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.

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.

Birds of a Feather

Chapter 1: Flamingos

What makes flamingos special?

Flamingos can stand on one leg, did you know that it’s easier for them but it’s harder for humans? Since flamingos are pink, they don’t do it on their own. There’s pink plankton stuff in the water and they eat it and that’s what makes flamingos pink. Baby flamingos don’t start out pink, they start out gray. They start out puffy and they look like penguin babies because they are gray and puffy.

Where do flamingos live?

Flamingos usually live in mangrove swamps. Did you know that flamingos are a relative to dodo birds? They have the same beaks.

What do flamingo eggs look like?

Flamingo eggs are not the same as chicken eggs. They are like an oval, but no arch on the top. It kind of comes in on the side. Did you know that flamingos fly? Mostly only swamp flamingos fly because the swamp gives them much more cool and they can sense when something is coming. There’s not that much danger in lakes though. Flamingo packs are called flamboyances. A flamingo is 3 and a half to 5 feet tall. And did you know that lake flamingos make mud and stick nests?

Chapter 2: Golden Pheasants

Did you know that golden pheasants live in Western China? 

Did you know that golden pheasant eggs are the exact same size and shape of chicken eggs? But they don’t have spots on them.

What do female golden pheasants look like?

They look more brownish blackish. And the males look; blue, red, a little black, yellow, gold, and there’s some grayish on the tail. Golden pheasants can fly but only a few feet in the air and they prefer to stay on the ground. Golden pheasants eat berries, bugs, and leaves. In the wild, golden pheasants live 5 to 6 years. But in people’s homes they can live 15 to 20 years. I think that’s because they get more treatment in houses. And I don’t think they live long in the wild because there are predators coming out to eat them. 

What are golden pheasants’ predators? 

Their predators are foxes and wild cats. 

Chapter 3: Toucans 

Where do Toucans live? 

They live in the Amazon Rainforest. 

What is a flock of Toucans called?

It is called a durante of Toucans. I thought durante means together, but it is Portuguese for during. It makes sense because durante and during kind of sound similar. 

What do males look like? Male and females look the same, except male beaks are longer and narrower. 

How many years do they live?

They live 12 to 20 years. 

Did you know that there are different types of Toucans? 

There are over 40 different species of Toucan. I would guess there are 60 because they are one of the most popular kinds of birds. All the different types of Toucan species have a big beak. 

Chapter 4: Owls

Did you know that owls are nocturnal? 

What does nocturnal mean? 

Nocturnal means you stay awake all night and go to sleep all day. 

What is a flock of owls called? 

A flock of owls is called a parliament. A parliament is how people make laws in England. 

What are owls’ ancestors? 

Owls are closely related to Toucans and Hornbills. 

What do owl eggs look like? 

They are very round and they are white. 

How many species of owl are there? 

There were 250 species of owl. I knew there would be more than 100 species of owl because they are so smart and cunning like foxes! Here are some types of owls: the snowy owl, the elf owl, the barn owl. 

Chapter 5:  Eagles

Eagles are one of the most interesting birds on the planet. Eagle flocks have many names but the top three are: convocation, congregation, and aerie. 

My favorite, personally, is definitely convocation. They are almost as fast as peregrine falcons. Peregrine falcons can go at almost 100 miles per hour while eagles can go 90 miles per hour. 

I think that the females are more attractive because the males don’t really have any color. The female’s wingspan is just huge! 

When eagles go out hunting it depends on where they live for what they eat. If they live on land they mostly eat snakes, rabbits, and squirrels. If they live near the sea, they usually eat fish.

Green

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

The scent of its endless leaves

The wind rustling the branches of the big ol’ oak

The leaves, so soft and safe 

Bring the warmth and safety of napping under the tree

The sweet, sweet sap from the maple trees an ample 

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

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.

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.”

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.

GLaDOS Might Not Be the “Bad Guy”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bibliography

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

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

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

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

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

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!!!

Boogaloo

The Boogaloo is hungry for thou,

with stealing eyes of flame,

thou wont want to learn its name.

Living in the foogly woods,

there in the middle he stood.

 Born from Buzzpin flies,

 you will be blind from one look in its eyes. 

Scrailing screams, biggest roar,

you might as well just come and stay,

because the Boogaloo is on its way. 

So come here child and have some tea,

and the Boogaloo will bring a treat,

but in return he will have your…MEAT!

Time for Turkey

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

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

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

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. 

Birds

Chapter 1: Flamingos

What makes flamingos special?

Flamingos can stand one leg, did you know that it’s easier for them but it’s harder for humans? Since flamingos are pink, they don’t do it on their own. There’s pink plankton stuff in the water and they eat it and that’s what makes flamingos pink. Baby flamingos don’t start out pink, they start out gray. They start out puffy and they look like penguin babies because they are gray and puffy.

Where do flamingos live?

Flamingos usually live in mangrove swamps. Did you know that flamingos are a relative to dodo birds? They have the same beaks.

What do flamingo eggs look like?

Flamingo eggs are not the same as chicken eggs. They are like an oval, but no arch on the top. It kind of comes in on the side.

Did you know that flamingos fly? Mostly only swamp flamingos fly because the swamp gives them much more cool and they can sense when something is coming. There’s not that much danger in lakes though. Flamingo groups are called flamboyances. A flamingo is 3 and a half to 5 feet tall. And did you know that lake flamingos make mud and stick nests?

Chapter 2: Golden Pheasants

Did you know that golden pheasants live in Western China? Did you know that golden pheasant eggs are the exact same size and shape of chicken eggs? But they don’t have spots on them.

What do female golden pheasants look like?

They look more brownish-blackish. And the males look blue, red, a little black, yellow, gold, and there’s some grayish on the tail.

Golden pheasants can fly but only a few feet in the air and they prefer to stay on the ground. Golden pheasants eat berries, bugs, and leaves. In the wild golden pheasants live 5 to 6 years. But in people’s homes they can live 15 to 20 years. I think that’s because they get more treatment at houses. And I don’t think they live long in the wild because their are predators coming out to eat them.

What are golden pheasants’ predators?

Their predators are foxes and wild cats. 

Chapter 3: Toucans 

Where do Toucans live?

They live in the Amazon Rainforest.

What is a flock of Toucans called?

It is called a durante of Toucans. I thought durante means together, but it is Portuguese for during. It makes sense because durante and during kind of sound similar.

What do males look like?

Male and females look the same, except male beaks are longer and narrower.

How many years do they live?

They live 12 to 20 years.

Did you know that there are different types of Toucans? There are over 40 different species of Toucan. I would guess there are 60 because they are one of the most popular kinds of birds. All the different types of Toucan species have a big beak. 

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.

Dimension 96: Chapter 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I know what we all want,” Dan said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quantum Computing Pros: Power, Medical, and Cybersecurity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sources Cited:

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

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

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

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

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

The Mustache

I once thought that leaves were leaves 

now i think they’re feelings in search of a place, a bench, 

someone’s hair, a finger isn’t that like us going from place looking to feel alive.

I walked my dog on a cold night past the stars and moon

I walked my dog across the street into the lagoon

I walked my dog out of the lagoon 

But now my dog went kabloom for thousands of frogs got in his fur

The Mustache

I wish I had a mustache

One with little pointy ends

Or maybe even the ones with little curls at the end

Maybe I want the ones with droopy ends

But for all I want

Is a mustache                                           

Author’s Note

I wish that Writopia would never end, but sometimes good things have to end, like your babysitter leaving or maybe a loved one passing, but we are strong.   

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:

A Crack in the Walls

Chapter 1

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

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

.         .         . 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m really sorry!” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

Eva–

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

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

“So, what’s up?” I asked.

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

“What are you saying?” I asked. 

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

“So…”

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

Chapter 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I wouldn’t let you get hurt.” I said

And I pushed her right where she belonged.

August 27th.

The day where things went wrong.

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

I would never forget, but I could forgive. 

Fin. 

My Life With Tourette’s 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer Haiku

I jump in the pool

Summer vacation is great

I love the summer

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

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

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

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

“Thanks,” I muttered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeremiah’s Musical

Jeremiah had decided to not audition.

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

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

“Who told you that?” Gully demanded.

There was a pause.

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

“What?” Gully squawked. 

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

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

“The co-director’s house.”

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

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

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

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

“You are dismissed,” Gully said firmly.

“Wh-what? I do not understand.”

“You told Jeremiah that-mmfff!”

Jeremiah flapped his wings over Gully’s bill.

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

“Uh, sorry,” Jeremiah said awkwardly. 

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

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

Gully and Jeremiah landed back in Jeremiah’s hole. 

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

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

“This one, Jeremiah. You are talented.”

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

“But Jerry . . . “

Jeremiah sat on the couch with a humph.

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

No reply.

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

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

“The bathroom?” A parakeet suggested.

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

“Not in the set!” A hummingbird exclaimed. 

Within a second, Gully had flown away.

“Jerry?”

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

“You are not sleeping.”

“I am.”

“Then how come you’re talking?”

There was a pause.

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

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

Cough-cough-cough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was a click on the other line.

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

“Nooooo…  Jeremiah whined.

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

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

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

Another cheer went over the actors as they resumed rehearsal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeremiah stifled a groan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Have you ever seen him?” Jeremiah pressed.

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

“Sparsmethius!” Jeremiah yelled. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why not today?” Gully asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gully looked out of the hole.

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

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

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

Jeremiah glanced outside.

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

“Snow!” Gully repeated.

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

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

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

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

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

The bird clapped their wings, clearly impressed. Jeremiah smiled. Some other birds flocked onto the stage. 

“I think I will be better by the time of the musical!” Jeremiah told Gully.

“Uh, good.” Gully fiddled with his feathers. “Um, can I tell you something?”

“Sure,” Jeremiah said.

“Uh, the musical, Jerry, it got… well, moved,” Gully whispered.

“To when?” Jeremiah was suddenly alarmed.

“Well, to… tomorrow.” Gully looked away.

“WHAT!?” Jeremiah screeched. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“No,” Gully whispered. “I’m sorry, Jeremiah.”

“How? Why?” Jeremiah shook Gully’s wings, his yellow eyes widened.

“Th-the day we requested was reserved for the human high school musical,” Gully said, fidgeting with his feathers.

“Why? They think humans are more important than birds? Huh?” Jeremiah demanded. 

“They kind of are. Humans invented the lightbulb. That’s what the theater manager said. Besides, humans don’t like birdseed,” Gully told Jeremiah.

“That’s not true. Dicey Hopskins invented the lightbulb. Did the theater manager even go to college?” Jeremiah inquired angrily.

“Uh, you know birds don’t go to college, either,” Gully whispered.

Jeremiah shook his head, feathers flying on Gully. “You’re lying. You’re joking. No, that’s not possible. I-I’m not ready!” Jeremiah screamed. Many birds looked at him.

“We are ready,” Gully assured him. “The costumes aren’t.”

“Why don’t we just buy costumes?” An exhausted red-breasted robin with pins in her beak asked.

“That’s human stuff. Humans buy everything. Besides, we won’t be allowed in department stores.” Gully responded, shaking his head.

The robin groaned. Jeremiah understood how she felt.

Gully took out a smoked-salmon sandwich and handed Jeremiah a packet of dried mice. “A thank-you present, for doing the musical even though you are sick. Those sunflower seed snack packets here are too small for your huge talent.” 

Gully took a bite of smoked-salmon. Jeremiah wolfed down a mouse. He coughed up a pellet and tossed it into the wastebasket. A blue jay nibbling on sunflower seeds looked insulted.

“It will all be for nothing. What if I forget my lines? What will I do?” Jeremiah moaned in distress, stuffing mice in his mouth.

“You can do it, Jerry!” Gully cried.

“I… am speaking to the manager,” Jeremiah announced.

“Okay,” Gully said distractedly, helping sort the costumes.

Jeremiah thought that Gully should have begged him to not go, to stay and to face his fears. A little part of Jeremiah thought that Gully was not spending enough attention on him. But he left reluctantly to speak with the manager because he said he would. He was afraid, though.

“Hey mister!” Jeremiah called up to the manager.

“Well, hello. What do we have here?” The manager chuckled.

“I have come to ask: why did you switch the performing time?” Jeremiah demanded. He tried to sound intimidating, but that is hard for any bird, even snowy owls. “Besides, humans didn’t invent the lightbulb. A MOUCE did!” Jeremiah yelled.

“Uh, sorry Owl, sir. High school musical is paying more than you bird guys. Besides, many people, even one bird, like the human version better,” The manager told Jeremiah. 

The owl felt embarrassed and stepped out of the manager’s office. 

“Well?” Gully greeted Jeremiah.

Jeremiah did not reply and therefore was even more embarrassed. He decided to talk to the cast of Human High School Musical.

“Hey,” Zac Efron greeted Jeremiah.

“Hey,” Jeremiah greeted back.

“So, um… why are you here?” Zac asked gently.

“I want to ask: why did you take our time spot in the theater?”

“Uh, we needed more time.” Zac looked away and waved his arms, squiggled his fingers at the rest of the cast. Jeremiah was filled with envy. Why couldn’t his feathers do that? Then he glanced at the rest of the cast. They looked ten times readier than the bird cast!

“It’s not fair.” Jeremiah told Zac Efron calmly.

“I-I’m sorry? Why is it not fair?” The confused actor asked.

“Because we are not ready but we have to perform tomorrow!” Jeremiah screamed, annoyed. Zac looked taken aback and perhaps a bit amused.

“I’m sorry, but we, er, have lots of tickets. We have so much pressure,” Zac told Jeremiah.

“How much pressure do you have, huh? How many tickets?” Jeremiah demanded, determined to prove the human wrong.

“Uh, so, we have, like, two thousand tickets,” Another actress said.

“TWO THOUSAND?!” Jeremiah squawked.

Zac smiled awkwardly and ushered Jeremiah out of the set room.

“They have two thousand tickets,” Jeremiah coolly informed Gully.

“What? Who has two thousand tickets?” Gully looked up from his clipboard.

“Human High School Musical.” Jeremiah stayed calm. Gully jumped out of his feathers and looked as if his fish had come down wrong.

“Two thousand!” Gully confirmed with Jeremiah loudly. “Two thousand tickets!”

“Yes,” Jeremiah said. He knew he could never sell that many tickets.

Gully shook his head in amazement and took out some mahi-mahi jerky. Jeremiah smiled, triumphant that he managed to surprise his friend, but perhaps a bit sullen that Gully had paid more attention to some tickets than him. He chewed on a dried mouse. Then he watched a duet sung by a pelican and an ostrich. A Kakapo banged his wings on a piano. A raven slammed her talons on a drum set. 

“The costumes are finished!” The red-breasted robin and a mourning dove cried happily. Many birds whooped as they changed into their costumes. Fluffy, red, off-the-wing gowns, baggy talon jeans, rhinestone belts, winglets and talon sneakers. Jeremiah looked around in a miniature baseball cap. 

Then they did the rehearsal and Jeremiah flew home, grabbing some mice on the way and brewing more tea. He was still coughing, but less. Slowly, he was recovering!

Jeremiah took a fly around the forest for exercise. He did this because he always felt refreshed when he got back; the cool, dewy leaves were calming. He spotted Sparsmethius, playing poker and drinking beer with his friends. Jeremiah peeked over with hate. He knew, he just knew, that Sparsmethius was the understudy! Jeremiah suddenly had the urge to go to the bathroom. But he wanted to continue to spy! So he decided to poop on Sparsemethius for revenge. Unfortunately, Sparsmaethius saw him. Jeremiah flew back to his hole. In the middle of the night, he snuck back to Sparsmethius’s nest. There was a deck of cards, a stove, some crumpled paper, and a long piece of paper. Jeremiah picked it up. It read:

Operation get rid of Jeremiah 

Turn the forest against him. Get the birds to hate him. Get the set to hate him. Get Gully to hate him.

Convince the manager to let the Human High School Musical take the spot the set wants. It worked!

Be Jeremiah’s understudy.

‘Besides, people, even one bird, like the human version more.’  

Jeremiah thought of what the manager said. Then he felt tired and flew back. He passed Gully’s house. There was a letter at the door. Jeremiah started to read it.

Dear Mr. Gully Sea,

I do not mean to concern you, but I have heard rumors of your friend Jeremiah wanting to sabotage the set. I understand that you have complete faith in your friend, but we all know how destructive snowy owls could be.

Sincerely, a friend. Leave a response by the hollowed tree trunk next to the lake.

Jeremiah glanced in the house. Gully was sleeping. Jeremiah ripped the letter in half and tossed the two pieces in the lake. He knew that Spersemethius had written it, because of the handwriting.

Dear A Friend,

I have complete trust in Jeremiah. Thank you for your concern.

Sincerely, Gully

Jeremiah left the note by the hollowed tree. He had a fleet of thoughts about what Gully would think, however Jeremiah felt it was correct.

There was another note in the tree, an hour later.

Dear Gully,

I am amazed and touched by your loyalty to Jeremiah. Could you please think it over, though? I think that the set is really important.

Sincerely, A Friend.

Dear A Friend, I am very happy that you care so much about the play. But Jeremiah is a truly special owl and this concern is not very realistic. I hope you renew your trust for him.

-Gully Sea

After he wrote the note, Jeremiah set down the letter by the hollowed tree. It let off a perplexing bad smell. The owl flew back to his hole.

The receiver rang.

“Jeremiah. Come to my house. Now.” It was Gully. His voice sounded tense with anger.

Jeremiah flew over, afraid of what might happen.

“What is this, Jeremiah!?” Gully roared, holding up the letters.

Jeremiah gulped. “Uh, I can explain . . .” he started.

“No! No, who is A Friend? Are you really going to destroy the set? What?” Gully yelped angrily.

“It’s Sparsmethius.” Jeremiah told his friend solemnly.

“That doesn’t matter. Why did you respond for me?” Gully yelled.

“I was trying to protect myself!” Now Jeremiah was also yelling.

“Why couldn’t you trust me to say that I trusted you?!” Gully demanded. “I was just trying to get my fermented fish that I keep in the hollowed tree trunk and I see… this!” 

“I-I was afraid.” Jeremiah whispered.

“Okay. Well, the performance is tomorrow. You better catch some more sleep,” Gully said. He still looked angry but he wanted to be more responsible as a director. Jeremiah opened his mouth to argue but a yawn came out instead. He sighed and flew back to his hole.

The next day, the set was a flurry of feathers and noise. The robin and penguin buttoned and hooked as all the other birds wriggled into their costumes. 

“Presenting High School Musical, Bird Edition!” Gully cried. The curtain went up and a few pigeons started belting out lyrics. The Kakapo joined in. An hour of singing and high school, and it was time for Jeremiah’s solo.

He looked at the audience but none of his voice came out. He had forgotten his lines in the stress. He was supposed to sing about how owls were good at singing, but he felt the opposite.

‘Owls are great at articulation and stuff like that,’ The penguin mouthed.

“Uh, towels have crates of pickled relations with tufts of rat,” Jeremiah sang meekly. A laugh came up from the hundreds of beaks in the audience. Jeremiah shifted uncomfortably. The penguin mouthed more lines, glancing at Jeremiah’s script.

‘The lyrics just go with their beaks,’ The penguin mouthed.

“The licks just know the beats.” Jeremiah choked out. More laughter.

“Adhesive world we know and eat, but I can tote bag the hue cycle. When my ear the rustic, I fold to trance. Towels we far, and towels we ring, Towels are the tars of the hue cycle! I chart the heat in the grill, I give a like phone, I ring, ring, ring! Towels in my gold just dove drew ring!” Jeremiah whispered, glancing at the penguin for lines. Tears filled his eyes. Gully glared at Jeremiah. The audience roared… with laughter.

Then the play ended. Many people wanted Jeremiah’s autograph, including a famous TikDucker. But Gully pulled him away.

“How could you mess up my play?” Gully asked.

“It isn’t just your play. It’s my play, too,” Jeremiah said, almost tearfully.

“No! How could you ruin your lines? It’s like you did it on purpose! That’s what your ‘paparazzi’ thought,” Gully poured out. He put bitter emphasis on the word paparazzi, almost as if he was jealous.

“It’s not my fault! If you are really my friend, you would forgive me,” Jeremiah defended himself.

“If you were really my friend, you wouldn’t have disgraced me!” Gully cried.

“You’re disgracing yourself right here,” Jeremiah pointed out rudely.

“I get most of the pressure because I’m the director! The paparazzi will come at you.The bad reviews will come at me!” Gully explained impatiently. Soon the birds were arguing.

“Gully, my paparazzi – and everybody else – liked my accidental twist!” Jeremiah was getting very angry. So was Gully.

“Not everybody!” Gully told Jeremiah.

“Well, most people. Because they thought I did it on purpose.”

“You sounded pretty bad,” Gully told Jeremiah angrily.

“Very touching comment from a friend. Or are you still?” Jeremiah asked.

Gully stormed away. Well, that sure answered the question.

Suddenly all Jeremiah wanted to do was curl in his hole, sipping tea and listening to classical music on the radio. Gully was putting away the microphones and costumes. Jeremiah signed the last autograph and flew home.

He brewed tea and cried. Then he flew in the forest and sang out the correct lines. He had known them all along, but had felt stage fright. He sobbed. 

Gully heard him and felt bad. Jeremiah fell asleep in his bed. 

The next day he went in front of Gully’s house, thrust open the door, and sang his solo. Gully grabbed his wing and whispered an apology. Jeremiah looked into the seagull’s earnest brown eyes and fled. An apology! Gully said sorry!

Jeremiah flapped his wings and soared around. Sparsmethius stopped him. Jeremiah expected him to say something bad, but instead he simply said: “You did a good job.”

Jeremiah was shocked.

The sparrow solemnly searched in Jeremiah’s face. Then he flew away.

Jeremiah sipped tea. Then he hunted a bit and practiced his solo for no reason. He felt… good. He thought about everyone. Sparsmethius, Gully, the cast, his mom, his girlfriend. He was proud of himself. He had visited his mom who was at the play and loved it. He had called Juniper, his girlfriend, and she laughed so hard about the messed-up lines that Jeremiah could hear her feathers flying across the room.

I am Jeremiah. An owl. And I am talented, Jeremiah reminded himself, and launched himself into the sky.

The end.

Epilogue

“Three cheers for Jeremiah! Woohoo!” The birds chorused. Penelope the penguin winked at him. Gully smiled.

They were at the cast party.

“Hey Jeremiah. I really liked the play after all. I think you made it better,” A few birds congratulated Jeremiah as he ate fish in a blanket. 

“Wow. Did you know the fourth most viewed and liked TikDucker has your autograph, Jeremiah?” A swan asked. Jeremiah grinned.

“Let’s have a toast to Jeremiah!” Gully exclaimed. Various birds raised their glasses of berry and nut smoothies.

Jeremiah thought back to the play. Maybe it wasn’t so bad after all. He wished he could do it all over again. 

Perhaps he would get his wish.

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.

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. 

ESSAY ON NATURE

Nature is a very important part of living. Once, I was at the beach with my friends. It was a nice sunny day. My friends and I had just gotten out of the water and put on our coveralls when my best friend Mila said, “Look, it’s a balloon in the ocean!” I saw a Happy Birthday balloon in the ocean. “Let’s go get it before it goes too far!” I said, taking off my dress from over my bathing suit. We ran into the ocean and got the balloon, then threw it into the trash.
A few days ago I learned that it takes 450 years for a balloon to decompose. I was happy that I had saved the balloon from the ocean, where it might have killed marine wildlife.
Nature helps us in many ways. It was how we sustained ourselves when we were cave people. Nature is a part of life and some people don’t pay much attention to how it’s being treated. In this essay, I will be going over how the earth is being affected by humans including ocean pollution, air pollution, animal extinction, and climate change.

                                   Ocean Pollution

Every day more and more trash is disposed of into the ocean. Every 60 seconds a whole truckload of plastic goes into the ocean. The ocean is holding 5.25 trillion pieces of trash. Of that trash, 15% goes to beaches, 15% floats, and 70% sinks to the depths of the ocean, killing and strangling marine wildlife.
This needs to stop. Can you believe that on some beaches the shores are covered in trash? You are lucky to be at a beach where trash isn’t flooding every nook and cranny. You might think “why aren’t we just preserving the ocean then?” Well, we are, but only less than 8% of the ocean is actually preserved. On the other hand, there are many people, like Oceana, Sea Legacy, and Ocean Conservancy, that are in the ocean right now picking up trash!

                                    Air Pollution

We breathe oxygen every day, right? Well, only 21% of the air is actually oxygen. Everything else is Co2, nitrogen, neon, and hydrogen. If we don’t stop air pollution, then humans will die of polluted air. We need clean air to survive, and only 21% of our air is clean. If we keep pumping carbon dioxide into the air, the air will be full of Co2. However, in places like Las Vegas, you can see a whole dark cloud of Co2 and dirty air on top of it.
People breathe O2 and let out Co2. Trees produce O2 and take in Co2. We are cutting down 2,400 trees per second worldwide! There might be no trees left in the future, which means no clean air. But there are many organizations like Team Trees that plant thousands of trees every year.

                                  Animal Extinction

Have you heard of a panda farm or a tiger farm? Probably not, but not because they don’t exist! That is a huge issue because these are endangered species, about to go extinct. People think their fur looks nice, or they think it would make a nice mantel, so they kill these species for a coat that they will outgrow in six months. They need a farm that doesn’t kill them, but just preserves them. We keep slaughtering these animals for fun, not thinking about the devastation that we are causing. We need to preserve these creatures! Some scientists are collecting DNA for these endangered creatures so when they are extinct they can try to recreate the creature. But they wouldn’t need to do this if the creature wasn’t going extinct in the first place. We need to save these peace-loving creatures! At least some zoos are trying to preserve and tend to these animals that are going extinct.

                                   Climate Change

The climate is changing the world. In some places, it is hotter or cooler than normal. That is all because of climate change. In New York, it normally snows around 12 days per year, but in 2019 it only snowed eight times, and in 2020 it only snowed ten! During the summer, New York normally tops 85 degrees, but one day this year it was almost 100 degrees. In parts of Africa, it is so hot, elephants have to walk miles just for a drink of water. Climate change is also affecting crop growth. There are low supplies worldwide because climate change affects plants. Plants can’t grow properly, so they die, leaving nothing to harvest and send to supermarkets. In hot areas, the water loss is making people that already have little to drink walk miles and miles for just a few buckets of dirty water. Climate change is changing the weather patterns, making it hard to decide if it’s going to rain, snow, or be sunny.
Climate change is mainly because of air pollution, which changes how clouds move so places that need water get a smaller amount. There are scientists that are helping people in Africa by giving them filters, so that when they get the water they can make it clean and drinkable.

                                     Conclusion

In conclusion, nature is very important, but we are not taking good care of it. It’s so important for us to fix the environment. We would be lost without nature, or dead. This topic is important to me, because every day I walk around seeing over-flooded trash cans and people throwing out plastic bags, not caring where it’s going to land, and I think it’s disgusting. This topic is important to the community, because it will open the eyes of people who don’t care if one day trash will flood the streets, or if one day we need to wear oxygen tanks and masks because of polluted air. This topic is important to the world, because if you looked at the earth in outer space, where it would be green, lush, blue, and vibrant, it would be brown or light blue. You should care, because soon when you look at the earth from space it will be dry and dirty from trash. This is serious, not a small issue that can be blown over!

Grimm Getaway

Chapter 1

“OWW! Why did you slap me! I despise you Lihn!” 

“You slapped yourself and you know it Amy!” Well, meet my psychotic sister! When my little sister was born, I wasn’t jealous. I didn’t try to demand attention. I just helped my parents set up her nursery. I fed her and changed her diaper and took care of her while my parents were at work. She was the most talkative toddler I had ever met and used large words for her age . . . especially when we were alone. I was fourteen by the time she was two and my parents were starting to worry about her. I overheard them talking about her and from what I heard they were concerned why she didn’t talk yet.

 “Mom! Umm sorry for interrupting. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop but when you guys are at work she talks a lot . . . she started talking last year and she uses surprisingly big words for her age!” I said in the most gentle way possible. 

My parents exchanged a look and ran to my sister with huge smiles on their faces. “Amy! Lihn says you can talk, can you say ‘mama’?” my mother asked. 

“Moomoo?” My sister asked. 

“Lihn why did you lie to us! I can’t believe you!” My father said with a look of disappointment spreading across his face.

 “I- I’m sorry I thought . . . nevermind ” I said. I didn’t sleep that night, Am I going insane? Is Amy going insane? Are my parents going insane? Is this all a dream? Do I need a therapist? Is my sister a psychotic maniac? DO I EVEN WANT TO KNOW!??!

Nope! I don’t need to know. That lasted about a month…

One night I woke up to get a glass of water and I heard noises that sounded like metal on rock. I decided to ignore it and ask Dad if he was up late sharpening knives for the butcher shop again, but when I asked he just looked me dead in the eye and said “No! And I thought I told you not to talk about knives in front of your sister.” 

I dropped it and decided I was just hearing things, but when I went up to take a shower before dinner, and my sister was sitting on my bed with my dad’s lucky butcher knife (the extra sharp one) in her hand, it was freshly sharpened. 

“Hello. Pitiful sister, I would like to welcome you graciously into my Grimm Getaway or as you like to call it the void! So just let me slit your throat ,and we will be on our way. Those imbeciles you call Mom and Dad will join you soon, and you can sit down for tea. My demons will serve you,” Amy said in the most annoyingly cheerful voice I have ever heard. 

When I didn’t respond she simply said, “I’ll let you gather your things.” She cut a deep cut in her thumb, smeared it on the door and disappeared.

 I let out the breath I hadn’t realized I was holding and ran to clean my door. That night I didn’t sleep. I just squeezed my stuffed giraffe wearing the Hawaiian shirt that I couldn’t sleep without and told myself it was all just a dream, it was all just a dream. I was starting to convince myself when I heard more sharpening noises, and it took all of my willpower not to hide on the inside of my window seat. Eventually I gave in. I brought a blanket, a pillow and my giraffe, Wynn, into the window seat and slept in there. It was cramped but I decided I would take a cramped space over my sister with a knife anyday. 

Chapter 2

When I woke up the next morning, I went downstairs and couldn’t believe my eyes. There were red drops and splatters leading up to the kitchen. I was terrified of what my sister had done, but I decided I needed to see for myself. MY SISTER WAS EATING SPAGHETTI-OS IN THE KITCHEN!!! My sister was making a huge mess with the spaghetti-os, and my mom was sitting there watching! 

“What is going on? Why is Amy eating spaghetti-os at 8:03 AM?” I asked. 

“She crawled into my room with a can of spaghetti-os, and I said, ‘why not?” my mother replied. 

“Umm because it is way too early in the morning to be eating spaghetti-os,” I said. My mom just stared at me and shrugged. I went back upstairs, after 367 seconds of silence in the kitchen I couldn’t take it anymore (yes I counted). When I went upstairs I took a shower and got ready for the day. 

One month later, I went up to my room to grab something, and my sister was sitting on my bed with the sharpest butcher knife in the house. Freshly. Sharpened.  

“Hello, sister! I gave you 37 days to pack. I hope you’re ready,” my sister said.

She just stared at me waiting.

 I ran downstairs. I heard my sister say something but it was drowned out by my pumping heart. I couldn’t breathe by the time I got to the backyard and locked the door. I collapsed on the floor, and everything went black.  

I woke up in the living room with the fan blowing on me and my mother sitting there staring at me. 

“You’re awake! What happened!?” my mother asked. 

“Where is Amy? What happened?” I asked. 

“Oh honey. It’s good to see you’re worried about your sister, but she was crying in your room when we went looking for you. You fainted and were out for 42 minutes and 53 seconds. I was counting.” I looked at my mother for so long I didn’t know what to say at that point. My mom just sat there for another minute and then walked away. I heard noises in the kitchen and just assumed she was cooking something. 

About an hour later, she came into the living room with a tray. On the tray was chilly with melted cheese and sour cream, a ceasar salad and some assorted cookies. I didn’t realize how hungry I was until my mom plopped it on my lap and said, “Eat up. You didn’t even have breakfast today!” 

That night, I stayed up way too late and decided to take my sister and myself to see if we were hallucinating. I felt strange in that sitting room with a 2 year old. Not to mention I’m only 14.

 I decided to only take my sister for an appointment, since she was talking about demons serving tea. They wouldn’t let me go in with her so I just waited hoping this would all be a misunderstanding. 

“Your sister does see many hallucinations but she is an interesting case. She uses large words for her age and is very smart. But anyway, she is very interesting because some of her hallucinations are based on real events. You will have to investigate that but…good luck,” the doctor informed me. 

Chapter 3

I spent all night trying to figure out what the doctor meant. When I went through my memories my brain stuck on one thing. She called it her Grimm Getaway or the Void. I remembered that one night her babysitter took her for a walk in the woods. The next morning, she told me she saw an abandoned house with a sign that said, “My name is Rachel Grimm and this is my getaway. If you have any demons, I will get rid of them if you sit down for tea in my void room!” I remember telling her how stupid that sounded, but maybe this is what the doctor meant by the hallucinations being based on real events. By then I was definitely spooked. So I decided I will forever sleep in the window seat…well at least until I figured this out. 

When I woke up the next morning I decided to take my sister to the abandoned house and see what’s going on.

 On the walk through the woods to find the house I asked who Rachel Grimm was. “She is my master. She created my Grimm Getaway. She commands the Demons…” My 2 year old sister is starting to seriously scare me. Her master? Seriously? 2 months to go and she will still only be 3!

 I asked her what her Grimm Getaway was and all she said was, “Your microscopic brain can’t even begin to imagine the wonderful things it contains, so let me make this easy for you. It is a big black luxurious abode in the deep dark void. All I need to get in is some of my blood, but for someone as pathetically normal as you, we will need blood from the neck!” AND I THOUGHT I WAS CONCERNED BEFORE! WHAT IS WRONG WITH MY SISTER!? The house was farther than I thought, and my phone battery was decreasing rapidly, not that I had service out there anyway.

And for some reason it smelled like rotting tangerines. 

After about twenty more minutes, we found the house.

It was old and definitely abandoned. It was kind of grayish purple, and there were so many splotches of peeled paint on the house it almost looked like polka dots. 

I tried to find the sign but instead I found an address,  

143 Raven Road

U.S  Massachusetts 

6663

“Do you think this is the new address of the person who lived here?” I asked my sister. 

“Yes.” 

Now I just have to find this address…Good thing I live in Massachusetts!

When I got home, I immediately asked my mom where Raven road is, “Oh! I can take you there, but first I need to know why.”  

“Umm…on our walk I saw a package that was addressed to ‘143 Raven Road’. And Amy wants to come too. She said her friend lives on Raven Road, and she wants to visit,” I lied. My mom agreed and said she would take us, but she had a dentist appointment, so I would have to take us home. 

My sister and I got out of the car the next day to knock on the door of the person who may or may not have corrupted my sister. This new house didn’t look much better than the old one, but instead of purplish gray paint it was bright green paint with what looked like pitch black paint underneath where the green was peeling. It smelled like artificial bananas and was sickeningly sweet.  

I went up to the house and rapped on the door 3 times. 

Chapter 4

The wood was old and frayed. I made a mental note to check for splinters later. I heard a grunt coming from inside the house, and the part of my brain that associates old, decrepit houses with ugly, old, witch- looking ladies was very surprised when I saw an eye so beautifully hazel it almost looked golden peeking through the peephole. 

“Oh, she is one of my little victims down there. She is the youngest victim, and the only one still alive…Well come in, come in.” The woman said walking towards a table showing off her gorgeous auburn ringlets. She looked kind of old school with her red corseted gown. It did look like she hadn’t changed or showered or anything hygienic in the past 50 years (and smelled like it too), but somehow she was still breathtakingly beautiful. Her house was as cluttered as the littered streets on the way here.

 I decided I should just jump right in. 

“WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY SISTER?” I screamed. 

“Awwww. Is that the only reason you visited? Why don’t you sit down for tea?” the woman said. 

Her face started twisting and stretching in ways that couldn’t be normal. Her beautiful eyes slowly melted into her face and left behind empty sockets. Her skin slowly started turning purple and melting into a contorted body. The only thing that stayed the same was her hair. Even her dress was melting. The only thing left of her after another minute of horrifying melting was her corset, her mouth, and her hair. Her mouth was dripping with blood and when she opened it her tongue was wrapped around an ax that was slowly coming out of her mouth. Her tongue was very long. The ax was a very large ax and her tongue was wrapped all the way around it. Her corset wasn’t naturally red. It was bloodstained and slowly melting away with her hand. Her hair was the only thing left normal. The tips were drenched in blood and with auburn the hair, it looked a lot like fire.  Her mouth still had an ax in it, but somehow still had great control. 

She went over to my sister and her hair went on top of my sisters like a perfectly fitted wig. My sister started mouthing words I couldn’t understand, so fast I couldn’t even try to lipread them. My sister went into the other room. When I followed her in, I saw at least 53 mannequins. My sister went over and cut the head off one of the mannequins. Then the woman (or what was left of her at least) went over to the freshly decapitated mannequin and placed herself over the nonexistent head and immediately the mannequin started to transform into the same woman that answered the door. Only, her dress was white. There was blood coming from her mouth, even with the ax gone, and it was staining the dress and making it the same blood red color as her dress was before. Soon the whole dress was transformed to blood red. 

Chapter 5

“Everytime I do this to one of my victims, it knocks them out for a few hours. Now she won’t hear what she is a victim of!” the creepy lady said. I guess I should be calling her Rachel. I mean it is her name.

 “So…your name is Rachel?” 

“Yes,” Rachel said. 

“Rachel, what is going on with my sister?” I asked.

“Ugh I guess this is the part where you pretend to be a hero and I have to give up my master plan because I think I can kill you so you won’t ruin it, then you ruin my plan and get everyone away safely. So the authorities can deal with me?” Rachel asked, sounding almost as bored as she looked. 

I nodded hoping I would get the easy win. I always hated the stupid heroes in the story who risk their lives for other people. Yeah, I’m not cut out for that kind of thing. “Yes, very well then. It was a dark and stormy night-.” 

“I don’t need your backstory, just tell me what you did to my sister!” 

“Fine jeez I thought that was how this works. I tell you the whole long story, you get caught in one sentence, and then you figure out how to thwart me!” I rolled my eyes.

“Basically I’m possessing a bunch of kids to kill as many people as possible. Your sister here is the youngest, and she is failing her job. She only killed one person, and he wasn’t even on the list. Oh, and if you’re wondering why she’s so bright for her age, I only choose kids like that because they can be more scary whilst holding a knife. So there you have it! I’m gonna let your sister go anyway because I was already planning to, but just so you know I don’t have a reason for killing everyone. Yes I knew you were going to ask that. I just want to-.” 

OK, THIS LADY IS MESSED UP! I should just grab my sister and run shouldn’t I? Or do I kill this lady? Or do I get the authorities the address so they can kill this lady? Yeah. Yeah, I’ll do that. I’ll get the authorities.

So…yeah I grabbed my sister, and I ran for my life!

But then I was lost, so I called my mom. She was at a restaurant, and I was a bit concerned she might be cheating on my dad. But I was gonna figure that out later. (A story for another time.) My mom said she would ask my dad to come get us. (When I asked who she was with, she just said it wasn’t my business.) When she hung up, my brain seemed to catch up with the situation and decided that that creepy lady could be following me. So I ran, and ran, and ran. 

And then I realized that my dad didn’t know where I was. So I called him, with the little battery I had left and told him where we were. I sat down to see if I could wake up my sister. I remembered I had a backpack with me, I brought two water bottles and a flashlight just in case, (But not a map? How dumb am I?) I poured some water on a random pack of tissues on the road. Yes I know it’s unsanitary, but that was a dire situation. I slapped my sister to see if that would wake her up, it didn’t but to be perfectly honest . . . she deserved a slap in the face. Although . . . she didn’t do it on purpose. I rubbed the wet tissue over her face to try and wake her up. It worked! 

“Hey, Lihn . . . Wh-wh-what happened. Are you okay?” She sounded so innocent I just had to know, “Do you remember a creepy lady named Rachel Grimm?” I asked. 

“No. Why?” Amy asked.

 “No reason!” I replied, trying to make the most genuine smile possible. I decided I wasn’t going to question why or how she forgot everything. I was just happy to have my sister back!

Epilogue

My dad picked us up and drove us home after that. When we got home Amy started talking around my parents. She has never done anything creepy since that day. I have never had to sleep in the window seat ever again (except when the neighbors are shooting fireworks). 

So, remember when I said my mom might be cheating on my dad? Well, she was. My parents got divorced. My dad is dating a woman named Emily, and my mom got married to the same guy she was in the restaurant with that day. His name is David. 

My sister is in 2nd grade, and I am in high school. Yes, I do still sleep with my stuffed giraffe, Wynn, and now he has a bucket hat AND a Hawaiian shirt, thanks to my sister.

I also now have a half-brother on my mom’s side named Dexter, and I still haven’t met him because my mom moved to California! I saw him when I was Facetime with my mom but never in person. I am going to meet him next month. I can’t wait! I am going to visit my aunt as well (she also lives in california). I can’t wait to see everyone! I never told Amy about her being possessed because I don’t want to bring it back. 

I watch Amy’s brown hair glint in the golden sun as she goes to greet her friends. 

“Dad! You Invited Charlotte AND Elizabeth!! They are so loud!!!” 

“Lihn, that’s no way to talk about your sister’s friends!” 

“Whatever.” 

So, as you can see, things are pretty normal. At least for our family. 

Sometimes even after all these years I still wonder how the world can be so peaceful, and yet, life is so scary…

Chapter 5, The Vanishing City

The reporters tried to swim but it was like their feet were bolted to the floor. Minutes later the city came back up with nothing on it. Not even the dead bodies. All the buildings and statues appeared exactly the same. I stepped on it and the dead bodies appeared for only me to see. 

“Do you see that?” I asked Carrot. 

“See what?” He said. 

“The dead bodies. They’re there again,” I said. 

“No, they’re not,” Carrot said, frustrated. 

I took one more step. “Now they’re back,” he said. 

I started to walk in the city, hoping I would not end up like the reporters. I didn’t. Soon the statue came to life. It told us that we were the chosen ones that were meant to save Atlantis from the spirits of the people who had died there. So Carrot and Topher geared up so they could touch the ghosts and defeat them. The first ghost they found was Topher’s mom. Topher started to cry. Then Topher hugged his mom and she became a dog again. 

Then the statue came over and said: “I forgot to tell you that if you hug your loved ones, they come to life again.” 

“Little late,” I said.

A Sliver of a Play

Scene 1

Characters: AMALAE (Amalie): twelfth grader, very protective of work, NESSET (Nes-set): clingy little sister, second grade

AMALAE is at her computer in the middle of the room. There is a bunk bed in the corner, suggesting that this is a bedroom.

NESSET runs in.

NESSET

Amalae, Amalae, what are you doing?

AMALAE looks up.

AMALAE

Go away, Nesset, I’m applying to college.

AMALAE continues doing her work.

NESSET

But, sis, you never play with me!

AMALAE stands up with a sigh.

AMALAE

Fine, but just this once.

NESSET accidentally sees her sister’s computer tab and gasps.

AMALAE

What is it?

NESSET

I left something in my bed. You can go ahead.

This is a lie. As soon as AMALAE leaves, NESSET checks the computer. She creeps to the desk. Suddenly interested in being a spy, she does some pretty bad rolls and gets to the most recent tab. She looks at it with wonder.

NESSET

Why would Amalae be applying to an acting school if she wants to become an artist? 

Scene 2

New character: BECEREA (Bec-a-re-a): a mom who hates actors and loves those who study or do anything other than the arts

They are in a room with a lot of toys, a couch, and a TV.

AMALAE

So what do you want to do? 

NESSET

Um, um, um.

BECEREA comes storming in after seeing that the bedroom is empty.

BECEREA

You should be studying, Amalae.

AMALAE

Um, um, um.

NESSET looks like she wants to pee her pants or like she is keeping in something important.

NESSET

Amalae wants to be an actor!

BECEREA looks at her.

BECEREA

What is she talking about, Amalae?

BECEREA looks at AMALAE to see that she has disappeared. The front door is open.

BECEREA

Nesset, how dare you put ideas in her head.

BECEREA storms out the front door in pursuit of AMALAE.

NESSET

But I didn – 

(sighs)

If I were Amalae, I would run away, too.

She follows her mom out.

NESSET

I wish that I had kept my mouth shut. Then maybe we would be able to play.

Scene 3

Warning: cliffhanger

BECEREA walks through the streets, looking for AMALAE.

BECEREA

Where did that traitor go?

BECEREA passes the alley that AMALAE is hiding in. NESSET, who is following BECEREA, sees AMALAE writing in a notebook. She runs away.

NESSET

I don’t need to betray her even more.

AMALAE looks around, making sure she is not being watched. She starts doing something nobody has ever heard her do. She starts to sing (but waits for BECEREA and NESSET to talk. She instead hums).

BECEREA stops a few meters ahead.

BECEREA

Do you hear that?

NESSET, knowing who it is, is scared, and is obviously hiding something. She turns to the audience.

NESSET

Now she starts singing – just when I decide to protect her?

She turns back to her mother.

NESSET

I’ll go check.

Who Knows How Long

All my life I’ve been searching

Searching for me (long)

For who I’m supposed to be (long)

For me (statement)

But who knows how long it’ll be

’Til I’m away from my chores

From my history (long)

And I know

There’s a place out there 

My secret lair

Where I can uncover the layer

That keeps coming to haunt me (long)

Cause I’m tired of all the history books (this is where it starts getting exciting)

The tests

The nooks that I can’t find

I wish for a chance to be alone

A chance to hold my own

A chance that’s all I need (long, slows down)

All I need, cause then I’ll be free (long)

But who knows how long that’ll take

Who know if before that, I’ll break

From the pressure

From the control

So I’m breaking out 

They’ll shut their mouths

Once they see what I can do

Then I’ll be something different to you (long)

BECEREA

Nesset!

AMALAE turns and sees NESSET run away.

AMALAE

Uh-oh.

An actor steps into the alley a second after NESSET would have seen movement. The character is introduced later as MRS. LILLAETTE, the professor of music at the Academy of Foundational Arts, which is the academy that AMALAE wants to go to.

MYSTERY PERSON

Have you ever considered being an actor?

Scene 4

New character: KAYLEEN: best friend, wants to become a dancer, funny

They are in a dorm at the academy.

KAYLEEN

Hi – you’re my new roomie, right?

AMALAE

I guess so?

MRS. LILLAETTE 

Great, you two are settled in. Amalae, this is Kayleen’s first day, too. The play is in three weeks, and auditions are in two days. Kayleen, the dancers choose their song tomorrow, but the official auditions are on the same day as the play auditions. Bye.

KAYLEEN

Isn’t this great? When I ran away from home, hoping to find an academy to train at, I didn’t think I’d get the best one ever!

AMALAE

Wait, you ran away from home? I did that, too!

KAYLEEN

What a coincidence. Anyway, what are you auditioning for?

AMALAE

I don’t even know what the play is!

MR. LOFT

It’s Beauty and the Beast.

They turn to find two people at the door.

KAYLEEN

Who are you?

MS. ROKISAS

He’s the director of theater.

MR. LOFT

And she’s the director of dance.

AMALAE

And why are you here?

MS. ROKISAS 

I wanted to give you the dance we are learning for our performance, Kayleen.

MR. LOFT

And I wanted to give you the lyrics. All the wannabe-Belles will be singing, Amalae.

AMALAE AND KAYLEEN

Thanks?

MR. LOFT AND MS. ROKISAS

You’re welcome.

The teachers leave. The girls turn towards the door across from the beds.

AMALAE

I’m guessing that’s the closet?

KAYLEEN

I waited to explore until you got here.

They open it and walk in. Inside is a bathroom with two stalls and two sinks, and when they open the stalls, there’s a shower and a toilet in each.

KAYLEEN

Cool – we get our own bathroom!

AMALAE finds doors on opposite sides of the bathroom.

AMALAE

Yeah, now these doors must lead to closets, right?

KAYLEEN

One way to find out.

Together, they open the doors.

AMALAE

Oh, wow, there’s a stage and a monitor reading my lines in case I forget.

KAYLEEN

And I have a dance area with mirrors for walls, footsteps on the floor that match my dance steps, even a bar for ballet.

TOGETHER

Let’s start practicing.

KAYLEEN falls into yet another room.

KAYLEEN

Oh, there’s the closet.

Scene 5

In the house, living room. NESSET has an apple. BECEREA is pacing in anger.

BECEREA

The nerve of that… that… that… fool.

NESSET

I know, right? 

(laughs nervously)

BECEREA

She is a disgrace.

NESSET

I know right? 

(stops eating) 

Mom, why do you hate actors?

BECEREA 

(snaps)

Because they killed my grandmother.

NESSET spits out apple chunks.

NESSET

WHAT? Are you sure of that?

BECEREA

Wellll, I never found any real proof, but.

NESSET

What happened?

BECEREA

You want the whole story? Fine. It started when I was a baby.

NESSET

You remember when you were a baby?

BECEREA

Yes, shush. I had just turned one when my mother showed me a picture of her grandmother. She had started the line of actresses, she said. My mother then told me that I would be an actress when I grew up. I was excited. I begged my mother to show me the oldest actor of our alive family – I begged for years. When I was seven, she finally agreed. She took me to Broadway to see my grandma’s latest achievement. I was so excited – I watched the first act of Beauty and the Beast with amazement. Then something horrible happened. Lumiere’s candles set the place on fire. The people watching ran out, screaming. The actors tried to put it out, but in the end, they had to evacuate. But not fast enough – my grandmother was trying to stop it harder than anyone – she had gotten the role of Belle! She wouldn’t stop – they had to drag her, but. Her dress was already burning – it was too late. 

A picture of her while this happens has been playing the whole time.

NESSET’s apple drops to the ground. 

NESSET

Mommy, that’s intense. 

BECEREA

Indeed, now, come on. I think I know where the misfit has gone.

At auditions.

AMALAE

I’m so nervous – what if I don’t get the song right?

KAYLEEN

I’m nervous, too – what if my feet don’t like modern music?

TEACHERS

Girls? It’s time.

Starts dancing (ask director for how).

KAYLEEN is in other room.

Starts.

MS. LILAETTE

And for the leading role of Belle: AMALAE! And for the honor of being up front with the dancers: KAYLEEN!

GIRLS

OMG!

(squeal)

They are bouncing off the walls in joy.

MS. LILAETTE

Good job, girls.

Back to BECEREA and NESSET.

BECEREA

I think they are at the Academy of Foundational Arts. 

Zooms in on outside of school.

Scene 6

KAYLEEN

Wake up, sleepyhead – you said we should do one more run-through before the play starts!

AMALAE

It’s morning already?!

KAYLEEN 

(slowly)

Yes, that’s how sleeping works – time goes faster.

AMALAE

Wait, last night was… IT’S THE DAY OF THE PLAY!

KAYLEEN

We have one hour – are you going to be dumb and just stand there, or are we running through my routine and your lines? I do not want to go to breakfast without a refresher!

AMALAE

Okay, okay, let’s go to the dance room. 

In her dance room.

KAYLEEN

Okay, so it goes one, two, to the left, to the right, cartwheel, fade into the crowd, step on the platform. And shoot into the sky. Then I jump off at thirty feet and survive. I go backstage while everyone else does the rest of the song and come back for the finale. We all start singing at two. 

She actually does this to music.

AMALAE is in her theater room.

AMALAE 

I’m sorry, Gaston, but I… I… I… I just don’t deserve you.

Bell that signals places rings.

BECEREA storms into the main office with NESSET trailing behind. PRINCIPAL HANAYES is waiting for them.

PRINCIPAL

Hello, Becerea Temtilask. I knew you were coming. I understand you have a daughter registered and want to take her home.

BECEREA

How did you know that – are you associated with Magic?

PRINCIPAL 

(laughs)

Nooo, we have security that saw you enter the school.

NESSET

I want to be a dancer!

BECEREA

Not now – where is Amalae?

PRINCIPAL

She’s about to amaze the audience as the lead in our first production of Beauty and the Beast.

BECEREA 

I don’t care if she’s directing Tangled on Broadway – I want to know where she is!

NESSET

Mommy, look – Amalae’s on stage.

AMALAE is being shown her new room. BECEREA and NESSET go to stop her but become transfixed by the show. They watch the whole thing. 

NESSET

Woah, Momma, that was awesome. 

She notices BECEREA is getting pulled to the next room with everyone else.

NESSET

Momma?

They watch KAYLEEN.

NESSET sees AMALAE and slips away from BECEREA without her noticing.

AMALAE

Nesset! Wait, if you’re here, that means… I have to run.

NESSET

I saw you on stage, and although I only saw a part of a play, I’ve realized something.

AMALAE

What is it?

NESSET

When I grow up, I want to put on a sliver of a play, too.

BECEREA

Nesset, we are going home… Amalae is not worth our ti… Nesset? 

She walks away grumbling about traitors and daughters and actors.

NESSET

Where am I going to stay now?!

AMALAE

You can stay with me.

Poems

The Table And The Chair

“Table and chair,” said the Dishes in the washer,

“Do you ever get dirty, or squeaky, or noisy,” say the Dishes to The Table and The Chair.

“Well as a duty being a Table you have to be sturdy, and dirty,” said the Table to the Dishes.

“Oh well as a duty being chair you have to stay comfy, but sometimes dirty, or you have to deal with farts,” said the Chair to the Dishes.

“Wow, wow, wow. I am the Dishes, yet nothing compared to The Table And The Chair.”

Connection

A family loves, loses, and cares. But we have a connection, that is like a flower, the soil grows a seed that has a strong stem supporting the bloom of the flowers. Take a peek inside, see the pollen ready to help, while a bee comes, takes the pollen to another and another plant, to help it grow. 

Father is the stem, who gives us courage,

While Mother’s petals bloom and give us protection,

Giving the baby life, making it turn into something superb!!

The Wind And The Trees / A True Haiku.

The wind blows the trees,

While they shake to the wind’s beat,

The leaves fall away.

World And You 

Roses may be blue, while the sky stays a brilliant shade of gray.

You see the world the same as me, but just maybe, just maybe we can see the world we share in a different point of view.

So that we can be one.

Roses turn red, while we grow. While the sky is blue and the sun shines. We see stuff differently and we will remember that mistakes we make are accomplishments.

One day something may die. As we ponder about how they think but mostly live. Someday something will die, but we will become brand new.

Roses break down into ash, while the sky turns gray, and clouds fill up then… Oh just oh I see the moon.

Rose will die, sky clouded up, grass cut down.

         But one thing which will stay as a piece is

                            My heart for you. 

Braid

Braids rule, and so do you, if you want some style and some fancy like you!!

Rad, drag, royal crown, maybe prince or princess crown!

A delicate crown made for you, maybe some flowers like the princess Rapunzel

I vote for “Braid-o-Matic”!!

Do you vote for it too!? Braids rule and so do you!!

Samosas

Super luscious, smooth but filling.

A beautiful blend of peas and mashed potatoes

Maybe some chutney, salsa, or podi can help too!!

Opens up warm and spicy

Super luscious, smooth but filling.

A beautiful blend of peas and mashed potatoes

Samosas rule and so do you, if you are wise buy the SAMOSAS!!

Four Seasons

Do you know the four seasons?

Well, let me tell you about them!!

Winter, the season of coldness and snow

Spring, the season of warmth and beauty

Summer, the season of hotness and activity

Fall, the season of all different color leaves

Now you know the four seasons!!

What a majestic color, Purple!

Purple, what a soothing color.

You see it makes me feel as if

Kids were laughing and playing, enjoying the sound of friendships and sportsmanship.

A juicy boost or fruits and veggies

Soft and warm on a sunny day, or rough and cold on a windy day.

Maybe a luscious cake, chocolate, and vanilla

Yum!!

Welcome, Purple

Welcome, Purple, how you make me feel as if I am a bird soaring through the skies, and how pleasant, how jovial you make me feel.

I wake up, have a good day, learn so many new things, get to share all my work, say hi, and then bye.

I woke up and the first thing which happened was purple, oh Purple, how you blind me with happiness.

Oh, I wake up, the clouds are gray, come to school late, never say hi or even bye, don’t even show all my work, and have bad dreams about how my teacher yells hollers and shouts.

But anyways what my choice is, you ask? Well, I will think of that which blinds me with happiness, got to say hi and bye, got to share my work…

Oh, what do you say, Purple, Purple, Dude you have… the golden prize, love, and the brains, and what a beautiful mind, this what I do.

I think of PURPLE!!

The Adventures of the Super Team #1

Chapter 1

Once upon a time, there were four super boys, two super girls, and a wicked witch. A volcano had just erupted in the city, and the people had to be safe and had to stay in their homes. The super boys and super girls had to save the day…

All the characters have different powers. 

They all have super cool powers and they are going to battle the wicked witch. 

Well, first, the Super Team had to make a plan to capture the wicked witch. The Super Team already knew where the wicked witch was because, at the scene of the volcano, Super Team put a tracking device on the wicked witch. Right now the wicked witch was in the forest. 

So the Super Team put their powers in place and they all successfully got to the forest. Then they met up and went around the rainforest. They decided to split up and then meet when one of them found her. But each of them saw the wicked witch in different places, but at different times, so they ended up seeing each other and cornering the wicked witch. But the wicked witch did not know they were there, so they spied on her from three sides then they all leaped and captured her. 

First, they tied her up. Then they put her in a locked cage. Finally, they took her to jail and locked her up in a jail cell. That was one job done for the Super Team for the day. 

Then the Super Team went home and enjoyed the afternoon with some hot cocoa and pizza. The Super Team played a board game together, and then, since they were all tired, they went to bed early. They had very sweet dreams also. Also, they were ready for tomorrow’s patrol around the city… 

The Super Team is a team where they work together and save the day even when the bad guy is tough. Here are the names of the Super Team from oldest to youngest: the first one said that their name was Invisible Kid, The second one said their name was Teleport Kid, the third name was Freeze Kid. the fourth kid’s name was Flying Kid, the fifth kid’s name was Animal Kid, and the sixth kid’s name was Unicorn Kid. 

Chapter 2 

There was a house and living in that house was a queen of witches and two thousand ghosts. In the house next to it, there was a Super Team. Every day, one house battled the other house. But in the end, no one won. The house with two thousand ghosts and the queen of witches was a very old house. The house that the Super Team lived in was a very nice house to live in.

One day, they battled for eight days, and after that eight days they were so tired, so they went back to their house. The next day, the queen of witches said, “How about we be friends and never fight ever again?” The queen said that because she did not really like fighting. 

Then another person moved into the house next to the Super Team house and two houses away from two thousand ghosts and the queen of witches. And twenty days later, they found out that the person that moved in was a bad guy. They found out by seeing all of his trinkets that were bad things. Only bad guys use that stuff.

The next day, they knocked on the door of the person that moved in and they were ready to battle with all their magic. He opened the door and was not ready and got poisoned and had to stay in bed for one year. He said, “I’ll get you next time!”

Well, the Super Team and Whist (which was the ghosts and the witches’ team name) decided that they needed to become friends and have another friend. So in two months, they made a magical potion to heal the bad guy who lived right next to them. Then when the potion was ready, they knocked on the bad guy’s house. When he opened the door he was surprised by what he saw. 

Super Team said, “We want to be friends with you so we brought you a potion. It can undo your wound. We also need help sometimes and sometimes we could help you.”

The bad guy had a huge smile and was grinning from ear to ear. He said, “I would love to be a helper for all of you, and thank you. Also, my name is Thomas and I am a wizard.” Thomas drank the potion and was great again.

From that day on, when the Super Team called for help, Thomas the wizard came to help them. The super team almost every day had a bad guy come, but not once did the super team fail. They always captured the bad guy.

Sometimes, if the bad guy is really bad, the Super Team has to take them to jail.

But the Super Team usually doesn’t do that because they teach the bad guy how to be good and nice. They also don’t like being mean and putting people in jail.

Chapter 3

There was a house and 2,007 people living in the house. All of them were good guys. Six of the 2,007 people were on a team. As you know, their team was called Super Team. They were brave and always saved the day (as you guys know). There were also 2,000 ghosts, and the one other person was the queen of witches. She was a bad guy before, but now she was a good guy. 

“We will betray the Super Team,” said the queen of witches. “We will battle them!” 

“Okay!” said the ghosts.

The plan Whist (Queen of witches and ghosts) made was this: in the morning, when the Super Team woke up for breakfast, they would secretly cover all four sides of the room. Then they would pop out and fight and the Super Team wouldn’t even have their powers. Whist predicted after that, they would win and take Super Team to prison…

A day later, when the Super Team woke up, they did their normal routine. They woke up, brushed their teeth, and changed. Then they went to have breakfast. They walked in normally with no sound in the kitchen. When each of them was getting their breakfast, one of the ghosts made an ooh sound. That’s when all six of them stopped and started looking. The queen of witches told that ghost “shh,” but she said it very quietly. 

After breakfast when all six Super Team kids were going to get changed in their clothes, none of them could get out because the ghosts were blocking them. But the Super Team couldn’t see the ghosts. 

Then out of nowhere, the queen of witches came out and scared all six of them. She said, “Booooo Super Team!!!” 

All the ghosts came out of nowhere and attacked the Super Team, and forced them into a corner. 

The Super Team had to think fast. So they ducked the ghosts, went to their room, got their powers, and fought Whist. The Super Team went to all on different sides of the room. They ducked and slid and could not lose this big battle. To make sure none of the stuff in the house got damaged, the Super Team took Whist outside to fight. The Super Team always had emergency powers if needed, and they needed to use them now.

The emergency powers are the same as the normal powers the Super Team has but they have more power, so when they used the emergency powers it powered Whist very very very far away. They blew away. It powered them so hard that they were in New Jersey and went all the way to Canada. After that, the Super Team was so tired that they went back home and took a long nap.

Chapter 4

Once there was a house where there was a mom, dad, and boy. The boy’s name was Thomas. It was three o’clock in the afternoon and the boy wanted to get a toy but his mom and dad said, “No!” 

So the boy said to his mom and dad, “Can I play a game with you?” 

His parents said, “We’re busy,” so the boy broke their trash can and the chairs. He was mad and grounded for one week. He did not go to school that week. In the room that the boy was in, there was a shelf of food, so his mom and dad did not have to make the food every day.

He finally got out of being grounded. The boy was so sad and even more angry. But he was happy that he got to play with his friends again. His friends were finally happy to play with Thomas.

“Ring, ring, ring,” went the alarm clock the Super Team had. It woke the Super Team. The Super Team woke up with excitement because they were ready to start the day. The evil wizard was only one hour away from the Super Team’s house. The evil wizard was going to attack the Super Team. At one o’clock in the morning, he put a trap in the Super Team’s house. A booby trap that only one spell could work to undo. You could only find the spell in the Amazon Forest.

The Super Team woke up and saw that they were locked in their house. They knew that there was only one spell that would undo the trap. But the evil wizard didn’t realize the Super Team’s powers. The spells are magical spells so you need magic. Then, the Teleport Kid tried to teleport out of the house. It didn’t work and he just hit the wall with a boom! And he hurt his arm. He said, “Ouch!” 

***

They had to find the medical kit to fix his arm with a BandAid and then he’ll get much better. Animal Kid said, ”I am going to make sure Teleport Kid is okay.”

Freeze Kid said, “Oh my god! I want to see who’s out there!”

Flying Kid said, “I want to fly out the roof!” 

Unicorn Kid said, “I’m gonna push this thing!” 

Teleport Kid said, “I’m a little bit okay, but not all better.” 

There he was, the bad wizard, out the door. The wizard was laughing, “Hahahaaa.” 

Unicorn Kid hit the house with all her might and the house broke and then hit the wizard. The wizard tried to fight the Super Team. Freeze Kid froze the wizard. Flying Kid flew around the wizard. Then Invisible Kid pushed the wizard and the wizard fell.

***

But then the wizard said, “I’m still good.” Then Thomas came out of nowhere and did his karate to the wizard. Then the Super Team thanked Thomas and gave him a medal for helping them. 

Chapter 5

The Super Team cast a spell on the evil wizard so he would be dizzy. So when the evil wizard went to the streets, he would bump into people, so when the evil wizard went to the streets he bumped into people and he got bumped back because they didn’t like getting bumped. 

One person that was walking by got bumped by the evil wizard. The evil wizard was covered in lemonade because he kept bumping into people. The person said, “You need to have better manners!” 

“It’s not my fault! It’s your fault!”

“What did I do?” the other person said. 

“You pushed me,” said the evil wizard.

“No, you pushed me first,” said the other person. Then all the people there made faces at the evil wizard.

The evil wizard stayed there for 20 days. He was still alive because he was a wizard, but Invisible Kid was spying on the evil wizard so he did no funny business. 

After that, he saw a sign. It said: “find a treasure chest and you will get your own secret lair.” Invisible Kid wanted to get that lair for his team so he started looking for it.

Invisible Kid was going back to his home. He was looking and looking and looking for the chest. He couldn’t find it. He was so busy looking that he got lost. He knew the chest was in the sand. He knew that because the sign told him. 

***

A little while later…

The man in front saw the pretend money and ran after the evil wizard as fast as he could run, but the evil wizard ran faster.

Invisible Kid was still looking and looking, but in the forest, he wasn’t giving up even if he was lost. He kept looking and finally bumped into a tree. But he got up and then he saw sand, so he decided to dig. He couldn’t find anything. He dug for at least three days and he was determined he was going to use all his might. He was very, very, very hungry though. He finally found it on the fifth day he was digging. He found it. He knew he would find it. He opened it and it pushed him back three miles! 

“Aaaaahhhhh! Where am I?” said Invisible Kid slowly. He saw close by there were a lot of maps across the street. Invisible Kid ran and got a map and saw he was by a beach. He luckily had his bathing suit. Invisible Kid swam all the way to the end of the ocean because that is where the treasure chest could be. It took him two minutes to swim to the other side of the ocean. He knew it was on this beach but still could not find the treasure chest. 

Invisible Kid saw a potion in the water. It was really big and the can was purple. The potion said, “There is a chest inside this potion.” But another person swam and took the potion. So Invisible Kid went invisible and swam as fast as he could to get the potion. But the other guy was too fast! 

So Invisible Kid went to a store and got his favorite food. His favorite food was pizza and so he ate a whole pie of pizza in one bite and he was ready to run as fast as he could. ‘Cause with pizza, he can run super fast. 

So he ran and took the potion ‘cause he was super fast. He saw that that person was the evil wizard. But the evil wizard was too slow to catch Invisible Kid. Then Invisible Kid looked in the potion and saw the chest. It was mesmerizing. He took the chest and evil wizard and went home. The Super Team put a spell on the evil wizard so he would always be good.

***

One month later…

The evil witch was spying on the Super Team. she had the power to freeze. The evil witch has a magic stick and when she points it at somebody for five seconds the other person will freeze. The evil witch grew up to be evil. All her family were evil. The evil witch lived in the town. She grew up in the town. She was mean so nobody wanted to be her friend. So she wanted to be a bad guy…

“And yes, I will be a bad guy,” the evil witch said when she was five. The evil witch was a real bad guy… after that moment, the evil witch was EVIL! That was the time she became evil! 

Then, to be evil, she started pushing and shoving the children, but the teachers were too scared to talk to the evil witch. The teachers told the police and they came right away. When the five year old evil witch saw the police she was really ready to run. She was a really fast runner. So she ran as fast as she could when the police tried to catch her they wouldn’t. She was just running farther from the police. She was on her own, and then found a stick. She kept it if a police would come then. The stick had magic powers and the powers went into her body. Then she put her hand on a tree and the tree was frozen. Then she knew her power was that she could freeze. She knew her power was amazing.

***

After the Super Team made the evil wizard good they returned the chest, but they didn’t take the lair. They didn’t take it because there was someone else who really really badly wanted it, so they wanted to be nice. 

A day later, the Super Team was reading the news and they heard an evil witch robbed a bank. The Super Team wanted to research to find out more about the evil witch. They found out the evil witch liked collecting chests, so they wanted to take all of them so she didn’t rule the world. They split up to get all the chests. They would communicate by talking through their walkie-talkies.

Then when all of them were finding the chests, they saw there was one more chest, so they decided to let Invisible Kid do it. Invisible Kid had been searching and searching and finally found the chest. Unfortunately, the evil witch found the chest at the same time as Invisible Kid did, so then they had to fight for it. 

First Invisible Kid turned invisible and stepped closer and closer to the chest. Since the evil witch didn’t know where Invisible Kid was, she just protected herself and the chest. But out of nowhere, Invisible Kid snatched the chest and ran as fast as he could. When the evil witch tried to chase him, out of nowhere, Teleport Kid came, got Invisible Kid, and brought them both home. After they were both home, Super Team went back and fought the evil witch. Since the evil witch was outnumbered, she lost.

***

After that, the super team turned the evil witch good. They also decided to return the chests since the evil witch and wizard were good now.

THE END.

The Elf Story

Once upon a time, there lived an elf. His name was Elfy. He was a good elf and was helpful. One day, Elfy remembered when he was sick and thought about when he was in the elf  hospital. So, today, Elfy wanted to see the hospital because it helped him heal. 

Elfy had wings so he flew there; it was only a five-minute flight. When he got there, he was confused because it looked like a big, abandoned building. Elfy thought it was the wrong place, but on the side of the building, there was a ripped and torn sign that said, Elf Hospital. Elfy was really sad the hospital was abandoned. But, to cheer himself up, he decided to look through the things there and see if there were any cool memories.

When Elfy started looking, there was a little crackling sound: crackle crackle. But Elfy was brave and kept looking for memories. Then, all of a sudden, the electricity went out, and it was pitch black. 

Elfy took the memories he could and went back home. When Elfy was home, he looked through the memories and thought about the hospital. 

THE END.

A Man of Dreams

I am a man

Just a simple man

With microscopic dreams

Smaller than they seem

I don’t look up too much

Don’t really beam

But like those stars

You wish upon at night

My microscopic dreams

Are wishes as much as they are bright

I’m out of sight

Most of the day

Hiding indoors

From November to May

Night and day

Day and night

But when I sleep

I dream of dreams

More you can wish for

More than it seems

I am a man

Just the simple kind

But I have dreams

Bold and lined

Hopefully you too

Can dream a dream

Better than

How it might seem

I give you this knowledge

To dream a dream

To be yourself

And be redeemed

A rival nor foe

You dream a dream

Better than

It could seem

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.

The Four Seasons of Poetry

Winter

It’s a beautiful winter day

Soft white snow covers the entirety of the New York streets

Children gleefully tossing the snow around

Adults trying not to get their shoes and pants wet

Cars are buried in this whiteness

Little snowflakes drift down from the sky

Kids catching the wet flakes on their tongues

Screaming with joy

Bikes whiz by

Trying not to be stopped by the blizzard of snow

Building up on the street

What a winter wonderland.

Spring

Spring

Blossoms on trees

Everything soaking up the nice rays of the gentle warm sun

Rain

Tumbles down, feeding the plants and soil

Flowers – daisies, lavenders, and more

Which are blooming after a long winter

People take nice strolls down the streets

Only sweaters on

A relief after those overcoats from winter

Temperatures go up

From freezing to hot

Animals, like hedgehogs and porcupines, wake up

From their long hibernation

Rub their eyes

Yawn

And enjoy the beginning of spring.

Summer

Summer

Eat popsicles and

Go away on vacation

… Maybe

Swimming is great in the summer

Trees’ buds bloom

Cherry blossoms shower and

A gentle breeze blows through it all

Kids are off at summer camp

Adults stroll by

Just don’t waste the summer working, grown-ups

Children laughing and playing with glee

Watching the sun give its rounds through the summer.

Fall

Last but not least

We have the fall

The summer’s over

The trees change

From green to red, orange, yellow, and brown

Some stay green

Fall, to top it all off

It gets chillier and more breezes blow 

It’s a mix of summer and winter

Perfect time to sit back and enjoy the view

The swirling leaves 

Dancing while tumbling toward the direction of the ground 

Hurricanes of colors

Trying to say

“Summer’s over, let’s welcome winter.”

And then the four seasons of poetry 

Begin all over again.

To top it all off

You’ve seen the four seasons of poetry

Summer, winter, fall, spring

You’ve seen it all

But one more thing 

To top it all off – 

Everyone has a favorite season and 

That’s ok

But that’s no reason to

Say “I hate summer!” “Fall is boring.” “Winter’s too cold!” “Spring has too many breezes.”

Like every season for its own unique styles

Winter’s snow

Summer’s heat

Spring’s blossoms

Fall’s leaves

And like poetry too

It’s like a story

Split into many lines

Without much punctuation

It’s easy to write

When you think of something to say

It can be short, long, or in the middle

It can be about anything in the world

One sentence can be forty hundred lines in poetry

You can express yourself however you want

And that 

Tops it all off

Spring

March sunshine has come

And you know spring has begun

Birds are chirping

Flowers are blooming

Kids are playing outside

Coats are thrown in the closet

And shorts and T-shirts arrive

April rain has come

And you know spring is here

Softball season has started

Batting

Running  

Throwing 

Catching

And rainbows have appeared

May humidity has come

And you know spring is coming to an end

The rain has slowed

Because summer is near

Jumping in pools

Playing in sprinklers 

Tossing water balloons around

All signs that summer is near

June’s boiling temperature is here

Spring is at an end

Rainbows

Rain 

Softball

Flowers

Have come to an end

See you again next time spring

A Beautiful Season

Birds soar in the sky

Gliding along

I see two chickadees

Singing a beautiful song

I see a blue jay too

Feeding its babies

So many wonderful birds

Common but unique

Flowers sway in the warm breeze

Dancing gently with ease

Roses a shade of deep red

Bright pink, and cream colored

Daffodils bright yellow and white

Tulips pale pink and blood red

Pansies all different colors

Cosmos pink, orange and white

Rain falls

Soaking the land

Allowing the plants to grow

Raindrops fall from the clouds

Oh, look! It has ceased!

And the sunlight breaks through

And look, now there’s a rainbow too

Today we are very lucky

A flash of brown and white

Comes to stop in the grass

Nuzzling a patch of clovers

Sniffing the air cautiously

Then she races through the grass to the burrow

Anxious to reach her babies

She stops there and drops the food

And they start to eat the plants

Welcome Green

This pale feeling welcomes me, 

Somehow comforting, yet tiring. 

The way it makes me frown and smile

Gives me a way to learn and express 

Never stopping. 

If thou is not met, I shall believe what the heart tells me. 

The odd feeling can make this day brighten. 

It can make this day darken. 

For either way, it is like a house, 

Welcoming me, 

Giving me strength.

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… 

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. 

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!”

Sail

I am drawn

Drawn to sail away

In my tiny boat

From night to day

The waves that rocked gently

Have now grown fierce 

But I have no remorse 

For these monstrous waves

I shall ride them

Even if it means I won’t be saved

Now a calm ocean

Under the spotlight

The water has grown tame

After the last night

Lying on my boat

With the sail flying everywhere

But I am still tired

And don’t seem to care

Then I stand up

And brush away my sweat

And ride the ocean once more

As if it were my pet!

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!”

Child Writing Concerns

Essays are difficult for kids, but we can conquer them. I am a ten-year-old student, and whenever I try, I always have a hard time getting an idea. I will think for hours upon hours, but nothing comes to mind. Even if I try again the next day, sometimes, nothing still happens. My brain is like a computer with an error not being able to run a program. I always thought of it as writer’s block, but it really should be known as “essay block”! I don’t have it when I write my stories or at school. But when it comes to essays, I am stumped about what to do.

However, I have found a solution for myself. It’s called a partner. They help you through the day. My partner changes all the time. I can have a little stuffy or even my brother as my guide. I had to come up with my own solution for my own essay block, so as not to take the advice of an adult who is not in a position to remember what writing as a kid is like. 

Adults sometimes can have an “illness” per se, called Grown-Ideas. They have a more fixed mindset and less imagination than when they were a kid because they grow a more danger-mind. This is where they can’t imagine anything, only the bluntness. When you are a child your mindscape is endless so you truly understand the problems grownups don’t. 

This brings me to something I found to further suggest this, an article by Kim Kautzer called “How to Help a Child with Writer’s Block.” Kautzer, who wrote the article, simply doesn’t understand children at all. She kept referring to the learner as “he,” and not “she” or “they.”  As an example, she would write “Later, he can ask,” or “[f]or example, he can” or even “gives him,” but never use other pronouns. It’s as though only boys can learn and use this advice. I feel a little as though this sexist wording is from the past.

It’s probably careless wording that accounts for most mistakes, but her other overgeneralization is more serious. It concerns age and expectations of what kids should achieve at certain ages. She kept saying that a person has a duty to meet certain standards by a set birthdate. For example, she says that “Younger children shouldn’t labor over a revision. It’s enough to add a few details, substitute stronger words, and polish up spelling and punctuation.” So, in other words, she is suggesting that the minute the kid turns a new age, they are somehow supposed to be wonderful with no whatsoever real preparation. Just because that is true for some people, it’s not like you can magically blow out your birthday candles and then write cleanly and perfectly. Everyone is different, therefore, it is an unrealistic standard to change so quickly from easy to hard expectations in one day. For example, in the article Kautzer says, “Teens, however, should expect to rewrite a draft several times before it passes muster, beefing up arguments, supporting with additional facts, embellishing with description, and improving both word choice and mechanics.” This quote is the opposite of the claim that writing is hard since it is saying that you have to be like this at one age or another. Making these claims can be pressuring, and create shame since she makes seeming to fall short of “age-appropriate” goals a stressful situation. 

You can decide for yourself with the link at the end. If you are an adult, you probably won’t understand. So, I feel you should listen to kids like me, the people who are affected by these bad pedagogical choices, first.

Why Standardized Testing Is Unfair

I always knew that standardized testing wasn’t fair to people who did not have as much knowledge as me from doing after-school activities. I recently turned ten, and when we did the state tests in school, I was already doing sets and operations on sets, which is a sixth-grade level. But I did not realize how super unfair it was until I did my math test. It was too easy for me, but I saw people around me struggling with the questions. I think that standardized testing should be abolished. It is stressful, helps only certain types of students, and there are much fairer ways to measure teacher effectiveness and student achievement.

First of all, testing puts kids through a lot of unnecessary stress. Every time we have a test in our ELA class, everyone gets upset. Some might say that this test-related stress is a necessary evil, but that isn’t true. Sure, tests are important: Testing shows what you know. According to Scientific American, it is the case at every grade level that frequent tests boost learning. If you don’t, you won’t show what you know, and the next grade would be too hard. But there are other ways that we could measure a teacher’s performance with students other than tests, or in other words, how students have improved since they started school. For example, there could be an art project reflecting on what they learned in math, or a science project about physics-related math.

Secondly, standardized tests only help certain types of students, which means that they can be biased. Multiple academic papers and analyses have found that standardized tests reinforce racism and classism. According to op-ed writer Jamie Palladino, who cites a finding from Inside Higher Ed that on the reading section of the SAT, “[s]tudents in families making less than $20,000 averaged a score of 433 while students from families making $200,000 had an average score of 570.” This shows that standardized tests are not fair to students who don’t have rich families. To be clear, even if you know this, there is not a high chance for a student to be born into a rich family. But not everyone agrees that this is a cause for concern. 

Sean-Michael Pigeon, a student who claims that tests elevated his opportunities even though he lacked the wealth of his classmates, rejects the idea that they are classist, writing “Testing and academic performance were the best way for someone like me to succeed.” Even though he says that testing was his way to get to the Ivy League, and receive its financial aid, there is not a way to know if his admission was really based on his test scores, because there are too many other factors in the decision of admitting or not admitting someone into the school. Furthermore, the financial aid would have come if he got admitted, regardless of his test scores.

Even though testing is measured, it is not always fair. There are different ways we could measure a student’s academic score. As the website Otus shows, there are at least four ways to measure a student’s performance. Sampling, Stealth or Game-based assessments, Multiple Measures, or Portfolio-based assessments. Sampling is a semi-alternative to standardized testing. Sampling is taking a smaller part of the population, making a test for that group, and sending it to them. It isn’t completely perfect, but it is better than a test for everyone. Stealth or Game-based assessments are when a test is like a game, making it more fun. Portfolio-based assessments are when you measure student progress based on projects, presentations, reports, and papers collected over time. Multiple Measures is basically all of the above.

So what? You might be thinking. Well if you are thinking, What about kids who do know the material but they are anxious testers? Well, if we get rid of standardized testing, they might not be as stressed, but as long as standardized tests exist, there isn’t much you can do about it other than say some supporting words. You might also be thinking, Standardized tests are said to be “standard,” but this also means that they can be biased toward people who learned specific topics in specific ways, which is going to be more beneficial to kids of some backgrounds than others. Is this fair? And really the sad answer is no, no it is not fair for people who don’t have the same background as others. You can try to do extracurricular material out of or in school, but for now, it is just not fair. With all these possible better alternatives, abolishing standardized testing makes the most sense.

Works Cited:

Pigeon, Sean-Michael. “Standardized tests help poor students like me.”

<https://www.goerie.com/story/opinion/2021/04/05/op-ed-getting-rid-standardized-testing-punishes-poor-students/4851745001/>

Palladino, Jamie. “Op-Ed: Abolish standardized testing.” <https://friendsinsight.org/611/opinion/op-ed-abolish-standardized-testing/>

Walker, Jordan. “How to Measure Student Progress Without Standardized Tests.”

<https://otus.com/measure-student-progress-without-standardized-testing/>

Minli’s Special Ingredient

Grand-mama stirred the big black pot, Mama cut the pork, and Papa made the dough. The smell, the taste! 

“It looks good, Grand-mama!” Minli said, standing on her tippy-toes to peek higher over the island in the middle of the kitchen.

Grand-mama smiled and scooped her up. “Yes, Baby, it will be ready when I add the special ingredient.”

Minli’s black pigtails waved up and down as Grand-mama cradled her. Minli pushed her bangs out of her face so she could peer with her wide eyes up at Grand-mama.

“Special ingredients?” Minli asked, curious.

“Mm-hmm,” Grand-mama said, setting Minli down back on the step stool.

Minli climbed up to watch Papa fold the dumplings. “But Grand-mama, what’s your special ingredient?”

Grand-mama smiled. “It’s a special spice.”

Minli wrinkled her nose, then asked, “Do I have a special ingredient?”

Grand-mama smiled and said, “What do you think?” 

“I have to be a big girl to have it, right?” she said, crossing her arms and pouting. She was only three.

Grand-mama looked at her with a mischievous smile, “But Minli, you don’t have to be big, you just have to have the right tongue.”

Minli was confused, “What do you mean ‘right tongue’?”

Grand-mama was now more focused on the pot, stirring and stirring until finally, she spoke. “I mean you have to be brave and try things that may not look tasty.” She held the wooden spoon to Minli’s lips and Minli licked the homemade sauce. “But you can always try,” Grand-mama finished triumphantly as Minli licked the sauce off her lips.

“What’s it called, Grand-mama?”

“Soy sauce,” Grand-mama said simply, continuing to stir.

Mama came over to Minli and scooped her up, tickling her belly. Minli giggled and asked, “Mama, do YOU have a special ingredient?”

“Why yes I do, baby girl!” Mama said. “Grand-mama taught me, just as she taught you.” Minli smiled at this thought. When the table was set Minli dipped her dumpling in the soy sauce.

Mama smiled when she saw Minli. She slid over a white bowl with a sauce in it. Minli tried the sauce and loved it.

A few years later…

Minli stood in front of Grand-mama’s grave and put a letter to her at the edge of the cold stone.

Dear Grand-mama,

I’m not sure if this is allowed. The Lin family has done this tradition for generations, and I am not sure what my ingredient is.

The problem is, I can’t find just one. I love you and I love this family, but what happens if you love everything too much?

I think my special ingredient is Love. 

The Glowing Snow

I look outside and see the white snow,

Then I get curious and I want to know,

What happens if snow could glow?

So I wait until dusk throughout the day,

I was think to maybe go outside and play,

But it’s too late to do that so I will find out the way. 

I rush to the lights because its time now,

Then I see it all happen as I hear a snow plow, 

I was filled with emotion because I wanted to know.

I put on my materials and run outside,

The snow starts to glitter as I slide, 

I go back inside as I stand feeling happy and with pride.

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.

Spring Has Sprung

Sunshine falls gently like bubbles of golden bliss

Like a beautiful bright light in a pitch black abyss

Sparkling through the budded trees

While a warm breeze blows gently with ease

Flowers bloom in the morning dew

Animals, birds, and rainbows, too

Winter long gone, cast aside your fear 

For now Spring has sprung

To begin the new year

After cold and snow and wind

After huddling up close to live

A new day has begun

Just like the beautiful rising sun

Let all your worries float away

Because for now the sunshine is here to stay

No more coats and masks and fear

Forever Spring will spring

To dawn a new year

Poem of Writopia

This is a place where stories are born.

They flow from deep crevices in the caves of our minds

And float into the air

Which is good-natured just like the instructors – 

We watch the raw ideas mingle above our heads,

Akin to lovers under the mistletoe,

We let them be destroyed and reborn, 

We bounce them back and forth

And shine them in different lights

And take them apart and see how they work

And learn their secrets – 

Learn them so well that we can put them back together when we’re done

We blend it all together into a thing strange to us

But beautiful, somehow,

To those who read it

And when we have finished

We sate our mouths

With salt and sugar and cream

Like the sovereigns of old

And then come back 

For more –

For more mayhem 

For more tangles of words

For more thickets of plot

For more rolling pastures of poetry

For more, for more

Because this is a place where stories are born

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.

The Defending Three

In a jungle. The VELOCIRAPTOR is running. 

VELOCIRAPTOR

Leave me alone, Dimetrodon! 

The DIMETRODON comes on stage. DIMETRODON is able to catch up with VELOCIRAPTOR. 

DIMETRODON:

Now you will be my snack!

VELOCIRAPTOR

So long, sucka!

VELOCIRAPTOR zooms off. DIMETRODON follows him. The PSITTACOSAURUS is onstage, looking down at the grass, trying to decide what grass to eat. 

PSITTACOSAURUS

Hmm. What grass to eat today? 

She sees VELOCIRAPTOR. 

PSITTACOSAURUS

Oh no! Run away! It’s a velociraptor!

VELOCIRAPTOR

(sighs) 

I think I did it. I think I outran him. 

(His stomach growls.) 

Uch, I need a snack. Who is that tasty guy over there? Gotcha! Hey, that’s just a rock.

Rustle, rustle.

VELOCIRAPTOR

Huh, what’s that? I’ll investigate who’s there. 

Rustle, rustle.

DIMETRODON

Roaaar!

VELOCIRAPTOR

You!

DIMETRODON

That’s right. I’ll get you this time! You made me lose my energy, so now I can’t run fast, and you will pay.

PSITTACOSAURUS

Ahhh!

PSITTACOSAURUS starts running. 

DIMETRODON and VELOCIRAPTOR

She’s mine.

They both start chasing her.

PSITTACOSAURUS

Leave me alone!

VELOCIRAPTOR and DIMETRODON are worn out.

VELOCIRAPTOR

(all worn out) 

I got her. 

DIMETRODON

(also worn out) 

No, I got her.

PSITTACOSAURUS

W-w-will you hurt me?

DIMETRODON and VELOCIRAPTOR fall to the ground.

VELOCIRAPTOR

(all worn out) 

If we would hurt you, you would hurt us with your quills.

DIMETRODON

Same. 

PSITTACOSAURUS

Can we be friends?

VELOCIRAPTOR and DIMETRODON get up and nod at each other.

PSITTACOSAURUS

Please – my family left me when I was three, and I am almost seven. I also have powers. 

VELOCIRAPTOR

You can join us.

DIMETRODON

What type of powers do you have?

PSITTACOSAURUS

I have everything, any power imaginable – like, I can make both of you have my powers.

VELOCIRAPTOR

Wait, don’t –

Boom!

VELOCIRAPTOR

Something’s wrong. I think I also have every power in the world. 

DIMETRODON

S-s-same.

VELOCIRAPTOR

I know we can defend the forest. 

PSITTACOSAURUS

Yes, I’m in.

DIMETRODON

As long as I get to smash.

VELOCIRAPTOR

Yes, you will! We will call ourselves the Defending Three.

VELOCIRAPTOR, the brains.PSITTACOSAURUS, the defense. DIMETRODON, the strength. And, together, they are the Defending Three.

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. 

Fire – A Poem Collection

#1

The screech of violins

The singing of the cello

The deep ringing of flutes

The beat of drums

The thrum of grand pianos

All created a fire

#2

The writers’ place

It’s in outer space

Aliens like to sleep there

The dragons roar crazily

The writers wake up and eat phones

They taste weird and bitter

Then they write about floors that burned

And human-eating cows (moo)

Then they have writer’s block (aw)

And they start to sing with sadness

#3

Huzzah! We shout as we dive into the sofa

It tastes very sweet but smells like someone farted.

Then we take the pillows and start hitting each other in the eyes.

Then the pillows erupt and we eat the fluff

Then lick our lips with joy.

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 Spider Tree

It was the Christmas season, and I was in my cozy apartment building where nothing exciting happened. We had several traditions, like watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas and doing secret Amazon shopping for everybody. We had bought our Christmas tree from a different Christmas farm this year, but it was perfect, and we had decorated it with Christmas ornaments the night before while blaring Christmas music. It was December 21st, and I was watering the Christmas tree, my favorite job. Little did I know, enemies were making their way into my hair. I didn’t suspect anything until that night. It was pitch-black in the hallway as I stepped into my parents’ bedroom. Suddenly, I felt something tickling me. 

“Indi, this better not be one of your games!”

No response. Taking a deep breath, I groped for the light, and as it flickered on, I turned suddenly. Staring at the floor, I was petrified at the sight of a spider! A large midnight one about the size of my thumbnail crawled along the floor. With an ear-splitting scream, I alerted my parents. I don’t have a phobia of spiders like my dramatic older sister, Indira, or Indi for short. They were just annoying, but once they climb out of your hair, you might have a change of heart. I did, and I was now deathly afraid. Luckily for me, my scream made my mother jump out of bed and race to the doorway. Thankfully, the only thing she was frightened of were waterbugs, so she could be my exterminator. As she stomped it dead, I huddled next to my snoring father, trying to comprehend how the spider had found its way into my hair. The most obvious thought never occurred… the innocent Christmas tree. Shaking my hair, no spiders fell. I was in the clear… for now, until the spiders found me again.

***

I was still shaken by my spider incident, but I put it behind me. I needed to continue with my life. Easier said than done when the spiders are lurking nearby. My daily job of watering the tree had been completed at 3:15 PM precisely. It was midnight, and I was settled in a chair, reading a book, until my “friend” decided to come out and play. As I flipped the page, an orange spider stuck out on my hair’s strands, which hung from my face. 

“You’re hallucinating,” I tried to convince myself, but fear won that round.

As my sister and mother chatted rapidly in the hallway, I let out my famous ear-splitting scream. 

Moments later, they suddenly stopped their conversation and arrived at the end of the hallway, where I was trembling. 

Stuttering, I started, “SPIDER, in — in my hair!”

I shook as the real message arrived to me: two spiders in my hair in two days. The spiders were trying to send a message, and the worst part was, my sister and mother didn’t believe me! They thought I was making it up! With determination, I searched the wooden floor and found the culprit. As my mother exterminated it, I decided to huddle next to my sister. After my mother exterminated it, she researched and discovered that the new type of tree we had bought this year was one spiders liked. Then the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. Every time I put my head UNDER the tree to water it, guess what crawled into my hair at 3:15 PM, then waited for seven to nine hours to scare me at night? Spiders! We decided that right after Christmas we would throw the tree out, and NOBODY would be watering it!

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.

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.

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.

The Undiscovered Night: 3 Poems

Poem One

The bright stars battle the moon, which hovers above the dark wavy canvas.
Ripples strike the water, taking over the world. A skipped rock, almost pulled by the light current, washes over the reflection of sand against the water. The pretty sight washes away suddenly, late for an eternity of sleep.

Poem Two

I imagine skies
Draped over my windowpane
Just like a blackbird

Poem Three

Like stars through windows
I unravel the night sky
From my blue powers

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….

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 when the road was blocked, but that wasn’t enough to keep them from shoveling through it.

3. It seemed to be hard for Nate and Caden, but they were determined to shovel through. Then finally, they found the door! They opened the door and the bell jingled. “Oh, thank god!” said Maline, and hugged Nate and Caden. Olivia and Cathie were so relieved, they couldn’t speak. Everyone was freezing.

4. “Let’s talk about those customers,” said Olivia.

“Okay,” said Maline.

“Who are they and how much will they pay?” asked Cathie.

“They will pay a lot,” Maline said. “And they might be the royal family of England.” 

5. Everyone in the room was speechless. “WHAT?!” asked and screamed everyone.

“Yes, yes. I know. Cool, right? But they aren’t. They are a billionaire family.”

6. “Yes! We will be the richest store ever!”

7. “Yes, we will. Now, we have to get ready for the family.”

“That’s today?!” asked Olivia.

8. “But the store’s being renovated!” Cathie said.

“Ahh! Seriously!”

“Ah, Mrs. Cullen, Mr. Cullen,” curtsied Maline.

9. ”Uhh, you’re here early — ”

“AHHH!”

Before she knew it, the billionaire wife was drenched with black paint — on her white dress, no less. Mrs. Cullen screamed with rage, loud enough so that the whole country could hear. She stomped out of the room like a child in a tantrum. Her baby boy started to cry. He was scared of the noise.

 10.  They had to go to court, guilty of ruining the billionaire’s favorite dress. They testified.

 11. It was off with their heads, but they found a portal to Mt. Olympus. They fell through a really big hole.

12. They had only ever read about it in books. They never thought it was a real place, but it was. They thought they were dreaming, but they weren’t, not at all. 

As she was falling down the big hole, Maline thought of her brother and her sister who she left behind.

“Oof,” said Ryan, Maline’s older brother. 

 “Ryan, you don’t have to fall over when I throw the football!” said Max, Maline’s sister, who was 9, but Ryan couldn’t catch it because it kept hitting him in the stomach, causing him to fall over. This was the last memory of her family Maline had before she moved to Queensland to start the store with her friends.

As Cathie was falling down the big hole, all she was thinking about was Sarah Ruth, her little sister. She had recently received a letter from her mother (who she was not particularly close with) saying that she disappeared last week. As you can probably imagine, Cathie was devastated to hear the news. 

As Bella fell, she thought of the only family she had left, her idiot father. In some ways, she was glad to be away from him, but then she thought of the fact that he wouldn’t notice if a giant teacup started singing and dancing on the dining room table, so surely he wouldn’t notice if she were gone. 

As Thalia was falling down the rabbit hole, she was thinking about her dog, Tulip. Tulip was 98 in dog years, pretty old. Thalia missed her dog. She had a strong instinct to scale the rabbit hole and run to her home and get Tulip. Sadly, this could not be done. She was also thinking about her sister, Rue. She also missed her brother, Thresh. They had lived in a small shack made out of wood. Thalia was an introvert who mostly kept to herself. Thalia wondered when the falling would end, and just like that, “BANG!” They hit the floor.

The Dark Spirit of the Enchanted Trampoline Park, Book 1: Captured!

Chapter 1

As I walked along the trail, I could hear the crunch of leaves and the singing of birds. I had always loved hiking and went hiking whenever I could. Snap! I tripped on a twig and fell face-forward into the leaf litter. Phew, at least the leaves saved me, I thought, and then I was jerked upward. I tried to scream for help, but no sound came out.

Suddenly, the pulling stopped and I was dangling in the air, about 400 feet above the ground. Then I was pulled sideways. I screamed, but again, no sound came out. After what seemed like 30 minutes of watching the ground speed below me, I felt myself plummet down toward the ground. This time I felt no urge to scream, only a strange urge to sing that got stronger as the ground grew nearer. 100 feet from the ground now, I saw a clearing dotted with trampolines. 75 feet and I could see the shapes of people jumping up and down on the trampolines. 50 feet, and I could hear singing. Finally, there were only 5 feet between me and the floor, and I stopped falling. I felt something around my waist loosen, and I landed on the ground with a thud.

I stood up, but then collapsed to the ground again as something gained control of me. In a panic, I fought at it, trying to shove it out of my mind, but nothing worked. I tried to move, but I couldn’t. A rasping voice in my head said, Ahhh welcome, Lily. Another puppet for my collection. I could imagine the voice smirking as the presence controlling me picked my body up and walked me to the nearest trampoline. The urge to sing was as strong as ever, along with a new urge to bounce on the trampoline. I was pushed by an invisible force onto the trampoline, and started to sing in time with all the other people, in the same weird, slurred voice. 

Chapter 2

I could still think. All I could do was think. My mouth moved on its own. Words of all languages spilled out of my mouth and added to the swirling torrent of sound. I was tired, hungry, and thirsty, but no matter how hard I tried to gain control of myself, I couldn’t do anything. I went on like this in an endless loop, tracking the days and nights and growing hungrier and thirstier as the days wore on. Every 2 days, water was delivered by the same invisible force that had brought me here. After 5 days, everyone stopped again. 

Suddenly, all noise stopped as the rasping voice entered my mind again. Well I can’t let you die can I? I know most of you have done this before, but my new recruits need to know the rules. 

What rules? I thought, and as if reading my mind, the rasping voice continued.

The rules are to stay in place until your food is delivered, AND EAT ALL OF IT AND NO MORE!!! If you don’t follow these rules then I will give you something disgusting, and you will have to eat it all.

A large picnic blanket flew down from the sky, laden with large bowls of slightly cold and overcooked vegetable stew. It looked delicious after 5 days with no food, and staggering with fatigue, I grabbed the bowl nearest to me. There was a spoon lying next to it, and I picked it up as well. I thought back to the safety lessons I had learned as a child and remembered that after not having food for a long time, you could only eat small bites of food at a time. As much as I wanted to gulp down the food, I forced myself to eat slowly. I saw some people shoveling food into their mouths as fast as they could — the newer people, I realized, the ones that came here after me. They obviously didn’t know that they needed to slow down. I wished I could tell them, but I couldn’t talk. After the meal was finished, everyone’s minds were taken over again, forcing everyone’s bodies back onto the trampolines, to begin the endless loop again.

Chapter 3

The days wore on. I could see the fatigue that I felt reflected on people’s faces as we jumped and sang without stopping. Yet they couldn’t do anything about it, and neither could I. 

Days passed, and the world started going hazy. I lost track of the days. The only thing that kept me from collapsing was the need to obey the rasping voice. New people came, and the park expanded to accommodate them, but nobody left. I had seen people try to escape, but the bond was always too strong. I could see the hiking trails that wound around the trampoline park, and I could see the people walking along them that never even showed the slightest sign of noticing the trampoline park.

More days passed as I watched the trickle of people, and then one day, a tall lady with a long dress and some shiny things poking out of her back — were those wings?! — walked up. Nobody on the trail noticed… Wait a second, I thought, and I realized that she more like flew up to the fence of the trampoline park. A fairy! I realized. A real fairy! I thought they were only mythical creatures!

We are mythical creatures, said a calm, gentle voice in my head. I knew immediately that this voice belonged to the fairy, because it was so unlike the rasping voice that I heard so often. 

Wait a second, I thought. Can you mindread? Can you see my thoughts?

Yes, I can, replied the fairy.

Can you help me get out of here? I thought at her, and I saw her lips curve into a small smile.

Remember, you still have your imagination. You always will. It is the key, she said. 

What is your name? I thought.

I am Annika, she said, right before disintegrating into a puff of rainbow sparkles.

Chapter 4

I was always thinking of Annika’s words now. They were stuck in my head, and I could hear them clearly through the eerie singing. They repeated in my head over and over again. 

Remember, you still have your imagination. You always will. It is the key.

Key to what? My escape? How could imagination be the key? The thoughts that followed were always pessimistic. I didn’t know what to do, and so I thought about it. It seemed familiar…. Oh! It’s that riddle that goes: imagine you are in a box, there is nothing around you, and the box is steel. How do you get out? And the answer is stop imagining! I guess I can try to imagine myself out of here.

I imagined as hard as I could, thinking of the hiking trail I had been on, thinking of home. Nothing. I nearly gave up on myself when another idea struck me. Songs have meaning right? So maybe I can imagine I understand the language, and I will find a way out. I tried that. I listened closely to the music, thinking, I know this language, over and over again in my mind. Slowly the words started to gain some meaning, and finally I could understand the words clearly. The song went like this: Remember to hold on to hope, It will help you cope with dangers, use hope to save yourself… 

Well, I haven’t been doing much but giving up on hope, I thought, but if it will save me, I will not give up hope.

Chapter 5

I wasn’t thinking of anything but how I would get home. I was very hopeful and optimistic about the future. I knew I would get home if I was hopeful. Suddenly, just like the day when I got dropped into this miserable place, I got jerked upward, but there was no invisible force doing this. There was a golden harness latched around my waist, and it seemed to be pulling the dark creature that had controlled me for so long outside of my mind. I realized I could speak again, and I shouted down to the people below, “Don’t give up! Be hopeful!” They seemed to hear me because they tilted their heads up into the sky to look at me. I repeated my message until the people became no more than specks in the distance. I grinned to myself. I was on my way home.

A Collection of Nature Poems

The Lamps of Dark

Night has lots of lamps

Some that shouldn’t even be on

But there is one as bright as night 

It lights the world

It has many names 

And it is the moon

All Things Green

Leaves, trees, all things green

They brighten up the world I see

In the sun, they shine like new

They look beautiful even from a view

That is just something I’ve seen 

About leaves, trees, all things green

Our Warm Glow

The sun is hot, just so you know

If you ever touched it, you should jump in some snow

The sun shines bright 

Like the moon at night 

It brings us heat on repeat 

And we know it shall not see defeat

Into the Fairy Realm

Moonlight streamed through the open curtains and spilled into the room, penetrating its darkness and washing it with silver. The night had grown warmer in the past couple of hours, and the window was thrown wide open in an attempt to draw any kind of breeze in, but there was none. The scent of the roses from the courtyard below was heavy and sweet, drifting up from the gardens to sit sluggishly in the room.

Emily was sitting on her bed with her pajamas backward, and the cotton was sticking onto her because of the heat. She was wide awake, though this had less to do with the heat and more to do with her anxiety. In just a couple more hours, her grandmother was going to wake her up. The problem wasn’t that she needed more sleep, but that her hair had been magically grown by fairies and she couldn’t cut it off.

You see, fairies aren’t like you would think. Yes, some fairies are cool, but most fairies are evil to the bone. You see, unlike other people, Emily has the ability to see magical creatures. Regular, normal people see beetles for the bad fairies and butterflies for the good fairies. 

For months, the fairies have been bothering Emily to no end. At one point, they had found her secret diary which included her notes about fairies, most of which were mean, so it was no surprise when fairies had her hair grow this long. She looked like Rapunzel, there was no way her grandmother wouldn’t notice. Just last night her hair was only up to her shoulders, now it was dragging along the floor! If her grandmother saw her hair, she would cut it off and then discover that the hair couldn’t be cut off, which would later make her grandmother suspicious. No, she couldn’t go to eat breakfast this morning, NO WAY. 

“I’ll just have to read my diary,” she thought, “Then I’ll be distracted.” So she did and found an interesting piece of information that she hadn’t written:

“Your hair has grown as a punishment for the insults you wrote in this diary, but we can give you a clue as to what you need to cut off your hair. First, you must find something that is sharp, a type of metal that rhymes with peel.” 

This was easy, it was obviously steel. There probably wasn’t another metal that rhymes with peel. But did her grandmother even own a knife? Maybe for cooking, but surely none of them were steel. There might be a steel knife in the kitchens where they served the cafe, but going to the cafe would mean getting out of her room. This was hopeless. 

Under the bed she saw something shiny! She looked and found a steel knife. Emily immediately started chopping off her hair. It was uneven, but she could always fix it later.  She tied it into a ponytail so it wouldn’t seem so uneven. 

She got out of her room and, “Whoosh!” She wasn’t in her room anymore. There were butterflies and fairies and glitter everywhere! Emily was in the realm of fairies.

The Magical Orb of Shaddowtown

 Chapter 1: BEWARE!!!!

It was just another snowy morning in Minnesota. Anna woke up. She immediately turned on the radio. “The schools that have snow days today are West Bridge school, Martin Luther King School of fine art, Lakeside Middle school, Riverview Middle school, and Oakland Elementary school! “ 

“Yes!” Anna screamed.

 “Darling, can you go to the library to fetch the three books that I ordered the other day?” her mom asked.

 “Can I do it later in the afternoon?” Anna asked.

“Oh fine, but I need them for tomorrow,” her mom said.

Anna immediately pulled out her iPad and started to watch a movie. It was about a monkey trying to escape the jungle.

Later, it was lunchtime and her dad made a yummy PB & J sandwich. “Are you going to get the books?” her mom asked. 

“Yeah, I will now.” She put on her puffiest sweater, thickest pants, longest shirt, warmest scarf, coziest sweater, and best snow boots. She opened up the door just a bit and she felt like her entire body was an ice cube. “It is freezing and I barely even put my foot outside. I think that I will go later before it closes and when it is less cold,” she said. She took off all of her thick and puffy layers and went back to her bedroom.

 “Mom, what are the names of the books you ordered?” Anna asked.

Fry an Egg on the Sidewalk, A Trip to the Moon, and uh…. I think it was called Beware. “ Right after she said the word beware, the door creaked open on its own.

“Mom! I have heard of this. It used to be the diary of a powerful king that ruled the world. When he passed away, his soul was kept inside the book. People say that the book is cursed.”

Anna heard it from lots of people and they also said that when the king comes from the dead, he will seek revenge on whomever kept his ancient diary. “You really believe that, honey? People lie… a lot. Let me show you. BEWARE. Did anything happen?” Nothing happened. A moment later, the window shattered into pieces, though nothing broke it, it just happened on its own.

“Now do you believe me?” Anna asked her mom.

“Yeah, fine,” she said with a worried look on her face.

Chapter 2: Finding of the magical orb of Shaddowtown

After about an hour and a half, it stopped snowing and Anna went to the library to get the three books. Right when she was about to pick up the book, she thought out loud, “Maybe before the king died, he cursed the book so whoever touched it would be cursed.” She quickly ran to the CVS store and bought protective gloves. Then, she ran back to the library and picked up the books with the gloves. She decided to read the book to see if there was any way she could return it to where the king was buried. Maybe there was some kind of portal to take her there. She opened the book to a random page and kept on flipping through it until she reached a page that said The magical Orb of Shaddowtown. It said that you need to say a special secret code to get to the magical world of Shadowtown, a place so frightening, people die from being there. It gave Anna the shivers. Only the most powerful leaders are buried there. “Maybe he isn’t who people think he is. Maybe he is still alive. All I have to do is find the orb, find the code, talk to the king, make him decurse this book, and it won’t be cursed again!” She said it so casually, like she has dealt with this before. She tried looking for clues in the book as to where the orb must be. It did say one clue. “Your passcode is in plain sight, mix up the letters to make them right.” The day was almost over and all Anna could think about was the clue. She was upset that she used her time and couldn’t find anything. She went to bed on a bad note.

She woke up the next morning and had school again. Right when she was brushing her teeth, she understood the riddle. In every diary, you write your name. Maybe it is spelled backwards! She opened the book and on it was a little tag that said XAM GNIK. She spelled it backwards and it spelled King Max. That was the password! Now, all she needed to do was to find the orb. It could be anywhere! Maybe there was a hint inside the book for the orb just like the hint for the passcode. 

Chapter 3: A trip to Shaddowtown

Anna was looking for more clues in the book, but she didn’t find anything that was much help. Finally, after a lot of searching, Anna found a clue. It said, “The place that has helped you all this time, is the place that will solve what you call a crime. “ Anna was confused. “The place that has helped you all this time. “ Anna paused for a while until she thought…

The library! Of course! The library was what helped Anna find the book, so that was also the place that was hiding the orb. “That explains why the library is called King Maxwell library.” Anna rushed to the library. Anna got reminded of the movies she had watched before, like the ones that had books that acted as levers that opened some kind of passageway. Maybe that “lever” was a book about King Max’s history. Anna looked in the history section, and without realizing, she bumped into the wall and the wall flipped completely. I think that she found the secret room! In the middle of the big room was a crystal orb. Anna was about to take a step when, “Wait! Maybe this room is filled with booby traps?” She picked up a stone that she found on the floor and threw it on the floor. It immediately burned into ashes. There was a sturdy old vine that Anna could use as a rope to get across the floor. She got the orb and left home.

She was confused on how to get back, if there even was a way back, so she had to keep the orb until she could find out how to use it and get to Shaddowtown. Then she would return it because she didn’t want to look suspicious. She reviewed the page in the book and held the orb in her hand. On the side was a button. She pressed it and the orb started speaking. “Hello. What is the passcode?” the device asked.

“King Max,“ Anna said. Suddenly, the orb, a sphere kind of shape, flattened out and created a portal. “Orb, how will I come back home?” Anna asked. 

“All you have to say is: Portal, take me home. Then you will jump inside it and fall in your bedroom. ” Anna nodded her head. Anna remembered to take the book with her. She was not sure she would find him. Would he actually be dead? Would he be hiding in his casket? Would he be living on the streets? Were there even streets in Shaddowtown? “I promise, you will be alright,“ the orb said.

Anna hopped inside the portal and came to the scariest place she had ever been in her entire life. The sky was black and everything she could see was grey. There was not a single human being on the street except her. There was a dust ball rolling beside her left leg. It was not like she imagined. There were streets like she thought there would be. She was looking for the Shaddowtown cemetery to find King Max.

Finally, she gave up and sat down under a tree. Droplets of water came down her cheeks. “First time at Shaddowtown” a voice said in the shadows. 

“Who said that?“ Anna asked, frightened. 

“Look behind you.“ the voice said. Anna turned around and saw that she was talking to a tree. She opened the book to a page titled The creatures of Shaddowtown. It said that there were secretive squirrels that live in the mysterious shadow-filled forest. There were also terrifying talking shadow trees, the one that Anna was talking to. There were also the mysterious shadow monkeys living in the jumpy joyless jungle. “Most of my kind are terrifying. It’s in the name, but you, little girl, sat on the right tree.” the tree said in a nice voice. “What brings you here?” the tree asked. 

“Well I am trying to find King Max to decurse this book. I want to safely restore this in the library,” Anna said.

“You are in grave danger, little girl,” the tree said. “He is still alive, but 10 times more powerful. He can curse you with any possible spell. Good thing you are wearing gloves,“ the tree said. “The cemetery is on Shadow stone drive, which is passed that dumpster and to the next left. You’ll see the cemetery on the right,” the tree said. “Good luck. Know that whenever you need help, find the tree that has a big brown splotch of bark on the bottom roots. We trees can look invisible, like shadows. So if someone is after you, just hug me and we’ll both turn invisible,” he said. 

Chapter 4: The Cemetery on Shadow Stone Drive

Anna walked past the dumpster, turned left, and then made a right and saw a sign that said Shadow stone cemetery. She walked straight on the path down the middle and found the stone that said King Maxwell the 1st. She found a shovel on the ground. She picked it up and dug for a while until she made a hole. She peeked her head and saw King Max, all alone, sitting by himself on a stool he put for decoration because he was going to spend his entire life there, so he needed to be comfortable. “Um, excuse me? King Max?” Anna said. 

“Who has entered my home? I mean uh… I’m dead,“ King Max said. 

“I know that you’re not dead. I am Anna and got here through the magical orb of Shaddowtown. I found the passageway in the library, and I have our diary called Beware. Can you please decurse it or something? We humans don’t deserve to be cursed just because you are a bad person,” Anna said.

“That’s not what happened. I used to be a ruler, a powerful ruler, and everyone loved me. Everybody promised that they would care for me forever and ever. Until one day a new ruler came and everyone betrayed me. They broke my promise. Anyway, so the other ruler cursed my diary. He meant it to curse me, but when I lost it, it got free to the world so others could be cursed and everyone blamed me. The ruler was called Richard Dixeon.”

“He is that suspicious guy that owns the library near my house! I knew something was fishy about him.,“ Anna said. 

“I have been trying all my life to get out of Shaddowtown, but I am not as powerful as people say I am,” King Max said.

“I have a portal that can take us both out of here. Only one one condition. Can you decurse this book?” Anna said. 

“I wish I could, but I don’t know the spell. Though I do know someone who does. His name is Sorcerer Goblin. He owns what people think is a flower shop, but is secretly his potion lab. It is on Maple drive,“ he said. 

“Hey, I know that flower shop! It is two minutes away from my house. If you want, I can take you with me home and get the right potions do decurse this book, and while we’re at it, we can turn Richard Dixeon into a frog. That guy deserves to be taught a lesson,” Anna said. “Why did he want to curse you anyways?” Anna was interested in the topic. 

“He didn’t want me to be a better ruler,” King Max said. 

“If we want to go home, we need to dress you up in some better looking clothes, hundreds of humans will be seeing you. You can’t go looking like a dumpster threw up on you, no offense. Also, this is winter time, in Minnesota. You better be wearing your fluffiest outfit. Are there any clothing shops? Do you get everything here free because there are no humans around?” Anna asked.

“Pretty much,“ King Max said. He climbed out of his “home“ and they were off to Shadow Up my Outfit. When they got there, there were lots of options. Anna pulled out a fluffy blue shirt, Khaki long pants, a snow coat, boots, and earmuffs. “I didn’t know that Shaddowtown had a good sense of style,” Anna said.

“Now where is the portal?” Max asked. 

“Um, all I have to say is, uh…. portal…. uh… “ Anna totally forgot what to say!

It had now been two whole hours and Anna was worried. “I bet that Mom and Dad are worried sick!” She was crying because she didn’t know what to do. She and King Max walked a while. Anna spotted a tree that had a brown splotch of bark on its roots. Anna hugged the tree. “Is someone chasing you?” the tree asked.

“Nope, I just forgot how to get home through the portal. I forgot what to say to make it appear,” Anna said softly.

“Portal, take me home,” the tree said.

“That’s right! How do you know?” Anna asked. 

“I once met a human girl about 11 years old, like your age, and we were the best of friends, until she left Shaddowtown forever without telling me. Right before I never saw her again, I heard her saying, “Portal, take me home,’ and since I still think about her, I remembered what she said,” the tree said. 

“Portal, take me home,” Anna said. The portal appeared. King Max and Anna hopped inside.

Chapter 5: A trip to the Human World

Anna and King Max landed in Anna’s bedroom with a loud thump. “Anna, is everything alright in there?” Ana heard her mom’s voice.

“Yep, my big stack of books just fell.” Anna felt her stomach flip when she lied to her mom. “I will open the window, you will go to the front door, and knock, of course. Tell my parents that you are my theater teacher and talk to my parents about how good a student I am. Then you are going to wait outside, I will tell my parents that I am going for a long walk and then we will go to meet the Sorcerer Goblin.” Anna chuckled a bit because of his name. After the plan worked, Anna and King Max walked to the flower shop.

“Sorcerer Goblin,” King Max said.

“Who comes to seek my secret?” a voice said.

“Your old pal, King Max, and a friend,” King Max said.

“What would you like today? Roses, daisies, lilacs, lavender, buttercups?” Goblin said.

“Um well, we were looking for potions,” Anna said.

“What kind of potion? I have a different section for that,” Goblin said.

“A decursing spell. A cursed diary. Can you decurse it?” King Max asked.

“Yes, of course, follow me,” Goblin said. He flipped the wall, sort of like the secret passage that helped Anna find the orb. There were thousands upon thousands upon thousands of potions, with crazy names like bulbrin, clantese, sordum, cansue, fulprit, and more funny names like that. After a while, Goblin found two potions and mixed them together (cansue, and prentalid). He put a droplet of the potion on the diary and it wasn’t cursed!

“Thank you so much, Sorcerer Goblin!” Anna said.

“Can we ask you for one more thing? Can you turn someone into a frog? ” they asked Sorcerer Goblin.

“Sure! Can you please get me flour, eggs, baking cocoa, milk, sugar, salt, a spoon, a bowl, cansue, artene, and sordum.” One minute later, they had everything they needed.

“Why all of this baking stuff?” Anna asked in a surprised voice. 

“Well, do you think that this person will just agree to be turned into a frog? I will put the spell inside the brownie so he will want to eat it. He might think it would be suspicious, so we need to show them that we can eat them too. One will have a potion inside and one will not.”

Finally, the brownies were done. They all walked to the library. Goblin and King Max were hiding outside because they looked suspicious. (Don’t worry, Goblin isn’t an actual Goblin.) Anna walked in and said to Richard

“Hey, I really enjoy reading the books from this library, and I wanted to thank you for all of your hard work so I baked brownies for you. Mmm,” she said while taking a bite of the brownie labeled not potioned, safe to eat. Richard suddenly turned into a frog.

“And that is revenge for cursing my friend’s diary, King Max.” Anna was holding Richard. She threw him onto a tree five minutes away from the library. Anna headed back to the library to return the orb and Beware. She also stuck a sign on Richard’s desk that said: On vacation forever. Never coming back! 🙂 

“Now that this adventure has come to an end, I think that we should celebrate. Milkshakes on me,” Anna said. The milkshakes tasted like victory.

But what they didn’t realize was that they were on an enemy list of a very grumpy frog that was waiting for his revenge

DUN DUN DUN!!!

The End

Make sure to read book 2!

Amelia and the Fire

Three minutes before the house broke down, Amelia had to get out of the broken house. It looked like a scary mansion. Nobody was there. It was just cracked mirrors and wood. The ground was shaking and the house was about to break, but a fire was outside. She had to get out or she was going to get burnt. The house was about to collapse in 3, 2, 1. 

Amelia got out just in time, but the fire was still there. She packed up all her stuff and ran away. Her whole village got burnt except Amelia. She had to go to a new town and build a house. She felt sad and scared. Her family did not make it. It was just Amelia, left alone. 

She had to get her own wood, so she went back in the forest. However, when she came back to the forest, she was glowing. It was a gem, a magical gem, but what did it do? She forgot the wood and brought the gem to the town. When she brought it, people and buildings started coming back. It was her family and her village. Amelia was so happy to see her family again. That was the story of Amelia trying to get her family back. 

The Alien WAR

Alien Joe lives in Zagburn. Alien Joe has big eyes and can swim in boiling water. Zagburn is a hot planet. It’s 400 degrees, which is why the aliens are all made of water. They’re exactly 65% water. It rains fire on planet Zagburn. The aliens survive in a bunch of water houses that are stabled by gravity so they don’t collapse. Zagburnians have hands that look like mustaches, but they’re not brown. It’s like a blue mustache. They’re actually pretty tall, they’re about 67 and ¾ inches. 

Alien Joe fits in with the other Zagburnians, but he’s an orphan. The Zagburnians decided to have a war with the Yagburnians and his parents died in that war. They were at war for the planet. They were fighting as soldiers. The Yagburnians are made out of obsidian and they’re really evil. The Yaburnians got forced out of the planet because Zagburn won, so now they have to live on an empty planet that has nothing alien involved, Luno. The planet is made of ice, so a quarter million aliens die every year. 

Alien Joe wants a family. Alien Joe is going to try to make friends and then try to convince them to be his family. He thinks he can make friends with Alien John, who is the nicest alien in the alien universe. There’s a bunch of rumors about Alien John (a Yagburnian) — if you meet him and you’re friends, then every wish you have will come true. Alien Joe could wish for a family from him! Alien John is not very good at being a detective so he’s not good at figuring out who really wants to be his friend. All you have to do in front of Alien John to be his friend is act rude. So basically, shake your butt in front of Alien John. Alien Joe goes up to Alien John and shakes his butt. It works! Alien John and Alien Joe are now friends. 

The hints and rumors actually backfire because they’re all fake! It was just to torture  people. That’s probably why the Yagburnians were the ones who told them all those rumors. Alien Joe wishes for a family and the opposite happens. He ends up in a torture chamber! The Yagburnians forced Alien John to stay with the Zagburnians because they wanted revenge on the Zagburnians. The Yagburnians forgot that the Zagburnians have water powers so he can easily slide out of the torture chamber. Before the Yagburnians left, they told the Zagburnians about Alien John and his powers so the Zagburnians would come to him and make wishes. They said he was Willzen which meant he could give you powers to have any wish you want. He’s not like a genie. He was supposed to be 100% better than a genie. But he was 100% worse! 

Alien Joe is going to sneak up and go to Alien John. Since the Yagburnians have fire powers and the Zagburnians have water powers, he can easily get rid of him. Alien Joe sneaks into a puddle because he’s the only one who knows about all this and he jumps out and destroys Alien John! Alien John flattens up and sizzles for five minutes. Then he transforms into a volcano and explodes. He’s a fire alien. Now Alien Joe warns everyone and he tells everyone to form into a big bridge to Luno and then they all jump across and now they turn into a giant water monster. They all jump onto the floor and that turns them into the giant water monster. The Yagburnians do the same. The Zagburnians hit them and the Yagburnians try to hit, but then they miss. Then they charge through the middle and there are more of them so that easily destroys them. But then there are two immortal people who are immortal because they were seriously from Willzen and they can grant wishes. Willzen people also have immortal people. The Willzens do not like the Yagburnians. Two Willzens are disguised as Yagburnians, and they have been watching in their mind and they give Alien Joe the power to grant any wish. Now, Alien Joe is the emperor! He gets a family. They look just like him. Now he can grant any wish since the Willzens give him the power to. Alien Joe feels happy. 

Come Over Tonight

Jonathan’s summer was only one day in when his parents sent him to sleepaway camp for the whole summer, right until the day before 6th grade started. He preferred staying home and playing video games rather than trying to catch fish in the middle of nowhere. He decided it couldn’t be so bad. Instead of trying to make excuses not to go, he went straight to the camping store called John’s Way To Nature. He brought the list, which his parents had given him before he left. 

  • Tent
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Any hygiene products
  • Sunglasses and a hat 
  • Clothes for like two months 
  • Things you want to buy for there 
  • Sandals 
  • Sticks
  • Sleeping bag 
  • Books or entertainment

After paying $300 for all of that, he started heading home, where there was a bus that had a big Camp Lyon logo that appeared right at his house. His parents rushed him to get inside the bus and gave him a bag with everything he had not gotten and a little card. Barely able to say goodbye, he entered the bus carefully, looking at all the new people he was gonna have to spend his summer with. Some of these people looked nice, and all the others seemed to be ready to kill you if they needed to. He examined the bus for a spot to sit. He found one next to Leo Maine, a boy at the camp. On the ride, there were movies, games, and even secrets being told, but on the 12th row to the right, the two boys made no conversation.

Finally, when they arrived, Jonathan had the courage to say, “See you around, Leo.”

“Mhm, see you around,” Leo responded. Then, the head of Camp Lyon made an announcement. 

“Attention, all 10 and 11-year-olds, due to budget cuts there will only be 4 cabins for all boys this age. Sorry, but if you hear your name being called, go to the person calling you. They’ll be your counselor this summer!” 

“This is gonna be a long summer,” Leo whispered to Jonathan. He nodded to show he agreed. 

Soon enough, all kids were with their counselors, 10 in total. Jonathan ended up being with Leo, Nathaniel, Kai, and Lukey. He got top bunk and Leo got bottom. Nathaniel got top and Lukey got bottom. Kai got his single and so did the counselor, Mike. Most of that day was getting organized and unpacking. By the time dinner came, maybe even the duck in the pond was starving! He took a seat with Leo, then two other kids joined: Mika and Maya, twins who had been there for more than 5 years. They seemed quite normal, especially since they welcomed him kindly. Jonathan had noticed that Kai and Lukey had been watching him since he had sat down. They had a sinister look on their faces, almost enough to make a child run. Jonathan was a strong boy, so instead of getting all nervous, he ignored them and continued eating the rice and salmon on his plate calmly. When it got time to go back to their bunks, all the kids from Cabin Two noticed Mike was gone. Jonathan suggested they go back to the cabin, and if he was not there they’d get someone. Unfortunately, they found him, except he was on the floor with a dagger right in his heart. It didn’t take anybody long to realize that he was dead. 

“Do we get someone?” asked Leo. 

“No, we keep this to ourselves and we just figure out who did it alone. We’ll just say he had to leave for college sooner than we thought and boom, we find the killer!” Jonathan responded.

“I see what you mean, but we’re not professionals! We’re just kids, you know?” Kai added. 

“They might accuse us! Is that what you want, Kai?” Jonathan said. 

“OK, fine, but trust me, I still think telling the police is a better idea,” Kai responded. Only problem they had to face was who was gonna lie to the head about him leaving? They decided to ask Mika the twin to come over that night to tell him about their situation. He came happily and suggested that he tell the head which everybody agreed on quickly. They took Mike’s body out and gave him a little funeral before they buried the body so nobody would find it. When they were done with that, Mika left the cabin to tell the head, they all wished him good luck. About 5 minutes, later Mika came back. 

“Well first of all, I’m getting transferred to this cabin and also she found a new counselor who won’t sleep with us but will help us with activities!” Mika said happily. Everybody sighed in relief and they agreed they’d start investigating in the morning but sleep that night. 

Jonathan had a hard time sleeping because of the picture of Mike with a dagger in his body. Same thing with Mika, who wanted to be reassured that Maya wasn’t getting stabbed by a killer. Nobody could be reassured after finding a dead body with a killer on the loose able to kill anybody they love! When morning came, Kai said he thought the killer was somebody on the inside. How would they know dinner was then? Mika agreed, but Mika didn’t know who was on the inside. There were just so many options. 

“Tomorrow, we’ll investigate. Today, we act like we… we know nothing. Just like normal campers, nothing out of the ordinary!” Jonathan told the group. 

“True, but like — ” Nathaniel interrupted Jonathan. Bang!

“Guys… anybody else hear that overdramatic bang?” Mika asked. 

“Yes, I did hear that overdramatic bang,” Jonathan responded. 

“I think I’m gonna go and see what that was,” Kai said while opening the cabin door. 

Then, as Kai entered the 4th cabin, he looked and he saw Mary dead. Mary was Mika’s twin sister’s counselor who Maya had told Mika all about. They saw a pan which they assumed had been used to kill Mary. It was bloody and so was her head where blood was dripping down her neck. It was a scary scene but mostly something nobody could forget. Kai was a strong boy but that didn’t stop him from shedding a small tear that dripped through his face. By the time he came back, he’d realized that this meant they had another body! Luckily, the ground had space for another funeral, to which Maya and the boys were invited. 

“Great, we have another murder to solve! Mika, would you do the honors of telling the head again? I say we find this out now before worse things happen,” Jonathan said. They agreed, but they knew it was gonna be hard considering the fact they still had to do activities all day. Investigating a murder while making a fire isn’t normally how you’d do them. 

“Ok, suggestion, we investigate at night?” Nathaniel said. 

“Actually, that’s a pretty good idea. Even though we’ll be tired, we won’t have to worry about counselors and activities!” Mika responded. 

“We are gonna be here for about 2 months. I think we can do this, right?” Jonathan asked.

“Yeah, I assume,” Nathaniel said. 

“It’s been 20 days and we still have nothing,” Jonathan said.

“Guys, where are Kai and Nathaniel?” Mika asked, looking nervous. “I’ll go check the boy’s shower if you guys want!” Mika said while already running to the room. After about 3 minutes of waiting, he came back. 

“Guys, I have bad news… ” Mika said with hesitation. 

“Don’t tell me they’re dead, I can’t deal with it!” Lukey said while covering his ears.

“Yes…” Mika said, unable to finish his phrase. Knock Knock.

“Enter, please,” Jonathan said, carefully trying not to let a killer in. 

“Hello, kids, I’m Mr. Brown and I’m here to help,” Mr. Brown said.

“Ok, but what type of help?” Jonathan replied.

“Backstory, a very long backstory. It all started with the Lyon, Grey, Stone, Maine, Ri, and Smith families. The Lyons had the idea of the camp so all families decided that Camp Lyon was an appropriate name for it. After years of success, I came along asking them about a murder, but they knew nothing about it. Only a few weeks later, the Lyons died by murder. After that, the Greys, Maines, and Stones decided to close it down, but the Ri and Smiths didn’t want to, so the Greys, Maines, and Stones left and never talked to the Ri and Smiths. So then, the Ri and Smiths took over Camp Lyon. Now, Kai Ri and Nathaniel Smith are dead, a little suspicious, you know?”  Mr. Brown asked after taking a long breath after talking without stopping. 

“Are you saying that our parents kill people?” Jonathan asked, scared for the answer. 

“Yes, unfortunately, I think all of your parents have killed innocent people,” Mr. Brown said while fixing his brown hat. 

“Are you gonna arrest them?” Leo asked. 

“Well, I have to, they could kill again, which wouldn’t be good,” Mr. Brown responded.

“This past month has been fun, but it’s time to go home, meaning we won’t see each other anymore, so please don’t forget me until next summer,” Maya cried. 

“Don’t worry, I won’t, but also don’t forget what happened this summer, like the events and people,” Jonathan said.  

Epilogue

Jonathan was on the bus, his friends laughing while he softly chuckled. These two months had been a lot. He even said it felt like a long day, but that wasn’t the point. His orange shirt with Camp Lyon on it was wrinkled and dirty. He saw the camp and Mr. Brown slowly walking away, his face red like normal. Maya’s face suddenly went sad.

“Jonathan, I… will I ever… ever see you again?” Maya asked.

“I don’t know, but just promise me one thing: come back next year,” Jonathan responded.

“We’ll try our best!” Mika giggled. “Leo, so?” Mika asked.

“I don’t know, but I think I’ll be back,” Leo said slowly while putting his water bottle in his bag.

The End

Penguin

My mom was making me walk through the streets of South Africa. My dad had gotten a new job so we moved from New York to South Africa and now I didn’t have any friends. Suddenly, as I was about to turn back and head home, I saw something that made me jump. It was a baby penguin being attacked by a seagull. Before I knew it, I was running at the seagull and screaming, and then the seagull flew away. I saw that this baby’s parents were dead, so I decided to keep the chick and raise her until she was old enough to leave my house.  

Two weeks later, the penguin chick, who I named Joanne (after Johannesburg street, where she was found), was almost ready to leave the nest (or house). I was feeding her raw fish that I had blended into a chunky smoothie. I made a nest for her in my room under a heat lamp out of leaves, sticks, and petals. Also, I let her swim in my kiddie pool. Finally, she was almost ready and I gave her the first whole fish to celebrate. 

After all these months, it was time for Joanne to leave and go into the sea. I was going to be all alone again, and I might never see her again, but I knew it was the right thing to do. I led the first (and only) feathered friend I had to the beach. There, I watched as she jumped into the waves of the South African ocean. 

One Year Later… 

My family and I had moved into a house and I had made friends. When it was penguin breeding time, and a penguin made a nest, I recognized the penguin. It was Joanne! I knew she would always be with me no matter what. 

The Color of the Sky

Many moons ago, there were two colors named Blue and Turquoise. They both claimed to be the color of the sky. 

One day, they both saw a flyer on the wall that said, “Prove that you are the color of the sky and you can win a hundred dollars! Come on December 8th, 1876.” Blue and Turquoise were very intrigued by this flyer so they both ran home to ask their parents if they could do it.

 Blue got home first and asked, “Can I go to this event?” Blue showed her parents the flier. Her parents said, 

“Sure, why not.”

Blue jumped with joy and ran all around the whole neighborhood.

Meanwhile, Turquoise was trying to convince his parents that he should go to the event too, but Turquoise’s parents were a lot stricter than Blue’s parents. 

“Please let me go, please,” Turquoise begged. 

“What is the meaning of this event?” asked Turquiose’s dad.

“The meaning of this event is to finally answer the question that we have had for centuries, what is the color of the sky. Plus you win a hundred dollars if you can prove that you are actually the color of the sky.” Turquiose’s parents were in a group huddle, probably talking about if he could go to the event.

“Your father and I have decided to let you go, plus we also talked about dinner. We are ordering McDonalds.”

“YAY YAY YAY!” exclaimed Turquoise. He was super happy.

Chapter 2: Practicing

Blue and Turquoise both realized that they needed to practice for the big event. They had two days until the big event. Turquoise saw Blue practicing. She was really good but Turquoise was not scared so he walked up to her and said,

“Do you want to practice with me?” 

“Of course!” Blue replied. “ Maybe the park could be our practice spot!” 

“Sure!” Turquoise responded.  So they practiced for the rest of the day.

The next day, Blue was at the park waiting for Turquoise but he did not show up until 20 minutes after he was supposed to show up.

“Why are you so late?” Blue said. Blue was frustrated because they usually had an hour to practice, now they only had 40 minutes to practice.

“Sorry,” Turquoise said, “I was, umm, umm… walking the dog.”

“Stop lying to me,” Blue said with an angry voice.

“I am not lying!” Turquoise exclaimed.

“I know you’re lying because you don’t have a dog!” Blue said. “So why were you really late?!”

“Because you are so much better than me I was worried and lost track of time.” Turquoise was telling the truth. “I am sorry.”

“I accept your apology, but why didn’t you just tell the truth in the first place?” Blue added.

“Because I thought you would laugh at me or be angry,” Turquoise said.

“I would never do that to you because you are my friend,” Blue said, “Now are you ready to start practicing?”

“Of course!” Turquoise said with joy. So they practiced for 35 minutes so they could get a little extra sleep for the big day tomorrow. 

Chapter 3: The Big Day

Blue woke up so happy because it was finally the big day where you got to prove that you were actually the color of the sky.

Blue got ready and ran down the street to Turquoise’s house to make sure he was ready. He was all good to go so they ran four blocks to get to the arena. They got there just in time.

So many colors. They saw Royal blue, Black, Gray, Baby blue, Light blue, Sky blue, and White.

They definitely did not think that White was going to make it but they were super nervous because they saw Sky blue, she basically already has the title. I guess she just wants to be the best.

“Ok, LET THE GAMES BEGIN!!!” said the computer.

“We got this!” Blue whispered.

“Remember you are NOT on a team,” the computer added.

“WHAT!?!?!?”

Chapter 4: Surprising Events

“In the rules, it does not say that you can’t be on a team,” Turquoise argued.

“Yes it did, way down in the corner so very small, see.” The computer showed them the flyer again but this time it was zoomed in super close.

“Oh yeah, I see it now,” Turquoise said.

In the corner, it said “No teams allowed.” The computer was right.

“I guess we have to go against each other for now,” Blue said with her sad voice.

“But but but we practiced together, we know each other’s moves and everything else,” Turquoise added.

“Rules are rules and we cannot change them,” the computer said. “I am sorry, but now we have to get on with the game. Does anyone want to leave?”      

“I want to leave, goodbye everyone,” Black said.

“Please don’t leave, I thought we were in this together but now I realize that that was a lie the whole time.” 

“Good bye.”

“Ok, bye, Black,” Turquoise and Blue said at the same time.

“Ok for real, let the games begin!” the computer said. “#1 obstacle. If you are the color of sky, you probably know how dodge clouds, so dodging clouds is the #1 obstacle.”

“AAAAAHHHHHH!!!”

“I am sorry but you’re out of the game,” the computer said.

“Awwww man,” Baby blue cried.

“Since someone already got out, let’s move to the next station, which will be a question,” said the computer. “If you are the color of the sky, you will know how many times the Earth spins around in one year.”

“I think I know the — ” Blue got interrupted by Turquoise.

“We are not supposed to be a team, remember?” Turquoise added.

“Oh yeah, I forgot,” Blue said with her sad voice again.

“Write your answer down on a piece of paper and put it in this box,” said the computer while pointing his fake finger at the box. “Royal Blue, your answer is correct, Light blue, I am sorry, but your answer was incorrect, Blue your answer is correct, Gray your answer is incorrect, I am sorry. Sky blue your answer is correct, White your answer is correct, now last but not least Turquoise your answer is…”

Chapter 5: Your Answer Is…

“Correct!!! Good job everyone, the correct answer was 365!” said the computer. 

“Ok, at the beginning of Round 2, we had 7 players, now we only have 5 players!” White said, sounding kind of happy.

“Only 3 more rounds left,” added the computer. “Now, let’s move on to the next round which will be an obstacle,” said the computer. “The sky is full of birds and dust so you have to get through all of that without goggles. Let’s begin!” 

“WHOOSH WHOOSH WHOOSH! SOOOO MUCH AIR IN MY EYES!!!” yelled Royal Blue. “AHHHHHHHHHHHH I AM FLYING AWAY!!!” 

  “Royal Blue, you are out of the game, I am sorry,” said the computer.

“AHHHHHHHHHH!!!” yelled Sky Blue.

“I am sorry, but Sky Blue, you are eliminated.” The computer made it clear that Sky blue was out. “Are you ready for the next question?” 

“We’re ready!” the competitors said. 

“Alright, let’s begin,” said the computer. “If you are the color of the sky, you must know a lot about clouds so in this question you have to tell me something about clouds. White you go first.”

“Clouds taste like cotton candy!” said White. 

“I’m sorry, but that is incorrect,” the computer said. “Blue, your turn.” 

“Clouds are heavy because they’re filled with tons and tons of water.” 

“Good job Blue, that is correct,” the computer said. “Turquoise, your turn.” 

“Clouds are slow, slower than a sloth,” answered Turquoise. 

“I am sorry Turquoise, but that is an incorrect answer.” 

“Hello, I am Violet, and I am the color of the sky!” 

Chapter 6

The computer said, “Sometimes, people think that the color of the sky is purple. And some people think that the color of the sky is blue. So, you guys both win!” 

“No, I want to win!” said Violet. 

“Okay, you take the trophy and all the money!” said Blue. Blue walked home to see her best friend Turquoise sitting on the steps. 

“Do you want some ice cream?” Blue asked. 

“Sure,” Turquoise replied. 

The End!!!

Home Poem

I would come home from school

And my mother would smile at me in her best smile

I miss that smile

I miss it very much

At night I would crash into my pillow

I would dream of fluffy clouds and elves

I miss those dreams

I miss them very much

On weekends, when my father didn’t come home late

We would cook special dinners of vegetables and spices

I miss those dinners

I miss them very much

And that place called home

I lived there

I miss home

I miss it very much

Jack’s Soccer Adventure

Part I

Chapter 1

Jack was 15 years old and he loved to play soccer. One day, he went to the park to shoot goals against his brother, Miller. 

Miller was the goalkeeper. Jack said, “You’re too good a goalkeeper, I can’t score on you.” Miller said that he can teach Jack how to shoot the ball harder and curve the ball. After just two weeks of training with Miller, Jack knew how to shoot the ball harder and curve the ball. Jack entered the travel team tryout. After the tryout, his mom got him sushi because he loved sushi so much. 

After two weeks of waiting for the results, Jack finally got them. He made it on the A team, which is the harder league. Jack was so happy. The day after that, he practiced and practiced till 6:30. Then, he went to play his soccer match. Jack’s team, the Panthers, was losing to the Tigers 3-1. Right at the last minute, Jack kicked the ball into the net with so much curve and power it hit the goalkeeper’s hand, but still went in, and the ball left red marks on the goalkeeper’s hands. It was now 2-3. 

When there were 30 seconds left in the game, Jack scored a goal because the goalkeeper was looking at birds instead of watching the game and it was tied!! The game ended as a tie. The Tigers said goodbye to the Panthers and they all went home. Jack had sushi again for dinner, but when he woke up the next morning, he had a stomach ache. Jack thought about where it could have been from, and then he remembered the sushi!!!  

Chapter 2

Jack went to play soccer, but his stomach hurt so much, he had to take a rest. But he also needed to keep practicing. 

He had a game at 8:30 in the morning. Once he was done getting ready, he went to the soccer game and he started playing. He scored the first goal during the 25th minute, and then he got subbed out because he got tired. A while later, he got subbed in. Then, the other team scored and it was tied 1-1. Ten minutes later, it was half time. Jack got to rest for a bit after halftime. The other team almost scored, but Jack’s goalkeeper saved it and it was a close goal. Jack scored a goal but it didn’t count because he did a bicycle kick. The best player on the other team scored two goals and won. Jack was mad at himself. His coach said that it was okay that his team lost but Jack knew he could have done better.  

Chapter 3

Jack went to his first team practice. He did shooting drills and he aced the shooting even on his best goalie. When Jack went home, he saw on his computer a 95-rated player. Jack saw that he was worth $30,000. The next day, Jack went to his coach to ask him to buy the player, but the coach said he was too expensive. Jack mentioned that $30,000 was cheap for a 95-rated player and that the average money for a 95-rated player is double that money. But still, the coach said no. Jack went home sad, but then he had an idea. All of a sudden, Jack was very excited, and once he got home, he went on a website that said record your overall soccer rating. Jack clicked the record button and tried his hardest to get his rating. After that, he submitted his video. The program said to wait an hour for the results, so he passed the time by playing soccer. Then, when he went in to get the results, it said that he was a 99-rated overall.  

Chapter 4  

Jack could not believe his eyes. He wanted to show the coach the results but it was 9:30 and the sky was dark. Jack’s max outside limit was till 10:30 PM. He had to make the trip quick to the coach’s house. He went to the coach’s house and the coach said, “OMG, your rating is off the charts.” 

“Look at my soccer net worth, Coach,” Jack said. 

“Holy mama,” said the coach. “You’re worth 100,000 market value, sheesh!!!” Jack just got home at the last minute and his mom was surprised he made it back in time. Jack showed his brother, Miller. Miller was proud of Jack.

He said, “If you keep practicing, you’ll become a 105.”

“You think so?” said Jack.

“Yeah,” said Miller. “Let’s go to bed.”

“‘Kay,” said Jack. “Bye.”  

Chapter 5

When Jack woke up, he went to his game at 8:30. He could not wait till he won. When Jack got to the game, he started playing. He scored two goals. The first goal, Jack vollied the ball into the net. The second goal, he scored by curving the ball into the goal. Jack’s team won 2-0. It was time for the team’s payment. Jack’s manager paid him $100,000. Everyone else on the team and the manager were paid $50,000. When Jack got home, his family was not making enough money. Jack’s mom said that he needed to get more money from soccer. 

Jack said, “What is your job paying you?”

“Not enough money,” his mom said.  

“What about Dad?” 

“Also not enough,” said Jack’s mom. Jack did not want to do this but he had to.  

Chapter 6

Jack told his manager he was going to another team that would give him more money. 

“It’s called Manchester City,” he said to his manager. 

“What?!” said the manager. “You can’t leave. I’ll give you $500,000 instead of $100,000.”

“Nope, Manchester City is giving me $100,000,000.”

“What the?!? How rich are they?”  

“Very rich, said Jack. “Now, see you in the finals tomorrow against Manchester City.”

 Jack got home and he saw his mom and dad finding new jobs. His mom got a job as a cook because she loved cooking and she was good at cooking. His dad got a job as a worker for the same restaurant as Jack’s mom. 

The next day at the cup final, it was Jack’s old team versus Manchester City, his new team. Jack scored the first goal, and it was a long shot from 30 yards out. Jack’s old team thought they were going to lose. One of Jack’s old team players fouled someone badly and got a red card, so he had to get off the field and sit on the bench. Jack’s old team scored. It was a tie, so they went on to penalties. Jack’s new team won the penalties and won the cup. Jack was so happy. Jack got his payment of $100,000,000. Jack showed his family the check, and they were so proud of him.  

Miller asked Jack to go to the park. Jack said that it was 5:00 in the morning. Miller just said to go to the park with him. Jack said okay and went with him. He saw two people waiting for Jack. They asked to practice soccer with them. Jack said okay. He shot, and he scored five goals against them. Jack asked why Miller got these goalies to shoot on him. Miller told him at his next game, he was going to have a hard time scoring because they had a good goalie. When it was time for Jack’s game, he broke his leg shooting on the other team and had to sit out. Jack helped the coach for his team and his team won. When he got home, his mom and dad were devastated that his leg broke. 

  THE END

  PART 2  COMING SOON

High School Worries Stink

Chapter 1

Sam got another fail on his English work. He started to get furious. He really, really, really now wanted to get A+’s on his English and art classes, but then the teacher said, “Next test is going to get really, really hard.”

Sam went home and showed his family his grade. His older sister, Angelica, offered to help Sam with art. She helped him draw some pictures and helped him mix colors and hold the paintbrush correctly. Then, his little brother, Matthew, helped Sam with his reading and writing; together, they put together sentences until Sam felt ready to take the next test. He got an A. It wasn’t an A+, but it was better than an F-! Sam was a little upset and also kind of nervous about passing class and getting into a good college.

Then, Sam was doing sports, but when he was in gym class, he threw the football and got tackled by a big senior football player. His wrist and ankle were hurt really badly. The next day for his art project, Sam had to paint a perfect landscape. But the problem was he couldn’t hold the brush the way Angelica showed him too. His wrist hurt so much that his hand slipped and he accidentally drew a funny line in the wrong spot. When the teacher asked him what it was, he told her that it was an airplane. Sam turned in his painting and he was surprised when he got it back. He got an A+!

Chapter 2

When he told his family, they were so excited for him, but also confused. Angelica asked him why he had painted a big green line on his landscape.

“Well I was drawing and my wrist was twisted so I accidentally messed up the paints. So I told the teacher it was a plane,” said Sam. Angelica was confused, since there weren’t any green planes, but she was happy for Sam anyway. 

So then Sam said, “What do you think the next test is going to be?”

When he found out, he wasn’t happy. It was the highest level of writing. He had to write the hardest words into 18 sentences in 30 seconds. “What?! I can’t do that, my wrist is twisted!”

Sam took the test and was super nervous, but he thought about all of the hard work he’d put in and remembered how scary it was when his family was sick, and so he said to himself, No, I’m not giving up! I can do it!

Sam tried really hard and, surprisingly, he got an A+! He was so happy he told his family and they were all super excited for him. 

“How did you do it?” his younger sister asked.

“A lot of practice and help from your family pays off,” Sam said.

Chapter 3

The next day, it was Sam’s worst day. His first thing was sports and he had to play tennis. He tried to swing his racket with his hurt wrist, but he did it wrong and it broke! Then, when Sam had his test, he had to write for two hours without stopping. 

“Oh no!” Sam said, but the teacher said, “No help!”

Sam got an F. He felt really sad and worried. What if he didn’t pass the class?! He really wanted to get into a good college.

Then Sam had math and he said, “Phew! Finally something I’m good at!”

But he was wrong. The math was super hard:

(85,000 – 12 + 6) / 12 = 7,082.833

“You have to show your thinking!” the teacher said. Then Sam told the teacher his wrist was broken.  The teacher said, “Alexandra! Come! We need your expertise.” Alexandra came over and helped Sam write. Sam told her what he wanted to write with his fingers and she wrote it all down on the paper. 

Sam didn’t know it, but Alexandra messed up one of his answers. Sam got a B+ and he blamed Alexandra. Sam was so upset at Alexandra. 

He went to the teacher and said, “Alexandra messed up my answers on purpose!” The teacher asked Alexandra if this was true.

Alexandra said, “No!” 

“You’re lying,” the teacher said. “Apologize to Sam.” The teacher knew that Sam would never mess up answers on a math test. “Sam gets an A,” the teacher said. “And Alexandra gets… an F!”

“Woohoo!” Sam said.

When Sam went home he told his parents and they were so excited for him. They asked him a math problem:

(999,999,999 + 12 – 82)/ (600 + 80 – 2)/ 3 = 491, 642.05

“Wow! You’re really good at math!” his parents said. The parents couldn’t even put into words how good he was. “You’re even smarter than a computer! We had to look the answer to that question up.”

Sam felt satisfied. He for sure knew that he’d pass and get into a good college — at least he hoped he would.

Chapter 4

The next day, when Sam had his third to last test, Sam was nervous but also a little excited.

He asked his mom, “Do you think I’ll do well on my test?”

“I think you’ll do great.”

Sam wanted to make friends with everyone in his class. He went up to a girl he didn’t know and asked, “Do you want to be friends with me?” Sam asked. Surprisingly, the girl, Annabell, said yes! Within two minutes, they were friends. Sam felt really happy, but not happy enough. He still had 29 more people to make friends with. He didn’t want to get excited too soon. 

He walked over to someone else when suddenly someone else asked if he wanted to be friends. 

Sam said, “Of course!” His new friend’s name was Max. Wow that was easy. It only took one minute!

The same thing happened with everyone else in the class. The last one took six minutes, but now Sam was friends with everyone in the class. He knew everyone’s names and could call out, “Corey, come here!” or “Max, I need help!” or “Annabell, I need help!”

The next day, when he needed help, some of Sam’s new friends didn’t want to help him, but he was happy that twenty of the other ones did. They took their last test, and the teacher said Sam passed! And all of his friends passed! They were so excited they could all burst into flames!

Chapter 5

On Sam’s summer break, he was excited. He wanted to relax, and he was happy there were no more tests for now. He swam at the pool, talked to all of the friends that he’d made, watched movies, and had a lot of fun. However, he was so busy relaxing that he forgot everything his brother and sister had taught him about art and english. Sam asked his brother and sister if they would help teach him again. They said they would, as long as he promised not to forget again. After studying, Sam was ready to go to college.

When Sam got to college, he met his roommate for the first time. His roommate was named Jamie. 

“Hey, what do you like?” Sam asked. 

“I like sports,” Jamie said. “Football is my favorite.”

“Really? Me too!” said Sam. “What are you good at?”

“Art and English,” Jamie said.

“What are you bad at?” Sam asked.

“Math and science,” Jamie said.

Sam said, “Oh, it’s the opposite for me. Maybe we can help each other?”

“Sure!” Jamie said. “I’ve got a pretty hard math problem here.”

The problem was impossible, but eventually Sam figured it out. Three years in college have passed.

Chapter 6

The next day, Sam had a good feeling about it because he was already just four weeks away from being one with college. He was so excited he told his roommate Jamie, but Jamie was still asleep. Sam went back to sleep and woke up later to go eat breakfast. When they got back to their room, they were relaxing and working on their tests. Then they turned their “Everything You Know” tests in and got A+’s. Sam and Jamie both got really excited to tell their parents, but then they remembered their mom and dad weren’t there and got sad. They never thought they would get so many A’s and A+’s. 

Next was sports, and Sam broke his arm. He had to wear it in a cast. When he took his next test Jamie had to write it for him. But the teacher realized that it was Jamie’s handwriting and not Sam’s and gave him an F. Sam told her that his arm was broken, but she said that there was still no help allowed. Sam was sad. He really wanted to graduate and go to a good work.

Sam was so sad he didn’t even realize that two weeks passed and now it was the Fourth of July. He wanted to go see fireworks with Jamie. They went to see fireworks and he had never seen such cool fireworks before. When he got back Sam got a little letter from a teacher that said, “Hope you feel better soon.”

Sam had a test the next day, but he was super tired from staying up too late on the Fourth of July. Usually he slept late, but Sam had so much work to do. Sam really wanted to take a nap, so he asked his roommate if he would do his homework but he said no. At dinner, Sam left dinner.

“Really? You’re falling asleep before dinner? It’s only four o’clock.” 

“Yeah,” Sam said. Sam left.

“Okay, I’ll be in the cafeteria.”

The next day was the second to last day of school. He felt so happy. He had to take a test but he didn’t care. He just had to draw his picture of Costa Rica in less than one hour. 

When Jamie came back, Sam asked, “How is your day?”

“Fine, but I need your help with this math test,” Jamie said. Sam looked at the problem. It was 10 x 85. Sam looked at the paper and saw that the answer was 850. 

“850,” Sam said.

“Thank you!” Jamie said. “How did you solve that?”

“I just know that when you multiply by ten you just add a zero to the end of the bigger number.”

“Oh! I’ll use that next time.”

The next day was the last day of college. Sam was more excited than excited. Sam and Jamie went to the graduation party. When they saw it, Jamie said, “Wow! How could they put together such an amazing party!?”

“I guess college has its little secrets,” Sam said. Then they started partying and lost track of time. Then it was dinner time. They’d skipped lunch so they ate a big dinner. The next day he went to his first day of work at Einstein Lab. Sam was so happy he had his first job! He moved back to the town where his family lived and they never had to worry about medicine or getting sick ever again. 

The End.

Tommy the Mouse

Tommy groaned as he sat down in his cage. He looked at Joseph, who was playing with his toys as if they were the best things in the world. Joseph was a little brown rat that had a light pink nose and tiny little whiskers. He was like the opposite of Tommy in every single way

Tommy was a black mouse with a light brown nose and long whiskers. See what I mean? But, also, Joseph loved humans, and Tommy absolutely despised them. Tommy decided to start a conversation with him, even though he had just met him. 

“So… uh, you hate humans, don’t you?”

“No.”

“Well… you want to escape, right?”

“No.”

“Don’t you think this place is boring?”

“No.”

“Hmph.”

Tommy asked Joseph to write some things down. Well, that’s one of the things he likes, Tommy thought, watching Joseph. Tommy began explaining his escape plan. “So, you know the human’s laundry chute, right? We’ll sneak into their clothes that go down the chute, and then quickly scamper out.” Joseph looked like he was about to say something, but didn’t.

“Hm… how do we get out of the cage though?”

“W — I’m still figuring that out.”

“Hm,” Joseph said, and then looked out of their cage.

The next day, their tiny human came and showed them a sweater. “Human human! Hu — ! Human!” She showed them the sweater again. “I think she wants us to wear it,” Tommy whispered to Joseph. Joseph ran over to the cage and looked at her as if to say, Me first! Me first!

The human picked Joseph out of the cage and put the sweater on him. Next, it was Tommy’s turn. He was picked up (and he kicked and squirmed a lot) and the sweater was put on. He had to admit, it was warm. But he tried not to show that to Joseph. After that, the human plopped the sweater in their cage, and that gave Tommy an idea. Their owner’s parents did not really care about them, so they would not listen when their child talked about the rodents. They just said things like, “Yes,” and, “We know.”

So, the rats would hide in the sweater, the girl would ask her parents where the rats were, she would assume they let them out to play, while they went down the laundry chute to paradise!!! 

Tommy immediately told his plan to Joseph. “What if the girl sees us in the sweater? And how will we both fit?” Joseph asked.

“Well, if she finds out, we go to plan B.”

“What’s that?”

“Paw helplessly at the cage till she lets us out, and then we slide down the laundry chute.” 

Joseph looked at him skeptically.

* * *

Welp, as you can see, Tommy and Joseph were now pawing helplessly at the cage, waiting to get out. 

Tommy saw the human coming towards them. “She’s coming!” He whispered excitedly. 

The girl only had to look at them pawing at the cage a few times, and let them out. “Now come on!”

They ran to the laundry chute, the girl running after them calling, “Human! Ma — Human!!”

But they had already jumped down the chute. They could hear the girl crying behind them.

Still, they had other things to worry about. This was like a water slide — with no water! Tommy and Joseph felt like their tails were on fire. Thankfully, they fell down on the ground. When they looked up, they saw the wonderful eyes of a c — eyes of a cat??? 

The cat walked towards them, pushing them against the wall.  “This. Is. My. Alley!” she growled.

“Oh-h-hello cat. I’m going to call you — Waffles.” He did not want to admit it, but he felt a little scared. She growled louder. “Have mercy, Waffles! We just escaped from our home!” She scraped her claw against the ground and looked at it. 

“But if I don’t catch you, I’ll starve in the winter!” For a moment, she looked sad. Then her regular, terrifying stare came back. She started chasing them all around the alley. Then, Joseph spotted an air vent up high. They climbed up and went through. They had escaped Waffles. After a little while, they came out of the vents and landed in a grocery store. Once they explored a bit, they had to dodge a few feet from stepping on them and crushing them, you know, normal day. 

After that, an old human with a broom came, and once he saw them, he looked at them as if they were the weirdest things in the world. Then, he started bashing his broom against the floor. They ran behind the shelves and jumped behind the boxes. Then, when it looked like the humans were gone, they scampered out through the doors. They decided to take a little break on some white and black lines. They were both so exhausted from dodging things. Afterwards, they wanted to walk around a bit. But suddenly, a shiny red car with sharp tires came and almost sent them flying! If it weren’t for the human’s pants they were clinging onto, they never would have been able to be here again. The human crossed safely, and Tommy wondered how she did it. The human walked into the park, sat down somewhere, and rummaged in a backpack. 

The only reason he knew what backpack meant was because their owner had shown it to them so much, and he sort of picked it up. Wait… that was their owner’s backpack! Tommy tried running away, and Joseph tried to follow, but his tail got stuck and he squeaked in pain. The owner suddenly looked at him, with a surprised look. Then, she noticed they were her pets. She picked up Joseph, rummaged in her backpack again, still looking at the mouse, and then pulled out the sweater. Tommy smacked his forehead. She thinks he’s going to fall for that? Ha! Tommy thought. 

10 minutes later… 

He fell for it??? Really? Ugh, Tommy thought. Right now, Tommy was being held (more tightly than he’d like) in his human’s hand. Joseph, on the other hand, was nuzzling the human and squeaking happily in his sweater. Great, she’s taking us back to her building. Tommy tried signaling to Joseph to do something about this. He started to get annoyed. After three minutes, he finally responded. He looked at the human for a little and then unexpectedly, almost bit her. But he hesitated at the end. The human dropped them in alarm. She screamed, which apparently got her parent’s attention, and they came running down. They shooed Tommy and Joseph away, and started looking at the bite. The two rodents ran forward, happy to be rid of the humans, and…. fell into a hole

 * * *

Tommy blinked open his eyes. He saw a rat that looked just like Joseph.

“Hey! What do you think you’re doing, ova’ here in our territory?”

“Joseph?”

“What? Oh, trying to stall are you?”

“You look like Joseph.”

“Joseph?” the rat replied. “How do you know Joseph? He was my brother, I thought he died!!” Tommy sat up, immediately wide awake. 

“Your…  brother??” he asked incredulously. Before the rat could answer, an older rat came up behind her.

“Louisa, Joseph is here.”

Louisa froze and looked at him. “Joseph? I — is that you?” The old rat made way for Louisa. She looked at Joseph and almost leaped forward to hug him. 

Then, she looked back and called, “ALLIE! Joseph is here!” A brown rat that looked just like Louisa came running, and hugged Joseph too. “I’ve missed you!” By now, Joseph had almost fallen down. Louisa and Allie stopped hugging him and he promptly fell backwards 

“We’re your sisters!” they both said at the same time. “And twins!” they said together again as Joseph got up.

“Wait…” Tommy said. Everyone looked at him as if he just appeared out of thin air. He looked at them all and his jaw dropped. “You’re all family?”

“Yes, we’ve been missing Joseph so much. I’m Louisa, this is my twin Allie. Over here, is Grandma and Grandpa.” Louisa gestured to the old rats behind her. “Then we have Arthur, and Ash.”  

Two rats with scars on their paws stepped up to Tommy and said, “Who’s this little mouse?” Arthur pushed Tommy backwards. 

Before anything else could happen, Louisa stepped in and said, “Okay, calm down.” Suddenly, a gust of wind made Tommy stumble. Louisa looked up and said, “I’m sure it’s nothing. We’ll just take cover in case.” More gusts of wind blew through the sewers. It smelled so salty. They tried to find cover, but there was not much that they could use here. Tommy suddenly got blown up out of the sewers, but thankfully he was holding onto the grates of the storm drain. Still, he was slowly losing his grip. He saw Joseph’s family being blown away behind him. The wind was too strong, and he let go.

 * * *

Tommy woke up with two black mice standing over him. He sat up and asked, “Who are you?”

“We’re your parents, Tommy!”

Tommy couldn’t believe his ears. “Parents?” he repeated.

The mice nodded their heads and looked to the right. “It seems you have brought friends with you.” Tommy followed their gaze. Joseph! he thought. 

“Is he okay?” he asked his parents, standing up.

“Yes, yes. He’s perfectly fine. Just getting some sleep,” Tommy’s mother said. “His family has told us all about that snowstorm.”

Tommy rubbed his eyes, and looked at his parents one more time before walking outside. They were on a farm! There were fresh crops growing in the fields, beautiful flowers, and when Tommy turned to look back to where he had come from, he saw a huge red building, with magnificent white doors. The whole place looked amazing. Tommy had gotten his dream. 

The Fire Man

One day, I was at a bar and the entire place suddenly lit on fire. I escaped just in time, but the others weren’t as lucky. 

The next day, I woke up and went to work as normal. But then I started randomly teleporting. And there were constantly flames on top of my hands. I was confused as to what was happening. I decided to stay at work. However, mid day, there was a sudden fire at my workplace. I Knew it wasn’t me that started the fire so I was wondering who or what did. Everyone in the bar died… or did they? It turned out that everyone in the bar got powers, same as me. Some the same, some different. I was at the bar with my friend which meant he probably got powers too. Which meant that they probably teleported out or they were fireproof, but I didn’t really feel like testing that theory. Some people had to be fireproof, though, that or some people had to have teleportation other than me. 

I asked some scientists to help me control these new powers. They agreed and so I started to control my teleportation first and they were going to see if they could get a grasp of fire second. We tried to see If I had any other super powers, like flight, invisibility or super strength. I did not have flight or invisibility, but I did have super strength. So first I tested if I could lift a car. It felt as if I were lifting a feather. Then I tried a bus. It was pretty much like one pound to me. Then a train… 5 pounds… easy. Then I lifted up a ferris wheel. For me, it was around twelve pounds. By the time we finished, it was already 11:00 PM, so I went home to go to bed. By “go to bed,” I really meant watch TV. 

When I actually went to bed, it was already 5:00 in the morning. I was watching too much of “the Flash.” And then in the morning, I had a pizza eating contest. During that, I found out that I had a new power… superspeed. I was so competitive that my hands started moving at super fast speeds. Luckily, nobody was looking at me with the exception of the scientists who were cheering me on. 

Then I tried to master the superspeed. And I lost tons of weight by running for one second, which for me was around the world. I think it was about 50 pounds. So now I wasn’t fat anymore. Then I decided to be a superhero so the scientists made me a suit. When the first bad guy came along, he wasn’t someone from the bar so it took about two seconds. He was robbing a bank and tried to shoot me but little did he know, I had super speed so I ran straight past it and took him down.

From this one event, I became famous. Then my friend that lit the office on fire robbed a bank, so that was not very good. We both have the same powers. I hope he didn’t know about some of them. Even so, he probably didn’t know how to control them. He definitely knew about the super speed because he was just speeding around town. He took a wrong turn to his house so I got to his house and teleported through the door. Then I started speed punching him until he got knocked out. I brought the money back to the bank and then I took him to the maximum security prison where super humans couldn’t use their powers. But then a magic suitcase appeared in his jail cell. He opened it and it teleported him out of jail.

The first thing he did was run to me and he choked me. Why can’t I teleport? I thought, but then this guy came out of a secret door and blasted my friend with a laser and then he got sent to a maximum, maximum security prison. Meanwhile, I was off fighting bad guys, and then the next guy from the bar appeared. I didn’t know what powers he had so I had to hope he had the same powers as me and and I recently bought a new house for my girlfriend and me. There were two bathrooms, a pool, a hot tub, a trampoline, and three flat screen TVs.

The bad guy was robbing a grocery store, but right before he left, I teleported to the exit and he shot a fire bullet and I thought, WHAT THE H*LL IS THAT?! I teleported behind him, wondering what had happened. Then I tried to punch him, but he sensed me and teleported behind me and punched ME, and well, he got away. I got injured, but luckily my super healing made me go back to normal in about one hour so that was good, but if a bad guy struck before that, then we were doomed. Unless… if someone else who was at the bar was a good guy, then they might go attack if a bad guy did strike 30 minutes later. You guessed it: a bad guy struck, and it was the same guy who robbed the grocery store but then this girl flew in and punched the guy midair. “Ouch!”

“Why does she have super strength AND flight? That is too much!”

He tried to shoot a fire bullet, but he missed and then a sniper tranqed him so they could bring him to a maximum, maximum, maximum security prison. When I was healed, I asked her what her name was and she said, “My name is… ”

TO BE CONTINUED…

Biomes Out of the Box

Chapter 1

I lie in the grass. I do not remember a single thing. A figure walks up to me. I shut my eyes. I wake up in a bed. 20 people are looking at me. A strong, bald guy helps me out of bed and then asks how I got here. 

I say, “I don’t know.” 

He says, “I am Jake, leader of the crystal world.” He has big pointy ears. 

I ask, “Are you an elf?”

He says, “Yes, we all are. You are the only human.” 

He takes me outside and we end up in a stone box. The walls are 100 feet high. 

I ask, “Where am I?” 

He says, “The crystal world, I already told you.” 

I say, “Can we go to the desert biome?”

“No we can’t. They are all locked,” Jake says.

“Why not? How are they all locked?”

“You’ll catch up on everything, Newbie.”

“Who’s Newbie?”

“You’re Newbie. That’s what we call the new people,” says Jake. 

Next, I meet a guy named Oliver. 

He says, “Aren’t you the new Newbie everyone’s talking about?” 

“That’s not my name,” I say. 

“Why? What is your name then?” 

“That’s weird. I can’t remember.” 

“Yep, we think we get brainwashed when we come here.” 

“What do you mean, come here?” 

“The Over People bring us here. Also, tomorrow is your lucky day. You get to become an elf and learn how to fly!” 

We hear a loud horn. 

I ask, “What is that?” 

“It’s Jake calling a ceremony to see what your name is going to be.” 

“But I already have a name,” I say. 

“Remember? You got brainwashed!” Oliver says. 

“Come on, we gotta go, or else we’ll lose points” 

“What are points?” I ask. 

“You ask a lot of questions,” he says. “You have five points when you come into the box. When you lose all of your points by doing bad things, they’ll burn you at the stake. Six people have already been burned.”

 When we get there, the Jake guy says to us, “Hey Oliver, looks like you’ve already made friends with the Newbie.” 

“That’s not my name,” I say. “Oh wait, it is my name.” 

They ask me to light a bonfire. Since I am going to be in the Orange Elf Cabin, they are going to name me Josh. 

“Hurray, you’re going to be with me,” says Oliver. 

“Oh, thank God,” I say. 

While we’re walking back to the Orange Cabin, everyone starts high fiving me, elf-smacking me on the back, and congratulating me. 

“What’s the difference between the Blue Elf Cabin, the Pink Elf Cabin, and the Orange Elf Cabin?” I ask. 

“Well, the Blue Elf Cabin can teleport anywhere inside the box, the Pink Elf Cabin can run more than 120 miles an hour, and the Orange Elf Cabin can fly up to 50 feet in the air. Tomorrow when you wake up, you will be an Orange Elf. Then you’ll have flying training. Good night.” 

The next morning, I wake up and find myself levitating in bed. Then, everyone else wakes up. 

“Hey, you’ve already got the hang of it!” Oliver says. 

I go outside after breakfast and start to walk around. I look at each biome three times and meet Rick. 

I ask, “Who are you? I think I recognize you.” 

“Well, you should, because I am the leader of the Orange Elf Cabin,” Rick says. 

A Pink Elf walks up to me and starts cracking jokes about me being a Newbie. Then this Rick guy gets fed up and a laser gun appears in his hand. 

“Back off, or there will be a hole right through you in three seconds.” 

“Don’t you remember? I can outrun that lazer. I’m a Pink Elf. I can run more than 120 miles an hour.” 

“Well, if I tell Jake, your last point will be gone, and you will be burned at the stake.” 

The Pink Elf backs off. 

“That’s how you deal with bad guys here,” Rick says. 

“I have one question for you. Who am I?” 

“Nobody knows.”

“Not even I know who I am?” I ask.

“Not even you,” Rick says. 

“Wow, this place is weird,” I say. 

“Yup, sure is,” Rick says. 

I ask him, “How long have you been here?”

 Rick says it’s hard to tell because time moves differently in the crystal world. 

I ask, “Have you opened any of the biomes yet?”

“Nope, we still can’t find the password or figure out how more and more people get here.”

Then, we turn into elves. I remember that I am an elf and sigh.

Oliver comes to tell Rick and me that it’s time for dinner. 

The next morning, I go to my flying lesson. I am surprised to see that Rick and Oliver are the teachers. It goes on for what feels like a year, and then we get called in for lunch. I am starting to get used to the schedule. When I look at the board, I still have 5 points, not that I thought I lost any. 

After lunch, a girl elf comes up to me and tells me her name. I was going to tell her mine, but she was at the bonfire. We chat like normal people or elves, and then I see that she has blue eyes. It is odd because everyone else has green eyes. I ask, and she says she doesn’t know why. She says that they had tried to figure it out, but it never worked. I ask how we unlock the biomes, and she says that we need a password. We try to find out the password but can’t. 

At dinner, there is a food fight with the Blue Elves and the Pink Elves. I sit next to Oliver, Rick, and Mia the girl elf. We talk and try to ignore the fight. Then, I have a headache, and the numbers 2-4-1-9 pop into my head. I go to the forest biome. I put in the numbers and it opens.

Chapter 2: Biomes in the Open

Everyone is in shock. I stumble into the forest, and there I fall. 

The next day, they have a meeting to see if it is safe to escape. They tell me that I now have 305 points for opening a biome. In the afternoon, ten elves go searching for the biome: three Pinks, one Orange, and six Blues. The Orange Elf flies up but bumps into a tree branch. The Pink Elves start running and trip over some tree roots. The Blue Elves try to teleport, but they can only teleport to places inside the box. The Blue Elves carry the rest of the injured elves to the Red Cross Elves. 

After dinner, I am really curious to see what is inside, so Oliver, Mia, Rick, this guy named Chris, and I go out. We explore for a few hours until we hear a rumbling noise. Then, it starts getting closer and sounds like growling. When we all sprint back to the box, it has stopped following us. When we look to see if everyone is sleeping, they aren’t. The Pink Elf that was picking on me for being a Newbie is being burned. 

“Well there goes number seven,” Oliver says.

We join the bonfire. That’s when it gets out of hand. The grass starts to burn and there is a massive fire. It burns down the Blue Elf Cabin. Then, everyone hears a loud boom. A normal human with a megaphone with a bunch of guys wearing backward helmets appears and says “We are the Over People and we are here to put the fire out!”

They start spraying water at the fire. “I think they’re called fire fighters,” Oliver says.

But the elves do not want them to fight the fire. They want answers. All the elves go into the chamber of weapons. Orange Elves take laser blasters, Blue Elves take nunchucks, and the Pink Elves take swords. First, Pink Elves run towards the Over People, distracting them so the Blue Elves can teleport behind them. The Orange Elves fly up above and start shooting at them. 

“Enough! We are going to call a meeting, and after that, maybe, just maybe, we’ll let you go. Only if you can unlock all the biomes,” say the Over People.

Everyone looks at me. Suddenly, the Over People disappear. 

Chapter 3: The Struggle to Escape

For the next two weeks, everyone is getting ready to escape, and they are all counting on me. We all start to pack our things. The Blue Elves are getting ready to say goodbye to their teleportation providers. Only Jake isn’t packing. Everyone is very confused. He is going to stay.

We all set off to the forest that I unlocked. That’s when I get another headache. The numbers 1-8-6-3 pop into my head, and I fly to the desert biome. I put in the numbers, and my headache stops. It unlocks. Everybody looks at me and the biome. Jake is smiling.

“Blue and Orange go into the desert, Pink go into the forest biome. But be careful, Pinks, there are a lot of roots,” Jake says. 

As we are walking, I hear a weird noise in front of me. 

“Rattlesnake! Josh, look out!” Mia yells.

I take off flying. But in three seconds, while I am 40 feet in the air, I fall back onto the rattlesnakes and feel something wet. 

“Eeewww, you have rattlesnake blood all over your back,” Mia says.

“Good thing I have a change of shirts.”

I put on my second shirt out of five. Then, we see something shiny. It looks like 78 motorcycles, one for each of us. Mia has to ride on the back of Oliver’s since her’s broke. Oliver, as usual, complains. 

“She’s your friend.”

My motorcycle breaks and I fall off. I land on Rick’s motorcycle. I backflip over him, grab onto the back of the seat, and get in position. I leave my motorcycle behind. We crash, sending us over the invisible barrier. That’s when we see the Over People. I see the guy that was holding the megaphone earlier and punch him in the face. We get in line and take turns punching him in the face, 78 times in total. 

“Alright, you already broke my nose!” he screams. “Ok, just stop punching me, and I will give you your freedom!”

The rest of the elves keep on punching him until he is knocked out. We leave the building and enter a strange world. A sign reads New York City.

“Wait, I think I got my memory back!” we all say.

“I think my name is Ravi. I have an older brother named Neel who looks exactly like Rick.” 

“I think my name is Neel and my brother is Ravi. We live near the cathedral school in Apartment—wait, that’s classified,” Rick says. 

Just then, Mia turns into a kitten. Oliver and a Blue Elf turn into my mom and dad.

Chapter 4: Back to Normal

“Why is everyone wearing masks?” Oliver asks.

“Meow meow meow,” says Mia.

We call a taxi and say goodbye to everyone we’ve met. 

“So, are you guys new here?” the taxi driver asks.

“No, we live here.”

“Aren’t you guys from that TV show, Biomes Out of the Box?” 

“Wait, what?!”

We walk into our home and start watching the TV show. 

“How did you get that laser gun in your hands?” I ask Neel.

“I don’t know,” he says.

We fell asleep later that night. Suddenly, the police barge into our house and take us to a different movie set. 

“Not this again,” we all say.  They don’t erase our memories this time or turn us into different people. They just interview us. 

“Where’s that Mia fella?” 

“Oh I’ll get her,” I say.

They put us into a James Bond movie. Then we get put in a maze and turn back to our other-selves. We learn that the name of my mom’s elf persona is Michelle. 

Suddenly, we all fall asleep and I wake up back in my cabin. It turns out none of that happened. I try to go back to the biome that I thought I unlocked, but I guess I never actually knew how to. 

A plane crashes into the box. That’s when we realize this is how the Over People bring people into this place. 

Rick was brought in by a car crash that made him lose his memory, and I was brought in by crashing my motorcycle. Then I go to the desert biome and put in a passcode to try and open it: Car Crash, Motorcycle Crash, Plane Crash. Surprisingly, it opens. I check to see if I’m dreaming. 

Everyone sprints out, leaving everything behind. I realize Oliver is actually not my dad, Mia is just an elf, Rick is a friend, and Michelle isn’t even real. 

Oliver catches up to me. 

“Nice job, dude,” he says.

For the first twenty minutes, everything is normal. Then, the sun starts beaming on us. Since the Pink Elves run way too fast, they run into quicksand. Then, there’s a sandstorm, and in the middle of it, Jake realizes that we will have to stop for the night. 

At night, we hear something that sounds like laughter. When we go outside, there is a pack of hyenas trying to eat our sandwiches. Then, we set off in the middle of the night. Jake knows that it would be more dangerous and tough to get through this. When it gets really dark, we still keep moving. Then, we meet different elves. They look exactly like us. 

Jake asks their leader, “Who are you?” 

“We came from a box with ten biomes,” they say.

“Wait, but we’re coming from a box too,” Jake replies. 

“So there’s two boxes?” everyone says. 

“Our elves can fly, can run more than 120 miles an hour, and the elves used to be able to teleport,” the leader says.

“No way! Same for us.”

Then we realize that if we keep on walking straight, each group will end up in each other’s boxes. So we turn the other way. We see something in the distance. We get closer and find a third box. 

“There must be a million boxes!” I say.

Then, we hear a voice that sounds like the Over People. The voice says, “Yes, this is the Over People. We have come here to trap you elves because you have all caught a virus. It is called ‘Elfatopia.’ It makes you turn into an elf so we trapped you. If you were in the real world, you would have lived with humans and a war would have started between you.”

Chapter 5

We walk for what feels like a trillion years. Then, we think we see something. We aren’t very surprised because we’ve already seen, like, fifty boxes. This is different. It is a shiny black building that looks like a lab. 

We slam on the door three times and yell, “FBI, open up!!!”

The door opens and we all barge through, breaking every single thing they have. We go out the front door. 

“Looks like we’re here,” Jake says. 

“Well, I guess we’re elves forever,” Mia says.

THE END                    

Black

Black is lifeless, death. 

Black tastes like chocolate, but also sour and disgusting. 

Black is like a wither and its rose. 

Black is like death and its stench. 

Black makes the loud spooky noises of a cave. 

Black is also the darkness of that cave. 

Black feels cold and dark. 

Black is as tough as sandpaper. 

Black is lifeless, death. 

Flee From the Fur

Once, there was a girl named Izumi, and she was an orphan. She missed her parents a lot, and she had only one thing left of them: an emerald ring. Her parents had told her that it would lead her to her freedom, but for the past four years, she had been living on the side of the road, and nothing good ever happened to her.

Chapter 1

It was another day on the side of the road, and Izumi was sitting there practicing her guitar so she could earn money to at least eat some food. She was trying to perfect a song when a cat came and sat down right next to her. She didn’t notice it until she came back from getting food.

“Meoow.”

Izumi looked down and saw the cat. It mewed again. It must be hungry! Izumi thought. She sat down and gave it some ham from her sandwich. It ate like it hadn’t had food in months! It does look very skinny, she thought. She went back to practicing her guitar.

The cat came to visit every day, and then, one day when Izumi had enough money, she bought a little float and a blanket to sleep on. That night, she let her cat sleep on the float with her. The cat—which she had named Jiji—went to sleep right away, but Izumi stayed up for a while thinking about if anything good would happen to her or if the cat could help her. She decided to think about that in the morning and sleep for now.

Chapter 2

Izumi woke up to the sound of loud car engines—they were louder than usual, and the cars were bigger than usual too!

“Wait, maybe it’s not the cars or their engines, maybe it’s…” She looked at her hands, but instead of hands, they were paws! Jet black paws! She looked in a little mirror that she had bought and saw that she had a cat’s face. She stepped back a little to see her full body, and when she looked she nearly fainted! She was a jet-black cat with bright blue eyes! She looked to her left and saw Jiji. She ran over to Jiji and asked why she was a cat.

“When you slept with me, the emerald ring was touching you and me. That emerald ring is not an ordinary ring, it’s a special ring that can turn you into a cat when it’s touching both you and another cat,” Jiji replied. 

“Yeah, but is there a way to change me back into a human?” Izumi asked. 

“You have to go to the Lord of the Cats, and there she will give you the answer to change back into a human. I do not know the answer to that, but I will help you reach her,” said Jiji. 

“Ok, but can we please go now? The cars are loud!” Izumi said.

“Well if you want to get away from the noise follow me!” Jiji yelled. She ran toward some bushes, waiting for Izumi to follow her. Izumi caught up to her and followed her through the bushes. 

Chapter 3

“How much longer?” Izumi complained.

“We’re almost there! Now chill out!” Jiji said impatiently. When they finally reached their destination, Izumi was shocked. Right in front of her, there was the biggest tree she has ever seen, and right in the middle of it was a big glowing stone. 

Jiji caught her looking at it and said, “That’s where the Lord of the Cats lives. It looks easy to get to, but trust me it’s hard.” 

“Why’s it hard?” Izumi asked. 

“Because, one: there are a ton of vines. And two: there are a bunch of bodyguards inside the stone and outside,” Jiji explained. 

“But I don’t see anyone,” Izumi said, confused. 

“That’s because they’re invisible.”

“WHAT?! How are we supposed to get past them!?”

“We’ll have to figure out a plan, dummy!”

“Riiight. So what’s the plan?” 

“I can’t think of a plan that quickly!” Jiji said angrily.

“Ok, so can we think of a plan?!”

“I thought you were nice!”

“I am just freaked out because I’m a cat!” While they were arguing a tall, big, gray, poofy cat stood there watching them fight. They clearly didn’t see him. 

“Ahem.” 

“Ahhhhh!!!” Jiji and Izumi screamed together.

“Oh, it’s just you,” said Jiji.

“Who’s he?” whispered Izumi.

“He’s my friend HairBall,” Jiji responded.

“Ok.”

“Can you help us?” Jiji pleaded, “Pleeease?”

The gray cat finally spoke. “Ok, ok, what do you want?”

“My friend here,” Jiji nudged Izumi, “got turned into a cat accidentally and needs to get turned back, but the only person that knows how to do that is The Lord of the Cats.” 

“So you want to sneak into the stone?” HairBall questioned.

“It’s for a good reason!” Jiji said.

“I didn’t say anything!”

“Ok but pleease??”

“FINE!”

“Uh, helloo, I exist,” Izumi said. 

“Sorry, I forgot about you,” Jiji said in a guilty voice.

“Yeah, no kidding.”

“Ok, let’s just make the plan,” Jiji said.

Chapter 4

It took a while for them to make a plan, but they finally did it. They planned to get some invisibility potion just in case. Then, they got some friends to distract the guards, and Hairball, Izumi, and Jiji snuck into the stone. What they didn’t know was that there was a narrow cliff that they had to go on to get to the stone. Their plan worked to get past the guards, but then when they came upon the cliff, they didn’t know what to do! They decided to hold onto the wall going in a single file line with Izumi in front. Izumi accidentally stepped a little too close to the edge where there was a loose rock. She slipped, but luckily she caught onto one of the rocks on the edge and pulled herself up. From then on, they stayed as close as they could to the wall.

Chapter 5

“Shhh!”

“No, you shh!”

The three cats had successfully snuck into the stone. 

“WOW!” they all said together. It glowed not too bright, but it was amazing. 

“What are you doing here?!” boomed a voice behind them.

They turned around to see the Lord of the Cats towering above them. She looked like a humongous calico cat. 

“We just wanted to know how to change me back into a human,” Izumi squeaked. 

“Ohh yeah, about that…” the Lord of the Cats said. 

“What, you know how to change me back?” Izumi asked hopefully.

“Umm, you can’t,” the Lord of the Cats said slowly.

“What do you mean?” Izumi asked in a scared voice.

“You can’t change back into a human.”

Izumi started shaking, then couldn’t hold it in and just let it out. She started crying so hard. Jiji and Hairball tried to comfort her, but she knew she couldn’t change back into a human and that was the end of her human life.

Ruby the Red Dragon

Ruby was born right by a volcano. When her egg cracked open, her mother and father weren’t there. As Ruby got older, she taught herself how to stay safe and gather food by herself. 

One day, she was flying around the island and found a castle in the clouds that looked like it was abandoned. She drew near to the castle, and suddenly, a group of knights came out screaming, “Charge!” They shot arrows at her but missed. They threw cannons and anything they could, but still, they didn’t have good aim at Ruby. Somehow, even though she wasn’t doing anything, Ruby started to feel drowsy and sleepy. Everything went black in her mind.

When Ruby woke up, the sun was not out and it was dark. She had been carried to the dungeons of the castle. Ruby shot fire out of her nostrils, but the knights didn’t seem to notice. She shouted as loud as she could, but the knights still didn’t do anything. 

Once she got placed with the other dragons in her cell, in dragon language they asked each other’s names. The first 45 seconds they got to know each other, they immediately knew they were going to be best friends. One of the dragons was named Sapphire, another one named Pearl, and one named Opal. 

Minutes turned into hours, hours turned into days, days turned into months, and months turned into years. All that time, the dragons made a plan to escape. 

One night, at 11:59 PM, they were prepared to break open their cells as quietly as they could. But the fire ended up blasting the castle in two pieces, leaving a cloud. 

As it did so, the dragons soared high to the cloud that the ancient castle was sitting on for millions of years.

The Spoiled Rich Brat

May 27

Dear diary,

My name is Chloe. My dad is REALLY rich. I can get ANYTHING I want. I bet my friends are so jealous!!! I used to have a lot of friends, but now I only have 6 because they said I was too sassy and boastful. But I don’t really care anyway because the friends I have now are WAYYY better. One day at school, there was a new girl. She looked poor, so I decided to tease her. So I told my friends, “We have to make a list of things to tease her with.”

We did, but we had to buy some things that were pretty expensive. So, of course, I asked my dad for some money! He said, “Of course,” and handed me 2,000 dollars. And that was the exact amount we needed! I said thanks and headed out the door.

We went to the local shopping market to buy the stuff we needed, like trash cans, tripwire, and a lot more. My dad was friends with the manager, Bob, so once he saw my friends and me he said, “What would you like today ma’am?” 

I said all the things we needed, and he said those things were out of stock. So I screamed, “Get me those things right now, before I have to call my dad!”

He said, “Ok, ok, ma’am,” and went to the warehouse to search for the things. He came back 10 minutes later and said, “I am so sorry but there is nothing I can do.”

So I screamed again and said, “You know that this is the WORST  market I have ever been to, and I am going to give this store the WORST review!!” 

I think he got mad too, so he screamed back, “Well, I’m gonna call your dad and tell him about you!”

My friends tried to calm me down, so I screamed one last time, “I DON’T CARE!” and stomped out the door.

xx

Chloe

May 27

Dear diary,

“Chloe, I need to have a talk with you!” my dad called.

So I said, “Yes,” in my very best daughter’s voice.

Then he opened the door. I wondered what he would talk about, like would I get some extra allowance, or would I get another dog to go with my other 2 Pomeranians? But then he said, “Chloe, I am very disappointed in you. Yesterday I got a call from Bob, and he said you were very rude.”

I thought, “Oh no!” Not this AGAIN!

And then he continued, “Bob told me you said his market was the worst store you had been to, is that right?”

“Uhhh…”

He started to yell, “CHLOE, YOU ARE IN BIG TROUBLE!”

And I decided that from that day, I would never talk to him ever again.

xx

Chloe

Dear diary,

Now I have to make a different plan since, you know… So I called my friends over to hang out and make a new plan. We decided to trip that poor girl from school and push her when there weren’t any teachers around. So we tried our plan and it worked. But summer break came quickly. So I said bye to my friends and walked out of school.

xx

Chloe

Dear diary,          

This summer break was the best break ever! We stayed at a resort in Hawaii and went and saw volcanoes erupting. Then we went to Colorado to a ski resort, and I thought that was even better. We went skiing on the Black Diamond, and I fell and twisted my ankle so I said, “I quit,”  and went back to the stupid lodge. When I got back to school, some kid pointed at me with my crutches. He also started laughing. So I said back to them, “Your families are probably poor as  dirt!” The truth is, basically money is all I care about. (Me in my head yelling, MONEY$$$$ 4 LIFE!)

I had to wear those AWFUL crutches for 8 weeks!!! Almost every person I walked past turned their head and looked at me. Another fact about me is that I like attention, but not this kind. Those 8 weeks were so painful and embarrassing, but at least I made it through. When I got to return those crutches I was so happy!! I yelled and screamed and shouted. My dad told me to calm down. I was about to say something, but then I remembered that I wouldn’t talk to him.

xx

Chloe

June 2

Dear diary,

Ok, so today I went to our attic to look for cool things to play with. While I was looking through some boxes, I found a diary. It looked really old and had the prettiest lace covering the edges. But this is the part I can’t believe. It said Sophie on it, and that was my mother’s name (at least I’m pretty sure). I spent the rest of the day thinking about the diary I  found and if I should ask Dad because I still am not talking to him. I finally made up my mind and went up to him. This is how it went:

“Dad? I wanted to ask if Mom wrote in diaries.” 

His answer was, “Yeah, she did, but let’s not talk about that.” He sounded sad when he said that.

So I walked back to my room. In my brain, I thought, “Wait, where is my mom? Where did she go? Did she leave us?”

That day I had so many thoughts swirling in my head. I was so tired so I went to bed.

TO BE CONTINUED…

The Seal

Once upon a time, there was a seal that wanted to go to the forest. The seal was one year old. He asked his mom if he could go to the forest. His mother said he could not go because he needed to be in the water. The seal grew and grew. Years passed, and he got upset and wanted to make a plan to go to the forest. He swam and swam. He even swam where he had never been before. He was swimming so fast that lost his hat and was too tired to even keep swimming. Then he saw a sign that said yard sale. So when he got his energy, he went to the yard sale. He found a glass container and a motor at the yard sale. Then he filled the tank with water and taped the motor to it. He hopped in the tank, and he went to the forest sitting in the tank at the end.

The End

The Secret of the World

Intro

The dark and swervy hallways led to the one room that controlled everything. The walls of the hallways were covered in dark granite and had long, steep stairs. The man got to the bottom of the stairs, and he opened the door to see that the queen was about to leave.

“What are you doing, Your Royal Highness?”

“Well, Mr. Dompettle, I am seeing my sister. She is towards the end. Why are you here?”

“Well mama, it is my job to do this. I must feed the prisoners.” 

Mr. Dompettle kept walking down the hall, placing a bowl of food in the compartment of every prisoner. Some of the prisoners complained that they needed more food and some tried to grab Mr. Dompettle by the jacket.

“Man, I hate my job. But I get to work for the queen. Not everyone can say that. “

When he got to the queen’s sister’s jail cell, she grabbed him by the coat. She told him a secret that her sister told her. It was too crazy for Mr. Dompettle to even believe. She let him go forcefully and said, “Don’t just stand there! Give me my food!”

With Mr. Dompettle’s shaking hand, he handed her a bowl of slush and went on. In the back of his head, he thought of what the queen’s sister told him. He had to figure out what it meant because all she said was a passage or poem.

Chapter 1: The Secret 

That morning, Mr. Dompettle woke up and he raced out of his cabin in the woods. He was late for work, so when he got on the bus, he told the driver, “Speed up! I work for the queen, and I have never been late one day of my life!” 

The bus driver sped up and everyone in the bus started screaming. Mr. Dompettle said the same thing that he said to the driver and everyone quieted down.

Finally, he got to the palace and ran to the changing quarters to get his uniform. When Mr. Dompettle finished changing, he ran up the stairs. Finally, he got to the room and lined up right as the queen approached the door. She rushed in and assigned everyone to their quarters besides Mr. Dompettle. 

“I know that you were running late, and that is okay, but I also know that my sister told you the secret. Don’t tell anyone, your life depends on it!” said the queen in a harsh voice. “Now go and feed my prisoners.” 

“Yes, Your Majesty.” 

Mr. Dompettle walked down the steep stairs with granite walls and started giving out the bowls of food. The prisoners did the usual and tried to grab Mr. Dompettle’s jacket, complaining about the lack of food. When he got to the queen’s sister’s chamber, she was dead. Mr. Dompettle ran back up to the queen’s room and said, “Your Majesty, your sister… Your sister… She is dead.” 

The queen rushed to the bottom of the palace, ran down the stairs with the granite walls, and went to her sister’s jail cell. Indeed, she was dead. There was a bit of thought that Mr. Dompettle killed her, but she reconsidered her thoughts and said, “Mr. Dompettle has been the most loyal; he couldn’t have killed her.”

“Take my sister out of her jail cell and bury her. Make someone make a stone. I don’t care who it is, it just needs to be magnificent,” boomed the queen. 

Mr. Dompettle helped take the queen’s sister out of her jail cell. The queen ran up the stairs with the granite walls and locked herself in her room. She got no sleep that night and just sat in her room and cried. Even though her sister had killed people, the queen was still heartbroken. She and her sister had always gotten along, but one day, they’d gotten in a huge fight that had made the queen’s entire family go against her sister. Then, the next day, she ran away. 

“WHY WASN’T IT ME!” yelled the queen.

That night in his cabin, Mr. Dompettle sat down at his table and wrote the very words that the queen’s sister told him. “The dragon’s slay, a heart of gold, a gem of beauty.” He wrote those very words on his last piece of paper and hid it in his coat. He would take it everywhere with him, so the secret wouldn’t come out.  

“The dragon’s slay, a heart of gold, a gem of beauty.” Mr. Dompettle repeated that over and over but still had no idea what it meant. 

Now one of the people that could have fixed the problem was dead, and the others didn’t even know that there was a problem. The dragon needed to be slayed, they needed a heart of gold, and they needed a gem of beauty to bring back the queen’s sister, Diana.

“Good luck, my peasants,”  said the strange voice.

Chapter 2: The stranger

Mr. Dompettle woke up, took the bus to the palace, ran downstairs and into the changing quarters, walked up the stairs, and went into the room and lined up. The queen did the same thing as yesterday: she assigned everyone besides Mr. Dompettle. 

“Mr. Dompettle, what did my sister tell you?”

“The dragon’s slay, a heart of gold, a gem of beauty,” they said together. 

Right then and there, there was a knock at the door of the palace that startled both of them. The queen told the guards that she would open the door and for them to go to their quarters, so they did. Now, she opened the door with a creak, and there was a beautiful lady with a bright red cape and a dark black suit. The beautiful lady repeated the queen’s secret in her ears and said, “You must slay the dragon in the woods, find a heart of gold, and get the gem of the land. The biggest gem in the land is a red ruby. Then, your sister will come back to life.”

The queen and Mr. Dompettle couldn’t ask for help. No one could know about this. Now, the two had to get cool suits and weapons. But it was late, so they both had to go home and be careful before they went.

“Goodnight, my queen,” said young Mr. Dompettle. 

“Goodnight, Mr. Dompettle,” said the queen.

Mr. Dompettle went home that night and had a sword and gun on the table. If there were a dragon out there, no one knew where it was. If it were in the woods, he had to be prepared.     

To be continued… 

Darkness Rises

An hour before dawn, a mysterious creature was spotted in Roseville Park in Hollywood, California. The police department said it was about nine feet tall. The police also spotted a gem that the creature was holding during the video that they took. People said that it belonged in a museum and that it was worth one million dollars.

“Someone must retrieve this gem.”  

When Jacob woke up with a start, there were so many things stuck in his mind:

  1. The incident at Roseville Park.
  2. Problems at home.

I mean seriously, it’s not easy to move into a new house, he thought.

As Jacob was walking to his friend Astor’s house, he could hear the loud thunder going: 

Boom! Boom! Boom! 

When Jacob arrived, he told Astor about the gem and that they could get rewarded one million dollars by finding it. 

“We’re going to be rich!” they said together in excitement. 

“I’ll see you at 1:10 am, that’s when we’re out.”

“Ok, Astor. First stop: 42nd street.”

As Jacob and Astor entered the dark house, a loud creeeak sound filled the hallway. As they crept along the stairs, a foot-sized claw pierced through the door.

Jacob and Astor rushed towards the door, and inside they caught a glimpse of a nine-foot monster carrying a two-foot gem. Jacob and Astor tried to snatch the gem from the monster, but it was too late. The monster had vanished…

***

After discussing the issue for a long time, Jacob and Astor finally thought of a plan to capture the monster and retrieve the gem. They programmed a weapon to trap the monster in a jar that would give it an electrical shock through its nervous system and put the monster to sleep. After the monster was captured, they would return the gem to the museum. 

Once it was dark, they put their plan into action. As they walked, they discussed how the monster must have teleported from California to New York. 

They came to a stop. The old oak door opened slightly, and they stepped inside and the old carpet on the floor evaporated. While they were checking downstairs, they heard a loud shriek coming from upstairs on the top floor. As they stepped into the dirty elevator, the noise became louder and louder until… Ding dong! The elevator door opened. 

Standing in front of them was the nine-foot monster carrying a two-foot gem. They aimed the weapon towards the creature’s heart and fired. It hit the monster, and the monster started twitching. Suddenly, it was trapped in an electrical jar which put it to sleep.

“Our plan worked!” screamed Jacob and Astor.
As they headed back towards the museum, the ominous clouds changed into white and fluffy clouds. When they entered the museum, the manager thanked them for their perseverance and bravery. Jacob and Astor handed him the gem, and the museum locked the monster’s jar in a cell, so the monster could never get out. They had saved the world! 

***

Epilogue

Then, a black hellhound appeared from the shadows.

“Darkness will return,” he said, and everything turned dark… 

1888

I was born in 1888. My family was dead. We had been investigating some bird, hippopotamus and t-rex when we heard a rumble. Then a volcano erupted and lots of lava was falling down.  It was big. There was thunder on the volcano and that was what was making it erupt. My family had been running back to our home but there was too much lava. So I hid under a big leaf and my mom and my sister and my dad were running to our home, but they all got caught and roasted by the volcano. 

So after all the eruption, I took them to the military and dug them graves and put a stone on them. I was homeless, but I wasn’t really, because I had my own house. I was hungry and then I saw the secret room where there were lots of fishing poles and spam. So I decided to go fishing. I cooked them up because I was over twenty (I was twenty one). Then I got some flaming rocks and I got my gloves and I picked up the rocks. I threw them at the graveyard. After I threw them, it started raining. The graveyard was rumbling. All of the dead people were coming up, and I saw they were zombies. There were only, like, people eaters. I ran and I saw my little four-year-old brother. He started chasing me. I saw my sister chasing another person. Then I threw a rock at my dad’s grave stone and he became a flaming zombie. 

I went to the house, and it was full of zombies. I dodged all of the zombies and ran to Dad’s secret room. There were a lot of zombies there. In the room, there were a lot of guns. I chose the mini gun and started shooting the zombies. And then I ran out of the bullets, so I chose two different weapons: the pistol and the sniper. I didn’t want to shoot my family, but I had to, because if they were zombies, they were of no use. 

I shot the flaming zombie, who was my dad. Then I shot my own little brother, then I shot my mom, then the pistol ran out of ammo so I used the sniper. Then there were only fifty zombies on my watch. The watch tells me how many people there are. There were actually 201 people, but after I shot the last person, I was all alone. I decided to live with my friend, the t-rex. His name was T-rex. Then there was lots of dead zombie flesh, but I told the t-rex not to touch it. The t-rex’s friend came, and after I was done playing with my friend, I went to the water. 

I found my friend, Shark. I saw a lot of fish. I asked Shark to kill all of those fish because I was hungry and had no food. I had all of these friends. I saw a traveler. He had a detective hat and sunglasses. He had long pants and a short t-shirt. I asked if I could live with him, and he said yes. 

When we got to his home, we lived together. After a while, he asked if I wanted some hot chocolate. I said I wanted a frozen hot chocolate and he gave me one. 

The problem was that the traveler was a werewolf. Today it was a full moon and I saw that he went in the garden. Then I followed him without getting caught, and then he looked at the full moon. Then there was a lot of fur, and then he started to grow more fur, and then he turned around and then he lived on the farm, so he ate all the pigs and the cows and the chickens and then he was going after me. And then I went back to bed and then he left the house. He didn’t sleep, he just stayed on the farm and stared at the full moon until it was the morning. Then he turned back into a person and I didn’t say that I sneaked out because I didn’t want him to know that I sneaked. 

After nine days, there was a lot of birds that I didn’t know, and then there were lots of people. Then I brought fish from the old ages and the traveler cooked it for me and then I ate it. He said at the next full moon, he would be having werewolf babies. After the full night, I saw a lot of little furry things, and those were like babies. They all followed the werewolf and they all turned into a werewolf. There were more people driving, and they all went for him the car. And then he was going for the person and then ate him up, and I was so terrified that I went back to bed and I didn’t sleep, I just searched up with my computer for werewolves. Then I saw that they eat only person meat. I thought he was going to go for me, but when he saw me, he didn’t run for me, he just went for all the animals. Then I researched: does a werewolf have babies? And they said: yes, and there were more babies until they died.  

Then I went to the garden. Then the chickens were getting more fur and laying more eggs. Then I ran away from the house and I lived with my friends. Then a big tsunami came. It flooded everything, and after a few minutes, the volcano erupted. Then I went to live in the arctic. It was too cold there so I ran to live in the desert, but it was too hot there so I decided to live in New York. And then I got through the pipe in New York. I went to someone else’s house and then I went through the tunnel and then I ran inside it and I saw a lot of scorpions. I got bitten by one and I fell down, and after a few days, I woke up and I was hungry. So I decided to eat the scorpions, but I needed a cooking place. I had an idea. So I brought all my scorpions to the volcano and cooked them. I chopped down the scorpion’s tail. I ate them and they were yummy, and there were a lot of enemies so I bit them and they got poisoned to death. I ate so many of them. But I got a poison bite because there were a lot of animals, and I was about to cook them but they attacked and then I just put it in my mouth so they didn’t eat it. The scorpion just went down to my stomach and I just bit them and they made a weird sound so I knew they were poisoned. And that’s how I died.

Then, they got poisoned and they died, and one by one I killed them, and then I saw there was a school of fish and I bit all of them and got an offense thing and a defense thing and then I looked and saw a big T-Rex and I bit them. It did no damage and I asked my friends to help so we defeated them and ate them for lunch.

So they ate him for lunch and I felt something weird in my stomach and then I almost died and then he said that he got poisoned, and then he bit him a lot and did poison and ate him and that’s how I got poisoned back.

And then he said that something was wrong with what he ate, and then he said he was born in 1888 and ate a lot of dinosaurs but the last one was really bad for his environment and health. Then I went to a doctor for about two weeks, who said I could go back when the time came. He said that I would at least need to avoid meat for two years and for now, I needed to eat vegetables. Then I said to myself that I could eat one little bite of meat. Then I ate it, and it had only been just one year, and I didn’t remember the taste but then I did! Then I went back to the doctor because I felt so sick and he asked if I had eaten meat. I said yes and he said no meat for 9 years. I didn’t eat meat for 8 years, but I got sick of vegetables, so after 9 years I went back to the doctor and then he said I could eat meat and then I went crazy on meat and then I ate a lot of meat from supermarkets. I didn’t buy them, I just stole them because I had no money.

After, I got really sick, then I went back to the doctors. He said I needed to go into a coma for about 30 years. I said to myself I thought I was going to die! Then after 30 years, I was about 40 years old and then I started cooking for myself and making my own money. I got a bank account and I got more money to buy more stocks to get more money. Then I got really tired of just waiting for money so I decided to play video games. I bought a PS5 and played the game like crazy. I played a Mario game and completed all the levels, so I played a different game and it was called rocket launch and I was so good at it and then I got the ball. I kept scoring and and got a lot of robots and then I got new clothes. I got socks, I got pants, and soon, my stock was going up soooo much because people were trading me and I was putting stuff in my stock.

Soon, I was a trillionaire and I went to a millionaire and then I bought lots of stuff, so I had thousands of dollars. I stopped wasting money and waited for me to be a millionaire and I went crazy on money now. I stopped eating meat and started getting healthy stuff like vegetables and fruits. I ate two snacks and three meals every day, and became the healthiest and richest boy in the world and then I was a nine millionaire. I was so crazy that I thought of breaking more games and then I broke all the games that I know so I started to install games that I didn’t know. There were so little games that I didn’t know about. Then I got a YouTube premium that had no ads and got new games that had no ads. Then, in one day, I got millions and millions of dollars and became the richest boy and became so curious to see who was giving me this money. I went to my old house and there was so much dust. I went to my room and saw the same lady giving me all the money and then I knew who she was. It was my grandma who almost died in a coma because someone pushed her and she almost fell 30 feet. She was in a coma still and donating all the money she had and now she had $9, but now $8, and then she died of a coma and she actually donated $1 to me, that was crazy. 

I went to college, and then after it became too hard, I went to elementary school. I went to meet my new friends and they were AJ, Michael, Andrea, Emily, Ryan, and Neil, and my first teacher was Mr. Granite. He was suspicious, so I followed him and I bought a new mansion near my school and then I was so suspicious of him. And then I followed him some more and then I decided I would go with my friends Neil, Michael, and Ryan, so I went with them.

We couldn’t find him in his house but we found him building a rocket ship and the garage door opened and he looked at us and then AJ and I didn’t know what to say. Then AJ finally said, “Freeze, dirtbag!”

Then Mr. Granite put his arms up in the air but then put them down because we did not have any weapons. And then we did elementary school, and then I got a new teacher when I was in 3rd grade. Then, on Friday, we were going to switch to our 3rd grade class and Mr. Granite was going to take off Friday at 2:00 PM. We went there just in time.

All of us played together and then we shook our heads. Andrea didn’t like it so Emily and Andrea stayed there. We got a new substitute teacher and I thought that was our teacher, so they waited for us and he was flying in the room wearing a red cape and then he fell down. He was lying down and then he brought rats because he was pretending to be a superhero, and then he showed it to everyone and then Emily was screaming and running out of the room.

What a crybaby, I thought.

And then, in 4th grade, we got a new substitute teacher instead of Mr. Cooper. Then we got a new substitute teacher and her name was Ms. Mary. And then she was going to get married to Mr. Tommy. And then she was making black makeup on her eyelids and then she was wearing everything black, and then Ms. Mary told us that she was from England and she did snorkeling and also there was a lot about hot dogs.

Then, at lunchtime, AJ said, “Ms. Mary is scary.” After AJ said that, he said that she lived in a cave and hung upside down. AJ said she was a vampire and then Emily said,

“We need to do something!” And then she ran out of the room.

What a crybaby, AJ thought.

And then Andrea said, “Don’t try to scare Emily.”

And then, when we got back, someone was climbing in the roof and I bet that it was Mr. Tommy. Then he said, “Will you marry me?”

Ms. Mary said excitedly, “Yes!”

And then they started smooching up until and after Mr. Tommy gave Ms. Mary a ring. AJ, Micheal, Ryan and I said that Ms. Mary probably tied up our real teacher on the railroad. “That happens all the time you know,” said AJ. And then they married and Mr. Klutz said Ms. Mary was his daughter. And then Michael, Andrea, Emily, Ryan, Neil, and I didn’t know that Mr. Klutz had a daughter but knew that he married a girl pig and that was the funniest thing in the history of the world. And then, after Mr. Tommy said that, he was starting a song about dirt and then we were going to go up for recess because the bell rang but we all snuck up on Ms. Mary and then they started smooching a million times and after that, they saw us and we ran out of the room. Thankfully, Ms. Mary did not say anything.  

After two weeks, we were going to 5th grade and then we got the same teacher but a new gym teacher and her name was Ms. Small. She was doing some juggling with nine balls and just shooting them up in the air and making all of them in the basketball hoop. Then she jumped on the trampoline and did a backflip and then got all those balls before they came down and shot the balls before they touched the ground. And then Michael, Ryan, AJ, and I were so confused that we laughed hard in confusion and then when she was done, we saw Ms. Small was very tall and her name should’ve been Ms. Tall instead of Ms. Small! Then she taught us to balance a feather with one finger and then she told us we had to juggle 10 balls in a row… It was so hard that I actually threw up and I got a headache. And when I got to Ms. Cooney’s office, our nurse told me that I had to go home. I thought I was happier than a panda eating 900 bamboo sticks.