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

A Pawtograph Problem in Paris

One sunny spring morning I was rushing to work. I had lots of work to do. Oops, I forgot to introduce myself! My name is Dancy the Dogetective. Now where was I? Ah, I remember, I work in the Department of Dogetectives. It was a typical work day. As I was working, my sister came in at lightning speed on her electric scooter!

“Pancy,” I said. “How many times have I told you to not ride your scooter in my office!” 

“Sorry!” she said sheepishly. Right then, my up to no good cousin barged in.

 “What up peeps?” she asked. Before I could scream anything, she stuffed my mouth with chicken.

Oh, chicken! My favorite, I thought, then I gulped it in one bite. Just then I realized that it had peanuts from the taste. Oh, no, peanuts! I always get a tummy ache when I eat peanuts. For some reason, my cousin doesn’t like me.” 

“I NEED THE BATHROOM!” I shrieked.

My whole team looked at me.

 “Oops, sorry Dancy-pants,” my cousin snickered. 

 “I WILL GET YOU FOR THIS!” I shrieked.

I ran to the bathroom. After the bathroom, I ran to strangle my cousin, but my sister stopped me!

“Stop acting like babies, split up!” she said. 

“Wow, nice going sis, thanks!” I said. 

“You’re welcome,” she said proudly.

”Hmf,” said my cousin. Then I heard a little knock on the door.

”Come in,” I said. Just then I realized my little niece was standing outside the door.

“Hi auntie!” She ran to hug me. 

“Oh, my little niece Fancy.” Not to brag but my niece is the sweetest, most honest little dog in the whole wide world.

”Oh, Dancy, I forgot to tell you that I have a holiday for one week!” my sister Pancy said. 

 “Oh, me too,” said my little niece. Suddenly my cousin’s grumpy face turns into a sly grin. 

”I think that our cousin is up to something,” Pancy said.

”Isn’t it obvious?” I asked.

“Well, I guess.” Pancy said. 

“Oh, sis, you never say yes or no,” I said as I burst out laughing.

“Well, yeah, I guess,” she said as she burst out laughing too.   

“Auntie, can we go to Paris?” Fancy said. 

“If I can book tickets, then yes,” I replied.                                

After our talk I realized that it was night, so I told my team to go home and my family went home too. The next morning I got a call from one of my best friends. I was shocked at what he had to say!

“We are going to Paris!” I shouted into my family’s room. We started to pack as soon as we finished breakfast. After 20 minutes, we were at the airport.

”Come on!” shouted my sister. After a maze of people we reached our airplane and boarded. On our flight, I was so excited I couldn’t stay still! 

Finally, after a long flight, my cousin said, ”I am famished! I’m so hungry!” 

“Oh, we can get a pawtogragh of a famous author.” I said. “Want to go?”

”Let’s go,” said my sis.     

“It’s on 76th street,” I said. We walked down the road to 76th street, and were finally there. But the author wasn’t there! There was a crowd like swarming bees around honey. 

“What a mystery,” I said. 

“Let’s look for clues,” my sis said. 

Me and my sister looked for clues while my niece and cousin asked people where they saw the author last. We were looking for footprints and other kinds of helping clues. 

“Oh, come here,” my sister said, “I think I found something!” 

“What did you find?” I asked. 

In reply, she said, “I found some coins. I think our famous author got dognapped!”

“I think so too,” I agreed.

“Wow, look, I found more coins! It’s a trail of coins! Maybe if we follow them, it’ll lead to footprints or other clues!”

 “Okay, ”I replied. And, as always, my sister was right. This time our clue was footprints! They led to a big hotel. Its name was the Ritz. The Ritz was one of the fanciest hotels.

”Hey, I know our famous author’s name. Let’s ask if someone saw him!” I said. 

“Okay,” Pancy said. So we went to ask the hotel manager. 

He said he hadn’t seen the author, but I saw a fearful look on his face and beads of sweat on his forehead.

”He is lying,” I told my family. They believed me, so we went to every floor and checked every door. Finally, on the fourth floor, in the 159th room, we finally found the dognapper. We knocked on the door, but the door had been left unlocked. Then, in front of our very eyes, was the one and only author.

 “We found her!” exclaimed Dancy. She was tied up and had a handkerchief in her mouth so she couldn’t scream.

 “Help!” she said, in a muffled scream. Quickly, Pancy ran to untie the handkerchief. I got a knife from the drawers and went to cut the ropes. 

“Thank you,” our author said. 

“You’re welcome,” we said, proudly.

THE END.

The Nuclear Death: Part 2

Chief Larry was finding a way to capture S.H. They changed the location of S.H., which used to be in Nevada, but Chief Larry had a plan. Of course, he was still sad about the director of D.N.S. dying, but right now he had to focus on how to find S.H. He was going to send some spies to get hired at S.H., but they still had to find the location. Chief Larry, or, should I say, Director Larry, used satellite connection to find the exact location of S.H. It was in a cave in Argentina, in Buenos Aires. So, Director Larry, along with five unidentified spies, went to Buenos Aires. They took a private jet. It had gourmet food, and the bathroom was so big, someone could sleep in it. Director Larry did sleep in the bathroom, because the bedroom was worse than the bathroom. Once they arrived in Buenos Aires, they settled at Argentina’s best hotel. They also had a D.N.S. in Buenos Aires. The hotel was in D.N.S. 

The Argentinian director of that D.N.S. was so happy to see Director Larry. Director Larry was the boss of all the D.N.S., because it was in the U.S.A, which is where it had started. The Argentinian director’s name was Pedro, Director Pedro. Luckily, all of the D.N.S. directors spoke English. They looked at the satellite connection again. S.H. was 5 miles away. Director Larry, along with his and Pedro’s spies, went to the cave. They traveled in  a car. Once they got there, Director Larry told the spies to disguise themselves in regular clothes so S.H. would hire them. Director Larry also said that they would stay in S.H. for one week, undercover. 

In S.H., a spy named Clinton was writing down information in his notebook. He found out that S.H. was going to set off a nuclear bomb in the D.N.S. facility in Argentina. Clinton had a walkie-talkie to talk with Director Pedro and Director Larry. Clinton told them everything. Clinton’s role was to spy on D.N.S. and find out what they were up to. But don’t forget: Clinton was an undercover agent for D.N.S. When Clinton’s time was up, he went back to D.N.S. Clinton told them everything, from the beginning to the end. Clinton found out that they were going to set off the bomb on Friday. That day was Tuesday. Director Pedro and Director Larry called all of the other directors from all over the world. Clinton told them it wasn’t just Argentina: they were going to do all of the facilities, starting with Argentina. They warned all the other facilities and asked them to go on lockdown. Now, S.H. couldn’t steal anything from them. If you’re wondering who’s controlling the facility in the U.S.A, it’s the vice-director. When S.H. arrived at D.N.S., they were super confused. Director Pedro told every facility to send out military forces. S.H. went back to their base. The leader of S.H. told his people to go to America.

Two days later, when they got to America, it was on lockdown again. The only choice they had was to break into the facility, so they did exactly that. They used some rope and attached some sticks to secure the hook. They were through the first level. There were many other levels until they got to the core. The core was where D.N.S. kept all the bombs and built them. The first level was very easy, but they saw many, many guards standing. 

Director Larry got back to the D.N.S. in the U.S.A. When he landed, he heard an alarm. He asked one of his guards what was going on. The guards said that S.H. was trying to break into the facility. The guard also said, 

“We have to keep you safe. They might be trying to assassinate you.” Director Larry went inside a large, most secure vault, located in the core. It seemed like S.H. wanted to blow up the core, but if they wanted to do that, wouldn’t that mean they would die, too? Maybe they would steal all the bombs and then use them to destroy the world. But once they destroyed the world, they would probably be dead, too.

 Director Larry sat in the vault and watched some TV. He watched the movie “Moonfall,” to prepare for the end of the world. But then, he heard one of the guards saying something. He said, “we’re going to lift up the vault and take you to a different area.” He heard a big thud. The vault was lifting up. The guard said, 

“Most likely, we’re going to take you to New York City to stay at the Plaza Hotel.” Director Larry refused. He wanted to stay in the building and fight with his people.

“You have to live,” screamed the guard. 

“If my people die, I will too,” Director Larry said. Just like that, Director Larry opened the vault and jumped out with a parachute. He saw the leader of S.H. standing with a knife. Director Larry kneeled and showed his chest with no fear. The knife touched his heart. 

“Thank you for setting me free,” whispered Larry. He fell down on his side. Every guard kneeled. The leader of S.H. stole the nuke button from Larry and pressed it. D.N.S. and S.H. were destroyed with grace. When the other D.N.S. facilities heard, they pressed the nuke button too. Angels surrounded the body of Larry with respect. Larry rose to heaven with his people. The war was over.

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.

Wishtree

Chapter 1

I dragged my suitcase along the sidewalk. I already knew that magic wasn’t a thing here. Maybe that’s why Mom wanted us to move. Because I was always running off to the wishtree.

The wishtree was something only I knew about. It was the only magic tree – probably ever. Once I was so mad and ran off into the woods. I eventually sat down at a tree. I wished that I could just be happy. Then, I felt a shiver run down my spine. I felt really happy all of a sudden. I ran back home. 

Inside it was cold and dusty. My mom helped me get the blow-up mattress out of my bag. I shivered. I pulled a blanket out And tried to sleep in my dusty old room. Probably full of rats. But I lay down anyway. I stared blankly at the ceiling.

I woke up with a jolt. It was beautiful – the sight of the sunlight and the curtains blowing in the wind. It made the dust shine. I walked into the other room. My Mom handed me a piece of toast and an egg. I sat down at the table with one wobbly chair. “School today.” She said. I sighed. “Honey, I know it’s hard. Moving. But you’ll make friends.”

“Will I?” 

“You will. I promise.”

I arrived at school surrounded by kids screaming out to their friends and pushing through to be the first one there. I thought about going somewhere else, but decided I’d have to face it. I lived here now, and there’s no skipping school with a mom who would ask you about every second of your day. So I walked into the schoolyard and found one class who was obviously bored out of their minds waiting for “the new kid.”

“Okay class! Let’s go inside!” I walked to the back of the line, embarrassed that 24 kids were waiting for me out in the hot sun. The teacher led us into the classroom and everyone sat down. I sat at the empty desk in the back of the class. “Brooklyn, why don’t you come to the front, right here? Calvin, would you go sit in the back?” I grabbed my bag and stumbled to the front of the class. Calvin grumbled and slumped down at his new seat. I did the same. “So, today, we have a new student! Come on up Brooklyn. Brooklyn just moved here from New Jersey! She- er, why don’t you tell us about yourself?” 

The whole class stared at me as I fumbled with my hands. “I– um… I’m Brooklyn and- um… I’m 10.” I looked down at my feet. “I have a dog.” A hand immediately shot up. “Yeah?” I said, nervous about what they would say.

“Me too!” the hand said. Phew. A shy hand slowly went up. “You?”

I held my breath. “Um… what’s it’s-um- name?”  The girl said, obviously as nervous as I was.

“Oh. His name’s Snickers.” I replied with a sigh of relief.

I walked back to my seat. “Sam, would you show Brooklyn around the school? Why don’t you show her where the lunchroom is, and…”

“Sure.” Sam said. Although I didn’t see Sam, I knew she wasn’t too excited about anything. I stood up and so did she, and together we walked down the stairs. “That’s the- um, the cafeteria, and…” She gestured to a room with tables and benches, just like my old school. “That’s th-the music room, and the- the gym.”  I peered into the gym, with two basketball hoops, two soccer goals and an exhausted third-grade class doing jumping jacks. “The science– um, the science room is over here, and that– that’s the aud- auditorium.” Finally, we went back upstairs and the teacher looked at Sam in a, come on, it’s your job even though you don’t like it, way. She led me into the back of the classroom. 

A boy in a seat next to the book bins snickered. “Ooh, Stuttering Sam has a new friend-”

“Shut up, Ted.” Sam replied. “So, this- um, this is the class library, and, um… you can pick out– your book that you’re re– um, that you’ll read.”

At recess, Ted came up to me. “You know, you probably want to tell Ms. Kayla to pair you with somebody else. Nobody likes Sam.” I looked over at Sam who was sitting all alone, drawing in her sketchbook. 

“Go away.”

“Why?”

Sam looked at me. “Because.” Ted had walked away. I sat down next to Sam. 

“Because why?” 

“Because- Why do you- you keep-um- asking why? Nobody likes me. Nobody talks to you- I mean-um- me except you.” 

“Why?” I looked at Sam. “You know, Ted is pretty stupid.” She smiled. It was the first time I saw her smile. 

“Yeah.”

Chapter 2

I opened the door, expecting my mom to be there. But she wasn’t. “Brooklyn! I’m in here!” I took off my backpack and went to my bedroom. I had a real bed! “What do you want for dinner?” I stood there for a second, puzzled why she wasn’t asking me about school.

“Oh, um– whatever. I don’t care.” 

“You okay?” 

“Yeah.”

“Okay, how does macaroni and cheese sound? I wen-”

“Mom, that’s okay. I’m not that hungry anyway.” She walked over and hugged me. “Mom, I’m okay. I just- I’m just tired.”

She looked like she was going to burst.“School– did you meet anybo-”

“Mom! It was fine! I’m fine! Everything– School was fine. Fine!” I felt tears swelling up in my eyes. I knew I couldn’t stop them. So I stood there, in the doorway, crying.
“Honey, come here.”

I stood there. “No!”

I ran out. I needed to get out of this place. I had friends. I had a life and my  mom had to tear me away. If only Joey was here. Or Adrienne, or Amaya. So I ran deep into the woods. The trees made me hope. Hope one had– magic like my wishtree. So I sat down and cried. My mom would never understand.  Never! So I climbed to the top of the tree. I looked at my small city. I smiled. I have no idea why, and I never will. 

The next day at school I sat down at my desk. I looked at Sam. She was doodling on a piece of scrap paper. She handed it to me. It read:

Brooklyn, 

Do you want to be friends? Tell me at recess.

   From, Sam 

   I shoved the paper in my pocket just as the teacher glanced at me. At recess, I went up to her. “Yeah.” I said. “Sure…” I thought about it for a moment. My mom always says, “Friends tell each other.” Would I have to tell her my dad is still in New Jersey? Or about my wishtree? Or, about my friends and old school and everything? But I didn’t really care. “Of course.”

“Really?” 

“Really.”

Chapter 3

I scurried out the door and into the car. We were driving back to New Jersey! Just for a day though. But my Mom said I was having a playdate with Amaya! So first thing on Sunday, I was out the door and buckling my seatbelt, waiting for my mom.  She walked out the door and handed me a piece of toast. 

        “Why are you out here?”

        “I couldn’t wait.” My mom told me to come inside. She said she wanted to talk. When we got inside, she said she was so sorry. She said we couldn’t go. I don’t think she knew how mad I was.

I sat down at my desk (an old one) and started on my homework I didn’t do right. This school does it so differently than my old one. I just didn’t understand this problem. I didn’t understand a lot of things, like how me and Sam just became friends. Or like why we moved. So I did my homework the way I knew because I didn’t know any other way. 

Chapter 4

On Monday, Sam and I were assigned to be partners in reading. We needed to make a poster about our book. We were reading The Penderwicks because I told Miss Kayla about it. We needed to talk about the traits of our favorite character. Sam was writing about Batty and I was writing about Jane. I guess teachers put you with your friend if you don’t know anyone else. I also guess you could call Ted someone I know, but I didn’t want to. 

“Brooklyn, what- what is Batsy’s- Batty’s real name?” Sam whispered to me, her hands red from writing furiously.

“Elizabeth.” I replied, my hands not nearly as red as hers. 

That day was a good day. Tuesdays are the days I dread. P.E., afterschool, and of course loads of homework. Loads.

I ran to the forest and sat down at the wishtree. I wished for a friend and Sam appeared next to me. I wished for a friend again, but nobody else appeared. Sam smiled and I panicked. I woke up in panic, too. It turned out I was dreaming. I was so tired and exhausted that I slumped back down into my bed and fell asleep again to a dream.

I was home. Back home. My mom and dad and my dog Snickers were all there. I ran around until my mom called me in for dinner. I don’t completely remember, but at one point, I was at the wishtree. I was so happy to be there, yet not as happy as I was sitting with Sam on the playground, comforting her. Telling her that Ted was stupid and didn’t – shouldn’t – call her names. I wished to have a good, pure friend I could trust. Amaya came out of the woods. Now, I was happy, but that made me wonder – am I better friends with Sam than Amaya? Than Adrienne? Joey too?

I woke up, tears forming in my eyes. I wiped them aside and looked at the clock. 6:00. I got dressed and started to write in my journal.

Tonight I dreamt of Sam. She is my friend, yet I worry, too good of a friend?

I always write one line, then illustrate it. Today was not the day for drawing. I sat down on my bed. Then, with a sudden jolt of energy, ran to my bookshelf and pulled out, The Lake of Secrets, one of my favorites. It was poetry. I opened it up to her grandma’s favorite, The Only Tree Left.

                            The tree sat in the open field

         Buildings forming around it.

It frowned. 

Then I read more and more and more until my alarm rang at 7:00. My mom was waiting for me at the kitchen table. “Do you want to skip school and go to Amaya’s house?”

“Really?” I frowned. Something was wrong. “Mom, is everything okay?”

“Everything is fine, and do you want to or not?”

“Yeah.” I felt too tired to go back to bed, yet tired enough to sleep again.

“Get in the car. Now.” My mom was obviously not in a good mood. So I got in the car. “Honey, you sure? Ms. Kayla said you made a very good friend, and that she has no other friends…”

“Mom, Amaya is my friend. So is – Sam. But I haven’t seen Amaya in months!” She sighed. 

Later when I woke up in the car, I realized I had a dream. A strange being was telling me that I should not want to go back. That I could still visit my old friends but I should not abandon my new friend. I sat up straight. “Brooklyn, we’re here.”

At Amaya’s house we played secret spies and spied on her sister Annie. “ANNIE!!!” Amaya called out to her sister, then we ran out of the house and Annie had a furious look on her face.

Chapter 5

I was content.

I was happy.

I was amazed.

Sam raised her hand and spoke, something she never did. We shared our poster. We laughed. Ted humiliated himself. It was an amazing week, and I regretted nothing at all. My dad came, moved in and brought Snickers. I was amazed at how I followed the directions of the spirit and I was happy, and just how pure the world seemed. How I could hear the words so clearly. They sounded crisp, like the sharp scent of the rain on a spring morning.

The freshness of the world made me happy.

When my dad came made me content.

And how Sam was so proud and spoke up made me amazed.

On Wednesday, we presented our reading posters, and nobody did as awesome as me and Sam. Nobody could be as good friends, either.

When I visited my old house, the wishtree glowed with enthusiasm.

“Hey!” I said. “Nice to see you again.” I sat down at the wishtree and finally wished for all I would ever need: To always have friends.                

The Fly

CHAPTER 1

“Hurry up, you slowpoke!” Beni cried. He flung his arms in the air and sailed high above to the gust of the warm wind that gave him that hearty boost.

He stared at the sky. The world, these powers, this ability…it almost felt cosmic, how a single step he could take could physically take him down a rabbit hole.

As I squinted in the November moonlight, I recognized Beni’s familiar figure soaring in the sky like a bird. One leap, and I was soaring too.

How could this have happened?  Well, I used to feel like a goner, in those weary, grimey days that sucked the present out of me, and lost me in the past. Those flashes and pops of lightning and thunder tore me away from my family. All I have now is my annoying brother, Beni.

Sweat crawled up my spine as I wove beneath the tall trees.

It’s crazy to fly. It’s like saying it’s the end of the world if your pencil broke in half.

But crazy doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, it’s not.

If you go back a good ten years, my adventure could start. But my past is not my present. My life now, in the present, is awesome. I go out to soar in the fluffy clouds that drift gently by the bright sky. 

Fine, you want the story of my past? You got to be ready. You got to know it.

You’ve got to need the story of my past. Not just to want the past, but to need it. You have to need my past. 

Why would you need such a grim thing? 

I see. Because I am in the process of telling you this story, and by this story I mean the tall tale of my upsetting, dark past.

I trust you. I trust the press and the publishers and my fellow editor(s) to not make this more than it is, which stands in the category of being a piece of forlorn American literature.

Or not. 

Look, I can’t be just plain old fiction. I exist. You’re going to think that this is just some rip-off book of kids’ fairy tales until you meet me. And when you look into the past, and change it, it affects your present and your future. So if you really are the reason I look into my real past in order to change the amazing present, you better be ready to see me flying across the sky when you crawl under your mom’s bed because you think there’s a thunder storm and it’s actually me soaring like a jet plane at two in the morning.

Well, here’s my past and you won’t like it.

It all started when Mom called me to the breakfast table after a long sleep that night. “Coming, Mom!” I yelled. 

Mom raised her eyebrows and plunked a small pinch pot on the rusty table. My family used to be poor. In fact, they still are. My family is small, like really small. It only goes up about four generations, and there hasn’t been enough people in the family to make enough money to survive. 

I sat in the chair.

Sorry…I mean I stood while eating. As you might have guessed, we couldn’t even afford a single chair. The table, however, was donated to us from a rich family called the Meyers that somehow believed that they had too many things in their house. But the table was rusty, so you could think that they had it for a long time. Like, really long. Crazy long.

When the Meyers had first bought the table, it was actually purchased by the head of the family, Lucia Josephine Meyer. She was an elderly lady who had just retired from her job as a salesman. Every day, she would make about 2,000 dollars! The money would gradually pass down throughout the family and would make them richer and richer until they could probably purchase 20 cars. They were millionaires, maybe billionaires!  The family was cheerful and hopeful until Lucia Meyer died sadly of old age. Her husband, George Topaz Meyer lll, seemed to be affected the most out of all the family members from this big loss. Before George died, he insisted on being buried beside Lucia forever. Lucia and George’s son had become a wealthy salesman as well, and kept the big family going, generation after generation, salesman after salesman, rich houses were constantly being sold and purchased. 

Anyway, the pinch pot had been made from dirty clay from the lake where we got our water. It was our only cup. But we barely used it. Oh, did I mention that I have no father? 

My dad, John Schuyler Thompson, passed away when I was a toddler. Ever since, my mom has been going out with a man named Theodore Akler to fancy dinner parties and stuff. Theodore is not like my real dad at all. His grin is nothing compared to my dad’s friendly, toothy smile.

“So, why is everything so fancy? And how did you get those expensive lantern candles?”

“Well.” Mom smiled, “Mr. Theodore has asked me to marry him!”

I choked on my dirty water. I froze. 

“What?” I squeaked.

“I’m going to marry Theodore!” Mom yelled excitedly.

“Ew!” My many siblings chimed in with disgust.

  But I just gasped.

“Honey, are you all right?” Mom said, her mood switching to concern instantly. “How do you feel?”

The truth is, I didn’t know how I felt. “I’m…fine.” And without asking to be excused, I ran up to my bedroom and started to cry.

CHAPTER 2

“…Then we need to tell the caterer to buy good whipped cream, and I have to get my wedding dress, and we have to serve a million people, and on top of all that, we can barely afford a bouquet!” Mom yelled.

She was trying to plan a wedding with very little time (how is that even possible if you’re penniless?).

I rolled my eyes and sniggered mockingly. “Then just give him back the engagement ring and get un-married.” I joked casually.

“MORRIS MILTON SCHUYLER THOMPSON!” Mom shrieked furiously. “Go to your room now!”

I stormed up to my bedroom and slammed the door shut. I curled into a ball and wept until my pillow was soaked. Change was harsh. But I couldn’t control it. No one could.

“You can come out now.” My mom shouted up to me, like dad always would.

Mom patted a worn-out pillow, indicating that she clearly wanted me to sit there.

“Write down the names of people I tell you to invite.” Mom instructed. “Nana Bleeberg, Aunt Porsha, Rilenne Mackza-”

“Who’s Rilenne Mackza?” I asked.

“Just a kind French lady across the street. She met you when you were in kindergarten.” Mom said.

“Oh.” I replied. “Who else do we need to invite?”

“Let’s see…” Mom pondered. “George Fredrick Wisley, Roxanne Jenifers, Stanley Guatemungo, Madeline Raysyn, Choltiferr Jackobbs, Bostette Watsons, Margarette Lunston, and…”

You might think that that’s a small number of people to invite to a wedding. But the truth is, we couldn’t afford a crumb of Oreos if we tried. Our family was so poor, and we knew we were stuck that way. Living life to the fullest for us was only inviting about ten people to a wedding. 

“Nimbosteen Colsteeronni…and that’s about it.” Mom sighed. “Go set the table, Morris.”

I tossed the napkins onto the table.

All of a sudden, there was a horrid rumbling that could make me deaf. 

“EARTHQUAKE!”  Mom screamed. 

Mom and I huddled under the doorway. Beni and my grandfather did too. The last thing I heard before I blacked out was the frantic sobs of my mother and grandfather as they slowly died.

CHAPTER 3

Springfield, Illinois

Two years later, Beni and I moved into a house next to our friend Chloe’s. We built it out of mud and sticks and wood.

The roof was made of straw.

The forlorn massacre that had destroyed most of my beloved family had traveled to New Zealand – the atomic plates were still shaking. The world was still quaking.

One day, Chloe’s older sister, named Meradith, introduced me and Beni to her husband, Ralph. Ralph took me and Beni to the zoo.

Beni and I were fascinated by a mysterious silver hawk in a restricted room. Beni had trained in Karate for as long as I could remember, so I was not surprised when he blasted open the door to the locked restricted room titled “No Admittance”.

The bird had bit me and Beni. The glossy scar looked like a big deal. Ralph rushed us to the hospital immediately. We got several stitches. Let me tell you this, it wasn’t fun to get bit. But little did Beni and I know that it would end up being the reason we flew. One day when the stitches were removed, it was barely an injury anymore at all. I whooped with joy and sprung into the air. That was the day when I realized that I could fly.

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.  

The definition of soup

“Water with ice is obviously not a soup,” Lucas said, taking a bite of his sandwich. “Then it would be called ‘soup.’”

“Well, why not? The definition of soup is a liquid with chunks of something in it, and that’s what water with ice is,” Leo replied.

“Well, it says that it’s typically made of some sort of boiling meat or vegetables and there are no vegetables or meat in soup.”

“That doesn’t mean always,” Leo said. “‘Typically’ only means sometimes.”

“So, you’re saying that there is some soup out there that isn’t made with vegetables?”

` “Not exactly,” Leo said, taking a bite of his sandwich. “I’m just saying there could be. Which brings me back to my point that water with ice is soup.”

“I guess you have a point, but I still will never believe that water with ice is soup.”

“Well, maybe this will change your mind,” Leo said. 

He then took a cup of ice water and poured it in a bowl. Then Leo put a cucumber in it, because there is such a thing as cucumber water.

“Wait a minuuutttteeee, that is soup! That is crazy, thank you for showing me that,” Lucas said.

The Assassin Games

A-man, the Assassin, and Leany the berry met at the battlefield on the bridge at midnight. A-man the Assassin killed Leany the berry with a very sharp sword. Leany the berry was very surprised when she was about to die. A-man the Assassin left without a single notice by killing Leany the berry. The next day, the cops came to investigate the mystery. But they couldn’t find a single clue. So they called the detectives to find clues. But even they could not find a single clue.

“We still haven’t found any clues of who killed Leany the berry,” said the cop. So they went up the bridge to investigate again. They found a sharp sword on Leany the berry. They took it out and investigated. They went to scan the sword and found out that A-man the Assassin killed Leany!!

They searched everywhere for A-man the Assassin, put posters everywhere, and wrote “Wanted” on the middle of the poster. If anyone found A-man the Assassin and brought him back, they would get 5,000,000,000,000 dollars because this was not the first crime he committed. According to the FBI, he committed 50 crimes already! So that’s why the person who brings him back will have so much money! When the cops and the detectives were done putting the posters up, they went back to investigate the mystery.

Meanwhile, A-man the Assassin was getting out of town on an airplane. He met his boss. Her name was Malicia.

“Come and sit with me, Malevolent. Let’s chat about this,” said Malicia.

“Good to see you again, boss,” A-Man said.

“You forgot to take the sword out of Leany the berry. Are you going to talk about this situation?!” Malicia shouted.

“I know you are mad about this–”

“This seems like a little mistake, but it reveals all of your crimes. Did you remember what I taught you?!” screamed Malicia.

“Just calm down, this is not a big problem!” said A-Man.

“Not a big problem? You may be able to solve this problem, but this will affect your career at ESK academy!!!” screamed Malicia.

“But you always figure out the way, right?” said A-Man.

“That’s true, so I want to pair you up with a teammate, so she can help you with your job. Her name is Layla, her code name is Queen Killer. She is a great thief and killer. She stole many things that can help us. And many, many fancy jewels that no one had ever succeeded in stealing, ever. I bet she can help you out, Malevolent!” exclaimed Malicia, “Come on out Layla.” 

Then, Layla stepped into the room with a wise air about her.

“What’s up guys, what are you guys chatting about right now?” said Layla.

“Layla, meet your new teammate, Malevolent, and Malevolent, meet your new teammate, Layla,” said Malicia. Then Malicia went away to do her daily spa and left Layla and Malevolent to talk some more. Meanwhile, the cops and the detectives were still talking and trying to find where A-Man the Assassin was.

“This job is really hard. We’re never going to find A-man the Assassin,” said one cop.

“Shush! If we keep on talking about this, our boss may fire us,” said another cop.

In the chief’s room, a detective and the chief were not talking about the previous crime where A-Man the Assassin killed Leany. Instead, they were talking about the Queen Killer.

“Queen Killer has committed way more crimes, and also bigger crimes, than A-Man the Assassin. I suggest that we work on Queen Killer first,” the chief said.

Meanwhile, Queen Killer and A-man were getting to know each other quickly.

“So, how did you get your code name?” asked Queen Killer.

“How did you get your code name?” replied A-Man.

“Same as you did, get your crimes famous and people will name you! They named me Queen Killer because I am the best killer and thief in the whole wide world! How about you?” Layla asked calmly.

“I got my code name because there was a lot of news about me, and people thought I had a perfect rate of stealing. That’s why,” replied A-man.

“Okay, well, your code name sounds boring, unlike my code name. It’s much cooler than yours, A-Man,” said Queen Killer.

“Excuse me, if you don’t mind if I say, my code name is way cooler than yours, Queen Killer,” A-Man said.

“How so?” replied Queen Killer. A-man was hesitating to respond. Queen Killer was really good at intimidating people. “Well, never mind then,” said Queen Killer calmly.

After a little while, Malicia came back to ask how they were doing.

“We’re quite nice,” said Queen Killer. A-Man shot her a dirty look, but did not say anything.

“So, are you guys ready for your first mission together?” asked Malicia. 

“You bet!” said Queen Killer.

“Whatever,” said A-man.

“Okay then,” said Malicia. “Your first mission is to steal Fabergé eggs from a museum in Russia.”

“Okay, this is easy, I stole hundreds of those before,” said Queen Killer.

“Are you kidding me!? I’ve tried to steal one of those and I failed!” said A-Man.

“Well, that’s because only the best thieves in the world, like me, can steal it,” Queen Killer responded. 

“Alright, you two stop arguing!” said Malicia.

“But it is true, right?” responded Queen Killer.

“Yes,” Malicia said with a sigh and laughed at A-man, who grunted at Queen Killer.

“Alright, you two are acting like children right now and you guys are now twenty years old!” said Malicia, “We’re arriving in Russia and going straight to the Kremlin Armoury museum. Now, I suggest you guys get ready.” 

Meanwhile, at night, when the plane arrived in Russia and when the museum was closed, the three villains got suited up and went straight to the museum. When they arrived there, there were no more security guards. Queen Killer and A-man were about to climb to the balcony when Malicia shouted, “Where are you guys going! We don’t have a plan yet! How would you guys get to steal those eggs!”

“Shhh, boss, calm down, let us do the plan now!” said Queen Killer. 

“First, I am going to let you know that you guys are going to steal forty-four of those! Get them all for our king!” exclaimed Malicia. 

“What!!! Forty-four! That’s all of the Fabergé eggs in the museum! I can barely steal one!” A-man shouted, surprised.

“Relax!” said Queen Killer while rolling her eyes.

“Which one of you will be the leader?” said Malicia.

“Me, duh!” said Queen Killer confidently.

“We haven’t even discussed this!” said A-man.

“No arguments!” said Queen Killer. 

“What about the plan?!” A-Man asked. 

“We will discuss the plan later,” Queen Killer said. A-man ran after Queen Killer. Then Malicia left to get some fresh air. 

Meanwhile, in the dark night, Queen Killer and A-Man arrived at the Kremlin Armoury and climbed up to the balcony and snuck into the museum. When they got into the museum, they saw forty-four Fabergé eggs. In front of the eggs, there was a glass door and a keypad lock. Before they did anything, Queen Killer used a pad to hack into the security cameras. A-Man tried the simplest combinations, but failed.

“Step aside, dum-dum. Let me do it,” Queen Killer said. She studied the key pad and tried 4-4-8 on the keypad and then opened the glass door! 

She put all the eggs in a big bag, carried it away with A-Man, and ran up to the balcony with A-Man following. 

A few minutes later, they got on the private plane and showed Malicia the Fabergé eggs.

“Well done, you guys, our king will be so happy to hear about it. Good teamwork, guys,” said Malicia.

“Although it was teamwork, I didn’t see A-Man do anything. But I guess you can still call it teamwork.” 

“What?! I did everything!” shouted A-man.

“What did you do? Please tell me,” said Queen Killer. 

“I put the eggs in the bag,” said A-man.

“That is nothing. Do you know why the security guards did not come? And do you know why the security alarms did not go off? All because of me, not you!” said Queen Killer.

“Stop arguing, you two, let’s go to the king,” said Malicia. The next day, the cops and the detectives went to investigate the Kremlin Armoury museum. 

A detective said, “I suspect that Queen Killer stole these eggs.”

“I do too,” said a cop. After a few minutes, a detective and a cop called a museum staff member and got into the security room. 

Malicia came back from delivering the stolen packages with the eggs and said to A-Man and Queen Killer, “The boss says good job. Now you have to prepare for a second mission.”

Malicia dragged Queen Killer for a private talk. “Try to communicate nicely with A-Man–” she said, but before she could finish the sentence, Queen Killer said, “Right!” Malicia’s words might have given Queen Killer an idea. And they went back to where A-Man was waiting.

 A-Man said: “What were you guys talking about?”

 “Your second mission is to steal the Funerary Mask of King Tutankhamun.” They went on the plane and traveled a long journey to Egypt and arrived at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. And of course, like usual, they arrived at midnight. And surprisingly, this time, Queen Killer was more patient and allowed A-Man to lead. But she wasn’t patient enough to figure out a plan when they were on the plane, they did it on the way to the museum. She wanted to relax on the plane. A-Man assumed every mission would be like this. 

On top of the museum building, there was a dome; they went through it and found the Funerary Mask. There was glass in front of it, of course, and it did have a lock, but it was not as tricky as the other one. It was just a little lock that Queen Killer easily picked. And, of course, she hacked into the security system, so it was an easy one. They left the building, went back to the plane, and showed Malicia the Funerary Mask. Queen Killer said her compliments to herself and one compliment to A-Man.

When they were settling in on the plane, Malicia said, “Thanks for being nice to A-Man.”

“No problem,” Queen Killer replied. But Malicia looked at her suspiciously, not knowing what trick she had up her sleeve. 

She said quietly to herself, “There’s gotta be more to this.” 

A few months later, A-Man and Queen Killer made a good team. They stole many things: jewelry, artifacts, famous paintings, etc. One day, they had a mission for the Olmec Colossal Head in the Xalapa Museum of Anthropology in Mexico. They went through a window, and A-man jumped down and rolled the Head to where Queen Killer was standing on the other side of the window. Queen Killer used the machine to rocket-launch the Head. But then, the security alarm went off.

 “Wait, I thought you had looked at the signals!” A-Man said.

 “Well, I looked at the signals, but there was a second layer, and I was too lazy and I gave up,” said Queen Killer. 

“What?!” said A-Man. Four hundred security guards came. 

They said, “Look! That’s Queen Killer and A-Man the Assassin!” Half of them were instructed to follow Queen Killer. Queen Killer ran very far, but in the opposite direction from the airport, and stopped. And then fought them, and beat them in five minutes. She went back to the plane without her partner.

A-Man was still fighting them, but he was struggling. By then, Queen Killer and her boss had already left because A-Man was so slow, and Queen Killer didn’t care. By the time he got out of that mess, the plane had already taken off and was halfway back. So he took another plane the next day. He had a plan to disclose what Queen Killer had done to him but he didn’t know that Queen Killer had her own plan. 

He went back and went to his boss’s room and said, “Boss, Queen Killer left me behind and didn’t wait for me and left me hanging there.”

The chair turned around, but it was not who A-Man was expecting. It was Queen Killer! “Hi, A-Man, sorry to disappoint you, but Malicia is not here. This is what happened: while you were gone, I challenged the boss to a fight, she lost, and I took the boss’s spot. I thought I could surprise you like this.”

But before A-Man could understand what was happening, she ordered ESK agents to capture him. He barely escaped, but luckily, he did escape. So he wandered off, trying to avoid the ESK Academy, but he didn’t know where he was going.

He met a seventy-year old man who said, “Hello, you look lost.”

“Whatever, mind your own business,” said A-Man.

“Okay, but would you like to come into my house?” said the old man.

“Whatever,” said A-Man and went into the old man’s house. A-Man saw a picture the old man had on his desk, and it was a picture of the old man, a woman, and a baby child. He recognized the baby in the picture: it was him! He turned around and said, “Who are you?” 

“I am your father, silly kid,” the old man laughed.

A-Man said, “What? You’re my father? I just recognized myself!” Instead of hugging, A-Man started to shout at his father,“Why did you leave me?”

“Because I had no choice! I betrayed the ESK agents, and they were looking for me all over! They could have found me. If I took you with me, they could have gotten you, too. But luckily, they didn’t find me.

“What?!” A-Man said, while he tried to process all this information. “So you really are my father?” He told him about how he was one of the top-fighters in the ESK Academy, and all about his fights. Right after he finished his story, A-Man said, “Teach me how to be a better fighter,” with a firm voice.

 “Okay, sure,” his father said, and then walked over to his chandelier. 

“What are you doing? I thought you were going to teach me how to fight, and you walk to the chandelier?” A-Man said. His father pulled on the chandelier string, and one of the walls opened.

“Come on in, sonny,” said the father. 

“Don’t call me sonny,” said A-Man.

“Okay, sonny,” said his father. 

A-Man’s father taught him how to fight. At first, he wasn’t as good as his father. His father said, “You only focus on attacking, but not blocking. And you never study your opponents’ weaknesses and strategies. If you studied them, you could figure out a way to beat them.” 

A few hours later, he got it. And then, A-Man said, “Did I master it?”

 “Yeah, you did. Just remember, when you fight, don’t fight with anger. Fight peacefully, and fight for good.”

Before any of them knew it, A-Man raised a knife and pushed him to the wall. His father looked at him with no fear. Just when he was about to stab him, he stabbed the wall and ran away.

Meanwhile, Queen Killer was on a private jet, going to steal the Mona Lisa painting. She went to the same country where A-Man was. She went to the balcony, hacked into the security signals again, and then slid down easily, like she was daydreaming. She was just about to grab the painting, looked around suspiciously, then…Crash! A-Man came in through one of the windows, but since he was still swinging in the air, he knocked Queen Killer out of the other side of the window and flew into the air! 

A-Man shouted, “Aaah! This is not how I planned it!” Then, Queen Killer noticed the bridge. She turned to the bridge, grabbed it, and landed on her feet. But A-Man crashed into the bridge and fell into the river. He climbed back up on the bridge. 

“Ow, that hurts,” he said. “I know you must be surprised.”

 “I’m not surprised,” Queen Killer replied. “I was expecting this.” 

Then, she drew out a sword, and A-man took his sword and prepared to fight. He knew whatever happened, Queen Killer would have no mercy. They fought, fought, fought; screamed, screamed, screamed; Queen Killer was about to stab him in the heart. But A-Man remembered what his father taught him, and kicked her and was about to stab her, but then Queen Killer kicked him off and stabbed him in the leg, and she said,“Goodbye.” 

She pushed him in the river and left. But luckily, A-Man’s father ran to him, dragged him up, and put him in the hospital. 

THE END

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.”

The Sunday Surprise

It was a cold Sunday morning the week before Thanksgiving.  

“Bye, dad!” We hollered as we hurried down the airport to the baggage check.  

My mom, Maylin, Kaia, and I waited in line. Time slowly passed by until finally we were at the boarding spot. We flew to Dallas, which was a two and a half hour flight. But when we got to the boarding area to go to Grand Rapids, that’s where everything went wrong. 

My mom got a call from my dad, who was at home, saying the flight got canceled because of snow! We would have to wait four hours! Yeah, that’s right! Four hours! So we could take a different flight to Detroit instead of Grand Rapids, then a two and a half hour flight to Detroit, then a three to four hour drive to my grandparents’ house! 

So we waited, and waited, and waited! When the four hours passed,we boarded and took off in the air. I watched Black Widow and right when it was about to end, the plane shook. 

BOOM BOOM BOOOOOOOM! 

Kaia started to cry. That cry turned into a sob, that sob turned into a scream, a high pitched scream! 

When we listened more carefully we heard… 

The common sound of the drum and horns.

BUM-BUM-BUM-BUM-BUM.      

The windows of the airplane shot up! 

“What in the-…” My mom didn’t finish her sentence. 

We couldn’t believe what we saw! FLYING PIGS PLAYING INSTRUMENTS! Drums, guitars, pianos, and a bunch more! 

“…world,” my mom finished. 

They had a Dallas Cowboys flag up and a flag that said, “the Dallas Pig Band!” They were the band of pigs that were going to the football game! 

The plane automatically turned around without the pilot’s control! 

“Hold on, everybody. I don’t know what happened.” The seatbelt sign turned on. “Please don’t panic,” The captain said in a panicked voice. 

Well, the plane followed right behind the pigs’ tails until we got to the Dallas game to cheer them on.

  As we hovered in the plane over the game we noticed more flying pigs coming! CHEERLEADER PIGS! 

“Let’s go Dallas, let’s go! Let’s go Dallas, let’s go!” The cheerleaders cheered on and on and on.

 But that’s not all. BOOOOOOOM! Thousands of pigs came roaring out of the sky and took the place of the people in the stands who didn’t even notice them because of the distraction of the game! The pigs threw the people into the sky. (Although, they were not evil, why would they be?) But let’s not talk about what happened to them because you do NOT want to know.

 Well, it wouldn’t be a complete story if you didn’t know; they fell into a river of course where the people would throw the goal post after a great victory! 

“OH MY GOSH,” the people on the plane hollered when we heard that disturbing news.

“Well at least we aren’t going to die!” Someone blurted out.

 Just then the clock ran out of time. 

“Hooray!” Everybody shouted. Dallas won!

Well, obviously we turned around and finished going to Michigan. 

“Thankfully we have continued on our journey, and are heading back safely,” the captain announced. “I apologize for that delay. Hopefully we will arrive soon. Thank you for your cooperation and we will be on our way.”

When we got back, the story we told in the car took one hour of the time to tell. And it took most of the ride to convince our grandparents that it actually happened, although they weren’t fully convinced. 

By the time we got back, it was 1:30 in the morning so we all got ready to go to bed, although sadly our bags didn’t make it back. All of a sudden everybody woke up to the same sound of…

BUM-BUM-BUM-BUM-BUM. 

“We heard that for sure on the plane,” I shouted. 

My grandma hurried over to the door to see what it was. She opened the door and shrieked! There, right before her eyes, she saw the band of pigs with their drums. Her eyes swirled as she fell backwards with a big CLUMP.

 We all ran over to see if she was okay just as the leader pig winked with a full smile so you could see his one golden tooth sparkle.

Giant Cats 2: HUMANS

After Ginger and Peter found out that they had the same secret, they decided to go on a trip together. They went from Giant Cat Town to Giant Cat California. They wanted me to share their journey with you. They packed up and said goodbye, but they almost forgot one crucial thing: to pick who will rule Cat Town while they are gone. So they asked their good friend Oliver. He was very nervous, because everyone would depend on him. They just wanted to have a good time and go on a vacation without having to worry about having a secret anymore. They told Oliver “You’ll be fine!” and set off. But…they accidentally took a spaceship instead of their plane to Giant Cat California and they ended up on the moon. Six fish and two snails were trying to trick Ginger and Peter, and since Oliver had no experience being the ruler, they tricked him and became the rulers themselves. But they didn’t know that Oliver was actually used to this, because they go on a lot of trips and they leave him in charge. So when the fish tried to become rulers, it really didn’t work. First of all, they were fighting for who would be the first determined ruler. Secondly, they forgot they were only one or two inches long, and Oliver is a cat.

So, they had a second try, and they barely came out alive because Oliver forgot to cut his nails. 

Now, let’s tell Oliver’s side of the story! 

“I saw a few fish on the floor out of water, so I tried to pick them up and put them in a glass of water. But I accidentally used my claws! Thankfully, I didn’t hurt them, but they were very frightened in my hands. So I quickly put them in a glass of water, and I went and ate lunch. When I came back, they were gone! And the glass was broken. I just hope they’re ok.”

Meanwhile, on the moon….

Ginger and Peter are enjoying the moon quite nicely by eating water cake. My mistake, actually milk cake. They also saw a squirrel pass by, waving to them.

“That’s quite interesting,” Peter said. Ginger agreed and nodded her head. It was very quiet on the moon….UNTIL!…actually, never mind, nothing happened. Yeah, the moon was very quiet and dusty.

Inside the rocket ship, there was a vacuum, so they decided to do the moon a favor, but they accidentally pressed the “blast off” button. Thankfully, they were holding hands, so they blasted off together and landed in Giant Cat California.

I guess the moral of the story is that love can push you through anything….even if you’re trapped on the moon!

Let’s go back to Cat Town.

The snails just told the fish that Peter and Ginger had escaped and were headed somewhere. They traveled halfway around the world by swimming, but they forgot that not everywhere is surrounded by water—and where Peter and Ginger were, in the middle of California, was nowhere near the beach! The fish could go nowhere near that far….their tails would get far too tired! So they found a slice of butter and a tiny stick and started rowing. Thankfully, one of the fish was a carver, so while they rowed, he carved a much safer bus in the butter. So they all went in the bus, 6 fish and 2 snails, and the wheels started sliding on the pavement. Since it was in California, though, the pavement was very hot and the butter started melting. They quickly found a cup and started rolling in it. Again, the carver fish carved a little train. And there were functioning seatbelts. And they were safe in the train. And they thought they had arrived at their destination, but they were wrong. The snails don’t have the best eyes, so they saw the wrong area. They tried again, except when they started rolling again, the train fell apart! Thankfully, they found some bottlecaps and slid down the hill in them, so they decided to have some fun and do what they were trying to do.

They finally got to the hotel, but Ginger and Peter weren’t there. They had left the hotel to go to lunch. One of the fish looked at the snail very oddly. They waited there, but they didn’t have to wait long. The only problem was they couldn’t get inside the hotel, so they thought of a plan as quickly as they could and tried it out. It did not work. They decided to try the next thing, but there was another problem: they had nowhere to stay. So they found a pond nearby, and stayed there for the night. The next day, the cats found flipper prints leading to the pond. They investigated, and found six fish and two snails. Then, they turned them back into good snails and good fish. At the very end of the story, they all went back to Giant Cat Town, and there, waiting for them, was Oliver. He was very tired for some reason, and then he told us why. Being the ruler of Giant Cat Town alone is really hard. Next time, he will ask his sister for help.

The End.

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.

The Planet

There was an astronaut that had to go on a big adventure. Her name was Coco. She had to go to six different planets to find a missing alien. The first one was about music. She had to write a song to get past the first planet. The second planet was about dancing. She had to choreograph a dance. The third one was about adventure. She had to find an adventure on the planet. The fourth one was about drawing. She had to draw a self-portrait. The fifth one was about love. She had to find her true love. The last one was about fun. She had to make it fun to find the alien. 

For days, she was thinking about a song and she finally had it. Coco went into the planet, but the planet wouldn’t take it. Coco tried about five times, and then she picked it up, noticing something was wrong. It wasn’t the right paper. She went back into the spaceship and she looked all around. She found it underneath her pillow, and she put it on the planet. The planet finally accepted and let her move onto the next one.

A week later, she finally figured out her photograph for planet two. Coco danced all around, but the planet wouldn’t take it. Something was wrong. She had no more ideas, so she went back into the spaceship. Coco had the wrong boots. That’s what she was missing to be a good dancer. She looked all around and she found them in the bathtub. And then the planet took it. So, she went onto the next planet .

On planet three, Coco had to find an adventure. She thought that it would be impossible to find one. Eventually, she found one, and left. 

The fourth planet needed a drawing. It took Coco a very long time to draw herself but she finally did it. But she forgot one thing. She forgot to draw the nose. She put it on the planet, but the planet didn’t take it. She looked all around and she finally noticed it. She practiced the nose on a different piece of paper, and she messed up a tiny bit, but she still got it accepted.

The fifth planet. Coco thought it would be impossible to find true love on the planet. She looked for more than three months, but she still couldn’t find it. She finally found someone on the planet that was her true love. They danced; they made music together, which almost made her forget about the adventure. Her true love had to go straight to Earth. The planet accepted it, but she was sad that she had to leave her true love. 

The sixth planet. Coco tried for almost a year, but she couldn’t find something fun. After that year, she finally found a toy. She had no idea what it mean or what to do with it. But the toy had something written on the back. It said that if you shake it, something magical will appear. So she shook it about five times and finally found the missing alien. She went back to Earth, and everybody thought she would never return. But she did return, and she found her true love again. She experimented on the alien in her secret lab. She needed to find out why the alien went missing. She thinks it escaped and wants to go back to its own planet and that there’s probably more aliens. So, she went back up and found one more planet. The planet of sparkles. 

Coco was so amazed that she passed out and had to tell everyone. Now every time she goes to space she always visits her alien friends. Sometimes they put on musicals, and she sometimes does new adventures. Everybody in the neighborhood throws one big party for her. It was one party she would never forget. The end.

Spaghetti and… Clams?

I stared out the window. The snow made the playground all white. It was lunchtime. We had recess after lunch. We would definitely have indoor recess. I stared at my lunch bag. Spaghetti and meatballs again. That was the only thing my mom had ever packed since we got back from Mexico. Even though my stomach grumbled like a hungry lion, I didn’t want to eat spaghetti and meatballs. I kept a chart of how many times my mom packed spaghetti and meatballs and I was at 19 days! But the days just kept coming: 20, 21, 22, 23, 24! I counted on and on each day. I was getting so tired of it.

Finally, no meatballs! Still spaghetti though. What were those things? I noticed they were moving. Not moving like rolling, but opening and closing. I was confused and hungry, so I started to pick up my fork. Suddenly I started to notice something bad. Wait a minute. 

“Are those clams?” I thought to myself, “Ahhh!” 

I ran to get school lunch. Nope. It was spinach with carrots and sweet potato fries. Gross! I tried not to barf. I found some crackers lying in the corner of the cafeteria. I gobbled them up. Ewww. They tasted like people’s feet. I didn’t know what to do. I asked my friend Hanna if she would share her salami with me. She only gave me one piece. I ripped it up into small pieces to last me the whole lunch period. I was still hungry. I wished I had something like pizza. 

When I got home, I could barely breathe. I slumped on the couch. 

When my mom got home from work, the first thing she said was, “Why the gloomy face, kiddo?” 

“You,” I breathed, “packed…me…clams…” I started, “For lunch!!! Ahhh!!!” I yelled. 

I ran all the way up two flights of stairs to my room. 

Mom ran after me screaming,” Aliela, come back!!!” 

I didn’t want to upset Mom. I think I mostly upset myself. Mom didn’t seem upset, I think she only wanted to talk with me, but I just wanted to be alone. 

Then, I heard the front door moan. My older brother, Kalub, was home. Kalub was in high school, and he participated in a world-wide famous high school football game. 

“My team won.” Kalub bragged. 

“I don’t think that is true,” Mom said, face buried in her computer. 

She probably searched it up. Kalub’s team was called Dark Hawks. The other team was Alley Champs. 

We had started eating dinner so I was glad that the subject had changed! 

“Mom,” I said. “May I be excused to get dessert?” 

“Eat a little bit more,” she said. “And then you can eat dessert.”

“Mom!” 

I decided not to bring up the subject of lunch, but I’ll bring it up tomorrow morning. I needed more time to forgive Mom in my head before I chose to talk about it. I just hoped Mom remembers to not give me clams for lunch tomorrow!!!

The Nuclear Death, Part 1

There once were 2 teams. One of the teams was called the Department of Nuclear Studies, D.N.S. for short.  The other team was called Society of Hitmen, S.H. for short. The two facilities were enemies. S.H. wanted to destroy D.N.S. They wanted to destroy the facility because they didn’t want any mistakes to happen, or else the city would get destroyed. They were in Nevada, where there’s a lot of plains. S.H. was also in Nevada. They were actually right next to the D.N.S. facility. The leader of S.H. wanted to assassinate the director of D.N.S. Today was the day they would do it. 

The leader prepared all of his people. He gave them muskets and bazookas. There were many different groups in S.H. There were the spies, the raiders, and the commando. The commando, along with many other raiders, went in a buggie. The spies went in a black van. There were also the hitmen. The hitmen went with the spies, but there was one hitman who wasn’t sure about this plan. His name was the Blackout. He had a very important role with the hitmen. His role was to assassinate and to heal. He was the chief medic of S.H., and he was the only one who didn’t have a cold heart. So, he told his crew that he would be back. He put the vice chief medic in charge, because he would stay back and control the plan. But that wasn’t what he was going to do. He was going to secretly help D.N.S. 

The Blackout went through a secret passageway to D.N.S., where he would start a new life. He put on some casual clothes, and asked the director of the D.N.S. for an interview. Luckily, he said yes. In the interview, he was asked what his job was before. 

Blackout answered: “I was the chief medic of a society.” 

He didn’t mention that he was part of S.H. and the director didn’t find out. He said yes to the job, and even better, he said he could be the chief medic of D.N.S. Blackout was happy, but he wasn’t so happy about lying to his whole group at S.H. But he was okay with lying to the director of D.N.S. After all, it wasn’t really a lie. It was a white lie. Little did he know that white lie would become a big lie. 

He said to the director that there was a raid party that wanted to destroy D.N.S. The director believed him, so he put the facility at level 5, which was the most secure level. They were right on time. Then, they sent out some of their troops to secure the area. Back at S.H., the leader told them to retreat. When they got back, the Blackout wasn’t there. But luckily, the Blackout wasn’t that dumb. He disguised a person as him and killed that person so it would look like he was dead. Now, the big lie began. The news went out to all of S.H. But then, it was going further than S.H. – it was going to New York City, and other states. Luckily, D.N.S didn’t know about it yet. But they would soon. The leader of S.H. was very sad. Still, no one knew about S.H., though. Blackout was saving people all day. The news spread out. It even spread out to S.H. When the leader of D.N.S. found out, he was furious. Blackout also told D.N.S. about S.H. Like always, the director of D.N.S. believed him. Sadly, now S.H. wanted to assassinate the Blackout, but now his name was Chief Larry.

S.H. snuck into D.N.S. When they all heard that there were threats in D.N.S., Chief Larry sent out many troops with the permission of the director. The troops were able to kidnap the hitmen, the spies, the commando and the raiders. Unfortunately, the big lie became bigger and bigger. 

The leader of S.H. told the director of D.N.S. everything, from the beginning to the end. When the director asked Chief Larry if it was true, he said yes. Luckily, the director of D.N.S. was super nice, and it didn’t bother him at all. The director of D.N.S. said that all people change course in life. And the director always knew that he wasn’t spying for S.H. But nobody knew what to do with S.H. 

“Killing them would be a little harsh,” said Chief Larry. 

Everybody agreed. “Maybe we could keep them in our facility prison,” said the director of D.N.S. 

Chief Larry and the rest of D.N.S. agreed. But the next day, the co-director of D.N.S. had a surprise for Chief Larry. He was the new director of D.N.S., but the ex-director wasn’t there. The co-director said that he was shocked while they were transferring S.H. to their prison. They also said that they could not capture S.H., they were still on the loose. 

                                              To be continued 

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. 

The Anteater

One day in California, there lived a boy. The boy had all the toys in the town. The boy wanted to have something new. How hard is it to think of something new?!

“Wait a minute,” said the boy, “I think I got it! All I want is a particular pet! I want an anteater! I want it nice and gray.”

As soon as his dad heard the news, he went to all the zoos that he could find. He asked the zookeepers calmly if they had any anteaters.

“We have anteaters, but our anteaters are not for sale.”

One day later, his dad found a zoo that said “Anteaters for sale”. He found the nicest, grayest anteater and gave it to his son. 

The anteater asked the boy, “Please give me some meat and bread.”

The boy said, “No, you are an anteater and you should go outside and find some ants from my garden.”

The anteater searched night and day, but he couldn’t find a single ant.

Five days later, the boy’s aunt came over. The boy shouted over to the anteater, “Come see my Aunt Samantha! She is over 15 years old.”

The anteater turned around and said, “A giant ant?”

Sometimes people think it’s “a-nt”, but it’s actually, “au-nt”. 

As soon as the anteater heard the word “aunt” he said, “Hmmm, a giant ant.”

The boy said, “Yes, yes, a good big ah-nt”

The anteater came closer and closer and said, “Hmm, I don’t care if the aunt is over 15. I don’t care how old the aunt is. Tonight, when Aunt Samantha is sleeping, I will gulp her down head to toe.”

So, at night he did exactly what he said. He ate her head to toe, toenails too!

In the morning, the boy looked around for his Aunt Samantha. Then, he saw the anteater in Aunt Samantha’s bed. The anteater said, “Since I ate Aunt Samantha for dinner, I will eat you for dessert!”

The anteater didn’t only eat the boy, he ate his whole family and even his plants. 

After he ate everyone and all the plants, he had so much energy, so he dug into the boy’s garden. Then he saw a tiny speck of something black in the dirt moving. He said, “Ah! Another ant!”

       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. 

Anabella

Does Anabella have to be perfect?

Once upon time in Japan there was a girl named Anabella. She loved going to Japan and she loved playing and helping. She also loved reading, taking walks, and even everyone in her family, and cleaning the house very clean. Every time her mom drops a glass of water Anabella helps her mom clean the wet floor, and Anabella is smart and helps her family whenever her family needs help.

She wants to be a teacher when she grows up so she is working hard so she can be a teacher when she grows up. She reads a lot of books so she could be a teacher when she is a grownup so she works harder than anybody else to do a lot of math like ‘is 100 greater than 1000 or is 1000 greater than 100?’ Anabella would think the greater one is 1000. Do you think Anabella will get it right or wrong? I think she will get it right because it says she is smart. What do you think? She knows everything! Do you think  Anabella will get it right?

She does a lot of work every single day because she wants to be a teacher when she grows up. She is trying to work as hard as the other students. Her teacher’s name is Miss Luna. Miss Luna helps Anabella to get it right. She practices her math, reading, and even hard math without anybody helping her. Her brain is trying to work hard to know the answers. Anabella’s mom said, “Your grandparents are coming here soon.” She tried to finish her math quickly, so her grandparents won’t see her doing her homework. After she was done, the grandparents came. Anabella came to the front door to hug her grandparents. And she said, “hi,” in Japanese. “Hello Anabella, I am so happy to see you,” said Anabellas grandpa. At bed time Anabella screamed in her pillow so loud! Her mom said “Stop screaming, do that at a sleepover!” After she yelled at Anabella she slept peacefully, she didn’t even say one word she just [zzzzzz.] 

The next day Anabella wore her favorite outfit that says ‘I love writing’ with shorts and long socks and sneakers with a headband that has a bow. The color of the headband was blue. She felt very disappointed because she had to do math all over again. She had to do it fast because it was almost her math test. During recess Anabella saw a girl at the next bench. She sat right next to the poor girl. She asked what was wrong. The girl said “I wanted to be a writer when I grow up but I keep on practicing swimming instead of writing.” “What is your name?” asked Anabella. “My name is Cinnamon but my real name is Flora. My family is a god or ghost. I could help you.” Now Anabela knows if she makes a mistake her brain will grow! The End!

Sally loves Cinnamon the Hamster, Book 1

Once there was a girl named Sally. Sally loved hamsters. 

One day her mother said, “Sally, I have a present for you!” 

 “What?’’ Sally said.

’’Look in this box,’’ Sally’s mother said. Sally’s mom was holding a big brown box. Sally opened the box and inside the box was a cute hamster. The hamster was a brown cinnamon color. 

Sally said, “Oh, I’ll name you Cinnamon the hamster.” Her mom gave her a hamster pack and a guide, but Sally already knew a ton about hamsters. But she still read the guide, just in case. She let the hamster run in a spinner. Sally fed Cinnamon lettuce and carrots. And she took Cinnamon out for walks. And she gave Cinnamon a school, called Cinnamon school. When Sally went to school, she left Cinnamon a cardboard cut out of her so he wouldn’t be lonely. 

One day, when Sally was taking Cinnamon for a walk he slipped out of her leash. Cinnamon didn’t realize he was out of the leash. Sally didn’t realize he was out of the leash either. When Sally looked at her leash, she couldn’t believe her eyes. Cinnamon wasn’t on the leash! 

When Cinnamon looked, he was in the bushes. But Sally didn’t see him in the bushes. They were very tall bushes. Sally looked everywhere. She looked in one of the bushes, but she didn’t look in the bush Cinnamon was in because she didn’t realize there was another bush. Her mother was at the supermarket and her father was working, so Sally realized she would have to act like Cinnamon so that he would come to her. But she would have to read a book all about hamsters first. The guide! She put food out at night, but Cinnamon didn’t come to her. The bushes were so high that Cinnamon couldn’t smell. 

Cinnamon fed on lettuce, because there was lettuce in the bushes, and he thought that those bushes were the woods. 

And then her mom called and said she wouldn’t be back for a week because she was going to San Francisco for her work. And her dad would be working all day. 

So Sally thought, if she was going to find Cinnamon she would need him to come to her. She walked all over the neighborhood singing her Cinnamon song. “Cinnamon, oh Cinnamon!” She sang up and down the street. But the bushes were too thick and high that Cinnamon couldn’t hear it. 

Then she saw the bushes that Cinnamon was in were rattling. She thought that it just must be ants. She went to check the bushes, but when she looked, Cinnamon thought it was a hungry lion. When she looked he ran outside the bushes, then he came back when she was done looking. 

Cinnamon was scared. Sally was scared too. She didn’t know what to do. 

She thought she should wear her night vision goggles. But since the bushes were very thick, she couldn’t find him. Then she called out, “Cinnamon! Cinnamon!” 

Cinnamon thought it was a snake because he only heard “Sssssssssisss”, so he thought it was a snake. And some of the leaves were cinnamon colored, so he camouflaged in them whenever Sally looked. 

Sally was very discouraged. Then she said, “Maybe mom was right. I should have read the guide all the way through.” She had thrown the guide out when she was just half way through. “Maybe I’ll live my life without Cinnamon. Mom is going to kill me when she finds out.” 

Cinnamon ran out of carrots and lettuce in the bush. So he went into the real woods to find some food. Mom got home and Sally said, “Can I go to the woods to see what kind of uh, leaves there are?’’ 

“Sure,’’Sally’s mom said. But Sally was actually going to look for Cinnamon.

It was summertime and Sally was moving in 62 days and she had to find Cinnamon before then. So when she went into the woods she realized she would have to be like Cinnamon again, which didn’t work last time but she was willing to try again. She saw Cinnamon’s footprints but ended up following a tiny cat that wasn’t Cinnamon and it scratched her. While Cinnamon was trying to find some hope and some food, the cat that scratched Sally came right in front of Cinnamon and it was really big. It was a ginger cat with orange stripes. The cat chased Cinnamon through the woods and out of the woods and back into the woods. He made himself a little hole to hide him and the cat couldn’t get him. Anyways, Cinnamon came out of his little hole and looked around. He wasn’t a very good climber so he couldn’t climb. He was a very good jumper though. Cinnamon wandered accidentally into bullet ant territory. And Cinnamon didn’t realize, but then a bullet ant started chasing him and Cinnamon knew about bullet ants because he went to bullet ant school. Cinnamon jumped over twigs and left and ran very fast but the bullet ant could probably outrun him. He jumped over a big pile of dirt and the bullet ants couldn’t get him.

When he saw the ants leaving, now Cinnamon was really scared. He trembled. When he got out from behind the dirt pile, he started to shake, partly because it was really warm. He didn’t like being warm. He needed to be room temperature. Finally Cinnamon found some lettuce on the ground and it felt very good to eat. Cinnamon started now to find his way home to Sally. He thought he heard her voice but he only heard hummingbirds. Meanwhile, Sally felt hopeless. Just then, Sally saw Cinnamon! Cinnamon ran to Sally. Sally kissed Cinnamon.

  The end.

Quinn & Kit

“Slow down!” shouted Kit Gold. 

“Okay!” shouted Quinn Wing. They were playing tag. 

“Got you.” said Kit. Then they saw something strange rustling in the leaves. A wind caught them like a tornado and they spun into a different world. They didn’t know where they were. The world had blue leaves on the trees and all the things looked different. Everything was dark and misty, not like in their forest which was bright and sun-shiny. 

“Where are we?” asked Quinn. 

“I don’t know,” said Kit, picking up one of the blue leaves and barking angrily. 

“We’re not supposed to be involved in some kind of magic wind. My mom told me about the magic wind in stories. But I didn’t think it was all supposed to be true.”  

“Yeah, yeah,” said Kit. “But we’ve gotta find a way to get out of here.”

 “First,” said Quinn, “we’ve got to find out how the magic wind got us and brought us over here.”

 “Well, I know the tornado kind of got a little dimmer every time I thought about going 

home. And then it just vanished and dropped us here. Maybe we could think about not going home, to go home.”

“That doesn’t make sense, but we could try,” said Quinn. 

“Okay! Three. Two. One. Go!” said Kit. 

And they both tried not to think about going home. And none of it worked. 

“We’ve gotta keep thinking but first … AH! WHAT IS THAT?” screamed Quinn. 

They saw something weird in front of them. 

All the leaves around them started closing in and fire shot out of the ground. Fire was the same color. Some of it was blue and some of it was orange-reddish. 

And then suddenly, Quinn blinked. They were swept upside down and crashed into a big pile of leaves that were greenish-orangish. They were in the same world, but on a different continent. 

“I get it,” said Kit. “We think about some things, like not going home and then we go somewhere completely different.”

“Like what?” 

Kit said, “Like flying up with your wings. You can fly up and tell me what you see.” 

So Quinn flew up and saw a big, black cloud. 

“Yeah!” screamed Quinn while he was spinning upside down back to the forest floor.

“Well, that didn’t work,” said Kit. “You shouldn’t be looking upwards all the time, not focusing on what’s on the ground. You might get blown up by something.

“What do you mean blown up?” said Quinn.

“You know what I mean. Not actually blown up.”

“Oh, right. Should we just find a way to get out of here?” asked Quinn

“Well, yeah that’s what we’re thinking about.”

“Did you hear that?” asked Quinn.

“What?” said Kit.

“That,” said Quinn, pointing out the boinging sound.

“Oh, right. What is that boinging sound? Should we go check it out?” asked Kit.

“Maybe,” answered Quinn.

“Okay, first let’s figure out what that thing is.”

“Okay!” said Quinn. “But what?” asked Quinn.

“That,” said Kit, pointing to some strange creature. “It was snapping its jaws wide open and closed. I think that’s just a plant, I guess?” said Kit.

“Kit?” said Quinn.

“What?” answered Kit.

“Did you notice how many of them there are?”

Kit blinked. He hadn’t noticed so many of them were there.  

Kit said, “Can you fly us out of here, Quinn?”

“Yes, probably,” said Quinn. “Get on my back,” said Quinn.

Quinn soared up into the sky, trying to find the magic wind again. Suddenly, they found the black cloud again. Quinn flew straight into it. And suddenly it was all quiet. Super quiet.

“So, I think we landed in the middle of nowhere,” said Kit.

“Uh, not exactly,” he said. “Look, we landed on a single leaf.”

“Oh, then I guess we shrunk because the leaf is falling and it seems super super big.”

“Yes,” said Quinn.

“When are we landing?” asked Kit.

“Pretty soon, I think,” answered Quinn.

“Well, I think we already did. Because, look at the trees, they’re gigantic. When we were up there, they were very much smaller. I would guess they were really below us.”

“Well, I think we should get off this leaf. Just, let’s fly,” said Quinn. 

“Yeah, we don’t want to get stomped on by some giant rabbit.”

“Did you forget?” answered Quinn. “They’re only gigantic to us now. But soon when we’re back normal size, they’re pretty much going to be normal size.”

“Okay,” answered Kit. “Just get me on the ground and we can get out of the way of everyone–”

“STAMPEDE!” interrupted Quinn.

Kit quickly got on his back and they soared over all the animals.

“Well, look at it this way, we should just–”

“Just what?” asked Kit.

“We should just try to find something that we could use from here to get back to our hometown Stuffyland.”

“Yeah, let’s look for that thing if there is.” Suddenly they heard rustling in the leaves. Kit looked down and said, “I think I’m floating.” No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t reach Quinn.

“I think we’re going DOOOOOWN!” shrieked Quinn. He twirled down and down and down. “We went up quite high,” he said, bonking his head down.

“Well, let’s get searching,” Kit said.

“Okay, but first we gotta find something.”

“Mmhmm,” Kit answered while looking up.

“What’re you looking at?” asked Quinn.

“I think I’m staring at that tree, not exactly up.”

Quinn looked too. What he saw was jewels instead of leaves. “I think one of those jewels is gonna help us get back closer to our home, but not exactly to there. Should we choose one?” asked Quinn.

“Yes, we should,” said Kit.

“Yes, we should,” mumbled Quinn to himself.

They looked at the tree carefully and saw one that was quite different from the others. Quinn flew up to that jewel and plucked it out from the tree.

“Think this’ll work?” asked Quinn.

“It should. C’mon. 3, 2, 1, let’s fly.”

Kit and Quinn soared up high and they saw the black cloud again. Before going in, Kit blew on the jewel four times and then they went in.

They were somewhere closer, Quinn knew it. They hadn’t been here before. “Why was everything so small?” Quinn asked himself. “Before things were huge,” he said, stomping his claws.

“Yeah we are,” said Kit, bounding forward on his four paws. Suddenly they felt like they were shrinking.

“Oh, why are you here?” Quinn asked something on the ground. Kit rolled around and looked at what Quinn was looking at. Quinn was looking at Softy from their world.

“Oh, what are you doing here?” Kit asked Softy the bunny.

 “I thought I might help you,” said Softy. “What are you looking for?” 

“I don’t know.” said Kit. “AHH!” Quinn shouted. Suddenly, everyone was pulled into the ground. They heard a scream. “HELP!” They ran into a big room and saw the screaming Princess Keeah.

“Just what is going on here?” Asked Softy.

“That?” said Quinn.

“Probably,” said Kit.

“What’s that?” asked Softy.

“Oh. That. You mean snakes that are behind her?”

“Uhhh, yes! Now stop fiddling, and let’s go.”

“Okay.”

“Softy!!” groaned Kit.

“Okay, okay.”

Suddenly, Softy started freaking out. He was scared of snakes.

“Guys!” said Keeah. “Should we just go up?”

“How?” asked Softy.

“Like this,” answered Keeah, jumping up on the little ditch that was on top of her.

Softy bounded back on the grass. “Come on, Quinn, Kit, come up!”

“Okay!” answered Kit, boinging out of the ground.

Quinn flew out. “Come on, let’s start running!”

“Sssss.”

“Uh oh,” said Keeah.

“Snakes!” gulped Softy.

“Woah!” said Kit. “Come on, Quinn, you’re the only one that can fly.”

“Okay, get on my back, Kit and Softy. Princess Keeah, you can fly too, can’t you?”

“Oh, yes I can!”

“So let’s go!”

They all flew up into the sky. Kit was looking down.

“You know, we’re all afraid of something,” he said. “And this is not the time for me to be afraid of heights, which I am.”

“Not exactly a problem,” said Quinn. “Because we’re going down now.”

“Oh, phew. That was close,” said Kit when he finally put his paws down on the grass again.

“ACHOO!” sneezed Softy. “Now, I think we accidentally flew through a portal without noticing. Because this place is very dusty.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” said Keeah.

“Okay. What do we do now?”

“ACHOO!” said Softy.

“Uhh, I think we have a problem here,” said Kit. “I think Softy’s allergic to dust.”

“I am–ACHOO!” said Softy.

“That is a problem,” said Keeah, tapping her head. “Now what do we do?”

“Umm, fly? Because if Softy’s allergic to dust and up there’s dusty, we just might be able to stop him from sneezing all day.”

“So?” Softy got on Quinn’s back and Quinn flew up, up, up.

Suddenly, Softy shouted, “Hey! You guys! Come up here too!”

“Huh,” said Keeah, but took Kit’s paws and went up.

“Well, now that we’re all together, I have something to show you,” said Quinn.

“Here we GOOOOO…” said Softy, bolting with Kit through a big dark cloud.

“Oh, we’re supposed to go through there?” 

Silence.

Then Keeah said, “Why don’t we go in too, Kit?”

“Okay!”

Keeah took a deep breath and also bolted into the black cloud.

The next thing Keeah saw was Quinn and Softy waiting for them on the ground.

“Well, I’m glad we escaped the snakes,” interrupted Softy.

“Well, yes. But I don’t think we exactly saved them from, uhhh, raining?”

Everyone looked up and saw hundreds and hundreds of snakes pouring out of the blackest cloud in the sky.

“Oh dear,” said Quinn.

“Time to get out of here!”

“Uh huh,” said Keeah.

“Maybe we should run!” said Kit, grabbing Softy’s arm.

The next thing Quinn thought was, Maybe I should run too.

“I’m staying,” said Kit when Quinn caught up. “You’re not that fast.”

“Uhh, I am fast when I’m flying!” said Quinn, hovering over the ground.

“Okay, whatever. Now that we got away from the snakes, we can at least have the nuts I still have in my sack,” said Keeah.

“Well, at least we have something to eat.”

“Phew! At least we don’t have any more snakes to deal with,” said Softy, finally getting warm.

“Well, if I thought, now that we finally escaped, we can finally go to sleep like usual.”

After they laid down, Keeah started to worry. What if we never come back to the right place? she thought.

But Softy seemed to read her thoughts. “Oh don’t worry, Keeah, we’ll get back.” And then they all fell asleep.

The next morning, they woke up. Keeah was the first one to wake up and she was really good at making stuff. So she found four curved sticks and stones. She laid them out and decided to crack her nuts. Then Softy woke up, saying he would go exploring.

“Hey, Keeah!” said Softy when he got back. “I found a nearby stream! Except the water’s completely blue there.”

“Oh, it doesn’t matter. Just wake up the others, and I’ll try to find that stream.” So Keeah went and found the stream. Keeah grabbed her water bottle and opened the lid. She took out the water and drank. “Mm. Fresh. Water. Looks like Softy could have mentioned that when he got back.”

“Keeah, come on!” said Softy from the distance. Keeah ran back to their tiny hut or cave.

She had her water bottle and she showed Softy how she curved the stones she had washed in the stream.

So while Softy curved rocks into the right shape, Kit tried to find the biggest rock he could find. When he got back, he had a very big rock. Then Keeah grabbed the rock and started pounding it with her fist which she had to use magic until it curved in. Then, she put it around the sticks that she had tried into a cauldron. It made a good one. So Keeah put the ginormous rock in the center.

She said, “Softy, do you know how to make a fire with your magic?”

“Sure do! Why do you need me?”

“Oh, just to make breakfast for all of us.”

So Softy used his powers to light the fire.

Since Keeah still had millions of leftover nuts, so she just poured them all into the water that she had put into the giant rock. Then she found a perfect stick that would make a good spoon and she found many others that looked different but were still good. So after she had washed them and came back, she started mixing the nuts into the bottle. Then she asked Softy to go find something else that would be very good to put in.

Softy came back with apples, and Keeah said they were very good. So she used her power to split them and also put them in and start mixing the nuts and the apples together. Soon all the cooking and working was finished and they could finally eat.

“Mm! This is very good. Where did you learn to make such good stew, Keeah?” Asked Softy.

“Oh, well, when we were back in our forest, we had three cookbooks, and one of them had this recipe in it!”

“Can I have one copy?”

“Ha! Sure,” giggled Keeah. “Okay, now we can go searching for some way to get out of here and get home.”

“Oh, good idea! Just, I’ll grab your water bottle and the sack before we go,” said Kit.

“Good old Kit!” said Softy when Kit came back with all the things in his four tiny paws.

They had very much fun getting across the river.

“Woo hoo!! This is an absolutely crazy walking day,” said Softy and Keeah together.

“Uh, yeah, it is,” said Kit. “Uh, something is making us feel like something’s watching us.”

“Uh, I think nothing is,” said Keeah.

“No, I think something is,” said Kit, pointing. “Something with stripes that was orange with a very long tail.”

“TIGER!” screamed Keeah. Keeah flew up with Softy in her arms and Kit and Quinn decided that they would both go together.

“Well, I’m not sure how many dangers there are on this island.”

“Oh, yes,” agreed Quinn.

“Well, should I have something to tell you? We found the black cloud again!”

“Cool! Let’s go in!” said Kit.

So, the four friends zoomed off into the cloud.

“Okay, now I notice something.”

“You noticed what?”

“Hey, where are you guys?” asked Kit.

“Over here!” said a familiar voice. Suddenly Kit saw something. It looked like a bunny covered in dust, but he wasn’t so sure.

“Oh, hello, Mr. Dust Bunny!”

“No! It’s me! Softy!” came an angry voice.

“Ohhh. Where are the others?”

“Over there! You’re also covered in dust, silly.”

“Ohhh,” said Kit when he saw himself. He shook himself out of the dust and took himself to the others who were also covered in dust.

“Well, now we’re just in a giant dust pile!”

“If I get covered in dust again, don’t call me Dust Bunny!”

“Okay,” said Kit. “If I recognize you.”

“Okay, okay you guys. It’ll be much harder to find a cloud in a place of dust. Look, the trees are dust, the river is dust–”

“ACHOO!” screamed Softy really loud.

“…and that too,” finished Keeah.

It was cloudy and was so dusty that Kit thought Softy might sneeze out the whole world!

“I want my mom!” said Softy. “Looks like I’m catching a cold.”

“You’re catching an allergy to dust,” reminded Keeah.

“Oh, right,” said Softy. 

“Guys! I found a way out,” Quinn interrupted Keeah’s humming.

“Oh! Right,” said Softy. “Now I can– ACHOO!” He flew out.

“Well, now that he learned to fly, let’s go!” said Quinn.

“You guys didn’t go to school yet,” said Keeah.

“Stuffies don’t go to school!” said Kit, turning around.

“Sooooooooo,” said Keeah when they got out. “This is dust world, I should say.”

Kit started humming himself a beat, Keeah started cartwheeling, and Softy decided it would be best if Quinn flew up with him so that he didn’t sneeze-a-rama all day.

“Who are you calling sneeze-o-rama?” said Softy, looking at Quinn’s ears.

But Quinn kept flying. He noted that if he found that black cloud again, he would scream so that the others would fly up and see the black cloud.

“Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock,” said Keeah. “When are they coming down here?”

“Eeeeee!” came the ear piercing scream from the sky.

“Sounds like we,” said Keeah. “Let’s go!” So they flew. And they flew. They flew up-up-up and saw the black cloud again. Quinn was still screaming and flying with his eyes closed and Softy to scream in his ears.

“Hello! Quinn! Stop shouting! They’re here!” 

Suddenly, there was a giant growl. Everything went black. Then, “WOWEEEEEE,” Keeah heard, opening her eyes finally. 

“Home! We’re home!” she heard another voice say.

“Well, we better get asking Keeah all the questions we had for her!”

Then Keeah heard a voice saying, “Keeah! We’re home.”

Keeah burst up and looked around. And then she started jumping up and down. Her jumping made the ground shake a little bit so much that the squirrels got kind of terrified.

The end!

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.

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.

The Birthday Mystery

It was almost Isabella’s birthday. She was about to turn ten years old. She was so excited. Isabella wants her birthday to be very special, because her birthday is in spring which is her favorite season. And every year when it was her birthday, it’s always very special. Isabella got some markers, and then she drew a card, and then she found lots of envelopes, and then she made copies of the sheet she drew. She put them in each envelope with different stickers. One day on March 19, so she loves her birthday so much. She thought there would be some really special presents that she had always wanted since she was five years old. At bedtime, she kissed her teddy bear that she got when she was four years old. 

Then she went to sleep and she dreamed that she and her friends loved her birthday, and she dreamed that she got thousands of presents, including the present she wanted every since she was a little girl. Another teddy bear, teddy bear clothing, and a teddy bear bow tie. She already had one teddy bear, but she wanted two. Then she heard a strange noise that woke her up, but she saw nothing. “Whatever,” she thought. “It was probably a dream.” Then she went back to sleep the whole night. 

The next day was March 20th. Isabella wore her normal school uniform, but included her colorful backpack. When she came to school, she saw Charlie, the mean girl in the school. Isabella looked at her, not very happy. Then she went to her classroom. There was a math assessment, and the problem was 1000000 – 7000 = 3000. 

After the math assessment, it was lunch and recess. She saw her friends named Andrea, Emily, Camila, and Cinnamon. Isabella saw Charlie doing the monkey bars all over again. Isabella thought, it will become not funner if she keeps doing this. After recess they did writing workshop. Her story was nonfiction about flowers and soil. Then it was time for packup, and then they got home. Of course, Isabella got ready for the cake. She changed into her pajamas, ate her dinner, brushed her teeth, and went to the bathroom. She gets ready for sleep and her mom and dad kiss her goodnight.

The next day, it was her birthday. Before she goes to school, Isabella goes to the blue mailbox. Isabella didn’t realize she put the name Charlie on one of the envelopes. Then, she went to school and when it was math, the teacher didn’t really celebrate anybody’s birthday.

Since it was Isabella’s birthday, when Isabella went to the park she was going to say nice things to her friends, but before she could say the nice things she saw Charlie.

“Charlie, I did not invite you to my birthday party,” said Isabella.

“A letter came to my mailbox. You did’t realize you added my name?” said Charlie in a confused face. 

“I didn’t realize. Oh, and also, sorry that I made a mean face yesterday morning. Will you forgive me Charlie?” said Isabella.

“Yes, I always forgive people,” said Charlie in a nice voice… but this is not the end of the story. When it was time to eat the cake, the cake was missing!

“Oh no, the cake is missing!” said Isabela and Charlie.

“What if one of your friends is NOT your friend?” said Charlie.

“That is a good question Charlie. What if my one of my friends is not my friend? I got the cake for 9999 dollars.” 

“That is a lot of money to pay,” said Charlie. “No worries, my dog is smart. His name is Chase. Chase could do anything, so I think he could solve the case. Oh, and also, I am a detective, same as Chase,” whispered Charlie. Chase sniffed all the way to Charlie’s little sister Anna. 

“Anna, you made my new friend very mad,” said Charlie.

“I am sorry, I wanted mommy to love me more,” said Anna.

Isabella felt thrilled because the mystery was solved. She was as happy as a newborn flower. Isabella thought about if her birthday has to be perfect?

“It doesn’t have to be perfect!” Isabella. 

“I guess we solved the mystery,” said Charlie. 

Charlie might still be a little mean. I promise, Charlie will be nice!

The lesson is to not blame it on someone else.

The Book Story

Aria took a book off the shelf. “Here,” she said, handing it to Bunbun. “You can learn more about Fantasia in this book.”

Bunbun had to write a whole report on fantasy. “Well,” said Bunbun, except now his voice was muffled. 

“Okay, silly goose,” said Aria, taking the book off of the small bunny. “You can read it with me.”

“Okay, time to open the book!” said Bunbun.

Aria opened the shiny cover of the book and started reading. Later, she finally closed the book and said, “Okay, time to go to bed.”

Okay, now I can explain what they’re talking about. Except really quietly. They are talking about the world of no magic. The one you’re probably in right now, because this was the opposite. The world of fantasy thought of the world of humans as the world of fantasy. Oh, okay, now they’re waking up and I can stop talking.

Aria yawned. “I thought I heard voices.”

“This sure is a strange dream you had there, miss.”

“Okay, I know what you want,” said Aria, laughing. “To go outside and play ball. Be careful because the ball is twice your size, Bunbun.”

“Okay,” said Bunbun.

They went outside. Aria took the ball and threw it. But before the ball reached Bunbun it disappeared.

“Huh, that’s strange,” said Aria. “Our balls never disappear.”

“I know!” said Bunbun.

“Here, come on, Bunbun.” Bunbun ran to her but also faded. 

“Yeesh!” cried Aria, running back. Then she noticed her hand. It was slowly disappearing! “Oh no,” she groaned.

“Mommy!” Aria heard a voice say.

“Bunbun!” said Aria. A tiny little Bunny hopped in her hands. “Though it’s kind of blank here.

Aria slowly stood up with the small bunny in her hands. But she fell through the floor. 

“Huh. Is this a weird day?” grumbled Bunbun.

“I have to say, I agree,” said Aria, lifting her eyebrow at the weird things all around.

Bunbun sat down, thinking. “My book!” he cried. “I was writing about the world of fantasy, right?”

“Right…” said Aria.

“I was just thinking how–”

“BUNBUN! Watch out!” cried Aria. She snatched the tiny bunny from the ground and ran to the side.

“What?”

“Look! Your book!” she said, panting. They both looked as the book fell and its pages became stranger. They looked like they were flipping from both sides and the words started spilling out of the book. “Oh, I hope not,” moaned Aria.

The words started spinning and spinning and spinning around them.

“Yup! I knew it,” squealed Bunbun in a horrified voice.

“We’re going inside the book!”cried Aria. 

“Help,” grumbled Bunbun. “You’re kidding me. Is this really the place we’re supposed to be going to?” said Bunbun in an annoyed voice.

“Where?” asked Aria. “We’re not even there yet!”

“Well, now that you mention it, I don’t see the ground because of all these words.” It was kind of true. “Is this because I’m hearing that voice again?”

“No! What voice?” squeaked Bunbun.

“And in you go!” said Aria, looking at the hole that was opening up between the words.

“Don’t!” squealed Bunbun, but he was already flip-flopping through the air, and letting his stomach also do flip-flops. Now the bunny was looking up, hoping he wouldn’t get squished by a very big human called Aria. “Now I’m hearing what Aria was hearing.”

“Yeah, I told you that voice was somewhere out there!” said someone behind him.

“Yow!” cried Bunbun, looking for something to hide behind, or someone.

“It’s just me, silly bunny,” said Aria.

“Well, if you’re going to call me silly bunny, you better watch out. This isn’t the place we’re supposed to be.”

“It is if we’re already there,” warned Aria. All Bunbun did was hop on her shoulder.

“Well, if you want to,” said Aria.

“Don’t ask me,” said Bunbun, already hiding his face behind her head.

“Hmmm,” said Aria.

“Are you sure I should peek out?” said Bunbun.

“You should if you wanna squeal again!”

But Bunbun didn’t care. That was all he needed to hear to give a tiny peek.

“EEEE!” he said, almost flying up to the clouds. “I wish my friend Aria wasn’t so serious,” he said, hanging up in the air for at least three seconds before crashing back down to the grass. “Hey, this isn’t grass,” thought Bunbun. “This is slime!” He noticed that the ground was a giant puddle of very gooey slime that was actually mud. “Mama!” he cried. “This is so gooey!” he thought when he finally scrambled out.

“Whatever,” said Aria, running back to the book. She grabbed the book and started flipping through the pages. “I don’t get it. This book is empty!”

“Not so empty,” said Bunbun, flipping to the last page. “Look!” There was one word that had the spelling A-R-I-A  A-N-D  B-U-N-B-U-N. “Hey! That spells Bunbun and Aria!”

Aria looked at Bunbun. Bunbun looked at Aria. “Well, since we got in the book, we must have gotten the book to get the words to have us in the book!” said Aria and Bunbun.

“Well, I’m glad I didn’t leave it in my room. Otherwise I would have thought that there was a girl named Aria and a bunny named Bunbun in the fantasy world too.”

“Woah! What is that?” said Bunbun pointing to something with a long tail, long whiskers, and long ears. “Well, whatever it is, I learned to sound it out: ck-ah-t.”

“I think that spell cat?” said Aria. “But we don’t know what a cat is, or what a cat does!” 

“Well just in case,” said Bunbun, “let’s run.”

Bunbun hopped off of Aria’s shoulder and started running as fast as he could with his tiny legs.

“Ahh,” Bunbun thought. But soon he got a little more filled up with energy. Because he saw that the cat was running after him. “EEE! MAMA MIA!” he cried. He jumped as high as he could so the cat wouldn’t reach him, but he ended up in Aria’s face instead.

“What are you doing?” cried Aria. “You know you shouldn’t have jumped in my face.”

“Sorry! That cat’s about to pounce in my face!” said Bunbun.

“Well, in that case, let’s use the last of our words, even if there aren’t any words,” said Bunbun, staring into the book.

“Wait, what?” said Aria. She flipped to the first page. There was a whole page written. Bunbun flattened himself out like a balloon. “Bunbun, you aren’t supposed to be a bookmark!” said Aria.

But Bunbun still was flat as a deflated balloon.

“I know what you want!” said Aria. She blew on the words which blew Bunbun all over the place. “Now you can blow yourself up!” said Aria.

“Okay,” said Bunbun, and he blew himself up like a balloon.

“Okay, now that you’re not as flat as a deflated balloon, we can–”

“Fly?” interrupted Bunbun.

“No,” said Aria. But she still checked where her feet were dangling. In midair.

“I hate flying.”

“Why?”

“Gives me the creeps,” ended the conversation Bunbun. “All I know is that I’m glad we escaped for the ck-ah-t.”

“It’s a cat, Bunbun, it’s a cat!” said Aria.

Bunbun was doing something Aria didn’t expect, banging his head against a rock with his head bouncing off like a ball. “Hey, this rock is even bouncier than the rocks we have.”

“Okay, Bunbun, did we land in the land of balloons?”

“Pretty much,” he said.

“Whatever. I just want to know, what is that?” Aria said slowly. She pointed towards a blue streak in the sky.

“Hi!” came a voice.

“Who is that? Who is that?” cried Bunbun, jumping up and down.

Finally, Aria noticed that it was another girl. “I thought we were the only ones that came to the fantasy world,” she said, cocking her head.

“Yeah, I didn’t know Zelda also came here!”

“Well, I came here having the feeling you would also come here. Sooo, I picked a book off the shelf and started reading to my pet.”

“You mean your pet dragon Urly?”

“Yeah!” she said. “There’s my dragon!” she said, pointing to a very specific wind dragon.

“Well, now we have a dragon, we can move around more efficiently.”

“Not me! Not me!” said Bunbun, jumping into Aria’s shirt.

“Hey! Get out of there!” laughed Aria. “You tickle!”

Finally two small ears poked out of the bottom of Aria’s shirt, then some eyes, then a nose, then Bunbun poked out. Suddenly, wind came

“It’s just a dragon!” Aria hollered over the wind.

“Stop the wind, Urly,” Zelda said. Then the wind died down. 

“Come on Bunbun, get out of my shirt,” Aria said. Unfortunately, while the wind was   going on, Bunbun got really scared and went under Aria’s shirt. It really tickled, so Aria said, “Get out!” 

“Come on, everybody,” said Zelda. “Let’s get on to my dragon.” 

Zelda felt like she shouldn’t do this, but in her head, she heard her dragon’s voice saying don’t worry. It will be fine. 

Okay, Zelda replied in her mind. She slid onto her dragon and helped Bunbun and Aria on. 

Aria said, “You know, I was thinking that maybe we shouldn’t be going on Bunbun too hard. He is the smallest bunny I found in the petstore.” 

The dragon was flapping its wings, and it begun to roar. Zelda, Aria and Bunbun could see mountains and streams and hills. Bunbun said he felt like too much of a bird to be a bunny, and Aria giggled. 

“Don’t worry, Bunbun. We aren’t going to turn into cake,” Zelda said. Even though that’s what Bunbun thought Zelda said, when really she had said, “Bunbun are you sure we’re all going to turn into a piece of cake? Because when you think about it…that’s not really true.”

“Where should I ask my dragon to go?” Zelda asked.

“Well we don’t know, but our book might know,” said Aria.

“What do you mean, your book would know?” Zelda was really confused. 

“Oh, we’ll show you.” Bunbun tugged the book out of Aria’s knapsack. 

“It says the fffff….” Bunbun tried to read, but he was not a good reader. 

“Three paces left,” Aria said for him. 

“Change the direction to three paces left and let’s fly there,” Zelda instructed her dragon. 

The dragon nodded. He swooped left. 

“What next?” Zelda asked. 

“Go down,” Aria read. They zoomed down. They slid off. 

“Look,” Bunbun said. “I see a letter.” They looked up and saw a letter.

“How do we get to it?” Bunbun asked.

“I have an idea,” Zelda said. “Come on everyone, stand next to me.”

Everyone raced to her sides.

“Now!” she instructed her dragon. “Get us into the air, please.”

And then a huge gust of wind came under their feet and they started floating up towards the letter. “Can you reach it?” Aria asked.

“No,” Zelda said. “But I think Bunbun can. He’s jumping!”

With one last jump, Bunbun grabbed the letter and they slowly started going down. “Now, let’s place it in the first page of the book, right here,” said Bunbun.

“How?” said Aria.

“Just try,” said Bunbun

Zelda snatched up the first letter and placed it. They watched as the letter slowly slid into place and looked like a printed letter again.

“Okay, first letter. Now let’s keep going,” Zelda said. They slid back onto the wind dragon, and Zelda said, “Fly, dragon, fly! We’ve got letters to find!”

After a while of grunting and looking at the book for directions, Aria finally looked up into the sky.

“Hey guys look! I see a big cluster of letters!” Aria said. The dragon flew up close and Aria snatched it up from the air. “Hey, let’s put them in alphabetical order,” Aria said.

They placed each letter carefully and they all looked like printed letters. But they did not go in alphabetical order. They kept rearranging themselves.

Now the letters spelled: find three things. And then it paused.

“Okay, now I know that,” Aria said, “but I don’t know what the three items are. Now we have to find letters and items!” They kept flying. Then, they landed.

“Guys,” Zelda said. “Let’s eat.” 

Aria took out chocolate. Bunbun took out carrots. And Zelda took out mango strips. They started to eat.

Bunbun chomped down on his perfect carrots he gathered. He said they were the most delicious he had ever tasted. And Aria just laughed. She said, “Of course you like carrots!”

Then Bunbun raced down the hill to the closest river, which was not very far. He was thinking about washing his legs, but he found something. “Hey, guys, I found this cool jewel shaped rock!” he called.

Zelda and Aria came running over with the dragon. “What did you find?” Zelda asked.

“I found this rock,” Bunbun answered.

“Oh!” Aria said. “Let’s see if Zelda’s dragon came to help us out.”

“Hey, Urly, can you help us out?” Zelda said in her mind.

“I am ready!” her dragon answered.

“All you have to do is ask the stone to help,” Zelda said, opening her eyes.

“Okay.”

Bunbun said, “Can you help us, stone?” The stone started to glow and it shot blue beams everywhere. “Yeee!” Bunbun cried.

“Bunbun!” Zelda cried, jumping to the little bunny. She screamed as the beam shot towards her and moved away.

“These beams are crazy,” Aria said.

“Watch out!” Bunbun squeaked.

“Huh?” Aria said.

“Uh oh,” Zelda said.

“Ouch!” Aria cried. “These beams hurt.”

“Hey, where’s Aria?” Bunbun said.

“I’m here, I’m here,” Aria said.

“Where?” Zelda asked.

“Zelda! If you want to find out, you should probably get in the way of those beams,” Bunbun said.

“Okay,” Zelda said, her voice shaking, but anyway, she jumped in the bath of one of the beams. “Ahh!” she cried as she turned invisible.

The bunny fell onto the ground and squealed, as he was also in the way of one of those beams.

Just then, Zelda felt the stone. She grabbed the stone and said, “Where are we going?” The stone shot out more beams, which just made the friends go down and down and down.

Finally, when Aria hit the floor, she heard another voice.

“Aria!! Bunbun! Where are you?” 

Zelda! Aria thought. She’s here! Finally, she heard a thump and a small thump and she saw her friends again.

Zelda was checking around for her dragon, and then she heard a giant cry.

“Ayeeeee!”

“What was that?”

“Ayeeeeeee!”

“What. Was. That?” Aria said.

“Ohhh, I think that’s my dragon,” Zelda said. “Are you hearing me?” she said in her mind.

“Yes,” Urly replied. “I am here. Right beside you. So don’t forget.”

“Okay,” Bunbun breathed. “That is scary.” Urly, wind tornado! Zelda yelled. 

“Something about that phrase reminds me of something scary,” Aria mumbled. Before she could say, “Zelda, this is not a good idea,” the wind started blowing in a circle around them.

Yikes! Bunbun thought as he went spinning in the air. Or, at least he thought he was spinning. His mind was spinning.

“Quiet down!” Zelda said. “There’s so much noise that I cannot concentrate on telling my dragon what to do!”

“Sorry,” Bunbun squealed.

“Down!” Zelda yelled and the tornado slowly went down.

As soon as Aria came to the ground, she put Bunbun down. But that was a tiny mistake because the wind hadn’t died down yet, so Bunbun flew onto Aria’s shoulder. But Zelda hadn’t landed quite yet. She was still going down.

“Ow!” Bunbun yelled, putting his hands on his ears. “I forgot to tell you, I keep hearing that weird voice in my head.

Zelda said, “Are we still invisible?”

“Excuse me,” Bunbun interrupted. “That is not an answer.”

“Yeah, that’s not an answer, but that’s another question.” Aria mixed her own voice into the conversation.

Then Zelda shook her head. “Let me see…”

“Let you see what?” Bunbun said.

“I see letters!” Zelda said. She snatched the letters from the air.

Aria quickly took out the book. She put the letters into alphabetical order, but she knew that they wouldn’t turn out that way. Instead, they saw a character’s name.

“I know that book!” Bunbun said. “Now, let me see, where did I last remember that?” Then his eyes got big.

“Greek mythology!” they all said together.

Aria looked at Zelda. Then she looked at Bunbun. Then she looked at Zelda again. “This is very interesting. We fill up half the book. And now we make different thoughts.”

Zelda grinned. “I have an idea,” she said. She walked up to it and started thinking, how do we get home? Answer. And then suddenly new words filled the book. Find all the letters. “Woah! How did you do that?” Bunbun squealed.

“I thought of a question, and it formed that word and wrote an answer.”

And then Bunbun came up and thought, How do we get those letters? And then new words filled the book. They will come to you once you ask.

It was true. Aria looked above her head and saw a big bundle of letters. She grabbed it. “So we have m, n, o, p, and y.”

“Yeah, we don’t really need the y right now,” Zelda said.

“Oh, right. We’re only up to p right now,” Bunbun said.

Then Zelda came up and thought, are we still invisible? Then new sets of letters filled the book. But then all the other letters, and the ones they had already found came into alphabetical order. The book closed.

Zelda heard her dragon’s reply in her head. The book told me you have to put it all together so you are visible again.

“Oh!” Zelda said. She grabbed the book, opened to the right page, and started putting the letters closer to each other so they wouldn’t be so far apart. Bunbun came up and clapped.

Then there was a silence and Aria disappeared. “Yikes!” Bunbun cried. He jumped into the air and then disappeared in midair.

“Bunbun!” Zelda cried. “Well, you might as well think about it.” Then she looked at her hand. It was slowly fading. “Ahhhhh!” she screamed. Then her whole leg disappeared, and she blinked and saw her friends again. “Oh, there you are, people!”

Aria said, “Well, you might as well still be questioning. You’re not invisible anymore.”

“Yes,” Bunbun breathed. “Were you scared when you saw me jump in the air?”

“What do you mean I saw you? I saw you disappear in midair!”

“Oh, sorry!” Bunbun said.

Aria said, “S, c, l, z, y. I’m waiting, people!”

Bunbun opened his mouth to say something, but then quickly shut it because he knew Aria was pretty annoyed. Bunbun shuddered. “It’s cold in here!”

“Oh, right, I forgot to give you your sweater,” Aria said. She handed him his sweater.

“Thanks, Mom!” Bunbun said.

Aria shot him a quick look. Then she looked at Zelda and said, “Can you tell this dragon to fly us up again?”

“Wind tornado, please!” said Zelda, facing Urly.

Suddenly, the wind started to blow, and it circled around them and lifted them up.

I’m crazy, Bunbun thought.

“Bunbun, Zelda, look,” she cried. They all looked. It looked like a smear in the sky. “There’s the rest of the letters! And there is the portal shaped stone!”

“Oh, I know what you’re thinking!” Zelda said. She grabbed the book, Bunbun grabbed the letters, and Aria grabbed the stone.

Bunbun quickly put the letters into place and Aria shouted, “Let’s go wherever this stone takes us to!”

The wind started blowing even harder. It spun and spun and spun until everything went black for Zelda, Bunbun, and Aria.

A few minutes later, Zelda made everything turn back to normal. “Aria, Aria, look! There’s Bunbun’s house! And there’s yours! And there’s mine.” 

“Aria! Wake up!” Zelda said.

“Huh?”Aria said. 

“Stop dreaming that we are at home,” Bunbun said.

“Okay, okay,” Aria stammered. “Where are we anyway?”

“We’re not anywhere yet,” Bunbun said. “We’re still in the magical wind that this stone is taking us into.”

“Oh, really? How confusing,” Aria said.

Zelda was still listening to what Zelda and Bunbun were saying, but her hearing kind of trailed off because she was looking at something else.

Aria whirled around to start talking to Zelda, but then her mouth just hung open. “Zelda! Why are you upside down?”

“I don’t know myself,” Zelda said, her hands hanging in the air.

Suddenly, Bunbun was also up in the air.

Yikes, Aria thought. I think I’ll go somewhere else so I don’t end up upside down like that. But before she could start running away, her foot was slowly going up into the air. Then her other foot, and then her hands were hanging upside down.

So, she thought to herself, if this stone is going to go crazy on us, I’m going to go crazy on it. But how?

Aria remembered that she had always wished to do magic. She said, “Zelda, you know a lot about this place don’t you?”

“Well, sort of,” Zelda said.

Then Aria said, “Can people do magic around here if they weren’t able to do it in the true world?”

“Yes, I think,” she said.

“Ohhh-kay,” Aria said. “Let me try.” She tried her best to point at the cloud they were hanging in. Finally, she was able to do it and she started chanting to herself, “Make this cloud go away if you can.” Then suddenly, Aria and the others were flipped right side up and upside down again, and they kept flipping like that until they finally hit the ground.

Ouch! Bunbun thought. “Mama!” he called.

Aria landed right next to Bunbun, where Zelda landed right next Aria.

“Why did you do that? And how?” Bunbun asked.

“First,” Zelda said, “I have to–”

“SCREEEEE OCK NEE OCK!”

“Oh, bother,” Zelda said. “Stop making those ridiculous sounds, Urly.”

Spreeeeee,” her dragon cried.

“Oh, really?” Zelda said. “Why don’t you just lay down and rest so you don’t have to make those sounds anymore. Ahhh, okay that solved it,” Zelda said.

“Wait!” Bunbun cried. “I wanna try too.” He pointed his tiny paws at one leaf. “Make this leaf flow up!” he said. It floated up and flew on his ear. Bunbun brushed the leaf off his ear.

“Me too!” Zelda said. She pointed her finger at Aria, which scowled.

“Don’t, Zelda!” she said.

Zelda lifted an eyebrow and started singing. “Make her float on a tree!”

Yikes, Bunbun thought to himself again.

But then Aria started lifting on the tree. “Ohh, Zelda, get me down!” She said between bumps. Then she floated back down on the ground.

“Ohhh,” Bunbun said. Then Bunbun smiled big and said, “Make that cloud turn into cotton candy. Yum!” Bunbun squealed at the cotton candy cloud, which slowly went to the ground.

Aria laughed. “Okay little bunny. You can have some cotton candy while we talk.”

Bunbun jumped onto the small little cotton candy cloud and ate it. Sadly, he said, “does this still make people turn black and white?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, yeah, I’m still black and white.”

Then, Bunbun had the greatest idea anyone has ever had. He shouted, “Make it rain rainbow drops!” The ground started to shake and then rainbow drops started splattered everywhere, and wherever they landed, color returned. “That’s way better!” Bunbun said, zooming down the hill.

“Oh, bother, little Bunbun,” Aria said.

“Oh, right,” Zelda said. “He might have just run down the hill.” She stepped on the hill and slid down.

Aria hesitated for a moment, but then slid down and saw Bunbun.

“Bunbun, what did I tell you about–”

“Is my mouth black and white?” Bunbun said. 

“Yes,” Aria said.

Bunbun opened his mouth and a few rainbow drops flew in.

“I wonder when we’re going to have time to stop talking about this nonsense.”

“I wonder that too,” Aria said.

“Well, I think it’s going to be now,” Zelda said. “I see the letter z.”

“Z?”

“And it’s golden.”

“Oh, really? Let’s pick it up then.”

Zelda snatched the letter z and placed it in the book and said, “I hope this forms something useful.”

And the book did form something useful. The words came: home.

“Yay!” Bunbun squeaked. “Home!” He took a step, dove straight into the words, and vanished.

“Bunbun!” Zelda cried. She jumped into the book and vanished too.

“I’m so glad we can go home,” Aria said, and she dove into the words too.

“Yay! Home! Home!” she heard a tiny voice squeal.

“Oh, my dragon flew into the book too!” she heard another voice say.

Ock nee spreee!”

Aria found herself lying in the autumn leaves as everything was turning more autumn, sort of.

Then a gentle pitter-patter hit her on the face.

“Are you going home?” Bunbun said.

“No,” Aria said. “I think I’ll stay with Zelda.

the end

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.

MESSI AND THE THREE LITTLE

There once lived the only best soccer player that ever lived! His name was Lionel Messi. One hot and bright afternoon in summer, Messi came on the court to practice for his big game, sweating like nobody had ever sweat before. He looked like an ice cream cone melting in the sun.

The soccer balls saw him coming by that afternoon. All three balls were going crazy for him. The soccer balls’ names were Frank, Macy, and Nicky, and they were new balls, so they didn’t know much about Messi. They were just ordered a week ago from Amazon, and they were delivered in a box that was in a truck that went to the court, where they ordered tons of other balls.

But when Messi walked into the court the balls started to get scared; they’d never been kicked before. One of the balls tried to scream but it was so scared that no sound came out. Nobody could even hear a peep! The three little balls noticed that they were on the top rack, so Messi was probably going to pick one of them! This was so scary for the balls.

The first ball he chose, Frank, was the least smart in the soccer ball rack. Messi held the first ball, and as he took him away, Frank screamed loudly for help. “Help!” Frank screamed while Messi was lowering him down slowly. As he placed Frank on the ground, Frank was terrified. Frank rolled away as fast as he could. Right when Messi placed Frank to the floor, Frank went to the goal. Messi thought it was just a slope; the ball went in the soccer goal. “There, you happy now? I’m going to kick your butt one day!” Frank said. Frank was even crazier than Messi.

Messi reached for the other ball. He got the second ball, Nicky, in the rack of soccer balls. He was ordinary, like all the other balls in the rack. When Messi took Nicky, Nicky was terrified, then Messi put him on the ground hoping that Nicky wasn’t going to move. Messi went to the bathroom. It took Messi pretty long. Every ball thought that he was eating beans. When he came back, Messi was shocked to see that Nicky was gone, and he was getting frustrated. It turned out that Nicky was hiding behind the soccer rack. Messi’s face was turning red, in a way that the balls thought looked funny. “Hehehe,” said the balls.

The Drama

Messi sat down and was really annoyed. He took a water break and kept on thinking about why all the balls were going away. He couldn’t see any of them. He also kept on thinking about if he was going to win the big game, and how many hours he should be training. I wish I could have a break, Messi whispered in his head. But he knew he couldn’t, because then he would not be able to win the big game. 

Messi knew he had to change his schedule to win his soccer game. Another really good team was playing against them. Messi changed his schedule from two hours of practice, to four hours of practice. And when Messi did that, he felt proud. I don’t know why he was so proud, it was just a little fix. Anyway, he got up and kissed both his muscles.

Messi went to the soccer ball rack and somehow got the smartest ball, Macy. While Messi was placing Macy down, she had a big grin on her face, and she also had a big check on her back to know that she got everything right. When Messi put her on the ground, in just one blink Macy was gone. It turned out that she was also the fastest runner in the rack, and she was hiding in Messi’s soccer bag. Messi opened his eyes and saw that the ball wasn’t there again. He was furious. “Why, why me?” he said in a whisper. Then he said, “OH DARN IT!” Then he left the court.

-THE END-

Escape Mars

Stuck on Mars: Part 1

Alex is an astronaut in NASA. He loves going to space, and he’s always wanted to go to Mars. Alex got a mission to go to Mars, but since Alex was so excited to go to Mars, he didn’t check the fuel or the engine, and he didn’t pack any tools. 

Nothing went wrong for the 6 months, but when Alex was really close to Mars, everything started to go wrong. Alarms were going off, the engine broke, the ship was out of fuel. Since Alex packed no tools, he couldn’t fix the engine, and Alex packed no extra fuel tanks either.

Since the engine was broken and they only had a little bit of fuel, they had a crash landing on Mars. Alex got some scratches and bruises, but the injuries were not big. However, the rocket was torn into pieces. Alex had water and food, but not many packets because Alex was only planning on staying for two or three days. Alex had to eat only tiny bits of food a day, or else there was no way of getting out of Mars.

It’s been two months, and Alex is still stranded on Mars. Alex tried an emergency message, but it didn’t go through because the rocket was torn apart. Just when Alex was losing hope, he saw something in the distance: it was another astronaut.

 Escaping Mars: Part 2 

Alan is an astronaut in NASA. Alan had a mission to go to Mars. Before he went to Mars, he read a newspaper story saying there was a missing astronaut. It took Alan seven months to

get to Mars. Alan was trying to find out if people can live on Mars, if there were any living creatures there, and if there was food and water. 

When Alan was close to Mars, he saw that the rocket was running out of fuel, but he thought it would be fine. So when he got to Mars, he looked around, but he found no food and water, and no living creatures. At that point, he went back to the rocket. When he got to his seat, he saw that the rocket ran out of fuel, so he had to go back outside and see if there was a fuel source somewhere on Mars.

Alan went to the back of the rocket ship where the storage was kept. He found a shovel so he took it with him. Alan knew he had lots of food and water, he was just hoping it would last long enough till he found a fuel source. Alan went outside and started digging. It took him a month. Alan was so tired, but then he found a little bit more of the fuel source, so he knew he had to keep digging. He also knew he was running out of food and water so he had to dig much faster.

It’d been a week, and Alan had found a little fuel, but he only had a few packs of food and water left. So from three meals a day, it became two and then one meal a day. Back at NASA, they knew it would take at least a year, but it’d been almost two years, so they sent Alan a message that they were sending fuel. When Alan got the message, he was relieved that they were sending some fuel. After a week, he got the fuel, but when he put the fuel in the rocket it still wasn’t enough, so he had to keep digging.

After a few days, he only had one more pack of food left, so he sent a message to NASA and asked them for more food packs. NASA replied that they were out of food packs, so Alan could only have bit by bit of food every day. Finally the day had come when he had found enough fuel in the ground to fill up the rocket ship. When Alan finished filling up the rocket ship, he checked the food packs and knew that if he had a little bit of food everyday, he might make it seven months.

After seven months, he made it back to earth, but he was starving. He had a big feast with burgers and french fries. 

“I couldn’t find any water or food and I couldn’t find living creatures,” NASA told Alan after the feast. “But I did find some fuel source in the ground, so if we can go to Mars one more time, I think we can find something there.” 

“We will make another rocket for you but this time you have to find something,” NASA said.

“Ok,” Alan replied.

Alan got ready for his second mission, but this time he knew he couldn’t fail.

While Alan was packing up for his next trip to Mars, he got a call saying that something went wrong with the rocket and the engine had blown up, but they had fix it before Alan went to space. They had no time to postpone the launch, so they quickly fixed it up and hoped that the rocket would still work. Alan sat down on his seat and looked at how much fuel he had. It said it was full fuel, but what Alan didn’t know was that something was going wrong with the engine. The blast off was successful, but Alan felt something would go wrong.

It’d been six months, nothing was wrong with the engine, and they were almost to Mars. Since nothing went wrong for six months, Alan was just relaxing. But as soon as Alan was

going to sit down and relax, an alarm went off. Red lights were everywhere. Alan ran back to 

where the engine was. He got some tools, but nothing could fix it, so he used tape to tape

the wires together. The alarm went off and everything was fine again. But Alan knew that tape

wouldn’t hold for long, so he had to be faster.

One month later, Alan was so close to Mars. All he needed to do was to land, but the alarm went off and he couldn’t fix it, so Alan had a rough landing. Alan got some injuries and the rocket needed fixing, so Alan wrapped up his injuries and started to fix the rocket. But Alan didn’t have all the supplies to fix the engine, so he had to send an emergency message through the satellites to NASA. They got the message and sent some tools in another rocket ship. Alan fixed up the rocket, but something went wrong again: the fuel tank was empty. Alan thought that the fuel must have dripped out of the rocket ship, because when he saw the fuel for the first time, it said it was full.

Alan knew he couldn’t send another emergency message because he was limited to one, but he had an idea: he took the shovel and went outside. He started digging. He kept digging and digging, but this time he couldn’t find a fuel source, so he walked farther and farther. Finally when he found a fuel source, he got up and looked around, but he couldn’t see the rocket ship. Alan had an idea: to follow his footprints. But they weren’t there – the wind must have made the sand cover all the footprints. Alan had another plan. The plan was to go backwards. Alan kept going backwards for hours and hours, but he could see nothing.

A few hours later, he saw something far away. It was his rocket ship! Alan was so relieved that he started running to the rocket ship, but since he could only find one place with a fuel source, he had to drag the big rocket ship with him all the way to the fuel source. It took him 

three days without stopping to get to the fuel source with the big rocket. When he reached the fuel source, it was night, and Alan was really tired, so he went to sleep.

The next day, Alan started digging, but Alan’s left hand was injured so he could 

only dig with his right which made him slower. After four weeks he found some more fuel, but Alan knew he needed to find more fuel. In the morning the day he saw something in the distance he found another astronaut. Alan ran to the other astronaut. Alan thought that that astronaut must have also lost fuel and was stuck on Mars. Alan went to the other man and asked him what his name was. 

“My name is Alex,” said Alex. 

“How much fuel do you have?” Alan asked. 

“I have half fuel,” Alex said.

Alan also had half fuel. “So if we put our fuel together we’ll have full fuel,” Alan thought. 

“Let’s put our fuel together in one rocket ship then we can both get out of Mars,” Alan said.

“Ok,” said Alex.

So Alex and Alan put their fuel together and they had enough fuel to go back to Earth. They both went in Alan’s rocket ship, but when they tried to blast off, the rocket said too much weight, so one person had to come off. 

“I’ll come off,” Alan said. 

“When I get to Earth, I’ll bring a rocket ship to you with full fuel,” Alex said.

“Ok,” Alan said.

After a few weeks, Alan saw a rocket ship. It landed where he was. Alan was so happy to see the rocket because had no food the whole time and he was starving. Alan went in the rocket ship and started eating. After he was full, Alan started to blast off.

Seven months later, Alan got back to Earth. He couldn’t get any information on the Martian fuel source, but that was ok because he found the astronaut that went missing in space.

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.

Ant and Flower

Ant Timmy wants a beautiful pink flower that’s by his house on Nelson Road. He found it two hours ago when he was running. He thought it was perfect for his brother’s birthday. His brother likes pink. Timmy likes the flower, too. Timmy wants to take the flower to his brother’s house. 

He is trying to pull it but it’s too strong. Timmy was sad. He thinks about Greg, his friend, because Greg is strong. Greg is an army ant. Greg lives on Nelson Road, too. He is Timmy’s neighbor. Timmy met Greg when he was running a month ago. 

When he got to Greg’s house,Timmy asked Greg to pull the flower for him.

Greg said, “Sure.” 

Greg tried but he can’t pull it either. He tried again. But he still can’t.

Timmy and Greg both try, but it is too strong. Timmy said, “l have an idea!”

“What idea?” Greg asked. 

“Could you ask your army ant friends over?” 

“Sure!” 

“Okay,” Timmy said. 

Greg called his army ants. Five minutes later, they didn’t appear. Greg called them again, and 100 army ants appeared on Timmy’s lawn. They tried to pull the flower but they end up failing. They said, “Sorry, I can’t pull it.” Timmy was sad because in 10 minutes his brother’s birthday party starts, and he likes flowers.  

This is the final idea. He remembered he had a tack. He said, “I can cut it with a tack!” He pokes the flower in the middle of the stem, but he accidentally cuts it in a straight line and the petals get ripped. 

He got another flower from Greg’s house because he is tired. It’s nice and perfect, and Greg cut it just the way Timmy wanted, and he went to his brother’s house and gave the flower to his brother.

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. 

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?”

Kitty’s Big Adventure

Kitty was a happy cat that lived in her royal palace called the kitty palace. The night was coming soon and Kitty wanted to get in bed. She turned off the light and settled cozily in her bed. She heard wild winds outside of her window. Then she heard thunder and balled up under her blanket. 

Kitty was young and was afraid of thunder, so she yelled, “Mom, Dad can you come in here?!” Kitty’s parents came in and they sat in Kitty’s bed until she fell asleep. When Kitty woke up, she was no longer in the palace. She was in a jungle! There were lush green plants and the air was very humid.  “This is very different from the palace!” said Kitty. She saw her cousin, a leopard named Swiper. He got his name because he took a lot of the animal’s belongings. His best friend is a parrot named Feathers. Feathers has magic powers because he was born from a magic waterfall. 

Swiper said, “The palace was moved last night by all of the harsh winds and the thunder. The palace can now be found in the peaceful meadow which is across the river.” 

Kitty said, “Swiper, you should come because you know the way!” Swiper was happy to help out his cousin, so they started towards the peaceful meadow. 

Swiper led the way out of the jungle and the peaceful meadow was in sight! However, there were many miles to cover before they reached the kitty palace. Kitty thought that it would be an easy adventure, but she soon realized that she was wrong. They reached the desert that they would have to cross to get to the kitty palace. Kitty knew that if she wanted to cross the desert, it would take up to five days at least! 

They started the journey. Kitty and Swiper thought that it was getting dark after a little while, so they decided to camp in a clump of sand. When they woke up, they continued on their journey to cross the desert. After four days, they could see the canyon! They kept going and finally, they were out of the desert! Kitty and Swiper were hot and tired, so they took a little nap. When they woke up, they started to go through the canyon.   

“There are a lot of rock avalanches in the canyon, so we have to be very quiet,” said Swiper. Kitty wanted to see if the canyon had an echo, so she quietly said, “Hello!” 

Swiper told her, “Kitty, please be more quiet.” However, Kitty needed to sneeze. She tried to hold it in but she couldn’t! The canyon trembled. Swiper and Kitty started to realize that they were about to experience a rock avalanche! 

“Get on my back!” shouted Swiper. “The end of the canyon isn’t far, so I think that maybe I’ll be able to get through before the avalanche does.”

Kitty hopped on Swiper’s back and they charged through the canyon. They beat the avalanche by a fraction of a second and were both breathing hard. Kitty and Swiper now needed to cross the mountain. They had two options for crossing it: they could go through it in the cave that they could easily get lost in, or they could climb the mountain that they could easily fall off of. Kitty finally said, “We’re going to climb the mountain.” They walked up the icy path for many days. Now Kitty and Swiper were very high up on the mountain. On an icy ledge, Kitty slipped! However, Swiper caught her just in time and put her back on the mountain. One day later, they were off the mountain!  

Swiper said, “We are now crossing into the cave. There are many critters in the cave, but the journey is only about five hours.”  

Kitty and Swiper were hoping to be in and out. There was a map on the wall that listed all the creatures. The list said:  “Here are the creatures that you might encounter: bats, cave crickets, cave newts and spiders. Be safe crossing through these parts” 

“We should go in,” said Kitty. So, they entered the cave. “It is very dark in here,” said Kitty. Fortunately, they didn’t encounter any cave creatures, and they made it out alright. 

“Okay there’s only one thing left to do,” said Swiper. 

“What’s that?”asked Kitty. 

“Cross the rope bridge,” replied Swiper. Kitty was very nervous for this event, because the rope bridge was over water and if there’s one thing cats hate, it’s water. They arrived at the rope bridge and it looked very unstable. 

“Get on my back,” said Swiper. “I can carry you across the bridge!” Kitty got on and Swiper slowly put a paw on the bridge. The wooden board gave way and snapped off the bridge, falling hard into the rushing water. “I know you are afraid of water, but you are the only one who can cross that bridge!,” Swiper shouted over the loud noise of the water. 

“What will happen to you?” asked Kitty. 

“You can come back later and get me, then we can fix the bridge and make it stable. You can do it, Kitty, just don’t look down!” shouted Swiper. 

Kitty slowly started to walk onto the first board. She started walking board after board.  Kitty’s heart started thumping, her body started trembling. Soon, she was at the halfway point! 

“You’re doing great, just keep going and don’t look down,” said Swiper. But Kitty made a big mistake and looked down! She saw the water, the rocks and the waterfall at the end of the river. Kitty collapsed onto the board. “No! Kitty the board will snap! Get back up!!” Swiper yelled. But, Kitty was too late. The board snapped, leaving Kitty hanging by one paw on the rope of the bridge. “Kitty!” Swiper yelled nervously. Swiper called for his jungle friend, Feathers, to teleport over and save Kitty. Feathers had super strength and teleporting powers. Feathers grabbed Kitty just before the board snapped and put her on the side of the bridge leading to the peaceful meadow. Kitty ran to the kitty palace and hugged her parents. She felt so happy that she finally got to the kitty palace. 

“Mom, Dad, I have some things to do before we have dinner,” said Kitty. She grabbed materials and ran to the bridge. She spent many hours there and finally, the bridge was made. It was a beautiful red bridge that had golden railings on the side. There was a sign at the end of the bridge saying: “Welcome to the peaceful meadow! Home of the kitty palace.” Swiper and Feathers were finally allowed across and they decided to stay there for a few days. Kitty’s parents invited Swiper and Feathers over for dinner as a thank you gift. They ate salmon for dinner, and for dessert they had Kitty and Swiper’s personal favorite: chocolate cats! Swiper was about to leave the next day. 

“Come back soon! You know where we are,” said Kitty. 

“I will. There is a train station not far from my place that takes me right to the bridge, but you can come over to my house too,” said Swiper. 

“Okay,” said Kitty. “The only problem is that it’s such a long walk to the jungle.” 

“You can just call Feathers,” said Swiper. “He lives close by.” 

“Okay, I promise that I’ll visit sometime soon,” said Kitty. 

“Here is the code to my house if I ever don’t answer the door or I’m not there,” said Swiper. “It’s 7199.” 

“My code is 3097,” said Kitty. “I’ll see you in a few weeks!” 

“Your birthday is in a few days. I’ll visit then,” said Swiper. 

Feathers went back to his home and so did Kitty and Swiper. A few days later, Swiper and Feathers came over for Kitty’s birthday celebration. They had lots of fun and they played lots of games. Swiper and Feathers left the next day. 

“Bye!” said Kitty. Then, it was back to the palace for Kitty.

THE END!

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.

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. 

Tom the Ghost

Tom is a ghost and has a secret place, a bookshelf. If you move the bookshelf to the right or left, you will see a hole in the wall. In the hole in the wall, you will see Tom. Books cover the shelf. The bookshelf is made out of wood. It smells like smoke and dust. It is very old and there are cobwebs. Tom likes to be in the library. 

Tom goes to ghost school because he is eight years old. He wants to have a friend. He has fifteen classmates and four cousins. He has no friends because he can’t talk. Tom writes with others since he can’t talk. He reads books and so do his classmates. He likes when the teacher has a read-aloud.  

Tom has lived in the hole behind the bookshelf for a long time. He likes to have privacy.  Tom was the one who made his home. He carved the hole. It took a long time. Inside his hole, Tom brought a TV and a couch.

There is a water bottle on the library shelf next to his hole. The water bottle is dirty because it is touching the dust and cobwebs. It had been there for five weeks. A little boy threw it on the shelf.  There are lots of people in the library. It is noisy for Tom. It bothers him because he can’t hear the TV.  So he sleeps. Tom is a very good sleeper. 

When he woke up, he realized that he didn’t turn off the TV.  He watched it. There were scary movies. Tom likes scary movies. Three hours later, he turned it off. He worked on math problems to get ready for fourth grade. He did six pages of homework and read four chapter books. Tom likes homework. He ate dinner. He watched the sunset through the library window. Then he saw a caterpillar. He is scared of caterpillars, so he ran to his hole. 

Tom wants a friend. The problem is, Tom is scared of bullies. And he can’t talk. It was a serious problem.

When Tom was bored he went outside. Tom likes to play ball by himself. Tom always plays by himself. Tom is lonely. One day, while Tom was playing ball, he saw a park by his library. At the park, Tom saw other ghosts. They were playing. They were all friends. Then Tom noticed another ghost. Tom saw that ghost push the other ghosts. Those ghosts ran away. Tom felt bad. 

The ghost bully saw Tom and chased after him. Tom tried to run away, but the bully caught his leg. Tom was sad and cried. The ghost bully pushed Tom. 

Tom stood up and ran to the library, to his hole.

The next day at ghost school the same thing happened. The bully was new in school. As soon as he saw Tom, he pushed Tom. Everybody saw it, and one classmate told the teacher.  

The ghost bully got in trouble. The teacher made him say sorry about what he did.

Tom made a heart with his hand and the bully knew what Tom meant. 

The bully said, “Does it mean we’re friends?”

Tom nodded, and the bully and Tom became best friends. His new friend’s name is Ben.  They played at the playground. 

The next day, Tom and Ben played at the park. Other ghost kids were there. Tom brought his ball. At first, the other ghosts didn’t want to play with Ben, only Tom. Tom did his trick. He made a heart with his hands and the other ghosts knew what it meant.  

They played ball, and they are all best friends!

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.

Annie the Seeing Eye Dog

The mall looked like a huge village full of stores. The floor tasted dusty like a shoe covered in mud. The people were really loud, there was music playing and people shouting. The mall smelled like pretzels covered in salt right from the oven, or smoothies made out of fresh fruit. Near Dunkin’ Donuts, in the food court, someone had placed a water bottle next to a table. The water bottle had art all over it. A person wearing a blue jumpsuit came and put the water bottle in a trash can. 

Annie was a seeing eye dog. She was a pomeranian, which was very unusual for a seeing eye dog. Annie was puffy, with light brown fur and short legs. Every Saturday Annie came to the mall to go shopping with her owner. She liked coming to the mall. Most dogs couldn’t come to the mall, but Annie could because she was a seeing eye dog. She didn’t care if the mall was loud because she had to be with her owner 24/7.

She also liked pretty colors. When she saw the water bottle near Dunkin’ Donuts, she thought wow, it’s really colorful. But the man in the blue jumpsuit threw it in the trash. That made Annie sad and furious.  

She barked at the man. You’re so mean, she wanted to say. 

Her owner said to “be quiet.”

Annie listened. If she didn’t do her job then she won’t be able to go to the mall and she wouldn’t be able to help her owner. And she loved to help her owner. It made her feel helpful. But the water bottle was in trouble, too!

The question was, how could she save the water bottle? 

She decided to be good, stay with her owner, and later she would get the water bottle. That seemed like a good idea. So she waited until the right moment. 

When the owner told Annie to take her to the store to buy some furniture, she decided it would be good to get the water bottle now. She dragged her owner to the garbage can. But her owner refused to get it for her! Her owner didn’t understand. Her owner thought it was just trash.

Annie was so mad!!! She whined and whined to her owner that she needed the water bottle. 

“Did you lose something special?” her owner asked.

Annie barked excitedly.

The owner reached into the trash. She brought out a banana peel. Then she brought out an old pair of boots. She also found a half-eaten apple. Finally, she found the water bottle.

Annie barked happily.

The owner said, “this water bottle has stickers peeling off it, and I think it’s dirty. I don’t think it’s good for you to have this.”

Annie whined.

The owner ignored her and made her keep going. They went to the drug store. 

All of a sudden, Annie spotted an aisle full of water bottles, and they looked more beautiful than the other water bottle that she had spotted!!!  They were shiny new! The problem was that all of them were so pretty!! She wanted all of them! 

Annie was so excited that she leapt up, knocking water bottles off the shelf.  The store manager rushed over. He told the owner that Annie was crashing the water bottles, so then the owner apologized. 

She asked, “are the water bottles from the trash?”

And the store manager said, “no, they’re brand new.”

The owner told Annie, “you can have one water bottle.’

  Annie spotted the same water bottle from the trash, except it was new. Annie thought it looked better than the old one and she liked the newer one better. She whined to her owner, and knocked it off the shelf. 

The manager said, “I’ve had enough of this!” 

The owner said, “we’ll buy that water bottle.” 

The manager sold them the water bottle, but said, “after today, you and your dog are banned from this store.”

So Annie and her owner bought the water bottle and left. 

Annie felt sad that she had knocked all the water bottles on the floor and gotten her owner banned. 

But her owner wasn’t mad. The owner heard from a friend that there was a better store where there were more seeing eye dogs, and even random dogs were allowed. That store was called PETS FROM EVERYWHERE. 

And Annie and her owner went there every Saturday instead of the mall.

 The End

The Tomato Trouble

Hi, I’m Tommy the racoon!

I hope that you will put some food out for me or even just do simple things like leaving your trash can open to give me food. If you do so, I will also bring food for my mom and dad and my 5 pesky sisters. 

But last night at 8, I went out looking for food, and when I was trying to recover some almost ripe and delicious tomatoes I saw a shadow behind me. It was big and shaped like my worst fear. They’re very ugly (compared to this handsome dude) and they’re very complicated. They leave food out for me in these things that are apparently called bird feeders instead of what they should be called—raccoon feeders, but then they’re mad because I eat the stuff inside them. Humans are one head-scratching creature.  

Enough about humans. I scrambled to the bush. 

“Dan, did you eat the heirloom tomatoes from the garden? It’s not funny. I need them for the caprese salad.”

The woman had hair that looked like noodles and eyes that were the color of the sky. The man shook his head. “I don’t want your tommy toes until you add dressing. Why don’t you ask the  neighbors to see if anyone else is experiencing tomato theft.”

“Fine,’’ replied the wife.

To my relief, the woman went inside, but the man just sat there and smoked. Unfortunately the silence didn’t last. Three minutes later the woman came back outside. “Apparently the neighbors have the same problem with their tomatoes.” The woman was talking like she just made a special scientific discovery. Humans are also definitely not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I mean, duh, Sherlock if one’s gone they’ll miss other tomatoes too. I kept listening to their conversation but after a while they went inside. When they were out of sight, I ran to the tomato patch and picked the last tomato which they didn’t see. Another thing about humans, they have bad eyesight. ALL OF THEM. The tomato was one measly yard away and they couldn’t see it. It was now reddish green and hard to miss. I plucked the tomato and ran back home. 

“Where in the world have you been Tommy?” Asked my mother.

 “Out getting breakfast,” said my older sister Olympia. I didn’t answer, I just slowly trudged up the tree past the waking owl and thought about what was happening. I was now afraid that I would get caught. I was not going near those people again and I would warn my family later too.

After some thinking, I decided to take another walk around the neighborhood.  As I was walking around the neighborhood, I stopped at the spot where I always get my food. I heard the woman say “those dumb squirrels”

I looked at my delicious enemy who was trying to get to a bird feeder, even though  to a nearsighted human it looked like it was going at the tomatoes . I thought this whole thing was hilarious and Nutty the squirrel was barely getting away! “What are you laughing at?” Nutty snarled. “ Watch your elders,’’ I said. Nutty dodged the lady and ran.

On Saturday night, I was out hunting for food with my family when a huge truck showed up in front of us. It had the word “exterminator” on it in bright neon orange. I turned and ran, leaving the rest of my family running in different directions. I now live without them in a place that is called NYC which provides a lot of food.

That is the story of how I moved to NYC with no notice whatsoever. 

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.

Crafty’s Adventure, Part 1

Crafty lives in a village next to the snow mountains. He wants a Snow Fang. A Snow Fang is a female lion covered in snow.

Crafty is in a war! He is battling a boat of small people. He sees a tiny hole on the boat, and inside the hole, he sees a machine gun. He shoots at the machine gun, and he blows it up. The small people put on a pumpkin head so that it protects them from the blow. Crafty shoots his gun, and the small people fall back. 

Crafty takes the ship. Crafty has a big ship that he’s going to use to find Snow Fang, but there is a crack on the bottom of the ship. Crafty takes a board out of his pocket and uses that to cover the crack and fix the ship. 

Next, he’s in a battle, and there is a pirate ship. 

“Ahhhh,” they scream! 

The pirates are rushing to the pistols, and they are rushing to the cannons. Crafty is putting fireballs into the canons, and there are other people helping Crafty. Crafty gets the first shot and hits the front of the boat. The boat goes BOOM! It sinks, and the pirates sink with the boat. 

“Phew!” says Crafty. Good thing I wasn’t those pirates, he thinks. 

Crafty is heading towards the mountains to try to find a Snow Fang. Crafty gets to the mountains and he comes upon three people that are battling them, who are Crafty and his army. Crafty won that battle. They walked and walked and walked until they came to another battle. They had chests and guns and there were more people. He thought, Wow, these guys are idiots. They started battling. 

Crafty beat the bad guys and won the battles, but he was still looking for a Snow Fang.

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.

Mr. Poodle and the Stray Cat, Starburst

One day, there lived a poodle named Mr. Poodle. Mr. Poodle had no friends, making the only stray or soon-to-be pet, a lost but kind cat, his only option. Mr. Poodle was a 13-year-old, living pup with his own family, made up of Mrs. Poodle and his three children, Marcy, Darcy, and Barcy.

Mr. Poodle was a lone pup while growing up, meaning his only friend was his teacher, Mrs. Brat. Mrs. Brat was not always a brat, you know. And so every single night he would wish upon a star and say, “I always wanted a friend. Give me a friend.”

’Til day one of 2013 he had been begging for that.

Meanwhile, the other pet, or should we say stray cat, named Starburst, was also in need of a friend. Her story was that she had lost her papa, and her mom was shot and taken to the hound. Stary got her name from a piece of wrapper she found in a trashcan named Starburst.

So, on day 145, Stary was eating up used garbage in the trashcan ’cause that’s what you find in a trashcan. In another 15 minutes, Stary was vomiting in the trash!!

Mr. Poodle was walking down the street when he saw Stary on his property.

He barked, “Get off! My owner may send you to the hound!!”

She did what she was told.

The next day, she came to the trash can (where she had vomited), finding Mr. Poodle with the rest of his family. She thanked him and said, “Thank you for saving me. You know, I’ve been wanting to ask you something. Of course, that something is: Mr. Poodle, would you like to be my friend?”

Mr. Poodle blushed and said, “Of course,” and so they hugged each other from day 146 to the last day of life for both of them.

Crafty’s Adventure, Part 2

Editor’s Note: This action-packed thriller contains violence and murder.  It may be scary for some younger readers.

Chapter 1

One day, Crafty was in his tank and driving it towards war. He was going to battle the Apple Army. The Apple Army loved eating apples. He wanted to make a house on their land. The Apple Army was really mad at Crafty. They didn’t want him to make a house on their land or take over their land. 

Crafty arrived on land and drove his tank around the area. He found people sitting in a camp. There were tents everywhere and sleeping bags inside them. Crafty ordered his army to kill the people. He was able to get their supplies and packed it up in his tank.

***

They went onto the ship to get rest. They boarded the ship with their tanks and left. But in the night, they got attacked by the people that were camping. Something that surprised them was that the people were bored. He got knocked off the ship. Then they killed all the people who tried to sneak attack them. Some of the people were even alive. Near their ship was an airplane. So he got into his tank and shot the airplane down. 

Then Crafty had to repair the ship. Then the ship was driven somewhere else behind more land. They drove the tanks off the ship. Then they found the perfect stop to make a camp. They made their camp and went to sleep. 

***

The next day, they started chopping down trees. They gathered all the materials needed to build a cabin next to the ocean. Then they built their dock so they could dock their boat. They made their cabin out of stone, too. They found a lot of stones and went to sleep. 

***

The next day, people came onto their land and found their castle. They tried to take over the castle, but they were swept into the water. Then they went into the castle. Then they went outside and went on one of their ships. Then they found a pirate ship and attacked. Then they raided the ship. Then they blew the ship up because they couldn’t use a straggly, old ship. After they blew it up, they went back home to go to sleep. 

***

The next morning, the pirates were outside. Then Crafty got his gun. Then he woke up the other soldiers who were sound asleep. Then they took out all the pirates. Then Crafty got in his tent. Then they heard a gunshot. Then they saw a British tank at the British camp. Then they attacked. Then, after they won, they looted it. Then they set it on fire after they raided it. Then they went back home. Then they chopped down more trees. Then they went mining. Then they made their castle even better. Then they sailed the seven seas. Then the pirate ship was seen. The pirate ship blasted the ship apart. Then they were never to be seen again. Just kidding. Then they had to swim to land. So then they swam back to land.

Chapter 2

The next day, Crafty woke up because a pirate was next to his bed! The pirates took over their beds. Then they locked him in the pirate ship, but his cell had a pistol in it. Since there were only ten people on board, they went out and shot all of them. They looted the ship because they had a lot of good weapons. They went back to their castle. There were only ten people on board because they dropped fifteen off at the castle. They fought them and jumped off their ship. Then Crafty spotted a German sitting there. Since there were tanks, he shot the tanks. Then he went to bed. 

***

The next morning, soldiers were at his house. Then he found a rifle and shot a German down. There were very hard tanks outside. Then Crafty had a hard tank, so he sneaked outside from the back door because there were no Germans in the back door. Then he took his tank and drove it around the corner. The other tanks didn’t even notice. Then he shot both of the tanks. BAM! They exploded. The good news was that there were no survivors. The bad news was that it destroyed half of his house. He had to rebuild it. After that, he saw another tank. They were on a boat. Then he sneaked onto the boat in his tank and shot the boat. Crafty shot a missile at the German ship. The German boat was not sinking that much. He shot it, like, ten times. Then it started to sink faster. The Germans noticed, but when he shot it once, they didn’t even notice, but when he shot it ten times, they felt it. The water came onto the boats. 

The Germans were like, “Ahhh!” 

Then one came on the boat and spotted Crafty. He was like, “Hey, Crafty’s over there!” 

The Germans were like, “Whaaat?” 

Crafty started to drive away, but then, as soon as he started driving, bullets were raining down on him because the Germans were shooting. Then he shot the missile again. Then it started sinking faster. Then people fell overboard. Then he drove away. Then he went to the military, and he trained to be a soldier in the military. He had to march, march, march, and kill people, which sounded very boring to him. But he said yes. He marched until he saw Germans. They scattered and tried to shoot the Germans. Then tanks came. He was relieved when tanks came. There were only 30 troops left. More troops came because the general heard about it. Then even more troops came. Then it was a very unfair battle because the Germans had, like, ten soldiers left. They called for backup, and there were a hundred and fifty Americans. Then Crafty said to one of the tank drivers, “Have them shoot the part where their heads are peeking up.” 

The person said yes and shot them in the head. Then Crafty used his grenade. The last five soldiers were dead. Then the Americans took over their base, but more Germans attacked. 

End of book two.

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… 

Will You Be My Owner?

Chapter 1

I woke up from a dream of kibble. Then I looked around and did not see any kibble whatsoever. That’s how I came to my conclusion that it was all just a dream. There were just bars of metal and the sound of lonely dogs howling. I was a quiet dog for my age, keen and cautious, always looking for whatever danger could be lurking around. I sighed. We never got piles of yummy kibble topped with strawberries like in my dream. I thought the animal shelter was nice. It gave us food, water, and shelter. Warmth, too. But it didn’t give us something we needed most. Love. Well, it did give us love, but not permanent love. Everlasting love. From an owner, I mean. I’m a corgi, and I stick with my pride. I’m hard to impress. Well, not anymore. I used to be, when I was living a happy life. I used to have a human. A wonderful human. But one day, there were tears. One day, there was a box. One day, there was an empty street. That one day I will never forget. I just don’t understand. Why would my human do that? She loved me. But she left me. Well, one day, I was walking around my cage when a sweet smell came in. A girl. She was carrying muffins. Yummy-looking muffins. The kind of muffins my friend, Checkers, would like to howl for until someone gave it to him. That was always his strategy. Lots of talking. That’s the thing. Humans talk too much. That is, from a dog’s point of view. We dogs don’t talk too much. Only the necessary things. I would like to have a conversation without the necessary words. With dogs, sentences get too short. Let’s move on. 

The manager came to us and said, “We have a new volunteer. She’s going to be walking you.” He patted my head. “She’ll be starting today!” 

Then he walked back when the phone rang. 

“Hi, cutie!” the volunteer told me. She was a girl, and she scratched my back. I wagged my tail. I was trying to ask her for some muffins. The next day, she came back with a younger girl. She whispered, “This is my daughter, Lily.”

 I sniffed Lily’s hand. It smelled like crackers and lotion. I licked it. She laughed. “You’re so friendly, Charlie!” 

Charlie? I didn’t have a name, but I liked Charlie. I’m pretty picky, and no one had ever found a name I liked, but I was satisfied with Charlie. They came every day now, taking us for a walk. For some reason, my girl always got a tiny bit of kibble in her pocket, and she gave it to us if we were good on the walk. She would always say, “Sit,” or “Stay,” or “Come,” or “Heel,” and I didn’t have a clue what they meant. But I figured if it involved food, I would do it. We would never do anything, though, but she would just laugh and give us a treat even if we cocked our heads. My girl never took the little girl with her on walks. The little girl would just stay in the shelter and wait. One time, though, the little girl did come. She fed us lots of treats, so I decided I liked her. 

But one day, no one came. I was worried. Very worried. I was pacing around my kennel when Checkers came and asked me what I was doing, but I just ignored him and kept pacing. He kept asking, but after about 30 minutes, he gave up and went to his bed. The next week, no one came, and I started to get really, really worried. After two weeks, the girl came back without the Lily, but she did come with a dog. I know. A dog. I couldn’t believe a dog held her up for two whole weeks.

“How’s Lily doing?” asked the manager. 

The girl smiled and said, “Fine, thank you.” 

I sniffed the dog. She growled at me. Rude! I tried licking her. I tried nudging her. I even let her chew on my ball! But, no matter what, she ignored me. She just pretended like I wasn’t there. I gave up and retreated. I didn’t enjoy these minutes of my life. Everyone was ignoring me. I had just wasted ten minutes. I sighed. I might as well get something done. I went to take a short nap. I had a nightmare. I was walking when I saw my girl. I ran to her, but she just was out of reach. She reached out her hand. Slowly, it turned to dust. Oh, no! It was horrible. I woke up scared. When I finally came to my senses, I looked around and saw the dog in a cage. Phew! My girl still loved only me. I don’t know why I call her my girl. I just hope she will take me home and give me that everlasting love I need. Over the next few weeks, my girl didn’t come again! But when she came back, she looked very tired. 

“Lily just came home from her heart surgery,” she said to the manager. “I’m so glad my daughter is okay!” 

The manager smiled.  I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but I could sense the sadness in her voice. I whined. When she came over, I nudged and licked her hand. She smiled a weary and sad smile. I whimpered and whined all day long. If my girl was like this, something horrible must have happened to make her this sad. If she was sad, I was sad, and everyone (every dog, I mean) hates it when I’m sad because I whimper and howl all day long. And that’s exactly what I did. I howled until my throat was sore and my mouth was dry. I lapped some water from my water bowl. I was really bored and sleepy. I took a short nap and woke up. My girl’s smell came drifting in. Click. She opened up my cage door. 

“You first.” She took me to our usual spot. But then she opened up the big gate. I didn’t know you could open that big thing! So many new smells. Almost too many to count. Almost. (I counted 231.) I rolled on the grass. I dived into some leaves. My girl laughed. I found something. Something moist, tall, and green. I ate it. It wasn’t half-bad. 

“Don’t eat the grass, silly!” She laughed. What? Never mind. I ignored her and ran all around! my girl came and unclipped my leash. Yay! Afterwards, she took me back to my cage. I wanted to stay out there forever.  Next, she took Checkers. I caught a glimpse of them. Checkers didn’t get to run around, though. He got put in the car. And I never saw him again.

Chapter 2

That happened quite a lot now. One day, my girl came to me and muttered that she would find me someone and that, one day, I would finally belong to someone. I don’t know what that meant, but I knew it wasn’t good because she was pushing back tears. I could tell. I licked her hand comfortably and supportingly. I sat down. I was bored again. That happened to me a whole lot. I missed Checkers. Who would I tell stories to? Who would I talk to in my free time? Who would be my best friend? I was pushing back tears. Even though dogs can’t cry, I was on the verge of crying. I tried to imagine Checkers running around happily, but it was hard, too. I just couldn’t help but wonder why. I came to the conclusion that he was going to be with his human. If that was true, I hoped he had a good human to play with him every day. But what if his humans were the worst?  And why did he have to leave me? I just wanted to curl up in my bed and be sad. So that’s what I did. I was really bored. Like I said before, I got bored easily. The following day, my girl came back. 

“I really want to keep you, Charlie!” she said, dully and sadly. Huh? “Someone is adopting you tomorrow. I’ll miss you! They will be picking you up here. I should be happy. I’m sorry. Plus, on the bright side, you’ll be happy!” She was blinking back tears. She hugged me and kissed me on the top of my head. “You’re the cutest dog in the world!” she exclaimed. 

Ack! Well, that was sudden. If you didn’t know, dogs don’t like surprises. Especially corgis named Charlie. Like me. The next day, a big van pulled into the parking lot. My ears perked up. A couple of people came in. Three, to be exact. Two big people and one small person. I sniffed. The small person was a girl. One big person was a woman, and the other was a boy. I slowly stepped back. The woman had long, golden hair with dark brown eyes. The little girl was a miniature copy. The man had dark brown hair and blue eyes. They reminded me of a blueberry. I know. Weird. I snuggled inside my bed. The little girl pointed to my cage and said, “Look! His name is Charlie!” 

“It’s her…” my girl said impatiently. I wonder why. I was going to stay with her forever, and I could cheer her up every day, so why was she crying? I wobbled over like a newborn puppy. I barked calmly and softly to the little girl. I nudged her hand and licked it. It did not smell like crackers and lotion. I was disappointed. I left and took a short nap on my bed. Soon I got lifted up and put into a box. I yipped and whined. 

“Woah! Easy, girl!” the manager shouted. He scratched me behind the ears. I calmed down. I still whined softly, though. I got put into the big van. It was pitch black in the box. It rocked and slid all over the place! I did not like this one bit! I decided to just settle down and deal with it. I was wondering about my girl. What if she left me like Checkers? I hoped she didn’t. I was sure she was there with me. She was always there with me until she left because her shift ended. I was sure she was trying to comfort me but I just couldn’t hear it. I thought. I hoped so. I wanted to know. I didn’t know, though. And that’s what was making me worried. But, that’s the thing. I hoped. I didn’t know.

Chapter 3

After I stopped bumping around in the darkness for a while, I opened my eyes. The thing had jerked to a stop. I heard footsteps. Something opened, and hands grabbed me out of the box. Soft and calm muttering and whispering. The man opened the door. Shouts. Surprises. I don’t like those types of surprises. Whooping. Hollering. Ears hurt. My ears hurt. I yipped for some peace and quiet. There was a long silence. Then louder hollering. This time, I howled. Very loud. 

“STOP!!! You’re scaring her!” the little girl shouted. She picked me up and ran up the stairs into a big room. She shut the door. There were soft pillows and rugs. There was a closet with some mirrors. There was a big drawer. She took a pillow and put it into a drawer. She put me on it. It was comfortable, and I fit perfectly. “This will be your bed for a while. Until we get you a proper bed, I guess.” Where was my girl? Suddenly there was a loud sneeze. It was followed by a series of coughs and sneezes. “MOM!” She ran down the stairs. She took me with her. “Mom! I don’t feel so good.”

Afterward, the woman came and took me. She put me back inside the box. It slid around again. The woman took me out and gently carried me to the shelter. At the shelter, she told the manager that her daughter was allergic to dogs and that she was very sorry. She left. Later, my girl came. 

“Oh! Charlie! You’re back!” Then there was lots of talking. “Oh. I understand what happened,” she whispered to me. I licked her. She shook her head and laughed. I didn’t understand, but that didn’t matter. I was back with my girl! 

Chapter 4  

I snuggled up in my bed like I always do. I looked around. Wait! I thought I saw a new dog in Checkers’ cage. I walked up to her and politely sniffed her. She sniffed back. She licked me. I licked her. Lots of back-and-forth things. Here’s what I knew about her: she was a puppy, she was a girl, her name was Daisy, and she was curious with a bubbly personality, just like Checkers. It made me miss him a whole lot. My heart ached. I wanted to tell someone about Checkers and how he was such a great friend. So I told Daisy. And I added all the non-essential information into my sentences, too. 

After I finished telling everything about Checkers to Daisy, I decided to rest my mind because it was zooming with thoughts. Actually, it was mostly zooming with questions and not thoughts. My biggest question was: did Checkers miss me the same way I missed him? I hoped so. I also hoped that my girl would one day take me home. I could imagine it. The warmth. The kibble. The love. And with that, I slowly but surely fell asleep. Sound asleep. The shelter door opened. That’s what woke me up. My girl was here! I licked her and rubbed my nose on her hand. She giggled. I got a scratch behind the ears. She took me on a walk. The whole time, she was talking to me. I wasn’t listening, though. I was thinking about Checkers. Oh, how I missed him! I could howl all day for him and not get tired. Super tired, I mean. I would definitely get tired. I realized that it was about time that I would be taken away by someone who was not my girl. 

I had more nightmares then. One was where I was in the big, dark house, alone, and then the door creaked open. I barked and yipped, thinking it was my girl and she had come to get me. But it was not. Someone came and flashed eerie and angry eyes at me. I whimpered. The person took me and dumped me in a box, and it slid all over again. Then there were car honks and bright lights. It was raining hard. I got thrown on the street, and I was hurt physically and mentally. My body was hurt, but so was my heart. That was the worst nightmare I had had yet. I trembled. 

The next day, I waited for my girl. But instead of her, someone new came. A girl, younger than mine. The new girl was filled with interesting smells. I wanted to distinguish all of them, but I just couldn’t. I got confused and ended up stumbling backward. I yipped after I stepped on my tail. Ow! I licked my tail and eagerly came and sniffed the new person. I named her “my girl Jr.” No, that sounded weird. How about “the girl?” That sounded casual enough. And, plus, she would never ever be my girl. I only had one girl. I sighed. I trotted around my cage, acting all excited. But, to be honest, I wasn’t all that excited. I wanted my girl, not the girl. Sorry if it gets kind of confusing. My cage opened. The girl got a leash and clipped it to my collar. She patted me. 

“Come on girl!” she said, but I didn’t budge. Who was ‘girl’? I knew the command “come on,” but I didn’t think she was addressing it to me, so I just lay down. I yawned. The girl talked to the manager for a little while and then came to me and said, “Come on, Charlie!” 

I jerked up and followed her. I exchanged a little conversation with some of my friends while the girl was looking at a square-shaped device. She laughed randomly and typed something on the device. Huh. A sound came out of the device and she put it to her ear. Weird. 

“Hi, Mom. Okay. All right. Yeah. Okay, thanks. Uh-huh. Bye.” She shook her head and laughed. She kept on looking at the device. I wandered on the street. So many different smells all just came shooting at me. I was really curious. I stepped forward. I tripped on the curb. Pain rushed quickly.

 Just then, an engine roar came. A big black vehicle came, like the one I went on before with the other family. It was zooming at me. I whimpered and whined, trying to get the girl’s attention. I was hurt, and I couldn’t get up. I barked this time. No one came. I was scared. Very scared. Suddenly, a dark shadow came over me. I thought the car was running me over! I thought this was the end. But, right then, light shone. I opened my eyes. Trees. Grass. Sun. I was alive! I’m pretty small, so the car must have gone over me! 

“Oh! Are you okay?” The girl scooped me up. She walked back to the shelter with a solemn and melancholy look in her eyes. I never saw her again after that. I was waiting for my girl the next day when I decided to talk to Daisy.

“Hello, Daisy. How are you?” 

“Fine, thank you. You?”

“Oui, je vais bien!” 

“Huh?” 

“That’s French! Weird, huh?” 

“Yeah!” Daisy smiled. “What’s French?” she asked. 

“Umm… a language, I guess?” 

“You sound like you’re not sure…” she said with a mischievous look on her face. I grumbled. 

“Well, I am!” I said. I raised my head high. She giggled. “I don’t think you’re taking me seriously, are you?” I said grumpily. Now, her giggles broke into a series of laughs. I frowned. “All right. Humph!” She was laughing so hard that she could be crying by now. I sighed and just smiled at her. “All right,” I repeated. This time, it wasn’t filled with annoyance, but it was filled with care. I curled up for a daily nap. 

Chapter 5

The bell on the shelter door dinged. That meant my girl! I jumped up and barked. 

“Hi, Charlie!” I licked her hand. I nudged her pockets, looking for treats. I found a tiny kibble bone and munched on it. “Charlie!” My girl laughed. She sounded serious but happy at the same time. I cocked my head. “Oh, I just wish I could adopt you. I’m too busy, though. With all my work. I know you understand.” She gently lifted up my head. She smiled through the tears that were starting to roll down her face. I licked them. Salty. She laughed. She kissed me and opened up my cage. She clipped on my leash. She wiped her tears and took me outside. “Oh, Charlie. I will miss you when you get adopted.” I yipped in agreement, even though I didn’t understand. She stopped. She sat down. She hugged me. “Oh, Charlie.” She started to cry again. “I heard what happened to you. With the other girl. I just can’t believe it! So caught up in her phone that she let you hurt yourself!” 

I could feel her boiling up with anger and irritation. I licked her face. She didn’t laugh, though. I was disappointed. That always worked. I yipped and barked and started wagging my tail. I just had to get my girl happy. I understood now. I was supposed to love and cheer up my girl. That was my purpose. That was life itself, its purpose. I needed to spread my love. I needed to guard her. To make her think life had a purpose. Yes, that was my mission and my purpose. I nudged her gently. She smiled and scratched me. When I got back, I talked to Daisy. I was just wound up with emotion. Dogs don’t feel very strong emotions like humans do. But sometimes I do. I just wanted to bundle up my emotions and throw them away or something to get rid of them. I felt so much love toward my girl. I felt like… she was special. One of a kind. The best owner a corgi could ask for. I smiled and felt happiness and sorrow swell up in my heart. I swallowed tears. I just can’t explain my feelings at that time. They all just mushed up and bundled together. I was feeling too many things all at once. I started crying. Not really tears and all. But super sad. Like I was crying. Oh, I sometimes wished that dogs couldn’t have sadness. But I was also glad. That I had experienced life. That I had experienced love and emotions. I trotted happily, suddenly feeling good for myself. I smiled. 

The next day, my girl came. She petted me but walked right past me! She walked to the manager and said, “Want me to handle Charlie’s new owners?” 

The manager nodded. A man, not much older than my girl, came. 

“Hello. I’m here to adopt uh… umm… Charlie?” he stammered and sputtered. 

The manager smiled. “Yes.” 

The man nodded nervously. 

“I’m a very busy man,” he said. 

The manager’s smile turned to a frown. “That’s not too good.” 

The man stammered, “It isn’t?” 

“No.” The manager looked slightly disappointed. The man looked nervous. 

“Well, I can still take her, right?” the man said right away. 

“Let’s see how it works out,” the manager said. He sounded concerned. The man smiled a crooked smile. One that kind of creeped me out. I had a bad feeling about this man. He nodded nervously. 

“Well, I’ll be off, then!” he said. He carried me in an awkward kind of way. 

“Woah!” said my girl. “That’s not how you hold a dog!” 

My girl did something with her arms, as though she was holding something, and the man copied her. Much more comfortable. He took me outside. He took me to a small, yellow thing, like the big, black one but, well… small and yellow. I got put into a box AGAIN! It rolled around AGAIN! I should stop capitalizing the word “AGAIN.” I really didn’t like this. I wobbled and tripped. Twists and turns were not pleasant for me since every time we had to turn, there would be a stop sign. The car would jerk to a stop and keep going really fast. Too fast. My stomach lurched. Something told me I shouldn’t have eaten the burger crumbs that were dropped on the floor. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the car stopped for good. I sighed with relief. I paced back and forth around the car. Suddenly, the trunk jerked open. I jumped out, expecting gentle hands. Instead, I hit the ground. I looked around. The man was nowhere to be seen. I looked everywhere. I’m not being dramatic. I was really worried. Suddenly, rough hands took me, and I got placed in the car. Soon, we were at the animal shelter. Lots of talking. I heard the man say, “I’m sorry, but I just can’t handle a dog.” 

I finally got put into my cage. What happened? It was all so sudden. At least my girl would come, and I would be happy. At last, I could be happy. I have this weird feeling. When other people I love take care of me, like the manager, I don’t feel incredibly, off-the-world happy, and it doesn’t make me calm. But when I’m with my girl, I do. Kind of weird, I don’t know, sensation or something. I can’t explain it. But I might as well be happy rather than complaining.

Chapter 6

From the very beginning, I have told you about me and my girl. I have told you how we were supposed to be together one day. But I have finally realized why there were tears. It’s because we are meant to be together, but we can’t. I can’t be with my girl. I’ve dreamed, and I’ve hoped. But that’s just not reality. And it’s never going to be. But, sometimes, the world will give you hope again. Hope for you to rise up. Sometimes the world will give you what you want. You just have to hope and love forever. Now, let’s get back to the story. The doorbell rang. It was a cloudy, gloomy day, but my girl could cheer me up. She walked in with a smile. 

“Hey there, Charlie.” I yipped. She scratched me. “I got a surprise for you after, okay, Charlie?” I wagged my tail. She took a treat from her pocket and threw it at me. This was a trick she taught me. I opened my mouth and caught it. I nibbled on it. It tasted like beef jerky. It was too big for my small mouth. I struggled to get it into my mouth completely. I eventually just gave up. After my girl took me on my daily walk, she said, “All right, Charlie, ready for the surprise?” 

I cocked my head to the side. She laughed. She cli pped on a bright blue collar and leash I had never seen before. She talked to the manager and walked out the door happily. She carried me to a blue car – it looked shiny – and put me into a box. What’s the deal with humans and boxes? But she opened it, and I popped my head out. I was next to my girl! After, like, five minutes, we got out, and I saw a nice home next to a lot of similar homes. There was a fence next to the door. It was big and brown and made of wood. She took me to the doorstep, and she took a small curvy thing, put it into another small curvy thing (it was smaller), and opened the door. Warmth. I jumped out of her arms. Then I realized something. I thought that me and my girl would never be together. That’s why there were tears sometimes. But, to my surprise, I was wrong. I am happy now. I am so happy now.

Coco and Rosie

Part 1 

Once upon a time, there were two sisters, Coco and Rosie. They lived with their mom, dad and grandma. Their dad was in charge of the house but he usually would say yes. His name was David. Grandma Mimi was eighty-seven years old. She came to New York from Africa when she was seventeen. Mimi was their mom’s mom. Mimi liked flowers and ran a flower shop called Mimi’s Flowers. Their father was a police officer. Coco loved to learn, and she loved school. She always said so, and always studied. She loved to study biology, geometry, and history. Rosie just sat in Pre-K. She cried, pooped, and ate. One day Coco was talking to Mimi. 

“Why did you bring me over here?” asked Coco.

“I need to talk to you about studying. You work too much and I think we should have a vacation. We are going on a cruise for a year. I know you’re going to miss school, but it’s going to be more fun! Your teachers sent me some homework you can do, and turn it in next year,” said Mimi.

“I’m not sure about this. Are you sure this is a good idea?”

“I am organizing it right now. I just wanted to tell you so that you don’t get overstressed,” said Mimi.

Coco felt nervous. She felt like no one would like her anymore because she was going to be gone for a year. But she felt okay about not studying because she did feel overworked.

Coco packed her bag and Rosie’s, but because Rosie’s was very small, she didn’t have to pack that much. On the cruise, there was a whole bunch of food, a whole bunch of games, and fun things to do. She played in the pool a little bit, and even though she really missed studying and school, she was having too much fun to think about it. She met two girls and three boys. The boys were really nice, but she was a year older than them. One of the girls had the same birthday as she did, and the other one had a similar birthday (but it wasn’t the same day). They played games together like Bingo, Marco Polo, and Limbo. After that, they all went to bed and woke up in the same room. But, for some reason, Coco wasn’t there. 

They looked all over for her, and even tried to call her. But she didn’t answer. She was flying away to go back to school. Her family had taken a small boat to the shore and gotten on a plane back home. Coco was miserable because she really liked the cruise. But they had to leave because Mimi thought that everyone would get boatsick. She had totally forgotten about it because she was too busy organizing and planning everything. When they got back from the cruise, Coco ran into her bedroom and started crying. 

But a year later, all of her friends from the cruise came to visit her. She was so happy that she was speechless. She got a letter that said that if she wanted to, she could go and join College University. Everyone was so proud of her. 

Eight years later, she was twenty-four working as a nurse, and made enough money to help charity. Coco moved to Africa and Mimi came too. Because Coco had to go to work three times a week Mimi had a caregiver. 

Three days later, Mimi fainted. Coco had to take Mimi to the hospital. They found out she had lung cancer, but it wasn’t that big of a deal. But, her whole family flew in from New York so they could check on her. 

For two months, Mimi couldn’t go anywhere except her house and all she could eat was soup and water. So the family stayed so they all could have a family trip. But they didn’t get enough tickets so they couldn’t. One person would have to fly by themselves. 

Coco took the one ticket and flew by herself. She was worried, but also happy because she was nervous about something happening to her like the plane crashing or almost hitting the water, but she was happy that she got to drink soda. 

She looked out the window and it looked beautiful. She saw the ocean, she saw birds flying. She also saw a rocket going into space. She was so amazed that she forgot all about her family. She took a whole bunch of pictures until 6 AM. She fell asleep. At last, she got to her house. She was so happy to see her family. Mimi was alright, and everyone was so happy. 

Coco went back to Florida. Instead of being a doctor, she wanted to be a nurse. So she went back to school, where she finally became a nurse, and she stayed in New York City. She got her own house, but she visited her family every single day. She still sometimes helped with the flower shop. Coco had a party to become a nurse and doctor. Her parents, friends, cousins, grandparents, sister, uncles, and aunts were there. It was a blast. 

Grand Canyon Race

Once there lived a cheetah called Dash. Dash lived in Slot Canyon, in the upper Antelope Canyon, and loved racing with the other cheetahs. One thing she loved about racing was that she could leap from side to side on the curves. It was a really short race and Dash wanted a longer race. She wanted to go to the race in the Grand Canyon but she needed meat to pay for the race and hunting was the perfect job, so she joined her mom in hunting. Her first two hunts were not that good but she got good at it after a while. After a month, she had enough meat to afford the race so she packed all her stuff and said goodbye. She traveled for about two and a half days, including water breaks. When she got there she saw the longest race she had ever seen. She saw a big hotel for the racers and in the middle of the hotel, there was a big, filtered drinking pond. When she entered her room there were leaves for a bed, and her room was a little cave. Dash slept because she was tired from the long long walk and run and because it was night. She woke up early at 5:30 AM and practiced running until six in the evening. This race was really important for her and she took it seriously. After she ran, she ate breakfast. She was surprised that she didn’t need to hunt, and she ate her rabbit and antelope. After eating, she was coached and the class really helped her run even faster. Her day was packed, and she forgot to eat lunch. For dinner, she ate half of a kudu. The next day, she would have to run the race and she needed to rest. Dash woke up at 6:30 AM and the race would be at 8:30 AM. She ate a small antelope and a little bit of her leftover kudu for breakfast. She then took a bath and used leaves to dry herself. She styled her hair with some grass hair ties. After that, she practiced for the race. The prize was a bunch of meat and a trophy. Dash was nervous, but it was time for the race so she took her spot and started racing. It was super fun but she was also nervous because someone else was first. Negative thoughts filled her head like “I can’t do this,” and “I’m definitely going to lose.” Then she realized the whole reason she wanted to be in this race was to have fun. So she set all her negative thoughts aside and had fun. And she was winning! Just half a mile and she would win the race. Dash did her absolute best and she reached the end in 40 seconds. Dash won the race and she received her meat and medal. As soon as she won she started packing up to meet her family. When she got there and told everyone in town, she was famous! 

Willa Jean Queen of Summer

On the hottest day in the middle of July, young Willa Jean sat pouting on the bench next to the playground, in the fresh shade near the mulberry bush. As the other children played nicely on the play structure, Willa Jean sent them dirty looks. Now, it wasn’t exactly that Willa did not like these kids personally, but that Willa Jean hated not receiving attention, like now. How dare Mrs. Rosét send her to the red time-out bench? How dare her mom send her to summer camp?

Willa tried to look unbothered and occupied, but it felt very uncomfortable smiling while Willa’s mouth was so tired, so Willa Jean relaxed her mouth. Willa could not stand looking sad and lonely while she was in time-out. She decided to entertain herself by pulling on a leaf from a bush behind her.  

“Willa Jean,” called Sadie Lu, the CIT stepping from the red-doored summer camp building. “You can not go play until you say sorry to Juliana.”

“No,” said Willa Jean proudly. “She doesn’t deserve my honest apology.”

“You hurt her feelings,” said Sadie Lu, calmly. “And I am sorry, but you may not go play until you say sorry.” Fortunately, Sadie Lu knew Willa Jean very well by now. She knew you had to argue with Willa Jean to get her to do something before she did it. 

“Explain to me exactly how I hurt her in any way?” protested Willa Jean, “I, in fact, didn’t even touch her. I was just independently playing on the mat.” 

“Willa, you know what you did, and if you can not confess you will have to stay here until you do.” Sadie Lu had paid no attention to the things Willa Jean had said. 

“Fine,” muttered Willa Jean. She might not be able to use a proud voice anymore, but she was definitely not going to use her desperate voice. 

“So I can go get her?” asked Sadie Lu.

“Yes,” confessed Willa Jean. She stood very still as Sadie went to get Juliana.

When Sadie arrived with Juliana, Juliana stuck her tongue out at Willa Jean, who did not hesitate to do the same. Sadie looked down at Juliana, who immediately put on a puppy-dog face and said in a hysterically fake voice to Willa Jean, “Sadie, is Willa Jean going to say she is sorry?”

“Yes,” answered Sadie Lu, which Willa Jean found very offensive because Sadie Lu never listened to her when she said stuff like that. “Aren’t you Willa Jean?” 

“I’m sorry, and I take back… nothing!” Willa Jean declared, head looking down upon Juliana like she was older.

“That’s not fair!” shouted Juliana, hand sticking out to Willa Jean, eyes looking at Sadie who was definitely too young for a situation like this. 

Sadie sighed. “Willa Jean, please say you are sorry.”

“I just did!” protested Willa Jean, who thought she had definitely won this battle.

“You did not! Nuu-uhh.” snapped Juliana.

“Yu-huh,” hissed Willa Jean. So Sadie, the guardian of this problem, was satisfied with her defeat and said they could both go play as long as they kept their distance. 

That baby, thought Willa Jean. I bet that baby Juliana doesn’t even know how to tie her own thick pink and perfect laces. I bet her mom does it for her. Willa Jean felt pleased with her own maturity and rushed to the slide to slip down. 

A day could never be better than this.

The Suburbs

Our family had just moved to the suburbs of New Jersey. I had lived in a city my entire life. In a way, it felt wrong to live in a wooden house with anything I wanted. As our family came towards the house, I realized what had been terrifying me. The house was said to have been occupied by a family that had strangely died one night. Their bodies were said to be there, waiting to find someone and…

 “Leo!” my mom called. She was trying to unpack the luggage, yet was struggling to make progress. “Come help me unload the trunk, and carry the bags down to the basement,” she said. Suddenly, my heart froze. Basements in the city were okay to go in, but those in the suburbs seemed different. If the family that lived in this house had really died, going into the basement would be their entire plan. Instead, I got the luggage and went up to my room. The moment I put my foot on a stair, it started creaking. I slowly went up the staircase, and found my room rather quickly. It was near the attic, and was easily accessible as it was just on the right of the top of the stairs. I unpacked and went to explore the new house. I wasn’t really that much of an outside-type-of-guy. Living in the city had its pros and cons, too. Going outside was definitely a con. Yet in the suburbs, you could have the freedom to do anything you want. Even though I wanted to go on the TV and get my controller to start playing games, another part of me wanted to get as far away from this house as possible. So instead of making my parents mad, I went outside to find some new friends that could distract me from my dead bodies theory. 

This was the first time I was able to let the stress go, and I realized that it was early morning. I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood and get a view of things. New Jersey definitely won the award for the place with the best scenery in which I have ever lived. There were woods all around me, which I guess is a plus for all the things I experienced that day. After coming back from my short walk, I came in to eat lunch. There weren’t any restaurants, so we had to do the best we could with the food we had. Soup wasn’t my favorite option, but to keep my mind off the dark theory, I decided to just eat it. The day passed quickly, and in what felt like three seconds, it was already time to go to bed. 

Now, I am not the type of person who wants to go to sleep with a teddy bear, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I turned the lights out and tried to go to sleep. I kept tossing and turning, not able to rest. The trees were rustling, the cold wind making me hide under my blanket. Around 1:00 AM, the door creaked open. My brain finally got put to use. My head snapped up, and my body somehow felt warmer. The entire dead body basement idea didn’t feel like a joke to me anymore. I saw a shadow of a tall woman with long hair walking toward the living room. I crept out of bed, and silently prayed she didn’t see or hear me. When I was halfway across the room, she turned around. A dark hood hid her face, yet I could see her looking straight at me.

 “AHHH!” I screamed. I ran to my parent’s room, and jumped on the bed. I got under the covers. I heard footsteps coming towards the room. Closer, closer, closer, and stop. Then, the woman pulled the hood up revealing a white bony face with gleaming white teeth. Her smile was so bright, I couldn’t see what happened. Then, darkness took over.

The Secret Power

Lowe was running for her life. She clutched the magic orb and then soared into the sky. The clones were chasing her, beating their wings as fast as they could. The rainforest must be close now. If not, I think Launta would accept me just as well as Mari…There! The humid temperature and the mist of the rainforest came into sight as well as a patrol of six dragons. But they didn’t see her. Lowe tried to shout, but heavy talons grasped her snout and her voice became a muffed shriek in surprise. You’re not getting this! She thought as the clones tried to snatch the glowing orb in Lowe’s claws. Finally, she twisted her way out – but one tough clone pounced on her and sent the orb sailing into a giant boulder. 

“No!” Lowe screamed. “Help, somebody come!” Crack!  The orb shattered on the boulder. Only cracked pieces and shards remained. 

“Who’s there?” a voice yelled. It must be one of the serpents on the patrol!  Immediately, the clones fell back and disappeared into the haze. But not all. The same tough clone took one look at the shattered pieces of the orb and quickly snatched a medium-sized piece before joining the other clones. 

“No!” Lowe shouted, but he had already gone. She carefully cleaned up the broken pieces and stuffed them into her sack. 

“Who are you, and why were those clones after you and that?” The same voice from before had come. He pointed to Lowe’s sack with one sharp wing tip.

“My name is Lowe. I come from the Sky Mountains, and I’m a secret agent working for Xunsu Feng. I’ll tell you everything that happened just now. But with Mari and everybody,” Lowe said quickly. 

“Very well, but there’s one thing I would like to know. Why would they send a serpentet?” the serpent asked confusingly.

Lowe paused.  “Because Xunsu Feng knows what he’s doing. He knows I’m skilled. He knows that I’m better at stealing things than most other professionals.”

The serpent stopped. Then nodded. “I understand. My name’s Vine. Come on, I’m taking you to Mari now.” 

***

They walked and flew together in silence. Finally, Lowe could see a giant wooden platform with a wide palace on it. It was concealed from above because there were trees and vegetation growing above the platform. Smart, Lowe thought.

 “Here,” Vine said. He guided Lowe into the wide palace made of wood. Inside were two dragons, one light blue with silver spots. The other, who was larger than most dragons, was dark blue with faint yellow stripes. Lowe realized that the bigger one had a sky blue crown, and had matching anklets that had light blue sapphires embedded in them. That’s Mari.

“Well, who’s our new visitor?” Mari said. 

“This is Lowe, your majesty. She comes from the Sky Mountains. Lowe is going to tell you her story about stumbling into the rainforest with a bunch of clones chasing her and about that magic orb.”

Mari snorted, then walked over to a box on the ground and opened it with a key. She pulled out a crumpled piece of paper rolled up like a scroll.

“Hrm. This is what Feng meant?” Mari rolled open the paper. “All right. Silverspot, tell everyone that there’s a meeting at the Platform.” The light blue dragon nodded, then flew out the entrance. “Follow me,” Mari said.

***

They all flew to a wide area of wooden planks called “the platform.” The wood encircled a tree. Its height, from the looks of it, was about 300 feet tall. Eek! This tree is so tall that it makes me dizzy! Lowe thought. She saw dragons and serpents of all ages and sizes land either on nearby trees, the tree that the platform was encircling, or on the platform. Vine started to drift off towards a nearby tree when –

 “Vine, where are you going?” Lowe asked.

“Well…You see, every dragon or serpent you see in this forest is ranked. The higher ranked ones, such as Mari’s commanders, are on or closer to the platform. The lower ranked ones are farther away from the platform. Why do we do this? It’s because we can’t fit every single being on the platform. Every reptile deserves to hear what Mari has to say. Even if they don’t have to do anything with what she says.”

Lowe tilted her head.

Sigh. I know it’s a lot to process. But look for necklaces or wristbands with this pattern.” Vine showed a blue limestone wristband on him with five tiny wood carved sticks. “This shows my rank, Level five.”

“I see.”

“Anyways, I have to go now. You’re obviously important, go on the platform, look out for the wristbands and necklaces!” Vine shouted, and with that, he darted away.

Well, I guess I’ll just go on my way. Lowe flew and landed on the platform. Lots of confused looks were directed towards her. 

Mari stepped besides Lowe. “Finally, our storyteller is here, ”she said.

“What?”

“She looks like someone swallowed her only gecko!”

“She’s suspicious.”

“Yeah, she could be an imposter!”

“Mari, with all respect, I’d like to ask: where does this serpent come from and why are they speaking?” a solid red dragon asked harshly.

Lowe spotted Vine. He pointed to the red dragon, as if it was a message saying, Look there! Ah-hah! His wrist! It showed one wood stick. But there was something different about the color of the bracelet. When Lowe saw Vine’s wrist, the band was blue. But the red dragon’s band was faint yellow. I shouldn’t focus on that right now, c’mon Lowe! Pay attention to the speech!

“This is Lowe, she will do all the explaining,” Mari went on. “The floor is yours.” A sharp hiss from Mari came.

***

Nervousness crawled onto Lowe, each scale on her prickled with fear.

 “Well, it all started when uh, Ruler Feng told me to steal the glowing resistor, a special sphere that is purely magic energy, called light force. Light force is used to repel dark forces. That’s why we can use it to defeat Ophanar. But, uh, while I was getting chased uh, the orb broke. Here’s the thing, I got all the pieces but a clone stole one, we need to get it back.”

Where’s that red dragon again? Ah-hah! All the other dragons and serpents have blue bands. “Mari! I’ve found an imposter – he has a faint yellow band and all the others are blue!” Lowe whispered. 

“Conceal? You’re right. Tell everyone, I’ll signal my guards to catch him, once you shout. And if Conceal escapes? He won’t. I’ve set traps all around here.” 

All right, Lowe, time for a time to open my mouth. “Dragons and serpents! All around hear me!” Lowe cried. “There is an imposter among us!”

The Miner

A not-so-long time ago, in a mining district, lived a miner named Bob who was poor as dirt. He supported his family by buying a meager supply of cabbage and coal he snuck out of his mine for their stove. His job was hard and time-consuming, and he was forced to travel thousands of feet down each day to mine coal. He developed a hacking cough and was extremely sick, but in order to survive, he continued his job.

One day, Bob traveled down in the rusty elevator like he usually did. It looked like it was going to be a normal day. But, as he turned the corner, he saw a large, shiny thing sticking out of the cave wall. He went closer to get a good look, but the supervisor caught him. 

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” he yelled through his megaphone. 

Bob, frightened, went right back to work. But he hadn’t forgotten the object. That night, he thought up a plan to sneak into the mine and investigate. He snuck onto the elevator and as the doors closed with a grinding screech, he steeled himself to enter the damp mine. As he reached the shiny object, he slid a dusty finger across it, revealing a blotch of gold. Bob’s heart rate increased as he revealed more gold. He made a mental note of the vein, and then ran home.

The next night, he brought his rusty pickaxe into the mine. He wandered around until he found the vein, swung at it, and made a small crack. He repeated this a couple of times until the chunk fell out, leaving him with a chunk of gold the size of a football. He then ran all the way back home.

The next day, he was going down in the elevator, planning on traveling to the market after the day at work. The gold was in his mining suit, tucked away into a pocket. All of a sudden, the elevator screeched to a stop. The gold chunk loosened itself just a little bit so that it poked out of Bob’s jumpsuit. Bob didn’t notice, as the elevator quickly started moving again. As Bob stepped out of the elevator, the supervisor walked up to him. 

The supervisor patted him on the back. “What’s up? How’ve you been doing?” 

Confused, Bob thought, What has gotten into him? The supervisor then hurriedly rushed away. Bob shrugged and went back to work. Meanwhile, the supervisor was huddled in a corner, smiling and holding a pile of gold.

Bob, on his way home, realized that the gold was gone. He then realized that it was the supervisor who, in bumping into him, had pickpocketed him!

Bob rode the elevator back down, and at the bottom, met the supervisor who was waiting for the elevator. Bob grabbed his collar and slapped the gold out of his hands and back into his, then dashed into the elevator. He tried pressing the “close door” button, but the supervisor was too quick. He got in just as the elevator doors shut with a groan. The elevator began going up as Bob and the supervisor grappled for the gold. Bob managed to wrench the gold out of the supervisor’s hands and shoved him up against the wall just as the elevator arrived on the surface. Bob ran home, panting. 

Upon arriving home, he, while gasping for air, told his family that he would be leaving for the market. 

As he made it to the market, the merchant at the pawnshop stall offered to pay $1,000 for the gold, more than Bob was expecting. He paid for some food for his family and medicine for himself, and they lived happily… for the next month.

Becky

“Today is the worst day of my life.”

It wasn’t, of course. The worst day of Martha’s life had been the day her whole family died in a fire fifteen years ago. But her otherwise painfully dull life living in a small cabin created a need for some drama. And it was hailing. Looking out the window, watching the hail assault the earth, she couldn’t help but feel that the six-day hailstorm was some sort of punishment. For what, she couldn’t be sure. As the puddles grew larger, the hunger (her last grocery store run was seven days ago) began to set in. And as she grew weaker, dark thoughts seeped into her mind. Maybe it was her fault her family died. Maybe she could have saved them by getting home a few minutes earlier or destroying the stove the previous day in a fit of inexplicable foresight. Or maybe it was because she had gotten cake mix instead of eggs from the supermarket last week. The more she thought about it, the more things she discovered which could be the cause of the hail. The more ways she could have stopped them. If only, if only.

“When will it end?” She moaned to her favorite pan, Becky, which was sitting on a pillow on the kitchen counter next to her. Becky was silent. “Maybe it was the time when I was six,” she muttered. “I was at the ice cream store, and – ” 

Something hit the window and clattered to the ground loudly. She gave a small start, then looked outside. It was not hail. It was a rock. She sighed shakily and looked out into the woods. A teenage boy quickly ducked behind a tree, his cackling muted by the distance and the glass. It wasn’t the first time her home had been attacked. The people of this small town were known for disliking the strange and different, and living in a cabin in the town park was decidedly strange and different. The boys of the town often liked to express their opinions on Martha’s lifestyle through violence. The walls of her cabin had had to be repaired five times already. But there was nothing she could do. No one would listen to her, and she didn’t know how else she could live. She couldn’t bear the crowds of people and their uncaring, obligatory condolences after the fire, like a blanket meant to be comforting that was actually suffocating when wrapped around a child that was too small. She needed solitude, but she also had to be somewhat close to other people, because she couldn’t exactly farm her own food. When she first thought of it, the idea of the cabin in the park had seemed perfect, and it hadn’t taken too much work to acquire a permit to make it a reality. But if she could take it all back, she might just go and live in the woods, even if it meant giving up cake. 

As if to say “All right, then, go,” another rock came hurtling toward the window. It met the glass with a noise that sounded deafening, then actually made a crack – small, but nonetheless a crack. Martha gasped and scrambled for Becky. But she was too late.

Another rock came flying at her, evidently thrown by Roger Morrison, the town’s star Little League pitcher, as it broke the window and landed right on top of Becky.

Martha screamed. “No, no, no, no,” she said, diving for where Becky had landed on the floor as the rock skittered away. “It – it can’t be,” she whispered. Slowly, hand shaking, she picked Becky up. Becky had landed with the side used for cooking down. “A-are you okay – ” She asked as she turned her over, then screamed again. “NO!”

There was a large dent slightly to the left of Becky’s center.

Martha clutched Becky to her chest. “Shhh,” she soothed. “It’s okay. You’ll be okay. You’ll be okay.” She sat on the kitchen floor all afternoon and all night, as the hailstorm stopped, holding Becky and whispering to her with more love than she would give a baby until she finally fell asleep and slumped over.

Martha woke the next morning to the kitchen, and therefore, as far as she cared, the whole world, cast in the gold-orange light of dawn. She stood up, Becky sliding to the ground, and smiled. Rejuvenated, she spent the morning running errands. She brought her clothes to the laundromat, bought groceries, and had a handyman come to the house to repair the window. When they had left, she stepped into the kitchen and sank into an armchair. 

“Well,” she said, addressing the house, “I suppose I’ll…” She let the thought drift into action, and took a different pan from a cabinet, and brought it to her stove. She began to make an omelet. Only when she was seated at her table, eating it, did she finally remember that Becky was still on the floor. “Oh,” she said. “I’m, um, sorry that I used, er, Agatha to make my eggs. But, you know…” She took a deep breath, held it, and let it out. “You’re dented now. And I know, I know it wasn’t your fault. I was there, right? I saw them throw that rock. So it wasn’t your fault. But… I… I don’t think I can cook with you anymore. It just… wouldn’t be right, you know?” She searched Becky’s surface for understanding, forgiveness, anything. But all there was was metal. Dented metal. “Oh,” she said softly, picking Becky up and placing it on the table. She rubbed her thumb over the dent over and over. “I’m sorry. I wish it didn’t have to be like this,” She whispered. “You’re my oldest friend, you know. You know that. I will keep you, I promise. I just… won’t cook with you.” She looked into the pan again. Then she winced and turned to the window. The curtains outside swayed sharply in the wind in what could only be criticism. She stared at them, neck twisted uncomfortably, until a tear leaked out of her eyes. She cried and cried, but didn’t turn back to face Becky, even after she fell asleep. 

When she woke, the kitchen was bathed not in beautiful golden sunlight, but in darkness. Martha blinked sleepily, then glanced at the clock. It was seventeen minutes past midnight. “Ohhh,” she moaned, out of both drowsy surprise at the time and significant neck pain. She got up, massaging her neck, and stepped into the doorway to the hall. She paused and turned back to the table where Becky rested like a pouting child, if that child were also made of metal and sitting on a table. “I’m sorry,” she said, somewhat annoyed. Then she stumbled into her bedroom, pulled the covers of her bed over herself, and waited to fall asleep. But she didn’t. She tossed, then turned, then got up, did push-ups until she was exhausted, and crawled into bed again, but it didn’t work. Finally, she scowled, got up, and went back into the kitchen and sat down to face Becky. “All right,” she began. “First of all, for the millionth time, I am sorry about the dent. It was… It was my fault. I should have been protecting you better. I suppose I… haven’t been very good to you. I – I cook in you, and I never thank you. I bought you, for God’s sake. I… So, thank you. For everything. And I hope you can understand that I won’t- can’t cook with you again, but that I’ll still love you. Always.” She reached out, hesitated, then rubbed the dent. “B-Becky?” she asked, eyes and heart heavy with tears and overwhelming love. “Oh, Becky,” she cried, throwing herself onto the pan. Her weeping stretched toward dawn.

The next month, the rock hit Sybill, and the cycle began again. 

The Wiggly Monkey

Once upon a time, there was a monkey named Shalin. He lived in the jungle. He was eating bananas on top of a tree. But suddenly, he ate a banana that wasn’t ripe. He then felt wiggly, wiggly as a worm. He started to wiggle. He kept on wiggling and wiggling and wiggling. Then, he jumped down and off of the tree. He thought to himself, How do I stop acting like this?

A lion came up to the tree. He asked Shalin, “What are you doing?” 

Shalin said, “I am trying to stop wiggling!” 

“Don’t worry! I have some time to wiggle too. Let’s wiggle together!” said the Lion. Both Shalin and the Lion started to wiggle. 

Then, Shalin said, “Actually, it’s fun to wiggle! I want to stay like this forever!”

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. 

Sharky’s Adventure in the Deep Blue Sea

Chapter 1

This is Sharky. He lives in the southern part of the Pacific Ocean. He loves to play and hug his mom. Also, he is eight years old.

But the one thing that he can not do is go to the east part of the ocean because there are orcas. Sharky loves the holiday Christmas because he gets so many presents! His favorite is this wind-up toy saw shark. He also has a fear of humans because they love to kill sharks and make shark fin soup. They capture a shark and cut off his fin, and then they put it in a bowl of water with vegetables! His favorite meal is called fish stew. It’s dead fish with seal skin, and he loves it. His favorite dessert is seal ice cream.

Chapter 2

Well, Sharky was just swimming around, and then he heard a rumbling sound. It was a swarm of fish! Well, he is a shark, so he did what all sharks did: he ate them but not them all! He saved some for fish stew. Oh – forgot to say they were yellow tang fish, his favorite. Then, his friend Barky came over to play. He also told him that he had saved him fish stew. Barky’s favorite food was fish stew, too!  They played Pin the Dorsal Fin on the Fish. They also played Fish Attack, which is when they go to the sea and just attack fish together. They play a lot of games together, including tag (not the one people do). They also played Conversation Wheel. How you play is you spin the wheel and whatever you get, you have to have a conversation about. Today, they got: Do you like pumpkin pie? And one that said, Prize. “Prize” means that whatever you rolled the day before, you get. So, if tomorrow they got Prize, then they would get to eat pumpkin pie. But the bad part about it is that, no matter what, you have to eat it. So if you don’t like it, it’s going to be a nightmare. They love to play Among Us, Shark Mod.  

Sharky and Barky played Among Us, Shark Mod for 35 minutes and played Conversation Wheel for another 26 minutes. They also played Pin the Dorsal Fin on the Fish and ate their fish stew. Then Barky left.

“Goodbye,” Barky said.

Chapter 3

Now, Sharky was going to bed. For some reason, he could not sleep. He was thinking about a current that pushes him to the other side of the ocean. He was trembling with fear in his bed. He tried to go to sleep, but then, there was a small current. It felt like a pretty hard breeze. He almost fell off his bed, but then he used his fin to stop himself. Now, his bed is very short, so it was pretty easy. Then there was a medium-size current. This one felt like really hard rain that was not drops, just water – kind of like in a jug. This time, he fell off his bed. Don’t worry – he was okay. 

Chapter 4

Then there was a super-big current that knocked Sharky right off his bed, and he floated out of his house, and he kept floating and floating and floating until he was somewhere in the middle of the ocean. He said, “Oh no! I must get out of here!” 

But then, the water current came back and he kept floating and floating and floating. 

Then he came to the other side of the ocean. He said, “How did I get to here? I must swim back.” 

But he was very tired. He only usually swims in the middle of the day or right when he gets up. He doesn’t usually swim at night because if you swim at night, you don’t know what could happen. Things that could happen are: jellyfish could sting you, turtles could hit you with their shells, nets could be lowered down, and you could get captured, orcas could swim to the other side, and people could scuba dive down and make you into shark fin soup. Sharks have really good smelling senses, so he smells this drop of blood. So he swims slowly to it. Then he investigates it, and he finds out it’s people’s blood. And he goes away because it smells really, really bad, and he tries to swim slowly back to his home, but then something swims out of the seaweed! It is an orca. The orca grabs his tail and brings him to his home. Sharky doesn’t know what to say. 

The orca is like, “Are you my new dinner next week?!” 

He said, “I don’t know, but maybe?” 

“Well, I think you are.” 

Sharky said, “I am?” 

“Yes, you are,” said the orca. He said, “Well, while you’re in my home, you can sleep in a guest bedroom.” 

Sharky said, “Thanks, because I’m really sleepy.” 

And then the orca said, “You’re welcome. I’ll see you in the morning.” 

Chapter 5

Sharky woke up the next morning thinking, How can I escape this orca’s house? But then he had an idea. He loved that there was this rope on the playground that you could slide down into the water. He would always make a big splash. So he looked around for something like the rope, and then he found so many stacks of paper. They were clean and white. And then he looked around for something to stick it with. Then he found fish glue. The fish glue was really strong, so he made three tunnels. And then he said, “Now how can I make this stronger?” He found some metal bar things, and then he was like, “Well, how can I cut this off?” So he slapped his tail against it so many times, but it still wouldn’t come off. Then he found this billboard that said, ORCAS FOR LIFE. And he said, “Well, I could just hit that billboard with it and it would probably fall off.” So he held it with his tail and revved back and threw it right at the metal bar. The metal bar flew right off and right onto the ground. Bing! it said. But then he got scared, and then the orca came in. 

He said, “I heard a sound in here! This is where Sharky sleeps. What’s going on here?” He called out, “Sharky! Sharky, where are you?” 

Sharky was hiding behind a pole. Not that pole. There was another pole. He managed to get his body in there. Once the orca left, he came out. 

“Phew!” he said. “I thought I would get caught!” And he ran out and pushed the metal bar into his tunnels. Once the metal bar was gone there, he used fish glue to stick it together. And then he said, “If only somehow I could disguise myself and get out there!” He found this policeman costume in the closet. So he was like, “But why would a policeman be in his house? Maybe I can just run past, and then I’ll get there.”

So he swam as fast as he ever could past the orca and threw his “slide” that he made down the steps and slid right down. Now he was energized, so he swam as fast as he could through the ocean and to the other side. The next day, Barky came. They had so much fun, and he told him about the story about getting pushed by the currents and seeing the orcas, and that was his dream the night before. They had fish stew, and while they were having fish stew, the orca was back at home, trying to find something to eat. Sharky lived happily ever after. 

The End.

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…

The Nightmare King, Ice Triagile, and the Rage of the King

“The king will not beat me again!” 

The Ice Triagile (part dragon, part tiger, and part crocodile) looks into his globe. He is in his dark, gloomy temple. 

“That king can take control of me. Why do I keep sending more minions? But the king is not the problem. Thunder Bear is!” he says in his dark and scary castle as he picks up a dagger and throws it at the painting of Thunder Bear. Right in the mouth.

“Your majesty, the serum is ready. Oh, and the Penerse (penguin/horse) was a traitor,” says Ty’le, the Ice Triagile’s son. 

“Bring him in.” 

“Yes, father.” 

“Well? Any last words?” 

“I – I was framed,” says the Penerse. 

“I can see you are a traitor. Kill her,” the Ice Triagile tells his son. 

A few minutes later… 

“Aaahhh!!!” screams the Penerse in pain.

***

“Solf (wolf/seal). Report,” says Thunder Bear. 

Solf says, “All good in the water, but I saw Uniale (whale/unicorn). Oh, and the Penerse is gone.”

Thunder Bear replies, “Oh, can you get it on our side?” 

Solf shakes his head. “It’s on their side! Oh, and I need to see the king.”

Thunder Bear says, “Okay,” then yells, “Open the gates!” 

The Crocoions (crocodile/lions) open the gates. When Solf is inside, he gives the king some water.

But it is poisonous. Just then, Solf changes into the Ice Triagile. Then the Ice Triagile walks away, and Crocoion guards run right at him. He takes out his blades and kills them. Just then, the Catbear comes out, but the Ice Triagile kills the Catbear. Then Thunder Bear charges at the Ice Triagile and fights him.

Then he takes the Ice Triagile, throws him in the water, and does a lightning strike, but the Ice Triagile flies up and hits Thunder Bear with an ice blast. The king fights the poison, gets back to normal, and hits the Ice Triagile back to his island, and so then they win.

***

A voice says, “You failed me.”

The Ice Triagile pleads, “Give me more time.” 

“Nooo! Your son will take charge,” says the voice. Then he kills the Ice Triagile.

The End.

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!

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!!!

Tommy’s Adventures

Tommy’s lungs gratefully greeted the fresh air as he and Bobby (his best friend) piled out of the airport. Tommy and Bobby the Acorns had arrived in San Francisco!!!

Tommy’s mind drifted back to a few days ago, when the leaves had delivered the mail. Sitting patiently on top of the pile was a colorful flier. It was the flier for the all-new nuts and seeds skatepark. 

“Earth to Tommy!” Bobby’s voice rang in his ears.

Tommy’s mind suddenly snapped back to reality. Somehow, while Tommy was having his little “flashback,” he was able to get a taxi for him and Bobby.  Before they knew it, they arrived at the skatepark! It also had a hotel you could stay in. And it was pretty cheap too! He and Bobby had pooled their allowance and managed to fill the price of 50 wood chips. 

When the taxi driver opened the door, the hot air hit his shell.   

“Gulp,” Tommy gulped. Climbing up the steps was a slow and tedious process. When they got to the top, they saw a sign that said, “Congratulations! You’ve reached the top and proved you’re worthy of staying at Nuts Sk8er Park!”

“Wow,” said Bobby, as they walked into the hotel. “Nooo! My life is ruined!! More stairs!!!”

“They’ve got a busted elevator? Come on!” said Tommy.

***

20 minutes later… 

*pant pant* “Bobby?” *pant pant* “I forgot my skateboard.”

*pant pant* “That’s okay.” *pant pant* “I don’t have one either.”

5 minutes later, they got their skateboards. 

“Now, Bobby,” said Tommy playfully, “I know you’re not as advanced as me, so we can start with a simple trick.” 

“Ha ha ha. Very funny.” 

They waited in a line as long as a ball of yarn. Finally, it was their turn! As they were speeding down the hill, Tommy imagined what it would feel like if he had any hair to rush in the wind. Suddenly, the skateboard slowed, lowered and started to make a scraping noise. The wheels had popped off! Bobby seemed to be in the same sticky situation. 

“Ummm, Bobby?”

“ — let’s go back to the hotel.” Bobby finished his sentence. 

***

When they got back to the hotel, Tommy heard the manager arguing with one of the staff members in the skateboard return center. 

“Do you want everyone else to find out this place is a scam!?” 

When they heard that sentence, they marched right in and demanded their woodchips back. Luckily, they got an early flight back to the city and told their families all about their adventures.

Tommy’s Winter Adventures

Tommy and his friend Bobby’s acorn relationship was as strong as metal. Tommy and Bobby were in Antarctica, and when you’re in Antarctica, you’ve got to have some fun. So Tommy and Bobby agreed on going sledding on a nice, tall, snowy mountain. 

They packed up their stuff and made sure they were properly dressed — they didn’t want to get cold.

So they set off on to the snowy fields of the Antarctic. It was a good, long walk, but when they got there, they were stunned. It was huge. Tommy was a bit nervous, but he didn’t share this with Bobby because he didn’t want to ruin the fun. 

They got on Tommy’s new and improved blue sled, which Tommy was very proud of. 

“Comfy,” said Bobby as he, too, got on the sled. The sled started to move and soon they were speeding down the mountain. 

“This is fun!” shouted Tommy over the wind, but his words trailed off as Tommy lost his grip and fell off the sled. 

“TOMMY!” shouted Bobby. Unfortunately, Tommy slammed into a tree. 

“Are you ok?” asked Bobby, helping Tommy to his feet. 

“Yes,” said Tommy. “But I think I sprained my point.” (AKA his ankle.) 

“I have a plastic bag I can fill with snow just like an ice pack,” said Bobby. 

“Okay, try,” said Tommy urgently. Bobby quickly filled his plastic bag with snow and when he was done he gave it to Tommy. 

“Okay, now that that is solved, we still need to get you to a hospital,” said Bobby. 

“But I can’t walk,” said Tommy.

“I think I have an idea,” said an excited Bobby. “Try to get on your sled,” said Bobby. As Tommy hopped on his point to his sled he asked Bobby an important question. 

“What exactly is your idea?” said Tommy.

“I’m going to pull you by my stem up to the hospital nearby,” said Bobby. And he began to pull Tommy up the mountain. When they got to the hospital, the nurses wrapped Tommy’s ankle and said it would take two weeks to heal.

“Umm, Bobby, we have a problem. I can’t walk,” said Tommy in a worried tone.

“That’s okay. I will just pull you home on your sled,” said Bobby. And that’s what they did.

When they got home, they made a fire and had a nice time drinking hot chocolate, laughing, and telling stories from when they were little. 

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

The Lake

It had been a long time since I had visited my mom. My mother had always been insecure, but ever since my father’s death, she became disconnected from all of my family members and moved away to a tiny lake house nestled between the trees of a huge forest. She never really talked to me — not for a long time. However, about a year ago, we started sending each other letters and emails, and one day, she invited me to her house. It had been a long time since I had seen my mother, and I was naturally worried about her, so I was eager to see her. 

As I drove more into the wilderness, I found her house. My mom was waiting for me on the front porch. There were a few wrinkles on her face, but she was as gorgeous as ever. Her long brown hair was pulled up into a bun and ringlets framed her face. 

“Lily!” she exclaimed and ran over to hug me. “I’ve missed you so much,” she said, tears filling her eyes. My mother stepped back and smiled at me. “I would like you to meet someone very special.

“Johnny! You can come out,” she said. A handsome man walked out of the lake. When I said handsome, I meant knockout handsome. The rosy light from the sunset outside gave him an angelic glow. 

“Lily, I would like you to meet John,” she said, beaming at me.

“How do you do?” the man said, shaking my hand. His grip was so strong that when he let go I breathed a sigh of relief. I stared at him suspiciously — a handsome man walking out from the water? There was something very wrong going on here. 

We stared at each other for a few seconds until my mom clapped her hands together.

“Do you want dinner? It’s pork roast!” she said.

We walked inside. It was clean and cozy, and the pork smelled so good. I soon forgot about being suspicious about John from enjoying the meal.

“Can you pass the salt?” asked my mom. As I handed her the salt, a little bit fell off the shaker and landed on John’s hand. John cried out and cradled his hand before he ran off into his room. My mom and I stared at each other, then stood up and went to our rooms. 

I couldn’t sleep that night because strange lights were emitting from the lake. At midnight, I crept out of my bed to see what was in the lake. Outside, it was cold, and the sand was wet. I squinted my eyes and saw John walking into the lake!

“JOHN!” I cried, running forward. I felt a tap on my shoulder, and I turned around. John was facing me. 

“What do you need?” he asked. 

Life in the Eyes of a Royal Drolfette

Ever since Jewelea had been attacked by evil invaders as a drolfette, she has lived on her own. But when humans kidnap her and try to keep her, she must escape to find Drolftopia and to recover her long-lost royal heritage. And she now meets some new challenges, being a hero and a magical queen. 

Prologue

One joyful day, there was news that not just one but four eggs had just been laid by Lady Rain and her husband, Lord Pluto. All rejoiced as soon there would be new royals! The eggs were beautiful, and each was, according to tradition, topped with a special crown for the baby inside. The crown would fall off when the egg hatched and would belong to the drolf or drolfette that had been in the egg forever. The crown also had the name of the prince or princess that was inside the egg. The egg that was laid first would, of course, belong to the future ruler. However, we have not gotten there just yet. Depending on if the egg had a star or heart on the front, it would be a boy or a girl. And so, one by one, the eggs hatched. 

First to hatch was a very special young princess from a bejeweled egg, who would become the queen. Her name was Jewelea. Then hatched twin princes, emerging from a shimmering black egg. Next hatched twin princesses, who were born from a soft, cream colored egg. Finally, there was one more pair of twins — this time a prince and princess from a mahogany egg.

Soon, Jewelea looked around, wondering what to do. She could hear a whooshing noise outside. She and her three sisters and three brothers panicked, scrambling everywhere. THEY WERE UNDER ATTACK! Running out the door, carrying their seven children, Lord Pluto and Lady Rain screamed. As the authorities started to arrive, they split and ran for cover. As Jewelea ran, she wondered whether she would ever see her family again. 

15 Years Later… 

Chapter 1: The Best Birthday

“Hm-hm, hm-hm-hm,” Jewelea sang to herself as she paced her hideout. It looked decent, seeing as she had lived there for fifteen years; there was a living room filled with old books, cushions, and mugs. There was a kitchen that held all of her food and where she had dug a hole in the wall for a sink and filled it with smooth stone she had found nearby. She had taken the hose from the house above her and stuck it through a pipe she had found at the dump, and now she just had to pull on the string next to the sink to turn the water on and off. She also had a bathroom, which had a bath exactly the same as the sink, just three times as big and using another hose. It also had a toilet that had a pipe leading to the sewer that she had connected herself, so now she had a toilet. And, of course, the bathroom had its own sink, using yet another hose and pipe. 

Finally, we reach the bedroom. It had five beds stuck into each of the walls, except that the back wall had a wardrobe instead of beds, and the front had the archway for a door. The whole house was deep underground, but it was totally awesome. Jewelea liked her house, and tomorrow was her sixteenth birthday! 

After a dinner of carrots, sunflower seeds, and lettuce salad, she went into the bedroom, climbed into her bed, grabbed her stuffed elephant, and fell asleep. The next morning, she woke up, brushed her teeth, combed her silky white fur, and ran into the kitchen to get the basket in which she would collect the food that she would eat for the day. Though she had a ladder leading towards the ground that most of her fellow drolves tread on, she rarely ever went up. She only went up if she needed to repair her water system or if she needed some fresh air. 

Today, she went over to her garden, which also had a chicken coop and a stall with a cow in it. The stall was big with hay bales and a water trough in it. The chicken coop had four chickens: a black one, a brown one, a white one, and a gray one. The chicken coop also had two floors — the bottom was where they ate, drank, and ran around, and the top was where they slept and laid their eggs. The nests where they laid their eggs were designed so that when an egg was laid, it went straight into a tub on either side that was filled with soapy water to clean the eggs as they sat there. 

Jewelea milked the cow, gathered the eggs, and harvested the lettuce, carrots, beans, sunflowers, strawberries, and herbs in her garden for the day. She took some wood from the woodpile near the stone chimney that reached all the way to the ground and took some matches from the mantelpiece, as well as a frying pan, some salt, a cloth, and an oven mitt. She lit the wood and started a fire, and while the fire was heating up, she scrambled eggs, strained milk, washed berries, and chopped herbs. When the fire was hot enough, she put the eggs in the frying pan, put on the oven mitt, and held the eggs out over the fire. As soon as they were cooked, she decided that she should eat them and then go exploring for a little while. So she ate her breakfast and ran up the ladder outside, but as she went into the street, somebody made everything go black.

Chapter 2: Discovered

Jewelea was TERRIFIED! As she was dragged along, she could hear a voice saying, “C’mon Joe, we gotta take this one to the hospital, it’s a beauty.” Jewelea did not know what a hospital was — the only buildings in Drolftopia were stands and houses, and the only ways of transport were by foot or wing, and all the animals that lived there were drolves! What was a hospital, and what was it for?

Jewelea howled. She howled and howled and howled with confusion and misery. “Owowaaa! Wooo! Arooo!” 

Eventually, whoever was carrying her said to the other, “Doesn’t this one ever stop?”

The other, whose name was apparently Joe, replied, “Don’t think so,” and chuckled. 

Jewelea felt the bag or box or whatever she was in get lifted into somewhere that she could not see, but before she could wonder what to do and where she was, the box or bag she was in started to shake violently. It was a curious sensation — it felt new and bumpy and strange, but it also felt warm and safe. Jewelea didn’t know what to make of it. But soon the rhythm of the thing she was in carried her off to sleep. 

When she awoke, she was startled to see someone staring at her through thick, square glasses. What was more, this creature had two legs, not four! The thing opened its mouth and said gently, “It’s all right, everything is gonna be fine. Though you will have to get surgery on your kidney, everything else seems to be in order.”

Jewelea sat there, trembling with fright and cold. It was not very warm in the place where she was sitting, and speaking of where she was sitting, it appeared to be some sort of table or counter with a leather cushion on top in a small room. The walls were lined with pictures of strange animals and plants. Cabinets, a sink much like the one back home, and some chairs covered one wall while all the others were bursting with those pictures. Jewelea heard the thing talking to another one just like it, but the other one had black hair and no glasses. Then, they grabbed something from under the counter she was sitting on and placed it next to her. It seemed like a box, except that it had a screen of wire mesh across the front. Inside Jewelea could see blankets, her stuffed elephant, and a small velvet cushion. The cozy looking bed tempted her, so when the things, which she thought she knew the name of but couldn’t quite remember, opened the box, she happily stepped in. 

They closed the mesh door as she stepped inside, and yet they opened a door in the top and gently pet her, then closed it once more. Jewelea found herself being moved towards another room. When the creatures carrying her opened the cage, she immediately jumped out, soaring onto a small chair in the corner, glad to be out of that thing! Jewelea liked the chair, and sat down on it, wondering, What are they doing now? They’ve already kidnapped me, brought me here, stuffed me in a cage, and I don’t even know who or what they are! So Jewelea growled as they approached her carrying a small, pointy thing, but they were not scared. This must have happened with a lot of the drolves they kidnapped. (Not saying she blamed her fellow drolves or anything.) But as they closed in, she howled and barked and growled some more. The creatures were confused. But they finally reached her and jabbed her with the pointy thing, and within minutes she collapsed, and fell into a deep, strange, dreamless sleep.

Chapter 3: The Hospital 

The next thing Jewelea knew, she was staring at some fuzzy blobs up ahead. She shook herself and tried to stand, but a sudden sharp pain in her side prevented her from doing so. As her vision cleared, she noticed she was in another room, this one with lavender walls, another sink and leather cushion bench, and a bunch of thingies with glowing screens and long metal claws hanging over her head. What should I do? Jewelea asked herself. I’m trapped in this place that seems to be an endless hallway of weird rooms, and I can’t even stand up! AND it’s my birthday! 

Jewelea sat there, thinking about it for hours, and by that time, she had recovered from what that creature had called surgery, so she could make a plan to escape. First thing on the morning of her recovery, the plan began. Jewelea pretended to sleep as one of the creatures came in. Suddenly she shot a jet of blue flame on the mesh, and it melted away. She soared out, gliding quickly on her jewel-encrusted wings, and flew straight out the door and into the hallway. Jewelea zoomed down the hallway, and at the end, she found a glass door. 

Not bothering to open it and wait for them to catch her, she put on an extra boost of speed and zoomed right through the door. Glass flew everywhere. There was a chinking noise, and then a sickening thud told Jewelea that the creatures had slipped on the glass and fallen to the tiled floor. In front of her were bushes and trees, and in the distance, she could see mountains. The fresh air felt good on her sweaty face. Panting, she looked around and realized she was lost! 

The trees and grasses were different then the rainbow colored ones in Drolftopia because these ones were only green and brown. Jewelea decided to fly up and see where she was. Soaring up into the clouds, she saw miles of the same sort of buildings and plants, with the occasional strange animal. Using her dragon vision, she focused on a small golden trapdoor thing in a large hill. The Great Separator! A sudden memory crossed her brain. A tan-colored drolfette was staring at her with kind, caring, sparkly blue eyes. Her eyes! A golden tiara bejeweled with amber and rubies sat on her head. Another drolf came into the picture. This one had stormy gray fur and bright, all-knowing brown eyes. A silver crown encrusted with sapphires and emeralds was on his head. Words made of diamonds were on the front of his crown. They read: Lord Pluto, King of all Drolves. Her parents! Lord Pluto, her father, said in a deep, calm voice, “Hello there! Welcome to Drolftopia, little one!”

Jewelea shook herself and started soaring towards the golden trapdoor. A strong instinct told her that she would be safe on the other side. She reached the trapdoor and put her pawprint in the scanner and zoomed through to find none other than Drolftopia!

Chapter 4: Voxes

Jewelea slowly stepped through the gateway. Drolftopia looked different than it had on her birthday. The usually bright, cheerful cottages were now a mass of gray and white wreckage. All of the drolves were gone. There was no color anywhere. Suddenly, Jewelea saw a blur of silver light. The light flashed by her fast as lightning, making the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. Jewelea sniffed. An odor of decaying flesh streamed through her nostrils. Jewelea, disgusted, flew high into the foggy sky above. 

From high up she could see all of Drolftopia. Silver flashes of light were appearing and vanishing, draining even the white trim on the wreckage of its color. I hope everyone is all right, she thought. But in the meantime I should investigate. So that is what she did. 

Swooping down silently, she hid carefully behind a large gray door and peeked around the edge. One of the silver lights had slowed nearby, inspecting a white board. Now that the light had slowed, Jewelea could see the details. Glowing red eyes peered from a slim, drolf-like head. 

Suddenly, the light opened its mouth to reveal a strong, muscular jaw with fangs so sharp it seemed the light cut itself every time it closed its mouth. The light breathed in the thin, dusty air as if drinking in the world around it. The white board became darker and darker as the light became brighter and brighter.

Jewelea then remembered the book she had borrowed from the town library about the beings of the spirit world. A picture on one of the last pages was of a white fox with glowing red eyes and razor-sharp fangs. Jewelea strained her memory and remembered that the paragraph next to the picture was titled: VOXES. Voxes, it read, were the evil souls of bloodthirsty foxes that had roamed the earth for centuries, killing all animals in their wake. Voxes sucked all life and color from the world around them to make themselves more powerful. 

These must be voxes, Jewelea thought. I have to do something! But what first? Jewelea suddenly soared up to the foggy clouds above. The vox didn’t notice. Jewelea closed her eyes and carefully listened to the evil silence around her. A noise startled Jewelea. A soft, miserable noise was coming from nearby. Howling! Jewelea rushed towards the noise. The noise was coming from a gigantic black metal cage. Inside, hundreds of drolves were howling miserably. Voxes were guarding the sides and top of the cage. I have to get them out! Jewelea thought. Gliding quickly upward, Jewelea peeked through the mass of vox guards. Underneath, though barely visible, was a shimmering silver key. 

Chapter 5: The Battlefield

Jewelea silently parachuted down to the ground. Creeping toward the metal cage, she thought about how best to get them to safety. Suddenly, one of the vox guards spotted her. He leaped, gliding creepily across the ground. Signaling to the others, he jumped down and ran. Jewelea rushed as fast as she could towards the cage. Zigzagging quickly, her heart pounding with exhaust and fright, she soared into the mist once more. Her fuzzy white silhouette blocked out the few rays of icy moonlight. She zoomed lightning fast towards the cage, but they had beaten her. Turning sharply, she sprinted away towards the marketplace. She had hardly ever been there, so she didn’t know what to expect.

And when she got there, she saw that the stands looked abandoned, and there was no merchandise on their shelves. The thick crowd was gone too. Jewelea hid behind a stand and waited for the world to end, for her vision to cloud and vanish, for her color to fade. But it never did. She realized then that the only way to save Drolftopia was to let the drolves go. But how? Jewelea thought.

Suddenly, she had an idea. Flapping her bejeweled wings hard, she lifted off the ground. Jewelea zipped to the cage just as the voxes got to the marketplace where she had been. She managed to get to the cage before they had figured out where she was and how to get there. Jewelea swooped down, grabbed the silver key in her mouth, and stuck it into the lock. There was a sharp click as the lock fell to the ground. Jewelea bit down hard on the handle of the cage door and pulled. The door swung open. The drolves soared out of the cage like a flock of birds, glad to be out at last. A tan drolf with blue wings and green eyes came up to Jewelea and said, “Thanks for freeing us! I don’t know what we would have done without you! But the royal family is still stuck. They’re at the palace, locked up someplace. You gotta save them!”  

“Bye! Thanks!” Jewelea shouted in reply as she zoomed as fast as she could towards the palace. The palace was a huge marble building surrounded by a large fruit orchard. A golden tower was in the middle of the courtyard in the center of the marble walls. The palace looked ghostly. Fog had settled around the great palace and made it impossible to see twenty feet in front of you in any direction. Jewelea flew towards where she thought the tower should be. Looming ahead of her was the tower, bright and golden as ever, and faint howls could be heard from inside. 

Chapter 6: A Palace of Gems

Jewelea parachuted into the tower. Rubble and torn furniture were everywhere. She followed the noises, and they got louder and louder with every step she took. As Jewelea rounded a corner, she saw a small wooden crate and inside, a brownish snout was poking out through the barred window. 

“Mom!” Jewelea cried.

“Jewels?” her mom replied. 

“I missed you, Mom!” Jewelea exclaimed. 

“I feel the same way!” she replied. “But could you get me and the rest of the family out of here, by any chance?”

“Sure,” Jewelea said. She picked the lock with her tooth, and the lock fell off. The door burst open and eight drolves flew out, circling her. 

“Hiya!” a storm gray drolf said. 

“How are you?” a cream-colored drolfette exclaimed.

“Hello, everybody!” Jewelea called. “I need to check who is who before I can greet you by name, because, like…” 

“We know. You ran away and you’ve been gone for sixteen years, blah, blah, blah,” a jet black drolf said. 

“Attention, hut!” a gray drolf said. He wore a silver crown. At the sound of his voice, all of the drolves lined up perfectly straight. 

At one end of the line, a beige drolfette with gold wings and green eyes said in a sweet, cheerful voice, “Hi! I’m Fern. Nice to meet you!”

Second, the pure black drolf with black wings and dark eyes said in a clever, mischievous voice, “Hiya, I’m Onyx.” 

Next, a storm gray drolf with silver wings and gray eyes said, “Hello, I’m Thunder, and this is my twin brother, Zigzag.” He gestured towards a drolf exactly like him, except with a white lightning bolt on his back. 

Finally, a cream-colored drolfette with bronzy wings and sparkly blue eyes said, “Hi there, I’m Cloud, and this is my twin sister Snowflake.” And she pointed a paw at a drolfette precisely the same but with a white spot on her forehead. 

“Nice to meet you all,” Jewelea replied. “Tell me if I got it right. Fern, Onyx, Thunder, Zigzag, Cloud, and Snowflake.” 

“Correctamundo,” Onyx said. 

“Ok. Great. Let’s go home to our bedrooms and sleep. I am exhausted.” 

 “Sure,” Snowflake replied.

All Because of Three Little Screws

“WHY DOES TIM NOT HAVE A CHAIR, AND WHY IS THERE A BROKEN CHAIR THERE?!” Ms. M screeched. Don’t understand? It makes sense. Here is the full explanation: 

It was the second month of third grade. During math class, Kevin was studying hard. The problem he needed to solve was 58 + 65. He did the math. It was 13. He carried the one to the tens place, and the 5 + 6 was 11. He wrote down his final answer, and then realized he made a mistake. The eraser rubbed hard against the flimsy sheet of paper in his notebook.

Kevin, you’re so stupid. Yeah, I know. No, I mean you need an award. Shut up! No, you should shut up, you’re the dumb one! SHUT UP!!! This was one of the many conversations he had in his head during the day. He had forgotten to carry the one! Kevin quickly added that one and his final answer was 123. He was about to raise his hand to share his answer with the class, when he heard a slight thump under his chair. He poked his head under his chair to investigate the odd sound. To his surprise, there were three screws under the seat. He raised his hand.

“Yes, Kevin.” Ms. M had called on him.

“Um…” Kevin started. “There are some screws under my chair.”

Ms. M stopped her rant about how this class was the worst class she has ever had to teach (this time it was because someone had forgotten to carry the one) to come over to Kevin’s seat at table three and calmly picked up the screws out of Kevin’s cupped hands.

“Thank you,” she said, not too enthusiastically. Ms. M went back to her post by the SMART Board™ and put the screws on a low bookshelf that was part of their class library. She made nothing of it and continued her rant.

Flash forward to a little bit past the halfway point of the school year. They had a one time substitute since Ms. M was out on family business. They were working on a math worksheet again, and everyone was relaxed that day because of the substitute. The entire day was chill, so Kevin swiveled his chair for the umpteenth-million time to talk to Jeremy. There was a slight ping-pang on the floor, and before he realized it, the seat of his chair became another backrest. As it rose up his back, the last screw had fallen out. He remembered the beginning of the year and thought to himself, So that’s what the screws were from. It made more sense to him now, but he still was not happy about his current predicament. He got up, put the seat back into the correct position and hauled the chair into the back of the room, then hauled it over people to eavesdrop on their conversations. Someone was in the middle of a heated argument with one of the other students about which word the person should use in a sentence: their, there, or they’re. He put the chair down and on the way back to his seat — or lack of seat — he made a quick detour to the empty seat that no one sat in. He brought it over to his seat (the others were still going with their debate, by the way) and put the chair at his desk. 

Moving on to a different side of the story, you get Isabell and Ted. Isabell was a bright student, just like Ted. They both finished their math work and wanted to check their answers with one another. Isabell went over to the seat no one sat in after talking to the substitute about it. Since there was no seat, the substitute brought Tim’s chair over because Tim was absent. However, Isabell and Ted forgot to put Tim’s chair back; this resulted in — best way to put it — disaster the following day.  

The next day, all the kids lined up outside. The buzz and chatter of a new day was in the air. The class watched Ms. M walk slowly down the stairs like a sloth crossbred with a snail who made out with a tortoise. All of the teacher’s pets yelled at everybody to get into two distinguished lines. Ms. M stood in front of her class waiting for two of the most perfect lines that she had ever seen in her life, and about 45 seconds later, she led the class up the back staircase.  

The hike up the staircase with their backpacks was a hard one, but they got used to it after a while. They didn’t like the thought of having their strict normal teacher anymore, but they knew that there was no getting out of it now. They passed the door from one kid to the next. 

Not even half of the class got through the door when Ms. M screeched, “WHY DOES TIM NOT HAVE A CHAIR, AND WHY IS THERE A BROKEN CHAIR THERE?!” 

Kevin leaned his head back and casually said, “I don’t know.” He was only halfway lying. He did not know, at that point, why Tim did not have a chair. 

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. 

Ghostly Figures

The road near my house was the pinnacle of fright. 

Not the road itself. The road was fine. It was what was on the road that was creepy. 

Normal stuff was there. Cars, bikes, motorcycles, passersby. Nothing you wouldn’t really expect. Except, I saw something different there. 

People. Countless people, milling through their daily lives. And not just people from now, either. The people were dressed in pelts, or large petticoats, or tight-fitting leggings and Rollerblades. People with loincloths, people with fancy tuxedos, children, adults, the elderly. They were all doing their own thing, stuck in their own little world. And they all shared the same feature, a pale green glow, making them see-through and ghostly. 

Maybe they were ghostly. Maybe they were ghosts. Maybe they were lost souls, and this was just a rest stop to get where they were going.

It wasn’t on any other blocks, either. Just this specific road, 18th Street and Butler. And it didn’t seem like anyone else was bothered by all the ghosts — ahem, ghostly figures — or they didn’t see them at all. 

Every time I walked past the road on my way to school, I slowed my pace. Waved to some of them. Sometimes they even waved back. I stopped overthinking it years ago. 

I didn’t know what caused it. I didn’t really care, either. I didn’t care until they all disappeared. 

Three Is Turned to One by a Human Beast

Kkkra shooo!

“Jet, come eat breakfast,” Mom said.

What? What’s happening? Startled and half-asleep, I jumped up out of bed and banged my head on a chair. 

“Oh, just five more minutes,” I said, falling onto my bed.

“Come now,” Mom said in a strict Mom voice.

“OK,” I said with a sigh.

Creak, creak, creak. I came down the splintery wooden stairs.

Oh, hi there. My name is Jet. I’m twelve years old. I live in a war zone in my homeland city in the forest. My city and two other cities fight day and night. My city’s name is Wild Fasts. I don’t know why. The other city is named Steel City because it is foolproof, but it’s not really a steel city — it is a desert full of dark-skinned people. The last city is named Sharp because they have sharp, deadly knives and are full of bandits on a dock. My mom says my dad died in the war when I was three. We are lucky we are even alive right now.

I sat down in front of Mom.

“Here, today’s meal is toast,” Mom said.

“Thanks, Mom,” I said. “Oh, and Mom?” 

“Yes?” 

“When do you think it is going to stop?” I asked.

“What?” 

Kkkrrrunch!

“You know, the war,” I mumbled with my mouth stuffed with toast. 

“Oh, I’m not sure. It could go on forever,” replied Mom while pouring milk into the glass cups.

“I wish I could free these people from this ongoing war,” I said.

“Maybe if you really work on it, it will happen,” encouraged Mom.

I knew she was just encouraging me, but I smiled. I finished breakfast. 

“See you later, Mom. I’m going to meet my friends,” I said.

I went to the park. I turned all 360 degrees. Where are they?

“Boo!”

They came out from behind an ice cream truck.

“Aaak!!!”

Chapter One: DNA

“Hey! Why do you scare me like that every time?” I shouted.

“It’s fun!” my friends said simultaneously, giggling.

“But it scared me half to death!” I muttered under my breath. 

Anyway, these are my friends. They’re brother and sister. The sister named Ruby is twelve and the brother named Vac is eleven.

“So, anyway, what do ya want to do? Because I’m as bored as hell,” I ask.

“Wanna race?” Vac asked.

“Sure, because I’m going to win,” I said.

“To my house,” Ruby said.

“Bu — but that’s…”

“Then do ya Q-U-I-T?” Ruby cut in.

“No way,” I said.

“Then let’s go,” Vac said.

Three… two… one… go!

We dashed. I dashed so fast it knocked the wind out of me

“Done, haha! I’m done already!” I shouted in awe of myself. I looked around. There was no one there. This is gonna take a long time…

Finally, Ruby and Vac arrived five minutes later.

“We are done,” they gasped simultaneously. They were on their knees gasping for breath.

“What took you so long?” I asked.

“What do you mean?” Ruby asked.

“And what happened to your legs?!” Vac panicked, not taking his eyes off my legs like if he did, something would stab him in the back.

“Wha — OMG! There’s cheetah fur on my leg!!” I panicked too. We went to my house to talk to my mom. “What’s happening to me?” I shouted while pointing at my leg.

“I knew this day would come…” she whispered to herself while putting a hand on her forehead.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Your Dad’s DNA — it’s forming,” Mom told me.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Your dad was half-cheetah.”

I was half-beast.

Chapter Two: New City

Now I know why our city is named Wild Fasts. 

“But… I don’t understand what you mean! And — and you said my — my dad’s dead!!!” I shouted, tears dripping down my cheeks .

“No, he’s not dead. He’s in the wild somewhere. I just know it,” Mom told me.

“How did he get there?” I asked, still petrified.

“Like you wanted, he tried to make peace, but they thought it was a trap, so they attacked instead. The others made it back but — but he couldn’t.” She finished talking and sobbed.

I was mad — no, furious! But sad at the same time. I wanted to run out of here and find my dad. But I didn’t know if I would make it or not. Plus, I didn’t know where he was.

 “I know you want to find your dad, and I will let you. But you need to know how to control the cheetah in you, so I’ll lead you until we get there, and then I’ll go,” Mom told me.

“OK,” I told Mom.

“Don’t forget us,” Ruby and Vac said simultaneously. 

“It’s too dangerous,” said Mom.

“Just go with it. If they say something, they never take it back,” I told Mom like it was just common sense.

“OK, just one tiny, little problem… It’s that — this person in the other city,” Mom told us, saying the last part more quickly.

“First, that’s a big problemo! Second, how can we trust that ‘person’?” said Ruby.

“That ‘person’ trained Jet’s dad,” said Mom.

Why is everyone saying “person” like it’s important? I thought.

“OK then, let’s go in twenty minutes,” Vac said.

***

We got out of our city no problemo, but that was the easy part.

We spent several days in the forest sleeping, walking, and eating until we made it. There was a wall of stone and guards in every corner. The only way was up. The good thing was there was a hill near us.

“Ruby, did you bring the paper like always?” asked Vac.

“Of course,” Ruby said.

“Can you give it to me so I can make a glider for each of us? Then, we can glide in there from the hilltop,” said Vac.

“Fine with me,” Ruby replied. “Here,” she said while handing the paper over.

We went up the hill.

“That was a good hike,” I gasped while I basically fell. 

I would have tumbled down if my mom didn’t stop me.

Chapter Three: Arguing

“You guys should rest. We will go at midnight,” Vac said. “I’ll be making the glider.”

“Now, who made you boss?” Ruby asked.

“I’m not the boss. I’m just saying I’ll make the glider and you guys should rest,” Vac told her.

“Yeah, well, I want to help!” shouted Ruby.

“Well, I think I’ll be better off if I do this alone,” said Vac while he was making the glider.

“Well, I’m the one who gave you the paper,” Ruby said.

Blah blah blah…

Mom looked in her bag.

“What are you looking for?” I asked.

“Clothing to disguise us,” my mom answered.

“Good idea.” 

“There, a cloak.”

“OK, now let’s rest.”

***

At midnight, Vac and Ruby were still arguing, but they had made the gliders.

“Ok, now zip it,” I told them.

They finally stopped.

“Let’s go,” I whispered.

We glided. It was actually really fun, like flying. Mom and I were way in front of Vac and Ruby.

I saw Vac mouth, “This conversation is not finished.”

“Everyone got a cloak, right?” Mom whispered.

“Yes,” we whispered back.

We landed safely because it was night and no one was awake.

“OK, let’s wait ‘til sunlight. When it’s time, Mom will tell us who the ‘person’ is,” I said.

We lay down on the hard, cold rock waiting to sleep. Very slowly, I closed my eyes into the darkness.

***

We opened our eyes in the bright sunlight.

“I officially hate living in the street,” I said.

“Same,” Vac agreed.

“Let’s go,” my mom said.

My mom and I started walking, but Vac and Ruby were arguing about who was going to find the “person” first.

Chapter Four: The Person

My mom and I were so focused on finding the “person” that we didn’t realize Vac and Ruby were running a different way and arguing about who was going to find the “person” first.

They kept arguing until they found themselves lost and sat down on a bench, not knowing which way to go.

“OK, because we’re lost — and you know it, too — why don’t we just give up on this pointless argument?” Ruby growled.

“Deal?” Vac asked.

“Deal,” Ruby replied.

“Are we good?” asked Vac.

“We’re good,” Ruby answered.

“Good,” Vac said.

“Now, where did we come from?” Ruby said.

“There — no, there — no, I don’t know,” Vac said.

“There,” said an old lady nearby, pointing to the way they had come from.

“WHERE DID THIS OLD HAG COME FROM?” Vac shouted.

The old lady whacked Vac with her walking stick.

“I probably deserved that,” Vac mumbled.

The old lady was wearing brown ripped clothes, sharp teeth, and had sharp nails like talons and a white outline at the eye tail.

Ruby shot a glance at the old lady. 

“I think we are supposed to know her,” Ruby whispered.

***

Meanwhile…

“Mom, what does the ‘person’ look like?” I asked.

“Just an old lady,” my mom said.

Chapter Five: City Trouble

Bonk. Ooof!

I fell to the ground.

“Hey, what are you doing?” said the big guy I had bonked into.

He was bald and basically three feet wide and six feet tall. I made him so mad that he looked as hot as a flaming piece of charcoal. He was about to hit me, but he missed. It seemed like I was too fast for him, but then my cloak drifted off.

Security guards surrounded us.

“Oh crap,” I said.

There were two reasons why I said, “Oh crap.” First, the security guards surrounded us. Second, the cheetah DNA was once again forming.

We stood back to back. There was one space that was not closed.

“Let’s run through there on the count of three,” I mouthed through the side of my mouth, ticking my head.

“OK,” my mom mouthed back.

“One… two… three!” I said.

We ran for it.

My mom ran as fast as she could. I went the same speed, not turning back and not knowing where to go until we saw Vac and Ruby with the “old lady.”

“What are you doing with the ‘person’?!” I shouted.

“Oh!!! So this old hag is the ‘person’?!” Vac said. OK, I shouldn’t have said that, he thought.

Whack!

Chapter Six: Grandma

“I knew there was something suspicious about this person,” Ruby said, balling her hands into fists.

“Why are you running?” Vac asked.

“No time to explain,” Mom and I gasped simultaneously. The security guards were catching up.

“Run!” I told everyone.

We ran. Vac was the one who dragged the old lady. We turned a corner and, fortunately, the door was there, but unfortunately, there were even more guards at the door’s entrance.

We turned another corner before the security guards could and went into an abandoned building to hide.

“Mom,” Mom whispered to the old lady happily.

Ruby and Vac stared in awe at my mom, jaws dropped.

“What?” Mom said, looking uncomfortable.

“Let’s talk about this afterwards,” the old lady scolded Vac and Ruby, whacking them with her walking stick.

“So, what should we do?” Vac whispered.

“What about we make them follow us into a trap?” Ruby asked.

“That is not a bad idea,” Mom said.

“OK then, let’s do that plan,” I said.

“You’re saying it like we have another choice,” Vac said to me.

“Whatever. Just go with the plan,” I quickly said.

“OK then, who’s the bait?” Vac asked.

Nobody raised their hand. They were all staring at me.

“OK, fine. I’ll go,” I sighed.

Chapter Seven: Escape

Thirty minutes later, we had already set up the trap. It was a simple one, you know: dig up a hole and put sticks over it, then cover it with leaves. Anyway, I went to the front entrance and got their attention. Then, I ran.

I jumped over the booby trap, and when the guards chased me, they fell into the hole.

“Let’s go before backup comes,” I said.

We ran for the door. It was already open. We ran until we couldn’t see the city.

“I think we lost ‘em,” Ruby said.

We settled down in the middle of Wild Fasts and Steel City next to a tree. We set up camp and went inside tents.

“I guess the Steel City isn’t foolproof?!” I said.

“It could be in the history books: the group who — ” Vac started saying.

“Don’t get ahead of yourself,” Ruby cut in.

“So, ummm, old ha — I know what you’re thinking; you don’t need to hit me — I mean, Grandma,” I said.

“Yes?” she replied in a croaky voice.

“Did you really teach my dad, Flin?” I asked.

“Yes,” she croaked.

“Can you teach me?” I asked.

“I suppose,” said the old lady with a small smile.

“We will start the next morning,” the old lady croaked.

***

“Wait, so why didn’t you tell us she was your mother?” I asked my mom.

“Because you would ask too many questions.”

“That’s true,” I replied, trying to block a tirade. 

“I guess I’ll go, then,” my mom said.

“Wait until sunrise,” I said with gleaming eyes.

“OK then,” Mom said with a sigh.

“Then let’s rest up,” Ruby said. Nobody could argue with that. 

I went into the tent with Grandma and Mom while Vac and Ruby went into the other one. I lay down. Now it’s not long until I see my dad.

Chapter Eight: Lessons

It was beaming sunlight when I woke up. My mom was about to leave. She and Grandma were hugging. We said a quick goodbye and hugged, too. When I hugged my mom, she said, “Do what Grandma says,” and slipped a pen in my pocket without me noticing. When my mom left,

silence fell…

“So, Grandma, what are we going to do?” I asked, cutting the silence. “Hunting, fighting, racin — ” 

“Meditation,” Grandma cut in.

“Why?” I said, a little disappointed but trying not to show it. 

Grandma glared at me.

Under a tree, Grandma and I sat down and closed our eyes. I twitched. I snuck a peek to see if she was still meditating. She was still meditating. I was aching, but I was trying my best to stay still. I wanted to know how much more I’d need to keep it up, but no matter what, I’d do it to find my dad.

So, I survived, and at the end, I was more comfortable. When what felt like two hours had passed, I stood up and felt a jolt of aching pain. It was only a cramp, but it hurt pretty bad.

The next day, I asked if we were going to do something else, but she gave me the stink eye, so I listened and sat down and closed my eyes. Every passing day was less painful but still very painful.

Two weeks had passed and we were still doing the same thing: same old mediation.“I can’t believe we’re wasting our time meditating while we could be looking for my dad!” I told Grandma, who twitched, but she didn’t respond. She was too busy meditating.

Chapter Nine: Frustration

Yyyhhhaaa!

Silence fell.

“Let’s meditate,” snapped Grandma, cutting the silence.

“OH, now I’ve had enough! I mean, every day I meditate, and what do I learn?! Nothing! SO. I. QUIT!” I shouted, storming out of the tent and sitting down under the same old tree.

“Dogmatic,” sighed Grandma.

I skipped lunch and went near the tree to eat dinner ALONE. I slept outside, but I couldn’t sleep in the frosty, cold wind until Ruby came. 

“What happened this morning?” she asked.

“Stuff,” I mumbled.

“Come on, dude. Break the silence act,” Vac said. I jumped. 

“Seriously, come on! Do you need to keep sneaking up on me?” I growled. 

“Stop stalling and spit it out!” Ruby snarled.

“Fine, I quit the whole thing!” I blurted.

“I’m sure she knows something. After all, she trained your dad,” Vac suggested.

“Sure, just trust an old lady that I learn nothing from,” I mumbled under my breath.

“What?” Ruby said.

“Nothing,” I said.

They walked away.

“Well, just give her one more try,” Ruby said.

The words echoed in my head. I sat there, waiting a little longer. Then, I tiptoed into the tent while Grandma was snoring. I slipped into the sleeping bag. 

I’ll give her one last try.

***

Sunlight came into the tent, burning my eyes. My eyes blinked rapidly. I saw my grandma outside. I trembled, every step I took getting me closer and closer to her, but at the same time she was going farther and farther away. My legs were wobbling like my bones had been removed. 

No! Get a hold of yourself, I told myself.

“Bbbttthhh,” I shuddered.

When I was in front of Grandma, I stopped. The words I wanted to say were stuck on the tip of my tongue. The only two words that came out were… “I’m sorry.”

Chapter Ten: Test

I was sweating, waiting for the answer…

“You’ve passed your test,” she answered.

She’s kidding, right? I thought. 

“What do you mean?” I stammered, not knowing what else to say.

“This has been a test all along and you’ve passed it,” Grandma cackled.

“What was?” I asked, happy but confused.

“You see, I was testing you to see if you would come back or not,” Grandma answered.

“But how did you know I was going to quit?” I questioned.

“I’ve had experience with many apprentices to know you were going to quit,” she explained.

“But…” I started.

“Tsk tsk tsk. Let’s just do the next level, shall we?” Grandma cut in.

I grinned.

“But just remember to do meditation daily,” she said.

Immediately my grin turned upside down.

“But you can rest for today,” she told me.Yes! I raced into the tent and lay down. I had the word “daily” stuck in my head, repeating over and over until the darkness swallowed me whole into the world of sleep.

Chapter Eleven: Message

It was finally sunrise. 

“Rise and shine,” Grandma said.

“Five more — ” I started to yawn.

She frowned. I didn’t argue. Grandma walked outside to the campfire.

I wore the clothes I wore the day my mom left. I felt something in my pocket, but I was too sleepy to notice. I half-sleepwalked outside to the campfire.

“What are we doing?” I asked half-heartedly.

I clutched my stomach when I saw what she was eating. Ruby and Vac were looking at Grandma, awestruck, but she hardly noticed.

“Hunting,” Grandma said, her words muffled by the deer fur in her mouth.

In that exciting moment, the only word I could say without barfing was, “OK.”

Grandma finished eating the deer and wiped the blood on her sleeve. 

“Wanna come?” I asked Ruby and Vac while they were frozen like statues.

“Yeah, sure,” they mouthed back, or maybe they twitched, but after that they both nodded, so I guessed it was a yes.

I dragged Vac and Ruby until they finally recovered from the shock of seeing Grandma eat the deer raw. I almost barfed just thinking about it. Anyway, we followed Grandma until we came to a stop behind a huge rock. I was about to ask why we stopped, but I spotted the rabbit, and the first thing I thought she was going to do was show me how to catch it, but I was wrong.

“You can catch it right?” Grandma asked.

“What in God’s name are yo — ” I started.

Shove.

I fell on my knees. Brownish-gold dirt smudged on them. The rabbit heard the noise of the thud, so it quickly ran away. I had two choices: shout at my grandma and ask her why she pushed me or run after the rabbit. I had to choose quickly because the rabbit was running away, so I chose to chase the rabbit because I could deal with her later. So, I dashed after the rabbit with all my might. The rabbit was too fast even though it was as small as a little baby. 

Faster, faster, faster, I thought to myself.

I burst forward at the speed of light. I caught the rabbit in a matter of seconds.

“I caught it! Ugh, now I’m lost.”

***

Many hours later…

“This. Is. So. Tiring.” I walked to the camp. Tired.

Ahhh!

I tripped on a rock and fell head first into the ground as a pen slipped out of my pocket. I grabbed it, stood up, and held it up to the moonlight. I saw a message that said… 

Text me.

Chapter Twelve: Messages

Every night, I went out into the moonlight to see if there was another message. But on the fourth day, I saw a name written on it:

Clover Rose

TO BE CONTINUED…

The Beginning

It was a nice summer day. Then, all of a sudden, a black angel grabbed a spear and threw it at the sun, and the air turned to smoke. The dark angel went to a radio station and told everyone she was destroying the earth. Then, Jane leaned against her book shelf. Suddenly, a secret door opened! Jane stepped inside curiously. It led to an elevator which took her down to the basement. When she finally got down to the basement, she realized it was actually a secret hideout. Then, a dark figure in the room said, “Jane, you need to restore peace by battling the dark angel…” 

With no idea what was happening, Jane did what the dark figure said anyway. After the dark figure gave her a cool new costume to wear, she was ready to battle. Then, she ran back up and went into the elevator and rushed out the door and went to go find the dark angel. 

***

When Jane found the dark angel, they battled. The dark angel said she wasn’t really good at violence so… they had a dance competition! Jane wasn’t really sure how to dance because she actually never learned how to dance. Her friend at school told her that the only thing that mattered was having fun. So, Jane took that advice and had fun. And she actually won the dance battle because the dark angel didn’t really know what to do. But then, something happened. The dark angel’s dress turned pink… she was actually an angel under a curse by the Queen Devil, who was trying to take over heaven. 

***

Jane was confused but a little excited for the adventure the angel had told her was ahead. Then, suddenly, something came into view. It was a shooting star or something. It was coming straight towards her. She ran out of the way, then looked to see what it was.

The thing stopped. It was another angel. It was the other angel’s friend. She told Jane that the Devil was still working hard, but that he went back to Hell for his plans, so this would be the right time to help her get to Heaven. Jane, a.k.a. Phoenix, was a little confused about how to get to Heaven since she didn’t have wings.  

The angel said, “You just have to have kindness in your heart to get to Heaven.” 

She tried her best to fly, and she got to Heaven. She found out something strange.  Instead of being happy in the clouds, it was filled with gloom and red. All over the place there was evil, fire, dust, and ash. Jane was super confused now. 

The angel told her, “This was the work of the Devil.” 

But they quickly went down to an underground base. Now Jane understood that they needed a place to live so the Devil wouldn’t destroy it. They formed a plan to destroy the Devil and thought confidently of what to do. 

Then, they suggested, “Maybe let’s plan a sneak attack to find out their plans.” 

Jane thought this was smart but dangerous. She was up for the job.

The next time, Jane crept into Hell and quickly grabbed the plans. Then, she replaced them with a fake replica she had made on the internet. When she went back to Heaven, the angel said they’d do something with it. 

Then, they told her they’d rewrite the evil plans so they’d be in the wrong place at the wrong time and ready for the attack. Then, they heard a big thing like a bomb. They went up, and the war was beginning. Jane was upset because she found the plan ten minutes earlier, and they must’ve known it was a replica.

The angels grabbed anything near them and Jane, a.k.a. Phoenix, grabbed her bow and arrow. The Devil said he wasn’t good at fighting, so they had a dance battle instead. Jane wasn’t confident because she wasn’t good at dancing, but she tried her best, and she won. 

What happened next was unbelievable.

To be continued…

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.

You Don’t Belong Here

You don’t belong here. The kids are mean. You are a wimp.

Those were the first thoughts that stuck in the back of my head as I stepped through the doors of Blowwhite Middle School for my first day of seventh grade. I felt excluded as almost 90% of the kids ran to one another, saying, “I missed you so much, Evelyn!” or “Samantha!!! What homeroom teacher did you get? I got Lilyberg!” Or, my least favorite, “I can’t believe there are new kids in school!” 

I felt as if everybody in the school had been there already and had a million friends already, while I was left to rot. I looked at my schedule as I revealed it from my pocket. 

“Mrs. Jimveds in Room 509,” I noted, pushing that to the back of my head. I pulled my backpack straps onto my shoulder and walked down the hall. I noticed that all of the rooms had a three in the hundreds’ place. I knew I was two floors up. I saw kids flooding into a door, and I kneeled over to investigate. I saw that it was a staircase, so I pushed my way politely into the crowd and thundered up a flight of stairs, then opened the door. I looked at the number in the hundreds’ place.

“Whoops,” I murmured as I looked at the nearest door: 414. I turned to go back to the staircase. Clunk, gukk, clink went everyone’s feet. I ran up the twisting tower of stairs, and I reached the fifth floor. I opened the door and ran into the hallway. 

Hmm, I thought, this is 503, now 505, 507… Okay, there’s 509.

It turns out it was 508, but the lettering must have worn off a bit because the teacher said, “I already have all my students… except Hannah Morrens. What’s your name, honey?” 

“Mia,” I told her. “Mia Lee.” 

She said, “You’re next door with Mrs. Jimveds.” 

She sent one of her students to help me next door. I said, “Thank you,” and then the student returned to his classroom.

As I opened the door to my new classroom, all of my classmates were already there. Mrs. Jimveds said to me, “You must be Mia!” 

I looked at my feet and said, “Hi.”

She said, “Go sit next to Maddie there. See?”

The girl who I think was Maddie waved. So, I sat at the only empty desk next to her.

“Hi! I’m Mia! What’s your name?” I asked her, faking some enthusiasm in my voice as I shakily sat down and unpacked my bag. 

“I’m Maddie Widdows,” the girl said. “I’m new.”

“Same!” I said a bit too loudly. People stared at us with confusion as I blushed and turned the color of the red on the YouTube logo. But I returned halfway back to my normal color when Mrs. Jimveds took attendance.

“Adam Jacobson.”

“Here!”

“Amanda Kaymond?”

“Present!”

“Beatrice Adams and Chris Liberty?”

Some boy in the back of the room made a kissy sound. I bet he was thinking, Beatrice and Chris, sittin’ in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G! But when Layla Menmor sent him a dirty look, he shut up. 

Mark Ravenson said, “What’s first, Madam?” Most of the boys cracked up. 

I was like, “You guys need to grow up!!!” Thankfully, Mrs. Jimveds started class then. 

“As most of you know, I’m Mrs. Jimveds, but you can call me Lola. That’s my first name. Now, Beatrice and Chris will be passing out math books.” 

Another boy — Kale Veggy — made the kissy sound again. And he actually said, “Beatrice and Chris, sittin’ in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!”

Chris and Beatrice shot him a dirty look as they passed out math books. 

“And please complete pages one and two,” Lola added. So, when I got mine I filled them out. “Nice job,” Lola exclaimed when she passed my desk. Just then, the bell for second period rang. I got my stuff and checked my schedule. Mr. Peters in Room 414. 

That was the room I had seen on the 4th floor when I’d walked by in the morning. So, I gathered my stuff, thanked Lola, and hurried to Mr. Peters’ class. He checked me in when I approached the room. Apparently, only four other students were in class with me: Maddie Widdows, Areque Manelipo, Rosie Daniels, and Damien Ronaldson. I snatched a seat next to Rosie and Maddie, and Mr. Peters began the lesson. 

“I’m Donald Peters,” he said, “and welcome to music.”

Mr. Peters taught us to play a simple song on the piano before a brrring made us all jump. I thanked Mr. Peters and raced out of the room. I dug around in my pocket for my schedule. It… was empty. Where was my schedule? I retraced my steps to the classroom, where my schedule rested on the floor. I picked it up and studied it. Mrs. Jimveds, Mr. Peters… Elizabeth Ronald Rowling. In room…? It had been colored over with black marker. 

Oh no…! I thought, racing out into the hallways. The late bell had already rung, but kids were still streaming past. I peeked at one boy’s schedule. His homeroom was Elizabeth R. in Room 687. Okay. I raced up two flights of stairs and found the number 682, 683, 684, 685, 686… 687 — okay. I went into the room. Elizabeth greeted me. 

“Hi, you’re… Crystal?” 

I shook my head, “No.

“Tristan? Lee?” 

I shook my head again.

“…Mia?”

“Yes,” I told her. “Mia Lee.”

***

After Elizabeth’s class, I had four other classes, then, my lunch period, art, and science — my last period. It had been a tiring and stressful day, but only one day out of two-hundred days of school. So I knew there was much more to come —

But I was finally able to tell myself that I belonged.

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.

Kiss, Marry, Kill

Editor’s Note: Content warning — partying/mature content, violence/murder. We recommend an older audience for this psychological thriller.

The fresh air of October sprang through my lungs, the aroma of a fall night chilling my spine. My red flannel wasn’t doing much for the cold. The only thing I wore other than that was a short red dress with spaghetti straps that hugged my curves. My friends convinced me to go to the Halloween party that happened annually. I wasn’t very social. I didn’t have any social media accounts that were for anything more than me using the app and liking friends’ posts. It wasn’t like I was surprised that not that many people were interested in me. After all, there wasn’t much to be interested in.

The broken, old concrete on the stairs of the barn creaked as I walked in, music from inside blasting in my ears. Every year, the seniors got to pick where the parties were held. This year, instead of some rich kid’s mansion, they decided it’d be a good idea to break into an abandoned barn on a farm in the middle of nowhere, away from our high school in the suburbs of New York City. I couldn’t tell whether the barn doors were knocked down before or after the party started, but I could tell that there was no way they were going back up. 

My friend, Andrew Heightman, was the one who hosted and invited me to the party. I wouldn’t even really call him a friend, we just had an ongoing Snapchat streak that broke most records of people who were actually friends or dating.

I stepped into the crowd of sweaty bodies. My nose cringed at the overwhelming amount of Axe body spray and cheap perfume. I was almost certain everyone there was either drunk, high, or just out of their mind. The very loud beat of the music and screaming made my head hurt, making me lose some of my concentration. I fought my way through the crowd of teens, looking for someone I knew who was even a little bit conscious. 

I got about halfway through the tight crowd when, suddenly, the music stopped. The lights flickered out and the room filled with quiet whispers of overexaggerated fear and gasps. If they knew what was about to happen, maybe their fear wouldn’t have been exaggerated.

I wasn’t fazed — after all, it was a Halloween party in an abandoned barn. Someone was bound to pull a not-so-scary prank. The lights turned back on with a loud, familiar click — except this time, it wasn’t the light switch for the entire barn but a spotlight. 

I stood on the tips of my Converse, trying to see what the spotlight was reflecting on. There, under the spotlight, was a fully empty circle, except for the host, Andrew Heightman, standing smack dab in the middle in a cheesy Dracula costume. I exhaled, annoyed at the drama of it all.

“Hello, and welcome to the Annual Halloween Party!” he exclaimed, grinning a cheeky smile, and the crowd erupted with cheers. My feet began to grow tired from looking at him for that long on my tippy toes, so I fought my way to the front of the circle to get a clearer look. 

“Tonight, I thought we would play a game,” he proclaimed, his deep voice echoing off the walls. “Not a middle school game of Spin the Bottle, or a game of tag, but a friendly game of Kiss, Marry, Kill.”

To be honest, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t weirded out by this. Beer Pong was an example of something teenagers would play at a party. Kiss, Marry, Kill, was more of a sleepover-with-your-best-friends-to-find-out-your-opinions-on-people kind of game.  

I wasn’t exactly sure how this would turn out any other way than outing people on who they wanted to make out with.

“Now, I can see you’re all surprised. I’m not dumb. I understand why. ‘How would you play that at a huge party?’ you might say. And to that, I would tell you to just listen to the name of the game, and you know most of the rules,” he explained with almost too much confidence. He smirked and brushed his gelled hair back a bit while the crowd remained silent, not completely sure what that meant.

“Some of you probably picked up on the fact that I said ‘most’ of the rules. There are some more, completely unique to my amazing, awe-inspiring game.”

I scoffed quietly. Sometimes he could be so self-absorbed.

“Rule one: just like every single other thing that happens at this party, the details of this game will not be spread to anyone outside the guest list, or we will make sure you and the person which you shared it with aren’t able to tell anyone else.”

Most people were concerned about the rule, while I only noticed it when he said “we.” He was alone, wasn’t he?

“Like Fight Club?” a guy in the back of the crowd joked loudly, followed by a chorus of confused laughs.

However, Andrew didn’t seem too amused by the joke. “Yes, Jake, exactly like Fight Club.” A crooked smirk appeared on his face. “Except this won’t exactly be a fist fight, will it?” Now he began to pace in his empty circle, his arms behind his back in a fake attempt at looking fancy in a Dracula costume, the way you see people do in movies when the movies are set in the 1800s or something.

“Now, before I continue to explain, we need a few volunteers.” He stopped pacing when he said the end. “A girl and three boys is what we need. If you’re completely sure that you don’t care what the rest of this game entails, no matter what happens and that you will not stop playing, please step forward into the circle.” His words echoed in my brain as I thought about it. He knew that no one would step forward quite immediately if he made the game seem mysterious. And I had to give it to him, he was right. 

Before I could think any more about it, I felt a strong hand push against my back, pushing me into the circle. I stumbled a bit, but regained my balance as I looked for who did it. 

It was a guy I recognized only from him being a part of the high school football team and a part of the popular guys. Also known as the designated a-holes of the school. 

“Jerk,” I muttered, turning to go back to my spot. But before I could, I felt a cold, sturdy hand on my arm, keeping me in place. I looked back and saw Andrew.

“Nuh-uh-uh-uh. No matter how you get in the circle, voluntarily or not, you cannot leave the circle. You, Miss Stone, are staying.” Couldn’t even call me by my first name. 

Sighing, I looked at the people that were now in the circle. Thomas Sanches, the football captain, was standing there with his old bomber jacket and fake zombie prosthetics. Angel Lee, the guy who everyone loved till he came out as gay and suddenly everyone who was homophobic just “never really liked the guy.” And last, and definitely least, John Young. He was the kind of guy that didnt smoke, didn’t fail any classes, and most definitely didn’t really go to parties. But he also wasn’t the valedictorian or anything. He didn’t really do anything. The kind of guy who you could be in school with for years and completely forget he existed. 

“Now that we have all of our lovely players, we might as well start instead of wasting time explaining the rest, am I right?” The crowd murmured in agreement, and you could tell they were starting to get suspicious of the ominous game Andrew was proposing. 

The lights went out with another loud click, and I heard the scraping of wood and concrete and the footsteps of about four people walking to where I could tell was the middle of the circle. They were only standing on the sides.

Another click, and the lights were back on. Andrew was now not in the middle of the circle but off to the side. Replacing him in the middle was now a single wooden chair facing three more chairs in a triangle shape. I noticed John take an audible breath in through his nose and then sneeze into his elbow quickly.

“Now, Miss Stone, please step forward into one of the chairs,” Andrew instructed, pointing to the chair that was facing the rest. Annoyed at the fact that I probably should’ve been drunk right now but instead was playing a stupid game, I shoved my hands in the pockets of my flannel and walked to the chair. I plunked myself down on the chair, self-conscious about myself when I saw the glares people were giving me.

  “Now, boys, be gentlemen and sit across from her, will you?” he said, as if he were more of a gentleman than them. As they stepped forward into their chairs, I felt myself forgetting why I was ever friends with Andrew. On the topic of friends, where were the friends that invited me? 

I zoned back into the real world when Andrew spoke. “The game begins.” 

A smirk traveled up his face as he snapped, and the all-too-familiar click of the lights filled my ears. I felt my arms being guided up to the sides of the chair by unfamiliar hands of people I could not see. I sighed, trying to play it cool. It was all a prank orchestrated by Andrew to scare everyone. 

As I started to question myself, I felt rope being tied around my hands, securing me to the chair. The mysterious hands pulled the rope tightly and the lights came back on. 

“What the hell is this?” I glared at Andrew. I tried to turn my neck to see the faces of the people that tied me up, but no one was there. Just a confused crowd and a few familiar faces. I noticed John once again sniffing through his nose and gulping. Was he nervous?

“Relax, Stone. It’s just a friendly game,” he said. The sudden change in nickname made me feel more intimidated for some reason I couldn’t name. It’s just a prank, part of me said. But it was kind of hard to listen to it when the other part was screaming, You’re definitely not okay!

 “Now, as I said before, Miss Stone will have to pick out of these three gentlemen who she would like to kiss, marry, or kill,” he said, his smirk still remaining. “Kiss?” he said, giving me a questioning glare.

I hesitated, then I just chose to say the first person I looked at. 

“John, I guess?” I said. He looked at me weirdly, his brown hair that usually covered half his face now showing his shockingly gray eyes. The look he gave me wasn’t of disgust but of surprise. As soon as I matched his look, I could tell he wanted to rip through the rope around his wrists and run far, far away. 

Click. Darkness surrounded me once again, and I felt my chair being pushed and moved. I felt what felt like another set of human legs covered in jeans push against mine and then another click

My eyes adjusted to the light again, and I saw what had changed. I was now pressed against John’s chair, our knees touching. Everyone gave us an odd look.

“So kiss,” Andrew said.

“Huh?” John stuttered.

I didn’t understand it, but I didn’t feel like making this take any more time than it already was probably going to take, so I leaned forward and pecked him on the lips, his expression surprised as I pulled back. The crowd erupted, and suddenly, I realized that if Andrew wanted us to kiss for the kiss part of the game, what would he want us to do for the marry and kill part?

“Shocking. Didn’t think that would ever happen,” Thomas spoke up. Only the football team and the girls who liked him laughed. It was like a cult. He was basically their god. 

Whatever he or his girlfriend, Leana Brown, did, the rest of the school just followed. Don’t ask me why.

“Thank you, Mr. Sanches, for your unneeded opinion,” Andrew spat back, and although he hid it well, I could see that pause of frustration in his cocky smirk. “Thank you, Miss Stone and Mr. Young, for participating in the first part of our game,” Andrew said, and I gave him a fake half-smile. 

Click. Darkness consumed the room yet another time, and I could feel my chair being moved by the invisible humans hidden in the darkness. 

Click. Light filled the room from string lights on the walls as I was once again facing the three boys. 

This time though, there was tape over Thomas’s mouth. I watched in horror as he squirmed in his chair, muffled cries coming from behind the tape. Loud protests came from the crowd. 

“Oh, shut up, or I’ll put tape on all of your mouths,” Andrew said in an annoyed tone. The crowd stopped arguing other than a few over-exasperated gasps.

I looked down and noticed my hands were shaking slightly. I tried to stop them and keep them still, but they just kept shaking more than before. 

“Turning back to Miss Stone.” He turned on his heels, his wicked smirk not just annoying me, but scaring me now. What was he hiding behind it? 

“Now, what were we saying before we were rudely interrupted by some people here?” Andrew questioned, the question having absolutely no reason other than trying to intimidate the crowd. I snorted at his stupidity. 

“Right at the point where you forced two strangers to kiss, actually,” I retorted, gathering all the confidence I could into my voice. His eyes rolled. 

“Those cocky remarks aren’t fooling anyone, Stone. We can all see your hands shake,” he argued, his brigade of the cocky game-master starting to crumble like a stone wall being hit by a missile. Quickly.

“Just get the game over with,” I remarked, eager to leave. His smirk returned to his face, and he stepped over to stand behind the three boys I was looking at. 

He rested his hands on Angel’s shoulders, standing straight in the middle, making an uncomfortable amount of eye contact with me.

“Get your dirty hands off me,” Angel said, his sass finally seeming to annoy Andrew.  Angel shivered his shoulders for a couple of seconds before Andrew straightened his shoulders and held Angel’s shoulders down. His biceps shone through his shirt sleeves as Angel fought for freedom from Andrew. Andrew started to lean down, and soon his mouth was at Angel’s ear. 

He whispered something quietly into Angel’s ear, making him gulp and making Angel’s face turn an uncomfortable shade of gray. 

“So, Stone, please select which to marry,” Andrew said, turning back towards me. He gestured his hand above Angel’s and Thomas’s heads like he was a shop worker trying to sell a new flavor of ice cream. 

“Uhh…” I said. Angel looked at me, and he slowly mouthed, Me. I didn’t mouth anything back, as Andrew was still watching me like a hawk. 

I looked at Thomas, but his facial expression was blank. 

“Angel,” I muttered quietly. Even if he asked me to do it, I still felt kind of odd for saying I would marry a gay guy to his face. 

Angel let go of a breath he seemed to have been holding for a while. 

“Fair enough,” Andrew said. 

Click. The invisible hands were back on mine in seconds. I felt something being slipped onto my ring finger, and I took a shaky breath as I guessed what it was.

Click. I looked at the new things added to the room: rings on Angel’s and my ring fingers and what looked like legal documents on a desk in between us. 

Angel and I met eyes, and both our eyes were filled with the horror that this was real. I let out a strained, choked, laugh. 

“Very funny, Andrew,” I said, the words coming out as if they had to fight a thousand wars to slip off my tongue. Sweat began to form on my hairline, making my black hair come out of its original curled style. 

“If it were a joke, you would be laughing. This is real,” Andrew insisted. I gulped, my breaths not coming so naturally anymore. 

“I’m done, Andrew. Get me the hell out of this chair,” Angel said, finally cracking from stress. But he mouthed “me” earlier as if he wanted to continue, didn’t he? Or was that for a different reason?

“Nuh-uh-uh. The four of you came into this circle, and only three of you will come out safely.” His words made my breath hitch, and my heart started beating millions of miles an hour from what I can guess. Andrew paused and walked over to Thomas, and to Thomas’s demise, put his fingers under Thomas’s chin, forcing him to look up at Andrew. Andrew’s chiseled features glinted in the dim lighting, making him even more terrifying. But I could see the way his black hair was shiny with sweat. It was not hot in here. It was mid-fall. So why was he out of all people sweating? 

“Speaking of, there’s only one step left for my little game. And there’s only one person left for the job. Isn’t that right, Thomas?” Andrew says, a laugh escaping his lips. I looked at the crowd and noticed one of my old friends, Gray, was in the first row of people in the antsy crowd that was held back from entering the circle by fear. His hand was holding something mostly hidden by his black jeans. I then realized it was a phone camera. With a light on. Gray was recording this.

What would he do with the recording? Did he not notice Andrew’s threat? Would he post it anonymously online? 

Before I could think of any more scenarios of what he could do with the recording, my ears filled with a click.

He’s gonna kill Thomas was all that went through my head.

Before I could think, I summoned all the strength in my body and broke through the ropes, my wrists burning from pulling on the rope so hard. I picked up the chair, turned it over, ripped off the bottom of the chair with a disgruntled yelp, and walked blindy towards the figure that I could make out as Andrew from my limited sight. 

Without another word, I plunged the sharp wooden leg of the chair straight in his chest, and, choking and bleeding out in the dark, he fell to the ground. My hand slipped to my face, cupping my mouth. 

Tears filled my eyes as I heard the gunshot. The gunshot I knew had killed Thomas. I slipped to my knees, realizing what I had done. A hand covered my mouth with a cloth, making me grow drowsy as I slipped from consciousness.

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.

Emma and Mount Everest

CHAPTER ONE: Introduction

“EMMA!” said a voice so strong in my head that I woke up in fear.

“MOM!” I said, frantically getting up from my bed. My mom went storming in my room, opening the door. She opened it so loud that I felt my blood go up and down, up and down. 

“What, Emma?” said my mom. Her voice sounded like she did not know what to do right now. Her clothes were stained with… hmm, cold water? I think she spilled water while she was getting up here.

“Uhh, nothing, bad dream… I think.”  I said. I looked down and bit my lip. My mom was always in a grumpy mood.

“Emma, every single morning you say, ‘MOM.’ Is anything bothering you?” said my mom as she came towards my bed. She sat down on my bed, got my pillow, and put something in it. “Don’t open it until you are ready,” said my mom. She got off my bed, making a big creaking sound. She flipped her hair and got out of my room.

I just felt like I wanted a playdate with Yui. She was such a great listener and loved green tea. We had been friends since preschool. She had different fonts on her phone. So, yeah. I stretched out my legs and arms, then I scanned my room for my phone. I got out of bed and put on my fluffy slippers. I opened my kawaii drawer. It cost $2,000. Very expensive. I searched through all my stuff in my drawer. The shuffling made a nice noise. I felt that my phone case was cold. ICE cold. I hoped she could help me. AND SHE’S KOREAN! 

Me: Huy Yui! 🙂

Yui: Hello Ai- Ma chan!^.^!

Me: Do you want a playdate?

Yui: OFC! 

Yui: What is it about?

Me: Umm, something. It’s a surprise?

Yui: Yay!!

Me: YAY! See you soon.

Well, I guessed I had to go to her house now. I put my phone down in my kawaii drawer and rushed to do my daily morning routine. I speed past the door, not wasting time. Only, THIS HOUSE WAS SO BIG I GOT LOST IN IT. Which way do I go, which way?? I said in my mind. I made a guess. Hey, what else could I do?  I run left, sonic speed. And I, oops — I bumped into my own mother. I crouched down so low, it was like I was playing limbo.

“OW!!” she said. She was hesitating, looking above her, left, right of her, but she did not look BEHIND her. “WHO’S THERE?” she said. She looked like she had seen a ghost. Golly gee, Mom, you never looked behind you, I said in my mind. I decided to run. I got up and ran until… BEEP! My phone rang. REALLY YUI? REALLY? It was a text message from Yui. Golly Gee. I AM IN TROUBLE.

Mom turned behind her, closing her eyes. I tried to make a run for it, but she already had the confidence to open her eyes. Darn. “Hello, hon, did you see anyone bump into me? Is it your dad? I know it isn’t you because you are a good girl,” said my mom, crossing her arms.

Gulp, now I felt super guilty. I really want to tell my mom the truth, but I ended up lying. “Um mom y-you s-s-see I did — er, I mean — didn’t bump into y-y-you. I mean I di-did, I mean, I di-didn’t b-bump into y-you!” I said. I sounded like I was squeaking instead of speaking. I got back up, then did a broken face.

“Umm, A-W-K-W-A-R-D,” said my mom, loosening up her crossed arms. “Oh, and you have school tomorrow.” She winked with her hands folded.

“Can I go to Yui’s house, please!!” I went down to my knees, acting like I was praying to God.

“Yes. But be back at 12:00, or you’re dead.” Her face was dark. My face was so scared. I got ready to pounce, that meant run. She had said “or you’re dead” in a low voice. She pointed at the clock with her index finger. It said 7:00. That gave me lots of darn time!

“Ok, Mom, thanks!” I ran off right again. Maybe even running + running = I AM RUNNING SUPER FAST! Then I stopped. I remember something that I needed to tell my mom. 

“Mom, where’s the bathroom?” I said, while turning back. I was still scared.

“Go right, then go left. That’s where the bathroom is,” said my mom while going left. 

“Okay, thanks, Mom!” I said. I turned back and ran. AND I followed her directions. I rushed so fast that I lost my slipper. I didn’t even want to pick it up. I was too excited to go to Yui’s!

TO BE CONTINUED….

The Secret of the Fairies

Chapter 1: The Adventure

One day, there was a fairy named Lilac. She lived in a cottage in the woods. Most of the stuff she owned, she had made herself. One day, she received a letter from the fairies. They wanted to send her to help the Kingdom of Fairies. The fairies knew that Lilac solved a lot of puzzles, so they knew she was smart. She rushed to her room to pack. She packed a flashlight, clothes, shoes, a notepad, and a pencil. When she started to get the map, she saw one of her cupboards began to glitter rainbow. She went out to see what was happening to the cupboard. There was a letter that was floating in the air that said: trust your heart. She wondered, should she trust this letter? She would give it a try. She closed her eyes and started to walk. Finally, she bumped into something. She opened her eyes. Right in front of her was a portal. Above it, it said: Land of Fairies. Yes! she thought. She went right into the portal. When she opened her eyes, she saw thousands of flowers. Some of the flowers were still fresh, and some of the flowers were wilting. She wondered what to do. The girl in front of her was a fairy. 

“Who are you?” shouted the fairy. 

Lilac replied, “One of the fairies sent me to meet you.” 

And kindly the fairy said, “You must be Lilac. My name is Samantha.” Then she added, “Let me take you to the Queen.” 

On the way there, they saw a fairy in the water. Sam said, “What are you doing here, Aurora?”

“I cannot reach out to Rain,” Aurora said.

“This is Lilac.” Lilac waved while Sam introduced her. Then Sam added, “She’s helping us save our kingdom.” Sam waved her wand, and Aurora was outside.

“I will help Lilac,” Aurora said.

Sam said, “We’re going to the Queen.” 

“I will go with you,” said Aurora.

Chapter 2: The Queen

They continued walking, and a few minutes later, they arrived at a beautiful castle. They went in and saw beautiful rooms. Lilac was curious about the rooms, but Samantha and Aurora just passed by them. Finally, they reached a room with a beautiful shell door.

“Wait right here,” Sam said to Aurora and Lilac. She went in the room, and she came out again. “The Queen is ready to see you,” she told Lilac.

Lilac went into the room. Then, she saw the Queen. Lilac curtsied and sat down in front of the Queen.

The Queen said, “You can call me Queen Lily.”

Lilac said, “What can I do to help your kingdom?” 

“I will show you.”

She led them up to a room with a glass case. She opened the lid. There, they saw flowers wilting. The Queen looked sad. “Here, I will tell you the story of these flowers,” Queen Lily said. “One day, there was a wise fairy. Her name was May. She took care of these beautiful flowers. One day, she met a mermaid. The mermaid said, ‘Give me the flowers!’ May gave the flowers to the mermaid. May trusted the mermaid. The mermaid sprinkled dust onto the flowers. A kingdom was going to appear, and the flowers would take care of the land. May saw a beautiful land. She saw a feather. She chased after it, but she got lost and couldn’t find the flowers again.” Lily then smiled and said, “With a little bit of magic, I got the flowers back.”

Chapter 3: The Gems

Queen Lily said, “Yesterday, the flowers started wilting, and the fairies were getting more tired every day. I realized this when I visited the flowers yesterday, and I saw that they were wilting. Then, I went to the fairies. Usually, the fairies meet me outside, but yesterday, they were sleeping.” She started crying when she said this. “If the flowers die, the fairies can’t take good care of the kingdom, and the kingdom will disappear.” 

“It’s okay,” Lilac said to comfort her. “We will help your kingdom.” Lilac knew what to do, but she didn’t know how to do it. 

Queen Lily hugged Lilac. “You have two weeks to rescue the flowers,” Queen Lily said. 

Lilac’s heart pounded thinking about whether that time would be enough to rescue the flowers. 

Queen Lily reassured her when she saw that Lilac was worried. “Don’t worry, I’m sure you can do it.” Then Queen Lily said, “You need to find the seven gems and give them to the Gem Fairies. I will tell you how you can give it to them later. But first, I will give you something. Come, follow me.” 

They walked down the steps to a door. Queen Lily took a key hanging from around her neck and used it to unlock the door. They entered a room with dozens of glass cases filled with various pages and books. She opened one of the glass cases, and she took out a book. She then opened the book and said, “This book is all about the kingdom and the fairies that live in it. If you forget the story where May gets the flowers, you can find it in this book. Also, there is a map tucked into the book.” 

Chapter 4: Leaving

“Who else is going with you?” asked Queen Lily .

“Aurora is going to come with me,” Lilac said.

“Okay, you might need this then,” Queen Lily said as she took two rings from off of her finger and slid them onto Lilac’s. 

         There’s so much to worry about, Lilac thought. 

“You can leave tomorrow,” said Queen Lily. 

The next day, they set out on a journey. They went on and on and on. “When do you think it’s gonna end?” Lilac asked Aurora. 

“Remember,” said Aurora, “the path can last for a long time. Here,” said Aurora. “We can stop by a stream to get some water.”

They got to a stream, and they each took a long sip of water. Aurora got some sticks and leaves to make a cup with a lid. She dumped it in some water and closed the lid. She made another one and filled it with some nuts. 

“Let’s go,” said Lilac. 

They reached the forest. 

“The map says we have to go this way,” Lilac said. She pointed towards the forest. It was dark. They were nervous. But they headed into the forest anyway. Before long, they started to smell smoke. 

Aurora said, “What’s that smell?”

“I don’t know,” Lilac said.

They kept walking. And then they stopped in their tracks. They saw a big dragon with red scales who was breathing fire. The dragon heard all the noise and turned around, facing them.  

Oh no, both of them thought. 

The dragon said, “Who are you?”

“We are Lilac and Aurora,” said Lilac bravely.

“Why are you here?”

Aurora quivered as she said, “We are here to find a gem.”

“You aren’t the first ones to try to get the gem,” he boomed as he pulled open a cage.

Lilac saw who was inside and cried, “Rose!”

“Lilac!” Rose cried back from the cage. 

Aurora stayed quiet. Then, Aurora muttered, “Please make this move,” running out of breath, waving her wand at a pile of twigs. The twigs started moving at her. She made them lay down on the grass and took one stick and said quietly, “Say something! Write this on the stick and distract the dragon.”

She moved the stick with her mind over to Lilac. And she said under her breath, “Make a waterfall,” and a waterfall started to appear right by her side. Aurora took a bucket and dunked it in the water and walked quietly over to the dragon’s back. The dragon felt the water and turned around, but Aurora was too quick. She ran to the other side and whispered something to Lilac, “Let’s go.” Once they were safely away from the dragon, Aurora said, “Why don’t we make something that will make the dragon want to trade with us?”

“Alright,” said Lilac, “what should we make?”

“I think dragons like fire. We need something with fire.”

“Well,” said Lilac, “we can’t make fire. I wonder what we should do.”

Aurora thought of it.

Chapter 5: Smokey

“There is a dragon living down by the stream named Smokey. We can go to her and ask for help.”

When they reached the stream, they took a long sip of water again. Aurora cried, “There’s the cave where Smokey lives. After we take one more sip, we’ll go there.”

They took one more sip and started off. Once they reached the cave, they knocked on the door. Smokey said, “Who’s there?”

“It’s me!” cried Aurora.

“Hi, Aurora! Who’s this friend with you?”

“Her name is Lilac!”

“Well, come in, come in. You can explain everything to me when we’re all inside.”

They went inside and drank milk and ate cookies. 

Aurora explained, “We are trying to find the seven gems. The dragon will give us the gems. So, we were thinking you could help us make something for us to trade with the dragon.”

“I’ve got an idea. I just need two sticks and a couple blades of grass. Collect them for me, and I will make you something for the dragon.”

So, they went and got two sticks and a couple blades of grass. They went back to the cave where Smokey lived. Smokey said, “Thank you.”

She set out to work. It took all day and night, so Smokey let Aurora and Lilac sleep and eat there. Around nighttime, Lilac and Aurora did not have pajamas, so they decided to sleep in their clothes. Smokey said, “I have a few extra blankets. You can sleep in that.” She gave them two blankets and two pillows. Lilac and Aurora took them and lay down on the ground. They lay down feeling colder. They couldn’t do anything about it. They couldn’t sleep the whole night. The next day, Lilac and Aurora woke up and Smokey was making breakfast — eggs and waffles with strawberries.

“Are you done?” Lilac said easily.  

“Yes,” Smokey said. “Come, have some breakfast.”

So, they walked over to the table, which was a long tree top with small pillows to sit on. They sat down, and they ate their food. They were all very hungry. 

“Let’s go!” Lilac said to Aurora .

“Wait! I have to give you the thing to give to the dragon!” 

“Right,” said Aurora. 

“Let me quickly get it. Here,” Smokey said. 

Smokey ran off quickly and got a bracelet for the dragon. There were red beads and green beads, and in the middle of the bracelet, there was a picture of a fire made from beads in the middle. 

Chapter 6: The Fight

Smokey pointed out the way to the dragon’s cave. “You go straight, then you turn right, and you should be able to turn left, and then there they are.” 

“Let’s go,” Aurora said to Lilac. They followed Smokey’s directions until they came upon a pond. 

“Let’s take a drink of water,” said Lilac. 

“No!” said Aurora. “We took too many sips of water.”

“But — but — but — ” stammered Lilac. Lilac sensed that they were going to have a fight. 

“No buts,” said Aurora. “Let’s keep going.” Aurora started to walk. When she went a few feet away from her, she looked behind to see Lilac taking a sip of water. “Lilac!” shouted Aurora. 

“Well!” Lilac shouted back. “You are not my mother!”

“Well, I do not care about this thing anymore!” And Aurora threw the bracelet. It shattered in gold sparkles.

Lilac wondered what to do. Aurora stomped off, so Lilac followed Aurora. “Do not follow me,” said Aurora when she looked back. She waved her wand, and Lilac fell on the floor. Aurora walked off. 

A few hours later, Smokey came out. “Oh no!” cried Smokey. He carried Lilac inside of his cave. Smokey used his magic to see the past, and saw that Aurora put a spell on Lilac. Smokey used his own powers to undo Aurora’s spell. 

When Lilac woke up, Lilac asked in wonder, “Where am I?” She said this as she blinked her eyes to clear out all the blurs. 

“You are in my cave. Aurora put a spell on you,” replied Smokey.

“Why?” demanded Lilac. 

“I do not know,” said Smokey. “Here.” He put a spell on Lilac so Lilac could remember what happened. 

“Oh, I remember what happened.” 

“Please, Lilac, tell me what happened.” 

“Well,” started Lilac. “It’s a long story.”

“It’s alright, but all I know is that Aurora put a spell on you and broke the bracelet. You can stay here for the night. Have a glass of tea.” He handed Lilac a mug filled with tea. “It will give you energy,” said Smokey. 

She slowly sipped the tea. It almost burned her tongue. She never realized until now that her dress was covered with mud and her hair was messy. “Oh,” she sighed.

“Do not worry,” Smokey said. “I will make you some clothing.” He took a bunch of twigs, grass, and leaves in a huge pile. He began to make a shirt, pants, and pajamas for Lilac. 

“Thank you!” Lilac said gratefully. He finished faster than one hour. 

“Put these on,” he ordered Lilac. “It’s nearly lunchtime. For lunch I will make some chicken from the chickens in the wild.” 

Lilac sat down. “What should I do?” she said.

“Let’s play checkers,” Smokey said. He took out the checkerboard. “We will drink milk and eat cookies while we play.” They played for almost an hour. Lilac won. Smokey said, “Why don’t you take a rest? It’s been a long day. I’ll make lunch while you do.” Lilac took a nap for thirty minutes. When she woke up, the food was ready for her. It was perfect; it was not too hot, and it was not too cold. They both gobbled up the food. They realized they were starving. They finished the food in less than ten minutes. 

“Why don’t we do this puzzle I got?” asked Smokey. Lilac took the puzzle from Smokey’s hands. “It’s a picture of a kitten,” said Smokey. 

“I love kittens!” Lilac said. Lilac did that while Smokey took Lilac’s dress to the pond to be washed. When Smokey came back, Lilac only did half of the puzzle, but she had drawn the half she did. Smokey took a nap for one hour. He was tired after doing all the chores. 

Chapter 7: Gems

After Smokey’s nap, Lilac was done with the puzzle. Lilac said to Smokey, “I really, really want to get the gems. When can I?” 

Smokey said to Lilac, “You can get them soon, but I will have to help you.”

“Okay,” Lilac sighed. She wanted to do this adventure by herself. 

“We’ll just have a snack, and then we can find the gems.” They had a snack of crackers with cheese. Lilac dressed in the top and pants that Smokey made for her. 

They set out. “Let’s go there,” Lilac said, pointing to the top of the mountain.

“How will we get up?” Smokey asked.

“Climb it, of course!” Lilac answered.

“Let’s start climbing, otherwise we won’t get to the top of the mountain in time,” said Smokey. 

“Let’s do this!” shouted Lilac. They started climbing. Once they were just a teeny little bit off the ground, they huffed and puffed, and they found a place to rest and eat some berries and drink a cup of water.

After they were well-rested, they started to climb again. They did this for a while. Climb a little bit, then eat and rest. Climb, eat, and rest. They finally reached the mountain when it was eleven o’clock. “Let’s sleep,” Smokey said. They slept. 

They woke up in the morning and saw a ladder. Lilac said, “Follow me!” Lilac climbed up the ladder. When they reached the top, they found the first gem. It was bright pink, but there was something in front of it. A fairy.

Smokey asked what the fairy’s name was. She said that her name was Spring. “What do you want?” she demanded. “You want the gem? You can have it, but you have to trade for it with something.”

“What do you have, Lilac?” Smokey whispered.
“I have this,” she whispered back, holding a picture of a kitten out.

“What is that?” Spring said. 

“It’s a picture.”

“Will you trade it for the gem?” Smokey asked. 

“Alright,” agreed Spring. “This is called the Spring Gem,” she said as she handed over the gem. “Take good care of it.” 

Yes, Lilac and Smokey thought. We got the first gem! The Spring Gem. They went down to go to Smokey’s cottage to have a break. They didn’t have any more food and water. They finally reached Smokey’s cave. They ate and drank and took a nap. They felt refreshed. 

“Let’s go,” said Smokey.

They set off again. Smokey made another bracelet. Finally, they reached the dragon’s cave. The dragon said, “What do you want?!”

Lilac said, “We want the gem.”

“What will you give me?” 

“We’ll give you this.” Lilac pulled out the bracelet. 

He snatched the bracelet out of Lilac’s hand. He threw the gem to Lilac. 

“Look!”

“I knew it,” said Smokey.

“You knew what?” asked Lilac.

“That he would want the bracelet so much, I put magic in it!”

“Oh,” said Lilac. “I’m hungry,” Lilac said. “What’s for dinner?”

“I don’t know,” said Smokey. “Do you want to help me make dinner?”

“Yes,” exclaimed Lilac.

They went back to Smokey’s cave. Lilac and Smokey made pasta for dinner. They were so hungry they finished the food in, like, ten seconds. 

“Let’s sleep,” said Lilac. 

They slept. 

They both woke up at the same time. Smokey made pancakes for breakfast. “Let’s get the other gem,” Lilac said. 

Right when she said it, there was a knock on the door.

Chapter 8: Somebody At the Door

“Who is it?” called Smokey.

“Let me in, and you will see,” called somebody from behind the door.

“Okay,” said Lilac. “You stay here,” she said behind her back to Smokey.

“Since when were you my mother?” Smokey laughed.

But Lilac did not hear him. She was opening the door. To her surprise, Aurora was standing behind the door.

“I am sorry I used my magic on you,” Aurora said, looking down at her feet.

“It’s alright, Aurora, come in,” Lilac said loudly so Smokey could hear.

Smokey rushed to see Aurora and to show her the gems they got.

“Wow,” Aurora said.

“I like that one,” Aurora pointed at the Spring Gem.  

“That’s called the Spring Gem,” said Lilac.

“Did you get any gems?” Lilac hopefully said.

“No,” Aurora said. “But I got a map of the gems.”

To Be Continued…

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.

Kiki the Witch

CHAPTER ONE

It was a normal Saturday, and I was taking a walk around town running some errands. 

“Hi Kiki,” said the baker. “By the way, a girl stopped in here and wanted to know where you live. She said her name was Maya.”

How funny, I thought. I don’t know anyone named Maya.

“She told me to tell you to meet her in front of the clocktower at 4:30,” the baker told me. 

Now I was getting scared. But I was interested. So, I quickly ran to the clocktower. A girl with short curly brown hair and glasses waved at me.

“Hi,” she said.

“Hi,” I replied.

The girl was wearing an all green uniform. Her hair was brushed. She looked very different from me. I was wearing jeans, a white t-shirt, and red Converse, and my black hair was pulled in a ponytail.

“Who are you?” I said.

“Why, I’m here to take you to the Witch’s Institute.” 

“Wait, I’m a witch?! I cannot believe this!!”

“Yes, you’re a witch! Now let’s go!”

CHAPTER TWO

Maya got out her bike and told me to get on. She started to pedal, then she started to pedal super fast. Suddenly, we were flying — well, for three seconds until the bike started to drop. We landed in a pile of leaves.

“What just happened?’” I asked.

“My wand fell out of the bike basket. That’s what keeps us levitated. Help me look,” said Maya.

We rummaged around in the leaves for a few minutes.

“I found it!” Maya yelled. The wand was in a sharp thorny bush a few paces off the path. She ran to go get it and then stopped. “That’s poison ivy and I’m wearing a skirt! You need to go get it.”

“No, I can’t.”

“But you’re wearing pants,” Maya said.

“Fine, I’ll go get it!”

I ran as fast as I could, hoping I wouldn’t touch the poison ivy. I grabbed the wand and ran back. Maya patted me on the back, put the wand in the basket, told me to hop on!

CHAPTER THREE

We flew for about thirty minutes, and I tried not to look down. Finally, we arrived. The Witch Academy was big and made out of bricks. Maya led me in. She handed me my uniform, a map of the school, a wand, and a canvas bag to put everything in. Then she told me that I would pick out a cat tomorrow. A cat! I was so excited. I loved cats. Then, Maya showed me my room. Nice, I guess. There was a twin-sized bed, a closet, a small window, a navy blue quilt, a wobbly stool, and an old fashioned rug. Next, Maya gave me a tour of the school. I saw lots of other witches come from classes. Then, Maya and I sat down to eat dinner. Maya introduced me to her friend, Lily, and we became friends. After dinner, I went back to my room and got ready for bed. As I lay down to go to sleep, I realized that I was about to become a real witch.    

CHAPTER FOUR 

Next morning, I was woken by Maya, who told me it was time to go get a cat. So, I brushed my teeth and hair and put on my uniform. Maya led me downstairs to a room full of cats. There were black cats and small cats. Suddenly, a tabby cat kitten rubbed against my leg.

“I’ll take that one,” I said.

I picked the cat up and carried him upstairs. Next, I went to potions class, then witch history class, then basic spell class. Overall, I liked being a witch. I still missed my parents from time to time, but I had my cat and my friends, and the best part was that it had been almost a year at Witch Academy, and I will be going home for summer in a week. 

To be continued….

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

A New Age

One day on earth in the Cretaceous Period, Commander Rocky was deep in his work. “Hmmm, what should I do with the incoming dinosaurs?” he said.

“I don’t know, sir. Maybe we should try to tam — ”

“NO! NOT THAT STUPID IDEA OF GETTING ALONG WITH THE DINOSAURS!” commander Rocky yelled. “Get out of my office NOW!”

Mr. Rocky ran away in fear. Mr. Rocky was commander Rocky’s son. Mr. Rocky was named Mr. Rocky for some reason even though he was 9. So let’s just call him Rocky for now.

Rocky ran into the woods to get away from his dad. He went so deep into it that he got into a clearing. In the clearing was the very first dinosaur ever to be discovered. Its name was The Dinosaurus Alpha. It was carnivorous and very dangerous but its appearance was simple! It had Large jaws, a head like a Tyrannosaurus, and a simple body. It was like a bigger and deadlier Tyrannosaurus. Rocky was amazed. He reached to pet it but thought again, What if it bites me? But at the same time, he was thinking about the coming of a new age! A new age where dinosaurs and cavemen would bond with each other. He thought about it for a while and thought, I need to tame the alpha if I want peace!

But it would be very hard to tame the dinosaur since it was one of the deadliest dinosaurs ever to live. But he had to try! Rocky went back home and set to work. He started making a saddle for riding the alpha and made some straps so the saddle didn’t fly off. He finally got the confidence to go back to the Dinosaurus Alpha. He ran through the woods and came to the clearing where the alpha was still sleeping. Rocky got some fish from out of a pond near him and dumped all of it next to the dinosaur. He waited and the dinosaur woke up! It yawned so loudly that Rocky thought it was about to kill him! 

The dinosaur stood up slowly. “AHHH!” Rocky yelled. The humongous dinosaur swallowed in one gulp. They stared at each other for a little while and the dinosaur gave Rocky a nice smile. I didn’t know dinosaurs could smile? Rocky thought.

Rocky kindly got him more fish and finally decided to name it! He named it “Jaws.” They were both very proud of the name. Somehow, Rocky heard a tiny voice in his head that said, “Thank you.”

Rocky yelped so hard that he may have broken his own eardrums. Then he realized that the dinosaur was trying to speak with him! He spoke back and somehow he understood! The alpha allowed Rocky to strap on the saddle and straps. Rocky got on and that’s where he started having the time of his life! Rocky started to ride the dinosaur and it felt so good! “YAHOOOOO!!!” screamed Rocky.

Rocky zoomed across the forest and explored places that he had never seen before! He saw great canyons, HUGE mountains, and beautiful oceans! Finally, he knew that he had work to do, so he said goodbye to Jaws and went back home. “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN??” yelled the commander.

“Uhhh, chopping wood… ?” murmured Rocky.

“I KNOW WHEN YOU ARE HIDING SOMETHING FROM ME!” yelled Commander Rocky. “Please son, I am just trying to keep you safe,” he said softly.

“Ok dad, I was riding a Dinosaur.”

“WHATTTT?”      

THE END

OR IS IT???

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.

Almost the End

Chapter 1     

“Zeke, Emma, Timea! Wake up! It’s time for breakfast,” Mom said.

“Ok, coming!” said the kids.

The kids ran downstairs. 

“Honey, can you serve them breakfast? I have to go get dressed. Don’t stay in your PJs on the couch all day,” Mom said.

“Fine, but I’m only going to serve them this one time. I have to finish my football game,” Amon said.

He was slumped on the couch, surrounded by empty chip bags and beer bottles. His shirt was stained with boxed mac and cheese.

“Dad, why can’t we go in that room near your bathroom?” said Timea.

“Because I said so. I don’t look in your diary because you have privacy, so don’t look in my stuff either,” said Amon.

“Sorry, Dad,” said Timea.

“Whatever, it’s fine. Mom cooked you guys bacon and eggs. I’m going to sleep, so eat quickly,” Amon said.

“Ok,” said Timea. To her brother and sister, she added, “Guys, we should sneak in. I think Dad is hiding something from us.”

“But if we sneak in, Dad will catch us, and we will get in trouble, AND WE WILL PROBABLY GET GROUNDED, so yeah,” Zeke said. 

“But what if Dad is going to do something bad in the room, and we have to stop it?” said Emma. “Dad goes in that room at night. I saw him once. Let’s get in right now since he’s sleeping.”

“Fine, but if we get caught, it’s not my fault,” said Zeke.

“Ok, but we have to figure out the code for the door to open it,” said Emma.

Chapter 2

“What if the passcode is about us? Like, two of us are ten, and one of us is twelve, so what if it is ten-twelve or twelve-ten?” said Zeke.

“Ok ten-twelve. Let’s try it,’’ said Emma.

“It unlocked. Holy moly! What is this place?” said Timea.

It was a small room with a big desk, a huge world map on the back wall, a big bin with bombs, crystals on the ceiling, and a big window with a hole. 

“No way, bombs! What if they’re going to make the Earth split in half?” said Emma.                                                         

“Or EXPLODE!” said Zeke.

“We have to get out of here now,” said Timea.

“Oh no, the door is locked! What are we going to do?” said Emma. 

“I also hear footsteps. HIDE!” said Zeke.

They ran and hid behind the cabinet. Footsteps echoed in the hall.    

“It’s good to be back in the lab,” said Amon to himself. “It looks like someone has been here… Whatever. It doesn’t matter.”

“I have a plan to get out. When Dad’s head is turned, we can get out. He has the key on the door just in case he forgets the code, so we’re not locked in forever. LET’S DO THIS!” said Zeke.

They ran out.

“We made it,” said Emma.

“Guys, let’s meet here at 6:30 in the morning. Dad will be sleeping and Mom will be at work,” said Timea.

Chapter 3    

Ring, ring, ring went the alarm at 6:30 in the kids’ bedroom.

“Guys, wake up. It’s 6:30. We need to go into Dad’s lab,” said Emma.

“Ugh, fine, but it’s way too early for this,” said Timea.

“Last one there is a rotten egg, but walk so Dad does not wake up,” said Zeke.

Zeke ran.

“I beat you all,’’ said Zeke.

“Whatever, it doesn’t matter. Let’s just get this over with,” said Timea. 

“Timea, don’t say that, it’s rude,” said Emma.

“Yeah,” said Zeke.  

“Sorry, I guess,” said Timea. 

“Emma, put in the code for the door so we can get inside,” said Zeke.

Emma typed ten-twelve on the keypad. The door opened.

“Guys, I know this might sound crazy, but Zeke, you love tech and you’re good at it. Can you make Dad’s machine better at picking up the dirt and put it on whatever is under there, just in case it’s something bad? Then we can cover it up and get what’s under there. Emma, I can attach you to a string, and you can climb down to grab what is under there. If it’s something bad, Zeke will instruct you, and I will pull you up. Then, I will open the door a little bit, so I can see when Dad is coming or walking by if he wakes up,” said Timea. 

“Got it,” said Zeke.

“I’m in,” Emma said.   

“Ok, let’s do this,” said Timea.  

Chapter 4

“All I have to do is reroute the system, update it, and code it,” Zeke said. 

“Emma, are you ready to climb down? I’m also going to tie the rope to the pole over there just in case,” said Timea. 

“Guys, the machine is ready. All we need is to grab the dirt and put it on top of what is under there, just in case,” said Zeke.

Emma climbed down. 

“GUYS! I see a bomb with a timer that says we have 5 minutes,” said Emma.

 “Is there a button to stop the timer?” said Zeke. 

“No, there is not,” said Emma         

“Guys, I brought my water bottle. Emma, I’m going to pull you up, and then I’m going to give you the bottle. Pour the water on the bomb. Zeke, put the extra dirt on top,” said Timea. 

Chapter 5 

“Guys, I just remembered something: those types of bombs can still explode when water is poured on them, but we still have to cover it up with dirt so Dad does not dig again and try to explode the Earth,” said Zeke. 

“We have 2 minutes! I’m going to put the water on it now,” said Emma. She poured the water.

“I’m pulling you up right now,” said Timea. 

“Ok,” said Emma. 

Timea pulled Emma up.

“I’m going to put the dirt on it with the machine,” said Zeke. He put the dirt on it.

“According to my calculations, we have 30 seconds left,” said Zeke.

“We have to hide under that desk over there, just in case,” said Timea. 

BOOM! The ground shook.  

“WE DID IT!” said Emma. 

Sirens blared, and the police came.
“What happened here?” said Officer Oui Bucky. 

The kids explained what happened. 

“Where are your Dad and Mom?” said Officer Oui Bucky.

“Our mom is at work, and our dad is sleeping,” said Zeke.

Mom walked in through the door.

“What happened here?!” said Mom.

The police explained it to her.

“Oh my god! I’m so sorry, kids, that you had to go through this. We’re going to move to Paris,” said Mom. 

The police walked over to arrest Amon.

“What-wha… happened? Why are you arresting me?” said Amon.
“Your kids stopped your bomb, and you know why we’re arresting you,” said Officer Oui Bucky.

“Nooo, I didn’t do that!” said Amon.

“I’m sorry, Amon. You’re going to be sentenced to jail for life,” said Officer Oui Bucky.

 The End 

The Fashion Store’s Victory, Book 1: The Queen’s Revenge

1. Olivia and Cathie were hanging clothes up for customers when Maline came bursting out of breath saying, “Victory!”

Olivia asked, “What victory? Did you win the lottery?”

“Nope,”  said Maline. “I won new customers!” Maline was a pretty nice person with black hair and always wore ripped clothes. She was beautiful. Olivia was the nicest person you could meet, with blonde hair and hazel eyes. Cathie (short for Caroline) was a neat girl with a southern accent. Thalia was a girl who was usually nice, but if you crossed her, you would live to regret it, with raven eyes that seemed to be able to pierce through you. And she always wore punk, showing clothes made of black leather.

It started to get really cold. It started to snow. Eventually, it snowed so much that Olivia, Maline, and Cathie were stuck! 

2. It was Nate and Caden’s shift at the store. They were very surprised