to find my husband, but I’m so tired and sore and soon, the softness of my pillow pulls me back into another dreamless sleep.

CHAPTER FIVE

“Hello? Ms Hogginshwarts?” A soft voice murmurs in my ear.

I open my eyes and heave myself into a sitting position. 

“Who-who are you?” I stammer. It takes a lot of effort to speak.

“Oh, good, you’re awake. I am your doctor, Emily. You had quite the fall.” Emily hands me a cup of water. I take a shaky sip. 

Then I ask, “What happened?”

“When you banged your head, you got a minor concussion,” Emily explains. 

“Oh.” Now I feel sick. I reach up to my head with my good arm and wince. There is a huge bump on the side of my head. “What about my arm?” I ask. I try to raise my left arm, but that is met by a sharp pain near my wrist. 

“We don’t know yet,” Emily says. “We needed you awake to take the X-rays.” 

Ten minutes later the X-rays are done and my arm is in a cast. The X-rays showed that I had a hairline fracture in the radius, which is one of the two bones connecting the wrist to the elbow. 

As Emily and I made our way back to my room, a thought struck me. 

“Where’s my son and husband?” I must have accidentally shouted because Emily looked startled and quite taken aback. I quickly covered my mouth, embarrassed. 

“They are in the waiting room. We don’t like to have visitors around the patient if they are asleep,” Emily said. “But you can go see them now,” She added quickly. 

“Thank you,” I said as kindly as possible, hoping to make up accidentally shouting at Emily. 

I walked out to the waiting room and was greeted by happy smiles and hugs. For the first time today, I was happy.

CHAPTER SIX

The next day. I wake up to a sharp pain in my left arm. I must have accidentally rolled onto my broken arm in the middle of the night. I carefully roll over to my other side and doing so, I see my son’s toy truck lying by the foot of my bed, almost in the exact same spot as it was yesterday. Oh, no you don’t, I thought to myself as I fell back into my pillows, letting sleep carry me away once more.

EPILOGUE

The sun felt warm on my face, the waves cold on my ankles. My arm had not pained me all day. And best of all, in my opinion, my students have all behaved well since The Accident. They didn’t play loud music, turn over desks, and there was no fake poop on my desk. All was well.

“Mommy, Mommy!” My son’s voice pulled me out of my thoughts. 

“Yes, honey?”

“Daddy’s gonna swim with me!” I looked over at my husband and we exchanged a knowing smile. 

“Okay, have fun.” I turned away and walked back to our blanket and layed down on my back. The sun beat down on me with a blazing smile and the waves of the ocean washed away all worries. 

Eleanor Pitchal was born in Boston and now lives in Park Slope. She is in 6th grade. She loves to read and write realistic fiction, but also loves fantasy. Eleanor also loves to draw, and is a softball pitcher.

Green

Green, the color of the trees, pine, ashwood, and mahogany

The scent of its endless leaves

The wind rustling the branches of the big ol’ oak

The leaves, so soft and safe 

Bring the warmth and safety of napping under the tree

The sweet, sweet sap from the maple trees an ample 

Supply of the syrup we enjoy every day of our lives!

Short Horror Stories About Random Stuff

AFTER

Leah Charlic was perfectly happy in her old life. She was best friends with Samantha Charles, she had a cat named Ripple, and she even had a butler! But then, Samantha went missing and Ripple disappeared along with her. They had put up missing posters for her cat, but Samantha was really all anybody in Mulberry Commons, California cared about. Leah had heard the adults talking, telling the police that Samantha was last seen in a red dress near the pond, that she was 11 years old with freckles. But that didn’t seem to be helping Samantha, or Ripple. She had heard that they were sending out a search party tonight, and she was determined to go. Leah looked out the window. Strangely enough, she saw her butler, Martin, walking toward the bus station, with a bunch of cats following behind him. She recognized a fluffy white cat as Mittens, who used to play with Ripple. She also saw a short haired, dark, tortoiseshell tom-cat… Ripple! She shook her head and blinked. When she opened her eyes again, all of them were gone. The sun must be playing tricks on my eyes, she thought.

Soon, it was 5:00 at night and after a lot of begging, her mom had allowed her to join the search party. The police weren’t that talkative, so it was a little awkward. They searched the street, but they found nothing. Suddenly, an officer cried out. They rushed to the sound of the voice, but all they found was a trail of blood. The chief of police said if they followed the trail, it might lead them to the officer, and Samantha. So Leah got in one of the police cars and they drove away. The blood led to a dark alleyway, deep in the city. She saw something up ahead. Leah had a sickening feeling that she knew what it was. Sure enough, it was the dead bodies of the officer and Samantha.  

“We’re not too late, we can still catch the culprit,” said the chief. 

“Are you?” said a chillingly familiar voice.

Martin stepped out from behind some boxes. There was a kitten on his shoulder. It said “mew” and started sharpening it’s extremely long claws. Cats flooded from the shadows. Leah realized that Mittens and Ripple were among the crowd.  

“Y-you won’t get away with this!” She shouted, even though it sounded super cliche.

 “Won’t I?” he asked. 

She turned around and saw that there were cats behind her, and they had killed the rest of the party.

 “Say nighty-night!” Martin held up a gun. 

Leah Charlic was never heard from again, but some say if you go into that alley and listen hard you can still hear the meow of cats and the echoes of her scream.

Before

Samantha Charles feels like the most normal kid. And that was scary enough by itself. But when she went to bed last night, something happened. Something terrible. She was just falling asleep around midnight, when she heard something coming from her closet. She would be very stupid to open it, so she squeezed her eyes shut. The sound came again, but this time louder and closer. She opened one of her eyes, just a bit. A figure was moving around in the darkness.

“Mom?” she whispered hopefully. 

“Guess again.” came the reply. 

Samantha recognized the voice as her best friend’s butler, Martin. 

“Wha-” she tried to say, before sharp claws scratched her arm and she fainted from the pain.

When she woke up, she was in the back of a van, her hands were tied and her legs felt like they were paralyzed. They probably were. The van jolted to a stop. The trunk doors opened. Martin picked her up and carried her down to an alleyway. 

“WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY LEGS?!?” Samantha screamed.

“I had them injected with a special concoction in the lab.” He responded. 

Despite the situation, she said, “Concoction? Don’t you think that’s a bit cliche?”

“Oh shut your soup hole!!!” he roared. 

Martin laid her down on the ground. Somehow, he had gotten a hold of a chainsaw.

  “Say nighty-night! Hey that’s pretty good, I should use that as an evil catchphrase!”

Then he brought the chainsaw down. She was then ended.

Dolls

One day, a group of innocent little kids were playing on a beautiful day. Near the spot that they were playing was the old Katter house. They used to collect antique and creepy dolls. But one night, on a red moon, a bright red light flashed through the house and knives flashed. They were never seen again. But that was 13 years ago. Anyway, a little girl named Lucy decided to go inside the Katter house to show that there was nothing to be afraid of. The kids watched as she opened the front door and walked in.

 A couple minutes later she came back out and said,“See nothing to be afraid of!” 

Suddenly, pale gray hands grabbed her and dragged her into the house. The kids convinced themselves she was just playing a prank on them, but they ran away, just in case. The next day, the kids went back to play. Then they saw a little girl. She had pale gray skin, and long, stringy hair, put into braids. Her eyes were all black and seemed to have sunk into her face. Instead of a nose she had 2 holes in the middle of her face. She wore a ripped, old fashioned black dress. She looked a lot like Lucy. Then she started to sing,

 “Do you want to play with me? We’re as happy as can be! You will never hear me lie, because I will make you die.” 

Then she said, “Do you wanna play dollies?” 

The kids ran away in terror. The next day, they came back to play again. The girl was still there. She sang the same song but this time said,

 “Do you wanna play dollies? We’ll play over your dead body.” 

Again, the kids ran away in terror. The day after, the kids came back to the spot. They felt something drawing them back, time and time again. Once again, the doll was there. She sang the same song and said, 

“Do you wanna play dollies? We’ll play over your dead body. Your dolly can have a special accessory.” 

The kids ran away again. The kids were pulled to the spot for the last time. 

The thing that used to be Lucy started her ritual, “Do you want to play with me? We’re as happy as can be! You will never hear me lie, because I will make you DIE! Do you wanna play dollies? We’ll play over your dead body. Your dolly can have a special accessory, it’s called a bloody dagger.” 

Then she attacked. Only two kids got out of there alive. They were named Julie and Marcus. They eventually got married, but they never forgot Lucy. Then one night, on a red moon, they heard a knock on the front door. When they opened it up, they saw…Lucy. “Do you wanna play dollies?” She said, and this time, the couple didn’t make it. 

06-79: A Story of An Experiment and Her Great Escape

PART ONE   

I looked around my cage. I could tell by the tag on the front, even though I couldn’t read, that it said ‘FAILED EXPERIMENT!’ How was I a fail? Well, for example, I had bunny ears that were only pink. They wouldn’t change color like the rest of my fluffy body. Plus, I was also a wolf, with bunny ears! Then the meerkat came back from being experimented on and yelled,

“It’s me! Mario!” 

He had a meerkat body, but now he had a Mario overalls pattern on his fur and a super Mario hat. 

“I bet they’ll get a new meerkat and make it Luigi,” a meerkat (Bartholomew) with a bunch of spikes out its back muttered, looking angry that the scientists made his best friend act like a sicko. 

“Stop whining,” I muttered. 

“Easy for you to say, 06-79! You don’t have any friends!”  Bartholomew squeaked. 

Ugh, I thought as my fur turned blood red with anger, I don’t have any friends because nobody  wants to be friends with a failed experiment. I felt extremely tired of everything. Then a scientist started talking. Another power of mine, to understand human language.

 “Are we going to get more paranormal animals to test on, in that forest that has a hole leading to a whole new forest, by the way?” the female one asked. 

“I’m pretty sure we will,” said the other.  

My ears perked up in hope. Maybe I could go there, I thought happily. All the creatures I could meet. All the fun I could have. I fell asleep that night dreaming of life there and having LOTS of friends. 

The next morning, a scientist pulled me out of my cage with a collar and held an electric whip in the other hand. Probably to make me feel intimidated by him. Then the tests began.
The scientist chained me to the floor.

“Bro! No need to get all aggressive!” I shouted in my best Kevin Hart voice. What? Scientists turned on the TV for us sometimes if we were being impatient. I’m the only one who knows what they’re saying, of course. They say a lot of curse words sometimes. Also, scientists can’t understand what I’m saying. 

The first test for me was beginning. They wanted to see my color reaction to things they do to me. 

First, they dropped my favorite treats in front of me. I turned a bright pink as I feasted. I can’t resist, okay?! Then, one of them zapped me with one of the things called “testing guns.” Humans are rude! They test it on experiments! My color first turned red (for anger) and then a bruise colored purple. Yes, it looked disgusting. 

Then they did nothing and stood there. My fur turned teal. It meant I was feeling normal. I was sorta happy but not. Then they showed a big image of a wolf being chased by a hunter. I turned orange. I was emotional now. Then it showed the wolf dead. I turned a somber blue.

“Ok, 06-79, your first test is over! Time for the second one,” one of the scientists shouted.

For my second one, they put me in a wind thing. They wanted to see how long I could stay up there. The wind would die down by the second.  The scientists were trying to see how much wind could support me if they gave me wings. Yeah, people can do that! 

“Y’all stupidos! I wanna get wings now! So I can soar above your heads and escape!” I shouted at them, as one person gave me a thing I had to wear for it. Wait… why wasn’t I wearing a head-protector? Then, I got pushed off the thing, and I never thought I’d say this, but the scientists have never made me feel so happy in my whole life. I turned a bright, bright pink. The brightest I ever had. My bunny ears didn’t match the rest of my body even though I was pink. I felt the wind getting lower, but I didn’t pay any attention. I had been flying! I had so much joy inside that I could explode! Like explode!!! Then the wind couldn’t support me anymore, so I fell. There were these words in my mind. 

                Falling…..

                          Falling……..

                                    Falling…….. 

PART TWO         

I woke up. In my cage. Bleh. My bowl had slimy stuff inside it. I ate it because I was hungry. Then I saw a scientist pointing at my cage.  

“Mr. Gorista said that 06-79 would be placed in the machine that kills failed experiments tomorrow.”

What?! They were gonna kill me? This was bad! Like really bad!

Then the other one said,  “Me and the team are going to get more paranormal animals from the forest tomorrow. Other people who don’t work in Future Labs will have to deal with a bunch of security.” 

“Where exactly is this forest?” the first guy said. I have been asking that same exact question!

“You dumbo! It’s literally on the other side of the river F. Labs are on!” 

That was all the info I needed. I started chewing on my cage super hard. I kept going. I felt the wire hitting against my teeth. It hurt, but my life depended on it. After a while, the wire broke and I could get out. Then a loud noise broke out. It was a siren. Then a bunch of scientists burst into the room. They were all shouting all at once, and I couldn’t understand. Then I charged through them and went down a bunch of things that I’m pretty sure are called stairs. 

Finally, I went out the door and I was outside. Oh, there were so many things to smell! But I had to concentrate. I ran fast. Quicker than I have ever run. Pretty soon, I got to the river. My only problem: I didn’t know how to swim!

 PART THREE

I tried to remember how to swim, but it was a very long time ago when I had to figure that out. I remembered two things. #1: if you’re going to put your head underwater, hold your breath! #2: Kick with your legs. 

Okay, that was actually helpful. Thank you, memories. Then I leaped into the water. My head plunged down for a second, then I raised it back up. I kicked and kicked hard, fighting the currents. I was almost to the other side! 

“Ya—” 

I began, but a large current swept me down the river. I saw a drop at the end of the river. Waterfall! I clung onto a rock and pulled myself up there. Then I made a far leap. I still landed in water, but I was close enough to get onto shore. Oh, that was close! I panted and rested for a moment, but on the other side of the river, I saw some scientists. 

No breaks yet! I told myself. First get to the forest, then nap! 

Turns out that guy near my cage wasn’t lying. There were a bunch of human guards stationed in the area. I turned black and snuck into where there were less guards. I blended into the shadows. 

        At last! I was in the forest. I just didn’t know I’d feel so lonely. Then a voice came out, “You’re not from around here, are you? I’m Uniko.” 

PART FOUR                                                                                                                                                                 “These are my other siblings: Rose, Thora, Koman, and Gonga.”  Uniko showed me a bunch of wolves who looked like they would give me a serious beating.

They looked exactly like their sister. Except Rose had a pink pearl on her head and Thora had a purple one. Uniko had a blue one. Koman and Gonga were identical, black with no pearls. All of them snarled.

“What is she!?” Rose growled. 

“A science experiment, that’s what!” Koman howled.

“Stop it, guys!” Uniko snarled. “She’s my friend.” 

  The siblings exchanged glances.

“Fine, she can live with us. As long as she causes no trouble.” Thora muttered. 

Uniko gave me a happy smile. When nobody was looking, I turned a happy bright pink and walked right behind them.  

Ish’s spy Adventure

Ish is a normal kid. He does normal things like what all normal kids do. He plays basketball, eats ice cream, and also drinks a lot of water! But worse of all is, he doesn’t have any friends! But, something that you don’t know about Ish is that he is a spy. He finds anything that is missing. But today in this story, he is going to find the hidden golden hook. This is the most dangerous mission he has ever had before. He needs to dive in the deepest forest and dive into the ocean’s deep floor, get in a volcano, and quickly dig up the sand. Lastly, he needs to find the hidden house in the volcano, get past the guards and the laser beams, and get the missing stolen golden hook to give it back to the museum. But, be aware, Ish, there will also be pirates searching for it too! Most of all, if the golden hook touches anything, it will turn to gold. This is a top secret mission, so no one can know this is happening. 

This is the day. Ish is ready, he is wearing a dark shirt so that he can quickly blend in with the dark forest without anyone noticing. Also, he packed up a bright blue swimsuit so that he can camouflage with the water so that the pirates won’t notice he is diving in the water and he could secretly get the golden hook. He is in the entrance towards the deep forest. But he needs to be ready, because when he gets in, he can’t come out. So he better be quick and smart because the dark forest was like a maze. On his first step in, he gets sucked into the forest. I wonder what kind of magic that was? 

When he turns his body, he wants to step out of the forest. The place he entered disappears, and all he can see is the deep, dark, creepy forest. 

He steps out the second step, he moves around slowly and follows the map to move around. Suddenly, in the forest, he sees a giant monster that has an enormous mouth filled with sharp teeth. I can’t get eaten when the mission just got started, he thinks. 

So he quietly moves along the way. He opens his bag and finds his electric net gun and walks past the monster. But then, at his most nervous point, he accidentally steps on a branch. The sound is loud enough to make the monster wake up. Craaack!!!

Then, with the sound of the monster yawn, “Roar!!!” (Because his mouth is huge, his roar made it louder, so the whole forest could hear it.) 

Ish feels that he is on the edge dying. The monster starts slowly getting closer to him, Ish slowly walks backwards. But then he finds out that he’s almost on the edge of the cliff! The monster slowly walks towards him. Stomp! Stomp! Stomp!!! He waves the fist to Ish as if to let Ish lose balance and fall. 

But at this moment, Ish presses the button on the electric gun. Fwoosh! Then the sound, Bzzt! The monster painfully falls down. Bump!

“Phew! And thanks to the gun, ha ha,” Ish thinks. 

But another problem appears to arise. A good one and another bad one. The good one: Down the cliff is the dark sea. The bad one: But how can he get down?

An idea appears. He changes into his swimsuit and puts on his parachute that can turn directions, and he jumps off the cliff, opens his parachute, and gets into the water. But then suddenly, Boom!

Oh! It’s just thunder! But after the fog clears out, a pirate ship appears. “Uh oh, that’s not thunder, that’s cannon fire from the nearby pirate ship,” Ish whispers frighteningly to himself.  

“I’m doomed!” he yells. 

Worse of all, if the pirates catch him, they would force him to give them the map to the golden hook (they know that the only map is in the hand of a spy, so they decide to find Ish on the way to their trail to find the hook), and after they would force him to walk off the deck and drown in the dark, deep, blue sea!!! He formulates a plan.

Meanwhile, at about midnight, everyone is asleep, except for Ish (you shouldn’t copy Ish, he’s a spy not like you. You need sleep to help for the next day) — even the pirates are sleeping, dreaming, and snoring! Ish quietly heads towards the pirate ship, tiptoes through all the pirate’s food and blankets, and gets to the controlling wheel. 

“Hahaha!” A creepy voice comes from the cabin. “I knew it, I knew it!!!” 

Ish finds where the voice was coming from. 

“Ah! It’s Captain One Eye!” 

It’s great that he is just giving a video call. Ish eavesdrops on the door. “HAHA! My plan succeeds, we made it, we made it! We almost actually, because our diver is already about to find the volcano, haha!” The captain cheers. 

Ish whispers to himself, “I better be fast!” He opens his bag and gets out an electric net. On three, two, one! He measures and presses the button. Bzzt! And the captain falls down.

 Quickly, Ish jumps into the water, but first, he builds up a motor on his backpack, and zooms — he’s ten times faster than he was before. 

On the map, it says that the third volcano from the left, or from the fourth volcano from the right. (It means that the total amount of the volcanoes is seven.) He finds the correct volcano, but soon, he sees the guy who works for the pirate ship also there searching for the correct volcano. You know, because when you search something you don’t know, you might need to dig all of it out and search for it. So does the pirate, but he’s now searching for the correct volcano. Ish needs to stop him before he finds the real volcano first! 

First, he wants to use his electric net he used before, but he finds out that he is underwater, so his net is not useful. Instead, he might even electric himself! He has an idea. Ish gets up to the seaside. He quickly changes to a pirate and wears his diving suit. 

Ish dives in the water, reaches the volcano, and finds the pirate. The pirate thinks that the captain let him come here to help him. So Ish helps him dig up the sand and find the hidden house. 

Ish gets in first, followed by the pirate. Then they feel there is no water because they are in a house! Because it is dry, Ish gets out his electric net and shoots at the pirate. 

“Oof!” The pirate touches the ground. 

Ish gets out of his diving suit and puts it in his bag, continuing to put the bag in his pocket. (He can even put a piano in his pocket because it’s high-tech.) 

Only two last shots left in his gun, he could definitely use it on the guards. Soon, the guards hear the sound of Ish fighting pirates, so they come to check. They see someone that had fainted on the ground. It was Ish; he puts the pirate’s body on the seaside and plays dead. The guards are about to pick Ish up, but Ish gets out his gun and electrocutes the guards. Two sounds of falling to the ground, and no more sounds are heard. But then: Bzzt! It’s the real laser beam security! It’s not an ordinary lazer; it’s a real laser that can cut things in half immediately. 

But Ish is a spy — he was trained to do it, right? So Ish confidently gets through it quickly, neat and clean; nothing happens to him. In front of his sight is the famous golden hook. Ish takes the golden hook away, gets out of the laser beams again, and uses the hook to touch the two guards, the two of them immediately turning into golden statues. 

Now, all he needs to do is to turn this whole thing into gold; so then, he uses the hook to touch the ground, and immediately the whole house turns to gold.

Ish goes up shore, goes to the museum, and gives it to the museum. What a day. But then, Bweep! 

Another mission, Ish thought. 

“Ish the spy, the famous Egyption case of the king Tutu got stolen!” 

“Ok, coming right to it. Guys, care to join?”

Magical Life, Chapter One: Seeking Back Story

I am all sitting at a tall countertop with very tall chairs as the wind blows past from the open windows. I reach back behind my chair and grab my jacket behind me. It smells like coffee with a lot of sugar and almond milk in the cafe. As I put on my jacket, the waitress walks past with my coffee, a double espresso and two sugars. As I am sipping my coffee, I hear someone mention him. Beck, he was the first one here, on this afterlife interpretation.

Sadly, not the last. As he and his adventures grew, more people came to this place. Which was quite a problem for Beck here, so he trained more and more people to assist him in his job. But we don’t know how or why, or anything about this journey that has changed everything, to have a safe journey, a sanctuary for everyone who has found the want to be a part of what he created. I am not here to learn about what he created because I live in this beautiful place that now so many people know and feel comfortable with everyone. What I am here for, though, is to find out how he created this place that I can’t stop thinking about. There is just no place that I would rather be than in this safe space for all who make it in, but now I need to finally tell you what I need to learn about. I need to learn about how he made this all happen and how he created this world that I have committed to being perfect for. I am doing this to inform the world, to be satisfied with myself, and satisfied with everything I know. 

So my quest is to learn and I am starting here in this cozy little cafe by asking around to see if people have a part of the story that I am trying to piece together.

“Does anyone here know anything about Beck?” I ask.

At first, not a person wants to help me. They are all eating their pastries and drinking their coffees. But eventually I hear an answer.

“Yes. I was one of the first here.” They start to walk over to my table and I shift slightly around to look a bit more at their seventh caramel pumpkin spice frappuccino and them behind me.

“Hi, I’m Ray, I asked if anyone knows about Beck,” I say.

“Yes, that would be me, so what do you know about Beck?” they say.

“Well, I have a book about it,” they say, while turning around to reach into their backpack and pulling out what looks like it could be up to five hundred pages, with a leather bound cover and lock. Then they put on their tiny, little reading glasses and open to the first page. I start to get ready for a super story…

________________________________________________________________

I was with Beck when there were only eleven thousand and five hundred people. Keep in mind that this was before he had trained thousands of people to assist in this process, so we had quite a lot of time to hear some stories.

The first story that he shared was what his life was like before he, you know, died. He said that he grew up in Park Slope, always going to this one special ice cream place that he loved to keep going to so that he could have the wonderful flavors that kept rotating. One day, it would be chocolate, and then the next, it would be pineapple. He loved being able to give other people who were sad a gift card and to go there with them if they were glum because he loved seeing their perfectly unsad smiles.

________________________________________________________________

Bump

Bump! My wheel got stuck on a rock. I click the brakes and move my bike around the rock. I wipe the sweat off my forehead and continue following my dad up the trail. The hot sun was beaming down on me, making sweat roll down my face and back. I am Stella Cubster, I am currently just out of San Diego, California. I live in Estonia in Europe, but I am visiting here for my mom’s work. She works as a doctor and has to travel a lot! I am riding my bike on a mountain with my dad. He loves mountain biking. I think it’s fun, but still, I’d prefer to be painting in my room with my friend, Beth. We spend almost every afternoon together. We usually paint, but sometimes we draw. Today reminds me of a hot day a few years ago. Me and my mom were walking on a path in the desert. The sun was blazing down on us. I watched dust kick up as my mom, in front of me, exclaimed to me, “Stella! I see the top!” I was so relieved. That was the hottest walk ever, and I knew there would be shade up there, unlike down where we were– you could only see rocks and sand for miles and miles. I looked around at the dry landscape. I was looking at a cute mouse when I missed a step and fell down on the rocky path. I remember getting lots of cuts and scrapes from that fall, but I also remember getting to the top and sitting in the shade. Oh, that felt so nice! I try not to think of getting all of the cuts and scrapes as I continue pedaling up the mountain.

“Stella, there is a roller up here.” My dad calls to me from up ahead. “Do you want to try it?” He asks, already riding down it.

“No,” I reply immediately, seeing that it was big. My dad asks me this almost every time there is a rock to roll up or down. Usually I say no, because I am too worried about falling off and breaking a bone. I roll down beside the side of the rock, careful to not scrape my pedal on it. 

“Stella, we are almost to the top of the mountain, when we reach the top let’s have a water break.” My dad calls from in front of me. 

“Definitely,” I reply, short of breath. I am happy to know I could drink clear, cool liquid soon. After this huge climb I didn’t even think I could make it two pedals further. 

After 10 more minutes of riding, I turn a corner and exclaim excitedly, 

“We’re at the top!!!” 

Right as I reach the top, feeling renewed from my excitement and going at an incredibly fast speed, my bike crashes hard against a nearby rock. The next thing I know I go head over heels and hear a huge crack. At first, I don’t know if the crack was from me or the bike.

“Stella!!” My dad cries and runs over to me. “Are you ok?!” It takes me a minute to register his question considering my shock. But when I do, I reply,

“Yes, I am totally fine, I am not quite sure about my bike though.” I am so thankful that it was my bike not me! My legs are still shaking from being scared as I get up to check my bike. I lay it on its side in the dirt. We start examining the parts. It looks like the bike hit near the frame of my bike. There is a little dent but nothing major. 

“It looks fine.” I observe, taking one last look over the bike. “What do you think, Dad?”

“Stella, get back,” Dad says suddenly. I look to where he is looking. A big snake was at least 30 feet away. But Dad has a big thing with snakes. He is terrified of them. 

“It looks okay…” he says, looking back at the bike and slowly rubbing his hand over the dent mark. “But take it slow going down the mountain, we don’t want you to get hurt today. And let’s definitely get going.” He eyed the snake that had never even looked at us.

“Dad! It’s fine!” I say reassuringly. Even I am not afraid of snakes.

After we eat a quick snack, I take a big gulp of water. Water had never tasted so good! We hop on our bikes and we start down the mountain. I feel the wind flow through my hair, pushing it back. That is my favorite feeling. It almost feels like silk running across my face. I feel so free! I tried to take it slow like my dad said to, but when I click my brakes to slow down, I don’t slow down. I try again, this time I hold my brakes harder. Sometimes my brakes are hard to push. But not this hard. I feel panic bubbling up in my core like soup bubbling in a pot waiting for the heat to be turned off. I attempt to scream but my mouth is clamped shut, no matter how much I try, I can’t get it to open. I steer my bike around a corner, going at an incredible speed. I try to scream to my dad, but like before, my screams and words got caught in my throat, unwilling to come out. As I continue down the trail I spy a big rock ahead. I try to put my foot down to stop the bike but an odd dizzy feeling in my brain takes over. I can’t move. I try and try to get off the bike, but I get dizzier by the second. My eyes show a blurry picture of the rock getting closer and closer. I close my eyes, preparing for the fall, but there is no way to prepare myself for what was about to happen. I get to the rock way too fast, my bike wobbles and…

***

“Ahhhhhhh!” I hear someone scream. They keep screaming. Then I realize it was me. I try to stop but the screams keep coming out. I can’t feel anything. I can’t see anything. Where am I?

“Stella?!” I hear my dad yell out to me. That stops my screaming. Dad? Then it all floods back to me. Speeding down the mountain toward a giant rock unable to stop. My bike wobbled then… I can’t remember. I see Dad peddling so hard, I thought for sure his pedals were going to snap off. 

“Stella!” He jumps off his bike, letting it crash to the ground. Dad never ever let his bike fall down. He always put it down slowly, carefully to make sure his bike would not scratch. 

“Dad, I’m fine,” I croak out. I sound like a frog with a sore throat. I push off the rock to try and get myself up. A shot of pain bolts through my leg. I let out an ear-piercing scream and tumble back to the ground. I close my eyes and clench my teeth. There is no way I can describe the pain that I am feeling now. I can’t see. I can’t think. I can’t… The last thing I hear is Dad scream, “Stella!”

***

“Dad? Dad? Dad, where are you?” I look around searching for Dad. He just called my name. Where did he go? “Dad?!”

“Stella? Stella, wake up!” Someone shakes me. “Stella!” I feel someone squeeze my arm. I open one eye then the other.

“Mom?” I ask. She smiles then hugs me. It felt good to be near her. I look down. The top of my hand has a hot pink band aid stuck on. I look at my leg. It was covered by a big pink cast. “What hap…” I start then I remember. Bike. Rock. Falling. Screaming. Pain. Oh the pain. 

“Where’s Dad?” I ask, scanning the room. Right as I say that Dad comes in. “Stella!”

***

6 months later

Dad and I are driving to a new mountain biking spot. Dad got me a new bike as a get well present. It was kind of funny, because I couldn’t exactly use it with a broken leg. But the color is a lavender purple with pink lettering that says “STRONG STELLA” on the frame. I love it! 

We figured that when I hit the rock when I was coming up the mountain, we didn’t check my bike carefully enough and missed that the brakes were broken. Dad had said sorry so many times. He said the snake made him not as focused on the bike and more focused on getting away.

I had forgiven Dad a long time ago, though I’m not sure he’ll ever forgive himself. 

“Oh look,” Dad said pointing to the mountain that the tragedy had happened on. 

“Dad, I’ve been thinking. I want to ride that mountain to the top and down,” I say determinedly. “Today.” I add.

“Stella. Did I hear you right? You want to ride that mountain even after what happened?”

“Yup,” I responded, “even after what happened.”

Dead Hollow Grave

It was October 31st. All of the trick-or-treaters bustled throughout Old Hollow Town, demanding sugary treats. That all ended when they saw the dim outline of a figure next to the woods. It slowly shambled towards the children, lurching and limping. All of the people began to shriek as they realized that the zombie was real.

Unfortunately, one straggler was caught. The zombie bit deep into her flesh, snapping tendons and muscles. She let out one strangled, gurgling gasp then slowly sank to the ground. A few seconds later she rose back up, complexion mottled and green, skin torn and ripped.

All of the stragglers were picked off in that way, and soon, about twelve zombies were lurching through the town. They groaned and clawed at locked doors, knocking a few down. By midnight, thirty zombies were limping out of the town and back into the forest. What had once been a happy procession was now the remains of a grim spectacle.

Red liquid splattered the ground, and the village began rebuilding.

Every year after that, all the zombies would return at that specific time, pick off a few people, and go back to the woods. Visitors stopped coming, and the population dwindled. Soon, everybody died and the town became a horror.

Zombies walked everywhere, hungry for new human flesh. They only had dim flashes of memory from their last life.

What once was Old Hollow Town became known as Dead Hollow Grave.

GLaDOS Might Not Be the “Bad Guy”

In Valve’s two-part video game, Portal, GLaDOS certainly seems like a villain at first. The premise of the video game is that you are a “tester” in a science lab called Aperture Science, progressing through more and more difficult and dangerous test chambers. GLaDOS is the game’s villain, but her bad behavior is not her fault. In the course of gameplay, we learn that GLaDOS, who we meet as a big robot, was once a human before her power-heavy transformation into a robot drove her insane. First, this essay will establish evidence of GLaDOS the big robot’s evil deeds. Then, it will prove the central claim that it is not possible for a being transforming into a giant robot in the world of Portal to retain sanity. Finally, it will prove that it is the scientists, not GLaDOS, who are the true villains of the videogame.

There are many good reasons why you’d think GLaDOS is the central villain when you first start playing. In Portal, you have to go through many tests with only the false hope of cake. Right before you reach her chamber, you have to think quickly and use your teleportation device (the portal gun) to get out of a conveyor leading into a pit of fire. Along with the fire chamber, she tries to kill you with neurotoxin in a timed battle, eventually leading to her explosion. But the picture becomes more complicated in Portal 2. After you accidentally awaken GLaDOS again, she tells you why she was so unhappy when she woke up. She had to relive the moment of her death when you exploded her over and over and over again, thinking of what she could have done better. 

Still, we learn something else about transforming into a “super bot” that excuses Glados’s behavior even further. When the player puts Wheatley, your original friend at the start of Portal 2, into the big robot, you learn that when you become a robot, you become insane with power. This same fate befalls Glados when it happens to her. In the official Portal comic, LAB RAT, soon after Glados becomes the super robot, we see an example of how power-mad her transformation makes her.

As we walk through the details of this example, the Neurotoxin Incident, we will see that  it is actually the fault of the scientists that Glados found herself armed with such a dangerous substance. The scientists allowed her to be equipped with neurotoxin before she was stable. They failed to even check that she was partially stable before they gave her access to said neurotoxin—a very dangerous gas. 

Here’s how the sequence unfolds in gameplay. Right before you are let out of the lab, you actually fall into Old Aperture. Here, you learn about two new characters, the second of whom is important to the central storyline. These characters are Cave Johnson, and Cave Johnson’s assistant, Caroline. Since Cave Johnson got sick, Caroline was made into a robot to keep Aperture Science running and uphold the place for many more years than she would as a human, but the robot version of Caroline went crazy, killing almost all the workers. Another thing you learn is that you feel the need to “test” when you are in the GLaDOS robot body. Wheatley talks about how he feels this “itch” to test – as though he would not be able to live happily without testing. Essentially, he has to conduct tests even if he doesn’t want to, because it would otherwise result in major discomfort. This helps GLaDOS’s weird forceful testing that we saw back in the comic: another major reason why it’s not GLaDOS’s fault for seeming crazy. 

“Do you know what doesn’t rhyme with compliance? Neurotoxin,” GLaDOS says in the panel. Arguably, the fact that she is forcing the workers to do what she wants by threat of death is such an extreme course of action that it is a sign of her going power-mad in and of itself. But more importantly, this extreme behavior is a departure from the way GLaDOS acts prior to her transformation. Before, she was a seemingly average woman working as Cave Johnson’s assistant. We see this when GLaDOS repeats the phrases in one of the prerecorded messages before they were actually said, shown in chapter 7 of Portal 2, titled “The Reunion”, to be perfectly normal statements like “yes, sir.” One YouTuber describes the way the next sequence unfolds: GLaDOS hears Cave’s and Caroline’s voices for the first time in her life. She repeats ‘Yes sir, Mr. Johnson,’ and is terrified. In other words, we see GLaDOS awaken again after a panic, and when Mr. Johnson asks a question, GLaDOS repeats after Caroline before even hearing the voice line, sending her back into a panic. Her dialogue matches exactly with her former self, Caroline, revealing: GLaDOS used to be Caroline. The transformation was responsible for the change in her attitude.

The evidence is clear that GLaDOS, the video game character from Portal, is not the villain of her game. This is an important thing for the Portal community because it would give a very different view of the story, one where we find that the scientists were the bad guys. This topic is important to the world because we should first look at what makes people the way they are, instead of just judging them by how they are now. It also gives a more reasonable view of people in a grumpy mood. Someone might generally be happy and kind, but just be having a bad day. If we judge them based on their background, they are a good person, but if we only looked at how they act, then they would look like a very mean person who never is kind to people.

Bibliography

“Lab Rat.” Lab Rat, Valve, 2011, https://www.thinkwithportals.com/comic/#20. 

(youtuber), oliviacat01. “Portal 2: Glados Finds out She’s Caroline.” YouTube, YouTube, 27 July 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZWe1rYKZpY. 

“Caroline Voice Lines.” Caroline Voice Lines – Portal Wiki, Wikimedia Commons, 24 Jan. 2021, https://theportalwiki.com/wiki/Caroline_voice_lines. 

          Portal. Windows PC, Mac, and Linux, 2007.

          Portal 2. Windows PC, Mac, and Linux, 2011.

Boogaloo

The Boogaloo is hungry for thou,

with stealing eyes of flame,

thou wont want to learn its name.

Living in the foogly woods,

there in the middle he stood.

 Born from Buzzpin flies,

 you will be blind from one look in its eyes. 

Scrailing screams, biggest roar,

you might as well just come and stay,

because the Boogaloo is on its way. 

So come here child and have some tea,

and the Boogaloo will bring a treat,

but in return he will have your…MEAT!

Time for Turkey

A man by the name of Martin Stevens decided to cook a Thanksgiving turkey on a Tuesday evening for no special event, but he didn’t know how, and neither do I. So he got a turkey from the grocery store and put it in the oven. The turkey did not come out well. It was so burnt that it was blacker than the abyss.

The man, a stranger to cooking, decided it looked delicious. He took a bite and he loved it. He invited his neighbors to try the turkey. They loved it as much as he did. He decided to give them the recipe: Place the turkey in the oven and set the temperature to nine hundred and ninety-nine degrees. It was chaos. With this amazing new turkey recipe, everybody was rushing to the grocery store for a turkey. People told their friends about the turkey, so now hundreds of people were rushing to the grocery store before it closed. The store ran out of turkeys and the crazed turkey shoppers started a riot. The employees had to steal turkeys from the local zoo and start butchering them.

At last, after the employees illegally stole turkeys from the zoo and chopped them up, there were enough of the birds for everyone! Everybody got a nine hundred and ninety-nine degree burnt turkey! But the employees from the local zoo realized what had happened and started wrecking the grocery store for stealing their precious turkeys. They destroyed all the fresh produce and stomped on all the bread, once the zoo employees had finished their rampage they left, leaving the grocery store employees baffled. The end. 

Ditched

Chapter 1- The Beginning of it All 

I felt a burst of cold air when someone took the warm, loving covers off me. “Stop!” I yelled, trying to pull the covers back from whomever took them from me. “Hannah banana, it’s hiking day!” I heard my dad say, as hiking was his favored passion. “Why today? I had the best dream, I was jumping on cotton candy clouds and there were waterfalls of gatorade.” Gatorade was my favorite drink on the entire earth. “We’ve had this planned for three  months! Why couldn’t you have saved that dream for another night?” he said as he was sitting down. “Daaaad, you can’t have or not have a dream, silly!” My dad replied, “ Yeah right. We have to get a move on if we want to get to our hiking site by 10:00! Start packing your hiking bag Hannah! Chop chop!” 

As I was packing, I was wondering what to bring, but I didn’t want Dad to get mad at me for not knowing what to bring, so I brought: a six pack of Gatorade, some Band-Aids, and a couple of granola bars. As I was about to exit the front door to wait for Dad at the car, I felt someone stop me. I turned around to look at who it was and it was my older brother, Lucas. He is a total caution freak, so he handed me a keychain with flint and steel and a Swiss Army knife starter set with scissors, a variety of mini knives, a mini saw, and tweezers. Then I hugged him and walked to the car, as I saw Dad was in the car, ready to leave. 

While I was in the car looking out the window, I saw car after car race by; it looked like they would never end. As I felt the car slow to a stop, I readied my things; for the adventure awaits, I thought. I opened the car door not wanting to feel the cold air, as it was the middle of fall. I got out of the car, and Dad was already next to the entrance path, to the hike. I didn’t know then, but this hike was going to change my life. 

We walked through the path slowly, taking in all that was around us, breathing in all the floral, outsidey scents. We looked at all the plants, gawking at animals. Hearing birds *Chirp Chirp* every step of the way. We were walking for quite a while, an hour or so. Then, we came across this little area with what looked like never-ending berries. There were so many berries, heaps and buckets worth. I took a couple of blackberry-looking berries and stuck them in my mouth. “Dad! These are delicious! You should really try some!” I said. Dad replied with a, “No thanks, I’m not very hungry,” answer. “Well, more for me!” I said enthusiastically while shoving some more in my mouth. 

 We walked a bit more until I felt my stomach was not feeling up to shape, so I told Dad, and I sat down on a log. I drank some water and exhaled.

Chapter 2- The Hike

I hear birds sing. I smell all the same outdoor smells. I open my eyes. I put my hands out in front of myself. I see them. I sit up. I am still on a log. Everything seems normal. Until I notice. Dad. Where is he? How long was I out for? I say my thoughts out loud. I get up. I am stressed. I get stressed easily. Calm down. I walk around the log for a couple minutes. Wait. I see something. What is it? I bend down. I grab it. It’s a note. It says Hi Hannah, I am very worried about you when you passed out. So I am going to find some help. I won’t take long. Probably only around 30 minutes. I will be back soon, don’t worry…  Then at the bottom of the letter was Dad’s signature. I read the note carefully, making sure not to skip any words, on accident even. Once I finished reading the note, I placed it in my pocket, making sure not to crumple it. 

I looked around again, focusing on my surroundings, seeing what I would have to deal with for only about half an hour. I saw the sun get dimmer, and I looked up and saw that the sky was gray, filled with clouds. I thought about how not prepared I was. I sat back down on the log, in silence for about four minutes until I realized; I was hungry. I grabbed my backpack, it was leaning against the side of the log. I unzipped it gingerly, how the one of worst things to happen was the zipper to get stuck. I pulled out a chocolate chip granola bar, and with the backpack on my lap, I ripped open the granola bar as I took in a big whiff of the chocolaty, not-very-healthy granola bar scent. I took a big bite of it. Mmmmmmmm. I closed my eyes for a second to take in the granola bar’s glorious taste. I did really miss my dad though, I’m almost never without him, except for school of course. I also started to worry a bit, it had been four hours since I passed out. I didn’t know how time had passed so fast, then I thought he might be in trouble! Oh no! Maybe I should go venture for him! I grabbed my coat,backpack, and Dad’s note and set off to find him! 

I went up a hill, a very, very, very, very, very, very, VERY tall hill that completely exhausted me, but I kept going forward. I also came across this raging river, there was no way around it, so I found this big, long tree that must have fallen over, so I walked right across it.  Then I got, now fully exhausted and I saw this big cave that was kind of hidden. It did look very welcoming though, and it was starting to drizzle, so I went inside. I didn’t want to get wet. 

I walked through the cave, although it wasn’t really that big, and found a little nook, so I put my backpack down and laid on it. It had been a very long day and I was completely exhausted. I didn’t have a mirror, but I knew I didn’t look my best. I could feel the bags under my eyes. I closed my eyes and quickly fell asleep.

Chapter 3-  BATS

I saw my dad, in a meadow with daisies and dandelions with his arms open, waiting for me to run into them. I skipped across the meadow until I reached him, but when I did, he melted into nothing. I awoke with a start, I looked around, nothing had changed, no Dad and still in a cave. 

But then something caught my attention, something had moved quickly. It had darted across the cave. It was a small cave but whatever this thing was, it was fast. Around three minutes later, I had lost interest in whatever it was, so I put my head down on my bag again, but I didn’t close my eyes this time, I still was a teensy bit curious to see what it was that had disturbed me. Then I saw it again and again, like there were 50 of them! I got up and stood in the middle of the cave to see what would happen, and then I saw it. Out of all things of what it could have been, this was what I least expected. A bat. I was no expert on bats, but this one looked poisonous. It had white foam coming out of its mouth, and its eyes were bright red and yellow. I had to get out of there. Then it came at me, it was chasing me! I tried to swat it off with my backpack, but it wouldn’t go away!!! But then I got one really clean shot at it and after I hit the bat, it fell to the floor. But what I didn’t know was that there were a bunch more of them staring at me, they looked like they wanted revenge, wanted to avenge their bat friend (or family, I don’t really know.) Then, one darted at me and bit me! “Ouch!” It didn’t hurt too much but if all of them bit me once, I would be in excruciating pain. I scurried out of the cave, bats attacking me, adrenaline pumping. But thankfully, one by one they started to lay off on me though. I safely (sort of) got out of the cave and sat down on a nearby rock. I started to look at my wounds, they were nothing bad, just a couple of scratches and bruises. I went onward, to look for Dad.  

Chapter 4: The Ditch

I was doing great, just walking and drinking Gatorade, when suddenly, I felt really lightheaded, I also felt I could throw up at any moment. I was really dizzy, faint, and unsteady. I felt terrible. I didn’t know why this was happening right then or there, it was all so out of the blue. I mean, I did also end up alone, in a forest, seemingly all by myself. I sat down on the nearest log, but I was so out of balance that I fell off and blacked out. 

I awoke with a start, my head still spinning, but I wasn’t near the log anymore, I was somewhere else. Then I heard a voice. I thought I was going crazy. How could there be someone here? I’m alone. (Or so I thought.) Maybe it’s an angel telling me I can finally rest. But no. I heard it again, like it was getting closer and closer until…I saw him. It was Dad! I found him! “Oh my gosh, Hannah! Are you okay? I’m so glad you are okay!” I looked at Dad, we talked, he was definitely a bit beat up, but other than that, he’s a tough guy. After a while, I finally came to the end of answering all of his questions about EVERYTHING, but now I had a couple of questions that I wanted the answers for. 

“ OK Dad, a couple questions. Where are we, how did you get here, how did I get here, and how long have you been here.” He answered with, “We are in a big ditch in the ground. How I got here, I was looking for help for you and then I twisted my ankle on an oddly shaped rock and fell in. How you got here, I didn’t see much from inside this ditch but all I saw was you rolling and falling into here.” I cut him off, “Oh and by the way, I think why I rolled in here was because some really scary bats bit me when I was in a cave that I found and I think that they were poisonous and I fell off a log I was sitting on and then I fell off because I came unconscious.” “Awwww, my tough little girl!” He said while giving me a big bear hug. “OK, last answer, I have been here for maybe about like,” He stopped for a moment to think, like his memory of outside of this ditch was blurry. He squinted his eyes so hard I thought they could pop right out!!! “I really don’t know Hannah banana, I’m sorry.” He said it very sincerely. “It’s OK Dad, but now here comes the biggest question of them all…how do we get out of here?”

             Chapter 5: The Plan

Me and Dad talk and talk for hours, thinking of the plan, until we figure it out. I get my backpack and eat the last granola bar without thinking of Dad, although I do offer him water. Then we are ready for the plan. I get onto Dad’s shoulders, then awkwardly he lifts me up onto the edge of the ditch. Then, my hand scrapes on something. “OUCH!” I lose my balance while trying to go one-handed because my other hand was bleeding. I then fell back down, though luckily, landed in Dad’s arms. “Ow.” I say. “You okay? Want to wash it off with some water?” Dad says sympathetically. “Not a bad idea.” I say back to him. I then go to find my water bottle and then realize, I only packed Gatorade. Although I know it might hurt a bit, I take a bit of Gatorade and use it to wash some of the blood off. It stung…a lot, but it did wash all of the blood away. “Ready for take two?” Dad asks, in position for me to get onto his back. “Sure.” Then I get onto his back again, and heave myself up and over the edge of the ditch. “I did it Dad! I’m up!” I shouted happily. “Alright, now tie a vine or something to a rock, I think I saw a big sturdy rock right up front.” I walked around a bit looking for a vine and then I found one on a tree. I rip it off and hold it up to admire it. A perfect length vine. I tie it as tight as I can to a big rock that I found and threw it down to Dad. “Heads up!” I yelled. “Got it! Can you help pull me up? You won’t be doing all the work though, I will mostly pull myself up.” Dad says. “Yup.” I get my hands on the vine and feel Dad pulling me down. But then, I get a burst of energy and I pull as hard as I can, and next thing I know, he’s out of the ditch! “Wow Hannah, have you been working out?” He says, mocking me. “Whatever.” I say sarcastically. “So, what do we do now, Hannah?” “Let’s get out of this place!!!” 

                                                              Aftermath

Hannah and her dad make it out of the woods safe and reunite with their family. Hannah and Lucas become closer than ever. The bats that Hannah came into contact with were vampire bats. They aren’t real vampires but in real life they do bite. Hannah’s dad gets help for his ankle and it heals fast. Even though that whole catastrophe was over, Hannah was scarred forever. She does go to some therapy to help with all of her deep thoughts. 

Dimension 96: Chapter 1

I was sitting on my bed. I was in Gloop dimension 96. It was a very normal dimension compared to other dimensions. I went to school like any normal dimension, 5 days a week. I had just gotten off from school, where I was learning mathematics.

I had nothing to do, so I just stared at the wall. For a second, I felt like I was in a trance. But then, a voice snapped me out of it.

“HAVE YOU DONE YOUR HOMEWORK YET?” It was my mom. She was very strict about homework. But, the bad thing was, in Gloop dimension 96, kids had tons of homework. I took out his homework from my bag. I held it up and looked at the thickness of his homework. It looked like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I sighed, but slowly, but surely, I finished it.

When I was done, I looked at the time. In the Gloop dimension 96, there were 32 hours a day, so it was 13 o’ clock. He normally went to bed at 12 o’ clock but whatever. I walked over to my huge bed and belly flopped into it. I made myself comfortable and fell asleep easily. I woke up with a start at 4 o’ clock in the morning. I usually got up at 9 o’ clock so I  could get on my Pc and start playing Fortnite.

 I didn’t realize how much Fortnite he was playing until my little sister, Sophia, smacked him in the face.  Sophia was 4 years old, while I was 14. I took off his headphone angrily and said bitterly,” what do you want?”

“Where are my colored pencils?” She asked, pouting. SHE HAD INTERRUPTED MY PLAYTIME FOR SOME COLORED PENCILS? I was in disbelief.

“Why couldn’t you have asked me later?” I said, putting back on my headphones.

“Because I need them for my school-” I didn’t hear the rest though. I jumped off the battle bus and then I felt another slap on my face. I didn’t even hear her. I took off my headphones, picked my sister up, and threw her out of my room. Now, that may have been a little bit violent, but sometimes she just annoyed me so much I  just wanted to kill her. I walked back to my seat and put my headphones back on. I was in the Fortnite lobby because someone had killed me.  I sighed. I turned my PC off  and looked at the time. It was still only 8 o’ clock. I layed on the carpet of my bedroom, staring at the ceiling. Not before long I blacked out. I woke up to the sound of sizzling. I put on my shorts and t- shirt because it was summer. I forgot to mention that in Gloop dimension 96 we also have school in the Summer. This was one of the cruelest dimensions ever. I walked into the kitchen and looked at what his dad was cooking. It was a mango raspberry waffle. You’d think it sounds good, but it tastes horrible! I sat down at the brown table and grabbed my phone. I looked at the news that was on last night. Before I could get onto the News page, which was a news page called Brain Freeze, my dad took my phone. He patted me on my head, before setting down a plate of mango raspberry waffles. I reluctantly took a bite then my head exploded. Not literally, but, like it. It tasted delicious!  I gulped down the rest of my waffles, then went to my dad, who was working on his computer. In the Gloop dimension 96, you have to work for 28 hours a day when you work. He had 4 hours to sleep, have fun and cook. I walked up to him and asked, “what did you put in the waffles that made them so good?” No response. I grabbed his dad’s arm on the mouse and shook it. No response again. I shook harder. Nothing happened. Dad’s eyes were glued to the screen.

I gave up after a while of punching and kicking, and packed my bag and went to my friend’s house. His name was Cameron. Cam for short. I waited outside for 2 minutes when the front door burst open and out came Cam.

“Whasup bro,” he said, coming up to me. “ Not much,” I said. We did our handshake then went to school. On the way I said, “Did you know that my dad’s mango raspberry waffles tasted actually good today?” He looked at me like I was crazy. He had tried them when he had slept over and he threw up. 4 times. It was disgusting seeing all the thrown up pieces of waffles on the floor mixed in with the apple juice Cameron was drinking.  Dad hadn’t done anything about it because of work, and mom didn’t do it because she was doing laundry. Mom usually did most of the work around the house. She was very useful actually. She cleaned up all the messes that I made and made our beds, and everything. She was a very neat person, so everyday she’d clean every millimeter of the house. Even the ceiling. Sometimes she’d even interrupt my fortnite playtime for cleaning. I prioritize my fortnite playtime. 2 days ago, I thought about starting a youtube channel. I was definitely good enough to be one. Cameron snapped him out of it when he asked, “ did you study for the test?” I stopped walking. “What test?” I asked back.

“Don’t you remember, yesterday Mr. Gulch said he was gonna give us a ELA test today.” I was stunned for a few seconds then ran toward the grass on my left. “ What’re you doing?” asked Cameron as he frantically ran after me. I threw my backpack on the grass and opened my bag. I pulled out my ELA notebook and started reading it. I took out 3 pieces of paper, a folder, and a pen to study with. “What are you doing? There’s no way you can study for the test in”- Cam looked at his watch-“Ten minutes.”

“Thanks for the encouragement.” I grumbled. I studied my notes once more, then tossed my notebook aside. I put one of my sheets of paper on top of my folder then wrote down everything I remembered from my notes. This was my method. I basically just studied my notes then wrote down everything I remembered from my notes until I could remember everything from notes. “Sorry dude,” Cam said, walking away, “I don’t wanna be late. Good luck.” I watched him slowly disappear toward the direction of the school. I ignored him then studied for 5 more minutes. I packed up my bag then ran as fast I could toward the school. I walked into the school building. I went to my locker, then opened it and put my stuff into it. Just as I closed my locker, I heard a cheerful voice.

“ HI Benny.” It was Jack. Jack was a nerd who stood 4 feet tall in 9th grade, with braces and trousers on every day.

“What do you want?” I said, looking in both directions for potential bullies who could target me for talking to Jack. “ Nothing. Just saying hi,” he said as enthusiastically as he could.

“Scram,” I said, pushing him away. I walked into the opposite direction that he did, when someone yanked me back and grabbed me.

“Hi Benny. Why are you talking to Jack? Did you guys study last night?” It was of course one of the bullies I was talking about. His name was Mike, and he stood only 2 inches taller than me, yet had so much power.

“Why do you care?” I said, wrestling out of his grip. “Because you shouldn’t be talking to losers who have no life.” He responded. A crowd was forming quickly, so I ran toward my class, as light as I could on my feet, and slowed down at the end of the hall where my science class was. I walked into my class, where Cameron waved me over to his table. The others at the table were Zoe and Dan. Zoe was my friend from 2nd grade, and Dan was Cameron’s friend. Dan was pretty annoying though. I didn’t understand why Cam liked him.  

My teacher, Ms. Brewster, was a tan lady who was nice most of the time. In class today we would be making something out of legos which was a robot that would help us with something.

“I think we should make a robot that shoots sharp legos,” said Zoe, laughing maniacally. Zoe has something called war syndrome, which is a case of always wanting war.”I think we should make something that helps us move stuff,” said Dan.

“Can’t we do that with our backpacks?” I said, skeptically. 

“Well yeah, but maybe we could make something teleport,” Dan said.

“That’s not scientifically possible,” Cam said, shaking his head. 

“What if we made a time machine, so we could go back to the Civil War so I could beat the Confederacy up.” Zoe said, her voice deep and evil. Dan took a step back and made  a straight face.

“There’s no beating up anyone.” I said in a calm voice. Suddenly, Ms.Brewster came over to our table and asked, “Having a bit of trouble?”

“Yeah,” said Cam in a sad voice, looking down. “ Well, think about things you can make out of legos, that a robot can do, that is something you all want.” She said, walking away.

“I know what we all want,” Dan said.

  “What,” I said, annoyed. “WAR!!!!!!” Screamed Zoe, startling the whole class.

“Nope, no, not war. Not war,” I said, embarrassed

I was so happy when science was over. Not because of Zoe, but because we had gym next. In this lesson we were supposed to be playing basketball. I shoved the door to the gym, where people were gathered below the basketball net, talking. The gym teacher, Mr. Mack blew his whistle very loud, killing my ears. Some of the sensitive people dropped to the floor and started screaming. “You burst my eardrums.”

“Aw shut up,” he said. Did I mention that Mr.Mack is jacked? He has 6 packs that bulge out of shirt. Everyone’s scared of him.

“ I’ve called off the basketball, slackers,” he said. “ Now go do 100 laps out in the yard before I make it 200.” Everyone was shocked. Mario, who was really good at basketball, started crying. I felt kinda bad for him.

I was walking toward the yard, when I heard a group of people whispering. I could slightly make out what they were saying.

“I hate him.” I could hear one of them saying. “Yeah he’s so trash.” Another one said,” we should prank him.” Another said. “Yeah.” 

I continued walking, pretending like I didn’t hear anything. Suddenly, a bolt of lightning hit the sidewalk diagonal of me.

“ FLIP.” I screamed, jumping 10 feet back. There was a rumble in the sky and a crack followed by it. 

“GOT IT ON CAMERA!!!!!!!” screamed Ruby, who was a girl who gossiped everywhere.

“You did?” said a bunch of people (including me).

“Yeah, I was gonna take a  selfie of myself on Instagram, but I turned my camera around accidentally and took a photo of the lightning.” She squealed in delight. She went to the photo app on her phone and showed us  the picture. It was a bit blurry, but showed me shielding my face, with my body in a weird position.”Why do I look like that?” I asked.

“How should I know?” said Ruby, in a sassy voice. I shrugged. “ HUP HUP LET’S GO!!!!” screamed Mr. Mack, clapping his hands. I immediately ran toward the yard as fast as fast as my legs could take me.

Quantum Computing Pros: Power, Medical, and Cybersecurity

Some people hearing about the development of quantum computers might question the need for them: aren’t computers powerful enough already? I disagree. Quantum computers are a whole different type of computing device than the run-of-the-mill computers that we are familiar with. Quantum computers use electrons or photons, which are called qubits (quantum bits. Qubits can exist in multiple states simultaneously based on a specific set of solutions, subjected to incompatible measurements, and even be entangled with other quantum bits. Essentially, instead of just representing 0 or 1, it can represent a value in between, intertwine with other quantum bits, and be able to become measurements that don’t work with other measurements. 

This brings me to why quantum computers are worth making. 1) Quantum computers are more powerful than our current computers. 2) Quantum computers can help advance the medical world. 3) Cybersecurity on quantum computers will be easier than before.

It bears establishing that quantum computers are far more powerful than our current computers. According to Aiswarya PM’s article on Analytics Insight, “Scientists predict that Quantum computing is better than supercomputers as it performs tasks a million times faster.” If Quantum computing is already estimated to be a million times faster than supercomputers, then they must be must faster than current “consumer computers” with the power that is available to non-company buyers. 

To put that into perspective, we can look at IBM’s post on ‘What is supercomputing,’ which states that “Supercomputers can be one million times more processing power than the fastest laptop.” That would mean that you would need 1 trillion of the most powerful laptops (10^12 laptops!) just to make the power of one quantum computer, not accounting for all the cables you would need to make them work together. That’s crazy! With all this power, you might be wondering what you should do with it. The answer is not to get infinite money or whatever else you might really want. The answer lies in many areas upon which we can innovate as a species, two of them being medical advancements and cybersecurity.

Quantum computers can help to create much-needed advancements in the medical world. A New Scientist video titled ‘How quantum computers work: Explaining qubits to quantum superposition’ states:

“principles of quantum mechanics will be able to in the box, in the computer, design new kinds of materials, new chemicals, new drugs, in a way which is much, much faster than having to go through laboratory trial and effort, so we think it could be transformative to attacking… in the future even areas like personalized medicine.” 

This means that we’ll be able to make more effective medicine faster than we could before, benefiting both patients and doctors. The patient will get more effective medicine, and the doctor will be able to provide better services. Whereas if the future didn’t have quantum computers, we might have very complicated viruses that will take a long time to create a cure for. Using supercomputers, we can have quicker, more effective cures for different patients.

Cybersecurity on quantum computers will also be easier than before. In an article on the Interesting Engineering website it says, “[quantum key distribution] has shown us that quantum physics provides us with new tools and recipes to truly safeguard our secrets. … hackers will have a much more difficult time, as they will have to face both complex computational problems and quantum phenomena.” This means that we’ll be able to make more secure and trustworthy ways to store passwords, so we won’t have to worry about things like server breaches, social media hacking, posting fake content, and malware/viruses which lock you out of your computer.  

In my essay, I covered the pros of quantum computing and how it will benefit us in the future. This topic matters to me because I personally have been, and still am, very invested in technology ever since I got my Nintendo Switch as a birthday present. It matters to computer scientists because they’ll be able to run more in-depth experiments. It matters to the world because they will be able to have a more reliable experience when using computers. We should care because it will lead to more powerful, medically advanced, and safer use of computers.


Sources Cited:

PM, Aiswarya. “Quantum Computing: Why Is It Better than Supercomputers?” Analytics Insight, 13 Feb. 2023, www.analyticsinsight.net/quantum-computing-why-is-it-better-than-supercomputers/#:~:text=Scientists%20predict%20that%20Quantum%20computing,that%20go%20beyond%20classical%20physics. 

“What Is Supercomputing?” IBM, www.ibm.com/topics/supercomputing#:~:text=Petaflops%20are%20a%20measure%20of,power%20than%20the%20fastest%20laptop. Accessed 12 June 2023. 

New Scientist. “How Quantum Computers Work: Explaining Qubits to Quantum Superposition.” YouTube, 23 Feb. 2023, www.youtube.com/watch?v=WW7DKcrQ-7E&t=4s. 

The Conversation. “Quantum Computers: How Scientists Can Shield against Cyber Attacks.” Interesting Engineering, 14 Jan. 2023, interestingengineering.com/innovation/quantum-computers-shield-against-cyber-attacks.

Cryptography Through The Ages

A lot of people don’t know what cryptography is or what ciphers are; do you? As a brief overview, cryptography is encoding messages, whether in the form of pictures, online messages, or paper messages. It can take the form of symbols translating for letters or scrambling up words, as one might sometimes do without thinking, like children constructing a made-up language. In this essay I will show you how, contrary to some people’s opinions, cryptography was important in ancient society and continues to be helpful in modern society. I will mainly talk about two ideas: how cryptography was used in “ancient times” like in World War II and how common script uses cryptography in its base as coding for privacy.

Imagine you are a war leader. Whether you lead an army of men in 44 BC, or sneak attacks and bombs on enemy territories in 1940, your tactics must be kept secret from prying eyes. One way that secrecy was protected was with encoding messages or cryptography. Viewers of an informational video by the World Science Fair channel on YouTube can hear a detailed explanation of World War II’s Enigma Machine, a cryptography machine that made and decoded code. The video demonstrates how vital cryptography was to both sides of the war effort. If a message was leaked, a whole attack could be jeopardized, or saved. When the opposing side found the code, it would mean the end of a whole branch of communication. Since radios allowed messages to be sent over great distances, using cryptography to send messages became a crucial means for sharing coded information. In the video, Simon Singh states, “Encryptions are important because if you’re going to send messages you need to make sure those messages aren’t necessarily going to be intercepted and stolen.” Radio became that missing piece of the puzzle for securing the messages. Soldiers no longer had to worry about messenger pigeons being physically intercepted; now you worried about the enemy finding your radio signal and hearing it in broad electromagnetic wave light. The Enigma Machine was made in Germany. The Germans would have someone send what the setting or “key” would be, then the machine would scramble the typed letters into different letters; it is a simple enough process but very confusing without the machine. The letters to send would light up, and for the process in reverse, you could decode the messages through the same setting in the machine. Errors were possible, but it was a much safer way to send messages than the alternative, and therefore the Germans’ best shot.

Speaking of best shots, technology has advanced to become more calculated, but more at risk. Encryption has originally been used to make codes, but also for privacy. While this is very advanced and secure with technology and an understanding of code, one could break through the encryption, which is why it must be secure and top secret. The code is so random that no one knows it; only a randomly generated string of numbers holds your latest browser search from being blackmailed. Not every company does this, nor should you be concerned. There is actually comfort in this random string. The possibilities are endless, practically, so unless one stumbles upon your set of code, it is most likely it is a dead person’s code or invalid. Even then, that is only one step of many towards good encryption. As Khan Academy’s video on cryptography mentions, it is generally safe, but there are ways to interfere, and “the more steps and parts there are, the more complicated it is.” As a rough rule highlighting how cryptography has impacted technology, more complex code usually results in fewer errors smoother computers.

While this essay might be short, there’s more to sort. In the sources list you will find the videos mentioned, to continue your cryptography search, sadly this is no verse. Past and old, present and current, future and new all have you. I leave you with the same question I started with; a lot of people don’t know what cryptography is or cyphers are. Do you?

Sources:

  1. Polyalphabetic cipher | Journey into cryptography | Computer Science | Khan Academy. April 11, 2012, YouTube: Khan Academy
  2. The Enigma Machine Explained. May 14, 2013, YouTube: World Science Fair

The Person in the Well

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Valentina who went to her grandma’s house on summer vacation. One night, she was walking her grandma’s dog and stumbled upon a well. She looked down the well and she found nothing. Two seconds later, when she was walking back home, she heard a buzz. She looked at her phone, and it read: Come help me. She texted back: Who are you? The person didn’t answer, and the phone just read: Come help me.

She walked past her home and down to the well, down to her grandma’s house. She asked her grandma, “What’s inside that well?” 

And her grandma said, “Oh, nothing, just an old well. They’re going to clear it out tomorrow. They’re going to put cement over it.” 

The next day, Valentina ran over to the well and looked down inside of it. She texted again: Who are you? Please stop texting me. And this time, the person sent a picture. It was of her, looking down inside the well, like someone was actually inside of the well and took a picture of her. She ran home and she asked her grandma again. 

Her grandma said, “The people are about to come and clog up the well.” 

Valentina ran over to the well, and it was too late. They already clogged it up with concrete, but then she heard a ringing. But it wasn’t from the well. It was from under her, underneath the ground. 

She took her phone out and she heard that the ringing was probably because someone was calling her from underneath the ground. She picked up her phone and called them, and all she heard was, “Come help me. How could you? How could you do this?” And she ran home. 

No one knows if that person was real, or if they just needed some help. And that girl, she never went to her grandma’s house again. Never in her entire life.

The end… or is it? We will never know…

The Wrong Mom

Today at 12:17pm, I woke up from my nap. Daddy was making sandwiches for lunch. I could tell from the smell of the sizzling bacon that we were going to have BLT sandwiches. Daddy always made mine on white bread with bits of bacon, lettuce, and tomato slices without the peel so I could eat it. We were going outside afterward to see Mommy finally arriving from her job in the military. I missed her very much. 

Daddy picked me up and kissed me on the forehead. We saw our lunches on the table, mine on a baby shark plate served with orange juice with foam on the top and his that said ‘Dad’ with rainbow dots, and served with iced tea. We ate our sandwiches and got dressed. 

It was a sunny day, but halfway to the airport, it started to rain harder and harder. By the time we got there, there was a lot of traffic and we were almost late! Our mom was getting out of the plane and a streak of thunder flashed over someone’s head. A lady came running to us. 

A lady that was supposed to be our mom. 

But it wasn’t.

One and One Blackbirds

The teacher, Mr. Sermon, was beginning his sermon, who Peter believed was named perfectly for what he always did. Peter Handle was a young boy, he had dark brown locks, green eyes and always wore a mischievous smile. He spent his time getting himself into mischief and scrapes. He was an average student. He didn’t pay attention, he stared at the floor, or he mostly started at Annabelle. 


Annabelle was a young girl with black hair and blue eyes. She was the living opposite of Peter. She was calm and he was loud. He was a prankster where she was a reader. But it made sense that Peter liked her. She was beautiful, kind and smart. She was everything to Peter, as well as other boys. 

Annabelle wasn’t sure about Peter. He was kind and gentle when they were together. It was like he melted at her face. Annabelle didn’t know what she felt towards him. It couldn’t be love? Could it?

At this particular moment Mr. Sermon was beginning to speak about the history of the Civil and Revolutionary Wars, and Peter, like most days, was looking past him. At Annabelle. Annabelle knew he was looking but for some reason she didn’t mind. For some reason she liked it. Like always she listened intently to the professor, taking notes theatrically. The boys behind her laughed at her. Mr. Sermon glared their way and that shut them up. Annabelle sat high in her seat, pretending those boys didn’t exist. 

“Peter, I believe that I am teaching the lesson. Not Annabelle’s back.” said Mr. Sermon, stopping his lesson. The boys sniggered. He rounded on them. “And what is so funny?” The boys shut up. 

Annabelle had remained silent through this ordeal and she continued for the lesson after Mr. Sermon began again. She still didn’t know she felt about him, even after being with him his whole life.

Annabelle sat by herself at lunch that day. She squinted at her food forcing herself not to look around at the empty seats surrounding her. On the other side of the room, as far as they could get from her were the boys. They lifted up Peter and smiled smugly at him. They threw him up in the air. They threw him on the table. No one stopped them. The last thing she saw before she ran was him, a black eye, a red face, looking at her, pleading. 

Annabelle ran. She just needed to not see Peter like that again. She ran, throwing her box and bag away from her as she ran towards a corner. She ran and ran and ran and she tried to slow down. She tried as hard as she could. The wall was closing in. Her feet wouldn’t obey her mind. She ran and ran and — her head snapped against the wall. Her eyes closed. And she sunk down and began to weep. She hated those boys even more now. She had run because of them, had — she turned and looked in the mirror. Her face was black and bloody and her eye was black and swollen like Peters. Her nose was red and her mouth was blue. 

And then she saw Peter running. And then he saw her. He stopped. He swallowed and he whispered to her “You’re still beautiful…. You’re still Annabelle… You still have me.”

Annabelle looked up at him. Maybe he wasn’t like the other boys. It wasn’t love, but at that moment she liked Peter Handle. She felt she owed him something. Peter slid down the wall to sit next to her, and took her hand. Annabelle looked at him, and smiled. She smiled for the first time in ages. She smiled because she had a friend. One friend was enough, if they were anything like Peter.


Peter knew that everyone knew that he liked Annabelle. He knew he let it show. He knew that, that was why he was laughed at: She hates you, scum, and, You’ll never beat me you little brat. He knew his life was in jeopardy because he liked her. But nothing could stop him from liking her. At that moment, the two of them hand in hand, bleeding and swollen he could have never felt better. 

As Annabelle smiled it was as if a bird cawed in his chest. As she squeezed his hand it was as if a fire had been lit in his heart. Hurt as he was, he wished this moment would last forever.

“Friends?” she asked, smiling.

“Forever,” he replied looking into her eyes solemnly, “Forever and ever.”

The two could be called inseparable. Maybe after certain things you can’t not be friends. Suddenly their lives were filled with warmth. Suddenly Peter had someone to talk to, someone to live for, someone to be with, someone to love. Maybe it wasn’t love. Not just yet, but that feeling of his stomach cawing and a fire burning… It was close to love, he knew that. 

They now both had something new. A friend. Neither had felt something quite like that. They had both been shunned their whole lives and they finally could show who they were. To each other. Peter hoped they would keep their promise. Friends Forever. 

That day, one hundred and sixty days since the beginning of school and twenty-six days since their friendship began, they began a ritual. Both Peter and Annabelle lived at the city orphanage. Peter’s mother had died and his father gave him up, not being able to feed two mouths. Annabelle had told him that her mother and father had thought she was a disgrace to humankind and had sent her away. The orphanage master said that they would never have to see her filthy face again. The master had stayed true to his word. Their ritual began at the orphanage. They would walk hand in hand toward the meadow. There they would each pick up the smallest pebble they could find. They would each touch their stones together and throw them up into the air. It became a game after a while. They tried to catch their stones or find them on the ground. And then they would walk to school again. It was just a little thing but they both took great joy in it and they began to do it each day for the rest of their lives.

Three talons of the stars: The start of the adventure

CHAPTER 1

Flame was a 10 year old orange, yellow, and red fire dragon that wanted to go indoor skydiving. He planned to go to the “Joy of Flying” skydiving center. There were a couple problems though. First of all, Flame wouldn’t fit through the door of the skydiving center, and second, how would these two-legged creatures feel if there was a dragon indoor skydiving in a tube? You might be thinking, well, why would a dragon want to go skydiving when he could fly? Flame wanted to see what It was like to fly without wings.

One day, Flame was sitting under a tree thinking, my life isn’t very exciting. What’s something that I can do that’s not a part of my daily life? All of a sudden, Flame saw a bird flying up at a very high speed, and then plummeting towards the lake. It’s too bad that I can’t do that. 

“Wait!” Flame said, his eyes shining in excitement. “I can go skydiving!” 

Flame decided that he would go indoor skydiving, because the sound of hurtling down at the earth from 10,000 feet was horrifying to him. He realized that there were problems though. Flame got on the computer and searched ‘Skydiving centers for dragons.’ He found one that was called ‘Sky Dragons’. Flame was going to fly to the ‘Sky Dragons’ center. It was about a five day journey. He grabbed a bag, and shoved a few simple things in his bag. He put a flashlight, five boots, four bottles of water, some nuts, honey, and a book. 

“I’m ready to start my adventure!” He shouted. 

He really was about to start an adventure.  

CHAPTER 2

It was starting to get dark, and the night was cold and the clouds were thick. There was no sign of the moon that night. Flame decided to settle down for the night in a small patch of trees. He made himself a mossy nest, had a few nuts, and went to bed. 

It was early in the morning and all of a sudden, a gigantic wasp flew over to Flame and started buzzing in his ear. Flame was annoyed and then worried. What if the wasp sucked all of his blood out and he turned into a raisin? Quickly, he mixed some honey with water, and threw it on the wasp. The wasp flew away, and Flame was left unharmed. 

Flame was fully awake now, and decided to go to the lake to catch some breakfast. Flame sat at the edge of the lake patiently with one claw raised. He made sure that the fish couldn’t see his shadow. Slash! Flame swiped the fish right out of the water with his claw. He walked back to where he put his stuff and went to look for sticks. Flame found two sticks that he could use as stakes and one pointy stick to put the fish on. He also found some dead leaves and twigs. The dragon broke the sharp twig in two and put one end in the fish’s mouth, and one end in the tail. He breathed fire onto the pile of dead leaves and twigs. After 10 minutes the fish was cooked. The meal was eaten, and Flame was on his way. Flame flew a little way, then something caught his eye. It was Mistyclaw! The dragon that he had met from school. 

“Hey Mistyclaw! It’s me, Flame! Want to join me on my trip to go indoor skydiving?!” 

“I’m free, so I’ll come!” Mistyclaw replied.

Mistyclaw and Flame flew together and talked about the journey ahead, and the current news, until it was dark.”

All right. We should settle here for the night. I’ll grab dinner, while you get some moss for beds.” Flame said. They had their meal and settled down to rest.

CHAPTER 3

The next day, Flame and Mistyclaw found a black dragon named Nightstar that wanted to go indoor skydiving with them. All of a sudden, the three came to a huge creek, filled with lava and a volcano erupting behind it. 

“Oh everything will be fine. What could possibly go wrong?” Flame asked. 

“Uhhh, that?” Nightstar said, followed by a “Lookout!” The volcano decided to erupt and spewed lava everywhere. Flame and Nightstar flew out of the way, but Mistyclaw was too late and the lava dragged her into the boiling lava lake. 

“Mistyclaw!” Flame screeched, just as he heard an agonized scream. Flame and Nightstar flew over to the lava lake and saw Mistyclaw pull herself out of the lava lake. 

“I…I’m okay,” Mistyclaw mumbled, and all of a sudden she burst into laughter, showing  no signs of tiredness or pain. 

“You dum dums,” she choked out, “our scales are fireproof, remember?” 

“You scared the claws off us Mistyclaw! Never, I mean never do that again.”

They stopped for the night, ate some nuts and drank some water, and then went to bed.

“Tomorrow is going to be a very hard journey!” Flame warned. They had no idea.

CHAPTER 4: NIGHTSTAR

The sun was scorching hot and I was thirsty. I knew my friends needed that water though, so I kept my mouth shut. All of a sudden, everything started spinning and my legs gave way. My friends had reduced to smudgy blobs and my head was throbbing. My consciousness was swept away like a shell on the beach, and I blacked out. 

CHAPTER 5

“Nightstar! NIGHTSTAR!” Flame called. 

He was horrified. Flame quickly unscrewed the cap of the water bottle and walked over to Nightstar. He tipped the bottle so the water came out and he poured it into Nightstar’s jaws. 

“Huh? Is that you, Flame?” Nightstar said. 

“Nightstar’s too weak to journey on,” Mistyclaw said. “Let’s rest here for the night.” They found a coconut tree and settled down. That night, they ate coconut flesh and drank coconut water. Soon they were all fast asleep. 

CHAPTER 6: MISTYCLAW

I woke up at 3AM. My friends were fast asleep. I didn’t know that soon, everyone would be wide awake with fear, and that I’d be in so much pain. I heard snuffling noises and I reached for Flame’s flashlight. All of a sudden, a huge shadow appeared in front of me and when I shone the flashlight on it, I screamed. It was a gigantic cheetah.

The beast lunged for me. My friends were now wide awake. We knew that a cheetah’s claws and teeth could pierce our scales. I swerved to the right and sank my talons into the cheetah’s skin. The black-spotted beast howled and swung its head around so it faced me. My friends were too late to help me 

The cheetah sunk its teeth into my shoulder and pulled. It tore out the top layer of my skin. I fell into a heap and watched a sea of blood run from my shoulder as my friends fought the cheetah. I felt like my blood was on fire, and I was losing my grip on my consciousness. The last thing that I remember is my friends hovering over me as the cheetah lay limp in the distance.

CHAPTER 7:  

“Please wake up, please wake up!” Flame begged. He had used a coconut leaf and some cobwebs to stem Mistyclaw’s bleeding, but she still wouldn’t wake up. All of a sudden, Mistyclaw’s eyes opened a little bit and she took in one ragged breath. They helped her move into the shade of the coconut tree. Soon, they all fell asleep again. 

“So, we have one more day of hard traveling and then we get to go indoor skydiving!” Flame said. Mistyclaw was feeling well enough to travel, and had taken off the coconut leaf bandage.

They left the desert and came to a place that was frosty, cold, and full of ice. Wham! A ball of snow hit Flame in the face. He looked around to see if there was any danger, but all he saw was Nightstar trying to hold in his laughter. Flame smiled. If Nightstar wanted to have a snowball fight, he would have it. Flame carefully sculpted a snowball and rolled it in the snow until it was as big as half of his body. 

“NIGHTSTAR! MISTYCLAW! LOOK… OUT!” Flame flung the snowball at Nightstar and Mistyclaw who were conveniently standing together to save heat. The snowball broke apart and sent huge chunks of snow flying everywhere. Mistyclaw and Nightstar were completely buried! After the two climbed out of the snow, they were going to start walking  again. All of a sudden, a low growling noise came from inside one of the caves behind Flame.

 “Oh no…”   

CHAPTER 8: MISTYCLAW

I knew it. They were wolves. They could tear our scales, just like cheetahs. I don’t know what I was thinking. I slowly approached the wolves. All of a sudden, they leapt. I jumped over some of them. One of them was just begging to be bitten. I sunk my teeth into that piece of fox dung. He dropped to the ground. Dead. The other wolves of the pack reared on me. My friends lept on them, holding them back. I knew they wanted to protect me. Suddenly, a huge wolf stomped out of the cave. The other wolves ran back into the cave. It leapt on my friends. 

I couldn’t do anything. I had to watch my friends get tortured. I felt so heartbroken, seeing them get beaten, while I had to lay there, watching the whole story unfold. After what seemed like hours, the wolf left my friends alone. They were battered, bloody, and scarred for life. I took them to the nearest hospital, which was 45 minutes away. By then they were barely breathing. I didn’t know if they’d survive.

CHAPTER 9:

Mistyclaw was sitting by the lake. The water was cool and refreshing. She dipped her talons in and out of the water. Every now and then, she licked up a couple drops of lake water. Her shoulder hurt, and she was very tired. On her shoulder, there was a layer of pink, fresh skin, where new scales had not grown yet. 

 I wish that my friends were here. I feel so bad about what happened, and even worse, it’s all my fault! Mistyclaw thought. A few tears fell from her eyes. Mistyclaw closed her eyes, and soon she was asleep. The sun was setting, and the glow of the setting sun shone on the lake, making it sparkle.

CHAPTER 10:

Mistyclaw went to visit her friends at the dragon hospital. She went to Flame and Nightstar’s room.

“How are you feeling? Are you okay?” she asked them.

They both said that they were fine, and that they were getting better. Soon, my friends were out of the hospital and they were healthy dragons again

 “Hey, we still need to go skydiving! I’m well enough! How about you, Nightstar?” Flame said.

 “Yup! I’m alright!” Nightstar said. 

The skydiving center was only thirty minutes away now. They three friends managed to make it to the center without getting into more trouble. 

“We’re finally here!” Flame shouted. 

CHAPTER 11: 

The dragons put their gear on and listened to instructions. Then they stepped into the tube and went flying. 

“Woohoo!” Flame shouted. Nightstar and Mistyclaw just smiled. Sure, this was really fun, but the adventure that they had together was even better. 

LEARN ABOUT THE CHARACTERS:

The Heist

The dark clothed figure walked up to the steel gate. The two guards standing in front of the gate, bathed in moonlight, crossed their large rifles in front of the figure. 

“Hold it right there mister,” one of the guards said. They didn’t notice Chase hiding in the bush on the side of the pathway, stealthily pointing his stun gun at the left guard. 

“In position?” Rana said into the coms in Chase’s ear. 

“Yes. Are you ready?” Chase replied, glancing over to the small dark haired, Asian girl in the branches of a tree across the path, also pointing a stun gun. 

“Yes,” Rana replied. Kane, the boy at the gate, produced a small yellow card, handing it to the guards.

“They’re about to notice the fake,” Chase whispered. 

“Shh,” Kane whispered into the coms, “Three, two, one, fire.” The sound of both Rana and Chase’s stun guns going off sounded through the pathway up to the gate. Both of the guards went down. Rana and Chase rose from their hiding places and started towards the gate of the Vault. 

Kane grabbed the real card off of the guards kevlar vests and inserted it into the lock at the gate. The gate opened and all stood to the side of the gate raising their stun guns and waiting to see or hear if they had tripped the alarm. Helen, a taller, red haired girl slunk towards the wall at the side of the gate. Helen scaled the wall and towards the camera, she opened the information card in the camera and inserted a new one, loaded with viruses. 

One by one, they walked stealthily through the gate, into the Vault. 

“You’ve got an hour to pull off the heist or we’re taking the stealth chopper out of here,” Rider said through the coms. “I’m still trying to convince the pilot that this is a good idea.”

“You said it yourself,” Kane replied. “You were the one who tried to convince us that this was a good idea.”

“You still want revenge, don’t you Kane,” Rider said back. Kane didn’t have a reply for that.

“We all want something out of this,” Chase said, ending the conversation. They headed to the side entrance that they had found through their inside person. 

“Is the loop for the camera feed ready,” Helen asked quietly. 

“Yeah,” Rider replied from inside the helicopter. They headed inside and worked their way through the complex. The maze of hallways confused all of them, but Rider managed to keep their team steady as they worked their way through the complex. 

* * *

Dylan Hart was having a bad day. He was the head security manager of the Vault, a place where the authorities stored the worlds hardest to find blueprints, prisons, banks, you name it, the blueprint of it was here. It had some of the world’s best cameras, guards, and maybe not the best security manager. On the way to work, he tripped and hit his head on the concrete. Of course, his boss, X, leader of the Empire, had forced him to continue on with work. His headache was incessant from his fall, as well as watching nothing happen on the security cameras. Nothing ever happened. Ever. 

But, Dylan wasn’t complaining. He was paid very handsomely for doing nothing. But, he always had to keep looking at the security cameras. The last security manager was blown to bits by landmines in the doorway of his house for failing X. X was very harsh and if you messed up around him, you paid the price. 

His eyes fluttered closed as he reached extensive boredom, and sleep found its way into his tired and sore mind.

* * *

As the different team members of the heist went their separate ways, Chase made his way to the actual vault part of the Vault. Helen had gone into the security room and hooked up more bad footage. Rider had stolen electronic versions of as many files as possible. Rana was in the server room and working on the servers, and Kane had gone ahead to scout the way for Chase.

“Everybody in position?” Chase asked through the coms. “Is it clear for me to grab the blueprints?”

“Yes,” the team all chorused quietly in unison. Chase quickly made his way up the long hallway, avoiding the lasers and cameras and got to the titanium double doors leading into the Vault.

“Do you have the code, Rider?” Chase asked.

“Yes. It is 3417-A49D-CV21. Do you have that?” Rider replied.

“Yes, on it,” Chase said, putting the long string of digits and letters into the machine. It made a beeping noise and slid open. Chase slid inside and looked slowly around the room, awe spreading throughout him that the rumors of the Vault’s reputation were true.

“Whoa,” Chase said. 

“Stick to it, Chase,” Kane said, “We don’t have all day.”

Chase looked around before grabbing the blueprint they needed: the safest bank in the world. He also snagged as many other blueprints as could fit in his arms and satchel.

Chase almost dropped all of the blueprints as Helen, in the security room said something into the coms. 

“What did you say, Helen?” Chase asked.

“I said, ‘I think we might have a problem’,” Helen replied.

* * *

As Dylan Hart’s eyes fluttered open, he looked up to see a tall, red haired girl hacking his security monitor.

“What the hell,” Dylan said. Helen turned around, her face paled before she said, “I think we might have a problem.” 

Dylan reached into his back pocket and pulled out a Glock 17 handgun and pointed it at Helen. 

“What are you doing here and give me a reason why I shouldn’t gun you down.” Dylan said menacingly. Helen raised her arms, while saying, “I said, ‘I think we might have a problem’.”

“Who are you talking to, miss?” Dylan asked.

“I –” Helen started to say, before dropping to the ground in a defensive position. Dylan fired his gun at the place Helen had been, but Helen had already risen up and punched Dylan in the stomach. Dylan fired one more shot, blindly, before clutching his stomach in pain. The bullet seemed to travel in slow motion, to Helen, before burying itself in her shoulder.

Helen screamed in pain before launching forward and trying to grab the Glock 17 Dylan had dropped. Dylan also tried to grasp the handgun and they both got their hands around the gun.

“We have caught a heist team in the act,” Dylan said into his coms, alerting the rest of the security team that there was a heist going on. 

Alarms blared throughout the building and Helen kicked Dylan in the chest, before snatching the Glock 17 away from him. Dylan staggered back as Helen cocked the weapon and aimed it at Dylan’s head.

Dylan held his hands up in surrender, realizing that there was no way out of this. Well, maybe there was.

Two security guards rushed up the stairs to the security office, right before hearing a bang. They readied their rifles and got ready to blow open the office door.

Helen readied the Glock 17 and then the door blew open off its hinges.

The two security guards rushed inside to find a tall, red haired, American girl pointing a pistol at the head security manager’s head. The walls of the office were scorched from the blast and the two guards pointed their AK-47s at the girl.

“Stand down, both of you,” the first guard said.

“Drop your weapons and put your hands in the air,” the second guard said, quickly after the first. “You’re under arrest.”

The first guard moved toward Helen with handcuffs, while the second maintained his AK-47 on Helen.

The handcuffs bit into Helen’s skin as they clamped around her wrist. Things kept getting worse and worse.

* * *

Chase was getting worried. Helen had not responded to his couple of tries to see what was going on and he had heard the gunshots. Then, finally, Chase got a response from Helen.

“Code 9,” Helen said into the mike. “Co-.”

Helen was cut short when Chase heard the microphone being taken away and smashed. 

“Guy’s,” Kane said, “Helen’s been captured. We need to go. NOW.”

Chase grabbed the blueprints and started to run out of the complex.

“What about Helen,” Chase asked.

“She’s not coming back, Chase,” Rana said. “They’re going to interrogate her.”

As the remaining members of the heist team made their way out of the building and to the stealth helicopter, Helen was struggling as she was forced into the back of a military vehicle.

As Helen pressed her face against bars of the cage she was in, she saw, through the barred window at the back of the vehicle, the team rising into the sky in the stealth chopper.

“Don’t let them break you,” Chase said through the back of the helicopter. Helen wished she could respond, but the gag in her mouth prevented her.

Don’t let them break you.

A year earlier:

Chase walked down the hallway of the science building of his high school. The Empire had taken a lot from him when he was young. His father. His mother’s money. Their home. It had been rough, so when an adult asked him if he wanted to join a group of rebels against the Empire, he was ready to accept.

Chase went to the rebel’s hideout to find a bunch of other teenagers. They said that they had been trying to find someone who could steal and they also knew that Chase could steal. And he did it a lot. 

The reason that they needed someone who could steal was because they needed a lot of money to take down the Empire. They were going to steal the money from the most secure bank in the world to show them that the rebels had teeth.

Chase was the last person for the heist. Rana, Kane, Rider, and Helen were the others that Chase quickly got to know. Helen was the climber and the camera person. Rana had the guns. Kane was the scout and the decoy, and Rider was the control, pilot and computer person. The last piece of the puzzle was Chase, the thief. The one who actually stole the thing.

Chase was tasked with stealing the blueprints from the Vault, one of the most secure places in the world. It housed the blueprints to the most secure bank in the world so that Chase and the rest of the gang could steal it.

They practiced working together on fake banks and real ones.

Rana and Chase shot the dummies with their guns. They had been practicing for a week now, getting a feel for the gun. The bullets rammed into the dummy’s heart and head. They practiced on moving and stationary targets to get used to the guns they would be carrying for the heist. After two hours of work on the firing range they got ready to practice on a real bank. After taking out the guards and hacking bad feed into the cameras, they were easily able to unlock the locks and take the money. Hopefully their good luck would hold up against a thief’s nightmare: the Vault.

 As he worked more and more with the group, he found that they were becoming the family he had never really had. They became his closest friends, so when it came the time where they were going to steal the blueprints, he was ready.

Now:

Helen was being driven in the back of a military vehicle. The vehicle bumped and jostled around with Helen in a cage in the back. She was repeatedly thrown against the walls of the cage as she tried to keep track of where they had gone. After a while, she gave up trying to escape and tried to fall asleep, but Chase’s words continued to echo through her head denying her the opportunity.

Don’t let them break you.

* * *

Chase awoke with a start. He had fallen asleep in the helicopter and had been shocked awake by nightmares of what might have happened to Helen. She was probably enduring torture to keep the information of the rebels out of the Empire’s hands.

“We’re landing,” Rider informed them as the chopper touched down in the rebel’s base. The remaining members of the team got out of the helicopter and walked down the ramp, onto rebel soil.

“Where’s Helen,” Commander Sloane asked, his dark colored hair, and blue eyes piercing the area as he walked up to the heist crew.

“She didn’t make it out,” Rana replied grimly.

“She wasn’t killed though, only captured,” Kane said.

“We need to get her back. The Empire will torture her trying to find us,” Chase said.

“Chase, how would we find her?” Commander Sloane asked.

“We would search all the files to find the prison she is in. We have to,” Chase said desperately. 

“We all know you want Helen back, but it would be too risky,” Commander Sloane said. Chase threw his hands in the air and stormed off to his room, slamming the door behind him.

“Uhgg!,” Chase said. Chase ran his hands through his hair angrily. He sulked on his bed frustrated with how the heist went. After an hour sulking in his room, he heard a knock on the door.

“Come in,” Chase said. It was the rest of the crew.

“Hey,” Rider said. “We all know you like Helen, so we’re going to help you break her out.” 

“I like her, but I don’t like her like her,” Chase said, his face turning pink.

“Whatever you say,” Kane said.

“Well, anyway,” Rana said, glaring at Rider and Kane, “We’re going to help you break her out.”

“Really?” Chase asked.

“Yes,” Rider said.

“Let’s do this,” Chase said. “Do you have the location of the prison Helen is being held at?” 

“No, but we do have the files that might get us the coordinates.”

* * *

Several hours, and a lot of research later, Rider had found some coordinates that might lead to the prison. On the maps, it didn’t show anything, more proof that the Empire was hiding a prison there. They planned to covertly steal a stealth chopper, then fly out to investigate. Commander Sloane, a fatherly figure to the heist crew would say it was impulsive. Probably because it was.

They snuck out at 10pm together, and loaded up the helicopter. They all got in and started the engines. The helicopter took off into the sky, with furious guards yelling threats from below.

While they were in the air, they realized that they had left the blueprints from the Vault in the helicopter. As Chase was sifting through them, he found a prison blueprint. It might not be the one we need, Chase thought, but at least it was a prison layout.

“You’ll want to get some shut eye,” Kane said. “It’s almost 1am.”

“I’d say the same to you, Kane,” Chase replied, slowly closing his eyes.

* * *

A long time had passed since Helen had seen the sky. After being taken out of the vehicle, she had been forced into a small prison cell. They had left her there with nothing for almost a day now. 

Helen screamed at the walls. She heard a noise coming from the door. She whipped around, the dark shadows under her eyes becoming apparent to her captors.

“Come here,” someone said outside the door. Helen immediately walked away from the door. 

“I said ‘come here’,” the person said, more forcefully this time. The shadow of a gun crossed the floor. Helen, raising her hands, walked to the door, fear, smothering her features. A bag went over her head as soon as she came in reach of the person outside the door. 

Helen was dragged out of the cell and ushered down the hall struggling with her captors. She was pushed into another room and she heard the sound of a lock being put into place. She was forced into a chair and felt her arms being bound around the back of the chair. The bag was lifted off her head and her eyes protested as the massive lights in the room blinded her. She could make out through her squinting eyes, a person standing in front of her. As her eyes adjusted to the bright light, she could also see a bucket of water, and a cloth.

Dammit, Helen thought. A torture chamber. 

The man in front of her said, “Are you a rebel? Answer correctly and we won’t torture you. Answer wrong, and we will.”

“No,” Helen replied, doing her best to sound convincing.

“Wrong answer,” the man said. The man standing in front of her dipped the cloth into the bucket of water and pressed it against her nose and mouth. Helen fought for oxygen trying to get the cloth off her face. 

She coughed, but the cloth trapped the cough in her lungs, preventing her. Her lungs, face, and body burned, and just as the world started to black out, the cloth tore away from her face.

Helen hacked and coughed, before breathing in air. Sweet, sweet, air.

“Answer wrong again, it’ll happen again,” the man threatened. “Where are the rebels hiding?”

“Somewhere near the coast of the north eastern part of the continent that was originally called Africa,” Helen lied. The man punched her in the jaw, sending pain shooting through her head. 

“Don’t lie to me. It will get worse every time.” The cloth went over her face again, and Helen fought again to breathe. Water entered her lungs and Helen struggled, the world turning dim. Helen gasped as the cloth came away from her face.

“She’s not talking,” the man said to someone that Helen couldn’t see. The man nodded before punching her in the face again. Blood streamed down Helen’s face as she fought through the extreme pain. 

“Where are the rebels hiding!” the man screamed at Helen.

“I said ‘Somewhere near the coast of the north eastern part of the continent that was originally called Africa’,” Helen said. The man looked ready to kill her, but stopped, before saying, “Okay. I’ll do just that.”

“I’ll let you go back to your room. Forever,” the man said menacingly. She was forced down the hall and shoved into her room. She heard the lock clicking, then silence.

* * *

The helicopter touched down silently on the grassy plain. Up ahead, a massive structure loomed in the night. Chase, Rana, and Kane slowly moved toward the prison. Rider stayed back at the helicopter, ready to fly at a moment’s notice. The crew made their way to the prison gate. Kane scaled the brick wall and barbed wire, before signaling the all clear sign. Rana and Chase scaled the wall, holding the barbed wire back for each other. With scraped pants, and determined minds, they made their way into the prison.

The hallways were lit with large lights. Kane shot out the cameras with his gun. With no Helen, they had to shoot out the cameras. Chase heard a noise.

Footsteps. Coming from down the hall. Chase motioned for Kane to hide as he and Rana readied their guns. Two guards rounded the corner. Three gunshots went off. One met its mark with Kane being hit in the knee. As he fell Rana shot a bullet at the ceiling light wire, sending it crashing onto the guards.

Sparks flew, with Chase being thrown back by an explosion. Glass littered the floor of the battle. The two guards were motionless, with glass shards sticking out of them everywhere. Rana knelt beside Kane, before picking him up.

“Go,” Chase said. “I’ll get Helen out of here. Kane needs medical attention. He’s losing blood. Fast.”

Rana nodded grimly, before taking Kane and running towards the exit. Chase walked down the hallway, looking at everything down the barrel of his gun. He passed cell after cell. Most of them empty. The ones that weren’t held bodies. He saw people with ragged limbs and hollow expressions. They glanced pleadingly at him. He wished he could help them, but he needed to find Helen. 

He ran past security cameras and alarms blared. He ran and ran looking and needing to find Helen. He heard it before he saw it. The screaming. Helen’s screaming. He went to the door the screaming was coming from. It didn’t have bars, just a steel plated door. He grabbed a lock pick and began working away at it. 

The lock held up, much to his dismay as he continued to work at it. He heard a click and the door swung open. Helen sat on the floor of a bare room. Metal plates covered the cell from head to toe. Chase rushed inside as Helen got up off the floor. She wasn’t screaming anymore. She hugged Chase, crying. 

“We have to go, Helen,” Chase said.

“Yes. Let’s go,” Helen said, regaining her composure. Chase and Helen ran back through the hallways. A patrol of four guards stopped them before they could make it to the exit. The lead guard raised his gun. Before the guard could shoot, Chase shot him, a bullet embedding in his chest. The other guards raised their weapons. Four bullets fired. A guard went down to Chase’s bullet. Chase went down to the three other bullets. 

Pain rocketed through his body as the bullets tore through him. Helen swept Chase up in her arms and ran for the exit, bullets whipping around her. 

She dashed to the helicopter and rolled into the helicopter as it rose into the night sky.

* * *

X looked through the window of the top floor of the building. X heard a knock at the door. 

“Come in,” X said through the face mask covering his face, a synthesizer masking the real sound of his voice. His lieutenant, Hunter, walked into the room, bowing as he entered.

“Sir, a heist crew raided the Vault,” Hunter said quietly.

“What!” X said, outraged. “I thought the place had the best security.”

“We found a culprit. His name is Dylan Hart. He fell asleep watching the security monitors.”

X’s features twisted in anger.

“Send for him now.” X said. “I will have a talk with him.”

“Yes, my lord.”

As Dylan walked into X’s office, he felt a sense of dread wash over him. He had fallen asleep on the job. He knocked on the door.

“Come in,” X’s synthetic voice said. Dylan entered the room.

“You did an amazing job,” X said.

“Really?” Dylan asked, relieved.

“Yes. I will up your pay by 20%.”

“Thank you so much,” Dylan said.

“You’re welcome,” X said, smiling grimly behind his mask.

After Dylan left, X sent for Hunter. Hunter entered. 

“Hunter,” X said, “Can you have the Phantom go after the heist crew?”

“I don’t mean to say that you are incorrect, but Phantom is incredibly expensive as assassins go.” 

“Send for him anyway.”

“Yes, my lord.”

Dylan Hart was smiling. He had not immediately died after the conversation with X so he counted that as a win. He was still smiling when he got gas for the tank. He was still smiling when he got off the freeway. He was still smiling when his car blew up, killing him instantly.  

The Hawk and the Clover

Milton was a hawk who lived in a nest with his family. He had three brothers, three sisters, and his mom and dad. He was different from the others because he had a white underbelly, and he loved humans. The nest where he lived was on the edge of a swamp. Not a lot of humans came to the swamp where he lived, so Milton had to go into the city to see them. In the city, he would go to the windows and spy on the humans. He wished he could talk to the humans.

Deep in the swamp, there was a human. The human had green skin and a wart on her long nose. Milton was flying home one day when he saw this witch. She had a bow and arrow and a dead hawk slung on her back. Milton was horrified and flew away. He didn’t want to get caught by this ugly human. 

One day, while Milton was flying to the city, he saw the witch picking mushrooms. He followed her. He wanted to know why she was still hunting for hawks. He was curious about her because she was not like the other humans. He was scared that the witch would notice him, since she kept turning back to make sure no one was following her. Whenever the witch looked back, Milton would tilt upward so that his white underbelly blended into the sky. 

Milton followed her deep into the swamp, all the way to her hut. She quickly passed through the door. Milton went to the window. He watched the witch put the mushrooms among a collection of items—human ears, frog legs, snake scales, lizard tongues, hawk toes and feathers. Milton thought some of them looked delicious, but others were plain disgusting. While Milton watched, the witch took some mushrooms, hawk toes and lizard tongues, and threw them into the cauldron bubbling in the fireplace. 

The witch looked toward the window and Milton ducked, falling to the ground. He started shivering in fear. He realized that he was in a garden with glowing worms. They looked so delicious. Milton loved shiny things and worms. He immediately got up and started eating every one of them. The worms were so delicious that Milton didn’t realize that he was making so much noise. The witch heard him eating and came out the door and screamed. 

“May the gods curse you for 100,000 years!” the witch cried, pointing at MIlton with an evil glare.

Scared, and not sure of what was happening, Milton tries to fly back home. But he forgot everything that he knew before he was cursed. So he doesn’t know where home is so he couldn’t fly home. All he knew is that he liked humans. He didn’t know what to do after being cursed. So he went back to the city to spy on humans like he always does.

While he is flying to the city he caught a glimpse of his nest near the edge of the swamp, but he doesn’t care about his family anymore. He hates them now. He wants to be near his friends, the humans. 

So he sat on a window sill. Inside there was a girl crying. “Are you okay? Milton asked her. 

The girl turns her head to the window. “Am I hallucinating?”

Milton was shocked as well. How did I do that, he thought.

“Why was today the worst birthday ever?” The girl asked herself. “Now I’m hallucinating. I have no luck at all. I need a four-leafed clover. That would change everything.”

Milton felt very sad for this girl. “Sorry you had the worst birthday ever.”

The girl’s jaw drops. “Are you real?” she asked.

Milton said, “Yes, I am real.”

“Who are you? Why are you here? Why are you a hawk? And why can you talk!?”

Milton replied, “I am a hawk named Milton. I don’t know why I can talk!”

The girl came to the window and reached toward him. Shocked, Milton fell off the window sill right toward the street. Milton had never fallen before. With 0.05 seconds before he hit the ground, he spread his wings and started to glide up. He flies back up to the window sill. He wanted to talk to the girl more. But the girl’s father was there. He suddenly tried to catch Milton. He threw a bean-bag pillow at Milton. 

This time Milton dropped purposely, to miss the bean bag. 

“Who are you?” Milton asked. 

“I’m a scientist. I want to trap you for a DNA test.”

“Sounds not fun.” Milton flew away.

After this encounter Milton realized the two curses. Unluckiness and talking. 

To solve the unluckiness he will need a four-leaf clover. He learned that from listening to the girl. Nothing could solve the talking problem. So he started to head in the direction of a field he knew from his childhood that was very lucky. He had always found shiny things and worms there. He started searching for the clover. 

He searched the whole field. He was unsuccessful. But he needed somewhere to sleep for the night. He searches everywhere and cannot find anywhere to sleep. Luckily he remembers the old swamp. He slept there for the night. He began the search the next day. Then he searched deeper into the swamp. Milton finally found the witch’s hut. The witch was outside her hut. And right on the witch’s doorstep was the clover. 

Milton realized that he would have to fight the witch to get the clover. He took his chances and few at the witch. The witch saw him. She took out her wand and started using it as a weapon, shooting blasts of magic. Milton dodged. 

When Milton was a baby, his mother would tell him stories about their great grandfather who saw a village crowding around a witch who was about to be burned at the stake. Milton knew he needed fire to defeat the witch. He flew away to get a match. 

He found the match in the city and flew back. 

The witch was back in her hut when he returned with the match. This was going better than Milton had planned. He flew up to the roof of the house and lit it on fire. Then he quickly grabbed the clover, lit the rest of the house on fire, and escaped. 

Milton then flew home to reunite with his family. The clover worked. 

When he arrived, he saw the hawks crowding around two graves. He soon realized who the graves were for. His parents had died, looking for him. They got killed by the witch. Milton lived in sadness for the rest of his life. 

The End.

A Crack in the Walls

Chapter 1

You know the feeling that something bad is going to happen? Like you’re dreading every moment of the day, waiting for something to go terribly wrong? Well, that’s what happened to me on August 27.

I didn’t realize something was wrong between me and my friends. We had hung out all summer, having slumber parties and skyping off our computers. We even got matching phone cases. And on the first day, we did our annual 6:00 AM Facetime. That was the moment when they seemed uncomfortable. I was pulling my hair back in an alligator clip, and I saw that both Ella and Emily had hung up on me. I convinced myself that their parents forced them to get off screen, and kept getting ready. 

.         .         . 

“Morning! Are you excited for your first day of school?” my mom asked, balancing a big platter of waffles and a pitcher of orange juice in each hand.

“I guess.” The video call had really thrown me off, and I could tell that today was going to be a horrible day.

“Hey, what’s wrong?” asked my dad, striding into the room with three plates and cups. 

“Nothing, I’m just hungry,” I replied. There are some things I’m too proud to admit, like being a third wheel. 

“Then, let’s eat! Long day ahead,” Mom said. 

I poured syrup over the buttermilk waffles and took a bite. No surprise, they were delicious. Mom and dad made small talk the entire time, but I was zoning out, thinking about what went wrong with my friendship with Emily and Ella. We’ve been friends since preschool, when a kid thought we were triplets, since our names all started with the letter e. We cried for an hour, then hugged, and then said we were triplets. In elementary school, we gained the title “The Three E’s”. Emily, Ella, and Eva. 

And last year, in 6th grade, they came up to me and said, “Eva, we just came to tell you that we’ll always be friends. Some people want to act funny and ditch people, but we know that you’ll always be our person.” And then they gave me a giant hug.

So I didn’t get why they were being weird now. It would’ve been better for them to not show up on my porch with a sign last year. Then I could’ve accepted it. But I just reminded myself that they probably needed to take a device break, as their parents always say. 

I snapped back to reality as mom checked her phone and said, “Shoot. I have to be at work early today. Honey, put on your shoes, I’ll drop you off.”

I went to the front door and put on my shoes, then grabbed my backpack and ran out the door, chasing after mom.

Chapter 2

Mom unlocked the door of her silver minivan, and I plopped down onto the front seat. 

“Hold on young lady, who said you could sit here?” Mom asked, a stern look on her face.

I groaned. “Come on, mom! I’m twelve!”

“Correct. You can’t sit up front until you’re thirteen,” she replied smugly.

I climbed into the backseat and looked at my phone. As soon as I saw my notifications, I frowned. Emily just posted a screenshot of her and Ella on facetime. I sent her a quick text, asking why she hung up on me, and she didn’t respond. Usually, as soon as I sent her a text, she would send me three to reply. 

Mom tilted her mirror to face me, and seeing the look on my face, she said: “You know you can tell me anything, right?” 

“Yes mom,” I replied. She said this every day. 

“Then why do I feel like you’re keeping something from me?” She asked as she raised her eyebrows.

“I’m not, mom. It’s just– Oh look, we’re here!” 

Before she said anything, I dashed out of the car, only to bump into… Emily. 

“I’m really sorry!” I said.

“Why were you running out of the car like a baby?” she asked as she wrinkled her nose.

“Um, no reason,” I replied, looking at my feet. 

Emily squinted her eyes. “It looked like you were avoiding a conversation.”

“If you must know, I had to use the bathroom. I still do, so catch you later,” I mumbled quickly.  

Great. Now my best friend thinks I’m a chicken. I headed to my first class, where, unfortunately, my seat was next to Ella. She was acting the same way as Emily, very judgemental. I thought that was it, that they had just dumped me for good. But then, Ella passed me a note. It said:

Eva–

Meet at the gate at 11 AM if you value our friendship.

This was typical Ella fashion, except I noticed she’d called the gate simply a gate, instead of the ‘Narnia Portal.’ When we were in first grade, we’d found an overgrown brown gate at the back of the school, and because Narnia was our class reading book, we immediately thought that was the way to get there. Even though we knew better, the name stuck, and we vowed to call it that for the rest of our lives.  History class had flown by, and before I knew it, I was standing at the gate with my two best friends.

“So, what’s up?” I asked.

“Look, Eva. We feel like we don’t have much in common with you anymore,” Emily said

“What are you saying?” I asked. 

“If you’ll stop being dumb, we’re saying that we don’t feel close anymore,” Ella rephrased. 

“So…”

“So, our long-lived friendship is over.”

Chapter 3

  As soon as I heard those words, I turned my back on the two girls. I didn’t care what they said next. I didn’t look back at them. If they didn’t want me to be part of their life, so be it. I groaned as I remembered that I shared my second class with both of them. The last thing I wanted to do was be in a class with them, having to watch them take selfies and talk about the things we used to talk about, all three of us. So, I took the long way, going through the stairwells and hallways no seventh grader went to. When I was almost at class, I saw that Emily and Ella had cornered a girl in a wheelchair, and were teasing her.

“What’s wrong? Can’t run away?” Emily sneered, giggling.

“Em, don’t be mean!” Ella said. Hope swelled in my chest. Would she– “She obviously wants to be with us! Here, come on a walk!”

I took my phone out and began recording the whole thing. 

I watched as Ella and Emily wheeled the girl to the stairwell. Then I watched them place her at the edge of a flight of stairs. But when they were about to push her, I screamed.

“STOP! YOU REALLY THINK YOU CAN DO THAT TO A PERSON? SHE COULD HAVE DIED!” My voice cracked. “YOU SHOULD BE SO THANKFUL YOU DON’T HAVE TO RELY ON SOMEONE TO PUSH YOU ON THE STREET! OR CARRY YOU DOWN THE STAIRS! YOU’RE LUCKY! BUT SHE CAN’T SAY THE SAME!” I pointed to the girl. She looked at me, her eyes shining.

Emily and Ella looked at me, then ran off in another direction. The girl, Lisa, looked up at me. 

“Why did you do that? I thought you hated me.” Lisa asked.

“I wouldn’t let you get hurt.” I said

And I pushed her right where she belonged.

August 27th.

The day where things went wrong.

See, school actually started on September 3rd. August 27th was the day when I got separated from my sister. Our parents had died when we were two, and we were both in the orphanage for 3 years. On August 27th, a man and woman came in, looking for someone ‘exceptional’. Then, their eyes fell on Lisa. She was in a wheelchair, but she easily moved around, climbed ladders, and slid down slides. I’ll never forget when they told her she was coming home with them. My own sister giggled. She smiled at them. She didn’t turn back. She didn’t wave goodbye. And that’s how I lost my sister.

I would never forget, but I could forgive. 

Fin. 

My Life With Tourette’s 

Hey, my name is Lester. One thing you should know about me is that I have Tourette’s Syndrome. If you are oblivious to the term then let me explain. Quite frequently I have the urge to move my elbows back. Not all people have that specific tic but mainly everyone’s Tourette’s are unique. I also have Heterochromia. It’s not exactly an obstacle but it teams up with my Tourette’s to make me miserable. If you don’t know, Heterochromia is the condition in which you have two different colored eyes. It may seem like a cool thing but when you have a little social anxiety, it’s a bit smothering with all the attention.

I’m moving to a new school on Wednesday and of course I’m going to be nervous. Who wouldn’t be? I’m afraid of what the new kids will think of me. My sisters say that middle school can be difficult if you have no friends. Well, nothing like a good old fashion entree of atrocious sleep with a side of nightmares. Do you want to know how the nightmare went? Well of course you do if you read this far.

I was running through the forest as a ninja (don’t judge, ninjas are cool and you can’t deny it), when we approached a large lake with a wicked looking axolotl/octopus in it. You know when people usually look at an axolotl they think: Awww, It’s so ugly it’s cute!

Except today it wasn’t cute. Just plain unbearable ugliness. No offense, of course. “It looks like my mom when I forget to clean my room,” joked my dream friend, who of course is also a ninja.

“Ha, good one,” I laughed. I wish I had friends like this in the real world. So you may be thinking: Wait, isn’t this story from your POV? Why did you say real world? Do you know this is a dream? Well, yes, yes, and yes. I know this is a dream. The reason I stay here is because, A. I like being a ninja, and B. I have friends here. I know it seems incredibly sad but, who cares. The other ninjas and I surrounded the creature and took turns throwing shurikens at it. After scratching and chipping away at the monster’s body and patience, it left.

We all sighed in relief, but our victory was cut short by a guttural shriek. I looked back at the lake to see a giant octopus with eyes the size of trampolines rise out of the water. Oh, dear, I thought. That’s not an octopus. That’s the head of a mythical beast! I think incredulously. Oh I know this thing! Oh what’s its name? Kachulu? No, that’s not it. Uthulu? No, it has the letter c in it. Cthulhu! Yes, that’s it! Darn, I’m probably reading too many fantasy stories.

Well, in the book Cthulhu is an immortal being that is a tribrid between an octopus, man, and a dragon. You know what, I’m going to bail before things get ugly. I pinch myself for eight seconds, and surprise, surprise, I woke up.

It was seven A.M. on Wednesday, The day of dread. Yay. Darn, I should’ve convinced mom to let me stay homeschooled this year, I thought. Well, there’s no award for the most regret in thirty seconds, so I should probably get dressed and eat breakfast. Luckily, my mother laid my outfit out last night for me to wear. I got on my clothes and headed downstairs. When I got to the kitchen, I saw no evidence that someone was here so I guessed I was the only person up. I knew my father would come down soon so I just started making a fried egg with toast. I got a pan and put it on the stove. I sprayed cooking oil on the pan, then proceeded to try to crack the egg. It was a bit difficult to crack the egg on the pan as I kept ticing and dropping the egg. Luckily after three eggs, I finally got it in the pan. I then grabbed a slice of toast and lodged it in the toaster oven. After five minutes of waiting for both to finish, I put my meal on a plate and headed to the table to eat. The meal was delicious but it was all the more better knowing that I made it.

As predicted, my father appeared through the doorway wearing a button-up shirt with a tie and some nice brown pants with a belt. He was also carrying a briefcase that he briefly set on the table to get breakfast. He was on a call so I knew not to bother him. I ate my breakfast in silence as he scoured the fridge, phone wedged between his head and his shoulder. He found some leftover pasta from last night’s meal and ran to the door. He opened the door and walked through but before he could close the door, he peeked his head through the doorway and said, “Good morning, Lester! I’ll see you after school!”

Just like that, my dad’s car whisked out of the driveway and headed towards the street. That’s going to be me soon, I think gloomily. As I finish up my breakfast, I take a glimpse of the clock. Half past seven, I thought. I should probably get packed and ready for school. I put my plate and utensils in the dishwasher and headed back upstairs to brush my teeth.

After a firm and steady two minutes of brushing, I washed my face and headed back downstairs to go to school. I packed my school bag with all the necessary supplies with my water bottle and lunch money. I grab a helmet and get my bike. My school was only a quarter of a mile away from my house, so it wasn’t a hassle getting there. As I rode my bike all the way to school, I saw a lot of people talking and socializing in the school courtyard. I saw a few students glance at me, then whisper to their friends. I could already tell what they were saying, Oh my gosh, look at that freak riding his bike!

I try to ignore the looks, yet a part of my brain is already contemplating how much I’m going to be laughed at. Well, no point in attempting to see the future if you live in the present. Fortunately there was a biking rack where I could simply set my bike down. Unfortunately my tourettes were making it extremely difficult to set it down because I would always move my elbows back and drop the bike. I could already imagine what I look like right now, flailing my elbows while others laughed and mocked me.

After an agonizing ten minutes of embarrassment, I finally got the bike locked in the rack. I made my way to the courtyard where all the other kids were. I had a few people walk up to me. “Woah dude, cool eyes,” they’d say. I’d mutter a “thanks,” and then walk away. I found a nice cozy corner where I could just mind my own business. Ring! Ring! Ring! The noise was a little obnoxious but at least it caught everyone’s attention. We all clustered together to get through the door. This is where my Tourette’s became an issue. Every two minutes I’d hear a “Hey, who elbowed me?” 

Oh shoot, that was me! I’d think. After squeezing through the doorway, (with little casualties) I got a first glimpse of the monotonous school. The principal’s office was just to the right, with pictures of every teacher. Everything here was out of a picture show, the walls were white and the floor was marble black. The only thing with color here was probably my beige school bag.

I saw all the students head towards a stairwell with, you would not believe your eyes,  navy blue stairs! As the other students and I headed up the stairs a girl with rich brown hair approached me. “Hey, I really like your eyes,” she said.

“Thanks,” I muttered. “I’m Lester by the way,” I introduced myself. 

“I’m Stacy, pleasure to meet you,” she replied formally. We walked in awkward silence for a bit.

“You know,” Stacy started, “a lot of kids here would purposely make a big deal if they had Heterochromia. They’re all attention seeking brats. It’s a nice change of pace to see that you just keep quiet about your condition.”

I soaked her statement in while remaining silent. We were approaching our class now and Stacy and I would have to go our separate ways.

“Alright, well I’ll see you in writing,” I said. She simply waved her hand goodbye, and then went across the hall. Wow, that was the quickest friend I’ve ever made, I thought. For now I have math, and I’m pretty strong in this subject. This should be a breeze, I thought. Although I’m in honors math, and this should’ve been difficult, it was in fact a breeze. I flew through the lesson like a soaring falcon. The lesson mainly consisted of easy algebraic equations, in word problems. Although the other students in my class were having some trouble keeping up. Weird, I thought. Their minds are probably a little rusty from summer break.

After completing the lesson and being assigned homework, I headed onto my next class, writing. I was excited about this class mainly because I love writing, as it’s one of my biggest hobbies. The walk to writing class was a bit long, as it was all the way down the four hundred foot hallway, but at least it gave me enough time to catch up with Stacy.

 I started my walk down the hallway, frantically looking for Stacy. My search ended when I felt a tap on my shoulder. 

“Oh, there you are!” I exclaimed. “I’ve been trying to find you for like, eight minutes!”

“Oh please,” Stacy rolled her eyes. “You were only looking for two minutes.” 

We walked down the hallway discussing how our classes went. I told her about how literally nobody could keep up in math class, and she told me that no one had the slightest idea what they were doing in geography class. By now we were approaching the doorway to writing class so we stopped talking. When Stacy and I walked into the classroom there was a U formation of the desks. 

The seats had our name on it, and unfortunately, Stacy was across the classroom. We began our first unit, poetry. Now, I didn’t exactly hate the subject but I didn’t love it either. Judging by the looks of my fellow classmates, including Stacy, they didn’t like it either. The lesson consisted of writing any type of poem, and then submitting it to the teacher to get checked. Let me take this time to tell you that the teachers here were brutally honest. They didn’t hesitate to tell you that your work was trash.

This made me all the more determined to have a good poem. The poem I’ll be doing is a haiku. I wrote for around ten minutes just figuring out how my words would correlate with the  strict five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables. Here’s how it goes:

Summer Haiku

I jump in the pool

Summer vacation is great

I love the summer

I know, I know. A tad bit lazy but it’s still pretty good. At least I think so. Now time to face judgment. I walk up to where the teacher is sitting. When the teacher saw me she said, “Hello, what do you have for me?” Her tone was firm yet a hint of malevolence was there. I gave the poem to my passive aggressive teacher. Her eyes scanned over the paper most definitely looking for mistakes.

When she turned back to me she said, “Hmph, that’s the best one all day.” I had a feeling that she said that in a bad way. As if everyone else’s paper were so bad that when a half-decent poem is submitted, It was the best one yet. I ignored the feeling and sat down back at my desk. For the remainder of the class I just wrote a story. The story was about my dream and how I was a ninja.

When I looked up from my notebook I glanced at the clock to see that the class was over, and everyone was packing up. Our next subject was art. Our lesson was about painting modern art. I drew a picture of Cthulhu, the beast I saw in my dream. I painted the lake and the octopus head rising from the water.

When our teacher came over and examined all of our paintings, She gaped at mine. “Oh wow,” she praised. “That’s fantastic!”

“Thanks,” I muttered.

When I finished my painting, I thought that it looked pretty good. I captured the reflection of the stars on the water pretty well. I went out into the hall to put my painting on the drying rack. When I walked back into the classroom, I saw that everyone once again was packing up. I knew that our next period was lunch so I began making my way towards the cafeteria.

I had my lunch money in hand right now so I could get a salad, or something else nutritious. I saw Stacy waiting at a table. I walked over to my new friend and sat down.

“That line is crazy,” Stacy stated. “A bit obnoxious, don’t you think?”

“A little bit,” I agreed. “I’ll wait for the line to die down before I get lunch.”

Stacy and I waited while chatting about classes, strict teachers, and ridiculous classmates. When the line died down Stacy and I got up to go get lunch to be stopped by a tall kid. I swear to the grass below my feet, if this guy seriously asks to take my darn money I will-

“Give me your lunch money nerds,” he says in a cocky voice. Stacy looked him up and down before bursting out laughing.

“Lunch money! Oh my gosh James, do you not read any books?” She laughs. “Because that’s the most cliche line I’ve ever heard. You’re so yesterday, kid. Get a better line!”

I feel a bit uncomfortable as Stacy brushes past him gracefully, takes my arm, and yanks me over to the food area. Stacy was still hysterically laughing, so I took the chance to get a Caesar salad with croutons, carrot strips, and cucumbers with Italian dressing on top. Stacy got chicken tenders and fries.

We headed back to the table and enjoyed our lunch talking about weird dreams. I told her about my dream about Cthulhu, and she explained that once in her weird dream she was talking to salmon about sushi. 

We finished up our lunch just as the teachers told us to go back up to class. For the last period, I had science. We began talking about chemistry and chemical reactions. It was also cool because I got to use beakers and different elements! I mean, who knew that if you added potassium iodine, hydrogen peroxide, and dish soap you’ll get an awesome foamy reaction!

I kept adding elements until the stereotypical science explosion blew up in my face. Who knew that if you added potassium permanganate with alcohol you’ll get an explosion! It was a tad bit embarrassing but mainly everyone wanted to know what combination I used to get the explosion. I finished that class in a hurry with a lot of homework. I only then realized that the school day was complete. I stuffed all of my homework into my large bag. And when I put my bag on, It was the actual equivalent of fifty pounds! As I took out my bike from the rack, dropping it frequently because of my tourettes, I got on it and peddled home. As I approached my house I thought to myself,

Maybe this school won’t be so bad after all.

Jeremiah’s Musical

Jeremiah had decided to not audition.

“Oh, c’mon, Jerry. Why not? I bet that you would be great at that owl part. I would be so proud of you, and your girlfriend and your mom would be too,” Gully protested as they satin Jeremiah’s owl hole drinking tea.

“Owls in musicals are silly. There’s no time for me to be in one,” Jeremiah grumbled.

“Who told you that?” Gully demanded.

There was a pause.

“The co-director,” Jeremiah muttered in a tiny voice.

“What?” Gully squawked. 

Jeremiah averted his yellow eyes pointedly. Gully marched angrily out of the hole.

“Wait!!! Where are you going?” Jeremiah yelled after Gully.

“The co-director’s house.”

Jeremiah shook his head so hard his feathers flew around the owl hole. “W-wait, don’t you want to finish your tea?”

Gully had already gone in a flash of gray and white feathers.

Jeremiah flew after him frantically, knocking over both cups of tea. He caught a glimpse of his bird friend flying over to the co-director’s nest.

“Uh, hi, director. To what do I owe to the pleasure?” The co-director, a light brown sparrow, asked. His name was Sparsmethius.

“You are dismissed,” Gully said firmly.

“Wh-what? I do not understand.”

“You told Jeremiah that-mmfff!”

Jeremiah flapped his wings over Gully’s bill.

“Um–” The co-director looked at Jeremiah for an explanation.

“Uh, sorry,” Jeremiah said awkwardly. 

“Hey, Jerry, let go! I need to tell him that you are a great owl!”

“No! Come! You need to drink your tea!” Jeremiah wrapped his wings around Gully’s, which was hard because Gully was a large seagull.

Gully and Jeremiah landed back in Jeremiah’s hole. 

“You would be great at that owl part. Really. The co-director is wrong. I mean it. I am the director and I am telling you that you are talented,” Gully said seriously, plucking feathers from his bill.

“No.” Jeremiah shook his head stubbornly. “Sparsmethius had a good point. What type of a bird musical needs a clumsy owl in it?”

“This one, Jeremiah. You are talented.”

Jeremiah shook his head again and pressed a new teacup into Gully’s wing. His yellow eyes filled with tears. “You can go. Don’t worry about me. It’s not like I’m actually good at singing,” he said dejectedly.

“But Jerry . . . “

Jeremiah sat on the couch with a humph.

“Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow at the set, right?”

No reply.

It was the next day. Sparsmethius had been dismissed. There would be no co-director, which made things extra hard for Gully.

“Hey – where’s Jeremiah?” A swan asked as she scanned the stage.

“The bathroom?” A parakeet suggested.

“No, don’t all birds just . . . go in the air?” A pigeon asked.

“Not in the set!” A hummingbird exclaimed. 

Within a second, Gully had flown away.

“Jerry?”

“Mmmm! I’m sleeping! Go away,” Jeremiah protested.

“You are not sleeping.”

“I am.”

“Then how come you’re talking?”

There was a pause.

“Hey, you’re supposed to knock before coming in.” Jeremiah reprimanded.

Gully ignored this. “You gotta come. You didn’t seriously believe Sparsemethius, did you?”

Cough-cough-cough.

“Huh? You okay?” Gully asked, concerned.

“Um. I think I’m sick,” Jeremiah mumbled.

“No. You’re not. You are totally not. Stop faking Jerry, we need you!” Gully said firmly.

“No, actually-sneeze!-I am!” Jeremiah cried.

Gully thrust the thermometer into Jeremiah’s beak. “Oh no – indeed, you are sick! No, no, no. You can’t be! Today’s rehearsal!” Gully yelled, pacing around the hole as if the faster he walked, the faster the fever would be reversed.

“Tell Sparsemethius that he can take the part,” Jeremiah sighed, even though he did not actually want the judgy sparrow to take the part.

“No,” Gully shook his head. “He already migrated to Zimbabwe. I wouldn’t even want him to take the part anyway.”

Gully pressed on the receiver that was lying on the tea-table. “Hello, this is Gully Sea, the director of High School Musical, Bird Edition. Our actor has a fever so… Wait, what? You can’t come? No, no… you are in Africa? What?… You have to!” Gully screamed into the receiver. 

There was a click on the other line.

“The understudy is also in Zimbabwe! He can’t come!” Gully shrieked. He was panicking. “Please, Jerry, please. Please! You have to come!” Gully pulled Jeremiah out of the bed of grass.

“Nooooo…  Jeremiah whined.

Somehow, Gully managed to deliver Jeremiah to the set. All the actors cheered when they saw the snowy owl, but only before they saw his unhappy face, with his wings hanging limply at his sides.

“Are you okay?” A pheasant felt Jeremiah’s forehead. It was hot.

“He has a fever, but he came anyway.” Gully puffed out his chest proudly, not adding in the detail that he had lugged the pessimistic owl to the set completely against Jeremiah’s will.

Another cheer went over the actors as they resumed rehearsal.

Jeremiah choked out the songs, coughs in every beat. Every time he sneezed, all of the singers glanced at him, so he just mouthed the words. Gully could not tell and clapped his wings.

“You are really improving, Jerry!” Gully exclaimed in happy shock.

Jerry did not tell his best friend that he was not actually singing. He did not want Gully to convince him into singing, messing up the whole play as result. He shaped his beak into the memorable songs, flapping his wings. Once in a while he would cough. Then there was a terrible thought. What would he do at his solo?

“Um, can I go to the bathroom?” Jeremiah asked, hoping that the rehearsal would skip over his solo. His plan backfired.

“Okay! We’ll pause for you,” Gully said, skimming through scripts. Jeremiah tried to think of another reason to skip his solo. When he got out of the bathroom, he pretended to faint. 

“Oh no!” Gully cried. “We will try to continue rehearsal tomorrow.”

Jeremiah stifled a groan.

The next day, Jeremiah’s fever was no better. He came to rehearsal anyway, though, and coughed through his solo.

“Oh dear, you were doing so good yesterday!” A red-winged blackbird cried.

“Again. Sing it again,” Gully commanded. A woodpecker slowly backed away, not wanting the sneeze to land on him. All of the other birds were too afraid to do this seemingly rude act, because Gully was in a particularly bad mood. 

“No. I can’t sing it again!” Jeremiah begged. 

Gully sighed and gave in, moving onto a bald eagle. 

“This whole thing is stupid.” Jeremiah exploded. “Birds don’t even go to high school! The human version looked much better.”

“Oh, Jerry. We are trying, and we really want you to get better.” Gully sighed.

Jeremiah launched himself out of his set, flew to his hole and curled there, on his bed, crying angrily. 

The next day there was no Gully to urge him out of bed, no encouragement or kind words. The owl overslept, grabbed a cup of weak tea, and looked out of his hole. For once he longed for his best friend to yank him out of the warm hole. 

Without thinking about the embarrassment and the “I told you so’s,” he snatched up the receiver. Again and again he dialed with no avail. Gully was angry at him, he must’ve been! Jeremiah burst out of his hole and careened to Gully’s nest, the one near the lake. There was a telescope and a fishing net, but no Gully on the balcony. Jeremiah waited with a cup of tea. No Gully.

How stupid I am, Jeremiah thought. Gully must be at the set, directing! 

Jeremiah took off and soared to the set. No Gully! Leaving the anxious bird actors, Jeremiah flew to his hole. Where was Gully! Had he migrated? Or was he wounded and at the hospital?

Oh. There was the seagull, holding a cup of tea.

“Where were you!?” The two birds squawked at the same time.

“You are going to the set.” Gully pulled at Jeremiah. For once he agreed.

“We are selling so many tickets!” A crow announced happily, throwing birdseed in the air. Birdseed was the bird currency.

Jeremiah shook his head. What if he was not recovered by the time of the performance?

“Your understudy has come back,” Gully reassured Jeremiah, “but I bet you’ll be well by then. The understudy will not have to move a feather.” Jeremiah felt like the last comment was a lie. He knew that Gully only wanted to make things better, but he was slightly annoyed that his friend had been faking.

And what about the audience of the musical? He would not get to perform in front of them. Jeremiah found undeserved hate for his understudy in himself. He felt as if he had lost a game of pool. The balls did not roll into the right place at the right time.

“Who is the understudy?” Jeremiah suddenly found suspicion. 

“A sparrow. He had migrated to Zimbabwe, but then came back,” Gully explained.

“Have you ever seen him?” Jeremiah pressed.

“No. I can ask him to come,” Gully said, suddenly feeling rather suspicious himself. Zimbabwe? Who else had been migrating to Zimbabwe?

“Sparsmethius!” Jeremiah yelled. 

“Oh no. No. It has to be a coincidence,” Gully muttered, pacing back and forth. Now that he thought of it, the voice on the other end of the receiver had been familiar! 

“No, I am sure. It’s Sparsmethius, getting revenge!” Jeremiah exclaimed, taking out his lunch box and swallowing a mouse. 

Gully shook his head. “It doesn’t make sense. Why would he apply for understudy? That means he is helping you!”

Jeremiah nodded. “He wants to seem like that, so you can make him co-director again! Or he just wants to take my part. Oh, Gully, I know! He wants to pretend he is the understudy, but he will not actually go if I am still sick. He will let the play down!” Jeremiah yelled. All the pieces were fitting together. 

“It doesn’t matter.” Gully sighed, pulling out a file of scripts from under his director’s chair. “You just need to not be sick and do your part.”

Jeremiah felt angry. The insulting previous co-director was coming back! And Gully did not even care!

Gully was already too overwhelmed to care about a supervillain understudy. The costumes didn’t fit! The scripts didn’t match! He absentmindedly clapped the clapboard. He took a sip of coffee out of his thermos and ate a fish taco. The stage was a few inches too low, the curtain was a foot too high! A supervillain? Pooh. Who cares? 

So Jeremiah practiced his part and made it better, but his cough was still bad. 

“Hachoo! Hachoo!” Loud sneezes escaped Jeremiah’s beak. He was curled on his bed. Scripts were spewed on the floor. The thermometer had unusually high temperatures on the screen, tissues were balled up around the bed. Tea was over-brewing in the kettle, but Jeremiah was too frustrated and sick to go up and get it. He longed for someone to talk to and get his tea for him, so he called Gully. Gully came over and got his tea for him. 

“You’re running late for rehearsal. We need the owl. The talented owl. The owl who you play, Jeremiah,” Gully said solemnly.

“Golly, Gully. Maybe tomorrow,” Jeremiah whispered hoarsely. 

“Why not today?” Gully asked.

Jeremiah glanced over the wads of tissues on his bed. Gully swept them up into the wastebasket, sympathy for his friend.

“Thanks,” Jeremiah whispered. Gully handed him a cup of tea. Jeremiah took it and screwed his eyes shut. It was way over brewed and very bitter.

“Hey. I can bring the tea for you if you come,” Gully tried to help. He only succeeded in doing the opposite.

Jeremiah choked over the gross liquid. “No thanks,” He mumbled.

Gully put the thermometer on the tea-table next to the picture of Jeremiah’s elf owl girlfriend and piled up the scripts that had been under the teacup Jeremiah had thrown. Jeremiah nodded over the tea cup. “You can have the rest,” He coughed.

“It can’t be that bad.” Gully sipped the tea and promptly spit it across the room. Jeremiah pushed the mop towards Gully.

Gully looked out of the hole.

“Jerry! Look, snow! It never snowed in space!” Gully exclaimed.

“Hmm? What’s snow?” Jeremiah asked drowsily.

“Snow!” Gully squawked. “Jerry, you have to see this! I’ve only heard about it.”

Jeremiah glanced outside.

“Wow, Gulls. What is that?” Jeremiah asked.

“Snow!” Gully repeated.

Jeremiah’s energy was replenished with the pretty white powder.

“Could you please come to the set for this rehearsal? You are coughing much less.” Gully pleaded.

“Fine.” Jeremiah was secretly relieved as they flew over to the set.

The birds cheered and threw up their scripts. “Go Jeremiah! Yippee!” A group of cardinals and blue jays chirped.

“Thanks.” Jeremiah tipped the microphone towards him and went through his solo. He had indeed improved.

The bird clapped their wings, clearly impressed. Jeremiah smiled. Some other birds flocked onto the stage. 

“I think I will be better by the time of the musical!” Jeremiah told Gully.

“Uh, good.” Gully fiddled with his feathers. “Um, can I tell you something?”

“Sure,” Jeremiah said.

“Uh, the musical, Jerry, it got… well, moved,” Gully whispered.

“To when?” Jeremiah was suddenly alarmed.

“Well, to… tomorrow.” Gully looked away.

“WHAT!?” Jeremiah screeched. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“No,” Gully whispered. “I’m sorry, Jeremiah.”

“How? Why?” Jeremiah shook Gully’s wings, his yellow eyes widened.

“Th-the day we requested was reserved for the human high school musical,” Gully said, fidgeting with his feathers.

“Why? They think humans are more important than birds? Huh?” Jeremiah demanded. 

“They kind of are. Humans invented the lightbulb. That’s what the theater manager said. Besides, humans don’t like birdseed,” Gully told Jeremiah.

“That’s not true. Dicey Hopskins invented the lightbulb. Did the theater manager even go to college?” Jeremiah inquired angrily.

“Uh, you know birds don’t go to college, either,” Gully whispered.

Jeremiah shook his head, feathers flying on Gully. “You’re lying. You’re joking. No, that’s not possible. I-I’m not ready!” Jeremiah screamed. Many birds looked at him.

“We are ready,” Gully assured him. “The costumes aren’t.”

“Why don’t we just buy costumes?” An exhausted red-breasted robin with pins in her beak asked.

“That’s human stuff. Humans buy everything. Besides, we won’t be allowed in department stores.” Gully responded, shaking his head.

The robin groaned. Jeremiah understood how she felt.

Gully took out a smoked-salmon sandwich and handed Jeremiah a packet of dried mice. “A thank-you present, for doing the musical even though you are sick. Those sunflower seed snack packets here are too small for your huge talent.” 

Gully took a bite of smoked-salmon. Jeremiah wolfed down a mouse. He coughed up a pellet and tossed it into the wastebasket. A blue jay nibbling on sunflower seeds looked insulted.

“It will all be for nothing. What if I forget my lines? What will I do?” Jeremiah moaned in distress, stuffing mice in his mouth.

“You can do it, Jerry!” Gully cried.

“I… am speaking to the manager,” Jeremiah announced.

“Okay,” Gully said distractedly, helping sort the costumes.

Jeremiah thought that Gully should have begged him to not go, to stay and to face his fears. A little part of Jeremiah thought that Gully was not spending enough attention on him. But he left reluctantly to speak with the manager because he said he would. He was afraid, though.

“Hey mister!” Jeremiah called up to the manager.

“Well, hello. What do we have here?” The manager chuckled.

“I have come to ask: why did you switch the performing time?” Jeremiah demanded. He tried to sound intimidating, but that is hard for any bird, even snowy owls. “Besides, humans didn’t invent the lightbulb. A MOUCE did!” Jeremiah yelled.

“Uh, sorry Owl, sir. High school musical is paying more than you bird guys. Besides, many people, even one bird, like the human version better,” The manager told Jeremiah. 

The owl felt embarrassed and stepped out of the manager’s office. 

“Well?” Gully greeted Jeremiah.

Jeremiah did not reply and therefore was even more embarrassed. He decided to talk to the cast of Human High School Musical.

“Hey,” Zac Efron greeted Jeremiah.

“Hey,” Jeremiah greeted back.

“So, um… why are you here?” Zac asked gently.

“I want to ask: why did you take our time spot in the theater?”

“Uh, we needed more time.” Zac looked away and waved his arms, squiggled his fingers at the rest of the cast. Jeremiah was filled with envy. Why couldn’t his feathers do that? Then he glanced at the rest of the cast. They looked ten times readier than the bird cast!

“It’s not fair.” Jeremiah told Zac Efron calmly.

“I-I’m sorry? Why is it not fair?” The confused actor asked.

“Because we are not ready but we have to perform tomorrow!” Jeremiah screamed, annoyed. Zac looked taken aback and perhaps a bit amused.

“I’m sorry, but we, er, have lots of tickets. We have so much pressure,” Zac told Jeremiah.

“How much pressure do you have, huh? How many tickets?” Jeremiah demanded, determined to prove the human wrong.

“Uh, so, we have, like, two thousand tickets,” Another actress said.

“TWO THOUSAND?!” Jeremiah squawked.

Zac smiled awkwardly and ushered Jeremiah out of the set room.

“They have two thousand tickets,” Jeremiah coolly informed Gully.

“What? Who has two thousand tickets?” Gully looked up from his clipboard.

“Human High School Musical.” Jeremiah stayed calm. Gully jumped out of his feathers and looked as if his fish had come down wrong.

“Two thousand!” Gully confirmed with Jeremiah loudly. “Two thousand tickets!”

“Yes,” Jeremiah said. He knew he could never sell that many tickets.

Gully shook his head in amazement and took out some mahi-mahi jerky. Jeremiah smiled, triumphant that he managed to surprise his friend, but perhaps a bit sullen that Gully had paid more attention to some tickets than him. He chewed on a dried mouse. Then he watched a duet sung by a pelican and an ostrich. A Kakapo banged his wings on a piano. A raven slammed her talons on a drum set. 

“The costumes are finished!” The red-breasted robin and a mourning dove cried happily. Many birds whooped as they changed into their costumes. Fluffy, red, off-the-wing gowns, baggy talon jeans, rhinestone belts, winglets and talon sneakers. Jeremiah looked around in a miniature baseball cap. 

Then they did the rehearsal and Jeremiah flew home, grabbing some mice on the way and brewing more tea. He was still coughing, but less. Slowly, he was recovering!

Jeremiah took a fly around the forest for exercise. He did this because he always felt refreshed when he got back; the cool, dewy leaves were calming. He spotted Sparsmethius, playing poker and drinking beer with his friends. Jeremiah peeked over with hate. He knew, he just knew, that Sparsmethius was the understudy! Jeremiah suddenly had the urge to go to the bathroom. But he wanted to continue to spy! So he decided to poop on Sparsemethius for revenge. Unfortunately, Sparsmaethius saw him. Jeremiah flew back to his hole. In the middle of the night, he snuck back to Sparsmethius’s nest. There was a deck of cards, a stove, some crumpled paper, and a long piece of paper. Jeremiah picked it up. It read:

Operation get rid of Jeremiah 

Turn the forest against him. Get the birds to hate him. Get the set to hate him. Get Gully to hate him.

Convince the manager to let the Human High School Musical take the spot the set wants. It worked!

Be Jeremiah’s understudy.

‘Besides, people, even one bird, like the human version more.’  

Jeremiah thought of what the manager said. Then he felt tired and flew back. He passed Gully’s house. There was a letter at the door. Jeremiah started to read it.

Dear Mr. Gully Sea,

I do not mean to concern you, but I have heard rumors of your friend Jeremiah wanting to sabotage the set. I understand that you have complete faith in your friend, but we all know how destructive snowy owls could be.

Sincerely, a friend. Leave a response by the hollowed tree trunk next to the lake.

Jeremiah glanced in the house. Gully was sleeping. Jeremiah ripped the letter in half and tossed the two pieces in the lake. He knew that Spersemethius had written it, because of the handwriting.

Dear A Friend,

I have complete trust in Jeremiah. Thank you for your concern.

Sincerely, Gully

Jeremiah left the note by the hollowed tree. He had a fleet of thoughts about what Gully would think, however Jeremiah felt it was correct.

There was another note in the tree, an hour later.

Dear Gully,

I am amazed and touched by your loyalty to Jeremiah. Could you please think it over, though? I think that the set is really important.

Sincerely, A Friend.

Dear A Friend, I am very happy that you care so much about the play. But Jeremiah is a truly special owl and this concern is not very realistic. I hope you renew your trust for him.

-Gully Sea

After he wrote the note, Jeremiah set down the letter by the hollowed tree. It let off a perplexing bad smell. The owl flew back to his hole.

The receiver rang.

“Jeremiah. Come to my house. Now.” It was Gully. His voice sounded tense with anger.

Jeremiah flew over, afraid of what might happen.

“What is this, Jeremiah!?” Gully roared, holding up the letters.

Jeremiah gulped. “Uh, I can explain . . .” he started.

“No! No, who is A Friend? Are you really going to destroy the set? What?” Gully yelped angrily.

“It’s Sparsmethius.” Jeremiah told his friend solemnly.

“That doesn’t matter. Why did you respond for me?” Gully yelled.

“I was trying to protect myself!” Now Jeremiah was also yelling.

“Why couldn’t you trust me to say that I trusted you?!” Gully demanded. “I was just trying to get my fermented fish that I keep in the hollowed tree trunk and I see… this!” 

“I-I was afraid.” Jeremiah whispered.

“Okay. Well, the performance is tomorrow. You better catch some more sleep,” Gully said. He still looked angry but he wanted to be more responsible as a director. Jeremiah opened his mouth to argue but a yawn came out instead. He sighed and flew back to his hole.

The next day, the set was a flurry of feathers and noise. The robin and penguin buttoned and hooked as all the other birds wriggled into their costumes. 

“Presenting High School Musical, Bird Edition!” Gully cried. The curtain went up and a few pigeons started belting out lyrics. The Kakapo joined in. An hour of singing and high school, and it was time for Jeremiah’s solo.

He looked at the audience but none of his voice came out. He had forgotten his lines in the stress. He was supposed to sing about how owls were good at singing, but he felt the opposite.

‘Owls are great at articulation and stuff like that,’ The penguin mouthed.

“Uh, towels have crates of pickled relations with tufts of rat,” Jeremiah sang meekly. A laugh came up from the hundreds of beaks in the audience. Jeremiah shifted uncomfortably. The penguin mouthed more lines, glancing at Jeremiah’s script.

‘The lyrics just go with their beaks,’ The penguin mouthed.

“The licks just know the beats.” Jeremiah choked out. More laughter.

“Adhesive world we know and eat, but I can tote bag the hue cycle. When my ear the rustic, I fold to trance. Towels we far, and towels we ring, Towels are the tars of the hue cycle! I chart the heat in the grill, I give a like phone, I ring, ring, ring! Towels in my gold just dove drew ring!” Jeremiah whispered, glancing at the penguin for lines. Tears filled his eyes. Gully glared at Jeremiah. The audience roared… with laughter.

Then the play ended. Many people wanted Jeremiah’s autograph, including a famous TikDucker. But Gully pulled him away.

“How could you mess up my play?” Gully asked.

“It isn’t just your play. It’s my play, too,” Jeremiah said, almost tearfully.

“No! How could you ruin your lines? It’s like you did it on purpose! That’s what your ‘paparazzi’ thought,” Gully poured out. He put bitter emphasis on the word paparazzi, almost as if he was jealous.

“It’s not my fault! If you are really my friend, you would forgive me,” Jeremiah defended himself.

“If you were really my friend, you wouldn’t have disgraced me!” Gully cried.

“You’re disgracing yourself right here,” Jeremiah pointed out rudely.

“I get most of the pressure because I’m the director! The paparazzi will come at you.The bad reviews will come at me!” Gully explained impatiently. Soon the birds were arguing.

“Gully, my paparazzi – and everybody else – liked my accidental twist!” Jeremiah was getting very angry. So was Gully.

“Not everybody!” Gully told Jeremiah.

“Well, most people. Because they thought I did it on purpose.”

“You sounded pretty bad,” Gully told Jeremiah angrily.

“Very touching comment from a friend. Or are you still?” Jeremiah asked.

Gully stormed away. Well, that sure answered the question.

Suddenly all Jeremiah wanted to do was curl in his hole, sipping tea and listening to classical music on the radio. Gully was putting away the microphones and costumes. Jeremiah signed the last autograph and flew home.

He brewed tea and cried. Then he flew in the forest and sang out the correct lines. He had known them all along, but had felt stage fright. He sobbed. 

Gully heard him and felt bad. Jeremiah fell asleep in his bed. 

The next day he went in front of Gully’s house, thrust open the door, and sang his solo. Gully grabbed his wing and whispered an apology. Jeremiah looked into the seagull’s earnest brown eyes and fled. An apology! Gully said sorry!

Jeremiah flapped his wings and soared around. Sparsmethius stopped him. Jeremiah expected him to say something bad, but instead he simply said: “You did a good job.”

Jeremiah was shocked.

The sparrow solemnly searched in Jeremiah’s face. Then he flew away.

Jeremiah sipped tea. Then he hunted a bit and practiced his solo for no reason. He felt… good. He thought about everyone. Sparsmethius, Gully, the cast, his mom, his girlfriend. He was proud of himself. He had visited his mom who was at the play and loved it. He had called Juniper, his girlfriend, and she laughed so hard about the messed-up lines that Jeremiah could hear her feathers flying across the room.

I am Jeremiah. An owl. And I am talented, Jeremiah reminded himself, and launched himself into the sky.

The end.

Epilogue

“Three cheers for Jeremiah! Woohoo!” The birds chorused. Penelope the penguin winked at him. Gully smiled.

They were at the cast party.

“Hey Jeremiah. I really liked the play after all. I think you made it better,” A few birds congratulated Jeremiah as he ate fish in a blanket. 

“Wow. Did you know the fourth most viewed and liked TikDucker has your autograph, Jeremiah?” A swan asked. Jeremiah grinned.

“Let’s have a toast to Jeremiah!” Gully exclaimed. Various birds raised their glasses of berry and nut smoothies.

Jeremiah thought back to the play. Maybe it wasn’t so bad after all. He wished he could do it all over again. 

Perhaps he would get his wish.

Family, Books, Life

There’s only 3 things in life that actually matter: family, books, and life. In short, I have just managed to keep all of them. Oh. You don’t know. Okay, let’s start from the beginning.

It had been a long day. I, Luna, had gone to school, gotten made fun of with my best friend, Maya, had a swim meet, and belly flopped off the diving board. So naturally, I went home, took a looooong hot shower, read some books (I love reading), and drank some hot cocoa. As I snuggled up tightly in my pajamas, I saw something racing past outside the window. I figured it was probably nothing. I had no idea how wrong I was. That night, I had a really weird dream. Someone was mumbling-no, saying-something. 

I think they were saying, “Go to the pond of scum. Go to the pond of scum. Go to the pond of scum. Go to the pond of scum. Go to the pond of scum.” By that time, I was already awake. My body was aching for some reason, and even though I slept a long time, I was impossibly tired. Even though I was awake, I could still hear the repeating voice in my head. After school, I went to Maya and told her about the dream. With a hint of laughter, she said,

  “Maybe, they are referring to an actual pond? Or a lake!” With a jolt, I realized that the “pond of scum” is the Pond Scum Lake nearby! I quickly texted my mom and dad, then jumped on my bike and rode toward the lake, wondering what awaited me at the “pond of scum.” I should’ve known it was not good. When I got there, I immediately looked around, trying to find someone to tell me what to do. 

I suddenly heard, “she’s here,” in a raspy voice. I did not manage to find the attacker but then, I got kidnapped. When I woke up, I found myself in front of a large red throne with a masked, hooded figure. 

“Ah, good. You’re awake. I want to talk to you at dinner. 9:00 tonight,” they said, laughing, in the same raspy voice I heard at the lake. 

Before I could interrupt, they called, “Soldiers,” suddenly serious. Some guards appeared and took me by the arms. Soon, I found myself in a cell. It was completely closed off except for a food slot. I sat on the bed, quietly wondering what he wanted to talk to me about. 

At exactly 8:47 (I have a clock in my cell), the guards slowly opened the door just a crack, and said, “Dinner time!”

They then put a sack on my head, and dragged me out. When they finally stopped, I tried to take the sack off my head. Didn’t work. They plopped me on the gold seat, and took the sack off my head. I was amazed at the beautiful, lavish spread of food that I saw. As I looked around me, I saw a beautiful gold table with the man from before. This time, they were wearing a red cloak, a red and green mask, and pitch black shoes. I considered escaping, but there were guards on either side of me. I smelled food. I was starving! 

While I was shoveling food down my mouth, they said, “I need your help. The people are in danger!” They slowly took off his red and green mask. 

“Maya,” I exclaimed, with my mouth full, scared. “What on earth are you doing here?”

A New Generation Of Skulls

Jack Birkenhead Jr. was on his dad’s pirate ship. He heard drunken yelling blasted into his ears. His dad came and shut them all up. His dad went down to him. 

“Are you okay?” Captain Jack Birkenhead asked.

“I don’t know if I can be a captain like you. I don’t know if I can command people like you can. I don’t know what I can do,” he said.

“You know that I will stop being their captain in a few days, son.”

“I know… I just don’t know what will happen. Maybe they will hate me.”

“Are you scared?”

“No, I’m not scared, just—” As he was talking, an enemy ship came up to them.

“Fire the cannons!” the captain said.

“Yes sir!” they replied.

Jack stood there, mesmerized at how his dad commanded respect.

“C’mon,” said a fellow pirate.

Jack ran up to the firing area. He grabbed a cannonball and slowly walked over to the cannons. The cannonball was so heavy he didn’t know if he could hold it. He felt it slowly loosening from his grip. He put the cannonball in the cannon and it blasted him back. He felt like every step was him being tied down on an anchor. He had a headache and stumbled back. He felt like thousands of thoughts were racing through his head all asking him for attention. He felt like his throat was closing up. He barely stumbled back to the safe area. 

“Where is my son?” the captain announced. 

“Back at the rooms below deck!” the pirates replied. Jack thought that if he was a captain, he could never have this power.

“NO!” he heard the pirates screaming. He ran above deck (he wanted to think it was dramatic running, but it was really just a slow limp). When he finally got above deck, he saw his dad, the thing he loved most in the world, captured by the enemies.

“Give us the ship and destroy it or we will keep your captain hostage.”

“No, don’t do it-” yelled the captain, but he was cut off when they knocked him unconscious.

“If he dies at their hands then we will fulfill his last wish. Never surrender!” the pirates screamed. The enemy ship sailed away. 

“You are the captain now,” the pirates said to Jack. “I will get him back no matter what.” Jack said. “Let’s do this!”

Jack felt guilty his dad was captured because of him and he was going to get revenge.

“Can we track my dad?” Jack asked his fellow pirates in their meeting room. 

“Yes and no,” answered their chief tracker. “We can track the ship but we can’t track your dad. We just have to hope that they keep him on the ship.”

“Where are they?” Jack asked.

“They are probably in the crystal cavern.”

“Where is that?”

“That’s where they sacrifice.”

“Bring us there NOW!”
They journeyed to the crystal cavern, but while they were adventuring they encountered the pirates again.

“Blood!” the enemy pirates screamed.

“Give me a sword,” Jack said to his fellow pirates. One of them handed him a sword. (Jack was excellent in the art of sword fighting.) Jack then jumped onto the ship.

“Where is my father?” Jack asked the pirates.

“Why would we tell you? You only have a sword. We have 24 people and we can just capture you?” the pirates responded.

“You have left me no choice,” Jack said. He jumped forward and started to attack the pirates one by one. Jack sliced and diced. He didn’t kill anyone, he just cut their weapons in half and knocked them unconscious. When he had defeated everyone except for the captain of this ship, he put his sword blade to the enemy captain’s throat and asked, “Where is my father?” 

“Below dec—” The pirate was cut off when he saw Jack’s pirates on deck.

“WHERE?” Jack yelled.

“Below deck.”

“Thank you,” Jack said as he threw him off board. Jack and his crew went below deck to find one room locked. He sliced the door in half with his sword. He smelled the fragrance of lavender showing that the most important people on the ship lived in this cabin. He saw a painting of a man and a woman together. On the side of the room, he saw two well made beds and two pillows with a lace trim on the side. The roof of the room was a brownish-green and some parts of the roof were broken. The floor was a sage color. At the front of the room was a mantle piece flooded with different trophies and spoils of war. At the very top of the mantle, he found a golden crown which had a different gem on each spike. 

Jack snapped back into reality. He looked in front of him and saw his dad tied up and heavily gagged. Two men with shotguns were standing near him. Jack instinctively threw his sword at the first man. The man reacted, but not fast enough. The sword pierced him and he fell to the ground. The second man, in an instant, aimed his gun at Jack. Jack started to run but before he could do anything, he got shot and fell to the ground. The second man tried to reload, but Jack’s crew brought him away and back to their ship.

Jack’s eyes fluttered open and saw that he was back in his bed in his room on the ship. He couldn’t believe that he was a captain now. 

“Tsk, tsk,” said the doctor. Jack looked up to see their doctor cutting open his leg. He tried to stay calm.

What would my dad do? Jack thought. He would keep calm because he was a captain and ask what was happening.

“What is going on here?” Jack asked.

“Do you not remember? You went on their ship and defeated all their pirates, but when you went to the room, your dad was in it and you froze and got shot.” 

“We need to go back and save him!” Jack screamed. “Because it is my fault that he got captured,” he said quietly.

“You cannot do anything now,” the doctor said. 

“I need to do something—”

“YOU GOT SHOT! You cannot do anything now unless you want to get killed. You need to heal,” the doctor commanded.

Jack waited there and fell asleep. He slept for 16 hours. When he woke up he still had a wound, but they had finished the surgery and he could move. Jack left the operating table and went to the battle meeting room. 

“Where are they now?” Jack asked as he limped into the room. 

“They are in the delta stream and moving to the cavern,” Brokeon, their tracker, said before he saw Jack coming into the room. “You can’t fight them,” Brokeon said to Jack. “You will just get killed. We have lost one captain today and we won’t lose another.”

“How are they already at the delta stream?” Jack asked.

“You have been out for 16 hours,” Brokeon replied.

I can’t be the captain, but I will have to keep this crew alive until I can get the real captain back. I am a temporary replacement for the real thing. I cannot lead them, Jack thought.

“We need to go to the cavern. Take the beta stream, then switch to the Iota, and after 31 km go to the alpha stream.”

“It seems we have a captain after all,” Brokeon said.

After 8 hours, both of the ships were at the mouth of the cave. They started to fire at each other. Jack and Brokeon jumped off and landed into a pool of water. They quickly ran from the water to the entrance of the cavern. Jack looked into the cavern to see his dad tied up at the back of it. He ran forward even though his leg was injured. The cavern looked unreal. On the floor there were brilliant shining blue crystals. There were potholes and in the middle there was a stream with steaming blue water.

“Leave him alone!” Jack screamed at the top of his lungs. Brokeon tried to calm him down, but he couldn’t do anything. He was carrying a long and bent wooden pole from the ship.

“Use it to hop over the boiling water with it and free your dad!” Brokeon said while giving Jack a sword. Jack used it and jumped over. As he flung himself over he heard a crack and snap. Brokeon then used it. 

“So they can’t get back,” he said. Brokeon knew it would crack. He started to jump over, but he thought he would jump over and be safe. As he was jumping over, it snapped. As he was falling instead of saving himself he took out the last piece of it and handed it to Jack. Brokeon fell into the steaming water. Jack fell to his knees, screaming. He then started to run over to the two men and his dad. To any normal person with an injured leg, after being splashed by boiling water and running on crystal they would fall over and die, but not Jack. Jack was fueled by anger and sadness. He was faster than he had ever been, even with a shot leg, and he crossed the 100 meter gap in a matter of a few seconds. Jack was only armed with a sword and piece of wood, but he was going to save his father. The two men next to his father were the same two men that had shotguns before. Behind the two men was a massive chasm and a drop so deep that no one could see the bottom.

“I see you are the person that stabbed me with a sword,” the first man said to Jack. He had a massive patch on his chest that was bandaged up and blood was seeping through. Both of the men were in fancy clothes. 

“I see you are the person who shot me,” Jack said to the second man. As the man was looking at Jack’s leg, Jack swung the piece of wood and got the gun stuck in it. Jack immediately pulled it back and grabbed the gun. He then smacked the first man in the wound with the piece of wood and backed away. The first man fell into the chasm and now Jack had a shotgun and sword. 

“Your shotgun isn’t even loaded,” the second man cackled. “I knew he was going to die.”

Jack looked at the gun and realized it wasn’t just a shotgun, it was a bayonet. With the bayonet, he cut his dad free while keeping his sword pointed at the second man.

“Why haven’t you just shot me?” Jack asked the second man. 

“Because you remind me of my son.” The second man snapped back into reality and aimed his gun at Jack. By this time the captain was free and had the bayonet in his hand. Jack lunged at the man and pushed his gun downwards with Jack’s sword. The captain stabbed the man’s arm with his bayonet. The man screamed and shot the captain, who fell to the ground. Jack rushed to his side. Jack felt that his dad was alive and before he could get up he felt a cold metal circle placed on the side of his head. The gun.

“It’s over, little boy,” the man said. He was about to shoot when Jack stabbed him in the chest. The man fell backwards but he was still alive. Now, Jack had lost his immediate adrenaline and his leg wound was starting to hurt again. With every step forward, he felt a jolting pain in his leg that stretched up to his chest. The man was also in pain, but was able to shoot Jack’s hand. Jack dropped the sword in the chasm and fell down to his dad.

“Now it’s over,” the man said. Before he could shoot Jack, Jack took the bayonet from his dad and stabbed the man who fell into the chasm. Jack carried his dad and they limped back to the river. Jack saw a bridge made by his fellow pirates over the boiling river. All of them were singing in celebration that their captain was saved and mourning that Brokeon had died.They walked across the bridge and the captain muttered something. Both of them dropped a gold coin in the water to commemorate Brokeon, and got back on the boat. As they were on the bow of the ship the captain said, “Remember you were going to take my place? Well now you did, captain.” Jack Senior and his son, the new captain, both smiled.

From Earth to Mars

On the planet Arth everyone speaks Onglish. This story has been translated to English from Onglish…

“AAAAAAAAAAAAA,” screamed Ethan. It was another one of those coffee floods that happened about once in about six months. I had only lived for six months, but I was getting tired of it. I asked a coffee company, Coffee Mate, if  their coffee contains any harmful ingredients. The bitterness that came from the coffee was really bad. 

I asked my friends, Ethan and Evan if they wanted to come along too and we all agreed. We had to prepare many things such as taking the lizard’s cage out of its place, building a spaceship, having 9,000,000,000,000,000 gallons of oil and having to find a person with an IQ of 194 or higher. We decided to work together on one thing at a time. But after trying to take the lizard’s cage off, we basically gave up on that step until we did all of it.

We found a really good fuel source with 1,000,000,000,000,000 gallons for just a dollar. So we carried out 9,000,000,000,000,000 gallons of fuel with the help of Eddie Hall and Brian Shaw who are the strongest men in the world to help us. So we only spent $9. We bought it in Delaware so there aren’t taxes. We went around the world to find someone with about 300,000 IQ. After about 10 years we found one person with that. Most people would say their IQ is very high but when they got tested the IQ was usually 2 and rarely 3. When we found the right person, we asked him if I knew the basics and principles of building a spaceship. He said that the only metal that could hold together in this cold space is titanium. But in the world, titanium was expensive. So we went to the nearest bank and pleaded for money. After 7 hours of that, we got our first $1000 dollars. We asked Ictor, a smart guy who lived nearby, what to do, and we came up with a very simple solution: steal money from a bank. We got paint guns and wore all black and covered everything but our eyes. This way we don’t need to go to court.

We had brown eyes and I was sure there were at least 7.9 billion other people with brown eyes. I got him some weapons such as axes and swords for protection and getting into the vault. “Where is the big vault with tI $1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (one billion trillion thousand.)?” “Oh, we just need to break everything in the bank down until we find it! Easy!” When we broke everything down we finally found the vault. We tried opening with their weapons but that didn’t work. “Our weapons are too not sharpened!” I told Ethan and Evan. “Good thing I brought my sharpener!” said Evan.

After we sharpened all of our weapons we tried again. The metal easily got ripped by the sword blade. And after almost no effort, the metal was completely open. And then, before his eyes, there was so much money. He loved it.  He got some bags and filled it with money. When they were done, they carried it to the car which was a huge pain. So they found a trolley borrowing center and they took that. They didn’t spend any money on it because the manager let them just take it because they had so much money. So when they brought it to the titanium store, they used all of it. They had the exact money. So they brought the titanium to the smart person and he started building right away. When he was at the last piece the whole thing broke down. 

“NOOOOOO,”  we were doomed.

Suddenly the water fountain beside them exploded and the whole town exploded with water again. Thankfully titanium is coffee resistant, but not thankfully, they had to build the whole ship again. The spaceship took so long to build but now, all of that work for nothing. Later, he realized that only one of the pieces of titanium was too sharp and that is how the thing collapsed. 

“Ten months of working and no progress made,” said Ethan. 

After they figured out the problem and finished the spaceship, they started to put the oil in the spaceship.

“Dum dee doo de da,” sang Ethan. When they finally put all of the oil in the spaceship, they started trying to pull the lizard’s cage off the ground. They called Eddie Hall and Brian Shaw to come over and help. They had to use all their strength to just lift the cage off the ground. After they did so, they went on the spaceship and took off.

9 MONTHS LATER: ON MARS

Evan and Ethan and Ethan were at the beach on Mars and were really relaxed. The calm sea and the red martian soil/sand was really soothing and he never wanted to leave the beach named Red Beach. They were looking at the sea and trying to burn their skin but it was very impossible on the beach because on Mars it was really cold. He was a lot taller than before. After all, he was 6 months old and now he is 25. Also, he got glasses. While he was building the spaceship, something went wrong and now without his glasses, he needs to go very close to see something clearly. They all thought ‘I wonder how it is on Earth. Should we have stayed on Earth, or should we have left?’ The sun was slowly going down and down, and they all slowly packed up and went home and never lived on Earth again.

THE END

The Weeping Willow

Trees are our lungs. That’s what Willow would tell me as we’d lie under the big oak tree out front. Hand in hand, we’d watch the clouds pass and the leaves blow. Occasionally one of us would point to a cloud, calling out what it looked like. The other would squint her eyes and try to see it. I could never see what Willow saw in the clouds. Hi, my name is Grace. Although I was never that graceful; that was Willow’s job. If we were animals she’d be a gazelle, prancing around majestically. Anyways, I’m 11 years old, and I think that if I were an animal I’d be a turtle. “You just need to come out of your shell!” She would say enthusiastically. 

“It’s not that easy. You don’t even have a shell to come out of!” I’d respond. 

Then she’d do a backflip or a front handspring or something, as if to say “Obviously”. She and I had this discussion many times.

This started on a spring day in late May. I woke up early, got dressed, and left for school. I didn’t bother having breakfast. I decided I’d buy a granola bar at the newsstand on the way to school. Of course, I forgot that they closed down the stand that weekend. After a breakfast of disgusting lime flavored yogurt from the cafeteria, I put my bag in my locker and made my way to homeroom. My teacher was droning on and on, and I was so tired I fell asleep right there on my desk. She had to wake me up, and by the time I realized what had happened the whole class was laughing at me. I hate being the center of attention. To make matters worse, Alyssa, my arch-enemy, started telling everyone. 

After English, Math, and Spanish, I made my way to gym class. I was crossing my fingers that we’d play dodgeball, because there’d be so much chaos I could waltz over to the girls bathroom when Ms. Jones wasn’t looking and spend the period reading instead. Instead, we played soccer, and she made me the goalie! Lunch, which followed P.E., wasn’t much of an improvement. I spilled a sloppy joe all over the front of my shirt, and by the time I had walked through the door of my bedroom I was exhausted, not to mention I had stains on my shirt and my hair was a mess. I changed into sweatpants and a t-shirt, then collapsed onto my bed.

I stayed in bed until my mom called me for dinner. I trudged over to the table and sat down. I started eating my pasta and my parents exchanged a glance. “Um–is there something wrong?” I asked, hesitantly. 

My mother sighed. “Sweetie, we know that you’ve been having a hard time at school this year.” 

Of course I have! I thought, but instead I just nodded. 

My dad cleared his throat and continued. “We think it would be a good idea to give you a fresh start.” I didn’t say anything, but I started fantasizing about what it would be like to go to school away from my tormentors, Alyssa and her group of followers.

I took a deep breath and said, “I’ll think about it, but I think it would be nice to go to a different school next year.” 

My parents exchanged another glance, and my dad spoke up. “Gracie, it wouldn’t be for the next school year, it would be for the summer. And, it’s not a choice. You’ll leave the Sunday after school ends.”

I looked up from my food. “Wait, what?? I’m spending the summer away?? Who am I even going with??” 

My mother said “that’s the other thing we want to talk to you about. You’ll spend the summer with my sister, Esme.” I scrunched up my face, trying to remember her from the family gatherings. My mom, reading my expression, said “Oh come on, you know Aunt Esme! She was at Thanksgiving last year!” Finally I nodded, vaguely remembering a  middle aged woman who sat across from me, who asked me to pass the cranberry sauce, and scolded Willow when she spit out her sparkling apple juice laughing. This was not who I wanted to spend the summer with. 

“Well-well- I won’t go! You can’t make me!” 

My dad stood up. “Oh yes you will.” He said, in his most stern voice. “You will have a great time, and you will learn new things.” Without a word, I stormed out of the room.

I ran into my room and flopped onto my bed with a satisfying flop. If Willow was here, she’d sit on the foot of my bed, give me a big hug, and tell me everything was okay. I got up and put my ear to the door. I could hear my parents muffled voices, but I could tell that no one was coming. Trying to be as silent as possible, I walked over to my bookshelf. I pulled over a chair and felt around on the top shelf until I found it. I got down, moved the chair back, and sat down on my bed. Then I started drawing. I had never been the creative one, that was Willow. She’d put on plays, write stories, and sew clothing, while I’d be the stage manager, check her grammar, or let her dress me up like a mannequin. I had always been the one who never spoke, who sat quietly in a corner reading. But when I drew, those pieces of imagination that I thought I had lacked came flowing out. Worlds of color and beauty right there on the page.

                 I could never tell anyone this, though. Like I said, this was Willow’s sort of thing. They’d probably all laugh at me, I thought. I kept sketching in that old composition book until I heard a knock on the door. Quickly, I stuffed the notebook in my pillowcase, right as my dad walked through the door to my bedroom. 

“Hey, kiddo.” He said, ruffling my hair. Immediately I got up and combed it back into place. My dad continued, “I just want to let you know that your mom and I are doing this for your own good.” I rolled my eyes at that. My dad took a deep breath. “Your mom and I have an idea. You can  spend 3 weeks there, and then we’ll come up and if you still want to leave you can, but if you want to stay, that’s also fine. No judgment.” 

“Ok, sure. Well goodnight.” I said, without making eye contact. 

He smiled. “Goodnight, Gracie.”  He said. After that I drifted off to sleep.

The next two weeks of school were a rush of standardized tests, assemblies, field days, and popsicles. Finally, the Sunday after the last day of school came. I sat on our porch, taking in the smell of the freshly mowed grass, the sound of honeybees pollinating, the feeling of the sun on my face. Summer I thought. At precisely 9:33 a.m, a black car pulled into the driveway. 

 A middle aged woman wearing jeans, a black blouse, and fancy ankle boots stepped out, with her hair neatly pulled into a bun perched on the top of her head. 

My own mom was wearing a striped shirt and shorts that went to her knees, complete with dirty sneakers from working in the garden. She wore a sun hat and her hair sat on her shoulders. At first I couldn’t see any resemblance. 

My mom had dark brown hair like me, while Aunt Esme had dirty blonde hair. My mom had tan skin, freckles, and callused hands, while Aunt Esme had pale, perfect skin and perfectly manicured nails. But after they had a tight hug, I could see their identical smiles. 

Finally, Aunt Esme walked over to me and smiled. “Hi, Aunt Esme.” I said hesitantly. 

She laughed, but it sounded forced. “Hi, Grace. Do you need any help with your luggage?” 

I looked at my duffel bag and backpack loaded with clothes and books. “No, that’s ok.” I said. 

After a moment of silence, my mom swooped in and said “Esme, why don’t you come in for a cup of coffee?” I followed my mom and Aunt Esme into the house and sat with them, sipping lemonade as they had their coffee. 

About 15 minutes later, Aunt Esme stood up, brushed herself off and turned to my mom. “It’s been lovely, Rachel, but we should go if we want to get back to my house before noon.” My mom stood up too and walked us outside. I hauled my duffel bag into the trunk of Aunt Esme’s car and tossed my backpack in the back seat. After a series of tight hugs from my mom and dad and reassurance from Aunt Esme, we got in the car and pulled out of the driveway.

The whole drive Aunt Esme and I didn’t talk much, except for “I’m stopping for gas, do you want anything from the convenience store?” 

To which I replied “No, thanks.” Finally, at 12:47 pm (we had in fact been caught in traffic), we turned right and drove up to a two story house that overlooked a lake. I thought about Aunt Esme, all shiny and fancy, living in an old house in the middle of nowhere. I would have thought that she lived in a luxury apartment! 

As if reading my mind, Aunt Esme just shrugged and said “It’s my summer home. Would you like to come see your room?” The guest bedroom, which was where I would be staying, had a big canopy bed with soft pillows and a pale blue bedspread. The walls had white wallpaper with little blue flowers, and there was a white vanity, a white dresser, a white desk, and hardwood floors covered by a pale blue carpet that matched the bedspread. What really got my attention though, was a window seat overlooking the lake. 

“It’s perfect.” I marveled. 

Aunt Esme looked at me and smiled, and was about to open her mouth to say something, but she snapped back into reality.  “Grace, would you like some lunch? I need to go shopping, we can do that this afternoon, but I have sandwich things.” I put a hand on my growling stomach and followed her downstairs. Over a lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches, Aunt Esme told her that they would go to town today to pick up some groceries, and for an “orientation” as she put it. After lunch I got a tour of the house, and then we went back in the car and went to town. 

Millstone (I learned that was the name of the town) was so bright and vibrant. It had cute little shops, and everyone knew each other.  I was once again surprised about where Aunt Esme lived.  After shopping we got dinner and ice cream. We arrived back at the house around 9:00 p.m. 

Aunt Esme worked on an article she was writing while I watched TV and ate candy I had bought from a store in the center of town. 

A little while later I climbed up the stairs. I had unpacked earlier, and I got my sketchbook out of the drawer in the wardrobe that I had hidden it in. I sat down on the window seat and started drawing. I drew the lake, I drew the birds, I drew the trees, and I drew the moon. As soon as I picked up a pencil a calm washed over me. 

The next morning I woke up in the window seat with my sketchbook in my lap and my pencil behind my ear. I was still in my clothes from the day before. walked over to the wardrobe, got dressed, and put my notebook back in its hiding place. I walked down the stairs and into the kitchen, where I found Aunt Esme sitting at the kitchen table typing away on her computer. When she saw me she looked up, closed her computer, walked over to the stove, and put a plate of eggs, bacon, sausages, mini muffins, and even a doughnut in front of me. My eyes widened. I looked up at Aunt Esme who blushed and said “I wasn’t sure what you liked.”

After devouring breakfast, Aunt Esme told me that her friend who lived nearby was going to come over around 11:00 for brunch. “I want you to be on your best behavior.” she warned. Ah yes, the Thanksgiving “Get Some Towels To Clean Up The Mess You Made Young Lady” Aunt Esme was back. I went up to my room to make my bed. After that was done, I walked outside with my new book to look for good reading spaces. After making three loops around the house I decided on a little lawn chair next to the lake. Enough sun that I wouldn’t get cold on the chillier days, and enough shade so I wouldn’t come back to the house sunburned all over. 

I stared up at the trees. Willow would have loved this place, just sitting here writing or doing cartwheels or splashing me, even if I specifically said “Don’t splash me!” I must have gotten lost in my thoughts, or fallen asleep, but before I knew it it was 11:07 and Aunt Esme was calling out “Grace! Come meet Ms. Smith!” Ms. Smith was a tall woman who looked a lot like Aunt Esme. She was the editor for the Millstone Gazette. 

After introducing myself and bringing them some iced tea (“What a polite little girl!” Ms. Smith remarked), I headed back to the chair for my book. I was just about to sit down when I saw a flash of red. 

I whirled around, looking for animals, when I heard an unmistakable crunch of dead leaves. I grabbed my book and suspiciously followed the sound. I came to a patch in the woods, and realizing that there was nothing or no one there I sighed and turned around, when a girl with auburn hair popped her head out from behind a tree. “Hi!” she exclaimed.  I screamed. Obviously not noticing that, she said “I’m Maggie!” 

“H-hi.” I whispered. “Um- I’m Grace.”  

“Cool! Do you live here?” Maggie replied. 

“N-no. I’m spending the summer up here, with my Aunt Esme.” 

Maggie’s big smile decreased a little, but she nodded. “Ok. Do you want to come over and have popsicles?” 

I nodded and said “I’ll go ask my aunt.” 

On the walk over to Maggie’s house, I learned that Maggie was going into 6th grade just like me, Maggie had been the lead in the musical for the last two years, and that Maggie had  two older sisters and one older brother. As they got their popsicles out of the freezer, Maggie asked “Do you have any siblings?” 

I hesitated but said “No, I’m an only child.”

 Maggie nodded. “My oldest sister Sophie, she’s 17, and a perfect dancer, and right now she’s boarding at some fancy ballet school in New York City. She’ll be home in a week though! My brother Sam is 15, and QB on the highschool football team. He thinks he’s so awesome. Really, he just stinks up the house,” she said, elbowing a teenage boy walking past us. She licked her popsicle and said “Wanna go out back?”

I followed Maggie to the backyard. After Maggie took another lick of her popsicle and said “Then you have my 14 year old sister Olivia. She’s Miss. Popularity, cheer captain, she’s been the class president since 6th grade, and she’ll never let anyone forget it. She may seem sweet, but she’s the devil in disguise. Then you have me, Maggie. I have absolutely no athletic ability, but I sing and act and play piano. Last year I got a solo for the school-wide concert! I think that’s why my sister Sophie and I get along so well. We’re both performers. She got into Wellesley, and is going to continue dancing at the Boston School of Ballet.”

 Once I finished processing this information, I asked “Hey, what time is it?” 

Maggie checked her watch and said “11:53 am.” 

I jumped up. “Aunt Esme said I have to be home by noon!” 

Maggie just shrugged and said “Relax, we’ll get there on time! Come on!” Us two girlsjogged back to Aunt Esme’s house. We arrived at 11:58. I waved to Aunt Esme. 

“Bye, Grace!” Maggie called out. I gave a sort of wave and rushed inside. 

Once inside Aunt Esme started asking questions. “How was it? Did you have fun? What’s that girl’s name again…”  After Aunt Esme was satisfied with the answers I had provided, she handed me a bowl of mac n’ cheese. I picked up a spoonful of the cheesy, gloopy pasta, and tears came to my eyes. Aunt Esme turned around and said “What’s wrong? Is it burned? Or should I have not made it al dente?” 

I wiped the tears off her cheek and said “No, it’s fine, it looks delicious, it’s just…” I took a deep breath. “This was Willow’s favorite food. I haven’t eaten it since-” 

Without a word Aunt Esme whisked it away and put it in the fridge. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I had no idea. I’ll tell you what, what if I eat it for dinner?” 

I nodded and said in a quiet voice. “Ok.” 

Aunt Esme asked, “Would you like a quesadilla?” 

I shook my head and stood up “I’m actually not hungry anymore.”  

I trudged upstairs and sat at my window seat with my sketchbook. Even though it was only noon, I felt exhausted. Everytime my eyelids dropped I snapped myself out of it, but I finally fell into a deep sleep. 

I woke up around 2:00 am. I went downstairs to get a snack. Finally settling on some chocolate chip cookies, I sat down, nibbling around the edges. 

After I finished, I went back upstairs and tucked myself in. No matter how much I tried, I just couldn’t sleep. After 3 hours of light sleep on and off, I pulled on a hoodie andgrabbed my sketchbook. As quietly as possible, I opened the door and stepped outside into the crisp morning air. The sun was just rising, and I watched the light bounce off the lake and the leaves.

I walked over to my little spot near the woods, I opened my notebook, and grabbed my pencil. I tried to think of things to draw, but the vibrant colors didn’t spill out like they did the other day. I closed my eyes and turned my head up. When I opened my eyes, I saw the leaves. I managed to sketch every one with veins and details. When I finally finished, I slammed my notebook shut and looked around. And standing right next to me was Aunt Esme. 

As soon as I made eye contact with her I stuffed my notebook under my hoodie. “Oh, um, Aunt Esme!” I said as cheerfully as possible. I continued.“Um, what are you doing? Did you see-” 

Aunt Esme put her hand up. “Grace, I saw you drawing, and you’re really good!” 

I looked down and blushed. “I never meant for anyone to see that.” I said quietly. “Willow was always the creative one. People would laugh at me if I showed them.” 

Aunt Esme looked me straight in the eye. “Grace, am I laughing? No, I’m observing this beautiful piece of art that you made. I bet if we showed this to your parents when they come in two weeks they wouldn’t laugh. They would be taken back by your beautiful art skills. I bet if we showed this to Maggie she wouldn’t laugh. She’d probably call it a work of fine art and put on a play based on it.” I smiled at that last one. Yep, that sounded like Maggie.

“The world needs artists like you, Grace! They need artists like you to show them beauty and affection. They need artists like you to sew the world back together when it’s broken in pieces. So what if Willow was also creative. I think that your parents would be pretty proud to say that they had two smart, creative, adventurous daughters. Now get dressed! I’m taking you out for breakfast at the diner in town.” 

At the thought of breakfast I leapt to my feet, but before I ran back into the house I looked at Aunt Esme. “Thank you.” I whispered. 

Aunt Esme pulled me into a tight hug. “Anytime.” She said, smiling. After a breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes and sausages, Aunt Esme took me to a crafting store in town and gave me $25. “I’ll be in the visitor’s center across the street, since I want to pick up the newspaper. Wait outside when you’re done, ok?” I nodded and ran into the cool, air conditioned store.

I marveled at all of the supplies. It took 15 minutes, but I finally decided to buy a 100 page sketchbook, a pack of charcoal pencils, regular drawing pencils, and even fancy watercolors! I paid and was walking down the street with Aunt Esme when I ran into Maggie. “Hi!” She exclaimed and said “hey, do you want to come over later to swim? It’s supposed to be REALLY hot today!” I looked at Aunt Esme who nodded in approval. 

Around 3:00 I headed over to Maggie’s house and rang the doorbell. A teenage girl wearing a cheer uniform answered the door. “H-hi. I’m Grace, Maggie invited me?”

The girl (who I assumed was Olivia) rolled her eyes, said “she’s out back,” and left, staring at her phone. I walked through the house to the backyard, where I found Maggie running through the sprinklers with a girl who looked like a college student. 

When Maggie saw me she jumped up and said “Sophie came back a day early!” She gestured towards the girl. Sophie walked towards me and introduced herself. After I changed into my bathing suit, all three of us cannon-balled into their part of the lake and swam to the floating dock, taking turns pushing each other off and going down the water slide. It was the most fun I’d had in a while. After 2 hours of swimming,  we raced back to the shore and dried off. 

“So, Grace.” Sophie said “Do you have any siblings?” 

Before I could open my mouth Maggie said “She’s an only child.” 

“Lucky!” said Sophie, elbowing Maggie. I smiled at the two sisters. 

“I should probably go home now,” I said, “It’s getting late.”. 

Sophie smiled at me and gave me a hug. “Sure! Do you want us to walk you there?” 

“No, that’s ok.” I replied simply. “I’m ok.” 

I arrived at home and found Aunt Esme standing outside the door with her hands on her hips. “Where were you?” she asked. 

“At Maggie’s house!” I exclaimed. 

“It’s 6:02! I told you to be back by 5:45! I was scared to death! I thought you had been mauled by a bear!” 

“Well, I’m here now,” I said. “God, Grace,” I thought, “when did you get so bold!”

Aunt Esme rolled her eyes and said “Don’t scare me like that again. But come inside, you must be starving.”

While I ate my spaghetti and meatballs, I told Aunt Esme all about Sophie and Maggie. Aunt Esme smiled. “Seems like you’re having fun up here!” she commented. 

I slid off the chair. “Oh, no. I’m definitely not having fun.”

I wasn’t having fun, but everyday I went swimming with Maggie and Sophie and walked downtown to get ice cream. I wasn’t having fun, but every night I made drawings and showed them to Aunt Esme. I wasn’t having fun, but every night I stared up at the stars, counting every one I could see. 

About a week after Aunt Esme caught me drawing, she had a guest come over for tea. She said that her name was Ms. Martins, and that she was a bit uptight. Aunt Esme also asked that I was on my best behavior. But at least Maggie could come over! Ms. Martins looked a lot older than Aunt Esme, like she could be a grandmother. I served the ladies tea, and then went down to the lake with Maggie. It was too cold to swim, so we were just hanging out.  Suddenly, I started hearing snippets of their conversation. Yes, Grace. What was her twin’s name? I held up a finger, signally for Maggie to be quiet. 

“Ah yes, Willow,” I heard  Ms. Martins say. “Yes, I met that girl once, didn’t I? Never liked her.” I stood up and dusted myself off and slowly walked towards Ms. Martins and Aunt Esme, Maggie following me. I could hear Ms. Martins talking. “Honestly, Esme, she was too rowdy. Too loud. Back in my day girls were quiet and nice. Willow is… not that. And she had absolutely no manners. Honestly that girl looked like a pig, shoveling food down her mouth.”

That was the last straw. I stood up, grabbed Ms. Martin’s teacup, and threw it on the ground. I felt my ears get hot, and I felt a burst of energy that I never had before. And then I screamed.

 “HOW DARE YOU TALK ABOUT HER LIKE THAT! YOU DIDN’T EVEN KNOW HER! YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO CALL WILLOW A PIG, WHEN YOU LOOK LIKE ONE YOURSELF! YOU KNOW WHAT THEY SAY, IF YOU PUT LIPSTICK ON A PIG IT’S STILL A PIG! YOU’RE THE EXAMPLE OF THAT!” 

By the time I finished, my throat hurt and there were tears streaming down my face. Ms. Martins looked like she was about to faint. Maggie looked like she was holding back a laugh. After a few seconds we all came to our senses. Ms. Martins grabbed her purse, whacked me in the arm with it, yelled “Good day!” and walked to her car. Before Aunt Esme could say anything, I ran into the woods, Maggie running after me, and I curled into a ball on the forest ground. I cried and cried and cried. I curled myself into a ball so tight I felt like I couldn’t breathe. It felt like the walls were caving in on me. It felt like my lungs had exploded. 

Finally, Maggie caught up to me. “Are you okay?” She asked. “What’s wrong?” And right then, the words just came tumbling out. 

Willow and I were not twins. I was born at 11:55 pm on December 28th. She was born at  12:03 am on December 29th. We were both preemies. Three pound Grace and three and a half pound Willow. I needed a machine to breathe for me. Willow got to go home three weeks before me, and apparantly she was never happy until I came home.  We were inseparable. But then came 5th grade. 

Alyssa got worse and worse, and Willow wasn’t able to stand up for me. Around October Willow was diagnosed with leukemia. She fought so hard. After all the injections, she rubbed her arm and brushed it off. After losing her hair to chemo, she laughed. After all the pain, she managed to put a smile on her face. We thought she would make it, but mid-February she passed away. I had always been shy, but I would barely talk. It felt like there was a hole in my heart. Willow had taught me about everything from trees and nature to fashion design and gymnastics. 

After talking about all of this, I realized something. Until I had come up  to this tiny little town of Millstone, I had been sad and lonely all of the time. But up here I was happy. I made new friends. And although Willow would always be a part of my life, and I would always love her, the gap in my heart was starting to be filled. With Maggie. With Sophie. With Aunt Esme. 

A week later my parents came up to Millstone. After ice-cream, it was decision time. “So, Gracie, do you want to come home?” My dad said. 

I took a deep breath. “I want to stay here for the summer. I’m away from Alyssa. I’ve made friends. I have Aunt Esme. And I’m happy.”

After getting over their surprise, my parents gave me a tight hug and drove away. “I have something for you!” Aunt Esme said. She pulled out of her purse a copy of the Millstone Gazette, with a drawing on the front page. I looked closely and I noticed that it was my drawing of the tree! “The world needs to see your art, Grace!” Aunt Esme said. I hugged the newspaper close to my chest. I loved Millstone. Up here, I had the memory of Willow surrounding me. Up here I could finally breathe. 

Because trees are our lungs. Don’t chop us down.

Things of the Lost River

Shards of glass bottles

fragments of old toys

float and flow

alongside the broken hearts 

discarded dreams 

thoughts and ideas   

cast aside.

The lost river

is made of loss, grief, sorrow

and the image

that the unfixable

is truly unfixable

Alas 

the unfixable is fixable

If only you spark hope

you can bring the dead things 

of the river

back alive

If you can spark the hope

The Lost River

can be found once more

Breakaway

1


My father’s long, pale, fingers slide across the keyboard, creating a familiar melody. Her song.  My hands slip on the long knife, fingers wet with tears. 

“Papa?” 

My father turns. His eyes are bloodshot.

“Papa?” I repeat. 

His voice is barely audible, raspy and weak.

“She’s gone.”

“To where?” I whisper. “Where has she gone?”

“I don’t know,” he says, “but she’s never coming back.”

****

The house feels quiet without her. Her long gowns, and those eyes that have countless untold secrets behind them. I open the door to her room, which is neatly organized into sections. 

My father’s side of the room houses framed sheet music and stacked clothes. Tissues covered in blood litter the floor, and the rancid smell of vomit wafted from the adjoining bathroom.

The other half of the large room is my mother’s. Each piece of antique furniture is spotless, each dress in her polished closet is unharmed, and frankly, looks like it was barely worn. Her bathroom radiates cleanliness and the distinct smell of lavender. 

In the center of the room is a large, king sized bed, with two little tables flanking each side. A small book lies on the pale sheets. I take it cautiously, eyes roving across the floral cover. There’s no protection on it – no lock, no password. It opens at my touch.

Hurriedly, I snap it shut and run across the hall to my room. I know it’s irrational, but somehow, it feels like she’s still here, watching me. Like her body – her spirit – has inhabited this house long enough to make a lasting impression. 

I rush across the hall to my bedroom and punch in the combination for the small safe next to my bed. I quickly shove the book in and slam the door. I can hear the sound of my father heaving on the bottom floor, and turn my head to check the time. 18:27. Dinner. 

The sound of my feet clomping down the stairs startles Freddie, my chubby orange cat who enjoys napping on the banister. I think that he senses that something is wrong in this house – though that may be because my mother usually feeds him. His eyes narrow, and he lets out a small hiss before falling back asleep. 

I can see my father lying on the floor, eyelids flickering. 

I run towards him, picking up his limp body and placing it on the couch. 

I check his pulse. Still breathing. 

“Matilda?” he whispers.

“Yes, Papa?”

“I’m tired.” 

I smile weakly. 

“Get some sleep,” I say. “I’ll make some food.”

As I begin to walk towards the kitchen, I realize something. 

“Jamie?” I yell. 

I forgot about my brother.

I sprint past my father, who is passed out on the couch, back up the stairs, and into my little brother’s room. 

“Hey, Jamie… are you ok? I’m making dinner, it’ll be ready soon…”

Silence.

“Jamie?”

I hear quiet sobs coming from the closet.

Jamie is curled in the fetal position, resting on a pile of clothes. 

“Hey, J…” 

I wrap my arms around his shivering body. 

“I’m making mac and cheese – your favorite!”

He sniffles and wipes his nose. 

“Tilda? Where – where is she?”

I close my eyes, trying to hold back tears.

“I don’t know.”

“But you always know! You always know!” he rasps.

“This time, I don’t. Now come with me. You can have dessert before and after dinner.”

My brother picks at his food. His tongue is bright blue from the lollipop he had while I was cooking. 

I smile and pat him gently on the head.

“Eat,” I scold.  “You don’t want a stomachache, do you?” 

He scowls, but starts to spoon his mouth full of pasta. 

“Petra?” My father opens his eyes and looks around. 

“No, Papa. It’s only me,” I say. “Would you like me to make you a plate?” 

He nods, and I bustle around the kitchen to get him his dinner. 

“Wait!” exclaims my brother as I start to head over to my dad. 

I turn. 

“It could be contagious. You haven’t been hugging him or anything, have you?”

Sometimes, even though I’d never tell him, I think my 9-year-old brother might be smarter than me. 

I pull the collar of my green sweater over my nose and mouth, and proceed to give my father the food. 

“Now, be careful there,” I say to Papa. “Eat as much as you like. If you feel nauseous, take a break. Ok?”

He gives me a small, forced, smile as he grabs his fork and digs in. 

***

I tuck Jamie into bed and extinguish the candle by his bedside table. My father’s digestive system and the macaroni clearly didn’t get along – the heaving in the downstairs bathroom is louder than ever. But I leave him alone. At this point, I can’t do much more than feed him and clean his vomit off the floor. I need to focus on getting out of this godforsaken place – and finding her. 

Later that night, I sit on my bed, running my fingers across the cover of the book. The door to my room is locked, and I finally feel like her ever-present eyes have closed for the night, and she can’t see what I’m about to do.

I open the book and begin to read.

            2 – The Diary


04.09.93 23:47 am

The stars are gorgeous tonight. It’s just the right temperature.

I could see Jeb through the glass. He’s bent over, working in the field. I haven’t spoken to him since graduation. 

I look up at the ceiling as if it holds all the answers.  

I can hear my parents arguing through the thin walls of our flat. 

There was a knock on my window. 

“Jeb?” I asked.

He taped a note to the window, winked, and climbed downwards, out of sight.

The note was a love song. I can feel the tears threatening to spill over as I tear it into small pieces. I can’t be distracted by a silly serenade.

Do I love him? I’m not sure. 

But even if I did, I couldn’t. 

Shouldn’t.

David Foster. 

That’s his name. 

From what I’ve heard, he seems like a stand-up guy. Plays piano. Likes animals. Rich. That’s good enough for my parents – and I guess it should be good enough for me.

Dearest Diary, you feel like the only thing that will listen to me these days. I haven’t even talked to Imani in weeks. 

As much as I miss Jeb, I miss her more. She’d be able to talk me out of being my usual stupid self. 

Yesterday, I tried to send her a letter. My parents found it. I don’t know what the sudden change in heart is all about. Up until recently, I was allowed to hang out with Imani whenever I wanted. 

Between her big brother being in the army, and the security systems on the house, safety was certainly never an issue. 

I feel like I’m going mad without them. 

You know what?

I don’t care what my parents say. They marry me off to some nerdy loner for the extra cash.

If I ever have kids, I’ll NEVER  treat them the way my parents treat me.

I’m better than that.

I’m better than them.

And, tomorrow, darling Diary,

I’m going to find my friends.

3


I look up, eyes wide. 

I feel like I violated her trust – and David Foster?
That’s my dad.

I never knew that they had an arranged marriage – but it explains a lot. The long silences, the cold stares.  

But something that I never thought would happen just did. 

I feel like I can relate to my mother.

That determination. Knowing something’s up, 

Even though I may not be as close to her as I am to my father, I’ve  idolized her.

Thought she was perfect.

It’s funny, really. How she complains about her parents. How she says she’ll never be like them. But she is them. Almost an exact carbon copy. 

The materialistic hunger. The tight leash she holds her children on. 

But somehow, I admire her even more than before.

At least I understand her motives, her spirit.

I feel a sudden rush of anger.

Even if she didn’t love my dad, that gives her no right to leave him – us – in the time that we need her most. 

Through my anger, a sudden idea flashes in my mind. It’s odd that I didn’t see this immediately. 

My mom didn’t grow up here. She was born in the town of Milesea. And it sounds like this man that my mom liked, Jeb, grew up there too. 

So I’m going to get there. 

***

I stand in front of the van shop. Billy stares back at me defiantly.

“How many times do I have to say this? I want to rent a van.

“Kid, how many times do I have to say this? You’re a minor. You can’t rent.”

I sigh. This is my last resort.

I slap a large wad of bills on the table. 

It’s now Billy’s turn to sigh.

“Do you want it furnished?” 

An hour later, I leave the store in a large camper van. The inside had been renovated a few months earlier and now holds a small kitchenette, a little couch, a bunk bed, and a small chamber pot hidden in the corner.  

Luckily, I got my driver’s license last month, a few weeks before my mom left. It was one of the few times in my entire life that I had actually left the palatial grounds of my house, 

The van’s big wheels scrape on the rough rocks of my thin driveway.  

Jamie stands on the porch, waving at me. I hop out of the van and ruffle his hair.

“Go pack,” I say. “We leave at 10:00.”

***

I brush my hair out of my eyes and pull it back into a slick ponytail. I put on a pair of fraying jeans and a black hoodie over a green polo shirt. It’s the clothes I usually wear to help Mrs. Lynn in the garden – but I guess it’s good for driving. I turn and start to zip up my bag – and stop. The little stuffed rhino that I’ve had since I was born stares at me pleadingly. I’m 16, but I still sleep with it. So I grab it and shove it in my bag before Jamie can see. He teases me about it – even though he has one himself. But he’s 9. 

I only packed one suitcase for myself. I don’t know how long we’ll be gone.  But I packed two for my dad. One filled with clothes, the other with medicine and towels that we can soak in water when his fever gets too high.

In the living room, Jamie sits atop a suitcase in a t-shirt and baggy jeans. His curly hair looks like someone tried tame it back and failed miserably, resulting in a worse frizz than ever.

My father sits on the couch, dark circles that are always under his eyes more apparent than ever.

Supporting him, we head over to the car, and I help Papa into the bottom bunk. 

We’re resigned to protecting ourselves from whatever disease he has – because if it’s contagious, we probably already have it.

Before starting the van, I help Jamie get situated in the top bunk, where he soon gets comfy with his book.

As I climb down the ladder, I see my father murmuring in his sleep, and I don’t really think anything of it – but I check his forehead. Hot. 

So I make use of those towels. After covering it in icy water, I place it on his head, hoping to give him some relief.

I don’t know how much it did, but I start up the car. If we want to get to Milesea in the next few days, then we better get going soon.

I’m driving well into the night. My eyelids flutter as I try to stay awake. 

Suddenly, I feel a tap on my shoulder and turn my head around. 

My father is standing behind me, a crazed look in his eyes. 

“Papa, go back to sleep. At Milesea, we’ll find a doctor for you, and you’ll feel all better.”

He gives me a big grin, but in one swift motion, shoves me off the seat and gets in himself.

“Papa!” I shout. “You’re sick! You shouldn’t be driving!”

His eyes are bright and shining with an almost demonic happiness, but tears run like waterfalls down his sunken cheeks.

“Petra. Petra. Petra. For Petra.”

I know what’s about to happen. 

I rush up the old wooden ladder and wrap my arms around my brother’s sleeping form.

“I love you,” I whisper into his ear. “Always.”

Then everything goes black.

Epilogue (Six Months Later)


I open my eyes. My bedroom is dimly lit and small, but it’s what we can afford.

We both work, and our jobs don’t pay very well – but we get by. Three months ago, we made enough to buy our own house.

Two bedrooms. Two bathrooms. Big backyard.

It’s beautiful, but not nearly what I’m used to. And I’ve tried to be fine with that, but I find myself missing the riches my old life came with.

“Petra?” Jeb’s head peeks through the door frame. “Hey, sweetie. How are you feeling?”
I muster a small smile. 

“Better than yesterday, but I don’t want to jinx it.”

I walk up to Jeb and give him a small kiss on the cheek. 

He pulls away, smiles, and bends down.

“Morning kiddo!”

And then he plants a kiss on my belly.

For the first time in forever, I finally feel at peace. 

I walk into the bathroom and stare at myself in front of the mirror. My floral dress sweeps on the wet bathroom tiles. 

My hair is braided loosely down my back, a sharp contrast to the harsh bun I wore when I lived at the mansion. I feel so free these days. Yesterday, I spent hours curled up on the couch under a blanket, drinking hot tea, face buried in a book. And the day before, I decorated the nursery in hues of pink and blue. The bedroom for my new baby girl. 

I hated my life before, but I didn’t hate my children. I couldn’t bear to tell them about how I grew up. How I met their father. How I never loved him. So I stayed silent. 

I’m sending them a letter today explaining everything. I’m hoping that they’ll come to meet their little half-sister when she’s born.

But for now, I’m going to focus on what I have, not what I left behind.

Three Fingers

In an old cottage on Bugsberry Lane lived the Janes. The youngest Jane was Issa. Issa’s seventh year of age was right around the corner. All little Issa Jane wanted was a doll. Any doll: wood or glass, thin or plump, hairy or bald, bonnet or a straw head-dress. But Issa knew that her parents wouldn’t be able to afford a lavish doll. Emporiums and antique shops were too high-priced. In Mum and Pop’s point of view, dolls were just costly rubbish that lasted less than a week. 

But Issa Jane single-mindedly wanted to be gifted any doll there was. So all she could do was to ask her mother one last time. 

“Mum, I would like to be gifted a doll from you and Pop for my natal day present.”

“Issa, I’m sorry but you know that Pop and I are not in a great stage in life, and we will not be able to afford this doll.” 

Issa would try again. “Pop, I would love a doll, any doll… from you and Mum.”

“Dear, Mum and I can not keep spending such money on this rubbish you say you are bound to have.” Little Issa Jane was disappointed once again, but was still determined to receive any lavish doll. Then Issa thought of a quick-witted idea. If Mum and Pop thought that the dolls from emporiums were overly expensively priced, then why couldn’t Pop just craft Issa a doll. All Pop would need would be wood for the doll’s head and body, and old clothing scraps for the bonet and the gown.

Aunt Ethel had gifted Issa a few steelies to fiddle with in her free-time. Steelies would make the perfect replacement for the doll’s eyes. Pop would have to carve the steelies into the wood, then somehow he would attach the body onto the head. Pop should have the things he’d need in the shed. All Issa needed was her steelies. Issa slid the dusty cup-boad open and yanked out her bag of shiny glass steelies. She pulled out two of the shiniest steelies, and rolled them around in her palm.

They were small, smooth, and cold. Perfect for a doll’s eyes. Issa ran to her Pop’s shed, excited to ask her father for her request.

“Pop, because you and Mum won’t be able to buy a doll, would you have time to craft me a doll? Out of wood?”

“Well, do we have everything I’ll need to craft you a doll?”

“Oh yes, Pop! You just need wood, old clothing scraps, and steelies which I have right here.” Issa opened her hand to show Pop her shiny steelies. He nodded and examined the steelies.

“First of all, where would we find wood, and clothing scraps?”

“Hmmm…I know!”  Issa ran to her Mum for clothing scraps. Mum was sewing together an embroidered nightgown for Issa. The velvet fabric had red roses printed on it, perfect for a doll’s bonet and clothes.

  “Mum, may I have the extra velvet fabric you’re holding?”  Mum handed Issa the fabric. It was soft and fluffy.

“Use it wisely, we don’t have much of it.” Issa nodded happily and thanked her mother. And then ran back to the shed to give the velvet fabric to her Father.

“Pop! Look at this. Now you just need wood!”

“Now where do we find wood?”

“Look outside Pop! You could also shave down a tree.” Issa and her Pop found some perfectly smooth wood outside. Now Pop just needed to carve it into a wooden doll. Pop pulled out his chisel and the materials beside him.

“Now Issa Jane, I only have one set of bi-telephones, so you’re just going to have to wait till your doll is finished to come into the shed.”

“Okay Pop, thank you.” In the meantime Issa helped her mother cook and clean. Issa Jane was very eager to meet her new doll. Issa already had started thinking of names for her doll. Barbara Ann, Mary Lee, and Hilda Lynn were her top choices. Pop spent eight days in the shed working. The longer it took the prettier it must be. Finally Pop called Issa out to the shed to meet her new doll.

“Issa Jane, before I show you I thought you should know beforehand that there was not enough wood for five fingers on each hand, so instead of five fingers there are three. So that’ll mean six fingers in total instead of ten.”

“Oh, that’s okay! I’m just so excited to see it!” Pop stood in front of Issa then slowly pulled out her doll. It was beautiful. The velvet fabric was now a bonnet and a gown. The steelies looked perfect as the eyes. Pop had even found water based paint, and painted the doll a soft peach color. The cheeks were rosy pink and the lips also looked perfect. Issa was shocked, for the doll was even prettier than she expected. The fingers were strangely a bit crooked but it’s not like Issa would be staring at the doll’s fingers the whole time.

Issa thanked her dad again, and then realized that none of her planned names suited her doll well. So she decided to call her new doll “Three Fingers” because of the doll’s fingers. Issa Jane took Three Fingers everywhere she went, to the market, to the lake, and even to her day school. This was the best natal day present Issa had ever received. Issa decided that Three Fingers was her new best friend.

“Three Fingers, I’m going to go visit the loo. You stay right here on the sewing table. I’ll only be gone for a couple of minutes.” Issa went to the restroom then skipped out to see Three Fingers. But there was nothing on the sewing table. Issa looked under the table in case Three fingers had fallen. But her doll was not there. Issa’s parents were on a trip to the market for a few ripe potatoes, so Issa knew that one of her parents would not have moved her. Issa started to panic.

“Three Fingers, where are you?! I know I placed you here.” Issa Jane headed to her room where she did her best brainstorming. When Issa walked into her room she saw Three Fingers placed on her bed. The steelies looked especially shiny.

“Th-thr-three F-fingers i did not place you here.” Issa heard the door open.

“Issa, we have arrived.” Issa ran to the door to tell Pop about Three Fingers. But all he said was,

“You must have just forgotten where you placed the doll. Issa Jane, Three Fingers can not move by herself. Why don’t you go to sleep, it is already ten past nine.”

“Okay fine, Pop.” Issa headed up to her room to sleep. Issa laid in her bed with Three Fingers below her bed. Mum and Pop said that Issa shouldn’t put Three Fingers in the bed because the wood could rust the mattress. Issa had decided that she probably went insane this afternoon, because Pop was right, a doll can’t walk, talk, fly or move.

Then Issa’s lamp turned on and the light shone in her eyes. But Issa didn’t turn her lamp on. She was the only person in the room other than Three Fingers. But Issa suspected that the electricity in her cottage was not working well. So she got up, turned off the light and went back to bed.

“Good night, Three Fingers. Sleep well.”  Then Issa’s lamp flickered again. Issa was starting to get annoyed.

“A real ding dong must have set up our electricity.” Then Issa heard a scream coming from the kitchen. Issa ran downstairs to see what the trouble was. Mum was at the counter staring at the cutting knife in front of her.

“Mum, what is the problem?”

“Oh… um… nothing Issa Jane, head back to bed.”  Issa knew that there must be something going wrong. So she hid behind a small bookshelf to spy.

“Arthur, I’m telling you! I placed the knife at the kitchen table then went to clean my hands. And when I returned the knife was back at the cutting board.”

“Margaret, that is impossible! You must be going crazy like Issa was. A knife can not walk, talk, fly or move.”

“I am going to go lie down.”  Issa was confused, since it was just like what had happened to her. She crept back to her bedroom before any of her parents could notice. When Issa walked in, Three Fingers was laying down on Issa’s shaker chair. She started to freak out.

“My eyes must be ill. Surely Three Fingers could not have teleported.” Issa put her doll back under the bed, and tried to get to sleep. Issa turned towards the wall and tried to fall asleep. Then Issa turned to face the door in a more comfortable position. When Issa turned around, Three Fingers was standing up on the edge of the bed. The steelies stared at her.

“A brainless nincompoop must be playing a joke on me.”  Issa shoved Three Fingers deep under her bed and tried to fall asleep. Issa looked at her rusty clock tilted on the wall. twenty five past eleven. 

“Gosh I better get some sleep, hopefully this fool does not wake me up again.” Issa heard arguing from the kitchen. 

“Arthur, why are the lights flickering? Didn’t the electricity man come yestermonth?”   

“The storm this past week must have messed up the electricity. That is the only explanation.”  

“Tomorrow morning I’ll head out to town to fetch the electricity man.” All the cottage lights were turning wonky. There must have been something wrong with the cottage. Issa was halfway asleep when she heard her name being whispered 

“Issa. Issa.” She froze. 

“H-hello?! Who are you?” Then everything went quiet again. It could not have been Mum or Pop, they would not have played such an evil joke on their own daughter. Issa layed back down, covered her ears, and stuck her face in her pillow so she would not hear or see anything. Issa finally fell asleep but only for a couple of hours. 

Issa woke up again and heard a frightening unfamiliar voice that repeated:“Three Fingers, Three Fingers, in this room I linger.” Issa screamed and jumped out of her bed. One solution fell into her head, to tell Pop. Issa ran to the kitchen as fast as she could run. 

   “Mum, Pop!” But no one was in the kitchen. The lights were all off. Issa suspected that her parents must be in their room. So she ran to their room and shoved the door open. But no one was in the room and the lights were all off. Where could they be? It was way too late for them to be in town, and they wouldn’t have left without telling Issa. 

“Mum! Pop! Where have you gone?” But the whole cottage was silent. All Issa could hear was her own voice echoing through the walls. Issa decided to check outside for them. When Issa opened the door Three Fingers was placed lying down on the cottage doorstep. The steelies had a stranger glow to them than usual. The steelies made the doll look alive. The doll’s head slowly tilted to the right then to the left. Three Fingers was haunted.

Then Issa found herself in a dark room. There stood a mirror in the middle of the room,  the only light. Issa looked in the mirror. She was wearing a velvet rose printed bonnet and gown. Her hair was gone and her eyes were all black. Issa looked at her hands, and she only had three fingers. Issa was Three Fingers.

BREAKING FREE

Chapter 1

“Come onnnn!” I yell. 

“I’m coming! Just wait one minute,” my mom calls back. Tonight is the Night of Freeness, and Queen Sleeping Beauty and King Charming are hosting a ball. The Night of Freeness is when famous creatures and, well, not-famous creatures, hang out together. It’s my favorite night because I don’t need to work. You see famous creatures like Humpty Dumpty, Cinderella and The Beast, who are supposed to have a great luxurious life because yeah, they are famous. Unfamous creatures need to work for famous creatures to make the famous creatures’ lives better. I am an unfamous creature. 

Back to the ball. Queen Snow White, of course, helps with that. Queen Snow White is the leader of all the balls and, in my opinion, the leader of  the world. Oh, the glorious Queen Snow White, this. Oh the glorious Queen Snow White, that. So annoying! I wish I could be a famous creature. And hey, I was there when Humpty Dumpty fell! But of course, the boring Ella never got mentioned. Of course not. She’s nothing important. Hmph! 

“Ok, I’m ready. Let’s go,” my mom says as she comes out of the dressing room. I twirl around the room. My long black hair swings around me. I have always thought my mom was way prettier than me, but I never tell her. She is wearing a long and poofy yellow dress with white swirls. 

“Are we going to take a carriage, or walk?” I asked. I knew the answer. 

“We wouldn’t want to ruin our pretty dresses,” She says. We walk down the stairs that lead to the outside. It’s spring. There is a light breeze, but it is also warm out. Butler Mother Toppkins opens the carriage door for us. 

“Thank you,” Mother says. “Oh, Mother Toppkins! Are you going to the ball too? It is the Night of Freeness, and you don’t need to work for us until tomorrow,” she adds. 

Mother Toppkins smiles.  “I will go, thank you,” she says. Then she shuts the door. 

“Now, you need to be very well mannered and kind. Queen Snow will be up in her room. She doesn’t like too much attention,” Mother says. 

I nod my head. The carriage starts moving. Queen Snow has a room at every castle, even ours. It’s required. Oh my gosh! I just got the greatest idea in the history of great ideas! I don’t want to ruin the fun of the Night of Freeness, but I don’t think any of this is fair. I want to be free.

 Usually on normal days mother and I go over to Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk’s house and Clean! ‘Cause he’s all famous and we need to respect him and all. I’m going to change this. I’m going to talk to Queen Snow.

Chapter 2

Mother gets out of the carriage and lifts up her dress. I get out of the carriage and trip. I fall on my knees. Ow. That’s ok. No harm done. I see Mother smothering a laugh.

 “Please don’t insult me,” I say as I get up. Mother nods. Here’s my plan. Queen Snow will be up in her room, and I will be down at the ball. I can tell the guards that I need to go to the bathroom, and the other bathroom has been locked forever! I’m a kid, so they cannot expect too much from me. Then, I go up and talk to Queen Snow. I will talk to her about how I think I and some of the other creatures should be free. She probably will not listen. But I can bribe her. Queen Snow basically gets everything she wants. She wants our Castle of Light badly, and she would do anything to get it. Three years ago she offered her son’s life for it. There is some history through the Kingdom of Light and Queen Snow’s son. Queen Snow has one son, Sammy, and one daughter, June. Sammy is 15, and June is 12. Sammy, when he was about my age, 10, wanted to have a fairy cake for his birthday. If you blow out the candle of a fairy cake and make a wish, that wish comes true no matter what. The Light Kingdom is the only kingdom that sells fairy cakes besides the Sea Kingdom, where the cake gets soggy. Sammy didn’t have any money, but he came over to the Light Kingdom. The fairy didn’t know it was Sammy at the time, and told him he needed to pay double for his rudeness. Sammy got upset and grabbed a knife from the butcher’s stand, threatening to kill the poor fairy. He didn’t, but the Light Kingdom has feared Sammy ever since. We have also heard that Sammy has gotten even more dangerous. At that thought, I shivered. 

“What are you waiting for? Let’s go inside,” Mother says

We start walking toward the castle. It is giant, with two long pillars on the side. It has a moat, but one so small you could just step over it. It’s gray, and has a drawbridge. At the very top of it, you can see Queen Snow’s room. Her room is always at the top left. In every castle. I have no idea why. Mother and I step onto the open drawbridge and go inside the castle. 

Woah. Double woah. There is a big chandelier hanging on the high ceiling. There are rows and rows of snacks and in the very back of the room there are three thrones, one big and two smaller. Queen Sleeping Beauty, King Charming and the bigger one for Queen Snow. And, greatest of all, there are twisting stairs that lead all the way up to Queen Snow. Two guards are patrolling the stairs. I guess Queen Snow put them there. 

“You can go find some other kids to play with, I want to greet Queen Sleeping Beauty and King Charming,” Mother says, and with that she pats my back and leaves. In other cases I would grumble and say something like Fine, leave me stranded, I’m sure I’ll find somebody else to raise me. Then, Mother would  chuckle and walk away. But now I am high-energy, ready for anything. 

I take a look around. Hmmm. I need to find a way to lock the bathroom door, but still be able to get out. I’ve got it! I run to the bathroom and say a lot of “ excuse mes” and “sorries”. I look at the bathroom. Ah, a window. I lock the door, then get a white stool with pink and green polka dots. It is not very pretty in my opinion. I prop the stool under the windowsill and open the window. Oh! This is a bad idea. I might ruin my dress! Then I think about all the times I’ve needed to clean those golden eggs and trim weeds. This will be worth it. I climb out the window. My silky blue dress snags on the window, and I stumble. I can’t rip it, or Mother will know something is up. I carefully lift my dress off the windowsill edge. Phew. I close the window and turn around the corner. Now I can see the entrance. I see a carriage with a lady getting out. She has beautiful blonde hair that is in a long braid. Rapunzel.  I step over the moat and get on the drawbridge. Yay! I’ve made it. I walk through the entrance into the reception room and try not to look like I just climbed out of a bathroom window. Then I put on a very sad face. I wobble over to the stairs. A guard looks at me. 

“Hello. Queen Snow’s personal service. How may I help you?” the guard says. I try not to laugh, keeping the sad look pasted on my face. 

“I need to use the potty!” I say.

“ Oh! Uh…There is a bathroom to the left of the royal thrones,” The guard says. He looks kind of surprised. Maybe he expected me to be more mature.

 “No! I need to go potty and the other bathroom is not opening! I want to go!” I say.

 The guard looks at me up and down. Then he closes his eyes and sighs

. “Right. Go on up. If I hear any disturbance at all from Queen Snow you are going to jail. Do you understand?” he asks.

 I try to look worried and nod. Then I rush upstairs. “Bathroom 23 is locked. Repeat, Bathroom 23 is locked,” I hear the guard say. Yay! I made it. Now for the hard part.

Chapter 3

I crawl up the stairs. Oh my gosh! How does Queen Snow get all the way up here? While I’m walking up the stairs I should probably plan what to say. Should it be babyish, like with the guard, or more mature? I think it should be more mature. Here goes nothing. I get up to the highest floor. There are 3 rooms. Queen Snow is known for being kind and generous, so this should be pretty easy. Hopefully. Which room should I check first? The first door is closed fully, and there’s a strangely awesome smell coming from that room. The second is closed, and it smells really bad. The third is closed too, and no sound or smell comes from it. I know the one on the left with the good smell is Queen Snow’s room, but she could be in any of the others. I want to get it over with, so I will check the smelly one first. 

“That’s enough!” I hear. I can’t tell what room it comes from. I open the door to the first and smelly one. Pee U! It’s a bathroom. Ewwwwwwww! Let me check the next one. Which one should I pick? How about her room?

“NO! I want it!” I hear. It’s coming from room one: her bedroom, the one with the nice smell. I quickly take a peek into the third room. The walls are red and the room is really messy. Dirty socks and wet paint brushes are on the bed. I quickly shut the door. I need to talk to Queen Snow. I open the door and hope for the very best. 

“It has BAD grammar, and my kids need to be good rulers!” Queen Snow shouts. The room is very small, smaller than the messy room. The walls are a hot pink. There is a made bed with a book on it. Queen Snow is sitting in a fluffy looking chair, and I desperately want to push her off it so I can take a seat. She is sitting in front of a dresser and mirror. A tall, skinny kid is pulling a book from Queen Snow’s hand. A second ago, she said “My kids need to be good rulers”. Who would dare pull anything out of Queen Snow’s hand? Suddenly everything fit together. I stumble back and grip onto the railing. I’m standing in front of the most dangerous person in the kingdom. And that person is, unfortunately, Sammy White. 

Queen Snow looks at me like she doesn’t know what to make of this. “What is THIS?” she exclaims. Sammy looks at me. I have two options. I can run down the stairs at full speed, or stay. I need to do this.

  “Um…My na-” I start to say.

 “Oh! I recognize her. She is some princess of light, or something,” Sammy interrupts. His eyes scream ‘Come at me, I dare you’. I take a deep breath. 

“Yes, thank you Sammy,” I say and try to look calm.

 “Ah. Ok. Um… Your name is?” Queen Snow says.

 “E-Ella, your majesty,” I say, curtsying.

 “That is more like it. Why did you come up here, Ella princess of light? Because I don’t have much time. You seem to stutter way too much for this to be proper, but please go on,” Queen Snow says. I’m taken aback by her rudeness.

 “I’m sorry…your majesty” I say. She sighs. “I wanted to come to talk to you about famous and unfamous creatures,” I say.

 “My mother doesn’t talk about that,” Sammy says. I try to ignore him. I need to face my fears.

 “No darling, let her talk,” Queen Snow says.
“Thanks. I want you to change this. I am treated unfairly, and I don’t like that. I am a maid for Jack’s house,” I say.

 “Honey, please. I don’t change stuff like that.” Queen Snow responds. She examines her nails while I talk.

 “Stop worrying about how pretty you are, and listen to me!” I demand. 

Queen Snow looks up, surprised.  “Do not talk back to me!” she yells, getting up from her chair.

 “We are all the same! We are all equal!” I yell.

 “Leave!” She yells.

 “I will talk to my mom and see if you can get our castle in exchange for you letting every single unfamous creature go,” I say. I try to stay calm. I’ve suddenly realized that I’m not only scared of Sammy, I’m afraid of Queen Snow.  Queen Snow sits back down.

“Sammy darling, please go into your room. I need to talk to Ella, alone,” Queen Snow says, in a dangerously calm voice. Sammy nods. He leaves the room and pushes me out of his way. He goes into the dirty third room.

“You are embarrassing!” Queen Snow immediately says. 

“Excuse me?” I ask.

“You are embarrassing!” She shouts, even though I didn’t mean excuse me like please repeat that, I meant it like how rude can you get! “You think I would give away my power and fame for some lame castle that I wanted three years ago? You think?” Queen Snow cries. I feel my face turning red. “Go back from where you came from and stop disturbing me!” Queen Snow yells. 

Am I actually going to let some snobby Queen treat me this way? No, I will not! 

“You- You are the worst queen ever! And for your information, I will go back to where I came from!” I shout. I storm down the stairs.

“You know there is an elevator!” Queen Snow yells, slamming her door.

UGH!

Chapter 4

“Can we go home now?” I ask my mother. The chandelier and thrones don’t look pretty anymore. 

“Are you feeling Ok?” Mother asks me. 

“Fine, I’m feeling fine,” I grumble.

“Okay, we can leave soon,” Mother says, then she turns her back on me. 

Why was Queen Snow so rude? What was her problem? “Mother, aren’t you tired of being treated badly by the famous cr-” I start to say.

 “Honey, we don’t talk about that here.” Mother interrupts.

 “Then let’s go home so we can talk about it,” I say. My mother looks at me for a long time.

 “Fine then” Mother says. She takes me by the arm and we start walking out of the castle.

“Have you ever met Queen Snow?” I ask her in the carriage. 

“Ah, yes. Once when I was very tiny. She came over and wanted to take a look at me. She wants to every time there is a new baby. I don’t remember much. I do remember my mother talking to her and bowing. But no more, Why?” Mother says. I decide not to answer the question. Mother is looking out of the window. 

“Mother, I want to start a protest against Queen Snow,” I say. 

Mother looks up from the window. “Really? And why is that?” she asks. 

I sigh. “Aren’t you ever going to realize that cleaning Jack’s house is not the most productive thing to do?” I ask her. She chuckles. When will she notice? Why hasn’t anybody done anything? 

“No, it is not such a productive thing, is it.”Mother says. I can’t believe she is agreeing. 

“I want to do a protest, a parade!” I yell as the carriage stops. Mother looks at me and I expect her to say something like No, darling, that is a bad idea. But she smiles.

 “Okay” She says. 

That was… easy. I get out of the carriage and finally lift my dress up correctly! 

“Mother, I saw Sammy today.” I say. I don’t know why I do it or if I shouldn’t have. Mother stops dead in her tracks.  

“A-And where was this?” she asks, cautiously and slowly.

“I went up to Snow White’s room today. I saw Sammy there. I went up to talk to her about the fairness of creatures.” I say, trying to seem pretty chill about it.

“Go up to your room NOW!” Mother yells.

“What about the parade?” I ask. I immediately knew I shouldn’t have.

“Later! I need to think now! I have done so much for you and you respond like THIS!” my mother yells. My eyes tear up. I dash into the castle and run up the stairs. I don’t bother taking my heels off. I have done a lot in return too. I am a good daughter! 

Chapter 5

Rap rap rap. 

“Oh come on. I am sorry. Please let me in ” I hear Mother’s voice say.
“Fine,” I grumble, and I open the door. I know that Mother is sorry, but the parade meant a lot to me. She just shut that idea out.

“I am really sorry. Let’s do the parade. We only have a day to convince people anyways, because today is the Day of Freeness. If we wait till tomorrow, Queen Snow will put us in jail. So get out here so we can spread the word about this parade,” Mother says. I nod. She is right. We only have today. 

“So, I was thinking, we work for them, right? What if part of the protest was not working for them. Because they need us,” Mother says. I nod again. “Come on, let’s go,” she says. 

“ Should we make posters?” I ask. 

This time, mother nods. “You go around telling people, and I will put up posters, Ok?” Mother asks. 

“Sure” I agree. 

The door knob is cold to my fingers. I walk down the two flights of stairs.  I think I forgive Mother. I ran across the wet grass. Our neighbor is also an unfamous creature. His name is Ferm chicken. He is a chicken.  He is one of the happiest, talkiest chickens I ever have known. I knock on his door, and I spot Mother coming out of our castle holding some flyers. His house is unstable and made of hay. I would not be surprised if  the whole house collapsed over my hand. The door opens. 

“What? Oh my! Princess of light!” says Ferm chicken, bowing three times.

“Yeah”  I say. “I wanted to tell you that the unfamous creatures are going to stop working for the famous creatures in protest.”

“Oh my gosh, that is great! Do you want to come inside? It is such an awesome day out, isn’t it?” Ferm chicken asks.

“Oh, no thank you! But how is Mrs. Frem chicken?” I ask.

“Ok, thank you for asking.” Ferm chicken replies. He stares at me for a couple of seconds.

“Do you know any good places to find unfamous creatures?” I ask. 

“Yeah, try house 54.” Ferm chicken says.

“Thanks.” I say. He shuts the door with a big slam. The hay house trembles. House 54. House 54. Ah. Here. On the door it has a sign that says:

BEWARE OF THE PIG. 

THAT’S MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

I gulp. But if Ferm chicken trusts this dude, I bet I should, too. I slowly knock on the door. 

“Hullo. My name Loin the lion,” says the lion who answers the door.

“Hello, Loin the lion-” I say, before getting cut off.

“NOOOOOO! My name Loin! Not Loin the lion!” He interrupts. 

“Sorry, Loin.” I say.

“Sure.” Loin says.

“So, me and some other folks are going to stop working for famous creatures in protest. Will you?” I ask him.

“Sure,” he says. I can’t tell if that is a yes, but that’s ok.

“Loin, do you know any other places where there are other unfamous creatures’ houses?” I ask.

“23 house DOGGY.” Loin says. Then he breaks out in giggles, whispering “doggy hee hummy hee doggy dum dog dutch hee hum le lum doggy hee hummy hee doggy dum dog dutch he hum le lum doggy hee hummy!”

Suddenly, he shuts the door in my face. Ok…

“Bye!” I call.

“Bye bye doggy!” Loin cries. 

This goes on for three to four hours, and I get every single unfamous creature in the whole Kingdom of Light to join the parade. Mother does a good job with the posters. I see a few. They say:

Have you ever felt like you had more

potential than cleaning a house? 

Stop working and cleaning for 

Them then! They need us and will have

to learn how to do it on their own! 

Lots of people agree! Don’t be embarrassed!

And stuff like:

We are stopping working! We can do more

 than just cleaning! Lots of creatures are 

doing it! Don’t be embarrassed! We are all

equal, and some people can’t see that! They 

need us now! But they need to learn how to 

do this on their own! 

As I walk home I think about how Queen Snow would’ve reacted to this. She would probably have said something like “Darling! This is such a horrid idea! Don’t do this to your friends!” Ha ha. I hope I never have to see her or Sammy again! I probably will, though.  My feet hit the ground. It’s hot out. This morning it was pretty cool, but now the cobblestones are melting. Boy. In the distance, I see our castle. It’s funny; there are high people, low people and really low people. I still live in a castle, but I am a maid. Queen Snow is at the very top. The people in my kingdom are at the bottom. Everybody would be famous! Or rather, everybody would be unfamous. I look up and see the castle. I’ve been walking for a long time and my legs are sore. 

When I get home I see Mother on the couch, reading a book. I sit on the couch next to her and grab a random book. I could read anything now. The ways of her majesty Queen Snow White. Nevermind. Not anything. I put that book down and pick up another book. I start reading, and the words swirl in my brain. Hopefully this will end ok.

Chapter 6

I turn in my bed. I can’t be late or I will be scolded by Jack. 

“Ughhh” I say. Suddenly, I remember about the not working thing. I can go back to sleep! Yay! I cuddle my covers. Just as I’m falling back asleep I hear a knock on the door. “NOOOOO!” I half mumble, half shout. Mother comes in and sits on the end of my bed. I turn my back to her by flopping around. 

Mother chuckles. “Darling, you need to get up. Queen Snow is at the door,” she says, calmly. 

I bolt straight up.

 “Woah! Deep breaths. Deep breaths. She wants to talk to you about the absence of  some maids,” Mother says. 

“What should I say?” I ask. What if she puts Mother and me in jail? 

“Be honest. She may have witnesses, but she can not physically prove anything,” Mother says. 

I push my sheets back. I know I am in my PJ’s, and I know I didn’t brush my hair. But at this point I don’t care what she or Sammy thinks of me. 

I go downstairs and Mother follows me. My hand brushes against the railing, for maybe the last time. I open the door, the cool door knob against my hand. 

As Mother said, Queen Snow stands by the door. Two guards are standing next to her with absolutely no expression. 

“Hi Queen Snow,” I say, my hand on the side of the door. 

“What on earth are you wearing? This is infuriating! You have no respect for your elders!” Queen Snow shouts.

 I glance behind me and I see Mother smiling at me. “Sorry” I say. I’m pretty sure we both know that I’m not really sorry.

“Whatever, Ella. I came to complain about the absence of my maids and workers!” Queen Snow yells. 

“Don’t call them that!” I shout. Then I take a breath. “Do you have a guess why they didn’t show up?” I ask. 

Queen Snow rolls her eyes. “Oh, Sure!” she says. One of her guards holds up one of the posters that Mother printed. “Because they don’t deserve to be treated like this or whatever,” she grumbles. I smile as I see her blush a bit. 

“Yeah, exactly. So we will not even acknowledge your presence until you change the rules,” I say. I put on one of my ‘I told you I would win’ smiles that I have been practicing in my mirror.

I can’t tell what Queen Snow’s look is. Somewhat disgusted. 

“Well..” Queen Snow starts to say, but her voice trails off.

“So, Goodbye Queen Snow,” I say, and slowly shut the door.

“Wait! No! Guards, Do something! A– what? No! No!” I hear Queen Snow shout.

I look at Mother straight into her eyes. 

“Wanna make some celebration cupcakes?” Mother asks. I nod. I am proud, happy and scared. Queen Snow still has a lot of power. She can use her power. But for now it will be ok.

Chapter 7

THE FAIRYTALE NEWSPAPER.

Queen Snow has lost power to a 10 year old girl named Ella. Everybody is shocked and Queen Snow is infuriated! Ella was saying to Queen Snow that the not-famous creatures should not work until Queen Snow changes the rules. People have had parades and stopped working. This is crazy! Queen Snow hasn’t shown herself in public for 3 weeks, and nobody knows what decision she will make. On Saturday there was attempted murder. A whole gang of people tried to break into Queen Snow’s house and murder her! They are in jail now. Nobody knows where that came from, or if Ella started it. The construction workers are very busy: people have hired them to smash Queen Snow’s rooms in their castles. Some people have tried to smash them themselves, and their castles look absolutely ruined. They don’t care. People are worried, though. What if Queen Snow decides not to get rid of the rule? Would everyone who tried to stop her go to jail? If she does get rid of the castle, would people lose their homes to give the money to less rich people? What about all the money they earned? If Queen Snow is not in charge of making the rules, who will be? Is this a bad thing? Some people say that Ella should be the leader, but this is a big problem. Now we will leave you with that question. Thank you for reading  THE FAIRYTALE NEWSPAPER, and goodbye. 

Chapter 8

I am everywhere! In the newspaper, and radio! It’s crazy and in some way I love it! But I also really am annoyed, because sometimes the newspaper talks total trash about me! Mother is very proud, though. Some people also think I should take Queen Snow’s place. Honestly I would be ok with that. But I don’t want this whole thing to start over again. And that would be even worse, because I would be the new Queen Snow! Except Queen Ella. Right now I am sitting in the living room, reading the newspaper and eating cookies. I flip the page and Mother walks into the room. 

“Queen Snow has decided to have a ball at her palace, and at the end she will make her decision,” Mother says.

 I have been waiting for this news for 3 whole weeks! I am kind of done with this. “That’s awesome!” I say, though. It is pretty good. But why a ball? What is she planning? “When is it happening?” I ask. 

“Now. Well, Tonight,” Mother says. 

I almost choke on a cookie. “So soon?!” I yell. Mother nods. I have so many thoughts I don’t know what to think. “Do I need to go?” I ask, and I know it is a horrible question.

“Um.. Yes! Duh, Ella! She is announcing the most important thing in your life!” Mother cries. 

“Ok,” I say. Why am I not excited? 

Mother frowns and sits down next to me. “Are you ok, Ella?” she asks. I burst into tears. “Why are you crying?” Mother asks. I don’t know. Why am I crying? 

“I don’t want to become queen.” I say. 

She stares at me for a minute. “Ok. That’s Fine.” Mother says.

“Who will be in charge, then?” I shout.

“ I will.” Mother says. 

I start laughing. And laughing. And laughing. My stomach hurts. “You can’t be Queen!” I say. 

“Why can’t I be Queen?” Mother asks.

 I think for a moment. “You’re too old?” I say. But it comes out more like a question.

“Queen Snow is older than me!” Mother says. 

I think about that. I believe her, but Queen Snow looks great for her age.

“Let’s go to the store to buy some dresses.” Mother says. 

Chapter 9

My mother and I are walking to the ball.  We don’t care if we get our dresses dirty, and nobody would stop a carriage for us. 

I break the silence. “What do you think she will pick?” I ask. 

“Well, it’s no use being famous if nobody likes you and you have no maids,”  Mother says. 

I nodded, but she hasn’t answered my question. I am worried now. Really, really worried. We see a crowd of people coming to the castle. Monsters, Orges, humans. I think I see a sheep! I get inside and inhale. I try not to seem amazed, but this is even better than Queen Sleeping Beauty’s place. A bunch of candles are hanging from a rich purple ceiling. There are a bunch of soft and cushiony chairs on the ground. The ball room is tremendous! Gigantic! 

Queen Snow stands on the stage. Seeing her gives me the chills. Everybody sits down. Queen Snow puts on a totally fake smile.

 “Hi everybody!” Queen Snow shouts. 

Nobody says anything, but I hear some disappointed muttering. 

 “Great. Yup. I get it. I have made a decision. This is one of my biggest decisions. And honestly, I am not so satisfied with my choice. But… Please bow down to Queen Ella.” 

My heart beats fast. Mother nudges me.

“Go up there. Show them you are brave.” Mother whispers in my ear. 

I get up and walk down the aisle. Creatures howl and cheer. Queen Snow smiles. I step up the stairs. Queen Snow goes down the stairs, and when she passes me she whispers:“See what it is like, Ella.” 

I ignore her. I squeeze my long pink dress. 

“Thank you, everybody.” I say. I don’t know what to say. Do I want to give this big opportunity to my mom? There is a big pause. “Ahem. Sorry. I actually have some disappointing news.” I said. People whispered some more. “I don’t actually want to be queen very much. So I want to give this place to my mom.” I say. I see tears glistening in her eyes and she gets up. She walks down the aisle and gets on the stage. I hug her, and then awkwardly get off the stage. 

“Thank you, Ella. I look forward to seeing the awesome progress we will have together. You do not need to give away anything, and I will not make you or force you to do anything.” 

I look over at Que- I mean just Snow. She is scowling. This is okay. Everything went okay. 

Katie and Her Pillow Adventure

Deep deep down in the Pacific Ocean, on the sandy ground of the bottom of the ocean floor, Katie the Octopus has a house made out of coral and rocks. The house is behind an enormous rock in a coral reef. There is a lot of kelp and seaweed which Katie uses to cook. The water is pretty cold, but Katie doesn’t mind. Because she’s down pretty deep, it’s really dark, and not much sunlight reaches so far down. 

Katie is a bright orange octopus. She is very nice, especially to her squid friends. She has eight arms, as a normal octopus does. One thing that stands out on her is her calm, periwinkle eyes. Katie’s base color is orange, but she has burnt round orange spots. She lives alone, but her squid friends live right next door to her, and they hang out all the time. Katie also goes to school. Her school is called Academy for Young Marine Animals, and Katie loves school.

 A few years before, Katie’s parents gave her a super super soft pillow made out of sand and coral. It was pretty small, green and with pictures of waves on it. 

But then one day, her mom and dad were in a shark attack. The shark ripped her parents apart and she lost them. She cherishes the pillow so much because it’s the only part she has left of them. It lies on her bed day and night. Another reason she loves the pillow so much is because it smells like her parents. It smelled like fried kelp and seaweed which her mom used to make for her when she was little, like the bedtime stories her dad would tell her, and it smelled like the love her parents had for her. Katie adores this pillow and if something happened to it, she would be devastated.

Then one morning, she woke up and the pillow wasn’t resting under her head like always. It was gone! She suspected that someone had stolen it. One of her top suspects was this squid in her class named Anne. Katie used to be friends with Anne, but since the shark attack she’s been Katies enemy. Anne was probably still upset because her mom also was killed in a shark attack. Then a week later she started being mean to Katie. For instance, the other day in history class, Anne got a question wrong and everyone laughed at her. “Katie was the one who laughed first,” Anne said. 

“I wasn’t the one who started laughing,” Katie said.

Anne could have easily wanted to get revenge from the day in history class. She could have gotten into Katie’s house because when they were friends she would come over to her house all the time. Katie even gave her a key. 

I bet she still has it! Katie thought to herself.

So Katie goes to Anne’s house to make her give the pillow back. On the way, she saw a big school of fish swimming really fast. Something is probably chasing them, Katie thought. A great white shark was chasing the school of fish. It saw Katie and started chasing her! 

Katie swam into a cave only to find a bunch of sea snakes hissing at her. So she swam and swam and swam. Finally, she saw a bunch of orange coral. She used her amazing octopus camouflaging skills to hide from the shark, and the shark swam away.

A few minutes later Katie was at Anne’s house. She heard something that sounded like crying. Oh no! She thought. Katie knocked on the door. 

“Go away!” Anne cried. 

“Please just let me in,” Katie said. 

Anne didn’t reply. 

Katie remembered she had a key, so she started digging through her coat pockets. Katie loved her coat. One time, she was in the mall. She went into the octopus clothing store and saw the most beautiful coat. It was bright orange, just like her. It had eight arm and leg holes. The body of the coat was quite small, but the arm and leg holes were long and glittery. 

She unlocked the door and went to Anne’s room. It looked like Anne was hugging the pillow so tight the stuffing might come out. 

“Why would you take my pillow?!” Katie asked.

 “I’m sorry. It smelled so yummy, like the fried kelp my mom made me before the shark attack,” Anne sobbed back. 

“But why would you break into my house to get it?” Katie asked, confused

Anne replied “ Because I knew you wouldn’t give it to me. It’s the only thing that’s brought me closer to my mom. She didn’t leave anything for me.” 

Katie was cross with Anne, but she couldn’t stand to see Anne like this. Katie didn’t say anything so Anne kept on talking. 

“I’m also really lonely. I dont have friends or a father. You never noticed that I had no people to play with during recess at school.” 

Katie realized that Anne wasn’t mean, just misunderstood. 

“Are you sure you NEED the pillow?” Katie asked. Katie really wanted to get her special pillow back, but Anne is making it difficult.   

Anne said, “If I knew how to cook or sew, maybe I could have things for myself.”

            Katie wanted to find a solution for Anne, and wanted to get her pillow back. Katie’s mom taught her how to cook when she was little. Maybe she could teach Anne! 

“What if I teach you how to cook?”

“I don’t know if that will be enough.” Anne said.

Then Katie got another idea. “My friend Scarlet knows how to sew, she can teach you how to make a special blanket.”

“Ok, that could work maybe,” Anne muttered.

  “Alright, first I need you to give me my pillow back,” says Katie.

“Fine,” Anne says, aggressively.

“Ok, I need to go to the store and get ingredients.” And so Katie left with her pillow and was off to the store.

A few minutes later, she saw the shark coming again. She tried to hide behind a rock but it was too late! So she swam as fast as she could. Just before the shark caught her, one of her friends, Carlos sprayed the shark with his squid ink.

“Thanks Carlos,” Katie said.

“No problem!” he said.

Katie got to the store and went to the kelp aisle. She would just pick some kelp out of her garden, but unfortunately her plants were not looking so well. A fish had been chewing on her plants. She picked up a pound of kelp and headed to the oil aisle. The oil under water is different from the kind on land. This special oil is made out of a crushed up clam and its juice. That’s all she needs for the fried kelp. She has salt at home. She paid for the food and it was only two sand dollars.

Back at home, she put the food down and went to her bedroom. She placed the pillow on her bed, and felt proud of herself for convincing Anne to give her pillow back. Then Katie remembered that she needed salt. 

She went to the kitchen and did this special trick that her dad taught her. Since she’s in the salty ocean all she has to do is grab some water with two tentacles and use them to suck the water into her body keeping the salt on top of her tentacles. She brushed the salt off of her tentacles. Vóila, salt. 

Next, she needed to call Anne so that she could come over to start the cooking lesson. Katie picked up her seashell phone and called Anne. “Alright Anne, you can come over. I got the cooking ingredients,” Katie said.

“I was watching a movie and you interrupted it, but fine, whatever, I’ll come over,” Anne said.

About ten minutes later Anne arrived at Katies coral house.

“This place looks worse than the last time I was here,” Anne said, walking through the hard rock door.

“You’re not here to criticize my house, you’re here for a cooking lesson,” Katie replied. Katie was getting frustrated by Annes mean comments, but managed to calm herself.

Katie started boiling the oil. “First you have to put the kelp in the oil and…” Katie paused. “Are you even listening to me?” 

Anne was not, she was too busy watching some fish video on her phone.

“You know I don’t have to teach you,” Katie said, frustrated. “I thought you wanted to learn how to cook!”

“I said I wanted to learn how to cook, not have you be my teacher. But fine, I’ll pay attention.”

“So next you have to add the kelp, but don’t throw it in or else the hot oil will burn you,” Katie instructed. 

But Anne threw it in anyway. The oil splashed. “OW! This is all your fault,”Anne screamed. “Just give me the kelp.” 

Katie used rock tongs to scoop some kelp up and gave it to Anne.

The next day Katie went to school. After math class, the teacher, Mrs. Squid said, “Katie, Anne, I need to talk to you.”

Katie wondered if she was in trouble.

“Katie, Anne has told me that you hurt her.”

“Yes, she did” Anne replied, pointing out her oil burnt tentacle

Mrs. Squid said, “Katie, detention.”

“But – ”

“No buts, Katie, detention for one week.”

Anne swam out, giving a mean wave goodbye.

The next day at school, Katie went to detention. In her school, you spend the whole week in detention and whoever’s the detention teacher that week gives work for you to do. She walked in the detention room and saw an octopus and a squid, both the color black, they looked creepy. 

The octopus said in a creepy voice, “Hi, Im Banshee, ”and that squid over there is named Bloody. What did you get detention for? We stole kids’ lunch money to buy black coats.” 

Katie didn’t reply to that, she was very angry at Anne for getting her in detention for something she didn’t do.

Two days later, Katie went into the detention classroom and saw her friend Scarlet.

Katie was surprised. “Scarlet, what are you doing here?” 

“Well, let me tell you the story. I saw Anne and she looked upset, so I asked her what was wrong and she told me about the cooking class you did with her, and I offered to teach her how to sew, and she said that’s what you said, so I tried to get her to agree to do a sewing class with me, but she told the math teacher that I was forcing Anne to learn how to sew, but I wasn’t, and of course the teacher wouldn’t believe me, so here I am.”

“ Wow, that’s a lot. We need to do something so that Anne won’t keep bullying us,” Katie said.

Scarlet had an idea, “All she wanted was some delicious fried kelp and a special blanket right?”

“Yeah, what are you thinking?” Katie asked

“What if you make some fried Kelp and I sew her a blanket so she will leave us alone.”

“That could work. I have some extra fried kelp from the other day,” Katie said.

“I’ll start working on the blanket tonight.”

At home, Katie went to the fridge to find the kelp. She saw some salt, sea worms and at the back of the fridge she found the bowl of kelp. She went to her room to find some fabric to tie a bow on the bowl of kelp to give to Anne. Her room is quite small. All that’s in it is her bed with her pillow lying on it, her desk where she does her homework and her closet where she keeps her cool octopus coats. Katie opened her closet and found a bit of fabric that would work perfectly. 

The next day, Anne, Scarlet and Katie were in science class. Katie brought her kelp bowl and Scarlet brought her blanket. It was purple and had indigo polka-dots. It looked just like Anne. They planned to give the items to Anne after class.

“Ok, class dismissed,” the science teacher said.

“Hey Anne, me and Scarlet made something for you,” Katie told Anne.

“What did you get me?”

“Well, Katie made some fried kelp with the instructions stuck on top, and I sewed a blanket for you. It’s purple with indigo polka dots. It looks just like you,” Scarlet replied. 

Anne gave Scarlet a slight smile. “Thanks, but don’t think just because you did this now we are suddenly friends.” Anne was still slightly smiling as she swam away.

“Some things never change,” Katie said.

But their gifts worked, and Anne never bothers Scarlet or Katie ever again.

The End.

ESSAY ON NATURE

Nature is a very important part of living. Once, I was at the beach with my friends. It was a nice sunny day. My friends and I had just gotten out of the water and put on our coveralls when my best friend Mila said, “Look, it’s a balloon in the ocean!” I saw a Happy Birthday balloon in the ocean. “Let’s go get it before it goes too far!” I said, taking off my dress from over my bathing suit. We ran into the ocean and got the balloon, then threw it into the trash.
A few days ago I learned that it takes 450 years for a balloon to decompose. I was happy that I had saved the balloon from the ocean, where it might have killed marine wildlife.
Nature helps us in many ways. It was how we sustained ourselves when we were cave people. Nature is a part of life and some people don’t pay much attention to how it’s being treated. In this essay, I will be going over how the earth is being affected by humans including ocean pollution, air pollution, animal extinction, and climate change.

                                   Ocean Pollution

Every day more and more trash is disposed of into the ocean. Every 60 seconds a whole truckload of plastic goes into the ocean. The ocean is holding 5.25 trillion pieces of trash. Of that trash, 15% goes to beaches, 15% floats, and 70% sinks to the depths of the ocean, killing and strangling marine wildlife.
This needs to stop. Can you believe that on some beaches the shores are covered in trash? You are lucky to be at a beach where trash isn’t flooding every nook and cranny. You might think “why aren’t we just preserving the ocean then?” Well, we are, but only less than 8% of the ocean is actually preserved. On the other hand, there are many people, like Oceana, Sea Legacy, and Ocean Conservancy, that are in the ocean right now picking up trash!

                                    Air Pollution

We breathe oxygen every day, right? Well, only 21% of the air is actually oxygen. Everything else is Co2, nitrogen, neon, and hydrogen. If we don’t stop air pollution, then humans will die of polluted air. We need clean air to survive, and only 21% of our air is clean. If we keep pumping carbon dioxide into the air, the air will be full of Co2. However, in places like Las Vegas, you can see a whole dark cloud of Co2 and dirty air on top of it.
People breathe O2 and let out Co2. Trees produce O2 and take in Co2. We are cutting down 2,400 trees per second worldwide! There might be no trees left in the future, which means no clean air. But there are many organizations like Team Trees that plant thousands of trees every year.

                                  Animal Extinction

Have you heard of a panda farm or a tiger farm? Probably not, but not because they don’t exist! That is a huge issue because these are endangered species, about to go extinct. People think their fur looks nice, or they think it would make a nice mantel, so they kill these species for a coat that they will outgrow in six months. They need a farm that doesn’t kill them, but just preserves them. We keep slaughtering these animals for fun, not thinking about the devastation that we are causing. We need to preserve these creatures! Some scientists are collecting DNA for these endangered creatures so when they are extinct they can try to recreate the creature. But they wouldn’t need to do this if the creature wasn’t going extinct in the first place. We need to save these peace-loving creatures! At least some zoos are trying to preserve and tend to these animals that are going extinct.

                                   Climate Change

The climate is changing the world. In some places, it is hotter or cooler than normal. That is all because of climate change. In New York, it normally snows around 12 days per year, but in 2019 it only snowed eight times, and in 2020 it only snowed ten! During the summer, New York normally tops 85 degrees, but one day this year it was almost 100 degrees. In parts of Africa, it is so hot, elephants have to walk miles just for a drink of water. Climate change is also affecting crop growth. There are low supplies worldwide because climate change affects plants. Plants can’t grow properly, so they die, leaving nothing to harvest and send to supermarkets. In hot areas, the water loss is making people that already have little to drink walk miles and miles for just a few buckets of dirty water. Climate change is changing the weather patterns, making it hard to decide if it’s going to rain, snow, or be sunny.
Climate change is mainly because of air pollution, which changes how clouds move so places that need water get a smaller amount. There are scientists that are helping people in Africa by giving them filters, so that when they get the water they can make it clean and drinkable.

                                     Conclusion

In conclusion, nature is very important, but we are not taking good care of it. It’s so important for us to fix the environment. We would be lost without nature, or dead. This topic is important to me, because every day I walk around seeing over-flooded trash cans and people throwing out plastic bags, not caring where it’s going to land, and I think it’s disgusting. This topic is important to the community, because it will open the eyes of people who don’t care if one day trash will flood the streets, or if one day we need to wear oxygen tanks and masks because of polluted air. This topic is important to the world, because if you looked at the earth in outer space, where it would be green, lush, blue, and vibrant, it would be brown or light blue. You should care, because soon when you look at the earth from space it will be dry and dirty from trash. This is serious, not a small issue that can be blown over!

Grimm Getaway

Chapter 1

“OWW! Why did you slap me! I despise you Lihn!” 

“You slapped yourself and you know it Amy!” Well, meet my psychotic sister! When my little sister was born, I wasn’t jealous. I didn’t try to demand attention. I just helped my parents set up her nursery. I fed her and changed her diaper and took care of her while my parents were at work. She was the most talkative toddler I had ever met and used large words for her age . . . especially when we were alone. I was fourteen by the time she was two and my parents were starting to worry about her. I overheard them talking about her and from what I heard they were concerned why she didn’t talk yet.

 “Mom! Umm sorry for interrupting. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop but when you guys are at work she talks a lot . . . she started talking last year and she uses surprisingly big words for her age!” I said in the most gentle way possible. 

My parents exchanged a look and ran to my sister with huge smiles on their faces. “Amy! Lihn says you can talk, can you say ‘mama’?” my mother asked. 

“Moomoo?” My sister asked. 

“Lihn why did you lie to us! I can’t believe you!” My father said with a look of disappointment spreading across his face.

 “I- I’m sorry I thought . . . nevermind ” I said. I didn’t sleep that night, Am I going insane? Is Amy going insane? Are my parents going insane? Is this all a dream? Do I need a therapist? Is my sister a psychotic maniac? DO I EVEN WANT TO KNOW!??!

Nope! I don’t need to know. That lasted about a month…

One night I woke up to get a glass of water and I heard noises that sounded like metal on rock. I decided to ignore it and ask Dad if he was up late sharpening knives for the butcher shop again, but when I asked he just looked me dead in the eye and said “No! And I thought I told you not to talk about knives in front of your sister.” 

I dropped it and decided I was just hearing things, but when I went up to take a shower before dinner, and my sister was sitting on my bed with my dad’s lucky butcher knife (the extra sharp one) in her hand, it was freshly sharpened. 

“Hello. Pitiful sister, I would like to welcome you graciously into my Grimm Getaway or as you like to call it the void! So just let me slit your throat ,and we will be on our way. Those imbeciles you call Mom and Dad will join you soon, and you can sit down for tea. My demons will serve you,” Amy said in the most annoyingly cheerful voice I have ever heard. 

When I didn’t respond she simply said, “I’ll let you gather your things.” She cut a deep cut in her thumb, smeared it on the door and disappeared.

 I let out the breath I hadn’t realized I was holding and ran to clean my door. That night I didn’t sleep. I just squeezed my stuffed giraffe wearing the Hawaiian shirt that I couldn’t sleep without and told myself it was all just a dream, it was all just a dream. I was starting to convince myself when I heard more sharpening noises, and it took all of my willpower not to hide on the inside of my window seat. Eventually I gave in. I brought a blanket, a pillow and my giraffe, Wynn, into the window seat and slept in there. It was cramped but I decided I would take a cramped space over my sister with a knife anyday. 

Chapter 2

When I woke up the next morning, I went downstairs and couldn’t believe my eyes. There were red drops and splatters leading up to the kitchen. I was terrified of what my sister had done, but I decided I needed to see for myself. MY SISTER WAS EATING SPAGHETTI-OS IN THE KITCHEN!!! My sister was making a huge mess with the spaghetti-os, and my mom was sitting there watching! 

“What is going on? Why is Amy eating spaghetti-os at 8:03 AM?” I asked. 

“She crawled into my room with a can of spaghetti-os, and I said, ‘why not?” my mother replied. 

“Umm because it is way too early in the morning to be eating spaghetti-os,” I said. My mom just stared at me and shrugged. I went back upstairs, after 367 seconds of silence in the kitchen I couldn’t take it anymore (yes I counted). When I went upstairs I took a shower and got ready for the day. 

One month later, I went up to my room to grab something, and my sister was sitting on my bed with the sharpest butcher knife in the house. Freshly. Sharpened.  

“Hello, sister! I gave you 37 days to pack. I hope you’re ready,” my sister said.

She just stared at me waiting.

 I ran downstairs. I heard my sister say something but it was drowned out by my pumping heart. I couldn’t breathe by the time I got to the backyard and locked the door. I collapsed on the floor, and everything went black.  

I woke up in the living room with the fan blowing on me and my mother sitting there staring at me. 

“You’re awake! What happened!?” my mother asked. 

“Where is Amy? What happened?” I asked. 

“Oh honey. It’s good to see you’re worried about your sister, but she was crying in your room when we went looking for you. You fainted and were out for 42 minutes and 53 seconds. I was counting.” I looked at my mother for so long I didn’t know what to say at that point. My mom just sat there for another minute and then walked away. I heard noises in the kitchen and just assumed she was cooking something. 

About an hour later, she came into the living room with a tray. On the tray was chilly with melted cheese and sour cream, a ceasar salad and some assorted cookies. I didn’t realize how hungry I was until my mom plopped it on my lap and said, “Eat up. You didn’t even have breakfast today!” 

That night, I stayed up way too late and decided to take my sister and myself to see if we were hallucinating. I felt strange in that sitting room with a 2 year old. Not to mention I’m only 14.

 I decided to only take my sister for an appointment, since she was talking about demons serving tea. They wouldn’t let me go in with her so I just waited hoping this would all be a misunderstanding. 

“Your sister does see many hallucinations but she is an interesting case. She uses large words for her age and is very smart. But anyway, she is very interesting because some of her hallucinations are based on real events. You will have to investigate that but…good luck,” the doctor informed me. 

Chapter 3

I spent all night trying to figure out what the doctor meant. When I went through my memories my brain stuck on one thing. She called it her Grimm Getaway or the Void. I remembered that one night her babysitter took her for a walk in the woods. The next morning, she told me she saw an abandoned house with a sign that said, “My name is Rachel Grimm and this is my getaway. If you have any demons, I will get rid of them if you sit down for tea in my void room!” I remember telling her how stupid that sounded, but maybe this is what the doctor meant by the hallucinations being based on real events. By then I was definitely spooked. So I decided I will forever sleep in the window seat…well at least until I figured this out. 

When I woke up the next morning I decided to take my sister to the abandoned house and see what’s going on.

 On the walk through the woods to find the house I asked who Rachel Grimm was. “She is my master. She created my Grimm Getaway. She commands the Demons…” My 2 year old sister is starting to seriously scare me. Her master? Seriously? 2 months to go and she will still only be 3!

 I asked her what her Grimm Getaway was and all she said was, “Your microscopic brain can’t even begin to imagine the wonderful things it contains, so let me make this easy for you. It is a big black luxurious abode in the deep dark void. All I need to get in is some of my blood, but for someone as pathetically normal as you, we will need blood from the neck!” AND I THOUGHT I WAS CONCERNED BEFORE! WHAT IS WRONG WITH MY SISTER!? The house was farther than I thought, and my phone battery was decreasing rapidly, not that I had service out there anyway.

And for some reason it smelled like rotting tangerines. 

After about twenty more minutes, we found the house.

It was old and definitely abandoned. It was kind of grayish purple, and there were so many splotches of peeled paint on the house it almost looked like polka dots. 

I tried to find the sign but instead I found an address,  

143 Raven Road

U.S  Massachusetts 

6663

“Do you think this is the new address of the person who lived here?” I asked my sister. 

“Yes.” 

Now I just have to find this address…Good thing I live in Massachusetts!

When I got home, I immediately asked my mom where Raven road is, “Oh! I can take you there, but first I need to know why.”  

“Umm…on our walk I saw a package that was addressed to ‘143 Raven Road’. And Amy wants to come too. She said her friend lives on Raven Road, and she wants to visit,” I lied. My mom agreed and said she would take us, but she had a dentist appointment, so I would have to take us home. 

My sister and I got out of the car the next day to knock on the door of the person who may or may not have corrupted my sister. This new house didn’t look much better than the old one, but instead of purplish gray paint it was bright green paint with what looked like pitch black paint underneath where the green was peeling. It smelled like artificial bananas and was sickeningly sweet.  

I went up to the house and rapped on the door 3 times. 

Chapter 4

The wood was old and frayed. I made a mental note to check for splinters later. I heard a grunt coming from inside the house, and the part of my brain that associates old, decrepit houses with ugly, old, witch- looking ladies was very surprised when I saw an eye so beautifully hazel it almost looked golden peeking through the peephole. 

“Oh, she is one of my little victims down there. She is the youngest victim, and the only one still alive…Well come in, come in.” The woman said walking towards a table showing off her gorgeous auburn ringlets. She looked kind of old school with her red corseted gown. It did look like she hadn’t changed or showered or anything hygienic in the past 50 years (and smelled like it too), but somehow she was still breathtakingly beautiful. Her house was as cluttered as the littered streets on the way here.

 I decided I should just jump right in. 

“WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY SISTER?” I screamed. 

“Awwww. Is that the only reason you visited? Why don’t you sit down for tea?” the woman said. 

Her face started twisting and stretching in ways that couldn’t be normal. Her beautiful eyes slowly melted into her face and left behind empty sockets. Her skin slowly started turning purple and melting into a contorted body. The only thing that stayed the same was her hair. Even her dress was melting. The only thing left of her after another minute of horrifying melting was her corset, her mouth, and her hair. Her mouth was dripping with blood and when she opened it her tongue was wrapped around an ax that was slowly coming out of her mouth. Her tongue was very long. The ax was a very large ax and her tongue was wrapped all the way around it. Her corset wasn’t naturally red. It was bloodstained and slowly melting away with her hand. Her hair was the only thing left normal. The tips were drenched in blood and with auburn the hair, it looked a lot like fire.  Her mouth still had an ax in it, but somehow still had great control. 

She went over to my sister and her hair went on top of my sisters like a perfectly fitted wig. My sister started mouthing words I couldn’t understand, so fast I couldn’t even try to lipread them. My sister went into the other room. When I followed her in, I saw at least 53 mannequins. My sister went over and cut the head off one of the mannequins. Then the woman (or what was left of her at least) went over to the freshly decapitated mannequin and placed herself over the nonexistent head and immediately the mannequin started to transform into the same woman that answered the door. Only, her dress was white. There was blood coming from her mouth, even with the ax gone, and it was staining the dress and making it the same blood red color as her dress was before. Soon the whole dress was transformed to blood red. 

Chapter 5

“Everytime I do this to one of my victims, it knocks them out for a few hours. Now she won’t hear what she is a victim of!” the creepy lady said. I guess I should be calling her Rachel. I mean it is her name.

 “So…your name is Rachel?” 

“Yes,” Rachel said. 

“Rachel, what is going on with my sister?” I asked.

“Ugh I guess this is the part where you pretend to be a hero and I have to give up my master plan because I think I can kill you so you won’t ruin it, then you ruin my plan and get everyone away safely. So the authorities can deal with me?” Rachel asked, sounding almost as bored as she looked. 

I nodded hoping I would get the easy win. I always hated the stupid heroes in the story who risk their lives for other people. Yeah, I’m not cut out for that kind of thing. “Yes, very well then. It was a dark and stormy night-.” 

“I don’t need your backstory, just tell me what you did to my sister!” 

“Fine jeez I thought that was how this works. I tell you the whole long story, you get caught in one sentence, and then you figure out how to thwart me!” I rolled my eyes.

“Basically I’m possessing a bunch of kids to kill as many people as possible. Your sister here is the youngest, and she is failing her job. She only killed one person, and he wasn’t even on the list. Oh, and if you’re wondering why she’s so bright for her age, I only choose kids like that because they can be more scary whilst holding a knife. So there you have it! I’m gonna let your sister go anyway because I was already planning to, but just so you know I don’t have a reason for killing everyone. Yes I knew you were going to ask that. I just want to-.” 

OK, THIS LADY IS MESSED UP! I should just grab my sister and run shouldn’t I? Or do I kill this lady? Or do I get the authorities the address so they can kill this lady? Yeah. Yeah, I’ll do that. I’ll get the authorities.

So…yeah I grabbed my sister, and I ran for my life!

But then I was lost, so I called my mom. She was at a restaurant, and I was a bit concerned she might be cheating on my dad. But I was gonna figure that out later. (A story for another time.) My mom said she would ask my dad to come get us. (When I asked who she was with, she just said it wasn’t my business.) When she hung up, my brain seemed to catch up with the situation and decided that that creepy lady could be following me. So I ran, and ran, and ran. 

And then I realized that my dad didn’t know where I was. So I called him, with the little battery I had left and told him where we were. I sat down to see if I could wake up my sister. I remembered I had a backpack with me, I brought two water bottles and a flashlight just in case, (But not a map? How dumb am I?) I poured some water on a random pack of tissues on the road. Yes I know it’s unsanitary, but that was a dire situation. I slapped my sister to see if that would wake her up, it didn’t but to be perfectly honest . . . she deserved a slap in the face. Although . . . she didn’t do it on purpose. I rubbed the wet tissue over her face to try and wake her up. It worked! 

“Hey, Lihn . . . Wh-wh-what happened. Are you okay?” She sounded so innocent I just had to know, “Do you remember a creepy lady named Rachel Grimm?” I asked. 

“No. Why?” Amy asked.

 “No reason!” I replied, trying to make the most genuine smile possible. I decided I wasn’t going to question why or how she forgot everything. I was just happy to have my sister back!

Epilogue

My dad picked us up and drove us home after that. When we got home Amy started talking around my parents. She has never done anything creepy since that day. I have never had to sleep in the window seat ever again (except when the neighbors are shooting fireworks). 

So, remember when I said my mom might be cheating on my dad? Well, she was. My parents got divorced. My dad is dating a woman named Emily, and my mom got married to the same guy she was in the restaurant with that day. His name is David. 

My sister is in 2nd grade, and I am in high school. Yes, I do still sleep with my stuffed giraffe, Wynn, and now he has a bucket hat AND a Hawaiian shirt, thanks to my sister.

I also now have a half-brother on my mom’s side named Dexter, and I still haven’t met him because my mom moved to California! I saw him when I was Facetime with my mom but never in person. I am going to meet him next month. I can’t wait! I am going to visit my aunt as well (she also lives in california). I can’t wait to see everyone! I never told Amy about her being possessed because I don’t want to bring it back. 

I watch Amy’s brown hair glint in the golden sun as she goes to greet her friends. 

“Dad! You Invited Charlotte AND Elizabeth!! They are so loud!!!” 

“Lihn, that’s no way to talk about your sister’s friends!” 

“Whatever.” 

So, as you can see, things are pretty normal. At least for our family. 

Sometimes even after all these years I still wonder how the world can be so peaceful, and yet, life is so scary…

Chapter 5, The Vanishing City

The reporters tried to swim but it was like their feet were bolted to the floor. Minutes later the city came back up with nothing on it. Not even the dead bodies. All the buildings and statues appeared exactly the same. I stepped on it and the dead bodies appeared for only me to see. 

“Do you see that?” I asked Carrot. 

“See what?” He said. 

“The dead bodies. They’re there again,” I said. 

“No, they’re not,” Carrot said, frustrated. 

I took one more step. “Now they’re back,” he said. 

I started to walk in the city, hoping I would not end up like the reporters. I didn’t. Soon the statue came to life. It told us that we were the chosen ones that were meant to save Atlantis from the spirits of the people who had died there. So Carrot and Topher geared up so they could touch the ghosts and defeat them. The first ghost they found was Topher’s mom. Topher started to cry. Then Topher hugged his mom and she became a dog again. 

Then the statue came over and said: “I forgot to tell you that if you hug your loved ones, they come to life again.” 

“Little late,” I said.

The Adventures of the Super Team #1

Chapter 1

Once upon a time, there were four super boys, two super girls, and a wicked witch. A volcano had just erupted in the city, and the people had to be safe and had to stay in their homes. The super boys and super girls had to save the day…

All the characters have different powers. 

They all have super cool powers and they are going to battle the wicked witch. 

Well, first, the Super Team had to make a plan to capture the wicked witch. The Super Team already knew where the wicked witch was because, at the scene of the volcano, Super Team put a tracking device on the wicked witch. Right now the wicked witch was in the forest. 

So the Super Team put their powers in place and they all successfully got to the forest. Then they met up and went around the rainforest. They decided to split up and then meet when one of them found her. But each of them saw the wicked witch in different places, but at different times, so they ended up seeing each other and cornering the wicked witch. But the wicked witch did not know they were there, so they spied on her from three sides then they all leaped and captured her. 

First, they tied her up. Then they put her in a locked cage. Finally, they took her to jail and locked her up in a jail cell. That was one job done for the Super Team for the day. 

Then the Super Team went home and enjoyed the afternoon with some hot cocoa and pizza. The Super Team played a board game together, and then, since they were all tired, they went to bed early. They had very sweet dreams also. Also, they were ready for tomorrow’s patrol around the city… 

The Super Team is a team where they work together and save the day even when the bad guy is tough. Here are the names of the Super Team from oldest to youngest: the first one said that their name was Invisible Kid, The second one said their name was Teleport Kid, the third name was Freeze Kid. the fourth kid’s name was Flying Kid, the fifth kid’s name was Animal Kid, and the sixth kid’s name was Unicorn Kid. 

Chapter 2 

There was a house and living in that house was a queen of witches and two thousand ghosts. In the house next to it, there was a Super Team. Every day, one house battled the other house. But in the end, no one won. The house with two thousand ghosts and the queen of witches was a very old house. The house that the Super Team lived in was a very nice house to live in.

One day, they battled for eight days, and after that eight days they were so tired, so they went back to their house. The next day, the queen of witches said, “How about we be friends and never fight ever again?” The queen said that because she did not really like fighting. 

Then another person moved into the house next to the Super Team house and two houses away from two thousand ghosts and the queen of witches. And twenty days later, they found out that the person that moved in was a bad guy. They found out by seeing all of his trinkets that were bad things. Only bad guys use that stuff.

The next day, they knocked on the door of the person that moved in and they were ready to battle with all their magic. He opened the door and was not ready and got poisoned and had to stay in bed for one year. He said, “I’ll get you next time!”

Well, the Super Team and Whist (which was the ghosts and the witches’ team name) decided that they needed to become friends and have another friend. So in two months, they made a magical potion to heal the bad guy who lived right next to them. Then when the potion was ready, they knocked on the bad guy’s house. When he opened the door he was surprised by what he saw. 

Super Team said, “We want to be friends with you so we brought you a potion. It can undo your wound. We also need help sometimes and sometimes we could help you.”

The bad guy had a huge smile and was grinning from ear to ear. He said, “I would love to be a helper for all of you, and thank you. Also, my name is Thomas and I am a wizard.” Thomas drank the potion and was great again.

From that day on, when the Super Team called for help, Thomas the wizard came to help them. The super team almost every day had a bad guy come, but not once did the super team fail. They always captured the bad guy.

Sometimes, if the bad guy is really bad, the Super Team has to take them to jail.

But the Super Team usually doesn’t do that because they teach the bad guy how to be good and nice. They also don’t like being mean and putting people in jail.

Chapter 3

There was a house and 2,007 people living in the house. All of them were good guys. Six of the 2,007 people were on a team. As you know, their team was called Super Team. They were brave and always saved the day (as you guys know). There were also 2,000 ghosts, and the one other person was the queen of witches. She was a bad guy before, but now she was a good guy. 

“We will betray the Super Team,” said the queen of witches. “We will battle them!” 

“Okay!” said the ghosts.

The plan Whist (Queen of witches and ghosts) made was this: in the morning, when the Super Team woke up for breakfast, they would secretly cover all four sides of the room. Then they would pop out and fight and the Super Team wouldn’t even have their powers. Whist predicted after that, they would win and take Super Team to prison…

A day later, when the Super Team woke up, they did their normal routine. They woke up, brushed their teeth, and changed. Then they went to have breakfast. They walked in normally with no sound in the kitchen. When each of them was getting their breakfast, one of the ghosts made an ooh sound. That’s when all six of them stopped and started looking. The queen of witches told that ghost “shh,” but she said it very quietly. 

After breakfast when all six Super Team kids were going to get changed in their clothes, none of them could get out because the ghosts were blocking them. But the Super Team couldn’t see the ghosts. 

Then out of nowhere, the queen of witches came out and scared all six of them. She said, “Booooo Super Team!!!” 

All the ghosts came out of nowhere and attacked the Super Team, and forced them into a corner. 

The Super Team had to think fast. So they ducked the ghosts, went to their room, got their powers, and fought Whist. The Super Team went to all on different sides of the room. They ducked and slid and could not lose this big battle. To make sure none of the stuff in the house got damaged, the Super Team took Whist outside to fight. The Super Team always had emergency powers if needed, and they needed to use them now.

The emergency powers are the same as the normal powers the Super Team has but they have more power, so when they used the emergency powers it powered Whist very very very far away. They blew away. It powered them so hard that they were in New Jersey and went all the way to Canada. After that, the Super Team was so tired that they went back home and took a long nap.

Chapter 4

Once there was a house where there was a mom, dad, and boy. The boy’s name was Thomas. It was three o’clock in the afternoon and the boy wanted to get a toy but his mom and dad said, “No!” 

So the boy said to his mom and dad, “Can I play a game with you?” 

His parents said, “We’re busy,” so the boy broke their trash can and the chairs. He was mad and grounded for one week. He did not go to school that week. In the room that the boy was in, there was a shelf of food, so his mom and dad did not have to make the food every day.

He finally got out of being grounded. The boy was so sad and even more angry. But he was happy that he got to play with his friends again. His friends were finally happy to play with Thomas.

“Ring, ring, ring,” went the alarm clock the Super Team had. It woke the Super Team. The Super Team woke up with excitement because they were ready to start the day. The evil wizard was only one hour away from the Super Team’s house. The evil wizard was going to attack the Super Team. At one o’clock in the morning, he put a trap in the Super Team’s house. A booby trap that only one spell could work to undo. You could only find the spell in the Amazon Forest.

The Super Team woke up and saw that they were locked in their house. They knew that there was only one spell that would undo the trap. But the evil wizard didn’t realize the Super Team’s powers. The spells are magical spells so you need magic. Then, the Teleport Kid tried to teleport out of the house. It didn’t work and he just hit the wall with a boom! And he hurt his arm. He said, “Ouch!” 

***

They had to find the medical kit to fix his arm with a BandAid and then he’ll get much better. Animal Kid said, ”I am going to make sure Teleport Kid is okay.”

Freeze Kid said, “Oh my god! I want to see who’s out there!”

Flying Kid said, “I want to fly out the roof!” 

Unicorn Kid said, “I’m gonna push this thing!” 

Teleport Kid said, “I’m a little bit okay, but not all better.” 

There he was, the bad wizard, out the door. The wizard was laughing, “Hahahaaa.” 

Unicorn Kid hit the house with all her might and the house broke and then hit the wizard. The wizard tried to fight the Super Team. Freeze Kid froze the wizard. Flying Kid flew around the wizard. Then Invisible Kid pushed the wizard and the wizard fell.

***

But then the wizard said, “I’m still good.” Then Thomas came out of nowhere and did his karate to the wizard. Then the Super Team thanked Thomas and gave him a medal for helping them. 

Chapter 5

The Super Team cast a spell on the evil wizard so he would be dizzy. So when the evil wizard went to the streets, he would bump into people, so when the evil wizard went to the streets he bumped into people and he got bumped back because they didn’t like getting bumped. 

One person that was walking by got bumped by the evil wizard. The evil wizard was covered in lemonade because he kept bumping into people. The person said, “You need to have better manners!” 

“It’s not my fault! It’s your fault!”

“What did I do?” the other person said. 

“You pushed me,” said the evil wizard.

“No, you pushed me first,” said the other person. Then all the people there made faces at the evil wizard.

The evil wizard stayed there for 20 days. He was still alive because he was a wizard, but Invisible Kid was spying on the evil wizard so he did no funny business. 

After that, he saw a sign. It said: “find a treasure chest and you will get your own secret lair.” Invisible Kid wanted to get that lair for his team so he started looking for it.

Invisible Kid was going back to his home. He was looking and looking and looking for the chest. He couldn’t find it. He was so busy looking that he got lost. He knew the chest was in the sand. He knew that because the sign told him. 

***

A little while later…

The man in front saw the pretend money and ran after the evil wizard as fast as he could run, but the evil wizard ran faster.

Invisible Kid was still looking and looking, but in the forest, he wasn’t giving up even if he was lost. He kept looking and finally bumped into a tree. But he got up and then he saw sand, so he decided to dig. He couldn’t find anything. He dug for at least three days and he was determined he was going to use all his might. He was very, very, very hungry though. He finally found it on the fifth day he was digging. He found it. He knew he would find it. He opened it and it pushed him back three miles! 

“Aaaaahhhhh! Where am I?” said Invisible Kid slowly. He saw close by there were a lot of maps across the street. Invisible Kid ran and got a map and saw he was by a beach. He luckily had his bathing suit. Invisible Kid swam all the way to the end of the ocean because that is where the treasure chest could be. It took him two minutes to swim to the other side of the ocean. He knew it was on this beach but still could not find the treasure chest. 

Invisible Kid saw a potion in the water. It was really big and the can was purple. The potion said, “There is a chest inside this potion.” But another person swam and took the potion. So Invisible Kid went invisible and swam as fast as he could to get the potion. But the other guy was too fast! 

So Invisible Kid went to a store and got his favorite food. His favorite food was pizza and so he ate a whole pie of pizza in one bite and he was ready to run as fast as he could. ‘Cause with pizza, he can run super fast. 

So he ran and took the potion ‘cause he was super fast. He saw that that person was the evil wizard. But the evil wizard was too slow to catch Invisible Kid. Then Invisible Kid looked in the potion and saw the chest. It was mesmerizing. He took the chest and evil wizard and went home. The Super Team put a spell on the evil wizard so he would always be good.

***

One month later…

The evil witch was spying on the Super Team. she had the power to freeze. The evil witch has a magic stick and when she points it at somebody for five seconds the other person will freeze. The evil witch grew up to be evil. All her family were evil. The evil witch lived in the town. She grew up in the town. She was mean so nobody wanted to be her friend. So she wanted to be a bad guy…

“And yes, I will be a bad guy,” the evil witch said when she was five. The evil witch was a real bad guy… after that moment, the evil witch was EVIL! That was the time she became evil! 

Then, to be evil, she started pushing and shoving the children, but the teachers were too scared to talk to the evil witch. The teachers told the police and they came right away. When the five year old evil witch saw the police she was really ready to run. She was a really fast runner. So she ran as fast as she could when the police tried to catch her they wouldn’t. She was just running farther from the police. She was on her own, and then found a stick. She kept it if a police would come then. The stick had magic powers and the powers went into her body. Then she put her hand on a tree and the tree was frozen. Then she knew her power was that she could freeze. She knew her power was amazing.

***

After the Super Team made the evil wizard good they returned the chest, but they didn’t take the lair. They didn’t take it because there was someone else who really really badly wanted it, so they wanted to be nice. 

A day later, the Super Team was reading the news and they heard an evil witch robbed a bank. The Super Team wanted to research to find out more about the evil witch. They found out the evil witch liked collecting chests, so they wanted to take all of them so she didn’t rule the world. They split up to get all the chests. They would communicate by talking through their walkie-talkies.

Then when all of them were finding the chests, they saw there was one more chest, so they decided to let Invisible Kid do it. Invisible Kid had been searching and searching and finally found the chest. Unfortunately, the evil witch found the chest at the same time as Invisible Kid did, so then they had to fight for it. 

First Invisible Kid turned invisible and stepped closer and closer to the chest. Since the evil witch didn’t know where Invisible Kid was, she just protected herself and the chest. But out of nowhere, Invisible Kid snatched the chest and ran as fast as he could. When the evil witch tried to chase him, out of nowhere, Teleport Kid came, got Invisible Kid, and brought them both home. After they were both home, Super Team went back and fought the evil witch. Since the evil witch was outnumbered, she lost.

***

After that, the super team turned the evil witch good. They also decided to return the chests since the evil witch and wizard were good now.

THE END.

The Elf Story

Once upon a time, there lived an elf. His name was Elfy. He was a good elf and was helpful. One day, Elfy remembered when he was sick and thought about when he was in the elf  hospital. So, today, Elfy wanted to see the hospital because it helped him heal. 

Elfy had wings so he flew there; it was only a five-minute flight. When he got there, he was confused because it looked like a big, abandoned building. Elfy thought it was the wrong place, but on the side of the building, there was a ripped and torn sign that said, Elf Hospital. Elfy was really sad the hospital was abandoned. But, to cheer himself up, he decided to look through the things there and see if there were any cool memories.

When Elfy started looking, there was a little crackling sound: crackle crackle. But Elfy was brave and kept looking for memories. Then, all of a sudden, the electricity went out, and it was pitch black. 

Elfy took the memories he could and went back home. When Elfy was home, he looked through the memories and thought about the hospital. 

THE END.

A Man of Dreams

I am a man

Just a simple man

With microscopic dreams

Smaller than they seem

I don’t look up too much

Don’t really beam

But like those stars

You wish upon at night

My microscopic dreams

Are wishes as much as they are bright

I’m out of sight

Most of the day

Hiding indoors

From November to May

Night and day

Day and night

But when I sleep

I dream of dreams

More you can wish for

More than it seems

I am a man

Just the simple kind

But I have dreams

Bold and lined

Hopefully you too

Can dream a dream

Better than

How it might seem

I give you this knowledge

To dream a dream

To be yourself

And be redeemed

A rival nor foe

You dream a dream

Better than

It could seem

Escaping from Alcatraz

A kid should not read this book. Bad dreams. Of being stuck in Alcatraz.

In San Francisco, there was a prison called Alcatraz. It was a place for people who did something really bad. In 1948, Alcatraz was still open for prisoners. But nobody knew that there was one convict who was trying to escape from that island. He was looking for a way out of that filthy place. His plan was like this: he would trick the guard into his cell, and then he would pull the bomb out of his hand and throw it into the hallway. And that would make his cell blow up. Using the dust in the air, nobody would be able to see him. Then he would pull out the bomb from some guards. And a rifle.

“It’s lunch time, Number 3984!!” one of the guards said. 

Ah, I thought, it’s time to get out of this filthy prison. So I pretended to be dead. Anxious, the guard came to my bed. When he got closer, I got up as fast as I could and punched the guard as hard as I could. The guard fainted the instant I hit him, with no sounds. I looked at the guard to see if he had a key. During the time I tried to find the key, I really thought I was silly because Alcatraz has a door that’s electronic. So no one could escape in a stupid way. Like unlocking the door with a key. 

Desperate to get out from that prison, I threw the bomb into the hallway. The guards yelled, “What the – ” but it was too late for them to stop the bomb. After ten seconds, the cell blew up, and the hallway was filled with dust. Nobody saw me approaching the guard. And nobody saw me taking off a few more bombs and a rifle. I ran to the door of the prison and finally escaped from the prison. But it was my mistake that it might be the end of my prison escape.

Two more guards were waiting outside as a surprise. They were armed with lots of new weapons. Like machine guns and some more things. I simply said, “I will surrender.” 

They actually did believe a liar. When they tried to put on a handcuff, I punched them with my elbow in their stomachs. They threw up and just fell into the ground. Pretty easy to fight a guard. 

But the real problem to escape from there was crossing the ocean to go back to San Francisco. No one could swim through that gap in this cold weather. So the only way to escape from there was to take the boat that was heavily guarded by guards who were armed with the U.S. Army’s newest weapon.

To fight them, I picked up every single weapon from the two guards. Bombs, M16s, and M16s with mini rockets. It was really heavy with the guns all over my body, but I still had the power to carry it. After a minute, there were ordinary guards only armed with a rifle. But there were still 18 guards, so I threw the bomb with gas on it to the guards, and when all of them were coughing, I escaped.

I went up to the tower and saw 489 guards guarding the boat. So I thought, The only way to the boat is to make the other prisoners jail break and make them fight with the guards. So I went back to the filthy prison where people were locked up in the filthy prison and the guards fainted. So I pushed the button and made the door open. 

Many people went out. They went through the door by kicking the guards as payback. I followed them out, passing them weapons and things. There were 153 prisoners. Enough to fight the guards who had never had a fight. Two guards approached, and the gangster beat that guy up. They went to the shore and fought with the guards who were armed with only guns. I gave them M16s and some bombs, so the guards were no match for them. Also, some of them were people who were trained at the finest academy in the U.S and the U.K. So that made the guards fall off from the land to the shore. I already cut off almost every single thing that could connect to the outside world. So nobody could connect with the government and bring some more work like the FBI or the CIA. 

And, finally, when the deck was clear, I used the boat to escape to San Francisco. I found a lot of money in the boat. I went to the airport and bought a first class ticket that goes to Hawaii. No one will find me again.

To be continued… 

Sail

I am drawn

Drawn to sail away

In my tiny boat

From night to day

The waves that rocked gently

Have now grown fierce 

But I have no remorse 

For these monstrous waves

I shall ride them

Even if it means I won’t be saved

Now a calm ocean

Under the spotlight

The water has grown tame

After the last night

Lying on my boat

With the sail flying everywhere

But I am still tired

And don’t seem to care

Then I stand up

And brush away my sweat

And ride the ocean once more

As if it were my pet!

Child Writing Concerns

Essays are difficult for kids, but we can conquer them. I am a ten-year-old student, and whenever I try, I always have a hard time getting an idea. I will think for hours upon hours, but nothing comes to mind. Even if I try again the next day, sometimes, nothing still happens. My brain is like a computer with an error not being able to run a program. I always thought of it as writer’s block, but it really should be known as “essay block”! I don’t have it when I write my stories or at school. But when it comes to essays, I am stumped about what to do.

However, I have found a solution for myself. It’s called a partner. They help you through the day. My partner changes all the time. I can have a little stuffy or even my brother as my guide. I had to come up with my own solution for my own essay block, so as not to take the advice of an adult who is not in a position to remember what writing as a kid is like. 

Adults sometimes can have an “illness” per se, called Grown-Ideas. They have a more fixed mindset and less imagination than when they were a kid because they grow a more danger-mind. This is where they can’t imagine anything, only the bluntness. When you are a child your mindscape is endless so you truly understand the problems grownups don’t. 

This brings me to something I found to further suggest this, an article by Kim Kautzer called “How to Help a Child with Writer’s Block.” Kautzer, who wrote the article, simply doesn’t understand children at all. She kept referring to the learner as “he,” and not “she” or “they.”  As an example, she would write “Later, he can ask,” or “[f]or example, he can” or even “gives him,” but never use other pronouns. It’s as though only boys can learn and use this advice. I feel a little as though this sexist wording is from the past.

It’s probably careless wording that accounts for most mistakes, but her other overgeneralization is more serious. It concerns age and expectations of what kids should achieve at certain ages. She kept saying that a person has a duty to meet certain standards by a set birthdate. For example, she says that “Younger children shouldn’t labor over a revision. It’s enough to add a few details, substitute stronger words, and polish up spelling and punctuation.” So, in other words, she is suggesting that the minute the kid turns a new age, they are somehow supposed to be wonderful with no whatsoever real preparation. Just because that is true for some people, it’s not like you can magically blow out your birthday candles and then write cleanly and perfectly. Everyone is different, therefore, it is an unrealistic standard to change so quickly from easy to hard expectations in one day. For example, in the article Kautzer says, “Teens, however, should expect to rewrite a draft several times before it passes muster, beefing up arguments, supporting with additional facts, embellishing with description, and improving both word choice and mechanics.” This quote is the opposite of the claim that writing is hard since it is saying that you have to be like this at one age or another. Making these claims can be pressuring, and create shame since she makes seeming to fall short of “age-appropriate” goals a stressful situation. 

You can decide for yourself with the link at the end. If you are an adult, you probably won’t understand. So, I feel you should listen to kids like me, the people who are affected by these bad pedagogical choices, first.

Why Standardized Testing Is Unfair

I always knew that standardized testing wasn’t fair to people who did not have as much knowledge as me from doing after-school activities. I recently turned ten, and when we did the state tests in school, I was already doing sets and operations on sets, which is a sixth-grade level. But I did not realize how super unfair it was until I did my math test. It was too easy for me, but I saw people around me struggling with the questions. I think that standardized testing should be abolished. It is stressful, helps only certain types of students, and there are much fairer ways to measure teacher effectiveness and student achievement.

First of all, testing puts kids through a lot of unnecessary stress. Every time we have a test in our ELA class, everyone gets upset. Some might say that this test-related stress is a necessary evil, but that isn’t true. Sure, tests are important: Testing shows what you know. According to Scientific American, it is the case at every grade level that frequent tests boost learning. If you don’t, you won’t show what you know, and the next grade would be too hard. But there are other ways that we could measure a teacher’s performance with students other than tests, or in other words, how students have improved since they started school. For example, there could be an art project reflecting on what they learned in math, or a science project about physics-related math.

Secondly, standardized tests only help certain types of students, which means that they can be biased. Multiple academic papers and analyses have found that standardized tests reinforce racism and classism. According to op-ed writer Jamie Palladino, who cites a finding from Inside Higher Ed that on the reading section of the SAT, “[s]tudents in families making less than $20,000 averaged a score of 433 while students from families making $200,000 had an average score of 570.” This shows that standardized tests are not fair to students who don’t have rich families. To be clear, even if you know this, there is not a high chance for a student to be born into a rich family. But not everyone agrees that this is a cause for concern. 

Sean-Michael Pigeon, a student who claims that tests elevated his opportunities even though he lacked the wealth of his classmates, rejects the idea that they are classist, writing “Testing and academic performance were the best way for someone like me to succeed.” Even though he says that testing was his way to get to the Ivy League, and receive its financial aid, there is not a way to know if his admission was really based on his test scores, because there are too many other factors in the decision of admitting or not admitting someone into the school. Furthermore, the financial aid would have come if he got admitted, regardless of his test scores.

Even though testing is measured, it is not always fair. There are different ways we could measure a student’s academic score. As the website Otus shows, there are at least four ways to measure a student’s performance. Sampling, Stealth or Game-based assessments, Multiple Measures, or Portfolio-based assessments. Sampling is a semi-alternative to standardized testing. Sampling is taking a smaller part of the population, making a test for that group, and sending it to them. It isn’t completely perfect, but it is better than a test for everyone. Stealth or Game-based assessments are when a test is like a game, making it more fun. Portfolio-based assessments are when you measure student progress based on projects, presentations, reports, and papers collected over time. Multiple Measures is basically all of the above.

So what? You might be thinking. Well if you are thinking, What about kids who do know the material but they are anxious testers? Well, if we get rid of standardized testing, they might not be as stressed, but as long as standardized tests exist, there isn’t much you can do about it other than say some supporting words. You might also be thinking, Standardized tests are said to be “standard,” but this also means that they can be biased toward people who learned specific topics in specific ways, which is going to be more beneficial to kids of some backgrounds than others. Is this fair? And really the sad answer is no, no it is not fair for people who don’t have the same background as others. You can try to do extracurricular material out of or in school, but for now, it is just not fair. With all these possible better alternatives, abolishing standardized testing makes the most sense.

Works Cited:

Pigeon, Sean-Michael. “Standardized tests help poor students like me.”

<https://www.goerie.com/story/opinion/2021/04/05/op-ed-getting-rid-standardized-testing-punishes-poor-students/4851745001/>

Palladino, Jamie. “Op-Ed: Abolish standardized testing.” <https://friendsinsight.org/611/opinion/op-ed-abolish-standardized-testing/>

Walker, Jordan. “How to Measure Student Progress Without Standardized Tests.”

<https://otus.com/measure-student-progress-without-standardized-testing/>

Minli’s Special Ingredient

Grand-mama stirred the big black pot, Mama cut the pork, and Papa made the dough. The smell, the taste! 

“It looks good, Grand-mama!” Minli said, standing on her tippy-toes to peek higher over the island in the middle of the kitchen.

Grand-mama smiled and scooped her up. “Yes, Baby, it will be ready when I add the special ingredient.”

Minli’s black pigtails waved up and down as Grand-mama cradled her. Minli pushed her bangs out of her face so she could peer with her wide eyes up at Grand-mama.

“Special ingredients?” Minli asked, curious.

“Mm-hmm,” Grand-mama said, setting Minli down back on the step stool.

Minli climbed up to watch Papa fold the dumplings. “But Grand-mama, what’s your special ingredient?”

Grand-mama smiled. “It’s a special spice.”

Minli wrinkled her nose, then asked, “Do I have a special ingredient?”

Grand-mama smiled and said, “What do you think?” 

“I have to be a big girl to have it, right?” she said, crossing her arms and pouting. She was only three.

Grand-mama looked at her with a mischievous smile, “But Minli, you don’t have to be big, you just have to have the right tongue.”

Minli was confused, “What do you mean ‘right tongue’?”

Grand-mama was now more focused on the pot, stirring and stirring until finally, she spoke. “I mean you have to be brave and try things that may not look tasty.” She held the wooden spoon to Minli’s lips and Minli licked the homemade sauce. “But you can always try,” Grand-mama finished triumphantly as Minli licked the sauce off her lips.

“What’s it called, Grand-mama?”

“Soy sauce,” Grand-mama said simply, continuing to stir.

Mama came over to Minli and scooped her up, tickling her belly. Minli giggled and asked, “Mama, do YOU have a special ingredient?”

“Why yes I do, baby girl!” Mama said. “Grand-mama taught me, just as she taught you.” Minli smiled at this thought. When the table was set Minli dipped her dumpling in the soy sauce.

Mama smiled when she saw Minli. She slid over a white bowl with a sauce in it. Minli tried the sauce and loved it.

A few years later…

Minli stood in front of Grand-mama’s grave and put a letter to her at the edge of the cold stone.

Dear Grand-mama,

I’m not sure if this is allowed. The Lin family has done this tradition for generations, and I am not sure what my ingredient is.

The problem is, I can’t find just one. I love you and I love this family, but what happens if you love everything too much?

I think my special ingredient is Love. 

The Glowing Snow

I look outside and see the white snow,

Then I get curious and I want to know,

What happens if snow could glow?

So I wait until dusk throughout the day,

I was think to maybe go outside and play,

But it’s too late to do that so I will find out the way. 

I rush to the lights because its time now,

Then I see it all happen as I hear a snow plow, 

I was filled with emotion because I wanted to know.

I put on my materials and run outside,

The snow starts to glitter as I slide, 

I go back inside as I stand feeling happy and with pride.

Spring Has Sprung

Sunshine falls gently like bubbles of golden bliss

Like a beautiful bright light in a pitch black abyss

Sparkling through the budded trees

While a warm breeze blows gently with ease

Flowers bloom in the morning dew

Animals, birds, and rainbows, too

Winter long gone, cast aside your fear 

For now Spring has sprung

To begin the new year

After cold and snow and wind

After huddling up close to live

A new day has begun

Just like the beautiful rising sun

Let all your worries float away

Because for now the sunshine is here to stay

No more coats and masks and fear

Forever Spring will spring

To dawn a new year

McLaren Team

Chapter 1: The Beginning of Their Adventure

One day, the boys were walking home from school. They saw a guy in a McLaren. They heard there was a McLaren race going on. They went to watch the race in the capital of California. It was on the race track, and someone used a farting boost that he installed himself to speed up. The guy they saw with a McLaren won. He got $100 trillion because there were a thousand people. Then the boys worked so hard to get money for their McLaren. Jimjim was betting money on football games. He was always lucky and got $10,000. His other friends were playing a mystery claw machine game where, if you get something in the claw, you can find the special item in it. Sometimes it’s a phone or AirPods or money. 

Jake, William, Dillion, Chris, JJ, and DJD  are all 18. They’ve been friends since forever. They were born in the same hospital, at the same time, on the same day. 

Jake is athletic and plays soccer and basketball. 

William is stubborn and always wants to win. 

Dillion is calm and shy. 

Chris gets all the girls. 

JJ is boring with personality. 

And DJD is determined and jealous of Chris. 

Jimjim is their president and leader. He has a girlfriend named Jemina, and they’re getting married in one year if he wins the race, but if he loses, they break up. All the members are from California. One day, Jimjim and his crew were walking to the McLaren dealership. They had to cross the dog park. One of the dogs was chasing the whole team until they got to the other side where the dog could not reach them. The reason the dog was chasing them was because the team had Goldfish in their hands. When they were finished with their Goldfish, Chris and William raced to the trash can, and when William stepped on something, he saw that the trash can could open, so he didn’t have to put his foot on the trash can handle. 

When they got their McLarens, Jimjim had the most expensive one, and William, Dillion, Chris, and Jake had all the second-best McLarens, and DJD and JJ had the third-best. At the dealership, they saw five people with metal bars come in. The chief said, “Give me five of your McLarens’ keys now!” 

The car dealership man said, “Okay, okay, okay, I’m sorry!” 

One of the guys on the chief’s team said, “Hurry up, I don’t have all day!” 

Jimjim’s group got into their Teslas (which weren’t very good because they were really old). They started their cars, and they actually smashed through the glass of the dealership and smashed the McLarens. Before they started racing, they were actually junior cops, and they arrested all five of the crooks, and then they radioed for police. Then the dealership owner said, “Oh my God, thank you! Here, take five free cars. Jimjim, you get the most expensive one. William, Dillion, Chris, and Jake get the second-best ones, and DJD and JJ get the third-best.”

The dealership man also gave the boys the whole dealership. This was the happiest day of their lives. They got all the money in the dealership’s vault. To access it, you had to start a McLaren and drive without going anywhere. Then a secret passageway would appear. The boys had so much money, and they bought a whole race track so they could test their cars. They also bought a trailer. On the day of the race, they all were so confident they would win. If only one teammate crosses the line first – wins for the whole team. When the race started, they were off. All the boys were lined up. Part of the race had jumpscares in it, so the racers can get distracted and crash, but before they could get that far, Jimjim talked through the mic. 

“Guys, be careful. You don’t have to get scared. You can just look forward and win by focusing.”

Everyone said, “You got it!”

“And if anyone tries to get in our way – delete them!”

“Yes, siree!” said the boys. 

When they reached the scary part, Chris got a little distracted because he saw a girl right next to him, and instead of Chris pushing her and knocking her out, she knocked him off balance! Chris was okay, though. 

Dillion was right in front of Chris, so he said into the mic, “We got a man down!”

Jimjim was like, “Ah, shucks! Why did Chris have to be in the back where the girls are? He’s, of course, going to lose his control!” 

When the race was almost finished, only William and Jimjim remained. Some other person in the race passed Jimjim. William said, “I will take him out!”

“Okay, do it now! I believe in you, bro,” said Jimjim. 

After William smashed the person that was in front of Jimjim, Jimjim crossed the finish line and won the race. The person who got smashed by William asked if she could join their team. Then, out of nowhere, everyone heard an explosion. DJD’s car got blown up, and there was no trace of DJD. 

Jimjim said, “Yeah, you can join our team.”

The girl said, “I also can tell the future if you want me to help you find your friend.”

Jimjim said, “What do you mean? He exploded.” 

The girl said, “No, that’s not true. If you look closely at the ground, you can see his footsteps.” 

Dillion said, “If you want to be a part of our squad, what’s your name?”

“That’s need-to-know information. We can do that later,” said the girl. “Now let’s just focus on finding your friend.”

As they were walking for a couple of minutes, they saw DJD with a broken arm! 

“Are you okay?” said everyone.

“No, I was badly injured in the race! Ahhh!” he shrieked in pain, and then his arm fell off!

“Ewww!” everyone said. “Will you be okay, DJD?”

“Yeah, I will be – ” He fell to the ground.

The girl said, “He has died.” 

Everyone started crying. The girl tried reviving him, but there was no cure. He was dead. 

The girl finally told the boys the need-to-know information, and said her name was JDD. 

After they took their sad moment away, they went to the dealership (that they own!) and got JDD a new car. It had the best engine ever, and if someone smashed into it, it could keep going. 

“This car was going to be DJD’s birthday present because his birthday would’ve been in two days. This is your present from us for joining our team, and it’s a reminder of DJD.”  

Then when Jimjim got home, he realized his girlfriend had left him a note saying, I’m sorry, but I’ve moved on with a richer, cooler, more expensive guy. When he went to his room, he realized that his girlfriend still had on her bracelet that he had given her so that, if she ever left him, he would know where to look for her. 

Chapter 2: Newest Member Joins The Pack

In the morning, Jimjim met up with the boys and their new member, JDD, at the dealership. Jimjim told them what happened with his girlfriend. JDD suggested that they should search the area for her. Everyone liked that, but Jimjim said, “That would be nice, but I installed a tracker on her bracelet that I gave her. Let me see here. Oh, man, she must have found it. I guess I should listen to you, JDD.” 

After all the boys and JDD had left the dealership, they scattered around the city. Jimjim’s girlfriend snuck into the dealership. She tried to steal a McLaren, but not everyone left. William stayed. Then he contacted everyone. When everyone came back, they saw William on the floor, and they were shocked. 

Dillion said, “How couldn’t you tie her up?” 

William said, “I did, but someone came with her secretly. It went so fast.” 

Dillion said, “You mean, secretly. Hahaha!” 

Everyone said, “That’s why you’re not funny.” 

Jimjim said, “That’s enough! You really think this is the time to make a joke, huh?” 

Chris said, “Chill out, bro.” 

JDD said, “Just stop! I will get crazy.” 

“Uhhh, fine, geez. You’re so high maintenance,” Jimjim said with an attitude. 

Jake said, “Wait, William, you said that someone was with her?” 

“Yeah,” said William. 

Dillion said, “Oh, that is true. So we have to find out who it was.” 

Jimjim suggested, “Racing at the field, but JDD, JJ, William, and Chris all stay here.” 

“That’s a good idea,” said JDD. 

“Then when they come in, we can be in the secret cloak that I invented,” Jake informed them. 

As everyone left, JDD, JJ, William, and Chris all stayed behind. As they suspected, Jimjim’s girlfriend appeared with none other than – “DJD!” 

Everyone was shocked, except Jimjim and Jake because they were at the racetrack. Dillion was so annoyed that DJD had to lie about his death. Then William and Chris decided enough was enough, so they stood up from their hiding spot, got their handcuffs, and very secretly, when both their hands were on their backs, arrested them! 

Chapter 3: The Plan Has Collapsed

After Jimjim and Jake came back, Jimjim was the calmest, but Jake, on the other hand, fainted when he saw DJD. 

Jimjim said, “I thought you died!” 

“Not exactly. I was practicing how to hold my breath at home, and I might say that it worked.” 

Jimjim now looked at his ex-girlfriend. 

“Why are you trying to steal our McLaren, huh? I am waiting for an exclamation now!” shouted Jimjim. 

Jemina replied, “I heard from a little birdie that you have a dealership.” 

“Who might be that birdie? I am listening!” 

“That would be me,” exclaimed DJD. 

“Please don’t send me to jail! I am too pretty to be in there,” said Jemina in a sus voice. 

“Oh, don’t worry, you’re not going to jail,” said Jimjim. 

“Oh, that’s so good. I – ” 

“You’re going to solitary,” exclaimed Jimjim. 

“What? No way! I will not set foot in solitary,” huffed Jemina. 

“We are leaving now,” yelled William. 

When they got to the station, they threw them in there. Jemina was starting to beg the guard to let her go. The guard started to fall in love with her. Then, out of nowhere, the guard let her out.

Chapter 4: The Intense Snow

The group came back from the Museum of Cars, and when they got to solitary, they saw that the guard was knocked out and he was unconscious. They ran out and went in their McLarens and raced all the way back to the dealership, seeing that two of the cars were missing. The Slashers went out, but before they could, Dillion said, “Why don’t we just wait until the next race?” (Which was only in five months.)

Five months later… 

In January, the race was held, but there was a slight, little problem. Those weren’t regular cars! They were sled-McLarens. They were so ready to beat everyone and claim the title. When the person told the racers to go, they were off, and Jimjim told everyone the same routine that he told everyone in the last race. DJD wasn’t in the group, so he knew what they were doing, so he decided to go really fast with Jemina, who was, surprisingly, in the race! When William, Dillion, Chris, and Jimjim were all in first, DJD crashed into Chris and William. Jemina flew past Jimjim. Then, out of nowhere, he saw a vision. He remembered how JDD did that in the last race, but instead of Jimjim crashing into Jemina, she smashed him. Then DJD dashed straight to the finish line, but JDD came out of nowhere and smashed right into DJD and crossed that finish line, and they were champions once again! But then, when DJD and Jemina crossed the line, they got handcuffed and got sent to a solitary underground prison. 

Chapter 5: Two New Stars Are Born Anew

Two years passed, and Jemina and DJD were out of the prison, and they lived a happy life, and they actually got married. They had two children, Jinx and Sphinx, who were twins. It was the same day that the whole group had been born, and the same time! A year later, they found the group, and they asked if they could join, but then Jimjim was a little sus, but he let them in anyway. 

The next race was here, but William told the group, “I don’t think I can race this time because I hurt my leg.” 

Jimjim then told Sphinx he could substitute for William. Sphinx replied, “I’m really nervous!” 

“Don’t be,” said Dillion. 

Sphinx’s twin brother said, “Good luck. You got this!” 

Chapter 6: The Odds Get Harder

In this race, there was a slight twist. Only one of your group members could race, so Jimjim was counting on Sphinx to beat it. Even though this was Sphinx’s first race, he was really nervous, but he took three deep breaths and went to the starting line. When the race was about to start, he heard his parents cheering, and when Jimjim heard that, he was really in shock. When he was about to run towards Sphinx, he got exploded by an apple. Then he saw the same robbers who tried to steal cars from the dealership. He was about to call his police buddies, but before he could, the robbers came and threw his phone so far that he couldn’t call them. After that, he was really upset and got his whole team together, but before he could, the race had already started. Sphinx was off! The problem was, it was just a trick. All of the racers that were on the line were robots, and they were meant to be bad drivers so Sphinx could win because, at the end of the race, they were going to spray Sphinx with some hypnosis gas so he would crash. JDD used her psychic powers to throw the robbers off balance, but what she didn’t know was that they had marbles that could deflect magic and psychic powers. When Jimjim saw Sphinx nearing the end, a strange man walked on the racetrack. Sphinx saw him and stopped, and then the man was actually Dillion in disguise, and then he was saved. But then William walked on the finish line and took the gas himself to show Sphinx that it was a trap. But what they didn’t know was that he wouldn’t wake up for 10 hours.

Chapter 7: The Depression of the Century

When William finally woke up, he told the whole group that DJD and Jemina were planning this and trying to sabotage their own son! 

Jimjim had an idea. “I think we can set up a race and we can force those robbers out and see what they would do not to Sphinx, but to Jinx.” 

“I don’t think that will work,” said Jinx. 

“Why not?” William asked.  

“I will be down in the vault because I’m a little scared and I don’t want to get knocked out for 10 hours like William.” 

But then they heard a little, “Dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun!” 

William was in the corner playing Clash Royale. 

Everyone was like, “Really? Now is not the time. This is serious business right now. If we do this, we will be legends and everyone will know our names.” 

“Doesn’t everyone already know our names?” asked William. 

“That is true, but we have to get even more trophies, not just one trophy.” 

JJ said, “I’m not sure we – ” 

“You’re not going to be able to do this!” an anonymous voice said. 

“Who was that? Imma give you some martial arts moves if you don’t behave,” said Dillion. But then Dillion switched his words right away and said, “I mean, I’ll give you some mac ’n’ cheese arts! Hahaha.” 

“You’re done. You’re really done,” said the anonymous voice again, but a little louder. 

Chapter 8: The Hunt Begins

Jimjim replied, “I know where the secret, legendary car is.” 

“Oh, we know,” answered the anonymous voice in a laughing voice.  

“Jimjim, why would you tell them where the secret car is?” answered Jake. 

“If you don’t stop talking right now, I’m going to call you Jake from State Farm!” said the anonymous voice. 

“Why do you keep saying that? I’m not Jake from State Farm. You’re Jake from State Farm, and also, you’re Barney from the song,” said Jake. 

When the voice stopped talking, the team was in shock, and they quickly got into their McLarens and rode all the way to the exhibition. But then they realized that the anonymous voices were not there! But then they heard a SCRRRT. Then the car was so fast that they just saw a flick of wind. There was sleeping gas inside the building, and when they passed by, all the teammates fainted except one, and that was… 

Chapter 9: The Stress Has Begun

As the anonymous voices thought they were safe from the team, Jake came out of nowhere and crashed right into them. Then Jake jumped out of the car and got into the legendary car. When the rest of the group got to his location, they went back to the dealership and put it into the vault. Jimjim was thinking to himself, Isn’t this too easy? Then he saw that Jake was acting a little weird. Jake was turning into a ghost! The anonymous voices threw something at him so he could pixelate into a ghost. 

Jimjim yelled, “What is the cure for this craziness?” 

“We have the cure!!” someone replied. “But if you don’t give us the legendary car, he will be turned into a ghost forever! You have exactly seventy-two hours until he pixelates into a full ghost.”

William said, “We can’t do it because then we’re gonna lose the car and never find it again.” 

Jimjim said, “We have to do it.” 

Everyone was like, “What are you doing? We cannot give them the car because we’ll never find it again and it will disappear.” 

“It doesn’t matter,” said Jimjim. “But I have a slight plan to get them confused, and we can still have it.”

Chapter 10: An Extraordinary End of the First Adventure 

Jimjim told everyone the plan, and they all liked it. They spray-painted the same exact design of the car so they could give them that car and they could still have the legendary car. When they got to the same place where they got the car, they saw three people coming out from the anonymous place. It looked like DJD and Jemina were coming with the antidote in their hands. First, they told them to bring the antidote to them, and then after that, they tossed over the antidote. They brought Jake with them, and Jake drank the potion, and he started turning back into a regular human. And then they had to use a special cannon that was invented by Quint Dinkleberry that can evaporate those people from the planet. So, quickly, before they saw that the legendary car was fake, they went to Quint Dinkleberry and got the special weapon, and after that, they won, and they got sent to Planet Dinkleberry. They actually sent a spy in case they got transported to Planet Dinkleberry. After that, the spy was following them, and then William heard a crack behind them, and then he used the same weapon that they used to transport DJD and Jemina to Planet Dinkleberry. A black car drove up to them and asked if they were willing to join their team of secret spy agents. The man was named Sherlock, and he said, “I have a spot for all of you to steal as spies to get the legendary cars.” 

Everyone asked Jimjim if they were going to go and work with him. Jimjim said, “Yes. We are honored to work with you.” 

Sherlock answered, “Your next adventure will be in the deep jungle.” 

To be continued…

Acornburg

A dark cloud filled the sky with gloom, and spread an uneasy shadow over the town of Acornburg like a chilling blanket of blackness. The usually sweet and scented air that would fill the surrounding areas with cherry blossom petals and fireflies at night seemed to be all but gone, and left in its place a thick and chilled atmosphere, that sent all the animals scurrying back into their various homes and holes. The cherry blossom leaves crumpled up, their vibrant coloring turning to a sickly brownish black as they slowly withered and fell from their trees. It was as though all life had suddenly abandoned Acornburg, leaving its former glory to lay to rest among the ashes. Not a sound could be heard from anywhere in the ghostly town, all the houses silent, waiting for some sign of the Acornburg they used to know. The fountains stopped churning water, the plants stopped growing, the businesses stopped their sales, all at once everything had come to a halt and nobody would ever know why. The usually bustling streets of Acornburg had practically fallen to rubble overnight. 

Driving Blind

Nothing. Just gray. Panic took control of me. Why did we have to drive at night? What if we were driving off a cliff? I was close to tears on the high mountain. My mom tried to put on a reassuring smile, but it was clearly fake. I squeezed her hand so tightly, it hurt for me as well. My sister was the navigator, and my dad was the driver. Endless gray consumed us. The lights of the cars behind us shone, but there were none ahead to guide us. We had to brake several times before the cars behind us got impatient. They weaved left and right, then passed us. They cruised ahead, then halted as they became blind. I felt like I was in a horror show and there was no exit, no escape to leave. As the other cars regained their speed by turning on “fog lights” that we didn’t have, we almost lost the cars. That was when the arguing began.

My sister thought it was best to increase speed so that we didn’t lose our guiding light. I agreed with my mom, though, who thought it was risky to increase speed driving when we couldn’t see anything. My dad agreed with my sister, so he started speeding to catch up. I squeezed my mom’s hand and started to hyperventilate. I couldn’t calm down. With my free hand, I put my hand on my heart and uneasily listened to the rapid beating. 

As if the situation couldn’t get any worse, my sister announced, “There’s a sharp turn coming up.”

The large yellow signs with the midnight-colored left arrows were the only help for us. Again, questions invaded my mind. How will we escape this? Will we lose the cars ahead? Just then, the car in front of us disappeared. A new question formed inside my stressed head. Was it condensed in the fog or lost to something else ahead?

Sadly, my dad didn’t share my same worries, so we continued. But we soon found the car again in front of us. As we silently drove, I continued to hyperventilate until at one point, it let us go. Clear from up ahead. This didn’t comfort me though. There could be more of those areas. I was tired and wanted to close my eyes, but the fear overtook me. Squeezing my mom’s hand while listening to my heartbeat, I continued to look up ahead. But I didn’t see anything but roads, jungle, and no fog!

Hanukkah Joys

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, 

Asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tsivanu l’hadlik 

Ner shel Hanukkah. 

I say the blessing and take the shamash.

I light from right to left until all the candles glow.

I breathe in the soothing aroma as I pick through

The packaging of my gift, the suspense radiating

Through me all crazy-like. I see the gift!

It is exactly what I hoped for!

Then I hand my gift, bouncing on my toes

As my gift is unwrapped slowly…

Will they like it? Will they?

Finally, they see it.

I smile at the grin spreading on their face.

It is Hanukkah.

Demon Killer

Editor’s Note: Content Warning — This psychological thriller contains Violence and Murder. It may be scary for some younger readers.

“George,” Mom said. Mom had black hair. She was always smiling. She only wore purple and yellow dresses. Today, she was wearing a purple and yellow dress because that was the only thing she wore. 

 “Why do we have to go to the stupid hotel?” George asked. 

“You know, your father wants to go to this hotel really badly,” Mom said. 

George was the type of kid who really was into Minecraft and Pokemon Go.  He only wore orange shorts and purple t-shirts. His dad worked in the industry and got these tickets for this very fancy hotel. When they got there, there were four other people at the Hotel of Fanciness. When they got to their room, there were cookies for everyone. Then, in a flash, the dining room was ready to have dinner. There was one gigantic straight table. There was a selection of McDonald’s and every single color of Jell-O that existed in the name of Jell-O history. EVERYONE enjoyed their food… 

15 MINUTES LATER

KRCCC!

Suddenly, the lights went out and everyone saw blood on the ground. The light came back on, and they could see Dr. Frankenstein was dead. 

DUN DUN DUNNN! 

George started crying. Then, George noticed that there was a bloody knife in his mom’s pocket. Coincidentally, his mom was sitting right next to Dr. Frankenstein. 

“It isn’t what it looks like… promise.” 

No one talked to George’s mom for the rest of the two days. When everyone was having breakfast, they all went up to put their plates in the sink. Suddenly, there was another strike. The lights went out and….

 KRCCC!

 Mrs. Frankenstein was dead!   

This time, there was a hook in Mrs. Frankenstein’s throat with a purple piece of leather stuck to the end of the hook. The waiter thought this had gone on way too long.

“This has gone on long enough!!! Tonight, George will sleep alone and all the other people will sleep together,” said the waiter. No one was killed that night. That morning, George’s mom knew something was up. 

“George, is there anything you want to tell me?” 

“Nope. I have to tell Dad how appreciative I am that he let us all come here to this lovely hotel!” George’s mom now knew that something was up. 

That night, at dinner, Mom yelled, “I know who the demon killer is!!! I was very surprised when I figured it out… THE DEMON KILLER IS GEORGE!!!”

George replied, “Honestly, it’s Dad. He gave me a needle every night and forced me to put it in my skin. He forced me using a gun! He is in a bet with someone. He has to kill everyone living in this hotel, and if he does, he gets a large amount of money!! He was controlling me.” Tears appeared out of George’s eyes. George’s dad walked in.

“This guuuy’s name is actually Dr. Lawrence Payne!”

KRCCC!

The lights went out, and a few moments later, the lights went on and George’s dad was DEAD!!!

Mr. Puppy Face Goes to School

Book #2 of the Mr. Puppy Face Series

One day, Mr. Puppy Face gets a letter in the mail saying that he is invited to teach puppies in Grade 1 about being a Professional Puppy Scout. (Read Book One, A Job for Mr. Puppy Face.) He decides to go because he wants an opportunity to teach little puppies. 

Soon, he is on a school bus with other puppies, driving to a building with a giant sign that reads, “Puppy Academy: Where Slobbery Dreams Come True.” He walks into the building, checking with kids so he knows where to go. He walks into the classroom, and he looks around. The walls are covered with scribbles on construction paper that were supposedly called drawings, and the floors had colorful fuzzy rugs with the ABC’s on them. He thought it was all wonderful. It reminded him of when he was a kid. He sat down on a chair marked, “Teacher Puppy Face.” It was obviously referring to him. 

 He sat down in front of a white board, and the principal entered. She looked very professional. She introduced Mr. Puppy Face to the class that had entered so quietly, they seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. 

After, he wrote important stuff on the whiteboard, and he stuffed blank paper into a thick blue file folder so that he would seem professional.

While he was doing this, the kids just thought his presentation already started, so they were clueless. Then, Mr. Puppy Face remembered that he did not plan out his presentation or what he was going to say. Then he looked around. He saw many other parents! It was Job Day!!! He would have time to plan out what he was going to say while the other parents went. 

He thought something up while a fire dog, a police officer, and a librarian went. He gave an important speech. At least, he thought it was important… 

The End

Thief

It was Halloween, and Amelia was running from house to house, trick-or-treating. She was a normal kid living a normal life. She had annoying siblings, she did after-school activities, and she texted her friends. She listened to music and chewed gum as she did her homework. And, of course, she ate candy, too. Lollipops were her favorite, and usually, she got a sack of lollipops out of the three sacks of candy she got. Her parents didn’t allow her to have candy because they were healthy moms and dads, but she snuck the candy into her closet. 

Amelia’s mother, Sandy, and her father, Jake, didn’t permit Amelia to stay up later than 10:30 PM, but Amelia had her ways. She would read by her night light and suck on her leftover candy. On that particular day, she took out a big grape lollipop, her favorite flavor, and opened her book. Her book was very interesting, but it was very late, and so she drifted off to sleep.

When she woke up, she sighed and took a piece of candy out of the first sack and went downstairs. Never had she thought that her parents were going to be so cheerful that morning. She expected to see angry faces staring at her, but they were bustling around. Amelia sighed again, very confused. Hoping her parents didn’t see her worried face, she quickly gulped down her food, brushed her teeth, and ran out the door. 

On most days, Amelia was a very good student and often teased for being the teacher’s pet. Amelia never minded the bullies, but this worrying made her more sensitive, and she almost yelled at the boys teasing her. If she had actually yelled at them, she would have gone straight to the principal’s office. That made the boys tease her even more, but at that exact moment, the lunch bell rang and Amelia rushed into the cafeteria. 

In one corner of the cafeteria, she stayed low for a while, and when everyone was busy eating, she felt brave enough to go buy her lunch. Then, when she searched through her backpack, her money was gone. So was her candy. And so she was lunchless. Her stomach rumbled, but what was there to do? When Amelia was young, she always wanted to solve a mystery. Now, there was one right in front of her eyes. 

The next day, Amelia still wasn’t sure if she had just dropped her things or if they went missing, so she went to school with her lunch money and more candy. Once again, the same thing happened. Her parents were becoming suspicious because, when she came home, her stomach was always rumbling like a car motor. 

Finally, she decided to go to the principal. But first, she had to talk to her mother. 

“Mom? Can I bike to school?” Amelia asked, though she knew the answer would be no.

After a moment of pause, Amelia’s mother said, “Well, you are in middle school, so I suppose so.” 

Trying hard not to run up to her mother and hug her, Amelia simply walked into her room. Her mother and father went on a stroll, and Amelia took the chance to make some pizza to cook in the morning. When her parents came back, she lied, “We have pizza-making competition in cooking class, so I made some.” 

It was a really bad lie, but they still went along with her. Since her parents didn’t want her to know that she was going to be in big trouble for lying, they hid their suspicion. 

“That looks like a great pizza. Freeze it, and I will heat it up in the morning,” her mother said. Amelia was secretly taking it, just in case the thief was back again, so she would have something to eat. Her plan that she hoped was going to fix this mystery was to go to the principal’s office and see if he would allow her to check the security cameras.

Amelia hardly slept that night, worrying about the next day. In the morning, she didn’t even bother to hide her unusualness. Quickly, she dressed, showered, ate, and brushed her teeth. One second she was in the garage grabbing her bike, the next she was outside heading towards school. Her aim was to get there early, so she could go in first. 

Soon, the bell rang, and Amelia rushed into the building and headed to the principal’s office. Her principal was a reasonably kind one and understood her well. Though it was strange, her principal mostly hid his suspicion when Amelia bustled into the office. Mostly, he was cool with her situation, but Amelia could tell he was quite suspicious of her. Although she had never gone to see the security cameras before, it felt weird that a security man was there supervising her. 

Mr. Crasper, the security man, showed her the video and she spotted her locker. The thief approached her locker and dug through her backpack, taking out a small object, then another, and then some paper (the money). 

“Yes, that is the thief that kept stealing my things!” Amelia exclaimed.

The principal came in and said, “Found the thief? Lemme see who it is!” 

Amelia did so and the principal sighed.

“Ahh, that’s the bully of the school. We have had many kids come to complain about him. I think he is such a menace, we might have to report him. Don’t worry, we will catch him,” the principal said.

“Oh, thank you so much!” Amelia exclaimed.

“You’re welcome,” the principal said, and they shook hands. “Now, don’t be late, the second bell will ring soon.” And Amelia skipped off to class. 

Fire – A Poem Collection

#1

The screech of violins

The singing of the cello

The deep ringing of flutes

The beat of drums

The thrum of grand pianos

All created a fire

#2

The writers’ place

It’s in outer space

Aliens like to sleep there

The dragons roar crazily

The writers wake up and eat phones

They taste weird and bitter

Then they write about floors that burned

And human-eating cows (moo)

Then they have writer’s block (aw)

And they start to sing with sadness

#3

Huzzah! We shout as we dive into the sofa

It tastes very sweet but smells like someone farted.

Then we take the pillows and start hitting each other in the eyes.

Then the pillows erupt and we eat the fluff

Then lick our lips with joy.

The Very Mysterious Story

CAUTION: THIS STORY IS A REAL STORY, SO BEWARE IF YOU DON’T LIKE STORIES.

A package appeared in front of Lillie’s door in the middle of the night. She was very confused. Why would someone send me a package at 12:00? She opened the package and there was a stuffed puppy. Lillie took the puppy and went back up to bed, although she could not fall asleep. Who sent it? Why in the middle of the night? Why a puppy? 

In the morning, her mom asked if she had come downstairs. Lillie said, “Yep. I came down to have a glass of water, but I came right back up and fell asleep right away.”  

Lillie said that because she didn’t want her to worry. Her mom had a lot of things to deal with now that her mom and dad were divorced. Lillie lived with her mom. 

When Lillie got to school, her mom had to be VERY annoying. She yelled in front of the whole school, “WHERE’S MY SMOOCHY, SWEETIE?” 

Lillie did not smooch her and ran to her best friend, Caroline. Lillie was her friend starting in pre-K. They had always been inseparable. They were always in the same classes. It was kind of magical.

 At lunch, Lillie told her everything. She came over to Lillie’s house and Lillie showed her the puppy. It was gone. 

“Seriously? I have dance class and you wanted to show me a puppy that doesn’t exist!”

 That night, when Lillie came back for dinner, in the corner of the room, she found the puppy. Dinner was terrible. When she went back to bed, she put the puppy behind a locked door and left it for the night. 

In the morning, he was still there. She took him out and put him on the bed. The puppy was white with some black spots. She named him Spots. 

On the way home from school, Lille found a dog with the exact same design as Spots walking across the road with no collar – just like Spots. She picked him up and took him home. He had no identification. 

When Lillie got home, she looked for the puppy, but he wasn’t there. She got takeout that night, so it was very good. Lillie locked the dog in her room and fell asleep. 

In the morning, he was not there. There was a stuffed animal. Lillie put the stuffed animal in her backpack and went to school. 

She showed Caroline the stuffed dog. Then, she told her what happened last night. She was very freaked out!!!

That night, Lillie and the dog went to her house to have a sleepover. As you might have known, today was Friday!!!

They stayed up all night and watched the puppy transform into the real dog.

The next day, Lillie started trying to train him, but that didn’t take very long because he already knew how to sit, roll over, play dead, speak, and paw. He also knew the basics, like flying and going on fire. You might be wondering if that was just me joking, but he really could fly and set himself on fire. 

Lillie started going shopping to get him some dog food and a bed. She kept on wondering who sent her this dog. Then, Lillie realized that on the doll, there was a tag and that tag probably had some identification. When the real dog turned into the doll, it said, “SOMEBODY.” She was very confused and decided to give up for the day.

Then, a couple of days later, Caroline said that she was walking down the road and she overheard some people saying, “What a stupid gal she is. I don’t even know her name.”  

“She is a nice lady. Did you know I randomly live on Seventh Ave and Eighth Street? I also went to college with SOMEBODY.”

Then, right away, Lillie knew that she, the doll, and Caroline had to sneak out of their houses and go to SOMEBODY’s house. 

That evening, they snuck out. When they got to the house, it was very dark. It was like a little bit of space just filled with clouds and rain. It was 3:39, so it was bright outside, but in that little area, it was very dark, like it was midnight. They knocked on the door and the door creaked open. A slim man walked out. They asked to come in and it looked like he didn’t have a lot of visitors, so he looked nice. They came inside but there was only one couch and a lamp. Lillie asked him if he knew about SOMEBODY. He said that he went to college with him and that they were best friends, but they grew apart. He also told them that he lived right next door. Like, literally right next door. They rang the doorbell and there was a woman at the door. She slammed the door and opened the little peephole and screamed, “NAMES???” 

“My name is Lillie Frankenstein.”

The lady gasped. It was kind of like she was choking, but she wasn’t. Lillie repeated her name to her. She immediately let Lillie in with the others. When she let Lillie and Caroline in, she told them that the dog could also talk, and he ordered her to send him to them. She thought it was just random. He would kill her if she told him no, so she chickened out and listened to him. 

“SORRY.” She began to cry. “I am so sorry.”

Later that day, they all chucked the dog out of the bag they were keeping him in. He started licking them and they pushed him away. The dog started talking. “I don’t want any trouble, but you should have never trusted her. She hates dogs. She really, really, really HATES DOGS.” 

(Roll the backstory!) 

“SOMEBODY was born on October 20th and she loved dogs when she was two years old, although the dogs always barked at her and bit her and made her get rabies. When she went to the dog store, she went with her mom and got a dog. The dog loved SOMEBODY. But the only dog in the whole entire universe who loved SOMEBODY just had to despise her mom. It was a dark and stormy night when SOMEBODY’s mom was doing the laundry. The dog walked up to her and scratched her body in half. Blood was gushing out. So the house was filling up with blood. And poor SOMEBODY had to live on the streets, alone. When she turned twenty one, she bought her own house and she made enough money to go to college. SOMEBODY met Mark, the neighbor right next door.”

(Back to the present.)

“WOW!!!” Lillie kept repeating. “I had absolutely no idea that was why!”

“Remember this: she can be really persuasive for you to change your mind. And, most of all, I love the name Spots.” And, just like that, the puppy turned back into a doll. 

The next day, it was a holiday, so they did not have school. Caroline and Lillie were wondering how they were going to save the world. Then Lillie started thinking… Maybe if she said “dog” fourteen times, she would get an idea. 

“Dog, dog, dog, dog, dog, dog, dog, dog, dog, dog, dog, dog, dog, dog.” Then, BOOM!!! It worked. She was going to have to go to SOMEBODY’s house and… 

(I DON’T MEAN TO INTERRUPT THE STORY, BUT THIS IS WHEN THE STORY STARTS TO GET DARK, SO IF YOU ARE UNDER THE AGE OF FIVE, THEN YOU SHOULD COVER YOUR EARS!! BACK TO THE STORY WHEN LILLIE WAS TALKING ABOUT HER MASTER PLAN.)

Lillie was going to have to go to SOMEBODY’s house and kill her. When she told Caroline, she totally lost all control, but it had to be done. The next morning, they went up to SOMEBODY’s house and tried to kill her, but she was waiting for Lillie with a sword. 

“What did that evil dog say to you?”

“NO!!! I know you are lying!!!” 

“Fine. I am not lying, but please don’t kill me. I will do no harm.” 

“You fool… I know your plan and I will never allow it!!” Lillie started throwing knives at her and she started to get scared. She dropped her weapon and surrendered and, just like that, the knife was through SOMEBODY’s heart and there was no one in the room. Lillie ran home and started crying.  

Spots crawled on the bed and under the sheets and said in a small voice, “Thank you. Every dog in the world will know your name.”

No one ever stepped into that room again. Even the police officers… and that is LITERALLY their job.

The Opposite of The Little Mermaid

Editor’s note: This story is inspired by and responding to “The Little Mermaid.”

About 5 million years ago, a mermaid lived in a cool town filled with short buildings with fancy carvings and beautiful mosaics. She swam through the fake blue water until she got to her father, the King.
He told her, “I strongly believe that you should go to The Surface of the Water.”
She said to the short, bearded, well-dressed man, “I HATE The Surface and I like The Water.”
Her father looked at her in a discouraging way, “Go now. Also, be back by 5:31 on the dot for dinner.”
She started to swim away.
“Oh, and don’t forget to do your homework!”
The mermaid, Ariel, did the breaststroke to her house, picked up her chorus homework, and went up to The Surface. Ariel practiced singing her scales. Then she felt the faintest drop of rain. 0.01 seconds later, a thunderstorm emerged from the not-so-puffy clouds. A man fell off the cracking ship. He plunged into the water. Eventually, his head emerged from the crashing water. He grabbed onto the rock right next to Ariel. She paid no attention to the struggling man and kept on with her chorus homework. The stranger’s eyes flickered open but Ariel had already left.
Later that week, Ariel went to school like any other day, but in science class, Miss Ursula had a new lesson in mind.
“Children! Last night I had a dream where mermaids could walk on Land. So, I want one of you ladies and gents to volunteer to be teleported to Land!”
No one wanted to explore Land. Miss Ursula walked around the room questioning every student to see if they truly did not want to go to Land.
She stopped by Ariel, stared at her, and finally said, “You shall go up! You’re the King’s daughter, so surely you should go…”
She slowly bent down and came close to Ariel’s face and then booped her on the nose and smiled a deranged smile.
The next day, Ariel was teleported to the Land. She went exploring and found the man she had seen drowning. He was in a very fancy house on the shore of the water. She wanted to go investigate, so she peered around the tall, three-story house. It was decorated with vines and wisteria, near the front door there were all types of different flowers, including chrysanthemums, red and white roses, and jasmine flowers framing the doorway.
She crept to the back and peered into the second-floor window, which was open, where the man now was being tailored into a very fancy suit. A posh man, with a long mustache, was serving him grapes and cheese on tiny toothpicks. The man being tailored saw her and yelled out the open window, “You look familiar! Come up here right now!”
Ariel did what the man ordered and went in the front door that led to a winding staircase, up to the room where the mysterious man was. She peeked her head in and the man ushered her in.
The man, who claimed his name was Prince Eric, asked her, “I saw you somewhere, but where?”
Prince Eric pondered for a bit then came back to reality. “Oh! I saw you when I fell off that ship 2 days ago. You were singing so beautifully, what were you singing?”
“I was practicing my chorus homework. I was just singing ‘He’s a Jolly Good Fellow’.”
Then some time passed and Ariel and Prince Eric married and lived not very happily-ever-after.

Roster the Puppy

Editor’s Note: Content warning — Murder/Violence

Chapter One: The Dog Catcher

Roster lived in New York City, and he loved it there. He had black fur and blue eyes. His best friends were a hamster named Peanut, a cat named Charlie, and the leader of the pack, who was called Rex. Peanut was all light brown with light brown eyes, and Charlie was black and white with blue eyes. Rex was black, white, and brown, and he had dark black eyes. He brought everybody food. They did not have someone who took care of them and fed them. Then, one day, while they were eating a pizza with STUFFED CRUST, a dog catcher came and scooped up Roster, Peanut, Charlie, and Rex with his net, hurting a couple of them. When they woke up in their cells, they saw how high-tech the security was, and they knew that they were not getting out of there anytime soon.   

Chapter Two: The Escaping Plan

After a while, the dog catchers brought cat food for everyone to eat. Everyone thought it was horrible. That night, they planned their attack. The plan was when the dog catchers brought their food, they would all jump out. The next day, early before breakfast, a little boy and his mother chose to adopt Rex and took him home. Then, a crowd of people came rushing in, and the doors almost fell off their hinges. When all of the people left, Rex saw that Peanut and Charlie were gone, along with other pets he did not know.

Roster, Peanut, and Charlie opened their eyes. They were in a big dark place with other pets they didn’t really know. Then, a person in a yellow suit with a yellow mask put every pet back to sleep, and he did it by spraying sleeping gas on them. He was wearing a mask, so he was not affected by the sleeping gas. While Roster was getting his food, he jumped out and made a run for it. Now the person in the yellow suit was on the hunt for Roster, Peanut, and Charlie. When Roster, Peanut, and Charlie woke up, they were behind bars. When the person in the yellow suit and yellow mask came, they pretended they were asleep, so the person did not put them to sleep again. Peanut, Roster, and Charlie wondered if it would ever be the same, while Rex got a ninja suit and rope to save them.

Chapter Three: Owen 

The next day, a person with a name tag that had “Steve” written on it came in holding first class food, not some stinky cat food. Even Charlie hated that food, and he was a CAT! Then, Steve dropped the food and ran away because something crashed through the window. It was Rex in a ninja suit holding a kitchen knife with blood on it. Rex told them that it was chicken blood. Rex used the knife as a key to save them, but when he tried to, a man picked him up and took the knife and ninja costume away from Rex. He put Rex in a cage and picked up Roster, Peanut, and Charlie, shoving them into the same cage as Rex. They had trouble breathing, and when they thought they were going to suffocate, a little boy named Owen opened the cage and gave them all treats.

Later, Roster, Peanut, Charlie, and Rex had dinner. Roster and Rex had dog food with gravy. Charlie had cat food with milk, and Peanut had sunflower seeds and water with a hint of carrot juice. Owen and his mother, Liz, had Chinese food. Roster, Peanut, and Charlie did not care because they loved their food anyway, but Rex really wanted some Chinese food. He whimpered and jumped up on their laps, begging for food. It worked! Rex got eight pieces of chicken, and he got some of the sauce with it. When it was time for bed, Owen brushed his teeth, and he also brushed Roster’s, Peanut’s, Charlie’s, and Rex’s teeth for them. Then the boy went to his bed, and Charlie slept on one of the pillows. Rex and Roster were curled up on the side of the bed near Owen’s head, and Peanut was between his hands.                           

Chapter Four: Rex’s Gone

In the middle of the night, Rex got up and crept out of bed and crept out of the room and then ran out the door, and as soon as he left, yellow eyes appeared out of the darkness holding a dagger and then followed Rex outside. When Roster, Peanut, and Charlie woke up, Rex was gone — he was nowhere to be found, and Owen’s mother was gone, too! And when they looked at Owen, there was a dagger stabbed in his chest. Owen was dead.

Roster, Peanut, and Charlie left the house and looked for Rex and Owen’s mother, Liz. After a while, they hit a dead end. They turned around to find Rex and Liz, but in the darkness in front of them there was a person with yellow eyes who then fell on the sidewalk. Rex was holding a dagger that was in that person’s chest. After that, they walked on the sidewalk and they saw the pizza with stuffed crust that started it all.

Rex picked it up with his mouth and said, “Let’s go somewhere the dog catcher will not find us.”

They found a nice spot, and when they were about to take a bite, dogs appeared out of nowhere and dragged Rex, Peanut, Charlie, and Roster into a cold dungeon, slamming the door behind them. Now Roster, Peanut, Charlie, and Rex were trapped in a dungeon with no food or water. They all realized they were not alone in the dungeon. Something was in there with them.

Chapter Five: Kicking Away

Rex, Peanut, Charlie, and Roster all huddled together, and in a blink of an eye, Peanut was gone. Then, Charlie and Roster were gone too. Rex ran and kicked and kicked at the door, but it would not open. Then, Rex saw something in the distance. It was a black dog. Rex kicked the dog so hard that he split it in half. After he kicked the black dogs in half, he saw the leader, and he knew it was the leader because it was wearing a gold crowd. Rex punched the lights out of the leader, and then kicked the door open with a mega-kick.

Meanwhile, Peanut, Roster, and Charlie were dumped on the sidewalk and trapped in a metal cage. Rex ran to a costume store and got ninja costumes for all of them. Then, Rex found Charlie, Peanut, and Roster. THEN, REX SUPER-MEGA-ULTRA-KICKED THE METAL CAGE OPEN LIKE IT WAS NOTHING!!!

Rex, Peanut, Charlie, and Roster ran and ran and ran until they stopped in front of a garbage can. Rex jumped up to see what was in the garbage can and saw a chicken, so he took that. Peanut picked up a carrot, Charlie picked up a fish, and Roster picked up a full can of baloney. They followed Rex to a rope, and Rex climbed it, Peanut, Charlie, and Roster following behind him. It led to a treehouse, where Rex took a bite of his chicken, Peanut nibbled his carrot, Roster opened his can and took a small bite of baloney, and Charlie took a big bite of fish. Then, they all realized something was climbing up the rope to them.

Chapter Six: Charlie’s Past

It was a skeleton wearing black robes and holding an ax. Peanut, Charlie, Rex, and Roster jumped out of the treehouse and onto the sidewalk. They were cornered against a door. Suddenly, a hand grabbed Rex and Peanut. Charlie and Roster made a run for it, and Rex threw a bone at the skeleton that made it fall apart. The bone turned around and picked up the ax. It flew back to Rex.

“Boomerang bone,” Charlie whispered to Roster.

They walked and walked until a net picked them up. They were back in a cage.

Roster turned around to look at Charlie. “Charlie, what are you doing?”

“Getting out of here,” whispered Charlie.

“Using your claws?”

“Yes, what else am I supposed to use?!”

That was when Roster noticed a scar on Charlie’s arm. 

“What is that scar on your arm?” Roster asked.

“Like you care.”

“I do care.” 

“You do?”

“Of course I do,” said Roster.

“Well, when I was young, my father wanted to kill me because he hated me, but when he tried to hit me with his sword, my mother jumped in the way and hit my arm. The sword flew and killed my mother and father, so I was on my own from then on.”    

Chapter Seven: Cats Everywhere 

Before Roster could say anything, Charlie’s cage opened and Charlie fell on the floor with a bang.

“Are you okay?” Roster asked, but Charlie did not answer. Roster tried to get out, but he could not. Roster did not know what to do. He sat in the corner of his cage, curled up.

Then, a wet, cold hand reached into the cage. It was a person in a yellow suit. The person told Roster that the place was closing, and if they did not get out in time, they would be trapped in there, and metal would surround the place they were in. Roster walked up to Charlie and tapped him. Roster saw the metal appearing from the roof, put Charlie on his back, and ran out of the store just in time.

Roster ran back to the treehouse. He was surprised to see Rex and Peanut there. All three  of them poked Charlie at the same time. Roster put his paw on Charlie’s stomach.

“Charlie’s still breathing,” said Roster.

“So, Charlie’s not dead?” asked Peanut.

“Nope, not dead,” said Roster. Then, he whispered under his breath, “Not yet, at least.” 

“What did you just say?” asked Peanut.

“Nothing!”

Then they heard rustling in the bushes. Rex, Peanut, and Roster turned around at the same time and saw a cat.

“Is that cat coming closer?” asked Peanut.

“One hundred percent, yes,” whispered Roster. 

Then they saw another one and another one.

“What do they want?” asked Peanut.

“It’s a trap. They’re surrounding us, and there is nowhere to go,” whispered Roster.

Chapter Eight: Leaving Earth

Then, the cats started to climb up the treehouse. Suddenly, Charlie got up, and a cat jumped on Charlie. Then, a cat jumped on Peanut.

“THE CAT IS TEN TIMES BIGGER THAN ME! IT’S GOING TO SQUASH ME!” screamed Peanut. 

Then a cat jumped on Roster, and a cat with a crown made of the most expensive fish jumped on Rex. When the cat got off Rex, another cat jumped on Rex. 

“I am the leader of the club of cats, and they treat me like I am their queen,” said the cat with the crown.

“You look like the opposite of a queen!” shouted Charlie.

The cat with the crown told the club, “Get them out of my sight, now.”

The cats put Peanut, Roster, Rex, and Charlie into a small rocket ship and blasted them off into space. When they blasted off, the Earth exploded behind them. Roster, Peanut, Charlie, and Rex started to float in the rocket ship until they crashed into another planet. Roster, Peanut, Charlie, and Rex opened their eyes and saw that they were in a hospital.

“They are finally awake. I have been waiting,” said a voice in the room.

Rex, Roster, Charlie, and Peanut stared at each other, and nobody moved a muscle.

Chapter Nine: News People

A few seconds later, Roster looked where Charlie had been, but Charlie was not there. Then, Roster turned to look at the window, and Charlie was there, whacking the window. Someone suddenly grabbed Charlie — it was the news people.

The news people said that they had been following them because of what they were doing. One of the news people grabbed Roster, Peanut, and Rex. The news people took them to another rocket ship. When they were all inside, the news people said, “The Earth did not blow up. It just looked like it blew up, and the cats that put you into the rocket ship died.”

Roster, Peanut, Charlie, and Rex just looked at each other and they knew what to do. They shoved the news people out of the window. Peanut saw parachutes in the back of the rocket ship and jumped out and parachuted to the ground. Then, they ran to a dumpster.

“Why are we at the dumpster again?” asked Charlie.

“Yeah, why are we here?” asked Peanut.

“Maybe we are gonna build something?” said Roster.

“We are going to build something: a robot dog. And we are going to turn this dumpster into a house for us,” said Rex.

Rex, Peanut, Charlie, and Roster got to work. They built a robot and an amazing house. When they took a step inside, it was amazing.

“It’s going to be a lot easier living in New York City with a house,” said Peanut.

“This house is amazing,” said Charlie.

“It is huge,” said Roster.

“That means more room to roam around,” said Peanut.

“Let’s check out the robot dog!” said Roster.

“CHICKEN, COME HERE!” shouted Rex.

The robot dog came, and a red light appeared in the dog’s eyes. KA-BLAM!

“The robot dog blew up… You know what? Let’s go inside the house.”

“Sounds good,” said Charlie. So, they went inside.

Chapter Ten: The Amazing House 

When they walked in, they saw more toys than they could count. In the corner, food bowls were filling up with the best food they could dream of.

“This house is the best,” said Charlie.

“Agreed,” said Roster with a mouth full of food.

“What should we do?” said Peanut.

“Play with all of these toys,” said Charlie.

They all played with the toys for about two hours. Then, they ate the food that they loved so much.

“I am tired,” said Peanut.

“Me, too,” said Roster.

“Me, three,” said Rex.

“Me, four,” said Charlie.

They opened the door to the bedroom, and it was amazing. There was a big bed, and Roster, Charlie, Peanut, and Rex slept on the bed like kings and queens. Peanut was snoring like this: “ZZZZZ!”

Roster, Charlie, and Rex were able to sleep at least. Finally, they could rest and enjoy themselves for once in New York City.

001

Driver

The girl is silent. This is unusual. The driver should know. He picks hitchhikers up wherever he can, and there’s always a, “Thanks,” or a, “Where to?” or at least a, “Hey, can I ride shotgun?”
Not so with this one.
And that’s not the only reason she’s strange either. She has the height and slightly rebellious posture of an eleven-year-old but wearing a trench coat made for a 50-year-old brooding detective with a high collar she’s keeping tightly wrapped around her neck, so it’s totally concealed. Though her position exposes her wrists–which are completely covered with bruises and tiny cuts. She’s also barefoot.
The driver knows the look of an escaped prisoner. He’s picked them up a few times, as this area is notorious for its prisons and other secure facilities.. He knows the bruises on the wrists that indicate having worn handcuffs for a long time, the frantic look of their eyes, the tense, twitching way they hold themselves — as if they might have to bolt any second. Of course, the first three times he picked up escapees, he brought them to the nearest police station immediately. But there’s something about this girl…
Normally he would respect a hitchhiker’s privacy, but now he decides he needs to probe.
“So… ah, what’s your name, young lady?” He glances at her in the rearview mirror. A patch of something red is starting to spread over the collar of her coat. Her eyes flit nervously to him.
“Ahh… Ah… ” she stutters. Her voice is hoarse as if she hasn’t used it in a while. This worries him.
“Amelia? He prompts after hesitating. “Anna?”
“Ah…. ” her mouth presses into a firm line. “Aaaaa….. mnesia.”
“You… have amnesia?” Now he is truly worried.
“Amnesia.”
He thinks for a moment. “So… you can’t remember?”
“Can’t remember,” she repeats triumphantly.
“Ah… do you have any idea… why you can’t remember?”
Her mouth goes into that line again. He realizes that’s all he’s going to get out of her on the matter. “Well, should I call your parents? Your guardians?”
No answer.
“Do you…have any family?”
Nothing.
“Well… I have to call someone.” Keeping one hand on the wheel, the driver reaches for his phone, lying next to him, with his other hand. He is about to dial 911 when he catches the strange girl’s eye in the mirror. He suddenly finds he can’t look away. Then, it happens. Her pupils constrict– just a little. Then the feeling– as if something in his mind, just a bit off for years, has finally clunked into place.
His hand slowly moves away from his phone and comes to rest at two o’clock on the wheel.
“No family… that’s all right. I don’t have any either. They’re all gone, you see.” At that word, something seems to click in her mind as well.
“Gone… ” she says. “Gone… my family is gone.”

Officer

The girl scares him. She shouldn’t.
Granted, she is scary. But so was the 17-year-old with the blood-red mohawk who was dealing drugs. So was the bald 14-year-old girl with obscenities tattooed up and down both arms, twirling a pistol in her hand. And so was the teen before that, and the one before that, and the hundreds he’s seen over the years. Being stationed at one of New City’s busiest subway stations, you get freaks like that. All. The. Time.
But this freak is different. Usually they strut around looking for trouble or flaunting their disturbing tattoos. She keeps to herself, huddling in a corner formed by a dumpster and the wall. And the officer isn’t exactly up-to-date with the fashion scene at the moment, but he is pretty sure that a sweaty old ripped undershirt, long pink gloves, tight white shorts that barely cover her bottom, and a vibrant orange scarf are unusual even for a subway freak. Her undyed, shoulder-length, dirty-blonde hair sticks out everywhere in a very undignified way.
Then it strikes him that she’s not wearing any shoes. Something is very wrong here. He decides to move in. In this line of work, you learn to follow every lead.
She smiles pleasantly at him when he approaches. “Hello,” she says. Her voice is smooth — too smooth. Her tone is flawless.
“Hello,” he says, slowly and cautiously. Then he tells himself to man up. This scrawny 11-year-old shouldn’t scare him. He’s 42, in prime shape for his age, and has a gun. He needs to assert himself. “Ma’am,” he begins sternly, “I’m afraid shoes are mandatory in this station.”
“Is that so?” she asks sweetly.
“Yes, it is. Rule 307 of the Customer Service Policy states clearly on the New City Public Transportation website.”
“Oh.” She makes a little squeal. “Well, I didn’t know that – ” And then, it happens. The slight constricting of the pupils — and the strangest feeling, as though something in his mind, sunken to the bottom after years of forgetfulness, is sifted to the top.
“Officer Davis Davidson,” she finishes.
“I — I’m sorry.” Davis Davidson is stunned. Because that’s not his name.
She smiles again. Her full lips look red in the dim light. He doesn’t fully register it, because she takes one step sideways away from him.
Through his shock, he can hear dimly the roar that signals the arrival of a train. The girl cocks her head to one side playfully. “Well, I need to get going,” she grins, flashing yellow teeth. Then she is gone.
The officer stands there, frozen, for 15 more minutes before one of his co-workers finds him.
When he climbs into bed that night, he can’t stop thinking about what the girl called him.
The badge reads Officer McShirley — that’s the surname he took when he was married. And well before that, when he was 20, he had changed his last name to Johnson. All the records show either McShirley or Johnson. There’s no way she could have known.
But he was born Davis Davidson.

Cashier

The girl is ugly. Normally, the cashier isn’t a judgmental person, but this is simply a fact. Her hopelessly tangled and muddy hair reaches down to the floor, her face is covered in nettles and scratches, and he’s pretty sure those are real cockroaches on her arms. To say nothing of her fashion sense. She looks like she just escaped from a jail — a low-budget jail. She’s wearing a ripped white undershirt and tight, white shorts that barely cover three inches, and no shoes. There are scars and bruises covering her wrists and neck. The cashier isn’t the brightest (it’s not part of the job description) so he doesn’t stop to think how she might have gotten them. He simply checks her items.
Bread, carrots, apples, frozen peas, frozen French Fries, a pint of mint ice cream, and two six-packs of water bottles. Not exactly typical shopping for a 12-year-old girl — they usually come in giggling with Haribos and sodas and lip gloss. This girl looks wise beyond her years, like a crazed sage living on a mountain eating worms. There’s a breathless expression on her face like she’s been through something horrible, and is simply glad to be alive. It troubles the cashier.
“Your total is $29.99,” he tells her. “Paper or plastic?”
“Nothing reusable?” Her voice is hoarse, but kind.
“No,” he tells her, looking at her defiantly.
She makes a tsking noise and makes eye contact with him. She looks almost regretful. Then it happens.
Her pupils constrict, and the cashier gets the strangest feeling — as though out of his clogged and overstuffed brain, off his burdened shoulders, something has been taken.
And then it’s as if he’s closed his eyes — just darkness and darkness and darkness. He tries to open his eyes, but they are open. He can hear the clamor of the supermarket, smell the cleaning products, taste the stale gum in the back of his mouth, feel the coarse fabric of his uniform against his hands — but he cannot see. He hears the girl giggle, hears the rustling and clunking of objects being dropped into a bag, and the pad of her feet running away.
The cashier slumps to his knees. His head droops and a few salty tears seep out of his blind eyes.

Reporter

The girl shouldn’t be here. But the reporter seems to be the only one who’s noticed, as usual. She’s come to realize that, even though she’s only an intern at LINN (Leg International News Network), she’s really the only competent member of her team. Which is unfortunate, because they’ve been assigned the war-spurred chaos in B’leg.
The girl really shouldn’t be here, for her own safety. There are crazed gangs and resistance fighters with machine guns and hand grenades everywhere. Even wearing a bulletproof vest, the reporter doesn’t feel safe. And this girl looks only ten, wearing a shirt that says My Grandma went to Seaside States and all I got was this stupid T-Shirt, a ridiculous flamingo scarf, and jean shorts that clash horribly.
She is about to stride over to the girl to tell her to clear out when their team leader grabs her by the arm.
“Avery!” he says sharply. “We need you on set! We’re live in 30 seconds! Where have you been?” Five feet away, she thinks as he drags her away.
The camera is pointed at a dramatic landscape of burning buildings and half-naked, starving people running around and shrieking. It seems like something straight out of the pages of a dystopian novel.
The team leader shoves a microphone into Avery’s hands and gestures impatiently at the cameraman. He nods, and Avery puts on her professional face.
“Hello, Leg,” the leader announces pompously. “This is Alex Alexander, everyone’s favorite re – ”
“We are live from war-torn B’leg!” Avery shouts into her mic. It lets out a squeal of feedback in protest. Alex Alexander gives her a look, but she’s already decided to take matters into her own hands. “The half-starved screams of innocent citizens caught in the crossfire fill the air, and the sharp tang of gunpowder is inescapable. Mud, fire, and death pollute these streets. And after the merciless attack of the resistance fighters, it is sadly proven once again that innocence never lasts forever… ” She pulls a six-year-old boy clutching a teddy bear that’s half ashes into the camera frame. “Young man! What was your life like before the attack?”
“Uh… my name is Humphrey and I guess I liked watching cartoons. You know that one with the rabbit and the roach? That was my favorite. But then… I mean… ”
Avery makes a roll the clip motion with her hand. Across Leg, their viewers will see a recording of yesterday’s attack. Avery waits thirty seconds, then continues talking. “After this ruthless rampage of ruination – ” (audiences adore alliteration) “ – everyone in B’leg is changed. Now, Humphrey is lucky when the news turns on! I – ”
“True,” comes a loud voice.
Avery whirls around. A girl — the girl is standing there. In their frame. “Excuse me?”
The girl’s face, framed by hair that’s black at the top and white at the bottom, with only the barest shade of gray in between, twists into an expression of horror. “I — I’m so sorry – ”
“Hey!” shouts Alex Alexander stupidly. “That’s the girl I saw you with!”
Then the strangest thing happens — a flash of events in the space of a few seconds. The girl’s eyes constrict and something flashes in them — a truth, ancient and mystical and powerful. Then they glaze over, and she speaks.
“True,” she says.
“Wait, what?” Alexander asks slowly, befuddled.
Avery sighs. “She – ” then she stops, because she realizes she doesn’t actually know what the girl did. Or what she said.
“Ha!” Humphrey cries. “Polly, ya did it again!”
The girl –- Polly? — looks uncomfortable. “Humph.”
But the boy is suddenly talking animatedly to Avery. “I found ‘er a few weeks ago. Hid her in my basement. At first, I was just doing a good deed, but then I found out she has powers.”
Another member of the team, Julia, who used to work in the tabloids, jumps in. “Is this boy crazed? In shock? Who is the Girl from B’leg?! Some may call these questions mere conspiracy theories, but the truth-seekers among you should check your newsstands.” She stops, realizing she’s live on national television. “Sorry, old habits.”
Then it happens again. The constricting of the girl’s eyes, and she speaks, “True.”
“Told ya!” Humphrey practically shrieks. “Powers! See, she can tell the truth from a lie!”
“True.”
“Watch: My name is Humphrey.”
“True.”
“My name is Alex Alexander.”
“False. Humphrey, I really don’t want to do this, not on television.”
“Actually, we’re not rolling,” interrupts the cameraman. “Not since she – you appeared.”
“True. Oh. But still – ”
“The camera’s not rolling!”
“True – Humphrey, please – ”
“You sleep in my basement.”
“True.” Her face has the pained look of someone about to do something they know they’ll regret. “Humphrey, I’m sorry… ”
And before Avery can say “wait,” she has vanished into the burning city.

Hiker

The girl is not there.
The girl must be a figment of the hiker’s imagination.
The girl cannot be real.
The girl is not there.
Besides, no girl is that strange. She’s a child — she looked 12 or 13. She was also completely bald, and had no eyebrows, eyelashes, or hair of any kind. She was dressed in a ripped white undershirt stained with red and green juices, tight white pants that stand out against her dark brown skin, and no shoes.
Besides, if she was real, how could she have gotten there? Sure, there was a hiking trail nearby, but nobody with half a brain went hiking barefoot. And there are no roads or highways within ten miles. If her car had broken down and she’d wandered into the woods, she wouldn’t have wandered this far.
Which only leaves the possibility that she’s completely insane. The hiker refuses that one. She doesn’t want to admit it, but insane people scare her.
So, the girl is not there.
But then she is.
She is there.
Behind a tree! A pine tree. The hiker knows, somehow, that this moment will be fixed in her memory till the end of her days — the moment when all her dreams and imaginings became real.
This time, the hiker doesn’t hesitate. She plunges through a bush and starts toward the bald girl.
The girl’s eyes widen, her mouth parts in shock, and she darts away.
The hiker chases after, determined now. She tumbles through dense patches, rushes through the brief clearing where the sun streaks through the ceiling of twisting branches. She never knew the woods could be like this — crowded, thorny, dark, mysterious. Like a fairy tale. Years of hiking have only taught her cleared, dusty paths. It’s a wonder to see the forest like this. But she doesn’t let it distract her. She stays focused on the prize — the girl.
She races through the forest, following the flashes of the girl she glimpses through the maze of trees for a good fifteen minutes, until they reach a clearing carpeted with pine needles painted gold by the setting sun. There, in that little alcove of the wild, she is surprised to find a small log cabin. There are no windows, but there is a smoking little chimney. The hiker grabs the knob of the door, but it’s locked.
“Hey… ” she calls apprehensively. Silence. “I – I know you’re in there. Please, just come out. I’m not going to hurt you. Unless you’re insane. Sorry. I didn’t mean that. But — unlock the door, please.”
Nothing.
“Look…. I don’t want to break this door down… ” Nothing. “I could if I wanted to… ” That is true. The door is made of rotting wood planks that look like they might decompose on the spot with one good kick. And the hiker’s legs are pretty strong from years of climbing mountains.
She waits another few seconds, debating. There is something wrong with this girl — that much was clear from the start. But what if she’s in danger? What if she thought the hiker was someone else? What if there was someone so horrible she felt the need to run barefoot through a forest and hide in a crumbling log cabin to get away from?
The door comes down on the third kick.
The cabin is damp and moldy inside. There is a smoking fireplace, a decaying table, and a single chair. The floor is leaves and dirt — one area is scuffed up where the girl might have been sleeping.
And huddling, knees to chest, her face to the wall, shaking, sobbing in a corner is the girl.
“Hey… ” the hiker says softly. “I’m not going to hurt you. Please… ”
Slowly, the girl gets to her feet, still facing the corner. The sobbing slows until it is mere sniffling.
Then she speaks in a low, shaking, tear-stained voice.
“I need you to leave,” she says slowly. Then she sniffles loudly. “I need you to leave… right now. Leave, and you can’t tell anyone what you saw… ” She puts her head in her hands and starts wailing again.
“I — I don’t understand – ”
“LEAVE!” she roars. “I don’t — I can’t – ” Then more sobbing.
“Look,” the hiker says hesitantly. “I’m sure that whatever it is – ”
“You need to go,” she repeats, controlling the shaking in her voice. There’s an unexpected fierceness. “Please. Now. I can’t – ”
“Look – ”
“You should have left.”
The girl keeps her head down, but drops her hands to her sides. Then she turns around.
There is a tense pause.
Then she picks up her head and their eyes meet —
And it happens — the constricting of those midnight-black pupils — the feeling — the emptiness — yawning before her —
The hiker collapses with a thump.
And when she is dead, when the girl is alone in the woods, no one can hear her scream.

The Cursed Coin

PROLOGUE

Josie Anderson was running away from something unimaginable. She was running away in the Smith Forest, North of Elf Creek. She was running and running and then… splash! She fell into the river. She swam and swam for days. She didn’t know where she was going. She was hungry and cold… but she did not care at all. All she felt was the rumbling of it coming. She felt it stop, so she came out of the lake — a creek now, a creek that was labeled on all the maps.

“Elf Creek,” she whispered, and sure enough, as she turned around, she saw little people with sharp, small teeth in sky blue and plum purple dresses and shirts. “Something is wrong here,” she told herself. The faces, well… They, well, when I say this none of you will believe me, but they did not look real… 

As she looked around, the elves evaporated into little pieces of dust. The thing that she was running from — it was back. She had no feeling in her legs, but she ran into the dark woods anyway. The thing she was running from — it gave her a toothy grin with its fangs exposed.

The witch walked into the sunlight and pushed Josie to the ground. As she bent down to take Josie’s soul, Josie slipped out of her daze and kicked the witch in the face. Scarlet red blood slithered down her face.

“Not just yet will I leave this world,” Josie whispered to herself. The witch glared at her with so much loathing that it could boil a soup. Josie took one step closer to the witch. “Why are you doing this, Mother?”

The witch looked at her. “So you recognize me, Josie. I knew my girl was smart but not this smart.”

Josie wanted to see her mother the way she had been when she was normal, before she ran away, before the incident. And then the memories flooded back. Her parents were fighting. Her mother was very violent. Well, for a long time it was just that, and then something changed. It happened when Mother was studying her little animals and one bit her. She stayed cooped up in her room. When she came out, it was only to eat and drink water. When she came out, she barely spoke to them.

Then Father stood up at dinner. “What is happening, Izzy? You have been like this for one month, and you haven’t told us anything about what is happening.” Worry struck Father’s face. Father was always mad, and his face never changed, but this look that Father gave Mother was something different, different from anything else. He was worried and something else… Something I can’t put into words, but the look was still something.

“Nothing,” Mother mumbled. Her voice was different — it was gruff and raspy, and Josie did not like it. Then, flash! She saw Mother and Father fighting, and Mother had a trunk and a bag. She was about to leave when father found out, and then it struck Josie.

“What if… I go into Mother’s room? Then I would find out what happened, right?” she asked herself. Josie gasped! She had a good idea… I know this does not seem like a lot, but for Josie, it was something new. What was happening to Mother had taken a toll on the entire family, so just thinking straight was a challenge. Josie darted into Mother’s room. It was… well… dark. The stained glass windows were completely covered by vines, the walls were covered with vines, and there were maps with animals, but something stood out: a shining silver coin. Josie turned the lights on and off, and the coin was still shining.

“What in the — “

Mother’s glare was unmistakable, Josie felt it from a mile away.

“I see that you are poking around in my room, Josie.’’

Josie, for the first time, was scared of her family — no, her mother — but instead of walking to her, she walked right to the coin, which turned red. Instead of running away, she inched closer, but when she looked at mother, her skin turned white, and then Josie ran.  

CHAPTER ONE

Ann was having a nice dream, but when Aunt Josie was making breakfast, nothing was quiet. So, Ann woke up early just so she did not have to wake up to the sound of banging pots and pans. Ann opened her eyes to the hot, sticky summer air. Aunt Josie was making her bed. Ann heard that only because of one thing: Aunt Josie was singing. Ann decided to make some oatmeal.

“Aunt Josie?” Ann asked. “Do we have anything other than oatmeal?”

“Well,” Aunt Josie said, “We have eggs from your grandmother’s recipe. I always liked it when I was a — ” Aunt Josie was interrupted by a loud mouse. Aunt Josie hated animals. Something had happened to her when she was a kid, but Ann was not sure what it was…

Aunt Josie took a broom and smashed the mouse. Ann flinched in her chair. She was an animal lover. Aunt Josie was panting — she never successfully killed anything. Ann was still standing there in shock, and then an idea hit her. What if she went looking for Grandmother? Surely, she knew why Aunt Josie hated animals so much?

Aunt Josie was still thinking back on that one day — the image of a cursed wolf’s insides was stuck in her mind. The only thing that kept her distracted from it was thinking about Ann, but Josie remembered that night like it was yesterday.

She had been carrying a basket of apples down the road to the expecting mother of a girl. The mother had just learned that her husband had died in the war of the goblins. Josie entered the house. It was odd. She closed the door… It was also odd. The room was a circle with paintings of fish and water. There were photos of the mother and her husband. Josie went into the only room with a rectangular door frame, and there the mother was, lying in her bed.

“Trudy?” Josie called down to the low bed.

The woman woke up with a start. “Is he home?” She jumped out of bed. When she remembered that her late husband wasn’t coming home, her eyes swarmed with tears. She sat back down and cried, “How will I take care of my baby?” she sobbed. 

Josie had an idea, “I can take care of her, Trudy!”

Trudy gasped. “Really? THANK YOU SO MUCH!” 

The next week, out came Ann. Josie moved away from Trudy’s house and Trudy, just for Ann, so she could have a better life. That was all that Trudy wanted, so Josie did it.

CHAPTER TWO

Ann always wanted a friend, but the town was all the way on the other side of Wispy Hollows. Lova was what the town was called. The Mayor was called Mina. They called her that because her eyes sparkled like gems, but she was the most bossiest person in the WORLD! But her adviser, Jacob, was always wearing black. He had a hunchback; his hair was long, greasy, and black; and his skin was white like a ghost. The only thing that stood out were his bloodshot, red eyes. He was very sinister, but the only thing that paid off for that was that he opened an orphanage!… Next to a power plant… How about helping the poor people by giving all of them money?… But the money was stolen from people’s bank accounts… Welp, now you can understand that this guy was a BAD one. Everything that he tried to do was ruined. But the only way to get to the shops was by going into the town, so…

“PLEASE, can I go to the farmers’ market? I just want to see what is going on… and make some friends?” Ann’s voice broke. The tears dribbled down her face. Her brown eyes were attacked with emotion.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the table: “I said no! There are adults there that take kids, and, and, and, well… ” Josie was about to confess her deepest secret. Her voice broke. “Well, you are all I have left.” Josie ran over to Ann and held her tight. “I am keeping you safe.”

Suddenly, Ann understood why Aunt Josie was so strict all the time — she was making sure that Ann lived a happy and safe life. But Josie was flexible, so the next day, Aunt Josie took Ann to the market. But when they looked around, it was crowded with people.

“What is happening?” Josie asked a shopper right next to her.

“Well, today is the freedom parade,” he answered like it was obvious.

“Are the shops still open today?” Josie asked.

“Of course! They are in Westwind! Just take the train to Redmaw, then walk to the Map seller, and he will take it from there.”

Aunt Josie was so perplexed that she almost fainted. “Um, WHAT?”

Ann was also bewildered. What were all these towns?

“Here, let me take you to the train station, okay? Then you will get what I am talking about.”

Ann glared at him. How was she supposed to trust him if he didn’t tell them his name? 

Aunt Josie was reading her mind. “What is your name?”

“Max. My name is Max.”

Ann gave him a dirty look. “Why didn’t you tell us?” she scowled at his weak figure.

“I do not trust all people…”

Of course, because Aunt Josie was Aunt Josie, she stared daggers at him and asked him for proof. While he was rustling around in his battered pocket, she slapped him across the face, and a trickle of blood went down his cheek. She pulled out a flask that she carried around. The things I live with, being the niece of a scientist, Ann thought. Josie put his blood in the flask, and it turned black. Ann rolled her eyes, and sighed. Not this again.

“Who are you?” Max asked.

But Josie muttered under her breath. “I’ve never seen this before…” She quickly smirked. “Okay, fine, you can take us to… what, Westmaw?”

Yes, thought Josie, the capital, where the Red Tavern is, where that mayor lives, where I can take the beacon to get home

Little did Josie and Ann know, the market was not in Westmaw. It was in the stronghold.

So, they got on the train. The train conductor was going to stop at Redmaw last. Finally, after a long time, he announced, “Next stop, Redmaw.”

Even though Ann was expecting the voice to come, it never failed to make her jump. When she looked around, she saw Aunt Josie sleeping. When she shook Aunt Josie, she woke up with a start.

“Huh? Where am I?”

Meanwhile, in the backseat of the train, Max was very quiet reading a book. Aunt Josie nudged him to follow them, so by the time they were at the map seller, it was dusk, and the stars were as bright as the sun against the navy blue sky. Ann was immersed in her thoughts — the ones that bothered her the most, about her parents. Aunt Josie never told me about them, who are they? I call her my aunt, but I don’t even know if we are related. I mean, she is old enough to be my aunt… I have to find out. Oh! I remember Aunt Josie never talks about Grandma Izzy… Maybe I can talk to her?

Aunt Josie was fighting with Max for, like, the fifth time this hour.

“I told you, the map seller was closed! What do you have? Oh I know, a bad memory.” Max smirked. He enjoyed making people feel bad. That Josie woman only has a suspicion of who I am and what I am capable of…

Aunt Josie was still mad at him, and when she was mad, nothing good came after. “Listen here you toad sack. You just let me get some food, and then leave me and my family alone… okay?”

Toad sack! Max thought. She drew the line right there.

This was where Ann decided to speak up. “Stop, Aunt Josie! He is trying to help us and get us food.”

Ann did not even understand why they were even going with Max. Or why this was important to Ann or Aunt Josie, or why they were taking this so far. She just was getting sucked into the abyss of obedience.  

***

Josie was determined to find out who Max was and what he wanted. While Max and Ann were sleeping, Josie went into the woods near the campsite. They were sleeping next to the road. They were at an old camping site and were renting a rickety cabin that swayed with the slightest movement and creaked with the smallest breeze. They were not allowed to use anything that had anything to do with fire because the cabin was made out of old oak wood and bark. It had been left behind a long time ago. Now, time to get to the exciting part…

CHAPTER THREE

When Josie was walking in the forest, she heard whispers. She turned her head. No one there. Pull yourself together, Josie. Who would be awake this late? She hesitated. Someone that’s not me. She went deeper into the woods. The second she went to the woods and saw the trees turn a darker shade of green, she saw a clearing. In the middle of it was a little gold coin. She picked it up, and it had the same markings of the coin from her mother’s room. When she saw it, some memories flashed in her mind, and then she heard howling in the wind. She rushed back to the rickety cabin where she found everyone lying and sleeping silently on the dusty ground. 

When Ann woke up, the sun peeked into the window. Ann walked to the plain of daisies and saw Aunt Josie fighting with Max on the riverside, so she stepped closer to hear what they were saying. They were just talking about what to have for breakfast. When she inched closer, she saw a little glint in Aunt Josie’s pocket — a coin. When Ann went to touch it, Aunt Josie tried to slap her hand against Ann’s… But it was too late.

TO BE CONTINUED…

I Die Again

Chapter 1

The wind whistled by my face as the waves trashed the ship around. From the bars of my cell and the small window I could see through, we seemed to be in the open sea — no one around to hear my cries for help. The ship jerked to the left, knocking me off the tiny chair that sat in the cell.

A male pirate rushed past. “Lower the sails!” he screeched as his fat, drunk body thumped up the stairs onto deck.

A blast rocked the ship around as the fire spread to my cell. The heat was overwhelming. My eyes stung, and my blood boiled as it rushed to my head. The room turned upside down and began to spin. My head felt hot, and a moan escaped my lips as another shot rang through the air, punching a hole in the cell two away from my own. Three pirates ran down and began to open my cell. I reached out a desperate hand as my legs began to shake, and my head collapsed on the ground. As the hole in the wall grew, my back fell through the opening. I had my last glare at the dark black sky before my body hit the water with a splash, and I saw the blurry images of the three men yelling from the hole, watching me, yelling commands. My mind pushed against the forever sleep, my body fought as I sank, the feeling of death crept over me, the warmth spread through my veins, my life was over, I was going back to him.

“Come,” his voice whispered in my head. 

Chapter 2

The sand felt like thousands of needles poking through my skin. I pressed my eyes against the pain, counting the seconds until he came to torture me again. Seventy-two seconds passed till I realized that nobody was there, I was alone. Everything was pitch-black, apart from the blood red sand. My mind zoomed back to the blood dripping down the dark cave walls as my brother and sisters sat cramped up, trying to stay in the shadows, desperate to survive. My mind hurt from thinking of the past of a different girl. I was past that, and nothing was going to bring me back to it.

I knelt on my knee and stood, trying to get a better glimpse of my surroundings. I had nothing to do but walk forward and try to figure anything out. I picked up a rock to chuck it into the darkness, see if it would fall anywhere, but when I bent to pick up the rock, my hands slipped right through it. I tried again and again, desperate for anything. It made no sense as to why I couldn’t pick up a simple rock! The only reason I could think of was if I was a ghost, but that was not possible — I mean, how would that happen?

The memory of the sun’s rays shining through the water came back to me.

Chapter 3

But if I was dead, then how was I alive? It was not possible for me to be here. I would be in the underworld if I were dead. This wasn’t possible, unless some sort of magic had brought me here. Or maybe… this was the path to him. No, that was not possible! That could not be possible! I was NEVER going to go back to him, ever. I would rather die a billion painful deaths than go back to him. He had destroyed everything I loved, and if getting back at him was the last thing I did, then so be it!

I kicked the sand with frustration, thinking that the sand deserved it just for being there. The bits of sand flew in my eyes and mouth, and I spit it out bitterly. I was not going to stay here forever, and if I was going to stay here, I was going to do something! I started pacing around the whatever-it-was until I realized I had circled back to my footprints. I had been walking in circles for hours, with no end! 

Chapter 4

Walking in circles with no end was going to do me no good. I was going to have to branch out if I was ever going to get out of this dungeon-dark place. I started walking forward cautiously, feeling where I was going before stepping, but after a little while, everything was the same. There was no point in being cautious.

I took a big step forward, then a couple others. It felt good to not be so cautious for a little while. I took another… I was sinking through open air! My arms flailed as I tried to scream, but no sound came out, and besides, if I wasn’t already dead, then surely I would be now. My hip hit the the ground and I rolled over in surprise and pain, grabbing my hip as I rolled down the hill. And splashed straight into a pond. I glared around as a body walked through me like I wasn’t there. The body — a girl — turned around. It was a younger me, the me from the day that my life changed, and the war struck. 

     Part 1 is over.

Part 2 is coming soon.

Champion Island

“Then, the roof of the house flew off because of the tornado, and that’s how I got here. What is this place called?” I asked. 

He replied, “Oh, this place is Champion Island, where there are masters of different games, and there are teams that are trying to beat them.” 

I asked again, “Champion Island? Games? Masters? Teams? You are going way too quickly. I don’t even know your name.”

 He yelled, “My name is Kappa Kappa! Kappa Kappa Kappa!!!”

I replied, “Thank you. Now, please chill.”

Kappa told me that if I went straight, I would find the team selection area. There were four teams that were all colored coded. There was blue, red, green, and, lastly, yellow. So, I went and joined the red team because they were in the lead, and I wanted to win. They said that the skate championship would be first. They said that I would have to compete to see if I was worth it. The only clue we had was a riddle: I can be active but also asleep. When I am asleep, I don’t bother anyone, but when I am active, I cause destruction. What am I?

I yelled, “I know, it’s a volcano! I think we should go to the volcano.”

Two hours later, we saw a huge volcano with lava pooling down, oozing all over the floor. Just around it was a huge field with rocky spikes on it. Giants were warming up with a rugby ball.

“Wow, wait, this isn’t skating. This is RUGBY!” I said. 

“You’re here for the rugby championship,” said Kappa and the cats. “Ok, you go here.”

“Wait, what? Ugh, fine, ok, whaaat?!” I said. We were against the Giants. I didn’t sign up for this.

The game began. Wait, so I can’t pass to a teammate that’s in front of me. When the Giants came, they crashed into the floor, and it rumbled. I was feeling uneasy. I quickly realized there were two kinds of Giants: the kind that ran really slowly and the kind that ran really quickly. Ok, this one is slow, so let me juke this boy. Wait, he started gaining speed. Oh no, he’s fast! Just then, I stepped on something sharp, and I started sprinting. I looked down and saw a lightning bolt sticking out of my foot. Ow ow ow. Wait, I’m so fast! Wooooosh! Yay!

We won! Wait a minute, OMG! Yay, we got a scroll, let’s give it to Kappa boy. “Kappa boy, here’s a scroll,” I said. 

He replied with: “Kappa kappa kappa kappa kappa.”

Then I ran away, and I went to the second game. It was the skateboarding championship.  3… 2… 1… GO!

Hmm… A tea kettle. Five thousand points. FIVE THOUSAND! Okay, I’ll keep on finding the tea kettles. Ten, thirty, one-hundred, a thousand. It broke the record, and now, I was the champion of skateboarding! Even though I won this one, there were many others to come. I thought this one was the easiest, but I didn’t think the others would be that easy. I was so excited. I was ready to get off this island. 

END OF PART I

The Normal Elf

I haven’t been what I pictured for as long as I lived. I always pictured myself talking to people and being perfect. “Miss Lily, are you able to tell us what the square root of 19 is?” Mr. Mad says. I tremble for a second, then my mind starts its work. I see stars and numbers, glances of memories. I go up to the board and write 4.35889894354. Mr. Mad sighs and says, “Very good, but would you please explain.” He knows I hate writing because I can’t speak, and when I try, my head hurts. I write sentences and sentences until I finish. He reads them aloud and says, “Very well, you may go back to your seat.” 

After the heavy ring of the bell, everyone stands up and says, “Thank you, Mr. Mad.” 

Then the other kids rush out at the speed of light. The day ends, and I walk home slowly. Suddenly, I see a girl. I glance again and she disappears. “You know that we, elves, don’t stare.” I turn around and see that girl again. I think in my mind,

What elves, crazy girl? 

“Hey, that is so rude,” she says.

Wait, you can read my mind!?!? I think in my MIND!!

“Yes, all elves speak through their minds,” she sighs.

“Wait, wait, wait, what elf stuff?” I ask.

“I am here to take you to the world of time and life,” she explains.  

“How do you read my mind? I want to think for myself,” I inquire.

“Just look in your brain and say, ‘Time is life.’ Also, my name is Theiry,” she says.

“Neat name! So where are we going in this so-called elf world?”  I ask.

“Follow me, and just do what I say,” Theiry commands.

She takes out a shining necklace and says, “Life has turned, change is made.” A blasting blue light shines in front of us. Theiry takes my hand and squeezes it. I close my eyes and pray. 

I suddenly see trees, fairies, flowers that change colors every minute, and elves. I thought they would have pointy ears, but most of them don’t. I see a bunch of elves. Then I see one that has leaves and vines for hair and tree bark for skin. There is one elf with pointy ears and strands of white hair.  I look all around my hair. I don’t have the strands of white hair. 

A bold voice says in my mind, “Who is this uhh, human?” 

I flash behind me, but I don’t see anyone. I look around and see a gust of wind swarming around Theiry. Somehow, Theiry is talking to the wind. How crazy can this get? Then I hear something that I remember from when I was little. This song called Little Elf. It sings like an angel.

“Little elf, ride and lie

Take the time to stay in your prime

Little elf, hide and guide

Make a choice of left or right

Little elf, kind and fine

Take a chance to stay all the time

Little elf, ride and lie

Take the time to stay in your prime.”

The song strikes me hard in the gut. I follow the music and start singing it in my mind. Then, I feel a person place a hand over my shoulder.  I turn and see Theiry. Amazed, she asks, “How do you know this song?” 

“I heard it sung by someone,” I reply.

“Who are your parents?” Theiry questions me.

“My parents abandoned me as a child,” I snap back.

“Okay, c’mon, we need to get to my house,” Theiry says. 

Theiry and I walk on a path and see a HUGE mansion. I see three people waiting for us. Theiry walks up to a man and whispers to him. The two other people are stunned. I slowly walk toward everyone. I hear, “We will try.” Then a blast of fire shoots at me. I somehow feel all of the power in my body turn into light, go to the fire, and turn it into ash. Everyone stares at me with amazement. 

Then I hear, “All hail princess Lily.” Everyone drops to their knees. I think, 

What the heck is going on??!!!!????

“What happened is that you are the princess who was stolen by humans. They stole you as a child because they wanted us to be even. We kinda killed their president. By accident!” Theiry explains. 

“How do you know I am this ‘missing princess?’” I question her.

“Only the bloodline of rulers can be connected to the sunlight,” Theiry says. 

“Your parents are the rulers of the eleven races,” a deep voice says.

“Lily, this is my dad, Trix,” Theiry says. 

Trix is a tall, brown-haired elf.

“This is Jakknas, and this is Amar.” Theiry introduces me to the other two elves. 

“Hello, this is the arrow and bow from the elven race.” Amar, a blond girl with long hair, slowly pulls out a silver arrow and a bow with trees and flowers.

“Thank you,” I answer. 

“I am sad to say, but the king and queen were assassinated last night,” Trix says in despair. 

“You will have to become the ruler of the elven kingdom.” Amar declares.

I take the bow and arrow and say confidently, “I am ready.”

“When the king and queen died, a poison gas went into the eleven worlds. Only someone from the royal bloodline can go to Nexis and go into the light. Because the poison gas started from the royals, it has to end by a royal death,” Theiry says.

“The assassin knew that; it was their plan all along,” Trix says and puts his fist in the air. 

“I am going to go there,” I say with determination.

“You will have to go to the other side of the world,” Trix says, after calming down.

“I am going to Nexis, whatever happens,” I say bravely.

I walk for weeks and months until I get to Nexis. I find out Theiry, Amar, and Jakkanas followed me; that is just too annoying. Elves do not need to eat food and drink water for years, but I still do.   

Months Later:

I am at the grounds of Nexis. The place where anyone who goes into the light fades into ash. I am looking to Theiry, to Amar, and to Jakkanas. I stare into the light. I am thinking, Should I die and save millions or live and kill millions? I look at my arrow and bow. I give them to Theiry and say, “Take this to my parents’ grave.” I think I am who I pictured. I am who I want to be. I step into the light, I feel a teardrop go down my cheek. I say, “Goodbye.” Then I slowly feel my body turn into ash. I am gone.

Epilogue:

What, where am I? I stand up and see broken cities and dust. I see gray clouds with a beast’s face.

The Dark Spirit of the Enchanted Trampoline Park, Book 1: Captured!

Chapter 1

As I walked along the trail, I could hear the crunch of leaves and the singing of birds. I had always loved hiking and went hiking whenever I could. Snap! I tripped on a twig and fell face-forward into the leaf litter. Phew, at least the leaves saved me, I thought, and then I was jerked upward. I tried to scream for help, but no sound came out.

Suddenly, the pulling stopped and I was dangling in the air, about 400 feet above the ground. Then I was pulled sideways. I screamed, but again, no sound came out. After what seemed like 30 minutes of watching the ground speed below me, I felt myself plummet down toward the ground. This time I felt no urge to scream, only a strange urge to sing that got stronger as the ground grew nearer. 100 feet from the ground now, I saw a clearing dotted with trampolines. 75 feet and I could see the shapes of people jumping up and down on the trampolines. 50 feet, and I could hear singing. Finally, there were only 5 feet between me and the floor, and I stopped falling. I felt something around my waist loosen, and I landed on the ground with a thud.

I stood up, but then collapsed to the ground again as something gained control of me. In a panic, I fought at it, trying to shove it out of my mind, but nothing worked. I tried to move, but I couldn’t. A rasping voice in my head said, Ahhh welcome, Lily. Another puppet for my collection. I could imagine the voice smirking as the presence controlling me picked my body up and walked me to the nearest trampoline. The urge to sing was as strong as ever, along with a new urge to bounce on the trampoline. I was pushed by an invisible force onto the trampoline, and started to sing in time with all the other people, in the same weird, slurred voice. 

Chapter 2

I could still think. All I could do was think. My mouth moved on its own. Words of all languages spilled out of my mouth and added to the swirling torrent of sound. I was tired, hungry, and thirsty, but no matter how hard I tried to gain control of myself, I couldn’t do anything. I went on like this in an endless loop, tracking the days and nights and growing hungrier and thirstier as the days wore on. Every 2 days, water was delivered by the same invisible force that had brought me here. After 5 days, everyone stopped again. 

Suddenly, all noise stopped as the rasping voice entered my mind again. Well I can’t let you die can I? I know most of you have done this before, but my new recruits need to know the rules. 

What rules? I thought, and as if reading my mind, the rasping voice continued.

The rules are to stay in place until your food is delivered, AND EAT ALL OF IT AND NO MORE!!! If you don’t follow these rules then I will give you something disgusting, and you will have to eat it all.

A large picnic blanket flew down from the sky, laden with large bowls of slightly cold and overcooked vegetable stew. It looked delicious after 5 days with no food, and staggering with fatigue, I grabbed the bowl nearest to me. There was a spoon lying next to it, and I picked it up as well. I thought back to the safety lessons I had learned as a child and remembered that after not having food for a long time, you could only eat small bites of food at a time. As much as I wanted to gulp down the food, I forced myself to eat slowly. I saw some people shoveling food into their mouths as fast as they could — the newer people, I realized, the ones that came here after me. They obviously didn’t know that they needed to slow down. I wished I could tell them, but I couldn’t talk. After the meal was finished, everyone’s minds were taken over again, forcing everyone’s bodies back onto the trampolines, to begin the endless loop again.

Chapter 3

The days wore on. I could see the fatigue that I felt reflected on people’s faces as we jumped and sang without stopping. Yet they couldn’t do anything about it, and neither could I. 

Days passed, and the world started going hazy. I lost track of the days. The only thing that kept me from collapsing was the need to obey the rasping voice. New people came, and the park expanded to accommodate them, but nobody left. I had seen people try to escape, but the bond was always too strong. I could see the hiking trails that wound around the trampoline park, and I could see the people walking along them that never even showed the slightest sign of noticing the trampoline park.

More days passed as I watched the trickle of people, and then one day, a tall lady with a long dress and some shiny things poking out of her back — were those wings?! — walked up. Nobody on the trail noticed… Wait a second, I thought, and I realized that she more like flew up to the fence of the trampoline park. A fairy! I realized. A real fairy! I thought they were only mythical creatures!

We are mythical creatures, said a calm, gentle voice in my head. I knew immediately that this voice belonged to the fairy, because it was so unlike the rasping voice that I heard so often. 

Wait a second, I thought. Can you mindread? Can you see my thoughts?

Yes, I can, replied the fairy.

Can you help me get out of here? I thought at her, and I saw her lips curve into a small smile.

Remember, you still have your imagination. You always will. It is the key, she said. 

What is your name? I thought.

I am Annika, she said, right before disintegrating into a puff of rainbow sparkles.

Chapter 4

I was always thinking of Annika’s words now. They were stuck in my head, and I could hear them clearly through the eerie singing. They repeated in my head over and over again. 

Remember, you still have your imagination. You always will. It is the key.

Key to what? My escape? How could imagination be the key? The thoughts that followed were always pessimistic. I didn’t know what to do, and so I thought about it. It seemed familiar…. Oh! It’s that riddle that goes: imagine you are in a box, there is nothing around you, and the box is steel. How do you get out? And the answer is stop imagining! I guess I can try to imagine myself out of here.

I imagined as hard as I could, thinking of the hiking trail I had been on, thinking of home. Nothing. I nearly gave up on myself when another idea struck me. Songs have meaning right? So maybe I can imagine I understand the language, and I will find a way out. I tried that. I listened closely to the music, thinking, I know this language, over and over again in my mind. Slowly the words started to gain some meaning, and finally I could understand the words clearly. The song went like this: Remember to hold on to hope, It will help you cope with dangers, use hope to save yourself… 

Well, I haven’t been doing much but giving up on hope, I thought, but if it will save me, I will not give up hope.

Chapter 5

I wasn’t thinking of anything but how I would get home. I was very hopeful and optimistic about the future. I knew I would get home if I was hopeful. Suddenly, just like the day when I got dropped into this miserable place, I got jerked upward, but there was no invisible force doing this. There was a golden harness latched around my waist, and it seemed to be pulling the dark creature that had controlled me for so long outside of my mind. I realized I could speak again, and I shouted down to the people below, “Don’t give up! Be hopeful!” They seemed to hear me because they tilted their heads up into the sky to look at me. I repeated my message until the people became no more than specks in the distance. I grinned to myself. I was on my way home.

Into the Fairy Realm

Moonlight streamed through the open curtains and spilled into the room, penetrating its darkness and washing it with silver. The night had grown warmer in the past couple of hours, and the window was thrown wide open in an attempt to draw any kind of breeze in, but there was none. The scent of the roses from the courtyard below was heavy and sweet, drifting up from the gardens to sit sluggishly in the room.

Emily was sitting on her bed with her pajamas backward, and the cotton was sticking onto her because of the heat. She was wide awake, though this had less to do with the heat and more to do with her anxiety. In just a couple more hours, her grandmother was going to wake her up. The problem wasn’t that she needed more sleep, but that her hair had been magically grown by fairies and she couldn’t cut it off.

You see, fairies aren’t like you would think. Yes, some fairies are cool, but most fairies are evil to the bone. You see, unlike other people, Emily has the ability to see magical creatures. Regular, normal people see beetles for the bad fairies and butterflies for the good fairies. 

For months, the fairies have been bothering Emily to no end. At one point, they had found her secret diary which included her notes about fairies, most of which were mean, so it was no surprise when fairies had her hair grow this long. She looked like Rapunzel, there was no way her grandmother wouldn’t notice. Just last night her hair was only up to her shoulders, now it was dragging along the floor! If her grandmother saw her hair, she would cut it off and then discover that the hair couldn’t be cut off, which would later make her grandmother suspicious. No, she couldn’t go to eat breakfast this morning, NO WAY. 

“I’ll just have to read my diary,” she thought, “Then I’ll be distracted.” So she did and found an interesting piece of information that she hadn’t written:

“Your hair has grown as a punishment for the insults you wrote in this diary, but we can give you a clue as to what you need to cut off your hair. First, you must find something that is sharp, a type of metal that rhymes with peel.” 

This was easy, it was obviously steel. There probably wasn’t another metal that rhymes with peel. But did her grandmother even own a knife? Maybe for cooking, but surely none of them were steel. There might be a steel knife in the kitchens where they served the cafe, but going to the cafe would mean getting out of her room. This was hopeless. 

Under the bed she saw something shiny! She looked and found a steel knife. Emily immediately started chopping off her hair. It was uneven, but she could always fix it later.  She tied it into a ponytail so it wouldn’t seem so uneven. 

She got out of her room and, “Whoosh!” She wasn’t in her room anymore. There were butterflies and fairies and glitter everywhere! Emily was in the realm of fairies.

The Magical Orb of Shaddowtown

 Chapter 1: BEWARE!!!!

It was just another snowy morning in Minnesota. Anna woke up. She immediately turned on the radio. “The schools that have snow days today are West Bridge school, Martin Luther King School of fine art, Lakeside Middle school, Riverview Middle school, and Oakland Elementary school! “ 

“Yes!” Anna screamed.

 “Darling, can you go to the library to fetch the three books that I ordered the other day?” her mom asked.

 “Can I do it later in the afternoon?” Anna asked.

“Oh fine, but I need them for tomorrow,” her mom said.

Anna immediately pulled out her iPad and started to watch a movie. It was about a monkey trying to escape the jungle.

Later, it was lunchtime and her dad made a yummy PB & J sandwich. “Are you going to get the books?” her mom asked. 

“Yeah, I will now.” She put on her puffiest sweater, thickest pants, longest shirt, warmest scarf, coziest sweater, and best snow boots. She opened up the door just a bit and she felt like her entire body was an ice cube. “It is freezing and I barely even put my foot outside. I think that I will go later before it closes and when it is less cold,” she said. She took off all of her thick and puffy layers and went back to her bedroom.

 “Mom, what are the names of the books you ordered?” Anna asked.

Fry an Egg on the Sidewalk, A Trip to the Moon, and uh…. I think it was called Beware. “ Right after she said the word beware, the door creaked open on its own.

“Mom! I have heard of this. It used to be the diary of a powerful king that ruled the world. When he passed away, his soul was kept inside the book. People say that the book is cursed.”

Anna heard it from lots of people and they also said that when the king comes from the dead, he will seek revenge on whomever kept his ancient diary. “You really believe that, honey? People lie… a lot. Let me show you. BEWARE. Did anything happen?” Nothing happened. A moment later, the window shattered into pieces, though nothing broke it, it just happened on its own.

“Now do you believe me?” Anna asked her mom.

“Yeah, fine,” she said with a worried look on her face.

Chapter 2: Finding of the magical orb of Shaddowtown

After about an hour and a half, it stopped snowing and Anna went to the library to get the three books. Right when she was about to pick up the book, she thought out loud, “Maybe before the king died, he cursed the book so whoever touched it would be cursed.” She quickly ran to the CVS store and bought protective gloves. Then, she ran back to the library and picked up the books with the gloves. She decided to read the book to see if there was any way she could return it to where the king was buried. Maybe there was some kind of portal to take her there. She opened the book to a random page and kept on flipping through it until she reached a page that said The magical Orb of Shaddowtown. It said that you need to say a special secret code to get to the magical world of Shadowtown, a place so frightening, people die from being there. It gave Anna the shivers. Only the most powerful leaders are buried there. “Maybe he isn’t who people think he is. Maybe he is still alive. All I have to do is find the orb, find the code, talk to the king, make him decurse this book, and it won’t be cursed again!” She said it so casually, like she has dealt with this before. She tried looking for clues in the book as to where the orb must be. It did say one clue. “Your passcode is in plain sight, mix up the letters to make them right.” The day was almost over and all Anna could think about was the clue. She was upset that she used her time and couldn’t find anything. She went to bed on a bad note.

She woke up the next morning and had school again. Right when she was brushing her teeth, she understood the riddle. In every diary, you write your name. Maybe it is spelled backwards! She opened the book and on it was a little tag that said XAM GNIK. She spelled it backwards and it spelled King Max. That was the password! Now, all she needed to do was to find the orb. It could be anywhere! Maybe there was a hint inside the book for the orb just like the hint for the passcode. 

Chapter 3: A trip to Shaddowtown

Anna was looking for more clues in the book, but she didn’t find anything that was much help. Finally, after a lot of searching, Anna found a clue. It said, “The place that has helped you all this time, is the place that will solve what you call a crime. “ Anna was confused. “The place that has helped you all this time. “ Anna paused for a while until she thought…

The library! Of course! The library was what helped Anna find the book, so that was also the place that was hiding the orb. “That explains why the library is called King Maxwell library.” Anna rushed to the library. Anna got reminded of the movies she had watched before, like the ones that had books that acted as levers that opened some kind of passageway. Maybe that “lever” was a book about King Max’s history. Anna looked in the history section, and without realizing, she bumped into the wall and the wall flipped completely. I think that she found the secret room! In the middle of the big room was a crystal orb. Anna was about to take a step when, “Wait! Maybe this room is filled with booby traps?” She picked up a stone that she found on the floor and threw it on the floor. It immediately burned into ashes. There was a sturdy old vine that Anna could use as a rope to get across the floor. She got the orb and left home.

She was confused on how to get back, if there even was a way back, so she had to keep the orb until she could find out how to use it and get to Shaddowtown. Then she would return it because she didn’t want to look suspicious. She reviewed the page in the book and held the orb in her hand. On the side was a button. She pressed it and the orb started speaking. “Hello. What is the passcode?” the device asked.

“King Max,“ Anna said. Suddenly, the orb, a sphere kind of shape, flattened out and created a portal. “Orb, how will I come back home?” Anna asked. 

“All you have to say is: Portal, take me home. Then you will jump inside it and fall in your bedroom. ” Anna nodded her head. Anna remembered to take the book with her. She was not sure she would find him. Would he actually be dead? Would he be hiding in his casket? Would he be living on the streets? Were there even streets in Shaddowtown? “I promise, you will be alright,“ the orb said.

Anna hopped inside the portal and came to the scariest place she had ever been in her entire life. The sky was black and everything she could see was grey. There was not a single human being on the street except her. There was a dust ball rolling beside her left leg. It was not like she imagined. There were streets like she thought there would be. She was looking for the Shaddowtown cemetery to find King Max.

Finally, she gave up and sat down under a tree. Droplets of water came down her cheeks. “First time at Shaddowtown” a voice said in the shadows. 

“Who said that?“ Anna asked, frightened. 

“Look behind you.“ the voice said. Anna turned around and saw that she was talking to a tree. She opened the book to a page titled The creatures of Shaddowtown. It said that there were secretive squirrels that live in the mysterious shadow-filled forest. There were also terrifying talking shadow trees, the one that Anna was talking to. There were also the mysterious shadow monkeys living in the jumpy joyless jungle. “Most of my kind are terrifying. It’s in the name, but you, little girl, sat on the right tree.” the tree said in a nice voice. “What brings you here?” the tree asked. 

“Well I am trying to find King Max to decurse this book. I want to safely restore this in the library,” Anna said.

“You are in grave danger, little girl,” the tree said. “He is still alive, but 10 times more powerful. He can curse you with any possible spell. Good thing you are wearing gloves,“ the tree said. “The cemetery is on Shadow stone drive, which is passed that dumpster and to the next left. You’ll see the cemetery on the right,” the tree said. “Good luck. Know that whenever you need help, find the tree that has a big brown splotch of bark on the bottom roots. We trees can look invisible, like shadows. So if someone is after you, just hug me and we’ll both turn invisible,” he said. 

Chapter 4: The Cemetery on Shadow Stone Drive

Anna walked past the dumpster, turned left, and then made a right and saw a sign that said Shadow stone cemetery. She walked straight on the path down the middle and found the stone that said King Maxwell the 1st. She found a shovel on the ground. She picked it up and dug for a while until she made a hole. She peeked her head and saw King Max, all alone, sitting by himself on a stool he put for decoration because he was going to spend his entire life there, so he needed to be comfortable. “Um, excuse me? King Max?” Anna said. 

“Who has entered my home? I mean uh… I’m dead,“ King Max said. 

“I know that you’re not dead. I am Anna and got here through the magical orb of Shaddowtown. I found the passageway in the library, and I have our diary called Beware. Can you please decurse it or something? We humans don’t deserve to be cursed just because you are a bad person,” Anna said.

“That’s not what happened. I used to be a ruler, a powerful ruler, and everyone loved me. Everybody promised that they would care for me forever and ever. Until one day a new ruler came and everyone betrayed me. They broke my promise. Anyway, so the other ruler cursed my diary. He meant it to curse me, but when I lost it, it got free to the world so others could be cursed and everyone blamed me. The ruler was called Richard Dixeon.”

“He is that suspicious guy that owns the library near my house! I knew something was fishy about him.,“ Anna said. 

“I have been trying all my life to get out of Shaddowtown, but I am not as powerful as people say I am,” King Max said.

“I have a portal that can take us both out of here. Only one one condition. Can you decurse this book?” Anna said. 

“I wish I could, but I don’t know the spell. Though I do know someone who does. His name is Sorcerer Goblin. He owns what people think is a flower shop, but is secretly his potion lab. It is on Maple drive,“ he said. 

“Hey, I know that flower shop! It is two minutes away from my house. If you want, I can take you with me home and get the right potions do decurse this book, and while we’re at it, we can turn Richard Dixeon into a frog. That guy deserves to be taught a lesson,” Anna said. “Why did he want to curse you anyways?” Anna was interested in the topic. 

“He didn’t want me to be a better ruler,” King Max said. 

“If we want to go home, we need to dress you up in some better looking clothes, hundreds of humans will be seeing you. You can’t go looking like a dumpster threw up on you, no offense. Also, this is winter time, in Minnesota. You better be wearing your fluffiest outfit. Are there any clothing shops? Do you get everything here free because there are no humans around?” Anna asked.

“Pretty much,“ King Max said. He climbed out of his “home“ and they were off to Shadow Up my Outfit. When they got there, there were lots of options. Anna pulled out a fluffy blue shirt, Khaki long pants, a snow coat, boots, and earmuffs. “I didn’t know that Shaddowtown had a good sense of style,” Anna said.

“Now where is the portal?” Max asked. 

“Um, all I have to say is, uh…. portal…. uh… “ Anna totally forgot what to say!

It had now been two whole hours and Anna was worried. “I bet that Mom and Dad are worried sick!” She was crying because she didn’t know what to do. She and King Max walked a while. Anna spotted a tree that had a brown splotch of bark on its roots. Anna hugged the tree. “Is someone chasing you?” the tree asked.

“Nope, I just forgot how to get home through the portal. I forgot what to say to make it appear,” Anna said softly.

“Portal, take me home,” the tree said.

“That’s right! How do you know?” Anna asked. 

“I once met a human girl about 11 years old, like your age, and we were the best of friends, until she left Shaddowtown forever without telling me. Right before I never saw her again, I heard her saying, “Portal, take me home,’ and since I still think about her, I remembered what she said,” the tree said. 

“Portal, take me home,” Anna said. The portal appeared. King Max and Anna hopped inside.

Chapter 5: A trip to the Human World

Anna and King Max landed in Anna’s bedroom with a loud thump. “Anna, is everything alright in there?” Ana heard her mom’s voice.

“Yep, my big stack of books just fell.” Anna felt her stomach flip when she lied to her mom. “I will open the window, you will go to the front door, and knock, of course. Tell my parents that you are my theater teacher and talk to my parents about how good a student I am. Then you are going to wait outside, I will tell my parents that I am going for a long walk and then we will go to meet the Sorcerer Goblin.” Anna chuckled a bit because of his name. After the plan worked, Anna and King Max walked to the flower shop.

“Sorcerer Goblin,” King Max said.

“Who comes to seek my secret?” a voice said.

“Your old pal, King Max, and a friend,” King Max said.

“What would you like today? Roses, daisies, lilacs, lavender, buttercups?” Goblin said.

“Um well, we were looking for potions,” Anna said.

“What kind of potion? I have a different section for that,” Goblin said.

“A decursing spell. A cursed diary. Can you decurse it?” King Max asked.

“Yes, of course, follow me,” Goblin said. He flipped the wall, sort of like the secret passage that helped Anna find the orb. There were thousands upon thousands upon thousands of potions, with crazy names like bulbrin, clantese, sordum, cansue, fulprit, and more funny names like that. After a while, Goblin found two potions and mixed them together (cansue, and prentalid). He put a droplet of the potion on the diary and it wasn’t cursed!

“Thank you so much, Sorcerer Goblin!” Anna said.

“Can we ask you for one more thing? Can you turn someone into a frog? ” they asked Sorcerer Goblin.

“Sure! Can you please get me flour, eggs, baking cocoa, milk, sugar, salt, a spoon, a bowl, cansue, artene, and sordum.” One minute later, they had everything they needed.

“Why all of this baking stuff?” Anna asked in a surprised voice. 

“Well, do you think that this person will just agree to be turned into a frog? I will put the spell inside the brownie so he will want to eat it. He might think it would be suspicious, so we need to show them that we can eat them too. One will have a potion inside and one will not.”

Finally, the brownies were done. They all walked to the library. Goblin and King Max were hiding outside because they looked suspicious. (Don’t worry, Goblin isn’t an actual Goblin.) Anna walked in and said to Richard

“Hey, I really enjoy reading the books from this library, and I wanted to thank you for all of your hard work so I baked brownies for you. Mmm,” she said while taking a bite of the brownie labeled not potioned, safe to eat. Richard suddenly turned into a frog.

“And that is revenge for cursing my friend’s diary, King Max.” Anna was holding Richard. She threw him onto a tree five minutes away from the library. Anna headed back to the library to return the orb and Beware. She also stuck a sign on Richard’s desk that said: On vacation forever. Never coming back! 🙂 

“Now that this adventure has come to an end, I think that we should celebrate. Milkshakes on me,” Anna said. The milkshakes tasted like victory.

But what they didn’t realize was that they were on an enemy list of a very grumpy frog that was waiting for his revenge

DUN DUN DUN!!!

The End

Make sure to read book 2!

Tails Be Lost

Dear editor and readers:

Tails be lost is about a water dragon that has to go across a spongeing desert and raid a village. Will he succeed? Stay tuned to find out! Dun Dun Dunn! It’s for the readers that read adventure. It’s a story where you read the back cover so yeah you’re gonna have to read it, and if you already read it then read it again, so that if you missed anything then that’s why read it again.

NARRATOR:

Once upon a time in the 1500s, there is Gus. Gus is a water dragon, and there are other dragons, but there’s also the sunlight god, Tarima. If you see him in your village, then you’re a goner. It’s like playing with the Grim Reaper. Get a mile away from him. And he wants to feed on people, but there is a desert that separates him and other water and fire dragons so he will have to leave his cozy home and set off. But first, he would first have to pack. He will have to gather lots of water and more water, because of course water dragons need water, that’s why he needs it, DUH! He needs food. He has some leftovers after a day’s business lunch. He last did a hunt like this a month ago. So, Gus sets off. Gus is so hot and sweaty from a minute of walking in the desert that he is hopeless, but he sees an illusion of the water, an illusion, but he doesn’t know that, so he goes on and on trying to chase the water that is endless and hopeless. He knows that he can’t last long, but he decides to push on. Then he sees the city. It will be spectacular if a far traveler Gus is just bored because he has seen it before, but the difficulty is that the dragon has a weak spot and it is the tail. 

GUS: 

How the humans got this piece of information, I don`t know, but there are these the first time I encountered the holos were when I was 25. I was only just a child. Just so you know, a dragon lives up to 700 years, so anyways, it was my first time hunting a village. My dad got struck down by the holos. Holos are people that have a giant axe and they would patrol a block. Every holo has a block to guard, and they cut off the dragon’s tail.

NARRATOR: 

Gus grabbed a hold of some peasants and a knight. On some nights, rarely, he would eat a king’s bodyguard. The knights are expensive tastes, but they try to put up a fight but Gus thought, I’m just too good and then I can trade it to the dragon market. Oh yeah, I’ll tell you all about that in a second. A big meal is a catapult or a siege tower, but he usually gets hobos and other sorts. Gus stays away from old ladies and grandpas. There is a market where dragons sell humans for dricki. Dricki are the coins that dragons use. And the nearest ones are two miles away. Take it away, narrator! Narrator? Narrator, we need you to come on. We’re waiting for you. 

NARRATOR: 

Okay. Fine, ahem, ahem. So, Gus had a problem. He was not able to cross the desert, so Gus had searched and searched but he had no idea how to cross it. He was about to give up when he spotted something. It was a catapult. Gus had an idea to go back home. First he would gather the fishing nets and wrap it around his feet. It was no hard task to take the people, because the dragon’s feet are the strongest bones in the dragon’s body.

GUS: 

Aahhhhhhhhhh! I want it back, wait a minute that’s actually true, give it! Hey! Ripp!

NARRATOR:

Sorry readers, Gus is having a tantrum. Technical difficulties. Beep!

GUS:

Wahhhhhhhhhhh! I want it back! 

NARRATOR:

Well, whatever, okay.  

WRITER: 

Can you please stop saying stuff, we only have like two pages left and I’m not going to waste it on you two quarreling! Okay! 

BOTH: 

Fine! 

NARRATOR: 

The grill was smoking. Gus invited some friends to his home with a gurg. A gurg is a phone. That is how Bill Gates invented the iPhone. His friends came over and had a great meal. Also, side note, you hear the booms of lightning? It’s actually the dragons bowling, and you know how the air shakes stuff, it’s the rain cloud, yeah, the dragons bowl loudly and fast. The end! 

Epilogue  

NARRATOR: 

Two weeks later, when Gus was walking to the village to get some people, he saw something. He stepped closer to it and it was Tarima, the king of all dragons, otherwise known as the sunlight god. If you see him in your village, then you’re a goner. It’s like playing with the Grim Reaper. Even a mile away from him will do you no good. Once he saved a present life for a secret, and that secret is that the god of sunlight is a human that’s in a robotic costume.

Elena & Hercules

If there was such a thing as the most lonely yet serene moment, this would be it. The glowing signs of stores and restaurants, the wind flowing through her curly, blonde hair, the memories of what was once a bustling city. How could so much destruction occur in so little time? The only answer lies in a newspaper that someone had left on the ground — an unidentified terrestrial being with the power to wipe out approximately 90,000 people. A being of so much size and strength, even the government’s most powerful resources couldn’t defeat it. This being was officially classified as “???” — creative. Although, that didn’t end up mattering as the whole city was wiped out. Only one human was left in this desolate place. A human who, at the time, was unconscious in a coma, and had been for years.

Her name was Elena. But her name didn’t really matter, as there was no longer anybody to refer to her by it. Starvation wasn’t an issue, as there were grocery stores and markets of enough food to last over a lifetime. If you were in this girl’s position, there would be multiple options for what she would do first. Some would say to hunt, to look for water, to look for shelter. Elena, however, did none of this. Food and water was accessible to her, and she could easily go into any of the skyscrapers or apartment buildings that were once full of residents. As she walked around, she held onto the hope that maybe, just maybe, there was at least one other human left. As Elena ran frantically around the city, she came to the harsh realization that what used to be her city, her home, was crumbling down to nothing at all. And in the future, if that even existed, some wealthy human would rebuild the city, and not a single soul would recall what used to be. Or possibly it would never be rebuilt, left to hide away in the dust. Only time would tell.

Over months of living in the city’s poor conditions, Elena grew used to the environment. However, the isolation was making a gradual impact on her sanity. She heard whispers behind her as she left each room and saw shadows behind her whenever she looked in the mirror. In terms of shelter, she had chosen to live in what used to be someone’s small house, a fair distance from the other buildings in the city. The house was old, and not in great condition. But it held the one thing Elena had left: her hope. So far, the first room- the kitchen- was definitely old. Dust bunnies hid under the furniture, moss grew in the corners, and yet, she felt drawn to this house. Possibly, it was because, although she was all by herself, her surroundings kept Elena company. The night sky, each star holding hope and determination, the plants, keeping their heads up despite the times, the dusty stacks of books on the floor, every one containing a story of its own, waiting to be unraveled. 

As she walked around the house, Elena found another room. When she pushed the wooden door open, it produced a loud creak. Elena turned the light on, and she saw that inside was a washing machine. However, the machine held unwashed clothes, so she scooped up the damp clothes and hung them on the drying rack. She let out a weary breath as she left the room, slamming the door behind her. As a furious cloud of dust rose from the ground, Elena hurried away, searching for a washroom of some kind. Elena heard the sound of a door opening, followed by a voice: I’m home! But after rushing to the main door, she found that nobody was there. Had the voice really been in her head? It sounded too realistic to be merely a product of imagination. Elena shrugged it off as she came across another door. She then spotted one ant, then another, before realizing each ant was following the other. After staring down the trail of ants with hopes to intimidate them, Elena slowly twisted the doorknob. Unexpectedly, the door swung open before she could push it. She felt a cool breeze hit her, and she realized how much she had been sweating. The air pressure must have opened the door on its own. Regardless, the air conditioning felt good after being in the heat. She walked around the bathroom. It was pretty much just a standard bathroom, a toilet, a sink faucet, a shower, a mirror. Seeing herself in the mirror, Elena realized how much of a mess her hair had become. Hastily, she grabbed a hairbrush and began brushing out the thick knots. 

After Elena finished brushing her hair, she saw another door right across from the bathroom. This wooden door was the gateway to a bedroom. To her surprise, the bedroom was clean. It had no moss growing in the corners, no bugs either… just a bit dusty. This was suspicious, so Elena looked around the room. She found bug traps on the floor, and some sort of spray on the desk, probably to prevent moss. Whoever lived in this house before must have paid heavy attention to their sleeping conditions. Suddenly, Elena heard a scratching noise. She whipped her head around. The scratching continued. It was coming from her left. She left the bedroom and started to the left, and the sound got louder. She followed it into another room that seemed to be the last room inside. The house sure was bigger than it looked. Inside the room, there was a pet bed, a cat tower, a litter box and a cat that had been scratching at the wall. Elena saw the cat, and started to tear up. She had thought she was completely alone, but she wasn’t. The cat walked over to her and rested in her lap, while her tears dotted its orange fur. 

Elena checked inside the closet, and discovered three huge bags of cat food. She poured it into the cat’s bowl and left the room. She felt the empty dryness under her eyes where her tears had fallen. Do you feel alright, Elena? Are you lonely? Elena stopped dead in her tracks. Was she talking to herself, was someone else talking to her? Or was she just hearing things? She was deep in thought when she felt something licking her leg. She looked down, and saw the same orange cat. “I should give it a name,” Elena mumbled to herself. The cat felt like a hero to her. From that, the cat’s name was decided: Hercules. And so, from then on, it was Elena and Hercules against whatever was out there, and whatever, or whoever, had destroyed their city.

Night had fallen, so Elena started over to her bed. And as she had always done, she buried herself in the blanket and closed her eyes. But, this time, it felt different. She noticed that she was shaking slightly, and the whispers she heard grew louder, to the point where she had to pull the blanket over her head to feel safe. Although, she was exhausted, so she soon fell unconscious. Elena slept well that night. 

When Elena woke up in the morning, her vision was blurred. But even what she could make out, her body, didn’t feel like her own. Her green eyes, her pale arms, her blonde curls, felt as if they belonged to someone else. But technically, one’s body is just a way to express their mind. So does one’s physical appearance belong to nobody? She pondered as she wandered around her room, deep in thought. She realized that she could no longer wait around. It would be a miracle for anyone to come and save her, and she had to figure out how to make that miracle happen. Elena threw the door open and ran through the hallway, out the house, to the grocery store or what was once a grocery store. She gathered food and bottled water in her drawstring bag along with an emergency poncho. Elena then had an idea, and she hurried to the convenience store. She was thrilled to find a satellite phone, a map of the closest cities on land, and an old-fashioned watch. The city was on an island, so it would be practically impossible to look for nearby cities. However, if she could call for help via satellite phone, she would have a chance at leaving the city. There was one last matter to worry about: Hercules the cat. 

Back in the house, she poured some catnip into a small plastic bag, scooped up the cat. With that, Elena walked outside. She was aware that she had no chance of swimming across half of an ocean, but maybe she could find a boat. The biggest concern was whether or not she could drive, as the tide was usually low and storms occurred rarely. Down at the beach, there was a boat in decent condition. She climbed on and sprinted to the captain’s area. Elena gripped the wheel with determination. Her father had taught her how to use a boat when she was young, but whether she had held onto that knowledge was unknown. She started up the boat, but it wouldn’t budge. Possibly a piece of seaweed had clogged the motor? Or was the boat falling apart? She stared at the water. By now, the sun had set and stars had started to paint the sky. But one star shone so brightly, and it was moving horizontally… it wasn’t a star. It was a shooting star, a comet. Elena’s parents told her to always wish on a shooting star, so she closed her eyes as she wished for help in leaving the city, and for help in finding answers. She suddenly felt her boat ascending, lifting off the ground. Out of instinct, she tried to grab the water, as if it would hold her down. But she had stopped rising upward. The water was carrying her boat across the water using a wave. The wind sang a lullaby, and somehow, Elena fell asleep on that very boat.

When Elena opened her eyes, she blinked multiple times to confirm what she was seeing. The figure of a person, shaped of… water? Surely she was just lucid dreaming. Or, at least, that was what she told herself. The person, who seemed to be some sort of water spirit, also had something cradled in their arms. It was a cat, an orange cat. Elena stared at it with disbelief. Her cat. Or so she thought. The spirit spoke. 

“Thank you for returning my cat to me, Elena.”

Elena nodded, but was still full of unanswered questions. Who was this person? What was this person? How was Hercules related to them in any way? How did they control water? Who destroyed her city? What destroyed her city?

“May I ask a question?” Elena began.

“Go ahead.”

“What destroyed my city?”

The water spirit was silent for a moment, and the silence grew loud. Elena waited anxiously for a response.

“It was a creature from the largest galaxy in existence, the Crowned Galaxy.”

“How big is our galaxy in comparison?”

“The Milky Way is the smallest galaxy in the universe.”

Thinking of her galaxy as “small” made Elena’s head hurt. The human mind could never comprehend such colossal sizes. It can barely comprehend dinosaurs, much less a galaxy multiple times bigger than ours.

The spirit continued. “The species was classified as “Accidentals.” It was created by alien scientists who were experimenting with genetics. They had unpurposefully created a heavily destructive and massive species. An Accidental could destroy your whole city with one footstep. And so it did.”

“What happened after that?”

“It left. The species was so large, it could hop galaxies. As a result, it had hopped into the Milky Way, presumably found that it was boring, and hurried back to its home galaxy. Or perhaps it ran to a larger one to cause destruction in a more ‘interesting’ galaxy.”

Incomprehensive tornadoes swirled around Elena’s mind. Who knew the truth could be so heavy? But after this, she had one more simple question.

“What’s your name?”

“Call me Hydro.”

Hydro then descended gracefully back into the ocean, as their figure slowly melted into the water. Elena’s skin started to glow, and she felt energy rush through her body. A voice in her head, Hydro’s voice, told her that she had received the power of water preservation. Elena then knew what Hydro wanted her to do. If too many humans learned about the other galaxies, the future of humanity would never be the same. However, if humans never found out, there would be no future. Elena found that her boat’s motor had seemed to be working. Perhaps Hydro had fixed it. Regardless, she started up the motor, turned the boat around, and drove it right back to the city’s beach.

Back in her house once again, Elena took out a book and began to write. She wrote about the other galaxies, about the Accidentals, about Hydro, about everything she had learned. She knew that she would spend the rest of her years writing this book. Suddenly, she saw Hercules sitting next to her. Isn’t he with Hydro? She thought. 

Hydro isn’t with me right now, she heard Hercules’ voice say. The old Elena would question this, but she already found a water spirit, so this was expected. I can’t believe you wouldn’t even care to put me in the book, said Hercules’ voice. 

Are you even magical? Elena wondered. 

Of course I am! Elena laughed and started writing about Hercules and Hydro’s connection.

Did you know I’m actually a fire spirit? Elena stared at him as if he were joking. 

I’m serious!He transformed into a similar shape as Hydro, but in red. 

You were serious, Elena realized. It felt odd to see her cat in such a form, although it was his original form.

Elena continued to write in that book for her last years. But eventually, those last years turned into last months, and those last months turned into last days, until the day she dragged her pen through the last letter of her book. She scattered water across the cover, and the droplets began to glow bright blue. The glowing water encased the book, and Elena left it out on her desk. She laid down in her bed. For the last time, she buried herself in the covers. And for the last time, the stars watched her tired eyes shut closed. Elena, the forgotten girl in a forgotten city, never opened her eyes ever again. Someday, her knowledge would be discovered, rekindled. And her body, her rested mind, would always be watched over by the friends she had made. 

That is the tale of Elena and Hercules.

Sunshine and Shadows

I was lost. I mean, you can’t blame me. The streets of D.C. are more like a maze than a couple of roads. If you hadn’t guessed, I’m an alley cat. I don’t have a name, but I’ve been called a scoundrel and the like. I have no idea why. I wouldn’t be upset if a needy kitten was digging through my garbage! Ok, are you creeped out yet? No? I thought you would have realized it by now, but I guess I have to spell it out for you: CATS DON’T WRITE JOURNALS! Yeah, you really should have at least put some thought to that fact. Well, the truth is, this story is being written down after the story you are about to read has happened. Also, I’m not the one writing this. I’m just telling my friend Olivia what to put in here. Surprised? No? Maybe, just in case, I should spell it out again: CATS DON’T TALK! You know what? Maybe it would be easier if I just told the story.

Ok, back to the beginning: I was lost. Suddenly, I remembered where I was. Or at least, where I should be. Wendy’s is near here! I thought. I tumbled over to where I knew some half-eaten, half-rotten cheeseburgers would await me: the Wendy’s trash cans, any alley cat’s dream! There were four trash cans out there, and three smelled like fast food. The other one, though… I couldn’t put a finger on it! Or a paw, for that matter. It didn’t smell like magically good food, it smelled like actual, pure magic! I jumped inside to find out if there was anything to eat. There wasn’t, but I felt weird all of a sudden. I saw sparkles, and spun around and around. Maybe the trash can was empty, and I had hurt my head on the metal bottom. Then, the whirling stopped. I still saw sparkles, though. And pink trees. And flying cows. I had a feeling that I was not in D.C. anymore.

I didn’t know it yet, but I had fallen through a portal in the bottom of the trash can into a town called Misty Hill. It was set apart from the outside world, and for good reason: the people of Misty Hill knew magic, and used it on a daily basis! However, they needed some way to get to the “normals”, so they put up a portal. It was a bit unfortunate that they put it on the bottom of a trash can, since those half-eaten, half-rotten cheeseburgers I was drooling about earlier kept falling through, but even their wisest elders couldn’t figure out the principles of closing a portal. 

Anyways, the cheeseburgers turned out to be a good thing because they cushioned the fall. At the time, the townspeople were inside. Except for one little girl jumping rope, that is. She was also eating a cookie, which sounds unsafe while turning a jump rope, but the rope was turning on its own! I walked up to her, and rubbed against her legs. My golden fur gleamed in the sun, and I made my big eyes even bigger. 

“Meeeeooooow.” 

“Hi little kitty! Like my trick?” She asked. I thought, yes! As hard as I could. I guess it worked because she said, “It’s only practice. My parents are teaching me how to do magic! It really helps when I’m hungry, as you can see!” Then she looked at me. “My parents are teaching me all about magic gems. My favorite is opal. It’s soooooo pretty! I have an idea…” She went inside a house, and stayed in there for a bit. Then, she came out holding something. I couldn’t tell what it was, just that it was glowing. It was also covered in bright, shiny, multicolored stones. She skipped up to me. “An opal collar,” she said. “For you! It has so many magical properties! It could make you able to fly, immortal, or even…” She paused for dramatic effect. “IT COULD MAKE YOU ABLE TO TALK!” she blurted out. My tiny jaw dropped. Put it on, put it on, PUT IT ON! I thought.  “Here, let me get it on you,” she said. I resisted from scratching her. Suddenly, I felt like the shine from the opal was inside of me!

“Thanks! It’s pretty!” I said. Wait a moment… I SAID STUFF?! I guess the collar worked. Hmm… it was supposed to have other powers… maybe I could fly, too! I focused on being light, and floating on a cloud. Suddenly, everything around me started to shrink. Wait, no… I was just going higher and higher! I tried to go left — success! To go right — nailed it! To go down — I was home again! I didn’t want to try out immortality, though, because if I wasn’t immortal, I would die! Besides, I think immortality is one of those things you just have to depend on. 

“I don’t have a name, because I was an alley cat before I came, but I want to know yours,” I said. 

“Oh! Sorry, I still haven’t gotten used to, well, a talking cat. My name is Olivia. And do you know what? I’d like you to be my pet! Hmm… I think I’ll call you Pixie!” She said. I was overjoyed! Suddenly, a storm cloud appeared. It settled down on the hill that gave the town its name. Then, it turned into a person! A witch, in fact. She wore all black, and looked… well, evil! 

“Who is she?” I whispered to Olivia, terrified.

“She calls herself the Shadow Witch. She thinks she rules the town, and I guess she kinda does, with all her evil magic.”

“Greetings, lowly peasants! I would just like to inform you that anyone who disobeys the following rules will be personally punished by yours truly:

  1. Do not attempt to stop my reign.
  2. Do not assist those who I hold captive.
  3. Report anybody who disobeys the first two rules directly to me.

Remember, I am your ruler forever, and I CAN FIND YOU!” The shadow witch glared at the town one last time, then turned back into the black cloud and floated away.

“She was scary! But what did she mean by ‘I am your ruler forever’?” I asked Olivia.

“She’s immortal. That’s why nobody dares challenge her. She’s impossible to defeat! But you know what? I bet we could do it! We could save Misty Hill!” she replied. It was a good idea, but there was one flaw. 

“If we manage to kill her, which is already a huge difficulty, how would that make us any less evil than her?” I said with a worried look on my face. Then, it hit me.

“I have an idea! What if we just try to turn her good? Also, um, do you know the particularly handsome black cat that was next to her?”

“Some kitty has a cruuuuuuuuush!” Olivia teased. “But good plan!” She quickly added. I blushed, if cats can blush.

“I do not have a crush! Anyway, what’s his name?” I asked.

“His name is Vampire. And I’m sure you do like him on some level. Maybe if the Shadow Witch turns good, he will too. Anyway, we really should start our quest. But, before we go, I need to tell you something. You are a helpless little kitten without that collar, okay? You need to keep it safe in order to keep yourself safe.”

“I am not helpless without it! I can do all the stuff cats can usually do!” I retorted.

“Listen, I really don’t want to start an argument with you. Just keep the collar safe, ok?”

“Ok,” I agreed. I’ll prove you wrong. You’ll see, I thought. Then, I realized there was something very important we needed to know.

“Where does the Shadow Witch live?” I asked.

“I have no idea, actually. You know what, though? My parents will!” she exclaimed. So, we set off to her house.

Two minutes later, we arrived at the house she had gone into to make my collar. Thinking about that made me think about our argument. I felt bad for disagreeing with her. After all, she was my only friend, even if she was wrong about me. I remembered a phrase I had heard long ago that seemed quite literal now. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, I thought to myself. We walked inside, only to have a terrible smell blasted into our nostrils.

“Ugh! Is mom trying her hand at cooking again? Daddy, I thought you promised not to let her do that anymore!” Olivia said. Her voice sounded funny, probably because she was pinching her nose.

“I’m truly sorry, honey. She read about a recipe that she thought would be simple, and I couldn’t stop her!” her dad replied.

“By the way, do you by any chance know where the Shadow Witch lives? Pixie and I want to make her good!” Olivia said casually.

“Well, um, are you sure you want to face her? I mean, I know you’re a brave girl, and your cat has that magic collar,” her father replied, flabbergasted. There it was again! Did underestimating me without my collar run in their family? I decided not to mention it. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, dumdum! I reminded myself over and over again.

“Daddy, I’m serious. Pixie and I really want to do this! It could save us all!” Olivia whined.

“Um, if it’s any help, I also really want to do this. She’s telling the truth!” I mumbled.

“Alright then, girls, she lives on Craggy Cliff,” her dad told us. Olivia’s eyes widened with recognition. 

“You mean the Craggy Cliff, the main eyesore of Misty Hill? No way! Nobody could live there and not be evil!”

“True,” her dad said.

“I think you girls should go ahead. Be careful, though. Ok?” her dad said.

“Promise, Daddy.” With that, we started concocting a genius plan.

We agreed that first, I would fly out there to see if she was home. Craggy Cliff was at the edge of the town, but thankfully, the town was not very large, so the edge of it was only a ten minute flight. If the Shadow Witch was home, I would carry Olivia back to the lair with me. Then, we would talk to her (I would actually be talking more to Vampire, because he doesn’t speak human but I do speak cat, also because he is gorgeous). After the Shadow Witch turned good, we would become a foursome, working together to keep Misty Hill safe. Now, we just had to hope that everything would go according to plan.

Like we had agreed, I flew across the town to Craggy Cliff, where I saw a pitch-black castle shrouded in fog. I went over to one of the windows, and peered in, hoping I would not get caught. The Shadow Witch was even scarier up close. Not wanting to spend any more time on that horrible cliff, I flew back to where Olivia was waiting.

“She’s home, and she’s terrifying!” I whimpered to Olivia. Now, it was time for step two: I would fly back to the castle carrying Olivia. That seemed risky, seeing as she was a lot bigger than I was, but we tried anyway. We never got off the ground. 

“It’s hopeless! We’ll never be able to save anyone!” Olivia wailed. Then, I had an idea.

“Olivia! I can’t carry you, but you can carry me!”

“Yeah, but I don’t see how that would help. You’re the one who can fly,” she said sadly.

“I can only fly because of the collar! But if you let me take it off, just this once, then you could wear it as a bracelet! And if you did that, then you could fly there carrying me, instead of the other way around!” I said excitedly.

“Pixie, you’re a genius! Just promise me that you’ll put it back on once we get there.”

“I promise! Come on, let’s try it!” I exclaimed. She took off my collar. Without it, I felt like I was an alley cat again. She slipped it onto her wrist. It fit her perfectly! She scooped me up under her arm, and flew away. She was unsteady at first, but then she got the hang of it. In what felt like the blink of an eye, we were there! As bravely as we could muster, we walked up to the front door… and knocked.

The door opened. The Shadow Witch stood in front of us, and I could practically see the evil oozing out from her ears. She shooed us inside, and gestured for us to sit on rickety stools. Then, she spoke.

“I have a feeling you aren’t here to help me. However, if you are, I will accept the gift that you should have brought. Oooooooooh, is this it?” She was looking at my MY OPAL COLLAR!

“Opal always was a favorite of mine. Thank you!” Just like that, the plan was shattered. She had taken away my opal collar, and with it, my ability to talk. I had expected that, though, so I had another plan. One that, along with saving Misty Hill, would also make people stop underestimating me. I walked up to the Shadow Witch and rubbed against her legs, just like I had this morning with Olivia. Now, that was a distant memory. I don’t mean in the ‘it feels like so much time has passed’ way, just that I have a bad memory and, as you are noticing right now, a very short attention span. Anyway, back to the story.

I rubbed against the Shadow Witch’s legs and purred like a motorboat.

“Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.” I made my eyes extra large, especially for her. 

“Meeeooooooooooow!” I could pinpoint the moment that her hard heart melted, and the moment Olivia realized she had misjudged me. My collar was not who I was. I was who I was. And I was adorable.

“Oh, I’ve been so mean to the people of Misty Hill! I wanted respect, but I got it the wrong way. I owe everyone a huge apology!” the Shadow Witch confessed.

“Yeah, ya really do. But don’t worry, it’ll be ok. Pixie, I owe you an apology. I underestimated you and overestimated your collar. Friends, everyone?” Olivia asked.

“FRIENDS!” everyone shouted together. Except for Vampire. He meowed.

The next day, the Shadow Witch came once again to Misty Hill. she declared peace, and apologized, as promised.

“I know that I did a terrible thing, forcing you to do as I said through dark magic. I apologize for that, and hope that you can find it in your hearts to forgive me. Also, I have appointed a new ruler, since I was so bad at it. Everyone, please give a round of applause for the Sunshine Witch and her cat, Pixie!”

Olivia and I stood up from our picnic blanket in the audience, and got up onto the stage. She was smiling from ear to ear, and so was I. Then, she spoke.

“Hi everyone. Um, my name is Olivia, but you can call me the Sunshine Witch. I am happy to stand in front of you today, and start to spread joy around Misty Hill. However, I couldn’t have done it without my cat, Pixie. Pixie, would you like to say a few words?”

“Hi. I am also happy that Olivia is your new leader. She is a great leader, if a bit stubborn. So, yeah. That’s all.” Everyone applauded. I walked over to Vampire.

“Hi! You were great up there,” he said. Oh, yeah, I almost forgot: he has an opal collar now! Olivia made a matching one for him!

“Thanks,” I said, blushing. Olivia walked over to us.

“Pixie, come with me. I have to take you somewhere!” I followed her to the portal.

“Do I have to go back to the outside world? Is this goodbye?” I said, a bit overdramatically.

“No! I would never part with you! You’re my pet, remember? Just jump in! Trust me!” I jumped through the portal. 

I tumbled out inside a Wendy’s trash can. I hopped out so that Olivia wouldn’t fall on top of me. A few seconds later, I heard a clunk, and Olivia clambered out of the trash can. We walked up to the front of the Wendy’s.

“Wait here,” Olivia said. I sat down next to the door, and Olivia went inside. She came out with a bag. It smelled like Wendy’s, but not rotten!

“I thought you deserved to try some Wendy’s that wasn’t from a trash can,” she said. She reached into the bag and produced a cheeseburger.

“Is it all for me?” I asked, mouth watering.

“Yup!” was Olivia’s excited reply. I stuck my nose into the soft bun. It smelled like butter. I savored the smell until I couldn’t wait any longer, then bit in. it was the best thing I had ever tasted! In about a millisecond, I had sucked down the whole thing. When Olivia had finished hers, we went back through the portal. The Shadow Witch and Vampire were waiting for us. It was good to be home.

As predicted by yours truly, Olivia was a great ruler. The Shadow Witch, Vampire, Olivia, and I became a foursome. We practiced magic, had sleepovers, and did karaoke. The opal collars also made it so that Vampire and I didn’t grow up, and stayed cute little kittens forever. The Shadow Witch enchanted Olivia with the same spell that made her immortal, so we literally had forever to keep being awesome. So, yeah. We went all over Misty Hill, solving problems and making people happy. (With, of course, very frequent trips through the portal to get Wendy’s!)

So, basically, that’s my life story. Except, y’know, it doesn’t end there. It keeps going, because I am still alive! I will be forever! Olivia went home for the day. Her fingers got tired, so she taught me how to type. So, yes, you now have a talking, flying, immortal, and typing cat. I think next, I might learn how to jump rope or play hopscotch, so that I can play more with Olivia. The Shadow Witch and Vampire are out getting me some cheeseburgers. Wait! Did I just hear my magic kitty-phone ring? I did! It’s Vampire… oh no! Maybe the cheeseburgers sold out! No, not that. Vampire says – he says the Shadow Witch sensed dark magic! She said it wasn’t coming from Misty Hill, though! She said… the dark magic is coming from the outside world!

Penguin

My mom was making me walk through the streets of South Africa. My dad had gotten a new job so we moved from New York to South Africa and now I didn’t have any friends. Suddenly, as I was about to turn back and head home, I saw something that made me jump. It was a baby penguin being attacked by a seagull. Before I knew it, I was running at the seagull and screaming, and then the seagull flew away. I saw that this baby’s parents were dead, so I decided to keep the chick and raise her until she was old enough to leave my house.  

Two weeks later, the penguin chick, who I named Joanne (after Johannesburg street, where she was found), was almost ready to leave the nest (or house). I was feeding her raw fish that I had blended into a chunky smoothie. I made a nest for her in my room under a heat lamp out of leaves, sticks, and petals. Also, I let her swim in my kiddie pool. Finally, she was almost ready and I gave her the first whole fish to celebrate. 

After all these months, it was time for Joanne to leave and go into the sea. I was going to be all alone again, and I might never see her again, but I knew it was the right thing to do. I led the first (and only) feathered friend I had to the beach. There, I watched as she jumped into the waves of the South African ocean. 

One Year Later… 

My family and I had moved into a house and I had made friends. When it was penguin breeding time, and a penguin made a nest, I recognized the penguin. It was Joanne! I knew she would always be with me no matter what. 

Window to the Future

This was made purely from random words people gave me.

PIZZA

Warm, mouth-watering pizza.

With cheese and tomatoes and all the good stuff.

Pizza, with its smell, its taste… 

The soft parts are the best. Warm and fluffy.

Who doesn’t like pizza?

It’s the best, anyway.

TORNADO

Swirl of black, brown, gray.

It eats everything — from the smallest speck of dirt… 

To a whole roof. Moving for miles… 

It swallows and breaks everything in its path.

Trashcans whizz. Plants’ roots are ripped from the ground.

It’s a tornado.

ICE-CREAM

Sweet, dribbly.

The ice cream runs down my chin.

I suck it off my fingers.

BOOK

The smell of the pages,

The excitement of the tale —

Together, it makes a good book.

STAR

Twinkling above, the stars watch me.

They serve under the moon.

BIRTHDAY

Every year, on that special day,

I get presents and eat cake.

I love my birthday.

Covid-19

It came out of nowhere and changed many lives. 

We were all living within a lie.

With cases climbing higher and higher.

Masks became most people’s new attire.

We walked outside less and less.

This whole thing was and still is a mess.

The hope still flickered like a weak candle.

Making Covid much easier to handle.

Through thick and thin Humanity made it still.

Humanity has trudged through forest fires and scaled this large hill.

Growing Up

Chapter 1

I sat, watching the sunset with Beetle. 

Two hours earlier I’d read her a story that I’d written, where a girl’s mom dies and she’s found by the queen and becomes a princess, but then the queen almost gets assasinated, but they flee and live happily ever after. When I’d said, “The End,” and asked if she liked it, she’d squirmed.

“What?” I asked her.

“Well, don’t you think… that we’re — well, too old for stories about princesses, talking animals, and happy endings? Maybe we should read about more grown-up things, like kidnappings, or murder mysteries,” Beetle said. 

I didn’t think so. I liked to write about princesses and talking animals. I liked knowing there would be a happily ever after. But I didn’t want to lose Beetle as a friend. I noticed that she’d been growing up faster. She told me to drop that nickname and just call her Beatrice, like her real name was. But she was lodged in my mind as Beetle. 

“I guess,” I responded. “I’ll revise it so the queen dies because the mom turns into a zombie.”

Beetle smiled. “Now that’s a good ending.”

I studied her face to see if she was joking. She was wearing the usual: blush, lip gloss, pink eyeliner. She’d brought her quilt, but I knew underneath she was wearing something maturer than me. I just had on a wool sweater over a t-shirt and some jeans, along with no makeup. My unbrushed hair whipped into my face.

“It’s getting late. And windy. And I need to revise this story,” I said, getting up. 

Beetle waved goodbye as we got to the fork in the road that separated our houses. As I walked in my house, which was a quiet lavender with a yellow door and trim, I alerted my mom that I was there, and then ate my very cold meatloaf. After I finished, I went to my room, got out a piece of paper, and wrote the incredibly morbid, apparently ‘mature’ story I promised Beetle. After an hour or two of writing, my eyelids started to droop. I slowly changed into some pajamas, brushed my teeth, and pulled the black ringlets of my hair into a bun. 

“Eira! Bedtime!” My mom called out. But I didn’t answer. I was already in a deep sleep.

Home Poem

I would come home from school

And my mother would smile at me in her best smile

I miss that smile

I miss it very much

At night I would crash into my pillow

I would dream of fluffy clouds and elves

I miss those dreams

I miss them very much

On weekends, when my father didn’t come home late

We would cook special dinners of vegetables and spices

I miss those dinners

I miss them very much

And that place called home

I lived there

I miss home

I miss it very much

Interesting Topics

Table of Contents:

  1. Ortho-K Lenses
  2. Gardening Tips
  3. Michael Phelps Facts

Ortho-K Lenses  

What are Ortho-K lenses? They are lenses that you wear at night. Every night, the lenses correct your eyesight, and in the morning you have the best eyesight possible. Although they’re expensive (about $2,000 – $4,000 dollars, plus the cost of equipment), kids should definitely wear these lenses. If your eyesight is growing worse, you should immediately wear these lenses. If you have good eyesight, you should still prepare to wear these lenses, because your eyesight will grow worse in the future. Plus, wearing Ortho-K lenses can help remove your eye problems. 

So when should kids wear the lenses? Ortho-K is recommended for kids and teenagers, because that’s when people’s eyesight grows the most. By the time you are 22, your eyesight slowly stops growing, and you can decide if you want to continue wearing lenses, wear glasses, wear contact lenses, or have laser surgery. When you turn 24, the age when your eyesight stops growing, you can do what you decided to do.

Let’s learn some science behind Ortho-K lenses. Part of your eyeball is your cornea. If your cornea is attached to your eyeball, then you have great eyesight. If it’s far away from you eyeball, then it will be hard for you to see. During the night, when you are sleeping, the lens pushes your cornea closer to your eyeball. In conclusion, the lenses improve your eyesight. Remember, it will take a few days, about 3, before it will be completely good.

Author’s note: If you are planning to wear Ortho-K lenses, you can go to two places. One is in the Golden Horseshoe in Scarsdale. Although the place is less expensive than the other one (it’s around $2,000 dollars), it isn’t customized, making it not as safe. Ortho-K Specialty in Bayside, Flushing is more expensive ($4,000 dollars), since it has customized lenses. My doctor, Dr. Cho, told me the information in the first section. 

Gardening Tips

Are your garden plants being eaten by bunnies? One way to get rid of them is to put powder, such as red pepper powder, around the plants or anywhere you feel like will be most effective. For more complicated experiments, check the resources at the end of this article. 

Birds can eat some of your plants, too. Shiny objects scare them away. You can place DVDs, aluminum foil, or any other shiny objects around the plants. It can be dangling from a string, or just lying around. Getting a scarecrow might be another good idea. 

Sources:

https://www.callnorthwest.com/2020/01/5-home-remedies-to-keep-birds-away/ (Gardening tips to keep birds away)

https://www.almanac.com/pest/rabbits (Gardening tips to keep bunnies away)

Things You Might Want To See:

https://www.gardeners.com/how-to/keep-animals-out-of-your-garden/5426.html (More information about keeping animals away from you garden)

Michael Phelps Facts

Michael Phelps has won 28 medals in his life: 23 gold medals, 3 silver medals, and 2 bronze medals. 13 of the gold medals he won individually, and the other 10 were relays. During his career, Michael Phelps also set 39 world records — more than any other person.

Does anyone know what Michael Phelps’ best strokes are? Butterfly and freestyle. Although Micheal is very good at butterfly, he first learned how to do backstroke because, when he was young, he didn’t like putting his head in the water, so he just floated on his back.

Want to hear a really surprising fact? Michael Phelps can do 34 pullups!

You can also check out the video I put at the bottom of this article.

Sources:

https://www.biography.com/athlete/michael-phelps (Biography of Michael Phelps)

Things You Might Want To See:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3o7I0FxFNeQ (MIchael Phelps 8 gold medals in Beijing, 2008)

The Three Adventurers and the Big Monster

Chapter 1

One day, a girl named Giselle came along and found a secret door in the woods. It was locked, so she looked in the bushes and she saw the key. She unlocked the door before she went in, and she looked around and saw her sister, Sydney. She said, “Sydney, come quick!” and ran as fast as she could. They saw someone outside and they shut the door super fast. “Where were you, I texted you?” Giselle whispered.

Sydney said, ”My phone was dead, I couldn’t text you back.”

They heard a loud THUMP, BOOM, BAM! Sydney quietly opened the door a tiny bit… it was big and scary… IT WAS A MONSTER!

The monster was green and yellowish. Giselle shut the door and Giselle was very scared. She screamed very loudly.

“Shhh! We don’t want anyone knowing where we are,” Sydney said. There was a big bug. Giselle hated bugs. She stepped on the bug — but she had her new Vans on, and they were rose gold. She was trying not to cry but she was really upset. Sydney was just on her phone paying no attention to her. Giselle quietly went out of the room. Sydney heard the door and she looked out and saw Giselle. Sydney ran to Giselle. The monster was trying to come for her but it walked too slowly. It had two legs like a human but it was big and walked super slow. Sydney was running as fast as possible.

Giselle said, “Sydney you were just on your phone the whole time!” Sydney and Giselle were scared, but she tried to stay calm because the monster was right behind them. They finally escaped, but the monster kept following them, but they weren’t scared because they got used to it, though they still didn’t like it.

“OMG, runnnn, ahhh! It’s coming for us!” Sydney said.

“Shhh, mom is probably worried! Hurry, hope we don’t get lost!” Giselle said.

“Quickly, someone’s calling me,” Sydney said. “It’s probably mom, but keep running.”

“I see something weird farther up! Oh, it’s a book, I’m gonna pick it up,” Giselle said.

“No, just keep running. Ahhh! Help, the monster got me!” Sydney yelled.

“Sydney, I’m gonna dump water on it so it lets go of you. 1, 2, 3, splash!”

“Okay, keep running faster this time. I see rainbow!” Sydney said.

“Just pay attention! You don’t want to get caught by the monster again, right?”

“Just keep going! Don’t pay attention to anything else for the last time!”

“Okay, Giselle, now focus and keep running faster” said Sydney.                                                                                                                        

Sydney said, “Stop bossing me around all the time, Giselle!”

They both yelled,  “Ahhhhhh! The monster runs as fast as possible! Faster!”

Giselle and Sydney were both scared. They ran as fast as they could, trying to get away from the monster, but it was too slippery. The monster picked both of them up off of the ground, but the two girls slipped right out of the monster’s hands. The monster was about to eat them, they were out in time! He put his hands right to his mouth but they weren’t there; they were running farther from the monster.                                                                                                                                                        

Chapter 2

They were hungry because they hadn’t eaten anything in 24 hours, they were starving! They had camp the next day but they missed it because they didn’t make it home in time. They needed to have a snack or something, they could be like a human that never got full, that was how hungry they were. They were trying to find food but they were still running as the monster came along. They were trying to get back home but they didn’t know where it was.                                                                                                                 

“Oh no, Mom’s calling me. I think she’s worried. I’m gonna answer… “

Mom asked where they were. Sydney said Isabella had asked for a sleepover for 9 days, and she also said they were playing a game of checkers so that she actually believed it because she didn’t want her mom to know that they were lost. They tried to call Isabella and tell her if her mom calls and asks if they’re there or having a good time say, just say YES.

Mom didn’t know that they were lost in the woods. They knew where Isabella’s house was, so they decided to go come so their mom thought they were there the whole time.

“Giselle we’re going to Isabella’s house, turn around,” Sydney said. They did not walk too far but the monster showed up! “You can walk because it can’t jump,” Sydney said, and the branches and bushes they were walking through were poisonous to them and the monster because the monster was walking through it and it got small purple bumps on its slimy and gooey skin.

Their mom said that she was going to pick them up from Isabella’s house tomorrow because Isabella had dance, but she told her that she would go to dance with her so she was picking them up on the last day of this week. “We better hurry there, fast, run!” Giselle said. “We can stay for a while. We’ve never had a sleepover for this long. We are pretty far from her house. We have to run as fast as possible.”

“Giselle? Oh, come on, hurry, why are you behind me? You need to be next to me or in front of me or be behind me.”

“I don’t care anymore! Blah blah blah, whatever, I don’t care. We’re almost at Isabella’s house but it’s hot, we should get ice cream or an icy.”

“It’s very hot and I’m starving! When we get to Isabella’s house, I’m gonna ask for something to eat, maybe even two whole watermelons. Welp, I’m starving, so why not, I’ll eat the whole watermelon, except the skin.”

This ice cream was super good and creamy and cold. Since they were close to her house, they decided they should bike.

“Let’s go to the bike store! It’s right there. It’ll take like ten minutes,” Giselle said.

Gisella had gone here the other day. Her mom had called asking if Isabella could take them to school because they went to the same school and Mom was always so tired in the morning, and she said yes.

“I see Isabella’s house! It’s on the next block. We’re here! I’m gonna ring the doorbell,” Giselle said.

She opened the door, and Giselle said, “Hi.”

Isabella said “hi” back. She had two dogs, their names were Elinore and Frank. Frank was a pug and Elinore was a teacup. They went inside and washed their hands because they had been outside all day. Since they were so hungry, they had lunch and dinner at the same time. Since they were having a sleepover, they could stay up as long as they wanted, so they could play on their phones or maybe play Roblox or pottery life or pottery life HD. They could stay up all night! It would be so fun on their phones because remember, when they were at Isabella’s house, they could stay up all night.

“Where is Isabella?” Giselle asked.

“Oh, she is in the kitchen doing I don’t know what, I’m gonna go check. Hey, Isabella, what are you doing?” Sydney asked.

“I’m about to go to b — oh, right, we are staying up all night. But don’t you think it’s a little late to stay up? I’m a little tired.”

“Yeah, I guess I am a little tired, I’ll go let Giselle know,” Sydney said.

Chapter 3

Sydney asked Giselle if she thought they should tell Isabella about the — you know, monster. GIselle said she’d be scared or something like that. Sydney didn’t think she’d be scared. So she told Isabella and she obviously didn’t believe Sydney, but luckily she took a quick picture of the monster. Now she believed Sydney.

She was very scared and Sydney knew she was gonna scream so she covered Isabella’s mouth and told her to be quiet because no one could know about it except for them three. She asked why no one could know about it and Sydney told her,

“Because if anyone else knows about it, they will get attacked too, but don’t worry, you’re safe.” Then she whispered, “I think.”

Then Sydney told Giselle that she’d told Isabella and Giselle freaked out because she may get attacked but Sydney told her probably not because the monster could only hear things that are a regular tone but if it was a whisper, it could not hear what they were saying.

So if someone said something about the monster in a regular tone, it could hear and attack the people that knew about the monster. Since the monster was huge, it had huge body parts. The monster’s biggest body part was its ears, so it could listen to everything that was about it regularly.

Isabella was just putting her dishes in the sink. “I’ll be right there, I’m coming,” she said. She was putting her dishes in the sink.

“She’s coming and she’s getting water with ice in it,” Sydney told Giselle. “She has dance tomorrow, we’re doing it with her. She takes hip hop, the song she does is Tootsie Slide. It’s a good song. When Isabella comes in the room, she’s gonna teach us the dance. The dance has more moves than you think, oh, here she comes. Hi, Isabella, do you want me to play the song on my — “

 “Yes, please, because my mom hid my phone, ok…  “

“Now I’m hot from all that dancing, can I get some water?” Giselle asked.

“Yes, of course, mi casa es tu casa, right!” exclaimed Isabella. “Sydney, do you want anything?”

“Yes, please, can I have some iced tea?”

“Isabella said, “Perfect.” 

Once it was bedtime, they ate dinner, took a shower, put on their pajamas, brushed their teeth, then went to bed. In the morning, they ate pancakes and bacon for breakfast. Then they watched Netflix. They watched To All The Boys: Always and Forever.

Sydney didn’t like that show so she was doing gymnastics in the living room. When they were done watching their little show, they decided to go to the movie theater to see A Quiet Place and A Quiet Place II, and before you say anything, Giselle is 17 and Isabella and Sydney were 16, so don’t come for them.

They took out their three-person bike, it was super cool. Giselle kept spilling the popcorn so Sydney held the popcorn. Then we went to the second movie and made it just in time for the movie.

She had a 1-person bike and a passenger bike. Once they got to the movie theaters, their mom called just to check in on them. They told her where they were and she told them to enjoy, then they all turned their phones off and took their seats. Sydney got the snacks, Giselle saved the seats and Isabella — well, Isabella ate all the snacks.

Sydney wasn’t scared the tiniest bit but Giselle was — the one screaming and spilling the popcorn, so Sydney held the popcorn instead, then Isabella said she had to go to the bathroom. 30 minutes later, she still wasn’t back, so Giselle went to check the bathroom and she wasn’t there. Sooner or later, Sydney got a text saying, “HELP!”

Sydney ran to the bathroom to tell Giselle and they ran outside and saw the monster about to put Isabella in i’s eye (which is where it eats from). They ran to punch the monster and it dropped Isabella out of its gross and slimy wet hands. When the monster dropped her, she was all wet and her white shirt was tinted a bright green and yellow. Once she was on the ground, a piece of the monster’s slimy skin fell onto Isabella and then grew back. They all were grossed out.

Chapter 4

They made a secret name for the monster, its name was Doug. From now on, if they were to even think about that monster, they would find a way to try to stop it, but if you did think about it, you had to tell the rest of the group because they all do most things together.

Giselle went to go write more of her book called Strikers, Author: Giselle McCraw, Illustrator: Chastity Hampton. She made her first book in 2018-2019. Now, she was working on her second book. The monster got a new power which was reading minds no matter where you were. So now they couldn’t think about the monster or else he would come to get them and eat them.

Tomorrow was supposed to be the day they got picked up but they still had the monster probl — Sydney gasped, then yelled for Isabella and Giselle. “ISABELLA, GISELLE! I SAID THE WORD THAT DOUG IS!” Sydney said.

“The m word,” Isabella said.

Sydney yelled, “YES, THAT ONE!”

“In the show I watched, I think we have to clap, clap, stomp, stomp, and say, ‘Keep the thing away!’ for it not to come.”

“Uhhhhh, Isabella, it may or may not be right behind you.”

She slowly turned around and screamed. Giselle, Isabella, and Sydney all yelled and clapped twice, stomped twice, and yelled, “Keep the thing away!” It roared and moved away as quickly as it could, but it was still super slow.

Today was the day they were going to picked up but they were gonna ask their mom if they could stay for two more weeks. She said, “Fine, but we have to be home by 9:30.”

Sydney said, “Fine,” but she didn’t tell Giselle until Giselle said,

“Sydney, we have to leave now.”

Sydney told her she was staying and she said, “Then I am too because won’t want to get hurt by the monster.”

The next couple of days, they went out for dinner. On their way back home, they encountered the monster.

Can you guess what happened next?

They unfortunately got eaten. There were so many more people in there. Isabella got lost and couldn’t find her mother when she was 12 but now they know where she was, in the monster’s stomach. Isabella gave her mom a huge hug but then realized it was the wrong person. They tried to climb out of its left eye but that didn’t work. They tried climbing out of its right eye and that kind of worked but they slid right back in and ZAP! They got zapped. Isabella got them free by sticking her shoe through its eye and put her sweater where they slipped. Then once they were all through, they grabbed all of their belongings and went home to get them all squeaky clean, but Isabella was on Giselle’s back because one of her shoes wasn’t clean. Giselle said, “Phew we’re home!” as she dropped Isabella off at her stop, which was her bed.

Chapter 5

                                         

 Giselle wanted to watch some YouTube, but as usual, she ended up watching Netflix instead. Then Isabella got a call from her friend Mari (Short for Mariana) who moved to Miami with her mom. Her sister stayed in New York because she has a job and so did her dad. Mari surprised Isabella by FaceTiming her right in front of her door and just showing up by surprise. They were all now having a three-person sleepover together. Isabella was sleeping in her bed, Giselle was sleeping on Isabella’s Mom’s bed, and Mari was sleeping on the couch. Mari was sleeping over until Saturday and so were they (probably).

“We are leaving for dinner in 15 minutes” Isabella exclaimed. “We are going to Panera Bread, their food is sooooo good.”

They left to go to Panera Bread at 4:00 PM. They ended up leaving at 6:00 PM and got home around 6:30. They decided to have doughnuts for dessert and tomorrow, they were going to have ice cream. At 10:00 PM, they decided to go to bed because they had a long day. But also fun!

“Good night everyone, see you tomorrow!”

“Good morning, who wants pancakes!” Giselle, Isabella, and Sydney all woke up and thought,

Who is that? We have no one else in the house besides — Mari!

They got out of bed and went to the kitchen. “You’re making breakfast!”

Mari said, “Yep,” as the oven went ding! Mari said “Oh, the pão de queijo is ready.” Pão de queijo is brazilian cheese bread. Sydney then said,

“Como você está?” That meant, “How are you.”

And Mari said, “Eu estou bem.” That meant, “I’m fine,” and she said, “E você?” That meant, “And you.” 

Sydney said the same thing that Mari said. Mari was Brazilian and Sydney learned a lot from her three friends, Gabriella, Beatrice, and Clara. They all went to her school. Giselle, Isabella, Mari, and Sydney all went to the same school, that was how they met each other. BOOM, THUMP, THUMP! Isabella and Sydney saw the monster outside. Isabella showed Mari around to get her away while Sydney tried to get the monster away. She clapped her hands twice, stomped twice, and said, “Get the thing away!” but the monster didn’t go away this time. The monster started banging on the roof for the 4th time and Mari asked what the sound was, but Isabella ignored her and said,

“Get on my back, I am going to give you a small rollercoaster ride.”

Mari said, “No!” and went to the living room to look out the window and see what it was. Sydney pulled her away from the window as the monster shrank and went underneath the door and grew back when it was on the other side of the door. Mari slowly turned around and screamed. The monster had now put Mari in its stomach.

 To Be Continued…

   

Biomes Out of the Box

Chapter 1

I lie in the grass. I do not remember a single thing. A figure walks up to me. I shut my eyes. I wake up in a bed. 20 people are looking at me. A strong, bald guy helps me out of bed and then asks how I got here. 

I say, “I don’t know.” 

He says, “I am Jake, leader of the crystal world.” He has big pointy ears. 

I ask, “Are you an elf?”

He says, “Yes, we all are. You are the only human.” 

He takes me outside and we end up in a stone box. The walls are 100 feet high. 

I ask, “Where am I?” 

He says, “The crystal world, I already told you.” 

I say, “Can we go to the desert biome?”

“No we can’t. They are all locked,” Jake says.

“Why not? How are they all locked?”

“You’ll catch up on everything, Newbie.”

“Who’s Newbie?”

“You’re Newbie. That’s what we call the new people,” says Jake. 

Next, I meet a guy named Oliver. 

He says, “Aren’t you the new Newbie everyone’s talking about?” 

“That’s not my name,” I say. 

“Why? What is your name then?” 

“That’s weird. I can’t remember.” 

“Yep, we think we get brainwashed when we come here.” 

“What do you mean, come here?” 

“The Over People bring us here. Also, tomorrow is your lucky day. You get to become an elf and learn how to fly!” 

We hear a loud horn. 

I ask, “What is that?” 

“It’s Jake calling a ceremony to see what your name is going to be.” 

“But I already have a name,” I say. 

“Remember? You got brainwashed!” Oliver says. 

“Come on, we gotta go, or else we’ll lose points” 

“What are points?” I ask. 

“You ask a lot of questions,” he says. “You have five points when you come into the box. When you lose all of your points by doing bad things, they’ll burn you at the stake. Six people have already been burned.”

 When we get there, the Jake guy says to us, “Hey Oliver, looks like you’ve already made friends with the Newbie.” 

“That’s not my name,” I say. “Oh wait, it is my name.” 

They ask me to light a bonfire. Since I am going to be in the Orange Elf Cabin, they are going to name me Josh. 

“Hurray, you’re going to be with me,” says Oliver. 

“Oh, thank God,” I say. 

While we’re walking back to the Orange Cabin, everyone starts high fiving me, elf-smacking me on the back, and congratulating me. 

“What’s the difference between the Blue Elf Cabin, the Pink Elf Cabin, and the Orange Elf Cabin?” I ask. 

“Well, the Blue Elf Cabin can teleport anywhere inside the box, the Pink Elf Cabin can run more than 120 miles an hour, and the Orange Elf Cabin can fly up to 50 feet in the air. Tomorrow when you wake up, you will be an Orange Elf. Then you’ll have flying training. Good night.” 

The next morning, I wake up and find myself levitating in bed. Then, everyone else wakes up. 

“Hey, you’ve already got the hang of it!” Oliver says. 

I go outside after breakfast and start to walk around. I look at each biome three times and meet Rick. 

I ask, “Who are you? I think I recognize you.” 

“Well, you should, because I am the leader of the Orange Elf Cabin,” Rick says. 

A Pink Elf walks up to me and starts cracking jokes about me being a Newbie. Then this Rick guy gets fed up and a laser gun appears in his hand. 

“Back off, or there will be a hole right through you in three seconds.” 

“Don’t you remember? I can outrun that lazer. I’m a Pink Elf. I can run more than 120 miles an hour.” 

“Well, if I tell Jake, your last point will be gone, and you will be burned at the stake.” 

The Pink Elf backs off. 

“That’s how you deal with bad guys here,” Rick says. 

“I have one question for you. Who am I?” 

“Nobody knows.”

“Not even I know who I am?” I ask.

“Not even you,” Rick says. 

“Wow, this place is weird,” I say. 

“Yup, sure is,” Rick says. 

I ask him, “How long have you been here?”

 Rick says it’s hard to tell because time moves differently in the crystal world. 

I ask, “Have you opened any of the biomes yet?”

“Nope, we still can’t find the password or figure out how more and more people get here.”

Then, we turn into elves. I remember that I am an elf and sigh.

Oliver comes to tell Rick and me that it’s time for dinner. 

The next morning, I go to my flying lesson. I am surprised to see that Rick and Oliver are the teachers. It goes on for what feels like a year, and then we get called in for lunch. I am starting to get used to the schedule. When I look at the board, I still have 5 points, not that I thought I lost any. 

After lunch, a girl elf comes up to me and tells me her name. I was going to tell her mine, but she was at the bonfire. We chat like normal people or elves, and then I see that she has blue eyes. It is odd because everyone else has green eyes. I ask, and she says she doesn’t know why. She says that they had tried to figure it out, but it never worked. I ask how we unlock the biomes, and she says that we need a password. We try to find out the password but can’t. 

At dinner, there is a food fight with the Blue Elves and the Pink Elves. I sit next to Oliver, Rick, and Mia the girl elf. We talk and try to ignore the fight. Then, I have a headache, and the numbers 2-4-1-9 pop into my head. I go to the forest biome. I put in the numbers and it opens.

Chapter 2: Biomes in the Open

Everyone is in shock. I stumble into the forest, and there I fall. 

The next day, they have a meeting to see if it is safe to escape. They tell me that I now have 305 points for opening a biome. In the afternoon, ten elves go searching for the biome: three Pinks, one Orange, and six Blues. The Orange Elf flies up but bumps into a tree branch. The Pink Elves start running and trip over some tree roots. The Blue Elves try to teleport, but they can only teleport to places inside the box. The Blue Elves carry the rest of the injured elves to the Red Cross Elves. 

After dinner, I am really curious to see what is inside, so Oliver, Mia, Rick, this guy named Chris, and I go out. We explore for a few hours until we hear a rumbling noise. Then, it starts getting closer and sounds like growling. When we all sprint back to the box, it has stopped following us. When we look to see if everyone is sleeping, they aren’t. The Pink Elf that was picking on me for being a Newbie is being burned. 

“Well there goes number seven,” Oliver says.

We join the bonfire. That’s when it gets out of hand. The grass starts to burn and there is a massive fire. It burns down the Blue Elf Cabin. Then, everyone hears a loud boom. A normal human with a megaphone with a bunch of guys wearing backward helmets appears and says “We are the Over People and we are here to put the fire out!”

They start spraying water at the fire. “I think they’re called fire fighters,” Oliver says.

But the elves do not want them to fight the fire. They want answers. All the elves go into the chamber of weapons. Orange Elves take laser blasters, Blue Elves take nunchucks, and the Pink Elves take swords. First, Pink Elves run towards the Over People, distracting them so the Blue Elves can teleport behind them. The Orange Elves fly up above and start shooting at them. 

“Enough! We are going to call a meeting, and after that, maybe, just maybe, we’ll let you go. Only if you can unlock all the biomes,” say the Over People.

Everyone looks at me. Suddenly, the Over People disappear. 

Chapter 3: The Struggle to Escape

For the next two weeks, everyone is getting ready to escape, and they are all counting on me. We all start to pack our things. The Blue Elves are getting ready to say goodbye to their teleportation providers. Only Jake isn’t packing. Everyone is very confused. He is going to stay.

We all set off to the forest that I unlocked. That’s when I get another headache. The numbers 1-8-6-3 pop into my head, and I fly to the desert biome. I put in the numbers, and my headache stops. It unlocks. Everybody looks at me and the biome. Jake is smiling.

“Blue and Orange go into the desert, Pink go into the forest biome. But be careful, Pinks, there are a lot of roots,” Jake says. 

As we are walking, I hear a weird noise in front of me. 

“Rattlesnake! Josh, look out!” Mia yells.

I take off flying. But in three seconds, while I am 40 feet in the air, I fall back onto the rattlesnakes and feel something wet. 

“Eeewww, you have rattlesnake blood all over your back,” Mia says.

“Good thing I have a change of shirts.”

I put on my second shirt out of five. Then, we see something shiny. It looks like 78 motorcycles, one for each of us. Mia has to ride on the back of Oliver’s since her’s broke. Oliver, as usual, complains. 

“She’s your friend.”

My motorcycle breaks and I fall off. I land on Rick’s motorcycle. I backflip over him, grab onto the back of the seat, and get in position. I leave my motorcycle behind. We crash, sending us over the invisible barrier. That’s when we see the Over People. I see the guy that was holding the megaphone earlier and punch him in the face. We get in line and take turns punching him in the face, 78 times in total. 

“Alright, you already broke my nose!” he screams. “Ok, just stop punching me, and I will give you your freedom!”

The rest of the elves keep on punching him until he is knocked out. We leave the building and enter a strange world. A sign reads New York City.

“Wait, I think I got my memory back!” we all say.

“I think my name is Ravi. I have an older brother named Neel who looks exactly like Rick.” 

“I think my name is Neel and my brother is Ravi. We live near the cathedral school in Apartment—wait, that’s classified,” Rick says. 

Just then, Mia turns into a kitten. Oliver and a Blue Elf turn into my mom and dad.

Chapter 4: Back to Normal

“Why is everyone wearing masks?” Oliver asks.

“Meow meow meow,” says Mia.

We call a taxi and say goodbye to everyone we’ve met. 

“So, are you guys new here?” the taxi driver asks.

“No, we live here.”

“Aren’t you guys from that TV show, Biomes Out of the Box?” 

“Wait, what?!”

We walk into our home and start watching the TV show. 

“How did you get that laser gun in your hands?” I ask Neel.

“I don’t know,” he says.

We fell asleep later that night. Suddenly, the police barge into our house and take us to a different movie set. 

“Not this again,” we all say.  They don’t erase our memories this time or turn us into different people. They just interview us. 

“Where’s that Mia fella?” 

“Oh I’ll get her,” I say.

They put us into a James Bond movie. Then we get put in a maze and turn back to our other-selves. We learn that the name of my mom’s elf persona is Michelle. 

Suddenly, we all fall asleep and I wake up back in my cabin. It turns out none of that happened. I try to go back to the biome that I thought I unlocked, but I guess I never actually knew how to. 

A plane crashes into the box. That’s when we realize this is how the Over People bring people into this place. 

Rick was brought in by a car crash that made him lose his memory, and I was brought in by crashing my motorcycle. Then I go to the desert biome and put in a passcode to try and open it: Car Crash, Motorcycle Crash, Plane Crash. Surprisingly, it opens. I check to see if I’m dreaming. 

Everyone sprints out, leaving everything behind. I realize Oliver is actually not my dad, Mia is just an elf, Rick is a friend, and Michelle isn’t even real. 

Oliver catches up to me. 

“Nice job, dude,” he says.

For the first twenty minutes, everything is normal. Then, the sun starts beaming on us. Since the Pink Elves run way too fast, they run into quicksand. Then, there’s a sandstorm, and in the middle of it, Jake realizes that we will have to stop for the night. 

At night, we hear something that sounds like laughter. When we go outside, there is a pack of hyenas trying to eat our sandwiches. Then, we set off in the middle of the night. Jake knows that it would be more dangerous and tough to get through this. When it gets really dark, we still keep moving. Then, we meet different elves. They look exactly like us. 

Jake asks their leader, “Who are you?” 

“We came from a box with ten biomes,” they say.

“Wait, but we’re coming from a box too,” Jake replies. 

“So there’s two boxes?” everyone says. 

“Our elves can fly, can run more than 120 miles an hour, and the elves used to be able to teleport,” the leader says.

“No way! Same for us.”

Then we realize that if we keep on walking straight, each group will end up in each other’s boxes. So we turn the other way. We see something in the distance. We get closer and find a third box. 

“There must be a million boxes!” I say.

Then, we hear a voice that sounds like the Over People. The voice says, “Yes, this is the Over People. We have come here to trap you elves because you have all caught a virus. It is called ‘Elfatopia.’ It makes you turn into an elf so we trapped you. If you were in the real world, you would have lived with humans and a war would have started between you.”

Chapter 5

We walk for what feels like a trillion years. Then, we think we see something. We aren’t very surprised because we’ve already seen, like, fifty boxes. This is different. It is a shiny black building that looks like a lab. 

We slam on the door three times and yell, “FBI, open up!!!”

The door opens and we all barge through, breaking every single thing they have. We go out the front door. 

“Looks like we’re here,” Jake says. 

“Well, I guess we’re elves forever,” Mia says.

THE END                    

The Grain

It felt like a nightmare. Maybe it was. Or maybe it never happened at all. By the time you finish reading, you’ll know what I mean. 

MONDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2031, 1:15 PM

EMERYVILLE MIDDLE SCHOOL, EMERYVILLE, MONTANA, ROOM 201

“Jennifer, would you like to share your report next?” 

I smiled as Ms. Bragenstien acknowledged my raised and wriggling hand. 

“Of course.” I strode to the front of the room and grabbed the Grain Projection Chip (PC) connected to the Smartboard from her desk. Ms. Bragenstein said nothing, only smiled silently and expectantly as I plugged the PC into the Grain slot in my head and murmured, “Saturday, October 3, 2031, 5:00 PM.” My Grain presentations were already almost legendary at Emeryville Middle School. 

The Grain was invented in 2027 as a security device to monitor released prisoners. Their Grain recordings would be reviewed to make sure that they weren’t participating in any illegal activity. Thanks to the Grain and its memory recording power, crime rates plummeted phenomenally. But over the years, people started to implant it voluntarily, so they could relive the best moments of their lives. These days it was common, with babies getting it as young as 2 months old. There was even talk of making it legally mandatory. And if you didn’t get it, you were deemed suspicious — people assumed you had something to hide. 

I grinned at Ms. Bragenstien as the recording began to play on the Smartboard at the front of the room. 

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2031, 5:00 PM

22 WEMBLY ROAD, EMERYVILLE, MONTANA, JENNIFER’S BEDROOM

I smiled in the mirror, made sure my hair was neat, glanced at my notes, and began. 

“This report is on a very serious topic: The Cha — ”

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 3, 5:01 PM

1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE, WASHINGTON DC, OVAL OFFICE

The door burst open and I stepped into the Oval Office. The door slammed shut behind me. President Jackson looked up from the letter he was skimming and stared at me. 

“Marshal Jackson,” I growled. My voice didn’t sound like my own. “It’s time to pay for your crimes.”

Before he could stop me, my knife was hurtling toward his heart. It found its mark. Jackson collapsed with a thunk

Almost immediately, two men in black suits with guns jumped out at me from behind blue drapes on both sides of the room. I ran. 

The window exploded in a shower of glass behind me, the grass outside rushing up to meet my feet before me. 

MONDAY, OCTOBER 5, 1:17 PM

EMERYVILLE MIDDLE SCHOOL, EMERYVILLE, MONTANA, ROOM 201

Everyone in the room was speechless. 

For a minute. 

Two.

Three.

My chest heaved up and down, beads of sweat starting to form around the hole in my head where I had yanked the PC out. I took a deep breath, tried to compose myself. Tried to look less panicked than I really was. 

“Ms. Bragenstein,” I began. “This is all a big mi — ”

“Jennifer,” Ms. Bragenstein interrupted. Her voice was oddly stiff. “Did you assassinate President Jackson?”

I was shocked. “I — what — no! Ms. Bragenstein, I have no idea how that recording got in my Grain!”

“You — you’re lying,” she said coldly. It nearly broke my heart. “No one can alter their Grain.” 

“Please!” I cried. “I can give you my report now! The Challenger — ” The other kids were staring. I didn’t care. All that mattered was Ms. Bragenstein and if she believed me, but she was unmoved. I panicked. Tears started to wet my cheeks. 

“I didn’t know you had this in you, Jennifer.”

“Please! You know where my house is — where I was recording! Wembly road! That’s nowhere near the Oval Office! How could I — ”

“That could have been any mirror. I didn’t see your surroundings, murderer,” she spat. “I suppose that was a confession. Rather odd way of doing it, but — never mind. The police will be here soon.” She picked up her phone to dial 911. 

I ran for the door.

MONDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2031, 1:40 PM

22 WEMBLY ROAD, EMERYVILLE, MONTANA, KITCHEN

“A half-day,” I told my mom, out of breath. “I’m going to my room.” I raced up the stairs of our small suburban house before she could object. 

I slammed the door of my room and collapsed into my desk chair, staring into the mirror. How was this my life? I lied to my mom. I ran out of school. And I was about to become a fugitive from the law. I couldn’t believe it. 

Sighing, I opened my computer and grabbed the PC connected to it. I plugged it into my Grain slot and said clearly, “Saturday, October 3, 2031, 5 PM.” On the screen, I watched the recording of me — no, of someone — assassinating the president. I paused as they threw the knife. Then I took a screenshot. Their hands were darker than mine. It wasn’t me, but I couldn’t very well go back to Ms. Bragenstein and show her the evidence. She wouldn’t believe me. It still hurt how quickly she had shunned me. 

But there was no time to dwell on this. I took off my backpack and dumped out all the schoolbooks. I took the purse containing $327 from various birthdays and gifts from my desk and put it inside the backpack. Then I emptied my state quarter collections into my backpack as well (for use in laundromats). I also put in some outfits, jackets and coats, books, my computer and PC, and an empty notebook and pen. I hesitated, then tore the first sheet from it, wrote a quick note, and left it on my desk. 

Dear Mom and Dad:

By the time you read this, I bet you’ll have seen the news. It looks bad, I know. But I swear I didn’t do it. You have to believe me. I had to leave. I’m going to try to find out what really happened. 

I’m so sorry.

Jennifer

I put on my backpack, grabbed my sleeping bag, and headed downstairs. 

“It’s, um, actually, we’re supposed to go back because we’re going to watch a movie in the gym. With sleeping bags.” I told my mom quickly. 

She gave me a suspicious look. “And… why didn’t I get an email about this?”

“Ms. Bragenstein told us she forgot to send it.”

“Okay, but I’m going to check your Grain later.”

“Sure, mom,” I said, trying to keep my voice from quavering. If I ever saw her again, I knew what she would find if she checked. I grabbed an umbrella and opened the door.

“Umbrella?”

“It… might rain.”

MONDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2031, 5:09 PM

DELI & BEER, EMERYVILLE, MONTANA

“Oh… and a butter roll, please.” I added. 

The man at the counter of the small, grubby, cramped deli gave me a strange look as I asked for the breakfast special at 5 in the afternoon. I glanced outside to avoid meeting his eyes. The ugly Deli & Beer was topped by a faded awning in a particularly ugly shade of green. It smelled of rat droppings and hastily applied cleaning supplies. I waited patiently. 

I took out one of the books I had brought, an atlas of the United States. It had maps of the whole country, each of the states, highway and landscape maps, etc. I opened it to the general map of the country. I took a pen and made a line from Emeryville, Montana (usually Emeryville would be too small to be featured on a map, but there were so few towns in Montana that it had to be there) to Washington DC. It looked far. I probably couldn’t get on a train or plane because I was a minor, so I would have to walk. I couldn’t think of any other option. Then, just as I was thinking it couldn’t be any worse, I heard:

“We interrupt this broadcast for some breaking news. Live from the Oval Office in Washington DC, I hand it over to Josephine Merson…”

I swiveled in my red, cracked leather stool, turning my attention from the atlas to the television almost hidden in a corner of the wall. The blond woman on-screen was standing in the Oval Office in front of the president’s desk… but it looked more like a crime scene. The window behind the desk was shattered, there was caution tape everywhere, and police officers and investigators were poking around with flashlights and magnifying glasses everywhere. 

“Thanks, Paul,” said Josephine. I could tell she was distressed, though she was trying not to show it. “We’re sorry to pull you from your soap operas” — she seemed to wait for laughter — “but something much more dramatic and entirely real has happened here. We’ve just received word from the police department in Emeryville, a small town in Montana — ” At the mention of his hometown, the man, carrying my plate out from the kitchen, stopped and stared at the screen. “ — That in the local middle school, a child has just played a Grain recording of herself assassinating President Marshal Jackson.” 

I froze. This was my worst nightmare, and it was already happening. It was revealed. 

They cut to a recording of Ms. Bragenstein in our classroom with a microphone held up to her mouth. 

“Angela Bragenstein, this student — Jennifer — was under your care,” said a voice on-screen. “Did you ever get any notion that she might have done something like this? Was this expected?”

“No,” she replied breathlessly. “Jennifer was a good student. The best. But now I can see it was all a ruse.”

They cut back to Paul at his blue desk in the newsroom. Flashes of the crime scene played on a screen behind him. “The student, Jennifer Hudson, allegedly fled the classroom after abruptly tearing out the PC that played the recording, and has not yet been found.” Then my school photo played on the screen. I gasped. The man with the plates looked at me. I looked away. 

“Wait a second,” he said. I hastily pulled my hood up, but it was too late. He’d seen my face. 

“If you have any information, call 1-800-706-2948.” 

The man reached for his phone. 

I slammed the atlas shut and shoved it in my backpack. I put it on and grabbed my sleeping bag from the floor. 

The man dialed the number. He noticed me sneaking toward the door. “No you don’t,” he growled. “That reward money’s gonna fix this place up… buy me a new pair o’ shoes. I’mma finally make me momma proud.”

“Sorry!” I cried, and dashed out the door. 

“WAIT!” He yelled, squeezing himself around the counter. “WAI — ”

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2031, 8:47 PM

ONEOTA PARK, SPENCER, IOWA

I stretched out my legs in my sleeping bag and tried not to cry. I’d been away from home for almost ten days. I missed my bed and my home and my family. I was lying in the dirt in my sleeping bag, leaning against a tree. Chipmunks skittered across the ground a few feet away. Owls hooted high up in the treetops. Even the animals were keeping their distance. I needed privacy. Other humans could recognize and capture me, but it was driving me slowly mad. There was only me to keep me company… 

Or maybe not, I realized suddenly. 

I remembered the person in the recording. They must have altered my Grain to put the recording there. Maybe they had left other recordings. I opened my backpack and took out my computer. I opened the Grain app, plugging in my PC. I browsed through my recordings. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary — me going to school, reading, hanging out in my room. Then I noticed something. While scrolling through the automatically taken screenshots from every hour, I saw one of a tall, white building from 6 PM on October 5. This was from just after the assassination. There were no buildings like that in Emeryville — just little delis and suburban houses. This had to be something from the secret assassin. I clicked the screenshot. A recording began to play on the screen. 

MONDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2031, 6:00 PM

CLIVE’S, BETHESDA, MARYLAND

I glanced up at the skyscraper, then crossed the street to the park, ignoring the honking cars. I sat down on the stone wall of the park and looked down at my jeans. 

“So, you found me. Maybe by accident. Or maybe you knew what you were looking for. If you have no idea who I am, close this recording now, Jennifer. You’ll know soon enough.”

I waited. Then continued.

“You’re still watching, which means that you now know I assassinated the president about an hour ago, and altered your Grain to frame you. You’re not going to believe me, but I didn’t mean to. I know who you are, Jennifer Hudson. You do well in school. I’ve seen your Grain recordings. You’re a total goody-two-shoes. I know this must have ruined your life. And I’m really sorry. Putting my recording in your Grain was a mistake.

“After I killed Jackson and crashed through that window — ” I let out a soft chuckle. “I took a taxi to the Rocket Pharmacy in Bethesda, Maryland. I have a… well, it’s where I’ve been living. I had been looking through people’s recordings. There was a list — well, hard to explain. I found you. You were perfect for what I needed. I know that sounds horrible, but — ” I tried to keep my voice even. “Just — try to understand. I only meant to take some of your innocent recordings, and copy them into my recordings, over when I killed the president. I didn’t know it would replace yours with mine. I didn’t know it would… switch us. I never meant for this to happen. Never. So I want to help you make this right. Go to the pharmacy. At least — at least give me a chance to apologize.”

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2031, 12:05 PM

ROCKET PHARMACY, BETHESDA, MARYLAND

I stopped to catch my breath behind a massive shelf of band-aids, hidden from a girl a few years older than me sitting behind the counter. The sunglasses started to slide down my sweaty nose. I briefly took them off, wiped my face with the scarf I was wearing, and put them back on quickly. I couldn’t risk anyone seeing me. I picked out a pack of brown band-aids, some disposable latex gloves, and two packs of tissues. I brought them to the counter, trying to listen to the radio while still concentrating on the girl to make sure she wasn’t studying me too closely. An 11-year-old on her own with a sleeping bag and backpack wearing sunglasses and a scarf could arouse suspicion, I had learned. 

“Your total is $9.72,” she said slowly and carefully. I put a $10 bill on the counter. 

On the radio, someone was saying, “Jennifer Hudson, who has still not been apprehended, is described as eleven years old, white, five feet tall, and with medium-length light brown hair. She was last seen on October 5, wearing a yellow collared shirt, blue jeans, and a cream-colored sweater.” I frowned and self-consciously tucked the yellow shirt I was wearing into my jeans. The owner of the shop frowned at me. I took the items, not bothering with the change, and quickly made for the door. 

“Wait a second,” I heard the girl say to me. “Get back here!”

“The reward for information leading to Jennifer’s capture is $500,” droned the man on the radio. “Her capture will warrant a reward of five million dollars. If you have information or believe you have sighted this young fugitive, simply call 1-800-706-2948.”

It still hurt being called a fugitive, even though it was kind of true. You’d think that after nearly four weeks of living on the edge and running from the law, I’d have gotten used to it. But the teacher’s pet in me could not adapt. That part of me felt like salt being rubbed on an open and infected wound every time someone mentioned the reward for my capture or how I was a dangerous fugitive. Sometimes I wasn’t sure how I could stand it.

And the worst part was, I didn’t know anything. I couldn’t learn anything. Going inside public places had led to too many close calls. I’d only gone inside this almost deserted pharmacy because I had a cut on my elbow that was probably going to get infected if I didn’t put a band-aid on it. And just my luck that this tiny place (that sort of resembled a hospital) didn’t carry newspapers. Well, it might have, but they were all already bought. That was how it was with all the free newspaper boxes on the streets, too. I couldn’t read the news, and I couldn’t watch TV. Instead, anything I picked up, I picked up by listening to people talk on the street. People wondered where I was. They talked about my “poor parents.” Sometimes how “ruthless” I was. But the most puzzling thing was this:

A few days ago I had passed an elderly couple on the street. One of them had said: “That dastardly Jennifer. So lucky that her plot was foiled. And how are you, young lady? Wait…” 

Then I had had to hide in a bush, so I didn’t hear the rest of their conversation. I’d spent the time since trying to figure out what they had meant. 

My “plot” was obviously the assassination of the President. So how had it been “foiled”? Maybe they were talking about how I had been caught. But somehow that just didn’t feel right to me. My plot had still been executed (definitely no pun intended), even if I had been caught. 

What if…

My plot was to kill the president. But what if he hadn’t been killed? 

No, that was impossible. The knife had hit him right in the heart. But still… 

However, there were more pressing problems at hand. I couldn’t get caught here. This was where the assassin had led me. It couldn’t end here. 

Summoning all my courage, I turned to face the girl, who was slowly walking toward me. “It’s all right,” she said to me unconvincingly. “I’m not going to hurt you. Just tell me…”

I took a step backward, reaching to pull up my scarf. 

She lunged, surprisingly fast, missing my arm but grabbing my hand and pulling it and the scarf down. I gasped. She’d seen my face on the news, like everyone in the country, I was exposed — she knew, she knew, she knew. 

What did I do in that moment?

In my old life, I would have tried to talk it out. I would have tried to explain, to gain approval. I would have tried to make things right. But maybe this life of crime was rubbing off on me. Maybe I was developing new habits, or maybe I was simply becoming a new person, because I ran. 

I wasn’t even thinking. I just dove to the wall, then bounced off and darted behind a shelf, sticking out a hand, sending boxes of Tylenol tumbling to the ground, blocking the girl’s path. I didn’t even feel bad about it. I wove my way through the aisles to the back of the shop, where a shelf of cleaning products stood in the center of the back wall. I looked around. I had assessed the entrances and exits of the pharmacy before I went in. The only way in or out was the door. There were locks on the windows. I could smash them with my backpack. Maybe I could get to the door and flee into the street. But everyone would see me. I had only one choice: hide.

Thankfully, the shelf didn’t make any of those horrible screeching noises when I moved it a few feet away from the wall. I squeezed in behind it, taking off my backpack and putting it on the floor. Then I pulled the shelf back as far as I could and hoped the owner wouldn’t think to look behind the shelf.

A few seconds later, I heard the girl’s footsteps. I peered through the gap between two boxes of Miracle Clean Powder. She examined the shelf. I held my breath. Then she turned around and walked back to the counter. I let out my breath in relief. I slowly, awkwardly, turned around in the small space between the shelf and the wall. Then I noticed something odd. The walls of the pharmacy were tiled, but this section of wall in front of me looked wrong. It was a little dim, but I realized that this part of the wall wasn’t a wall at all — it was a 5 foot square of wallpaper. 

It looked like a sample, the kind you might buy at a store and stick on your wall to see how it looked. I tugged at the bottom-right corner. It peeled. I peeled the whole thing off. There was a white door in the wall behind it. This was a secret door.

I felt a rush of excitement. I couldn’t believe it. Secret doors were the stuff of stories and books, but here was a real one. It was thrilling — moving — to be trusted with a real one. And even more than that — I remembered what the assassin had said. I have a… well, it’s where I’ve been living. This was their hideout. This was where I would meet them and get all my answers. 

The door looked a bit dirty but used. This was it. I picked up my backpack and, holding its handle with one hand, I turned the rusted knob of the door with the other. 

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2031, 12:07 PM

ROCKET PHARMACY, BETHESDA, MARYLAND, BACK ROOM

The back room of the pharmacy looked like it might once have been used for storing goods. There were dusty piles of boxes with long-faded labels in one corner. It was small, around the size of my kitchen at 22 Wembly Road: about 15 by 15 feet. There were no windows, but I felt along the wall until I hit a switch and flipped it, turning on a dim bulb hanging from the ceiling. There was a desk pushed to one wall, with a spinning-type professional chair next to it and a computer, mouse, speakers, and headset on it. There was a shelf on another wall with a microwave and a package of instant noodles. Under the shelf was a sink and — what? — a toilet. I edged away from the toilet and noticed a few potted plants on the floor. They looked like someone was watering them daily. There was a dresser next to a bed on the wall opposite the toilet. I dropped my backpack onto the small bed that was very slept in (this assassin sure was messy) and sunk into a battered armchair near the entrance. Then I remembered to close the door behind me.

I tried to relax. Papers, notebooks, and books were piled up in a corner next to the desk. The room felt like a home, but it felt wrong. Something was missing. No, someone was missing. The assassin wasn’t here. And I was getting impatient. I had come here, on his orders. So why couldn’t he be bothered to show up? 

Then I realized what some of the papers were. Newspapers. I grabbed the one on the top. It was dated October 4. The day before I “revealed my plot”.  Too early. I wasn’t going to get any news about the assassination from that. 

I kept searching. I noticed a mint-green three-ring binder with pink polka dots with tape over where a title might be written on the cover. That intrigued me. I opened the cover. It looked like it had been a photo book. But all the photos were torn out, leaving only tape and cheerful messages written in marker. It looked like a family scrapbook. Someone nicknamed “Win” and his mom. Win played soccer and a wide variety of video games. His mom worked somewhere that had a “take your child to work” day and a vending machine. 

This all felt strange and wrong. 

Tucked into the back was a copy of American News from October 11. Suddenly, the strange history of this scrapbook didn’t matter anymore. 

The headline read:

ASSASSINATION PLOT BY 11-YEAR-OLD REVEALED, THEN FOILED

There was that word again — foiled. Heart racing, I stumbled back into the armchair and read on.

To be continued…

Flee From the Fur

Once, there was a girl named Izumi, and she was an orphan. She missed her parents a lot, and she had only one thing left of them: an emerald ring. Her parents had told her that it would lead her to her freedom, but for the past four years, she had been living on the side of the road, and nothing good ever happened to her.

Chapter 1

It was another day on the side of the road, and Izumi was sitting there practicing her guitar so she could earn money to at least eat some food. She was trying to perfect a song when a cat came and sat down right next to her. She didn’t notice it until she came back from getting food.

“Meoow.”

Izumi looked down and saw the cat. It mewed again. It must be hungry! Izumi thought. She sat down and gave it some ham from her sandwich. It ate like it hadn’t had food in months! It does look very skinny, she thought. She went back to practicing her guitar.

The cat came to visit every day, and then, one day when Izumi had enough money, she bought a little float and a blanket to sleep on. That night, she let her cat sleep on the float with her. The cat—which she had named Jiji—went to sleep right away, but Izumi stayed up for a while thinking about if anything good would happen to her or if the cat could help her. She decided to think about that in the morning and sleep for now.

Chapter 2

Izumi woke up to the sound of loud car engines—they were louder than usual, and the cars were bigger than usual too!

“Wait, maybe it’s not the cars or their engines, maybe it’s…” She looked at her hands, but instead of hands, they were paws! Jet black paws! She looked in a little mirror that she had bought and saw that she had a cat’s face. She stepped back a little to see her full body, and when she looked she nearly fainted! She was a jet-black cat with bright blue eyes! She looked to her left and saw Jiji. She ran over to Jiji and asked why she was a cat.

“When you slept with me, the emerald ring was touching you and me. That emerald ring is not an ordinary ring, it’s a special ring that can turn you into a cat when it’s touching both you and another cat,” Jiji replied. 

“Yeah, but is there a way to change me back into a human?” Izumi asked. 

“You have to go to the Lord of the Cats, and there she will give you the answer to change back into a human. I do not know the answer to that, but I will help you reach her,” said Jiji. 

“Ok, but can we please go now? The cars are loud!” Izumi said.

“Well if you want to get away from the noise follow me!” Jiji yelled. She ran toward some bushes, waiting for Izumi to follow her. Izumi caught up to her and followed her through the bushes. 

Chapter 3

“How much longer?” Izumi complained.

“We’re almost there! Now chill out!” Jiji said impatiently. When they finally reached their destination, Izumi was shocked. Right in front of her, there was the biggest tree she has ever seen, and right in the middle of it was a big glowing stone. 

Jiji caught her looking at it and said, “That’s where the Lord of the Cats lives. It looks easy to get to, but trust me it’s hard.” 

“Why’s it hard?” Izumi asked. 

“Because, one: there are a ton of vines. And two: there are a bunch of bodyguards inside the stone and outside,” Jiji explained. 

“But I don’t see anyone,” Izumi said, confused. 

“That’s because they’re invisible.”

“WHAT?! How are we supposed to get past them!?”

“We’ll have to figure out a plan, dummy!”

“Riiight. So what’s the plan?” 

“I can’t think of a plan that quickly!” Jiji said angrily.

“Ok, so can we think of a plan?!”

“I thought you were nice!”

“I am just freaked out because I’m a cat!” While they were arguing a tall, big, gray, poofy cat stood there watching them fight. They clearly didn’t see him. 

“Ahem.” 

“Ahhhhh!!!” Jiji and Izumi screamed together.

“Oh, it’s just you,” said Jiji.

“Who’s he?” whispered Izumi.

“He’s my friend HairBall,” Jiji responded.

“Ok.”

“Can you help us?” Jiji pleaded, “Pleeease?”

The gray cat finally spoke. “Ok, ok, what do you want?”

“My friend here,” Jiji nudged Izumi, “got turned into a cat accidentally and needs to get turned back, but the only person that knows how to do that is The Lord of the Cats.” 

“So you want to sneak into the stone?” HairBall questioned.

“It’s for a good reason!” Jiji said.

“I didn’t say anything!”

“Ok but pleease??”

“FINE!”

“Uh, helloo, I exist,” Izumi said. 

“Sorry, I forgot about you,” Jiji said in a guilty voice.

“Yeah, no kidding.”

“Ok, let’s just make the plan,” Jiji said.

Chapter 4

It took a while for them to make a plan, but they finally did it. They planned to get some invisibility potion just in case. Then, they got some friends to distract the guards, and Hairball, Izumi, and Jiji snuck into the stone. What they didn’t know was that there was a narrow cliff that they had to go on to get to the stone. Their plan worked to get past the guards, but then when they came upon the cliff, they didn’t know what to do! They decided to hold onto the wall going in a single file line with Izumi in front. Izumi accidentally stepped a little too close to the edge where there was a loose rock. She slipped, but luckily she caught onto one of the rocks on the edge and pulled herself up. From then on, they stayed as close as they could to the wall.

Chapter 5

“Shhh!”

“No, you shh!”

The three cats had successfully snuck into the stone. 

“WOW!” they all said together. It glowed not too bright, but it was amazing. 

“What are you doing here?!” boomed a voice behind them.

They turned around to see the Lord of the Cats towering above them. She looked like a humongous calico cat. 

“We just wanted to know how to change me back into a human,” Izumi squeaked. 

“Ohh yeah, about that…” the Lord of the Cats said. 

“What, you know how to change me back?” Izumi asked hopefully.

“Umm, you can’t,” the Lord of the Cats said slowly.

“What do you mean?” Izumi asked in a scared voice.

“You can’t change back into a human.”

Izumi started shaking, then couldn’t hold it in and just let it out. She started crying so hard. Jiji and Hairball tried to comfort her, but she knew she couldn’t change back into a human and that was the end of her human life.

The Spoiled Rich Brat

May 27

Dear diary,

My name is Chloe. My dad is REALLY rich. I can get ANYTHING I want. I bet my friends are so jealous!!! I used to have a lot of friends, but now I only have 6 because they said I was too sassy and boastful. But I don’t really care anyway because the friends I have now are WAYYY better. One day at school, there was a new girl. She looked poor, so I decided to tease her. So I told my friends, “We have to make a list of things to tease her with.”

We did, but we had to buy some things that were pretty expensive. So, of course, I asked my dad for some money! He said, “Of course,” and handed me 2,000 dollars. And that was the exact amount we needed! I said thanks and headed out the door.

We went to the local shopping market to buy the stuff we needed, like trash cans, tripwire, and a lot more. My dad was friends with the manager, Bob, so once he saw my friends and me he said, “What would you like today ma’am?” 

I said all the things we needed, and he said those things were out of stock. So I screamed, “Get me those things right now, before I have to call my dad!”

He said, “Ok, ok, ma’am,” and went to the warehouse to search for the things. He came back 10 minutes later and said, “I am so sorry but there is nothing I can do.”

So I screamed again and said, “You know that this is the WORST  market I have ever been to, and I am going to give this store the WORST review!!” 

I think he got mad too, so he screamed back, “Well, I’m gonna call your dad and tell him about you!”

My friends tried to calm me down, so I screamed one last time, “I DON’T CARE!” and stomped out the door.

xx

Chloe

May 27

Dear diary,

“Chloe, I need to have a talk with you!” my dad called.

So I said, “Yes,” in my very best daughter’s voice.

Then he opened the door. I wondered what he would talk about, like would I get some extra allowance, or would I get another dog to go with my other 2 Pomeranians? But then he said, “Chloe, I am very disappointed in you. Yesterday I got a call from Bob, and he said you were very rude.”

I thought, “Oh no!” Not this AGAIN!

And then he continued, “Bob told me you said his market was the worst store you had been to, is that right?”

“Uhhh…”

He started to yell, “CHLOE, YOU ARE IN BIG TROUBLE!”

And I decided that from that day, I would never talk to him ever again.

xx

Chloe

Dear diary,

Now I have to make a different plan since, you know… So I called my friends over to hang out and make a new plan. We decided to trip that poor girl from school and push her when there weren’t any teachers around. So we tried our plan and it worked. But summer break came quickly. So I said bye to my friends and walked out of school.

xx

Chloe

Dear diary,          

This summer break was the best break ever! We stayed at a resort in Hawaii and went and saw volcanoes erupting. Then we went to Colorado to a ski resort, and I thought that was even better. We went skiing on the Black Diamond, and I fell and twisted my ankle so I said, “I quit,”  and went back to the stupid lodge. When I got back to school, some kid pointed at me with my crutches. He also started laughing. So I said back to them, “Your families are probably poor as  dirt!” The truth is, basically money is all I care about. (Me in my head yelling, MONEY$$$$ 4 LIFE!)

I had to wear those AWFUL crutches for 8 weeks!!! Almost every person I walked past turned their head and looked at me. Another fact about me is that I like attention, but not this kind. Those 8 weeks were so painful and embarrassing, but at least I made it through. When I got to return those crutches I was so happy!! I yelled and screamed and shouted. My dad told me to calm down. I was about to say something, but then I remembered that I wouldn’t talk to him.

xx

Chloe

June 2

Dear diary,

Ok, so today I went to our attic to look for cool things to play with. While I was looking through some boxes, I found a diary. It looked really old and had the prettiest lace covering the edges. But this is the part I can’t believe. It said Sophie on it, and that was my mother’s name (at least I’m pretty sure). I spent the rest of the day thinking about the diary I  found and if I should ask Dad because I still am not talking to him. I finally made up my mind and went up to him. This is how it went:

“Dad? I wanted to ask if Mom wrote in diaries.” 

His answer was, “Yeah, she did, but let’s not talk about that.” He sounded sad when he said that.

So I walked back to my room. In my brain, I thought, “Wait, where is my mom? Where did she go? Did she leave us?”

That day I had so many thoughts swirling in my head. I was so tired so I went to bed.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Death, Love, Magic

Editor’s note: Content Warning: This story explores violent themes and discusses self-harm.

King’s footsteps slowly getting louder.

King: Our sons are married and my daughter must marry the king from the nearby kingdom but she refuses; she says she wants to marry a wizard! (King slams on table as he says wizard.)

Queen: A princess has one job, marry a prince. Marrying a wizard is absurd!

Together: How HORRIBLE!!!

Meanwhile, princess Penelope is sneaking off to the wizard’s hut.

Wizard: Ah Penelope you have come at last!

Penelope: I must marry a king against my father’s wishes so I came to say goodbye, my love.

Wizard: Well, what if your father is dead?

Penelope: Well, then my step-mother would rule.

Wizard: Well, what if your step-mother is dead?

Penelope: Well, my step-brothers will rule and make me a slave! 

Wizard: What if your step-brothers are dead?

Penelope: Weellll… I guess I will rule then and get to make my own choices.

The Wizard gets an evil gleam in his eye. He only loved Penelope to get the kingdom and then he would kill her.

Wizard: Well, I guess you should leave, my love, your father must be wondering where you are darling. 

Penelope leaves and closes the door.

Wizard: Now I’ll do what I do best: kill. 

The next day, Penelope hears a scream as she wakes up and runs to the noise to find her poor step-mother crying over her step-brother’s dead bodies.

Queen: OH NO! WHAT SHALL I EVER DO….?

Penelope: Step-mother… What happened to my step-brothers… ?

Queen: They were killed in their sleep! Killer is unknown.

King: WHAT HAPPENED TO OUR SONS!?

Penelope: They were murdered, father…

Everyone is silent except for the queen’s cries of heartbreak.

Queen: If I can not live with my sons, I will die, so I will kill myself to join them.

Before anyone could stop her the Queen brings out the king’s sword and stabs herself and collapses onto her four sons’ bodies and dies.

King: I will die too. I am a horrible king to let my sons die.

He takes the sword, pulls off his armor and stabs himself and dies.

That night, there is a funeral for the king, queen, and princes and a crowning for Penelope.

Penelope: I know who did this and I must kill him before he kills anyone else. GUARDS, find the wizard and bring him to me.

Guards come back with a struggling wizard. 

Wizard: My love, how could you do this to me! 

Penelope: How could you do this to ME? I tell my father I want to marry you and in the end, you kill my family! I will marry another man who was my second love. I was going to pick you as my husband but you killed my family. You shall be burned at the stake tonight!

Guards take the wizard away.

That night, Penelope stays in her room but hears the fire burning the wizard away and his cries of pain. When she comes out, the wizard is dead.

Two days later, a wedding is happening for Penelope and the prince of a nearby kingdom. 

Two years later 

Penelope has a family and a life but one of her daughters is magical. 

Ann: Mother, why do I have magic?

Penelope: You must have inherited it from a wizard I used to know and love until he killed my family.

Ann: Wizard? Love? Murder?!

Penelope: It is a long story…

  THE END

Adapting to Life

The autumn leaves are twirling in the air from nearby trees. I walk to a bench with a book tucked under my arm. The breeze swirls in the air, blending in with the laughter of children. On the bench, I observe everything around me. Children are playing tag, adults are supervising, and there is the smell of coffee from the teacher’s lounge.

I set my book on my lap. The cover has images of foxes chasing after each other, insects hanging to leaves, monkeys and exotic animals staring back at me. In the center of the cover, it says: On The Origin Of Species in big, blocky letters. Underneath it says: by Charles Darwin, adapted by Rebecca Steffof. Flipping through the pages, I reach my favorite one. The one with Darwin’s thoughts on survival of the fittest.

My mom borrowed it from the library because of my interest in science. I continued reading it because of my thirst for knowledge. Even though it wasn’t a school assignment, I used my spare recess time to reach the end of it. I wanted to know how everything started, who Charles Darwin was, and what he had to say in this book. Before I even started reading it, I knew it was a discovery of a hidden want for science.

I’ve never really dug very deep into science, I used to be confused on what my job would be as I grew up. In the end, I narrowed my interests. With new goals, I decided to find out even more about my passions and had my mom borrow any science-related books. However, my school doesn’t teach many science lessons or explain the math or people behind these ideas. As a result, I haven’t figured out what field of science I would like to study. There are many topics that I need to be introduced to.

It made me feel more knowledgeable to learn more about past scientists and their theories. It showed me that many things have adapted to new things, just like me. I adapted to my new interest in science. My passions were like species, just as Darwin said, survival of the fittest. There was only that much space for life on Earth. Either they went extinct, were endangered, or brought new strategies to their lives. Piano, in my world for passions, was an extinct species, replaced by a better descendant, drumming. Science was a new species that had been unearthed. Shading was a species merely surviving. Just like mammals during the Triassic period. It taught me that our own lives held fields of competition whether visible or not, humans were always adapting.

I have learned that the world around us is constantly changing. It may take a long time to realize, but we’ll still recognize it at some point. We can start by noticing how we change, on the outside and on the inside. Then, like Charles Darwin, we look to the world, animals, and others. Survival of the fittest has appeared many times in history, from cells to dinosaurs to humans. We are always adapting.

Found But Forgotten

Part 1

The way my life turned upside down all started with donuts. Yup, donuts. That delicious, puffy, glazed, chocolaty treat with sprinkles. It all started when I was seven years old at my soccer championship. It was intense. The goalie on the other team was staring me down. She spit on the ground and kicked the ground hard. 

“Ewwwwww!” I shouted in her face, splattering my spit on her face. It then temporarily blinded her as she screamed,

“Get it off!!!”

 I dashed around the spluttering goalie and kicked the ball into the net. I had scored the final point, and I won the Star Girls Soccer Championship. I ran with joy into my mom and dad and gave them a huge hug. Little did I know that would be the last hug I gave in a long time. I then ran around and gave my whole team high fives.

“Yay, great job out there, Abbigail,” my soccer coach bellowed as I did my victory lap. 

“You are totally the most amazing, splendid person ever!!!” yelled Taylor as I ran by. Taylor was my best friend in the entire world. 

My parents then called out and said, ”We’re going to go get donuts for your whole team because we are so proud of you guys.”

“That would be awesome!!! Thanks, Mom and Dad,” I yelled right before they left for the donut shop. I was all pumped and decided to take a break and sit down and talk to my friends. I talked and played hand games for half an hour or so. I was wondering why they hadn’t come back. The donut shop had only been a 15 minute drive. But there may have been traffic or a long line. I didn’t know so I just got out my iPad and played games with my friend. 

I didn’t know how long it had been until my friend’s mom said, “It’s been an hour and a half. Please stop playing.” 

Wait, but if it had been an hour and a half, why hadn’t my parents been back yet? I started to get worried and started to panic.

 “Where are my mom and dad?” I asked frantically. All the parents looked at each other and shared the same confused look. It was silent.

 “I don’t know,” a parent spoke up and said. 

There was a murmur of whispers by the parents going around. I could make out things like, “I always knew Tom and Sussie would be bad parents at some point,” “Oh the poor girl,” and, “Are they out at a club or something?” 

Then, sirens came blaring down the street. There was a big official car that said “Child Protective Services” on the front of it. 

A tall man in a black suit came out of the car and said, “We heard a child has been abandoned. We are here to take her to a good place.” 

What? My brain was racing. How were they here? Did someone tell them to come? Why? Who had done it if someone did? 

The big man came up to me and said, “Come with me.” I tried to escape but he was too strong.

 “Please, sir, this is a misunderstanding. My parents just went to get donuts, they will be back,” I yelled, trying to convince him and myself that that was true. But by then, I was in a truck driving away with nothing but my tablet.   

Part 2 

Ten years later, on a rocking ship, in a small bed. 

“Did you think they ever intended to come back, Abbs?” said Jaden, a fellow kid who was taken by Child Protective Services.

 “No,” I said, looking down at my feet. 

Jaden then tried to reassure me. “It’s going to be okay,” he said.

 “Are you 100% sure about that?” I said sarcastically.

 “No, I am 36.44897403890563891249% sure about it,” Jaden said sarcastically back. “But really, Abbs. No one can ever be really sure about anything, can they?” Jaden said, looking right at me.

 “No… ”  I said, giving in. 

“See? Life can’t be certain, especially if it’s someone else’s life,” Jaden said with a sad smile. “If I could predict life, I would have told my parents not to go on a trip in Miami and not to crash their car.” Jaden looked at his hands solemnly.

 “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bring up anything that may have brought back bad memories,” I said, patting Jaden on the back.

 “Oh no, don’t apologize. I practically find a way to bring them up into the conversation no matter what,” Jaden said, laughing slightly.

 “If we just keep looking to the future, it will end up better. And who knows? Maybe life will end up back as normal,” I said, looking out our small cramped bedroom window. Little did I know that that wouldn’t be the answer and that life would never be normal again.

Treasure Map

 One night, there was a big comet coming down at Earth at unknown speeds. It landed on some sort of large patch of grass. That comet wasn’t any kind of comet, it was a home to someone. The comet landed in a house’s backyard, which was located in Rome, Italy. At the beginning of that night, there were four people living in the house. At the end of the night, there were two people alive, plus a murderer on the loose. Little did two kids know, they survived the deadliest poison in the world.

13 years later

Kyle and Jennifer had been living in an orphanage for years now. They did not know why their parents were not alive, but they did know that they were murdered. They thought they were staying at their aunt and uncle’s house in Berlin, Germany when their parents were murdered. Now, they were treated poorly at the orphanage and had slight memories of either their aunt or uncle, who both shortly passed away later. And most of all, they wanted to see the world and they also hated where they lived…

One night in Berlin, Germany, At the Orphanage

“Hey,” whispered Jennifer. “Wanna escape?”
“I don’t know. I mean, the janitor is always there. It’s kind of creepy,” Kyle muttered.
“I’ve got an escape plan. Come on,” said Jennifer. They reviewed the escape plan and followed the plan step by step. They sneaked through the vents and eventually got to the fancy lobby of a giant skyscraper. They saw the lobby people, and one of them was their friend, Aaron. Aaron had been working there for as long as who knows when. He was the man with a long, shaggy beard and white hair. He wore red robes and knew almost everything. Seriously, if you asked him a question, he would not only answer questions, but would also tell you the answer or how to solve it. They rushed to him and asked him if he could give them disguises.
“I’ll give you the disguises on one circumstance,” said the old man. “And that’s if you don’t tell one single soul that I’m giving you disguises.”
Kyle and Jennifer looked at Aaron with a puzzled expression.
“Why?” Kyle asked.
”Here. Follow me,” said Aaron. Aaron escorted them into his office and said, “The reason I’m not letting you tell anyone is because the owner of this orphanage was a hater of a lot of people, including your parents.”
The twins looked at each other in the oddest way imaginable. “Tell us more,” said Jennifer in a barking tone.
“I mean, the owner of your orphanage and this building killed every single kids’ parents at the orphanage,” said Aaron.
”WHAT!” they barked at the same time.
“I suggest you help those four kids at that orphanage and escape immediately,” said Aaron.
”We will save those children immediately, but first you need to tell us why he wanted our parents,” said Jennifer.
“Well, first off, I wanted to tell you this when you got older and I figured now would be the right time. It all started when your parents and the kids at the orphanage’s parents were in a secret group. The group was called S.S.L.T. It stood for Secret Society of Lost Treasures. The owner of the orphanage was in that group. One day, they found a treasure map that would supposedly lead to heaven and you would be able to visit all of your ancestors. Of course, they were all teens when they were in this group. The owner of this orphanage’s name is Prince Alizai. He likes calling himself that, but no one really knows why. Anyway, the group rules were for every treasure to stay with one person for the week, and when it was Alizai’s turn, he never brought it back.”
“So why did he kill our parents?” asked Jennifer.
“Well I think it was because he thought your parents knew how precious this treasure map is. This is the way to save your parents and all of your orphanage-mate’s parents… ”
“Wait, so you’re telling us if we find this treasure map, we might be able to bring our parents back to Earth?” asked Jennifer. The two of them looked at Aaron like they were listening to God.
“Where can we find this precious treasure?” asked Kyle.
“Well, for all we know, it could be across the world,” whispered Aaron.
“I searched for it for decades and found nothing,” said Aaron.
”Are there any clues?” asked Kyle.
”Well, yes. You first must look in the Amazon Rainforest. There you will find a civilization that has amazing books and treasures. Remember to tell them that you are Aaron Cunningham’s godson.”
“Wait a minute. If we’re your godchildren, that means you’re our godfather?” asked Kyle suspiciously.
”Your parents and I were best of friends until that dreadful day. Now go and save those children, and if you are lucky, you will never have to live in an orphanage again,” said Aaron delightfully.
“Will you come with us?” asked Jennifer.
“Well, unfortunately, no,” muttered Aaron. “I can give you all the things you will need for you and your friends from the orphanage, and I’ll be able to take you to the airport, but that’s it because I’ve had my turn and now it’s your turn,” said Aaron proudly.
“Well okay, but can you at least help us get those kids out of the orphanage? I mean, they don’t talk,” said Kyle.
“Yeah, he’s right. We don’t even know their names,” said Jennifer.
“Don’t worry, I even talked to those kids before I talked to you guys. It’s no biggie,” said Aaron.
“Wait, so we’ve been living with these kids practically our whole lives and we didn’t know their names but you did?” grumbled Jennifer.
“That’s honestly sad,” said Kyle.
“Well, if you need to know, their names are: Chase, Chloe, Jack, and Katherine,” said Aaron. “I think you’ll get along with all of them. They even said you guys hardly talk,” said Aaron.
”Well what are we waiting for?” asked Jennifer.
The two of them snuck upstairs to tell their soon-to-be-friends that it was escape time. When they got into their room, they packed everything up and woke all of their friends. First, they woke up Jack, who was reading a book and looked like he knew that they were coming. Jack was a tall kid for his age. He was a very sporty kid who liked playing baseball. He had brown hair with a tiny bit of freckles and was already rushing out of the room quickly.
“Let’s go, guys,” said Jack.
All of them rushed to wake everyone up and they quietly went to the lobby. ”Where’s Aaron?” asked Katherine.
“Dunno,” said Chase.
“I see him,” said Kyle, running to the entrance of the huge skyscraper.
Aaron called out to them to get outside. The six of them charged outside to the large parking lot and saw Aaron next to a large limousine. The children got in the limousine and off they went to the airport. The car ride took 15 minutes until they got to the rather large airport. The airport was huge. The children forgot that Aaron wasn’t going on the trip to the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil. The flight would take 20 hours. On the plane, Kyle sat next to Jennifer, Chase sat next to Chloe (who were also siblings), and Jack sat next to Katherine, who were twins. For breakfast, they had strawberry oatmeal which was pretty decent for plane food. For lunch, they had Chicken Fingers and Fries. And for dinner, they had a choice of either Fish or Rotisserie chicken. The flight was long. Chase got seasick so Chloe made herself move to Jack’s lap.
“UGH!” said Jack. “GET OFF ME!” he screamed.
Chloe would not move so Jack casually pushed Chloe off him.
“Hey!” said Chloe. “What was that for!?”
“I had no choice, I mean, Chase got seasick so what did you expect?”
“FINE. But can you at least make Chase go use the bathroom so you don’t have to sit on my lap?” said Jack.
The two of them ended their fight and went to sleep. Six hours later, they arrived in beautiful Brazil. Aaron gave them instructions to ask a person for a large taxi. They got one, but the man who drove them did not speak.
“Is this a little weird?” said Jennifer.
“Yeah, this guy’s not speaking.”
“Wait a minute, this guy does not look Brazilian at all. Look at his suitcase,” whispered Kyle.
The suitcase read, “Flight from Berlin, Germany to Fortaleza, Brazil.”
“Guys, I think we might have a follower,” said Chase.
“I’m gonna agree with you there,” said a voice.
The man looked behind so the kids could see his face. It was Aaron, but Aaron did not have a beard. He looked a lot younger than he did in the past. His hair was black, not grey.
“You’re Prince Alizai, aren’t you?” said Kyle.
“A+,” said Prince.
“WHERE’S AARON!” screamed Katherine.
“There was no Aaron. I was Aaron in disguise.”
At that moment, Jack had just realized something. There was a piece of parchment in Prince’s pocket. Immediately, Jack whispered to Jennifer, “Look at his pocket.”
Jennifer elbowed Kyle and pointed at his pocket. Chase and Chloe went to sneak up at Prince and he looked back.
“AHHHHHHH!” screamed Chase and Chloe in unison.
They had the map. The children opened the car door and all of them ran as fast as they could back to the airport. Once they got the map, they looked at it, and it said the treasure was in a place called Cairo, Egypt. But it looked like it was in the water. “I think we found our flight,” said Kyle.
“We’re gonna have to sneak on a flight,” said Chloe.
“What are we waiting for, let’s go!” said Chase.
The six of them snuck past the boarding area and were now waiting for the flight.
“We don’t have any tickets, guys,” said Jack.
“I’ve got a plan. All we have to do is get outside of this airport,” said Jennifer.
They all eventually got on the plane. 19 hours later, they arrived at the airport in Cairo. It was 8:00 in the morning and they were near the treasure.
“Hello, hello, hello,” said a voice.
“It’s you again. You treacherous murderer,” said Jack.
“You really thought I was gonna let you flee away to find that treasure?” said Prince.
All of them ran as fast as they could to escape and they found snorkeling suits on the beach. They stole the suits and ran to the river. They swam and swam deep into the sea and they saw a huge white portal right in front of them.
“This must be it!” said Jennifer.
They jumped in the portal, and sure enough, they were in this huge place with clouds. They saw six people locked up in chains.
“MOM, DAD!” they screamed in unison.
They had not seen their parents in 13 years, each of them. They talked to them and realized the portal was shrinking.
“We’ve got to get back. Or we’re all dead,” said Katherine.
They just made it in the portal and were standing on the beach.
“Where are we?” said the parents together.
“We’re in Egypt!” said Katherine.

All of them went to a restaurant for lunch and each of the kids got chocolate milkshakes and had so much fun the rest of the day. It was evening now and the kids were playing on the beach. When their parents had died, all of them had their wallets in their pockets, so they were able to buy swimsuits so they got in the water.
“Well, well, well,” said a voice.
“AGAIN!” said Kyle.
“I see you have found my treasure map.”
“MOM, DAD!” They all screamed for their parents and they rushed over to the children and Prince.
“Prince has magical powers,” said the parents.
BAM.
There was a giant flash of light heading towards the parents and the kids. They ducked and the flash of light went the other way. They now saw one thing on the beach and that was Prince Alizai’s fallen body.
The spell had redirected onto Prince. “WE’RE ALIVE. THE BEACH IS STILL HERE!” they screamed in unison.
They had the time of their lives, and Chloe and Chase’s family, Katherine and Jack’s family, and Jennifer and Kyle’s family moved to Cairo. They would remember this moment forever.

Epilogue

20 years later, all of the children had jobs. Chase was a banker. Chloe was a painter. Katherine was an actor. Jack was a professional baseball player. Jennifer was an archeologist. Kyle was a pilot.
Their lives from that moment were, some people said, just a dream. But no, this was reality. They lived happily ever after.

The End

Kenzie’s Failing School

~

Traveling Chapter

1

Now, before we begin, I think that you need to know some things about Kenzie. For one, she’s an A – A+ student. For two, her full name is Kenzie Marian Brian Albus Margerete Renaya Roberts. It’s quite a mouthful, we can all agree on that. For three, she goes to Wolf Creek High. Her homeroom teacher is Mr. Amnesee, a kind-looking man with a very wide smile. His hair is shabby brown, and there’s a long scar running down the side of his cheek, making him look like he had been attacked by a tiger or something. Even though Mr. Amnesee has a very kind face, it makes his appearance very eerie, or at least uncomfortable. Kenzie has seen Mrs. Sapphire (the school’s vice-principal) shiver when he was present. And the final thing that you should know about Kenzie is that her parents are divorced (she lives with her dad because her mom left her when she was only 1 month old), and that she has a very annoying brother who’s in the last year of high school, whereas she’s still a sophomore. But the most important thing for you to know is that Kenzie’s a demigod (an offspring who is born from a god and mortal). Though she doesn’t know it. Her mom is Aphrodite. 

Kenzie has a story to share with you, a story that she couldn’t bear to admit, but it was simply the truth. HER GRADES WERE DROPPING! I hope that you, my dear reader, will pick out an important message, no matter what land this train is bringing you across. Now let’s get started! 

I couldn’t think straight. The creaking of the train’s wheel’s sounds was so irritating. I was on a train off to a nightclub place with her best friend, Peyton Alora Fleur Aisling Bexley Emerson Garcia. She had never told her her real name until I had forced her to, threatening to make a bee sting her if she didn’t tell. Something touched my ear. Oh. Just Peyton’s long, blonde hair. I went back to trying to concentrate. In the midst of the super annoying train — wheel — creaking — sounds, I remembered what my dad had once said:

“Life unfolds in chapters, whether you like it or not. They come in varieties, meaning that they can be all kinds of wicked and mean. But some are nice. So just take the time to enjoy that particular (nice) chapter when you can, and absorb all the happiness that you can while it’s still there. Remember: this happiness can really keep you enthusiastic sometimes, even in the bad and horrid chapters.”

“Kenzie.” Maybe I didn’t hear anything because I was so engrossed in my thoughts. “Kenzie!” The sound was like a whip to my skin.
“What?”

“We’re almost there!” Peyton exclaimed. Her eyes were glistening, like the sun itself was inside each of them. As bright as the sun, I thought. Strange. Literally just as bright as the sun. The exact same gold, blaring light. Beaming outwards, from her eyes. 

She snapped loudly right in front of my eyes, making me have to cross-eye to see her blue-gradient painted nails. “KENZIE!”

I looked up, to meet those sunny eyes again. 

~

Understand Chapter

2       

I reluctantly looked up. The building was vast, making me look as if I were an ant compared to an elephant. The windows were all made of glass and clear. I put her hand to the doorknob, which, I noticed, had the word “ON” carved in. With a deep breath, I pushed it open, to be greeted with a strangely warm gush of wind. Looking around, I sucked in the view. There was a DJ with a load of gears set up on a table. There was a stage in the very front of the room, with a microphone set there. I wondered why they still needed one if the music was already played by the DJ.  Platters of a variety of assorted fruits were all fanned out around the room. The room was strangely hot, but it all made sense since a tinge of excitement hung in the air. 

“Hey, I’m going to the bathroom,” Peyton said. I nodded.

While I waited, I sucked in all of the people, some looking as if they had hoped their whole life to be here, some looking as if some had been forced to come. Someone walked right into me. I toppled off-balance, trying to find somewhere that I could hold to steady myself, but instead felt my skin meet contact with a sharp edge. 

“Ouch!” I could feel my finger bleeding freely. 

“Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to bump into you!” A middle-aged woman with albino skin exclaimed. 

“It’s okay,” I murmured. “Hey, do you have any idea why there’s a microphone up there? Isn’t the music already played by the DJ?”

“Oh, you’re new to this as well, aren’t you? My daughter’s also plenty confused. She still doesn’t know that her dad’s Apollo,” she replied.

“What? You mean Apollo, god of archery, music and dance, truth and prophecy, healing and diseases, the sun and light, and poetry?” My brain was filling with thoughts. “How could  somebody be an offspring of Apollo?”

“Oh, silly, you don’t know, either? Well then, you’re a half-blood; half-god, half-human! Well, I guess that today’s your lucky day! I’ll give you a history lesson, if you don’t mind. I used to be a history teacher as well, you know. Now, long before the Greek Gods came to power, millennials before, the world was ruled by titans, led by the evilest of all, the titan Kronos. He was evil enough to devour his own children, Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus with a single gulp. Yet the three who were later to become the big three and ruler of the gods found a way out. They sliced Kronos to pieces and banished his remains to the depths of Tartarus. Kronos has been waiting all of these years to get revenge and be brought back to power. Yet only one demigod can defeat him — ”

“Hold your horses, what’s a demigod?”

“A demigod is the offspring of a god and mortal.”

“Oh, so that’s why my parents are divorced. My mom must be the god, then!”

“Yes, indeed.”

I was shocked, “Thank you very much. I have learned so much!” 

     ~

Mysterious Chapter

3           

I pushed past her without waiting for her reply. I needed to find Peyton. I needed to find her and tell her everything. Just as I was outside the girls’ bathroom, someone stepped out — an old hag with rotted black teeth with a hood over her head, but there were loose pieces of deathly white hair atop the black hood. She pushed past me without a glance. Weird. I opened the door, and called Peyton’s name.

“Peyton?”

No response. 

“Peyton, are you there? This is no time to play games!”

Still no reply.

“PEYTON?”

I knew that Peyton would have responded. She must not be here! But my eyes were pinned to this door while I was talking to the lady! The only way that Peyton could have gone out was through the pipes, which was a ridiculous idea. She had never been great at climbing, especially squeezing through tight, black places. 

But that’s when I spotted the old hag. I didn’t know why, but I decided to follow her. She wasn’t too far away, anyways. I dove behind, sliding between people, tailing the old hag. That’s when I noticed that she’d sat down at a table with the person I least expected to be here. I moved closer to eavesdrop, having a feeling that this would be good. The hag leaned closer.

“I’ve called her,” she whispered. Her voice was low, husky… and beautiful. 

“Thank you,” said Mr. Amnesee, nodding as he spoke. I slid under the nearest vacant table so that they wouldn’t spot me, though it didn’t seem to matter because they both seemed so sophisticated. 

“She will be very relieved once she hears,” the old had said. Rosmerta quickly opened her bag, revealing a photo of a woman with kind eyes, smiling, an aurora of power floating around. Thinking that I’d seen enough, I quickly moved between adjacent tables, making sure that I didn’t hit any of anybody’s feet. But only did I stop mid-pace when the old hag moved toward an abandoned hallway, near the entrance to what looked like a cellar. Looking behind herself, she scurried away, moving like death itself. I quickly debated with myself, wondering what I should do. I decided to follow the hag, maybe I could squeeze some information out of her.  I frantically looked back, making sure one last time that Peyton wasn’t here, or at least near, and tailed Rosmerta. I just noticed that, for an old lady, she scampered quite quickly. I was breathing heavily when I finally reached my destination, feeling as if I had already ran a mile.

I could feel something was going to happen. I looked around, searching for Rosmerta, but she was nowhere to be seen. Weird. My breaths grew ragged, my breathing frantic. Then I started to get nervous. WHAT IF ROSMERTA KNEW THAT I WAS HERE? WAS SHE JUST TRYING TO LURE ME INTO A TRAP? DID SHE KNOW THAT I WAS HERE AND WAS PLANNING SOMETHING? WAIT, WHAT IF SHE SAW ME THE WHOLE TIME? AHHHHH!          

Thinking about the possibilities, I shuddered. That’s when I spotted Rosmerta in the deepest part, cowering. That’s when she took out something. This something was very surprising indeed. It was a roll of tape. What could she possibly do with that? I wondered. But that’s when I heard a soft click. I saw the old hag take hold of a piece of tape, and stick it to a bare wall. I didn’t know exactly what she was doing, so I just watched. 

She was breathing heavily when she finally finished, so that the tape framed a small door big enough for her (and me) to fit in. I crouched behind a loose piece of wood, sweating for the unsureness. That’s when I noticed the tape had disappeared, so had the block of wall on where Rosmerta had framed the tape. I blinked several times, making sure that what I was seeing was correct. It was. I watched tentatively as the old hag stepped inside, took one deep breath, and changed right into Peyton. Wait, was I seeing right? Yup, I was. I WAS! I was so shell-shocked that I almost fell right out of my hiding place! I couldn’t believe my eyes!!      

I stayed still, listening. Then, with the whoosh of wind, a woman identical to the woman in the photograph appeared, looking around, eyes hard. Then, she stared at the exact spot that I was, eyes softening. 

Noticing my confusion, she said, “I’m your mother.” Her voice sounded soprano. I could’ve sworn that she would be a great female singer. “And you can come out now, Apollo. ”

A middle-aged white man appeared from the doorway. He waved his hand and left, hands in his pockets. 

~

Explanation Chapter

4

Aphrodite led me into the room where Apollo had transformed. 

“Why did you and dad divorce?” I blurted out. 

“It’s complicated.” Aphrodite fidgeted with her hands, which seemed very ungodly to me. 

It’s always been a sensitive subject for me, and I knew that, compared to being part of the chaos herself, Aphrodite may have a more specific reason. 

“Well, the simple explanation is that it didn’t work out. After I explained everything to him, you know, the fact that I’m not normal, and he freaked out.” Her eyes were like a portal to the past. I could almost see dad’s freaked face. 

“Anyways,” she took a breath and shook her head, the portal unwinded. 

I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful Aphrodite was. She wore a long robe, woven with exquisite silver fabric. Whenever she moved, it was as if the whole world bowed down to her. Every step she took, there was an era of power flowing around. Sometimes, there was an angry flash in her eyes whenever she was irritated. This warned the surrounding people now to deal with her. Not that any fool would want to without her signal. 

Her skin was a light shade of peach, not too dark, but not too pale. Her blonde hair, tied back into a perfect knot, was placed right splat at the back of her head. Her eyes were ocean blue, warm and kind, but also very stricken. Her lips were coated with sparkly red lip gloss, everything about her was so gentle, calm, yet at the same time powerful and forceful. You could tell that she wasn’t someone to mess around with, even if you didn’t know she was a Greek god. 

I looked up to meet those ocean blue eyes, sad.

“I have some questions to ask you,” I barreled on. Aphrodite immediately sat up straight, composing herself. 

“Anything.” Her face was warm, sadness long forgotten. “But, if these somehow reach out of my authority line, I cannot do anything to help you. Hera will be extremely angry with me. And when she’s mad, she’s MAD,” she said, her face suddenly serious. Shaking her head, she peeked at me. I couldn’t hold her gaze. 

“So… ” I stuttered for words. I didn’t know what to say. I mean, this is the first time that I’ve even spoken to someone with authority, let alone a goddess. 

“I want to know why you left daddy,” I settled with something straightforward. 

I knew nothing about being a god. That was probably pretty off since I was the daughter of Aphrodite, the god of love and beauty. But I still wasn’t her. AT ALL. Literally. 

“Oh.. ” She spoke as if she knew what was coming, yet she feared it. I couldn’t bear to admit it, but I liked the look on her face. It was a mixture of annoyance and overwhelmingness. It was quite unusual for a god to look like that. Yet there is a difference between reality and fantasy. And if you took a look at my mom’s face then, you would’ve guessed that she just got stabbed in the back with a dagger. 

“Well, I need you to know that we, well, separated because of the rules passed on through generations. I loved him very much. I wouldn’t have made the choice to divorce if I were a regular mortal. In fact, I love him with all my life. I might even die for him. But you need to know that things are the way they are, even if you wish that they weren’t. I always thought of playing with the thought of being normal. To be a typical mortal with a happy family, living a normal life. But when you’re, well, me, that would be a dream come true if it actually happened.”

A single tear slipped down her cheek. 

“Rules are rules, aren’t they?” She forced a sad smile, her voice trembling.

“Oh,” I said again. What can I say? I was preparing myself to hear my own mother tell me the real reason, but a wave of nausea still wrapped around my gut. I felt my nails bite into my hand. Then a strange thing happened. A smell of smoke. Then a flash of light. And before my eyes, Aphrodite was gone. 

“So, class, the answer to this problem is π^2. Any questions?!” Mr. Amnesee announced to the class. I looked up, deciding to stop picking my nails. The polish was peeling off, anyway. I was going to make mom proud. I was going to become an A+ student again. 

Axe

Prologue 

The car hummed as we drove through the bridge. We were visiting Dad, who was sent to the war. I was bored of the long drive so I clicked the first station on the radio. “Small storms are coming and rain. Stay safe on slick roads and watch out for black ice.” Thunder claps. The water beneath us was rising and dropping as if having a seizure. Before I had time to process my thinking, another thunderclap struck a pole on the bridge and it fell behind us. “HURRICANE!” my mother shouted! The bridge started to lean in and out like a needle and patchwork. It gave way and the car landed in the choppy waters. The beautiful summer day quickly turned into a disaster.

Chapter 1: The Ride

I pulled on my jeans and red sweater over my white shirt. I went down to eat breakfast.

“Hello, Anne.” 

“Hi, Mom.” I walked toward the pancakes and grabbed my cell phone. 

“Hmmph. No phones at the table, Anne” 

“Sorry, Mom, I’m just texting Janess about meeting Dad.” 

Mom smiled. As alway,  her smile was warm and it made her brown hair pop out against the pink pale of her lips. My mom always looked glamorous no matter what, wearing brown, yellow (like she was), blue, and even green! 

“I can make an exception.” 

“Coming, Mom!” I yelled. Mom was in the car fussing with the seat belt. “Can we go now, Mom?” I smiled at Mom as if she were the one holding us up. 

“Haha. Very funny” I buckled my seatbelt and sat back. The trees we had passed by were fluffy and green, and I hadn’t paid attention to the time and it was soon that I fell asleep.

I woke up with a sickening feeling in my stomach for no reason. Not the sick type but the type that made you feel nervous or that something bad was going to happen. Do you know what I mean? The car hummed as we drove through the bridge. We were visiting Dad, who was sent to the war. I was bored of the long drive, so I clicked the first station on the radio. 

“Small storms are coming and rain. Stay safe on slick roads and watch out for black ice.” Thunderclaps. The water beneath us was rising and dropping as if having a seizure. Before I had time to process my thinking, another thunderclap struck a pole on the bridge and it fell behind us.

“HURRICANE!” my mother shouted! The bridge started to lean in and out like a needle and patchwork. It gave way and the car landed in the choppy waters. The beautiful summer day quickly turned into a disaster.

Chapter 2: Random Axe

The car was sinking and the doors were jammed. Then I got an idea. But I had to tell Mom, but how? I would be underwater! I swam to the back, to my bag. My eyes were already getting blurry and Mom wasn’t moving. I got an axe from the emergency trunk and smashed at the glass. Mom’s fingers were at her throat, gasping for air. I grabbed her, took my bag and axe, and swam to the surface. The hurricane had just ended 30 seconds ago. My body was shivering, Mom came back to life, and I forgot something. The rest of the emergency bag! It had floated out of the car and got stuck on the last remaining base pole of the bridge. The rest was gone. All of it could have fallen on top of us. I swam to a small nearby island. Ignoring the pains in my leg from the seat that fell back on top of it. Mom was awake and was helping paddle. Now, my only resource was that axe. I touched the sand and — black.

Chapter 3

I woke up and my mom had a bewildered look in her eyes. Her arms were filled with sticks. I knew that if I complained then we would most likely have many threats so I started to help. Ignoring everything. Fire was done by mom and I attempted to fish for fish but I couldn’t catch anything. Oh! The water bent the light which meant I had to plunge deeper into the water. But, first I needed a weapon. I grabbed a nearby stick, beckoned for the axe from Mom, and sharpened my spear. I found some berries that birds were eating and I thought, We are having a feast tonight. Mom continued chopping at a tree. 

My throat was roasted, gasping for water. I looked uncertainly at the water. Nobody would find us. The bridge was so long it crossed from one state to another. We were in the middle, no reach from either place. I plopped some berries in my mouth, mother didn’t want any. Yuck! No juice in them! I went over to the water. I started to cry. How did I land myself here! I scooped some water and — WHAM. My mother hit me lightly with a log. 

“No unclean water! We weave together a basket to separate some of the water and heat it to make it fresh!” 

“Mom, how did you make a fire?” 

“Simple. I got wet bark, obviously, everything is drenched, a tsunami passed OVER us. Then I hit the axe on another piece of wood so the sparks would land on it, and I blew it gently to give it oxygen, then boom!” Mom always got to work in a situation and ignored her own feelings. I sometimes felt bad for her…

Sneak peek on Part Two:

I woke up in the night screaming! “HELP! MY INSIDES ARE BURNING!” My chest was bursting and I fell into an uneasy sleep. “Of course! Those berries were bird berries! They’re poisonous to humans!”

Let It Out

Kuqa was a young girl. Her mother had died last year when she was five So Kuqa only had her father. Most people couldn’t pronounce her name and she never had any friends. Kuqa in Albanian meant red. Kuqa’s mother was Albanian. Kuqa had not said a word ever since Roze (her mother) died. 

“Kuqa, it’s time for breakfast,” David (her father) said. Kuqa went to take her plate. It was Llakuma me eurocream. That was Kuqa’s favorite. Kuqa was homeschooled.

“Are you excited for school?” David asked. Kuqa nodded. She quite liked homeschooling. Kuqa gobbled up her Llakuma and then went to play with her dolls. Her dolls were from her mother. Kuqa named them Lulu and Nina. They were her favorite toys. She made them have a tea party with tiny plastic teacups. Kuqa had nothing to do most of the time. Before Roze died, they would go outside and play on the swings. But now Kuqa was an introvert and going outside just made her sad. 

           Kuqa walked up to the living room and pointed at a book. She knew how to read but not well so her father picked up the book and read to her. 

          “Once upon a time, there was a prince named Ocelius, he was a rude person who would judge everyone. One day, an old woman walked up to him, she said she wanted to give him some chocolates. The prince laughed and laughed then the woman turned him into a fly and stole all of his gold,” David read. Kuqa giggled, she loved that story. David kissed her good night and Kuqa went to sleep. 

Kuqa woke up at 6:00. She had a bad dream. She saw David sitting on the couch wide awake. 

“Come here,” David said. Kuqa walked toward the couch. 

“Do you like the idea of going to school?” David asked. Kuqa looked at David like he was crazy. 

“It’s just that you’d be so much smarter if you go, and I want you to learn in the best way possible,” David said. Kuqa didn’t want to go to school but she nodded yes because she knew if she said no, it wouldn’t work anyway. 

“And besides, you’ll have all your old friends there,” David explained. Kuqa thought for a moment. Her old friends, Lilly and Charlie, probably forgot her. Kuqa went back to her room to sleep for another hour. She had a nightmare. In the nightmare, she was in school. Everybody judged her because she didn’t talk.

David woke Kuqa up at 7:00. Kuqa was confused.

“Come on, get ready for school!” David said. Kuqa put on the backpack and ran to the bus. She was terrified. She saw Lilly. 

“Kuqa?” someone asked. It was Lilly. Lilly remembered her? Lilly ran to hug her. 

“How are you doing?” Lilly asked. Kuqa tried to respond but she couldn’t. She was too sad to talk. Then Charlie came. 

“Oh my god! It’s really you!” Charlie yelled with excitement. Kuqa hugged him. Lilly was confused by Kuqa not responding. She used to talk all day. Charlie seemed to expect a “hi” as well, but Kuqa just couldn’t say anything. Kuqa started crying. She was thinking about her mother. Kuqa cried very often. Lilly and Charlie were now SUPER confused. They gave Kuqa some space.  

She sat with Lilly on the bus ride. Lilly gave Kuqa a piece of paper and a pen.

“You’re not talking so maybe you can write why you’re so upset?” Lilly said. Kuqa wrote about Roze dying. This made Lilly stop talking to Kuqa. Lilly realized how sad Kuqa was. Lilly whispered something to Charlie. Kuqa knew what she said, it was that her mother died because Charlie looked at Kuqa with a sad look. 

Kuqa finally got to school where she saw her new teacher, Mrs. Lockerton. Mrs. Lockerton looked like a ghost with a very pale face, red cheeks, and a bunch of mascara. Kuqa tried to stay away from her. Kuqa saw the other teachers bring the new kids and make them introduce themselves. Kuqa had a piece of paper and a pen. She thought that Mrs. Lockerton would introduce Kuqa to the class.

“Class, bring out your books. It’s time to read,” Mrs. Lockerton explained. A boy was wearing a shirt with a stain on it. 

“Harold, didn’t I tell you that people in this class should wear good clothing!” Mrs. Lockerton yelled. 

“Sorry, Mrs. Lockerton!” Harold said with a scared look on his face. Mrs. Lockerton slapped the boy across the face. Kuqa did not like her teacher. 

It was time for lunch. Kuqa had a PB & J for lunch. She ate it fast. After lunch, it was time for recess. Kuqa hung out with Lilly. They talked to each other on a piece of paper. Kuqa wrote about her teacher and how crazy she was. Lilly laughed. 

“I heard she is a witch and that she kills children. Is that true?” Lilly asked. Mrs. Lockerton obviously wasn’t a witch so Kuqa started laughing. Lilly laughed with her. Kuqa realized that this was the first time she’d laughed since her mom died. Kuqa started to get a little sadder from thinking about her mom. Lilly noticed that she was sad.

“Do you think you need therapy?” Lilly asked. Kuqa wrote, maybe. Kuqa actually never thought about therapy. She thought of trying it. 

Dismissal came and Kuqa ran to the car. Kuqa wrote a note to her dad about trying therapy. David looked at her. 

“You want to try it?” David asked. Kuqa nodded yes. David smiled. Kuqa went home pretty happy. She almost talked but she still couldn’t do it. After trying and trying to talk, Kuqa got frustrated. She cried in the middle of the night. David woke up extremely tired. 

“What is it, honey?” David asked. Kuqa just didn’t know how to respond. She kept crying. She wasn’t mute, so why couldn’t she talk? 

“Red, red, you’ll be okay, you’ll talk one day,” David said. Red was David’s nickname for Kuqa. Of course, that was what Kuqa meant in Albanian. Kuqa hugged David hard. Harder than ever before. He always made her feel so much better. 

“Why don’t you sleep with Nina tonight?” David asked playfully. David picked up the doll. Kuqa grabbed it tight from his hands. She slept with the doll all night. 

She woke up at 6:00 am. She had time to eat her breakfast and brush her teeth (unlike last time). She was going to start therapy the next day. David told her it was culture day. Kuqa had to wear something in her culture. She looked through the closet. She saw the Albanian dress that Roze gave her. She stared at it. It had the Albanian eagle and some little flowers on it. Kuqa didn’t wear that dress since Roze died. Then she saw another thing in the closet — Roze’s scarf. It had the Kosovo flag on it. It was a little big for Kuqa but she decided to wear the scarf along with the dress. She went to the school bus. Lilly and Charlie saved a seat for her. 

“Nice dress, where is it from?” Charlie asked. Kuqa thought about it being from her mom. She shed a tear and ran to a different seat. Lilly punched Charlie in the stomach. She sat with Kuqa. Kuqa didn’t scream like usual but she was shedding tears so much. 

“I’m sorry about Charlie. He didn’t mean to make you sad,” Lilly explained. Kuqa nodded. “I think I know why you’re not talking. You want to keep in the feelings of your mom dying but you can’t. Some advice — let things out, you’ll feel better,” Lilly said. Kuqa wanted to know if this was true but she couldn’t just scream in class. She was going to see if that was true when she saw the therapist. The therapist knew best. Kuqa hugged Lilly. After a couple of minutes, they arrived at the school. Mrs. Lockerton was wearing a shirt with a Catalan flag. Mrs. Lockerton also had snakes on her pants so Kuqa was confused if she was Catalan or from somewhere else. 

“Bye, Kuqa!” Lilly waved. Kuqa waved back. Kuqa walked to her classroom. There was a kid with an Italian leather jacket. There was a kid with a scarf that said FRANCE, three other kids, and of course, there was Mrs. Lockerton. Kuqa guessed the other kids were sick or something.

“You might be wondering why barely anyone is here. It’s because the people that are gone wore better clothes. You guys didn’t. Your punishment is this,” Mrs. Lockerton said. 

“Mrs. Lockerton, where are you from?” Harold asked.

“I’m from Belarus, it shows the flag. Stupid child,” Mrs. Lockerton answered rudely. 

“No, that’s the flag of Catalonia,” Harold said. Mrs. Lockerton walked toward him and brought out a stick. She hit him. Harold started crying and then she hit him again. Then Mrs. Lockerton walked to Kuqa.

“What’s the two-headed eagle on the dress?” Mrs. Lockerton asked. Kuqa still couldn’t answer.

“What is it!?” Mrs. Lockerton screamed. Mrs. Lockerton was about to hit Kuqa with the stick but then…

“Stop!” Kuqa yelled. That was the first time in a year that she’d talked. A couple of the kids stared at Kuqa so surprised.

“It’s the Albanian eagle, my family is from Kosovo,” Kuqa explained. Mrs. Lockerton didn’t care. She hit Kuqa and sent her home. David picked her up. Kuqa got into the smelly car where David was probably gonna yell at her. 

“I heard you talked,” David said. 

“Yeah,” Kuqa responded. David smiled. He didn’t yell at Kuqa, surprisingly.

“How did you do it?” David asked. 

“I let my sadness out,” Kuqa explained while smiling.

“I love you,” David said. He kissed Kuqa’s forehead. 

                                                            THE END.

                                                               Afterward-

I want people to learn that you should always let your sad feelings out because it would make you feel so much better. So I wrote this story so people would do that and because I wanted to show Albanian culture to people. Kuqa was so sad she couldn’t talk, and when she let her feelings out, she talked, and I know you can do the same.

Wolf Quest — A Breeze Acoming – Book 1 –Wind’s Crossing

YOU ARE A 2-YEAR-OLD FEMALE WOLF IN YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK. YOU ARE QUESTED TO FIND A MATE, BUT FIRST YOU MUST BECOME AN EXPERIENCED ELK HUNTER.

Stats:

Name: Wind

Color: Black

Gender: Female

I howled, establishing my territory, space, and possibly attracting a potential mate. My mother-wolf, father-wolf, and pack got killed in a wildfire and I had to go on my own. I trotted along the way, scenting the ground looking for an elk carcass, as I did not feel confident enough to hunt on my own. There! I found an elk carcass, and oh, it smelled wonderful! But a troublesome bear kept me from the standing prey. I trotted back and forth, hoping the bear was full. He was not. I tried a growl, but the hungry bear hardly took notice, so I left, knowing that one day, when I had a pack, no bear would keep me from prey again.

I kept scenting the ground, and kept looking. Freeze. Pause. A hare. I licked my lips and stalked my prey, telling myself I would kill it. Pounce! The rabbit got caught by surprise and started to run, but a puny hare was no match for a wolf. I killed it with a crunch on the spine. It was hardly two mouthfuls. Unsatisfied with my catch, I moved on. 

It was getting dark so I decided to go to sleep. 

DAWN: I yawned as I woke, stretching my limbs, and cleaning my fur. Howls. Other wolves. I sniffed the air. It was the LunaNova Pack, 12 strong. I decided it was finally time to hunt some elk. Running and scenting as fast as I could, I finally scented out the elk herd. 

Trotting upon them, scenting them, to see who the weakest elk were. Weak. Very weak. Careful to avoid the bull elk, I bit the female elk’s chest. She kicked, she ran. So did I. It was a chase, and I was biting every chance I got. She finally had to rest, which left her vulnerable. I went in for the final blow. Snap. She stumbled down to the ground. I sniffed. Dead. The crows immediately came to eat the carcass, as I looked around, seeing who would dare challenge me for this.

A coyote. I growled. He was intimidated, but confident. I pretended to walk away. As I did so, I limped, to attract other coyotes. Once I saw about two others, I quickly turned tail. Yelp. Then the coyote fell limp. Giving me a look before his final breath. After the encounter, I headed for Pine, Pine Mountain to be exact.

I was ready. I was ready for the hardest part of a she-wolf’s life. As I trotted along the forest towards the large mountain, I used my sniffer to determine the whereabouts of this place. Though I had never been there before I knew exactly where to go by instinct, as every Yellowstone wolf knew. One time, my mother-wolf got shot with what looked like a green stick thing, by a creature known as a No-Fur. She quickly fell asleep, and I did not see her for some time. A day later, she came back to me, with a strange thing on her neck. Father-wolf did not think much of it at first until a group of no-furs came and took their Flashy-Captures, and spooked the pack. After that, Father-wolf chewed the thing off her neck and carried it to the river where it sank deep, deep below. After that, the No-Furs never bothered us again. I sighed longingly from the memory, but that was the past. Creatures stay in the present. Yapping of which, I arrived in the Pine Mountain pack territory. My destination. My Crossing for the first time.

I was headed down-wind, as I could scent things better, than upwind. Wolf. From here. Male, was what I got from my trusty snout. As I headed straight for it, my eyes gleamed with excitement. There he was. A possible mate. Something was wrong — he wasn’t a dispersal, like me. He was an alpha male! I felt my tail lowering behind my legs. Before he could speak, I quickly turned tail and ran. Very ashamed of myself, I headed out of their territory. Wait. Something caught my eye. A he-wolf! This time a dispersal like me! He nervously trotted towards me, tail behind his legs. In my wolf point of view it seemed like he was submitting to me, and we had not even said hello! As he approached me, head down, I kept my tail and head high, as I wanted to be the dominant one. 

“Hello,” he communicated. 

Speechless, I slowly said, “Hello, who are you?” 

“I am Arrow of Pine Mountain. I left the pack to create one of my own.” 

“I have traveled a long way. What is your name, young wolf?” 

“Arrow,” he said. 

Still cautious, I said, “Wind. My name is wind.”

***

ARROW BECOMES WIND’S MATE

As they ran through the snow, Wind felt extra happy as she was no longer alone. They were heading towards Slough Creek, as that was where den sites and hunting grounds were. Wind and Arrow knew they had to get there quickly and start prepping for the soon-coming pups. They soon arrived at Slough Creek, scenting for a decent den. 

“Here.” Arrow had scented something. Wind gave him an “okay” glance as she followed him into the woods. Arrow had found a suitable den! Close to hunting grounds along with the summer ones too! They whined in delight as Wind settled into the comfy tree den. 

***

THE END OF WINTER (Almost Spring)

Arrow could hear squeaks, yips, and little howls. He had been waiting all winter for this. He whined to Wind asking to come see his pups. Wind gave a whine of approval back as she cleaned her pups. “Wander, Amethyst, and Achilles,” Wind said. “Those are their names.” 

Leaving Arrow, he quickly said, “When should we leave?” 

Still caring for her pups, Wind quietly said, “We leave tomorrow, they are already 6 weeks, and are ready for the Crossing.”

***

THE NEXT DAY

Yawning, all of the pups and adults awoke, stretching every limb.“We have a big journey ahead of us, my pups,” Arrow announced. Wind and Arrow carried the pups to the nearest carcass for a quick meal. Wind’s ears twitched at the sound of a bear; however, it was far enough away that she was not worried. As she and Arrow approached the carcass, they were not aware the pups were facing the predator’s wind direction, and it made them oblivious to the bear stalking Amethyst. Yelp. Whine. Silence. 

Arrow and Wind quickly turned around to see that Amethyst had been killed by a male grizzly. Arrow and Wind quickly grabbed their remaining pups and quickly ran away from the grizzly in grief. At the sand crossing, they crossed and carried the pups towards the summer hunting grounds, hoping they could make it. It was almost sundown as they settled in for the night. 

THE NEXT DAY

Closer to the hunting grounds than they thought, they picked up the pups and ran as quickly as possible. As they approached the forest, they were overjoyed that they had made it. Setting the pups down, they took a rest, completely oblivious to the stalking cougar. As it closed in on them, its target was Wander. Pounce. Yellllllp. Wander… was gone. Wind and Arrow launched in on the attack, nearly killing the cougar. Wind gave a fatal bite to the cougar’s neck. The cougar fell. Wind and Arrow had gotten their revenge. Wind carried Achilles to the hunting grounds and they stayed there until Achilles was ready to move on.

Friends

Characters: 

BIYU (10): A kid who always annoys his older sister yet deeply cares about her and LOVES broccoli (weird, I know)

RIKU (15): A teen who just wants her space from others and wants friends

AIMI (15): Riku’s supposed best friend

RIKU and BIYU are in the field a bit away from their house. A few minutes later, RIKU starts walking to the house. As she walks off she says to BIYU:

RIKU

I’ll see you there. 

BIYU

(Staring off into the curtains) Hm, what’s that, Mom? You want Riku to get the heck out of my room? Oh, alright, I’ll tell her that. 

BIYU turns around, looks at RIKU, and smiles. 

RIKU

MoM sAiD tO gEt ThE hEcK oUtTa My RoOm!  

RIKU copies BIYU’s movements. 

BIYU

(Stares into the curtain again) What’s that, Mom? Tell Riku to stop bothering me? 

BIYU smiles. 

RIKU

But I —

RIKU

                                                      [Aside] Mother is always on Biyu’s side and it’s really annoying.

RIKU

Okay, mother . . . Sorry. . . Not sorry, Biyu. (She sniffs)

BIYU

                    [Aside] I never wanted Riku to be sad. Riku, wait!

RIKU

                                       [Aside] Time to call Aimi. 

Sighing, RIKU takes her phone out from her back pocket and scrolls through her contacts and finally comes across “BestFriend.”

917-397-2675.

Heyy, Aimi… My day hasn’t been the best. 

AIMI

Hey… Aw why. Was it your good for nothing brother? I never liked him anyways. [Aside] It’s not like I really care anyway

RIKU

You what…

She shakes her head and starts tearing up.

AIMI

[Aside] You weren’t supposed to hear that

Oh I was talking to my… 

[Aside] Nonexistent 

Brother. 

RIKU

Why are you lying to my face?

AIMI

HAHAHA don’t comment on me. (AIMI scoffs)

RIKU

I  didn’t, I’m — 

AIMI cuts the phone

AIMI

Annoying brat. (AIMI rolls her eyes) 

RIKU sighs, sits on her bed, and drenches her pillow, twirls her hair, then gets up and starts pacing around. 

RIKU

[Aside] Why did Aimi do that?

I’m worried about Aimi. She doesn’t act like this. 

BIYU walks into RIKU’s room and leans on the door frame.

BIYU

What did Aimi do? 

RIKU

Ugh nothing. Get out of my room… (RIKU shakes her head and turns away)

BIYU

You can’t lie to me, your face gives out what you’re feeling right away. (BIYU sighs) C’mon, don’t lie to me… I’ll try to help.

RIKU

Aimi snapped at me.

BIYU

I never liked her but… (BIYU sighs) If you really wanna repair your relationship… be the bigger person and go to her house.

AIMI

I hope she doesn’t bother me for forgiveness, it’s gonna be annoying… Although hurting her was nice it also hurt. She’s the only real friend I ever had.

AIMI shakes her head to get the thoughts out of her head. RIKU puts her jacket and shoes on and goes out of the house

RIKU

Ah, the wind feels so nice.

The fall breeze hits RIKU’s face. Her hair flows in the air and a tear streams down her face. All the people who are near RIKU freeze as she walks by. RIKU to the audience:

RIKU

I’ve been friends with Aimi my whole life. We have been best friends, we have gone through everything together. Was it my fault? Did I build this pressure between us up? Even if it was me being the bigger person. Does that make it right? No it doesn’t, saying sorry doesn’t repair your actions. It doesn’t actually show you’re sorry. You’re just asking for pity. But this always happens.. I always ask for pity even when it’s not my fault. Everyone thinks I’m a fool, but I (RIKU sighs). I understand that Aimi is using me. But I need someone to lean on even if they are using a fake persona.

Everyone on the stage starts moving again as RIKU wipes a tear off her face and arrives at AIMI’s.  Then shakily she rings the doorbell.

AIMI

Who could that be? (AIMI makes an annoyed face)

RIKU

I really hope she can forgive me…

AIMI

[Aside] Ugh is it RIKU?

RIKU keeps ringing the bell

AIMI

Coming, coming. 

AIMI stares at the door and makes an annoyed face, then proceeds to open it. AIMI tries to open the door but can’t.

RIKU

(As AIMI opens the door, RIKU tries to hide) I don’t wanna do this anymore..

AIMI

(AIMI proceeds to open the door). I know why you’re here. Come and sit on my couch. I’ll bring some tea out. 

RIKU

Stop this. Stop acting like you’re my friend. STOP, I KNOW YOU NEVER LIKED ME. NO ONE EVER DID.

AIMI

Well, why do you think no one liked you? Because you follow them around, make them feel guilty. HOW DO YOU THINK IT FEELS LETTING PEOPLE DOWN? 

RIKU

YOU NEVER LIKED ME. I DONT MATTER RIGHT, THIS FRIENDSHIP WAS NEVER REAL. I NEVER HAD FRIENDS BEFORE… AND EVEN THOUGH YOU MAY BE FAKE… I still care. (RIKU is on the floor covering her face, sobbing)

AIMI

Why…

The doorbell rings. AIMI proceeds to open it as RIKU is on the floor crying.

BIYU

Hey, Aimi I came to see… WHAT DID YOU DO TO RIKU?

AIMI

I didn’t do anything….

AIMI sighs. BIYU runs to RIKU and starts comforting her by hugging her.

BIYU

Look. I knew this was going to happen. That’s why I told you to come here. I knew all about her but..

RIKU

Even if  I won’t be your friend anymore…

BIYU

… Please don’t be her enemy…

AIMI goes up to RIKU and embraces RIKU softly…

CURTIN 

——————————————————————————————————————————-

THE ACTORS COME OUT AND BOW. 

Why We Shouldn’t Have Borders

See any borders? You don’t and it’s still our world

“All the borders in the world are man-made. There are no borders, we are all hooked together. Everything is connected. There is no line of demarcation. We are hooked together like the colors of a rainbow, our problem is ignorance, we don’t understand that.”-Bob Proctor. Borders can spark wars and cause deaths, borders can make nationality which can pinpoint people against other people and make people say and do mean things to other people.

According to Wikipedia, 56 wars from 1846-2020 have been partially if not 100% caused by borders. From the start of time, wars, battles, and deaths have been caused by borders. Over 100,000,000 deaths have happened because of borders. Without borders, the number of deaths would have fallen and wars would fade. WW1 was started because of borders and WW2 happened because of WW1. World War 1 was caused by the Austrian annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina which caused Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, to shoot the Austrian Archduke and his wife. This caused WW1 and eventually caused WW2, plus a total of 63,000,000 deaths. Without borders, this never would have happened. Also, with Covid, the U.S is still working on evaluating their testing, but countries like Rwanda have testing ready in up to three days. Without borders and nationality, countries could share their testing and it would save many lives. 

Borders also translate large feelings of nationality. This was another cause of World War I. And nationality is caused by borders! Nationality also causes problems with immigration. Also, without borders, immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers would be able to travel through countries freely without being pursued and assaulted by the local police, military, and regular passersby. Nationality also causes the people in these countries to do what they do. And without borders there would be no nationality and then nobody would do any of these horrible things. 

Thirdly, if you have no borders, countries wouldn’t need such powerful militaries. For example, the U.S. spent 718.69 billion dollars on the military in 2019. This is a drastic amount of money spent on the military when the country could be using this money for other things like healthcare and helping the homeless, both of which would help the population. Without borders, the U.S. would lower its military budget because there’d be no U.S., just the Earth as we know it. If this happened, millions of people’s lives would be saved. For example, Belgium, which is part of the EU, spends only 4614 million in U.S dollars for their military. The EU uses the same currency, and if you’re a French citizen and have a passport, you can easily travel to any country that is part of the EU. As a summary, the EU makes some parts of Europe borderless, and see how countries are able to cut down on military spending?

Finally, the world should have no borders because many wars have been caused by borders, borders give people a feeling of nationality which can make them hate other people from other countries, and without borders, countries wouldn’t have to spend so much money on the military. It could be used for other things like healthcare which can save millions of lives. This is why we should have no borders. 

“I am a Citizen of the World, and my Nationality is Goodwill.” –Socrates

The Blue Bunny

Statistics:

The Blue Bunny(halloween)

My name is Thomas Marshall. I’m afraid it is not entirely safe to display any part of my identification because of the Interceptors. 

The following is a complement of stories from the perspectives of people who witnessed The Blue Bunny, because it would be hard to capture a full story from only one person. At the end, I will present the one and only journal of The Blue Bunny itself. However, I have read neither of these, because I think that the stories told there would not be worth reading, because the Blue Bunny would be more mad if I actually read it.

I have been running away from the Interceptors for a very long time. They can do so much damage to one’s self, you truly can never be safe from them. I am constantly forced to move away from the Interceptors because they can breed so quickly, and send their DNA through the air and reform in another place. The shielding from some of them is beyond nowadays’ tech, so I must stay at least twenty meters away from them if I want anything other than cancer. It also is not amazing for you if you have COVID-19. Yes, coronavirus still exists. It has been about 30 very long years of Covid, because scientists are more concerned with the blue Bunny. There are so many Interceptors that it is nearly impossible to list all of them. Before, there was only one type. Then, another came, and made more of itself. Then the two species bred, and added in more complexity. Another species got stuffed into the mix when some were exposed to radiation. The others were combined, mutated, and gene-spliced to make the rest. It started mixing in with almost all the other species in the world to create an enormous band of animals ranging from strange bunny clowns, to pirate rabbits, to bears that do surgery. Some of them are so fast that a mile radius is the point to start expecting death in the next few seconds. Some are large enough to smush you under their feet. Some can hack into any device, and make them blow you up. But the Interceptors all have a natural skill for hacking, reading data, and bombing the internet with virus websites. That is why it is unsafe to give any info about me, because the Interceptors would be on me in a heartbeat. They have such a large database of all their victims, so if any name matches, they will immediately track me down. They have made the internet almost impossible to use for fear of getting a virus downloaded. They are exceptionally good at coding viruses, so merely opening Google could download an app, and send them an email giving them my exact latitude and longitude, my name, in which direction I might be going, and in no time I would be injected. The injections are not normal. They are meant to turn you into one of them, and they can come from any one of the Interceptors. They could give you it by simply biting you like a vampire, throwing carrots, or even the surgery bear could give you a full scale “inspection” with no anesthesia. The surgery bear is highly unqualified, and is very incompetent in the medical buisness. The only reason the bear will pay you a visit is to try and see how necessary lungs really are. And for some reason, he never remembers.

Now, for the first story, about me. I am Thomas Marshall.

Thomas Marshall, 8:00-8:30 A.M., 13/5/2013:

I believe, to my understanding, that the moment when it all started was when I looked up from my laptop because of the small shadow of a rabbit on the lobby security cam. That was the moment when I was aware that something was wrong. After the outlet exploded, I started to shuffle towards the door. When the door unscrewed its hinges, I started to jog. And after a 3-inch face to face encounter with a humanoid rabbit, standing up like a human, I ran away and located the nearest elevator. The elevator took so long that by the time it got up to the top floor I was positive that that weird rabbit would come to “meet and greet” me. But when it did, there wasn’t a bunny in sight. I cautiously walked out of the elevator, but quickly faced a rabbit leaping nearly five feet to tackle me.

“What? Stop it! Get off of me,” I said.

“Hey, mind if I borrow some of your feet? That should sum up my collection to about seventy-seven, and boy, I’ll be lucky then!” I started to run down the stairs as I came up with the conclusion that that rabbit thought human feet were lucky as humans thought rabbit feet were lucky. I had randomly heard somewhere that rabbits didn’t really like water, so I took some blue paint from the storage closet. Pretty much the same, seeing as I didn’t have time to go to the sink. So when the bunny was on the ground floor of the building, I dropped the paint. That may have been one of my biggest mistakes. The rabbit was definitely scarier being blue than a regular white or pink or grey bunny. After I ran down to warn the others, they quickly ran into the elevator. I noticed that one of them had a hang glider, which might be useful for getting away. Unfortunately, there was only room for one. When we got to the top of the elevator, the Blue Bunny was standing in front of us.

James is a nine year old boy who lives in an apartment building with his mom, Charlie; his dad, Otto; and his sister, Fiddle. He and his family were going camping. His uncle is named D.J. Dunce.

James Nick, 8:30-8:32 A.M. 13/5/2013:

“Hey! There is a Blue Bunny! Come with me into the elevator! It’s perfectly safe! But I warn you, I think it is evil!” After that guy told us that, my sister lost it.

“Ah! We’re going to die! The Blue Bunny! Ah! Nooo!” Wow, that was a big reaction. This is James Nick here, speaking from the elevator, hopefully not going to get killed. Oh wait, I already was killed (almost) by my sister. At the top, the Blue Bunny was there.

“Hey guys, I need some feet ‘cause one guy didn’t want to give me his feet,” said the bunny. Oops, I got caught. It kind of scared me. I mean, he really could have done a better job, but still, the idea of stealing feet is a little freaky. Anyway, we decided to go back down the elevator to the lobby, because the rabbit had other plans, clearly. So it was a little creepy, but another scare would probably cross the line.

Fiddle is a twelve year old girl, who is James’ sister.

Fiddler Abacus, 8:30-8:32 A.M. 13/5/2013

“Hey! There is a Blue Bunny! Come with me into the elevator! It’s perfectly safe! But I warn you, I think it is evil!” James nearly fainted and started hyperventilating. His reaction was so dramatic that I was sure he was faking it.

“Oh, no, the end has come, and this is most likely the last second of my life!”

“Um, it’s just a bunny. Oh, stop it. We aren’t going to die. Besides, I thought you like rabbits.” He continued screaming, saying some things so dramatic and cliché that I would prefer not to put them here. I am Fiddle, here in the elevator, slowly inching away from James to try and get to the corner of the elevator. However, I have found this difficult with James possibly having symptoms of a sugar rush; running around, banging on the walls, and randomly punching elevator buttons. When we got to the top I had decided what I would do with this rabbit, assuming it really was evil. So when the rabbit sprang onto us, I tried to walk it to the edge of the building. Of course, it didn’t work out. Everyone else was pulling me back towards the elevator. James punched the down button on the elevator, and the last thing I saw was a rabbit jumping on somebody.

D.J. Dunce is a disk jockey who lives in Canada. He is the uncle of James and Fiddle, and took a trip to their apartment to go camping with them.

D.J. Dunce, 8:30-8:32 A.M., 13/5/2013:

“Hey! There’s a Blue Bunny! Come with me into the elevator! It’s perfectly safe! But I warn you, I think it is evil!” Well, that sounds boring! Waiting in an elevator, hoping some rabbit  doesn’t get you! As it turned out I was absolutely right! Boring! If only I had a bambox, a jukebox, or a CD player, I could brighten this place up! Me and four discs! But sadly, I left my bambox, CD player, DvD player, Blu-ray player, full desk set, and my two double-speaker radios, not including all of my 60 discs. Even a phone could do the trick. Whoa! Cool rabbit! Boom! Kind of creepy, but wow! Cool photoshop! Wait no, that’s not photoshop. Guess I’ll go along with the rest of the gang, on their camping trip. Oh, wait! I should get my Bambox.

Thomas Marshall, 8:32-8:36 A.M., 13/5/2013

I ran with the paraglider to the edge of the building, and jumped off. I had, of course, forgotten the superior ability of leaping when it comes to hares and rabbits. And so, after a little unwilling glug from a bottle the bunny was holding, I let go. From my perspective, the next thing that happened was me falling into a pit. When I reached the bottom, I felt something crawl up my back and land sitting on my head. After that, for some weird reason, I could jump a lot higher.

D.J. Dunce, 8:32-10:00 A.M., 13/5/2013:

Alright, I got my bambox! Time to get my discs! I got way too many discs to stuff into my backpack. So I took forty to my backpack, five to my left pocket, five to my right pocket, and ten to hold in my hands. I didn’t know where the others were, so I assumed they were at the top. They weren’t, so I went back down. Rabbit jumpscare! Ha ha ha! They were in the lobby, walking out the door. I ran after them (which wasn’t super easy with all my sixty discs and players) and just made it through before they closed the door.

“Where were you?” they asked.

“I had to get my discs, yo,” I replied. “To play about sixty discs on our trip!”

“Whoopie. What’s the first one called again?”

“The bookworms song?”

“Great.”

“Seriously! Let’s listen to some in the car!” We got into the car, and drove away.

***

When we got out of the car, we were in the forest. I set up all the music equipment behind a tree, and the others set up the tent. The moment the others stepped into the tent, I pressed the play button. However, I never got to hear the music.

James Nick, 8:32-10:00 A.M.13/5/2013

“Where is D.J. Dunce??? We need him ASAP!” said my mother.

“I don’t know! He just ran away to get something,” said Fiddle.

“Let me guess. To get his bambox,” I said.

“Let’s just go, he doesn’t even want to come!”

“Fine, fine. Get in the car, everyone!”

“Wait, he’s over there!”

“Where were you?”

“I had to get my discs, yo,” he said. “To play sixty discs on our trip!”

“Whoopie. What’s the first one called again?”

“The bookworms song?”

“Great.”

“Seriously! Let’s listen to some in the car!”

“Alright, everyone ready?”

“Yes!”

 ***

I realized it was lightly raining when we got out. It took us over an hour to set up the tent. I had no idea where D.J. Dunce was, and we really needed his help. The tent was really a basic structure, but with a rain collector on the top of it.

“Oh, where are you, D.J. Dunce? This thing is going to collapse,” said my mother. I struggled to hold up the top, but with the rain collector on it, it was nearly impossible.

“D.J. Dunce! Please! We need you now!”  The tent started to sag with the weight of the rain. The collector overflowed. It became too heavy for us to lift and we dropped it. The collector spilled water over all of us, soaking us from head to toe. It was a little hard to believe that so much water was contained inside that pot. I finally spotted D.J. Dunce and glared at him. I saw him push a button on his D.J. Deck, and music started blaring at us.

“AND THEN THEY READ!”

Fiddler Abacus, 8:32-10:00 A.M.13/5/2013

“Where is D.J. Dunce? We need him now!” said my mother.

“I don’t know! He just ran away to get something!” I said.

“Let me guess. To get his Bambox,” said James.

“Let’s just go, he doesn’t even want to come.”

“Fine, fine. Get in the car everyone!”

“Wait, he’s over there!”

“Where were you?”

“I had to get my discs, yo, ” he said. “To play sixty discs on our trip!”

“Whoopie. What’s the first one called again?”

“The bookworms song?”

“Great.”

“Seriously! Let’s listen to some in the car!”

“Alright, everyone ready?”

“Yes!”

***

I took the big pot out of the trunk when we got out. It was raining, so we decided to have a rain collector. The tent was a small green one, but flat at the top for the rain collector. A thick pole went through the middle of it to support the collector. However, the pole was basically a tree trunk. It could not support the full weight of the pot. D.J. Dunce said that he would go out and find something stronger, but he didn’t come back. The tree trunk cracked, and we had to hold the pot up with our bare hands. The pot was going to fall on top of us if D.J. Dunce didn’t come immediately. I saw him behind a tree, setting up a D.J. deck. I glared at him. The pot was just too heavy, and we dropped it, spilling water all over us. D.J. Dunce pressed a green button and music started shooting out of his speakers. But as I called him over one final time, he disappeared. He left the music still playing, and I ran over to his deck. The buttons had no labels on them, and none of them worked. I thought there would be a normal power button, but I was wrong. All the buttons were the same size, and all green. D.J. Dunce was nowhere in sight. Suddenly, the rain stopped. And as crazy as it sounds, the surrounding area was completely dry. Even our clothes. But the weirdest part was that a weird campfire suddenly sprang to life, and a tree fell on top of it.

James Nick, 10:00-10:05 A.M. 13/5/2013

The music kept on playing. Fiddle went over to try and turn it off, but it didn’t work. She called for D.J. Dunce, and as soon as she did, the rain stopped, and everything dried up. A campfire that we never made burst into flame, and a nearby tree fell on it.

“Forest fire!” cried Fiddle. We noticed another tent suddenly sprang up beside us and we all ran into it. As it turned out, D.J. Dunce was with us.

“D.J. Dunce! Where were you?” D.J. Dunce froze, not moving, not looking at any of us. “Well? The rain collector soaked us all!”

“You are not wet,” said D.J. Dunce.

“Still, the tent collapsed!”

“Um, I don’t think so.” He gestured to the ceiling of the tent.

“How do you operate your bambox?” asked Fiddle.

“What’s a bambox?”

“I thought you knew!”

“Why are you calling me a D.J.?”

“Because you are D.J. Dunce!”

“Think again!” And he stood up. He looked down at us, grinned, and fell flat on his back. Fiddle touched his face and said she felt plastic. A very long, blue ear shot out of the top of his head and wrapped around Fiddle’s arm. It curled down his face and pulled his mask off, revealing his blue face.

“Haha, you got me. Mind if I borrow a few limbs?” 

That was just too much for everyone. We ran out the tent door, and got in the car. It wasn’t until we got back to the building that we realized the bunny was in the trunk.

Fiddler Abacus, 10:00-10:05 A.M. 13/5/2013

“Forest fire!” I yelled. A tent appeared out of nowhere beside us. I had no time to think about who was doing this. I just ran to the tent and jumped in, and everyone else followed. D.J. Dunce was among them.

“D.J. Dunce! Where were you?” I asked. D.J. Dunce stopped moving completely. It looked as though he had been turned to stone. “Well? The rain collector soaked us all!”

“You are not wet, ” said D.J. Dunce.

“Still, the tent collapsed!”

“Um, I don’t think so.” He gestured to the ceiling of the tent.

“How do you operate your bambox?” I asked.

“What’s a bambox?”

“I thought you knew!”

“Why are you calling me a D.J.?”

“Because you are D.J. Dunce!”

“Think again!” He rose, grinning creepily. He fell over onto his back. I reached my hand out and touched his face.

“It’s plastic,” I said. Suddenly, a blue ear shot out from the top of his head and curled around my wrist. The other ear reached down and grabbed at his chin, and pulled a plastic mask off. It had a blue face, with wide, scary eyes, and a mouth that was smiling weirdly. It was the blue bunny.

“Okay, you got me. Could I just borrow some body parts for my bulletin board?” 

Nobody could handle that. We all bolted to the car and started it up. When we got out, the bunny was inside.

And finally, the Blue Bunny itself. I copied this story from a page in his journal. I will never read this, because he would be very angry if he knew I read this.

The Blue Bunny, 8:00-10:00 A.M. 13/5/2013

Ooh, the feet! Just a few watchy thingies to dodge, and the footies will be mine! A few extra outlet explosions wouldn’t hurt. Here we go! Here is the short circuit. BOOM! The outlet fizzled, then crackled, then every light, computer, and every device plugged into the outlet exploded, then went dark. Bits of white hot metal flew out from the outlets. Next, I jumped up the stairs, and stood outside the door of a room. I pulled out a screwdriver and unscrewed the door hinges. The door fell to the ground with a crash. I quickly ran out of the way before the guy inside saw me. I jumped down to the bottom of the stairs. The guy followed behind me, but delayed by about half a minute. I waited under the staircase, and stuck some explosive under it. The explosive would go off ten seconds after it was lit, so I had to time it perfectly. I lit the explosive twenty steps under the person, and in exactly ten seconds, the stair the person was on suddenly blew up, and the guy fell to the ground. When he got up, I made sure to get up close to him. He sat up and screamed. He ran to the elevator, and pressed the up button. I slowly ran towards him to scare him as much as possible. He got in just in time. I ran to the spot where there were no stairs above me, and jumped. I crashed through the roof and landed outside the elevator door. I stepped back, so that I was behind the elevator door, and jumped on to the elevator station. When the door finally opened, and the guy walked out, I jumped on top of him. Now, for the routine…

“Hello, good sir, may I borrow a foot or two?”

“Get off!” 

“Oops, sorry, I just would like to sum my collection up to seventy-seven, that’s all.”

“You collect feet?”

“Of course! Don’t you?” He ran into the elevator, and went to the bottom floor. I waited patiently at the top of the elevator, and when the doors opened, I stepped right up so that my nose was pressed against the door.

“Oh, thank you! You brought more feet!” One of the guys, the one I was chasing earlier, took a hang glider out of another person’s hands, and ran off the side of the building. I compared the distance between me and the glider, and my speed and the glider’s speed. I worked it out, and figured I should jump as hard as I could if I wanted to make it in three seconds. I leaped off the side and landed on top of the glider. The glider took a small dive, then straightened. I pulled a small bottle out of my utility belt, and stuffed it into the person’s mouth. He fell asleep instantly. I caught him before he fell, and we glided along far away, to an island. My first idea was to just leave him there and get his feet, but then I remembered the bunny ears Captain VunnIe had given me. The ears were almost like a headband, but with real bunny ears on them. I landed on the sand, but not very well. I tossed the guy in the pit as soon as he woke up, and threw the ears on his head. His skin started to turn blue, and his shoes started to fall off. His feet grew twice their original size, and he jumped up to meet me.

“Hello, Bunny.”

“Go away! What have you done to me? How did you do this? Why?”

“I thought it would be handy to have a couple extra bunnies. You know, to help me around, and stuff.”

“And why would I?”

“You are about to become a Blue Bunny, but I first will need to do some extra things.”

“No, don’t. I will run away if I have to.”

“How? You have no boat, and bunnies can’t swim.” He really did look puzzled, and he thought for a moment.

“How did you get here?” 

Even though I knew I shouldn’t say anything, I just had to tell him.

“A plane. Right over there.” I pointed to a plane behind a tree. He ran to it and fumbled with the controls. I ran after him, but before I got to him, he had already started the engine, and risen high enough that I couldn’t jump up to him (not to brag, but almost twenty meters). I called up to him, and shouted to come back, but he wouldn’t turn the plane around. I was trapped on the island, with little chance of getting off. Suddenly, I saw the plane turn around back, and I realized the person had been kind enough to bring me the plane back. I quickly jumped to it, and turned around, before the plane made a landing. The plane hit an air pocket, and jolted suddenly. I realized that getting Thomas wouldn’t benefit me much at all. I did see the other people with him though. I could get them. So I lowered the plane beneath the clouds, so I could see the ground below me. I was flying over the city already, which meant if I was going to catch them, I needed to turn sharply, by about 270°. I swooped towards the lobby entrance, when near there I saw a blue car with five passengers inside, passengers I recognized. I followed the car, and pulled out another device Captain VunnIe  had given me. It was a long range microphone that could pick up on talking from a mile away. I pointed it at the car and listened for something that could tell me where they were going, but I could hardly hear anything over the music. 

“D.J. Dunce, that music is getting to be a little annoying,” said one person.

“Okay, okay.” The music got quieter, and stopped. I could hear them much better now.

“So, plans for the camping trip?” That was all I needed. I knew there was one and only one camping site, so I followed the car towards the site. I landed  in the camping site, in an open area, but away from the people in the car. The area was a circle of  grass without trees. All around it, there were trees. I got there ten minutes before them, and by the time they got there, it was raining. The people in the car set up a tent, with a rain collector on the top. However, not everyone was there. One person was in the trees on the edge of the circle, with a table set up. I snuck towards him, and pulled out the last gift Captain VunnIe had given me. It was a strange cube, with one button on each side of the cube.  Each button had an image on it, one with a rain cloud on it, another with a sun on it, another with a symbol of snow on it. I quickly tripped him and fed him a drug that would make him fall asleep. The drug worked very well, he fell asleep almost instantly. I pressed the button on the weather cube, the sun icon. The clouds seemed to dissipate. The rain instantly stopped. Everything was perfectly dry. I pulled out a plastic mask I had made myself, and pulled it over my face. I ran into the trees, where the other people were, and built up a small campfire. I chopped down a tree with a laser, and it fell onto the campfire. I used the laser to burn the tree further, and a full forest fire sprang up. I built up a tent as fast as I could, and told the others to go into the tent. As the others came in, I went back. I did some quick scaring, which I will not show here. I ran out of the tent when I was done, and went into the trunk of the car. After that, I got back to the island. 

If you are thinking about sharing this information, don’t. If the Blue Bunny sees you with this, he will kill you. If you think Google Drive is safe, it isn’t. In fact, he owns the website. But as far as Google knows, they have total control. But enough spoilers. You’ll read about that in the next book. This info is for just you, just so that you’ll know about the Blue Bunny.

Tuck’s Grand Adventure

Once upon a time, there was a dog called Tuck. There was also a villain named Mr. Stupido. Mr. Stupido was, as you can guess, stupid. He wanted a magical snake that attracted dogs because he thought that dogs were cows and he tried to milk the dogs. Naturally, as dogs aren’t cows, there wasn’t any milk, and Mr. Stupido went on a search for the snake dog toy. One day, he got it. The magical dog toy was Tuck’s before Mr. Stupido stole it, so Tuck went on a quest to find his dog toy and to save all dogs from being milked. (He didn’t know that part yet.) 

There was only one thing on his side. Tuck was adorable! He used his charm to get lots and lots of food. Tuck began his quest by walking through his backyard. He got a little ways out when he thought, Oh boy, I want to chew something! 

He sniffed around his backyard until he found a really good stick. Then, he picked it up and started chewing. He kept walking. Soon, Tuck got hungry. He chased a few mice but they all ran away. Soon, he found an even better squirrel! He caught it. Tuck kept walking by the side of the stream where he had gotten the scent of Mr. Stupido and his toy. (Being stupid, Mr. Stupido left a really obvious trail.) 

Tuck saw a house nearby. It wasn’t Mr. Stupido’s, but Tuck was getting hungry so he begged for food and got some. The next house was Mr. Stupido’s, and it had a big sign on the front that said, “The home of Mr. Stupido,” so he walked in and got the toy. (Mr. Stupido didn’t have any security system.) When Mr. Stupido saw Tuck, he waved and said, “Hi, cowie!”

Tuck let all the dogs out and then went back home with all of the dogs (because he had the dog toy) and took a nice, long nap.

The Afterthen

Chapter 1 – Surprised

It was a Wednesday. Alexis was procrastinating on her math homework, as usual. The sunflowers were bending upward and soaking in the sunshine. As it got warmer out, they seemed to be moving further and further from their wintertime weakness. Their petals glowed with raw magic and their hay green centers swirled like whirlpool water into the tall, thick stems. Then, she heard a rumbling behind her. She whipped her head around. So maybe, although Alexis would kill me if she found out I said this, it was just her pet poodle, Daffodil, growling at this toy she had that looked just like her. Alexis was just so bored in this beautifully magical town that she was combing through her almost-but-not-quite perfect days, searching for something even remotely spooky or dangerous. But eventually, she’d have to get back to her math homework or Mrs. LaNeil would kill her. She flopped back down in her chair, and, while tapping her pencil repeatedly between problems, she struggled through the remaining six sheets. That’s right, six sheets. Oh, teachers back then…

I don’t know exactly why Alexis had to procrastinate so much, since, to my dismay, I could not get that out of her. But my theory, which is probably right, (I consider myself to be very well acquainted with her), is that her pride simply would not allow her to be a good little girl and finish it early like everyone else at her school.

Once she finished, she flopped down on her boring pink bed and wished and wondered. She wished she didn’t have such a dull life. She wondered why she stuck out, why no one was like her, why she had to be alone.

The next afternoon was Friday, thank the sunflowers. She relaxed and read. Her ridiculous school uniform was on the floor. It included a pink hair bow, a white dress, pink tights, white ruffly socks, and shiny pink Mary Janes.

After a few weeks of dull routines, Alexis received a pristine white envelope with her name and address stamped on it in shiny gold leaf. She was not impressed. Probably some letter from a stupid teacher complaining about stupid grades. When she opened it, she collapsed on her plush white rug. Every year for every eleven year old in the village, there was an official tournament. Not for sewing, or spelling, or math. This was a tournament of magic.

And you may not know, but Alexis was special when it came to magic. She was easily the most powerful in her grade. Alexis could fly, make her hair burn or turn into red-hot, dripping lava, and so many other amazing things. But her specialty was earth. She could pick up pebbles and spin them into gold. She could pick up gold and spin it into pebbles. She could crush you in a second with a grain of sand. No one else was completely aware of it, but she was probably more powerful than many of the masters.

So she jumped and flew off her balcony, down into the fields of emerald grass. The trees were perfect; scarlet, golden, and deep blue. Her high, silver combat boots dug into the fertile soil. Then she practiced. She spun rocks above her fingers. She mined diamonds out of the ground by using all the effort in her body, and turned them into a tall tower. Next, she spiraled around the tower, all the way up. Then she shattered it to pieces, and did backflips and frontflips in the air as she came down.

After hours and hours, she worked out a routine. She was proud of herself. She knew she could win the tournament, but there was a few months before this would happen. It was an agonizingly long amount of time to wait. She leapt back up onto her balcony and went back inside. Besides, the sun was beginning to set. She had one of her usual late dinners alone in the dining room before heading to bed. That night, she tossed and turned. She didn’t think she would be able to wait. Her parents had better be ready for another drop in her grades. She didn’t care about that, though. Her worry, besides the long wait for the tournament, was that competition for the Sapphire Crown (the prize of winning the tournament) coming up, with the long amount of time for practice and improvement. This might wreck Alexis’s chance and the Sapphire Crown, which was the key to the most exciting opportunities in Sunflower. It was a secret, but it was what Alexis craved the most. The crown also brought respect to its champions. This adventure might come with a friend. After all these years of loneliness, someone might finally just walk up and invite her over for mango smoothies one day. Well, banana shakes would be preferable; after all, the mangos in Sunflower were awfully sour. But really, Alexis wouldn’t mind if it was rotten sunflower stems. Which some adults liked. Not that she understood why. 

Now there is really something I have to tell you. Alexis was not acknowledging the second part of the Sapphire Crown contest. Nobody knew what happened in the dark and shadowed second stage. Only one person made it past the first stage, which was the routine Alexis was making. Once the winner had completed the unknown second stage, they were forbidden to speak of it. That is, if they survived. 

Chapter 2 – The Contest

A few months was far too long for Alexis to wait. She had her routine completed, including all the finishing touches, and even a stunning outfit. (In my opinion, there was no need for her routine, despite its glory, because I am positive that she could have won the tournament with just that outfit. But she didn’t ask me). However, a few months is not forever, and the day came. It was conveniently over a break so all the teachers and students were free, as well as the stay-at-home parents and the town leaders and every other person in the village. Even the animals were free that week. Even the sunflowers, naturally. Moving on.

Alexis walked a short distance to the field where the competition was held. There were chairs set up in neat rows in the grass. She sat next to her mother, since she had no friends to sit with. She watched the other children perform their talents. She clapped politely after each one, but really she was terrified. The talents were just getting better and better and it seemed that every one of them would be that tiny bit better than her. That meant everything in a competition like this. She performed her routine as #56. 20 remained. It was rather uneventful. Now, I don’t mean that the crowd wasn’t impressed. Just that they weren’t really surprised at what she’d done.

At the end of the competition, the leaders walked onto the stage. They took folded yellow papers and passed them out to students. Before Alexis could open hers, some black-haired girl who could fly opened her paper and petals came out. This signaled that she had won the competition. Alexis’s expression was completely blank at first, and she worked hard to keep it that way. Her emotions and mind still felt frozen, unable to process the information overload. Alexis had been a close second. Very good, but not what she’d been hoping for. You see, she had been hoping to win. She dipped her head to her parents and left, only allowing the tears to stream down her cheeks when she was out of sight.

. . .

She hid in her room and cried. She didn’t know what was going to happen to her now. Her life was surely over. Everything was over. She could never…

“Alexis,” her brother Lincoln said, the door slowly opening.

“Go away.”

“Alexis, listen. The girl who won chose not to accept. That means you won.”

Alexis’s whole world brightened. Then she remembered the second task. She was nervous, but any place it sent her would be better than here. So she got up, wiped her eyes as best she could and walked to the field.

It was all a blur, really. Flashes of do you accept and I do and very well and things like that. But everything slowed down when they read out the second task.

“Your second task is to go into the Afterthen and save it. You must survive and come home to win the Sapphire Crown.”

“Wha-What is the Afterthen?” Alexis asked nervously. 

“The Afterthen is a land very near here that is stuck in a time warp. It is under the rule of tyrannical people who use time all wrong.” This was interesting. She was supposed to save a whole land from evil rulers and time itself? Great. A portal appeared next to the stage. “Are you ready to go now? Simply step through the portal and then you will be in the Afterthen.”

Alexis stepped through the portal before she had time to think better of it.

Chapter 3 – The Beach of Shoes

The first thing she saw in the Afterthen was a beach covered in shoes. Something in the sand was pulling her shoes off, and she felt a strange urge to be barefoot. But she resisted. She liked her shoes. Besides, there was no point in going into a dangerous land without shoes on her feet. Once she pulled away, the sand moved in another direction. Since she had nowhere else to go, she followed the wave of wet sand. As she walked further and further down the beach, she saw a figure moving in place. Closer now. It was a girl. Her eyes were wide with fear and she was running or at least was trying to. Her body repeated the same motions again and again, but didn’t move forward or backward.

Alexis inspected her closely. The air around her was purplish and moved around slowly, like fog. Alexis stuck her hand in the fog. It suddenly moved very slowly, but she was able to grab the girl’s hand and pull her out so she collapsed, breathless, on the ground.

“Who are you?” Alexis asked.

“I’m Hailee. Sunflower sent me to the Afterthen on a quest to save it, but I got stuck in this time warp.”

“I didn’t know anyone from Sunflower who has been sent to the Afterthen.” Alexis said. But maybe…

“I heard a girl fifty years ago got sent to another place in her second stage and never came back. Maybe that’s what’ll happen to you once you get to your second stage,” her brother had once joked to her.

“Hailee. Listen, I think you are from fifty years ago.”

“That’s possible.” Hailee said.
“Do you know anything about the Afterthen?”

“Well, I don’t know a lot, but this is what I do know. A long time ago, Sunflower was part of the Afterthen. Sunflower, which hasn’t changed much since then, acted as a safe refuge to lost travelers and anyone who happened to be in the extension of the time warp, really. Now, the leaders of the Afterthen didn’t like this, because they want as much time as they need while the rest of the land gets nothing. So they stole the time from Sunflower. They threatened to fast forward everyone in the town to their deaths if Sunflower did not break away. Sunflower, of course, agreed, so a powerful magician turned the town into an island and sent it away, and, well, that’s how we ended up where we are.”

“Wow. I caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa…” Alexis began, but then gasped as if the air was sucked out of her when really it was the time and felt herself slipping into a time warp.

“GO! RUN! QUICKLY!” Hailee screamed.

They ran as fast as they could during the breaks in the time warp, but had to go slowly during the moments that it was in effect.  Now, you will be noticing this more and more in the story, so let me explain what is actually happening to these girls. You see, the time was moving from the area where they were to some other poor place where everyone would find themselves with too much time. It would pile up all around the people, and when they hit the piles time would slow down or speed up. People would be constantly teleporting from time period to time period, but I’m getting off topic. I think I know this story too well.

Moving on. With no other place to go, Alexis and Hailee dove into the ocean. Then the surface disappeared, and suddenly Alexis was drowning, but what did she feel beneath her feet, that grainy substance. Sand.

“What just happened?” Alexis panted.

“Well, that was the Ocean of Time. It just tried to rob us. We’re out now though, but we better get out fast, because it’s sure to be furious at us.”

“But why would it try to rob us?” Alexis was forced to scream this because the tide was loud and angry.

“Because the Afterthen used time frivolously and wasted it all somehow. However, that was a long, long time ago. These days, they rob it from whoever is around.” The ocean started pulling at Alexis’ feet and she felt so relaxed like she had all the time in the world. Some part of her knew this was bad, but the ocean seemed so kind and welcoming.  She snapped out of her trance soon enough, though, most likely because Hailee pulled her away, and the world around them morphed into a field of flowers and field mice.

“This is the Field of Mice,” Hailee observed from a small leather notebook she took out of her frilly skirt pocket.

Chapter 4 – Eye of the Hurricane

Alexis raised her eyebrows at the name. Hailee gave her a look.

“The people in the Afterthen are too busy wasting time to be creative about names. Besides, it’s not like it matters, as long as we will be relatively safe here, which we will be,” she reminded Alexis. Alexis had to agree. They kept walking.

After a few hours, they became hungry and tired so they stopped for a break. Alexis crafted bowls and cups out of earth. Hailee snapped her fingers, and suddenly rain came pouring down, filling the dishes with cold, clean water. 

“Impressive,” Alexis remarked.

“Yeah, I can control the weather,” Hailee said with a proud look on her face that she was having a terrible time hiding. Alexis dumped the water out of the bowls and grabbed Hailee’s hand. 

“Come on,” she said, grinning, “I know some edible flowers that make a delicious salad.” The girls hunted for daylilies for about half an hour. When they came back, their hands and pockets were stuffed with enough petals to give each girl several helpings of salad (not to mention what they had eaten while walking). They filled their bowls with pale pink and yellow blossoms and had a good meal, leaving them refreshed and ready to continue the journey ahead of them. Alexis buried the dishes, so no one would know the girls had been there.

The Field of Mice went on for what seemed like forever. When the sun began to set, the pair slept under the stars, the soft grass and daisies cushioning them, the traces of the daylilies still in their mouths.

They slept until 11:00 the next morning, and they were still so tired they would have slept for longer, but Alexis spotted the end of the Field of Mice a mile away. Normally, this would be hard to notice since it was so far, but as you know, this field is very colorful and very green, and what came after it looked black and burnt, so the contrast made it easy to see. She tapped Hailee’s shoulder to wake her up.

“I guess we’ve reached the end of the Field of Mice,” Hailee said.

“Do you know what that black place is?” Alexis asked.

“No, not yet.”

“What do you mean, not yet?”

“Here, I’ll show you,” Hailee responded, taking the rough leather notebook out of her pocket again. “This is how the notebook works. It is an enchanted item that Sunflower handed out to visitors before they left the Afterthen. They gave me one before my quest. I imagine they’re all gone now, after fifty years. Anyway. Basically, when I am in a certain place in the Afterthen, the notebook will show me the name of where I am, along with a short description and the appropriate warnings for wherever I am. So I can’t see what that place is until we are actually there.”

“Useful. But we should keep moving,” Alexis observed.

And that is what they did. Hailee put the notebook back into her skirt pocket, which was so frilly and poofy that no one would notice if you put an elephant into it. That mile was a boring mile, well, as boring as something could be when there was so much dread in the air. Because of this dread, Alexis was looking for something to distract her. Her wandering eyes stopped on Hailee’s bare feet.

“Was the reason you got stuck in the time warp the fact that you have no shoes?” Alexis asked. “After all, I didn’t get stuck in one, and I have shoes.”

“Well, it was probably just luck,” Hailee contradicted her. “Time in the Afterthen is random. You can’t expect it to have any kind of rhyme or reason. On the other hand, you might be partly right. People who fall for tricks are more likely to end up in dilemmas.”

“So?” Alexis said skeptically, not getting the point.

So, it’s partly my bad luck and partly my idiocy.”

“Interesting conclusion.”

The girls kept walking, forgetting the strange conversation in their dread. As they drew closer to the black place, the flowers became less common and the grass thinned out, until they were on a near-scorched field.

You may have guessed by now. They had reached the black place.

Chapter 5 – STAY AWAY

Hailee opened her notebook, but it was empty. She gasped. However, in a few seconds, words slowly appeared across the page. They were large and hastily written, as if scrawled by someone in a hurry. It wasn’t difficult to read though. Alexis could clearly see the message:

STAY AWAY

“This isn’t a good sign,” Hailee whispered in her shock. A shady figure stepped out from behind a cliff. He wore old timey detective clothes and was evidently from a time portal somewhere nearby. He took a small dagger from his pocket. And threw it directly at Alexis.

. . .

Luckily, Alexis blocked it with a wall of sparkling emeralds.

“You’ve got taste,” Hailee observed.

Alexis viewed her work with satisfaction. She peeked out. She noticed that the man was gone. She also noticed that instead of one dagger stuck in the wall of emeralds, there were at least a dozen. Whoever that man was, he was someone to watch out for. Despite the safety of expensive and glittery shields.

They stayed cautious as they walked through the almost never ending black place. They didn’t encounter many dangers, which was suspicious. It didn’t last forever, though. Within a few hours, they spotted an army of redcoats marching towards them, wielding muskets and bayonets. Eventually the tense march turned into an all-out battle, with Alexis tossing men into the air and Hailee striking down entire regiments with lightning bolts. More kept appearing. It was an impossible fight.

The girls ducked into an alley. They had a minute or so before there was the sound of footsteps behind them. But not thousands of footsteps. Just one person. It was a medieval knight. Then suddenly it transformed into a boy. His eyes constantly changed color and his clothes seemed to change styles every second.

“My name is Jack. I can get you out of here.” The boy promptly transformed into a redcoat.

“How did you do that?” Alexis asked suspiciously.

“There isn’t time to explain. Now, come on. You’ll have no trouble at all getting through them now.” With that, Jack tapped both of the girls and transformed them into soldiers. They would have protested, but an officer’s fancy shoes were heading toward the alley.

They blended in easily with the redcoats. Eventually, the army turned and started heading back in the direction of the Field of Mice. Alexis assumed that they were continuing the patrol. The trio broke off from patrol and transformed back into themselves again.

“I’ve been traveling around the Afterthen since I was little. I’ve never gotten this far. How did you do it?” Jack said.

“I guess we just got lucky,” Hailee said, shrugging.

“What’s that in the distance?” Alexis asked.

There was a field similar to the Field of Mice. It had no time portals and looked safe. Except for one thing. There was a golden palace, guarded by tiny camo dots.

“The palace of the rulers. Once you get inside, they’re quite vulnerable. And we can deal with the guards.”

Alexis simply could not believe it. She was nearing the end of her quest. All they needed to do was get past the guards and lock the rulers in some remote dungeon. Everything suddenly came together. The rulers used time wrong. If they were stripped of their power the armies from history would disappear. Perhaps one of the Sunflower rulers could take the throne. 

Despite the excitement, the journey took weeks of hard traveling. They ate dried petals that were leftover from before the black place. Eventually though, they reached the golden palace – and its army.

Chapter 6 – The False Victory

Jack had been right, the camo troops were easy to fight. They weren’t endless, like the redcoats. They easily broke into the palace. The halls were lined with paintings of the various “attractions” of the nearby areas. Gold suits of armor made loud noises as they walked past.

The palace seemed endless. Alexis’s feet ached terribly from the long journey they were so close to finishing. Hailee, who was barefoot, had to walk on the fancy red carpet to keep her feet from unbearable pain. After half an hour, a set of double doors labeled “THRONE ROOM” came into sight. They were so close!!!

. . .

Ten minutes later they opened the door. The rulers were eating lunch at a table to the left of the three intricately carved thrones. They didn’t notice the trio.

Alexis readied chains of hard earth. Hailee had a lightning bolt in each hand. They were about to throw them when suddenly they were blasted into the air.

Alexis couldn’t move. Couldn’t move at all. An endless void opened up beneath her. Couldn’t hear much either, except for a laugh. She searched desperately for the source of the laugh. She knew whoever laughed had thwarted their plans somehow, and stopped two powerful enchanters. Then she found the face. Jack’s.

“You really thought you could stop us?” Jack asked in that same tone he had used before the redcoats. “The rulers were notified by that detective that you were trying to stop us. He never misses anything. They sent me to stop you two from ruining our time warp here. Since I have proven satisfactory, I will become the new ruler of the Afterthen. And you? Well, you had better enjoy living in the void.”

THE END

Aunt Marge’s dream

I blew up 

I flew by 

My body felt like it was slowly getting lighter as I floated into the sky 

I felt myself getting higher as I screamed and shouted 

I decided to enjoy this moment when I looked into the sky 

I felt birds in their world spreading their wings flying by

It was a VIP room rented just for me 

In a world I saw, only something I could see 

But what if I deflated?

What if I burst?

It would feel never-ending and a worse discovery than the first 

My heart would fall never-ending 

The weight upon my shoulders 

As I heaved myself off the couch it would still feel like the same boulders 

A Day of Inspiration

A normal day, a nature hike

I grab those shoes I really like

And stroll on down the wooded trail

But then I hear a child yell

I look and see a big old fight

He stomps, the noise echoes through the night

I kick a pinecone, ignoring them

And look at the leaves, the flowers, the berries, but then

Somehow they reach a compromise

That parent must be really wise

I head back home, play with some slime

But oh my gosh! Look at the time!

I have to do my online work

Though I really just want to read a book

I turn on my lamp, head to my desk

And find some room among the mess

Then type and type, think and think

My patience finally reaching its brink

I shut the computer, text the guys

And think about that compromise

The child wanted to follow their dreams

At first the parent thought that seemed 

Silly, but eventually agreed

Everyone should voice what they need

I want to do something else

Not put my dreams up on a shelf!

I open my computer and type

And though it takes much grim and gripe

I’m now a published author, yes

And though I may not be the best

I’m doing what I love to do

It worked for me, and it will for you.

Ultraviolet & Infrared

Ultraviolet 

Ultraviolet,

Is so violent,

That I well can see,

Why it’s meant to be:

To burn and harm,

And scorch my arm,

In its bright, bright, light.

Infrared

Infrared,

Is a dread,

Because it’s invisible,

And I wish it were visible,

But there are reasons,

Like the seasons,

Why it shouldn’t be seen,

Because its gleam (A bright red beam),

Is too bright for us to handle.

The Moon

Chapter 1: Spell of the Moon

I was walking at night next to the lake, like every night, but this time, something caught my eye. I just could not stop looking at the reflection of the moon in the lake. I slowly looked up and there it was. The moon was just too beautiful. It was calling to me. It caught me by surprise. I have heard this before, the moon, the beautiful, full moon is dangerous. I wanted to run away, but the other part of me was caught with the spell of the moon.

The spell of the moon was impossible to get out of. Looked like I was stuck forever. I could not call because I could not speak. I could not run because I could not move, and everything I tried to do would just give my energy to the moon. All I could do was glare at the reflection that was sucking me in, better yet, sucking my soul.

I glared and glared until I had no choice but to walk inside that very lake my great-grandmother stepped into, never to be seen again. The only thing passed on from her was her story, the story that was told to my grandmother, my mother, and me. I was supposed to tell it to my kids when I got older (since I was only 11), but now it was too late. I stepped into the lake and did not look back. I looked to the moon, and the moon looked back at me. Straight from my heart was my soul, up into the sky. Flying and laughing, right into the moon. What was done, was done, and what was taken, was taken. My soul was taken, and there was nothing I could do about it. Except that there was something wrong. My soul had too much passion than it was supposed to when taken from the moon. Instead of disappearing like my great-grandmother, I stayed staring at the moon. My mother came outside, and she knew what was happening. Before she could say anything, my body felt weird. After a few seconds, I had realized I was now a part of it, I had turned into water. My brown short hair floated until it perished into the wind.

Chapter 2: 1860

I opened my eyes and I was in a house.

“Are you okay?” said a lady.

“Ahhh! How am I alive!”

“Excuse me? I am sorry to startle you, my name is Mary Wilieson, what is yours?”

“Uhh, Luisa Wilson. Hahaha, My great great great grandmother was named Mary Wilieson.”

“Really? Dear, I think you hurt your head. There is only one Willieson in the 1860s.” She smiled.

“Yeah…  wait, 1860s!!!”

“You should get some rest, we will call you for supper,” she suggested. The nice, sweet lady stepped out of the room. Then it hit me. That was my great-great-great-grandmother! Back then, we were called the Wiliesons because it was “cool.” My great-grandmother changed it so it could be easy to say. I wanted to let her know what happened, but I could not let her know that she was my great great great grandmother. 

I stayed up in the room, making up a plan to escape (also wondering why I had 1860 clothes on). After a little while, I felt at home in that room. Even though it was dusty and old, the shape, size, and placement of things felt so familiar, but nothing could distract me. 

“It’s supper!!” 

Except for that. I was starving. I ran downstairs. 

“Sorry if my husband woke you.” She smiled

“No, it’s alright, I was already waking up anyway.” 

All the faces of their kids looked familiar from photos and albums.

“Try this, dear,” Mary said, putting food on my plate

“Mhhhhh, cheesy mashed potatoes with secret olives and a hint of paprika, old family recipe.” They all looked at me funny.

“What are you talking about? I just made this up.” 

“This present and past stuff is confusing.” That was what I wanted to say, but instead, I said, “That’s what I see, at least. Hee hee.” 

“You have a good eye, dear.” 

We ate and ate, and while we were eating, it felt like my family was with me. They were! We were in my house! That was why it looked familiar. Without making a mistake with my manners, I told them. “What a nice house you have, really feels like home.” 

“I am glad you like it, dear, we built it a few years ago to raise our family.” She smiled. She was also right, and after that, the Wilsons or Wiliesons were raised in the same house. I smiled back at her.

“Hey, you want to ride around with me and my horse?” said my great-great-uncle. 

“Nuh-uh, Pablo. She’s playing dolls with me,”  said my great-great-grandmother, Mila. What should I do? Play with Grandma Mila, or ride with Uncle Pablo?

“Don’t worry, Tio Pablo, we can go later, let the little ones first.” I smiled. 

“Tio Pablo?” he asked me.

“Pablo, sorry, going a little bonkers.” 

“Bonkers?” he asked again. Isn’t anything I say right!?

“Uh, meet you around 2:30, okay?” I said, pushing my grandma Mila to her room.

“How did you know this is my room?” she asked when we got there.

“You carved your initials right here,” I said, moving and pointing behind the bed. The only thing was it was not there yet!

“I don’t see anything, but good idea.” 

So close!  I knew she had initials carved because her room is my and my little brother’s room in the future. When my sister, Carmen, went to college, I upgraded to Carmen’s room, and now Grandma Mila’s room is my little brother’s room. I know, it’s confusing.

After a while, Pablo showed up with his horse (Pablo Junior) from the window. I hopped on the horse’s beautiful, light brown back, and we went through the town. Our house was pretty far away from the town but it was beautiful. 

“You know, Luisa, you are really pretty, and I am impressed by what you did at the dinner table.”

“Uh, thank you. Hey, that really looks like Time Square! I mean, look at those billboards.” I pointed.

“Where? That’s a cafe, You alright?”

“Yeah, just… ”

“Um, okay, well, I am reading these cowboy books that are cool.” I gave him a kiss on the cheek for being so charming. 

“Uhhh, well you wanna… wanna see the park?”

“Sure.” Then I snapped out of it, I can’t “like” my great-great-uncle! The worst thing happened next, Pablo galloped his horse in front of a beautiful sunset. He gave me a kiss on the cheek.

“Weird, it’s like, kissing my little sister.”

“I am sorry, Tio Pablo!” I hugged him, got off the horse, and ran. Ran like the wind. I ran so fast that my leg disappeared. Then arm!

“What’s happening?!” I tried dragging myself across the floor before Pablo looked for me. Suddenly, my other arm disappeared. Trying to get up with one leg, I saw I had none. I had no head, no spine, no anything. I sank into the ground. 

Chapter 3: Great Grandma’s Soul

When I opened my eyes, I was flying in the air. There she was. My great-grandmother, under the moon spell. Stepping into the lake. I was still invisible and could not feel myself. Before she stepped into the lake, she managed to say,

“I know you’re there, Luisa, but you can’t change the past. This was meant to be. The moon sucking souls is destiny.” She turned her head to look at me, straightly opening her mouth and showing her devil teeth and creepy face that was turning around and around.

“Hahahahaha! Cackle cackle! Hee hee hee!” She turned around and entered the lake. That was not my grandmother.

“You are really smart, Luisa.”

“Ahhh!” It was the little devil that was making the creepy faces.

“Let’s see how powerful and smart you are after this.” He moved his tiny hands around. There was the picture of my grandmother, looking at great-grandma disappearing in the air. 

“Mommy!” she yelled. 

A tear came down my face. After, there was Grandma telling the story to my mom. Now, it was Tio Pablo and me. Playing dolls with Grandma Mila. Eating with my family, past and present. My family looking up at the moon. Rain falling, houses on fire. Creating the lake, the same lake that helped the moon take my soul from me. A garden that children played in. Grandma Mila’s soul was being taken, little by little. Until falling in love. It was all so confusing and painful. 

Then there was me. Me under the spell, the horrible spell. I touched my face like a porcelain doll. 

“Cold,” Past Me whispered softly, trying to put her hand on her cheek. Terrified, I removed my hand from Past Me’s cheek. All these moments, horrible, beautiful, loving, painful moments.

“ENOUGH!!!” I screamed, wiping out my tears. “I get it, I have had sad moments, happy moments, any moment, and will never have them again. Just do what you have to do. You can’t make me travel back in time  and make me suffer, I will ruin the timeline and… I don’t know, I like it how it is.”

“Whoa whoa whoa, who said anything about that? There was something out of control with your soul but now it is back in our order. It would be fun to mess around with you but that was not the moon’s order.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Look, we can’t talk here, let’s deal with it in the moooooooon… ” the little devil said, kicking me to the moon.

Chapter 4: A Trip to the Moon

“Ahhhhhh!!” Ouch, I am still sore from that bump. The kick was so hard, I passed right through some guards and right into the hall. Say what you want about the nasty moon, he was beautiful. Before the guards chased me, I quickly went deeper inside. The moon was like a type of castle. All the paintings of relatives and flags of moons. It looked so magical. Most of it was blue, my favorite color! It was like a museum! I adored museums. I kept walking through the shiny patterned hallways. I found a pen under the big, long, blue carpet, that had a pattern like the carpet from my favorite movie, Aladin. I drew a mustache on a painting nearby. I suddenly heard some voices and quickly hid behind a pole, putting the pen in my pocket.

“She does not deserve to be here!” 

“I was just doing my nightly stroll, that’s all.” 

“Silence! If your mother told you the story, you should not have been walking around me at night.”

“What-cha-doing?” I looked slowly next to me. It was that creepy little devil! He smiled at me, showing his not surprisingly sharp teeth.

“Ahhhhhh!!!!” My scream made silence for everyone around me. The little devil’s smile grew bigger and grabbed me by the arm. His hand burned me, like friction between 

ice and lava. He pushed me forward and left a rash on my arm. It was the only thing I could feel. Then I realized who was talking. It was my real great grandmother’s soul. She was arguing with the moon himself! There was this other girl there, she looked a lot like me. I think that’s because she is me. That’s my soul the moon stole! My grandma and I turned around. 

“Oh no,” whispered my grandma. The moon had a smirk on his face.

“Bow to me!” he laughed.

“I’m good,” I replied. The little devil, great Grandma Stephi, and the moon were shocked by my answer. 

“Up top,” said my soul, putting her hand up. I was about to high-five her but great Grandma Stephi interrupted. 

“NO! You may not touch.” 

“Why not?” we both asked. 

“You don’t want to know.” 

“Silence! Let’s not talk about that, what I do want to know is who you think you are for responding in a horrible way!?!” said the moon.

“I think I know, and I am Luisa Wilson. You took my soul, and you thought you took my power and passion, but they are still in me. I am not afraid of you, I am not afraid of your little devils, and however many guards you put up in front of me, I will not be afraid. These slaves of yours deserve much more. These souls should not be here. You can scare and overpower anyone you want, but you won’t be able to do that to me. So you better be careful.” 

There was a silence until…

“You go girl! I just realized how smart I am, how smart we are.”

“Haha.”

“She is right! I will not be afraid of you anymore!” said the little devil.

“Leroy, do you know how I know how your father died? Do you know who poured lion blood and covered him in tiger skin? Do you know who has leftover blood and skin? Do you know who can kill you as well? Do you know who killed your father?” I heard all that and felt so bad for the little devil.

“Sorry, Luisa, I have no choice.” He bowed to the moon. 

“Little devil,” I whispered. 

“Come on, I believe in you, you were awesome on the tellie with great-great-great-Grandma Mary. You were awesome just now, do something to that moon,” said my soul, she hugged me. I hugged her back. We let go and touched hands. 

“I believe in you.” She faded away. Was that the last of my soul? Would I be without one forever?

Then I started to feel queasy. I blacked out, but from the story, I believe this is what happened. I turned half-human, but one half of me was missing, and now with my soul, I can’t breathe on the moon. My great grandmother’s soul carried me down to the lake, where I believe I turned into water. When I woke up, I got out of the lake full human. I saw Grandma’s soul go up to the moon.

“Grandma!” 

She quickly flew to me.

“Where is it I need to go!” I touched her. So her soul combined with me.

“No! It’s to… ”

Now I was full Human plus my grandma’s soul. I was able to fly and breathe on the moon. I felt a little weird but it would be worth it. I went up to the moon. I sneaked up to his lair, which I realized was there secretly behind his throne. I took all his materials and poured them on him.

Chapter 5: Cheese Moon

“What are you doing?!” he asked. Nothing had happened to him. Suddenly, everyone was chasing me. I hid behind a painting for a while, thinking what to do next. Suddenly, a flash of light came behind the painting. Someone discovered me! 

“Little devil, Leroy! I am so sorry what happened to your father but please don’t hurt me!”

“Don’t worry, I am here to help you, quick, before they see you.”

“Leroy, do you know what the moon’s weakness is?”

“I don’t know, he gets feisty when people say he is made out of cheese.”

“That will have to do. How do you get cheese around here?” 

“Urgh, there is this special pen, you have to draw and it will come to life. They are so rare, there are only two in the castle, one’s with the moon and the other was lost. Everyone looked but… ” Before he finished his sentence, I took that pen from my pocket and looked at it.

“That’s the one! How did you find it?!” His voice echoed through the hallways. Everyone rushed over to see what was happening. I quickly drew a man with a rare collectible card that my little brother had and hid behind the painting.

“What is it? Did you find the girl?!” yelled the moon from across the hall. 

“No, but I did find this card! It is a… ” 

“Rare collectible,” I whispered to him.

“Rare collectible!” he repeated. 

“I am a… ” 

“Trying to trade it,” I whispered again.

“Trying to trade it! With this guard.” Leroy smiled

“Okay, do your… thing quickly, we need to find that girl!” he said, waving his arms around. Then I remembered a TV show I would watch when I was little. Cheese moon! I drew the cheese moon character with his long legs, pink cheeks, cheesy holes, and cute little blue hat on top. We looked for the moon everywhere. The kitchen, his room, the lab, everywhere he might be looking for me. How ironic, we were both looking for each other. The evil soul-stealing moon, and the innocent little girl who wanted her soul back. We kept looking.

“Did you ask us to split up?” Leroy asked. 

“No, why?” 

“I think cheese moon had his own opinion,” Leroy said, pointing where cheese moon was standing.

“Oh great, now we are looking for two moons!”

“Cheese moon!” we called. We entered the throne room and finally found him talking to the moon.

“What is the meaning of this? Who are you?” said the real moon. 

“My name is cheese moon, nice to meet you, friend!” 

“Cheese moon?! Hey, little girl, do you have something to do with this?” the moon asked, as he saw me approach.

“Don’t be mad, little friend, I see you are wearing my costume, you must be a fan! Let me sing the cheese moon song to cheer you up. 

Guess who’s made out of cheese, the moon’s made out of cheese! You want a piece of cheese? All you have to do is say please. To get a bit of cheeeeese, all you gotta do is take a piece of me! Cheese moon cheese moon! Hope you like my tune! Hey!” 

The moon squinted a lot with one eye. He was not okay. He turned as red as a shiny apple and as hot as a jalapeno. He looked like he was going to explode. 

“Aaahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!! I want to rip your hair apart and break every bone in your body until people stuff fish inside your ears and bury you alive!” Yep, he was totally not okay.

“Whoa, whoa, friend, here, have a piece of cheese,” said cheese moon, breaking a part of himself. The moon squinted some more until slapped the piece of cheese out of cheese moon’s hand. Cheese moon looked disappointed and disappeared into the wind. 

“You! You did this, haha, it did not work. I will finish you off, and Leroy! You were helping her? I got someth… ” He could not finish his sentence. His mouth was as shut as a clamshell.

“Mr. moon?” I asked. He looked at his hands that were wobbling. After a few seconds, the real moon disintegrated.  Leroy looked at me with a stare.

Chapter 6: Dreaming?

I woke up in my bed and wondered if it was all a dream. I walked around my room and it was all normal. Grandma Mila’s initials were behind the bed. 

I guess it was just a weird dream, I thought. Then there was a weird glow coming from out of my window. When I opened my eyes, there was an angel in my room! 

“Aaaahhh!” 

“Why the scream?” the angel asked. It was a familiar voice, but much lighter and softer. “Don’t you remember? It’s me, Leroy.” 

“Leroy?” I could not believe what he was telling me. I looked at him with my mouth opened wide.

“Yep, that’s me! After defeating the moon, they turned me into an angel.” He smiled with his perfect, normal, shiny, non-devil teeth.

“Leroy! It is you!” I hugged him.

“Wait, did you say, ‘Defeat the moon?’” I said, surprised. 

“Of course, do you not remember anything?” he asked me. 

“Not really, so it was not a dream?” 

“What?” 

“How about great-Grandma?”

“I suggest you go downstairs.”

I rushed downstairs. There she was! 

“Great-Grandma!!” 

“Hi, Luisa!” Leroy came downstairs and smiled. 

“Well, I better get going.”

“No, Leroy, stay here, join us for breakfast.” 

“Um, okay.”

“Mom, Grandma, Great-Grandma, Felix (my little brother), this is Leroy.”

“We know who Leroy is. Don’t you remember the dinner we had with him yesterday?” said my mother. 

“Huh?”

“It’s alright, you have been through a lot. Let’s eat.” 

We ate breakfast, and my big sister Carmen visited from college. We all had a good time. I am still curious to know what happened after the moon was defeated. Half of me is scared that during my time of being water, I worked for the moon. What scares me the most about that, I could still be under his power.     

To be continued…

Masks

As I look out the window

The tall buildings and green trees 

I see people walking by, talking on the phone

And some smiling

So I smile Back

Even if they can’t see me 

I know that they know, someone will smile back

And that makes me smile

And when I smile under the mask

I know that someone in the world, someone 

By their window 

Smiling

Maybe they are smiling because they got a gift

Or because they get to spend time with people

Whatever the reason is that they are smiling 

It will make me smile

Even if they are across the world

Most of the time when people are smiling under their mask

Their eyes slightly squint

And if you are walking down the street

Or look into the window 

Smile back

You can smile in many different ways

Some people say that you can’t smile with the mask on

But 

You can smile by saying hi

Or waving

Or doing something kind

Yes

Smiling is with your mouth

But it also has other definitions