While Ghosts Fly

‘Twas the night before Halloween

And all through the sky

Phantoms do soar

Both low and high

Pale as moonlight

Dusty as sand

Ancient as night

But cold as dead hands

Clear and transparent

Though they may be

They become no more than lost souls

On All Hallows’ Eve

Shooting shivers up my spine

Thy stolen spirits

Stench of evil 

Long lost time

Champion Island

“Then, the roof of the house flew off because of the tornado, and that’s how I got here. What is this place called?” I asked. 

He replied, “Oh, this place is Champion Island, where there are masters of different games, and there are teams that are trying to beat them.” 

I asked again, “Champion Island? Games? Masters? Teams? You are going way too quickly. I don’t even know your name.”

 He yelled, “My name is Kappa Kappa! Kappa Kappa Kappa!!!”

I replied, “Thank you. Now, please chill.”

Kappa told me that if I went straight, I would find the team selection area. There were four teams that were all colored coded. There was blue, red, green, and, lastly, yellow. So, I went and joined the red team because they were in the lead, and I wanted to win. They said that the skate championship would be first. They said that I would have to compete to see if I was worth it. The only clue we had was a riddle: I can be active but also asleep. When I am asleep, I don’t bother anyone, but when I am active, I cause destruction. What am I?

I yelled, “I know, it’s a volcano! I think we should go to the volcano.”

Two hours later, we saw a huge volcano with lava pooling down, oozing all over the floor. Just around it was a huge field with rocky spikes on it. Giants were warming up with a rugby ball.

“Wow, wait, this isn’t skating. This is RUGBY!” I said. 

“You’re here for the rugby championship,” said Kappa and the cats. “Ok, you go here.”

“Wait, what? Ugh, fine, ok, whaaat?!” I said. We were against the Giants. I didn’t sign up for this.

The game began. Wait, so I can’t pass to a teammate that’s in front of me. When the Giants came, they crashed into the floor, and it rumbled. I was feeling uneasy. I quickly realized there were two kinds of Giants: the kind that ran really slowly and the kind that ran really quickly. Ok, this one is slow, so let me juke this boy. Wait, he started gaining speed. Oh no, he’s fast! Just then, I stepped on something sharp, and I started sprinting. I looked down and saw a lightning bolt sticking out of my foot. Ow ow ow. Wait, I’m so fast! Wooooosh! Yay!

We won! Wait a minute, OMG! Yay, we got a scroll, let’s give it to Kappa boy. “Kappa boy, here’s a scroll,” I said. 

He replied with: “Kappa kappa kappa kappa kappa.”

Then I ran away, and I went to the second game. It was the skateboarding championship.  3… 2… 1… GO!

Hmm… A tea kettle. Five thousand points. FIVE THOUSAND! Okay, I’ll keep on finding the tea kettles. Ten, thirty, one-hundred, a thousand. It broke the record, and now, I was the champion of skateboarding! Even though I won this one, there were many others to come. I thought this one was the easiest, but I didn’t think the others would be that easy. I was so excited. I was ready to get off this island. 


A New Age

One day on earth in the Cretaceous Period, Commander Rocky was deep in his work. “Hmmm, what should I do with the incoming dinosaurs?” he said.

“I don’t know, sir. Maybe we should try to tam — ”

“NO! NOT THAT STUPID IDEA OF GETTING ALONG WITH THE DINOSAURS!” commander Rocky yelled. “Get out of my office NOW!”

Mr. Rocky ran away in fear. Mr. Rocky was commander Rocky’s son. Mr. Rocky was named Mr. Rocky for some reason even though he was 9. So let’s just call him Rocky for now.

Rocky ran into the woods to get away from his dad. He went so deep into it that he got into a clearing. In the clearing was the very first dinosaur ever to be discovered. Its name was The Dinosaurus Alpha. It was carnivorous and very dangerous but its appearance was simple! It had Large jaws, a head like a Tyrannosaurus, and a simple body. It was like a bigger and deadlier Tyrannosaurus. Rocky was amazed. He reached to pet it but thought again, What if it bites me? But at the same time, he was thinking about the coming of a new age! A new age where dinosaurs and cavemen would bond with each other. He thought about it for a while and thought, I need to tame the alpha if I want peace!

But it would be very hard to tame the dinosaur since it was one of the deadliest dinosaurs ever to live. But he had to try! Rocky went back home and set to work. He started making a saddle for riding the alpha and made some straps so the saddle didn’t fly off. He finally got the confidence to go back to the Dinosaurus Alpha. He ran through the woods and came to the clearing where the alpha was still sleeping. Rocky got some fish from out of a pond near him and dumped all of it next to the dinosaur. He waited and the dinosaur woke up! It yawned so loudly that Rocky thought it was about to kill him! 

The dinosaur stood up slowly. “AHHH!” Rocky yelled. The humongous dinosaur swallowed in one gulp. They stared at each other for a little while and the dinosaur gave Rocky a nice smile. I didn’t know dinosaurs could smile? Rocky thought.

Rocky kindly got him more fish and finally decided to name it! He named it “Jaws.” They were both very proud of the name. Somehow, Rocky heard a tiny voice in his head that said, “Thank you.”

Rocky yelped so hard that he may have broken his own eardrums. Then he realized that the dinosaur was trying to speak with him! He spoke back and somehow he understood! The alpha allowed Rocky to strap on the saddle and straps. Rocky got on and that’s where he started having the time of his life! Rocky started to ride the dinosaur and it felt so good! “YAHOOOOO!!!” screamed Rocky.

Rocky zoomed across the forest and explored places that he had never seen before! He saw great canyons, HUGE mountains, and beautiful oceans! Finally, he knew that he had work to do, so he said goodbye to Jaws and went back home. “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN??” yelled the commander.

“Uhhh, chopping wood… ?” murmured Rocky.

“I KNOW WHEN YOU ARE HIDING SOMETHING FROM ME!” yelled Commander Rocky. “Please son, I am just trying to keep you safe,” he said softly.

“Ok dad, I was riding a Dinosaur.”




The Doll

Chapter One

At Home

It was 8:00. It was time to sleep. Tomorrow was my birthday. My dad said that if I didn’t go to sleep, I would be tired and miss my birthday, so I went to sleep. 

The next morning was my birthday. My dad was about to leave when he saw me walking downstairs.

“Happy birthday, dear! Your family is going to be here in just a minute, so you’ve got to get ready,” he said.

“Ok, Dad. So you said that the family is going to be here in a bit?” I asked. 

“Yes. So you and your mother better get ready,” he replied.

My dad went to the store. My mom and I went upstairs to get ready.

Chapter Two

At the Store

My dad went to the store. This is what happened.

What doll should I buy for my daughter? There is an aisle for kids, he thought. Why don’t I go there? Those dolls look like old antiques. I will buy one of these for my daughter. I hope she will like it. I will buy other things for my daughter.

“Hello, I would like to buy this for my daughter’s birthday,” he said.

“It will be 135 dollars because it’s an old antique,” replied the cashier.

“Ok, I will buy it. But do you know why the antique is expensive?”

“Yes, sir. It is because in 1895 an inventor created this doll. One night, the creator was sleeping. The doll came alive and killed the creator.”

“Thank you, I guess.”

“Have a nice day.”

Chapter Three

At Home

“Hello dear, I brought you a present,” said my dad.

“Really, what is it?”

“You’re the one who has to find out.”

“It’s a doll! Thank you, Daddy!” 

“No problem. But it’s time for you to go to bed so you can be full of energy.”

“Ok! Good night.” 

I went to bed. I pulled my doll in my arms and fell asleep.

The doll woke up, ran downstairs, and grabbed a knife. It ran back up the stairs and woke me up.

“Why did you wake me up, Dad? You said that I would need some rest,” I said.

The last thing I said was, “HELP!”



Mr.’s Maid

A long time ago, there was a maid. She worked at a mansion, which meant that she had a lot of work to do. She would take care of a child because the parents didn’t care about their child. One day, the child saw the parents yelling and smacking the maid. When they saw the child watching, they started chasing the child. The child started running to her bedroom, but she ran straight to the dungeon. The parents stopped running to her and went back to the maid. The child thought that they were too tired or afraid of her, but she was wrong. 

A voice came from one of the jail cells that said, “Come my dear. I won’t do any harm. I won’t hurt you I promise.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. Now come to the darker side of the jail cell.”

She went to the other side of the cell and saw the maid down there. She had been down there for months, but the maid had been taking care of the child since she was born. She figured that the maid had an older sister. The older sister looked just like the maid that was taking care of the child. The child started screaming but no one came to help.

5 years later… 

Everyone in the mansion stopped thinking about the screaming from years ago. They also had a legend that whoever had a maid would be killed by their maid. 



Miss Doll

Long ago there was a doll named Miss Doll. She lived in a happy town with flowers and all that, but one night someone attacked the village. It was the doll creator. He was looking for Miss Doll. He left an hour later. Many people think that he didn’t find Miss Doll… but… they… were… wrong!

Many people were afraid of Miss Doll. But others were curious about her. One night, Miss Doll woke up. The doll was alive. Instead of purple eyes, she had red eyes. Instead of a pink dress, she had a white dress with stains on it. Instead of straight hair, she had curly, sharp hair. 

2 months later… 

Miss Doll grew up. She still had her outfit and stuff. The store was open and lots of people came in to see Miss Doll. So everyone searched for Miss Doll, but she was nowhere to be found.

2 days later… 

An old man was working on a new doll to replace Miss Doll. He brought it into the store. Her name was Miss Library. She was the prettiest doll anyone had ever seen. Every kid would fight over one of these dolls. The parents had to stop them. 

One day, a kid came to the store to find a doll to give to her sister to play with. She found Miss Doll laying in the corner of the store. No wonder no one could find it. 

She picked the doll up and said, “This doll will be perfect!”

She ran out of the store and gave her sister the doll.

Her sister said, “What kind of doll is this?! This doll looks so ugly!”

“Sorry! That was the only doll in the store. Miss Library sold out!”

“Fine. I will only keep this doll because that was the only one they had.”

It was night time and everyone was asleep. The doll woke up once again. The doll went upstairs and killed her older sister. The doll came back and started singing. It was like “a ring around the rosy,” but different. 

“Lalalala. Lalalala. Lalalala. Lalalala,” the doll sang over and over again. 

The doll reached the kitchen and grabbed a kitchen knife. The doll ran back upstairs and killed the little girl. Beware, if you find a doll named Miss Doll… DO NOT BUY IT!



The Mall

There was a mall that had everything you could ever need or want. Everyone would go there to see what they would have next. One night, a group of tennis players came and started stealing from the mall. 

A man in black came out of the shadows and said, “I have food for free.” 

The three boys started getting worried and ran out of the mall. They told their parents. The parents called the police. The man was never found. They figured that the man was not a man… He was a doll looking for someone to replace his body.

5 years later…

Everyone is now afraid of men, so all the men are in jail. They are testing them one by one. Some of them are positive and some are negative.


Lost in the Woods

Chapter 1: Nancy

Crack! The twig made a noise as I stepped on it in the dark, vast forest. 

My name is Nancy Simmons, and a week ago something very scary happened to me. I was taking a nature hike with my Girl Scout troop when we got separated and lost. A few hours later, everybody was found. Well, everybody but me. It wasn’t long until they called the cops. Soon, there was a search party out in the woods. But no one could find me. 

Meanwhile, I was searching through the woods, all tangled and messed up. I tried to work my phone, but only the highest quality software could give me service in the middle of nowhere. I stumbled through the forest until I was super hungry. I remembered I had a sandwich in my bag and sat down on a rock, turning my flashlight on to eat. 

Suddenly, I heard tiny noises chit-chattering in the woods. I stepped in and I saw one hundred purple, orange, and green-winged fairies talking. They froze and saw me standing there. They started forming a swarm. I yelled, “Hey! What are you doing? Ahhh!!! A SWARM OF FAIRIES!!!” They started jumping about and chasing me. 

Crack! The twig made a noise as I stepped on it in the dark. Which is how we got here. 

Suddenly I saw them again. 

Meanwhile, an inspector named Inspector Simmons was looking EVERYWHERE for me, because Inspector Simmons was my dad. We got along really well. He was like my best friend. Both of my parents were super worried and were doing everything they could to find me. 

I guess you are wondering what happened to me and the fairies, so I will tell you now. I stepped into the place where they were talking, and they all stared at me. I talked in what I hoped was a slow persuading voice and said, “Hi, my name is Nancy, and I am really lost in the forest. Could you give me directions out of the forest?” 

The fairies looked at one another, and after what seemed like forever, one of them said in a quiet voice, “We cannot give you directions out of the forest, but we can give you directions to some animals who might know the way out.”

Chapter 2: Inspector Simmons

My name is Inspector Simmons, and Nancy Simmons is my daughter. A week ago she got lost in the woods. Her mom and I were searching everywhere in the forest. We even had ten search parties out in the woods. We tried to call her but she didn’t answer. It seemed like she was avoiding us. But we knew that was not true. We looked everywhere, but even then she was not found. Later on, we realized that she went into the passageway on the magical side, where there were fairies, imaginary creatures, and talking animals. (Real animals, not imaginary ones — but imaginary creatures can talk too.) Going through that passageway was really hard and there were only two reasons why she would go in there. Number one: she knew where it was and went through there to take cover from a bear or other animal. Or number two: she was stumbling through the woods and accidentally went through the passageway. We did not know where it was, so our only hope was that the creatures in the magical land helped her out.

Chapter 3: The Settlement with the Animals

This is Nancy. As you can remember, the fairies told me that I should go to the animals. I followed their directions (which, by the way, were hard to understand because they spoke so quietly), and it led me to a bunch of animals. I asked them, “Hi, my name is Nancy, and the fairies told me you know the way out of the forest. I am really lost, so I was wondering if you could give me directions out of this forest?” 

They all stared at me in awe. Finally, after a long time (I was used to it by now), the gazelle, of all animals, spoke up. “We can help you but you will have to speak to our leader.” 

I wondered who their leader could be. Well, it was a baboon! I walked up to their “leader” and asked, “Could you give me instructions out of the forest?” 

He said with an accent, “Perhaps, but you will have to give us something we have never tried or seen before in return.” 

I thought to myself, what have they never tried or seen before? Suddenly, I had the answer. My sandwich! I knew that I was hungry, but the sooner I got out the sooner I had something better than a sandwich to eat. But first I had to clarify that they had never tried a sandwich before, so I asked, “Have you ever tried a sandwich before?” 

“A sand-what!?” the baboon said in the same accent. 

“A sandwich,” I said. 

I took out my sandwich and held it out of my hand. 

The baboon took a bite and said, “This is yummy!” in his accent. 

I said, “Please, now that I have given you something that you have never tried or seen before, tell me how I will get out!” 

The baboon said, “Very well, but it is very hard to get out since you have entered the magical side.” 

“The magical side?” I said. “What is the magical side?” 

“The magical side is the side where there are talking animals and fairies and imaginary creatures. You are the first human to stumble into our magical land,” the baboon said. 

I understood, so I asked how I would get out, but the baboon was too busy eating his — well, my — sandwich. I waited. He finished and told me. I wrote it all down in my handy-dandy notebook. Then I left. I now knew I had won the trust of the animals and the trust of the fairies. 

Chapter 4: The Try to Journey Back Home

I used the directions the baboon and the rest of the talking animals gave me. I looked around myself and counted the days I had been in the forest: two whole days. I started to panic. “What if I never go home?” I muttered under my breath. I kept following the directions, but it seemed to me that I was lost. Again. Around me, there was peace in the beautiful cotton candy sky. It had wisps of orange and yellow edged into the starry, bluish-black night sky. I soon realized that in the magical land, there was no moon, just stars, and that there was a faint white circle in the background. I also saw stars in the day, but I saw a faint fiery ball in the distance. So, I realized that in the magical land, stars are brighter than the sun and moon. 

I made a bed out of pine needles that I had collected on my try to journey back home and slept for the first time in two days. Suddenly, at about 4:00 AM, a bad thought hit me like a ton of bricks: what if I am here forever?

Chapter 5: Imaginary Creature Land

In the morning I started walking again. I walked for about two miles and paused to drink water. But when I started walking again, someone or something tapped my shoulder. It felt a little soft and furry, but I wouldn’t take any chances for it to fool me. 

“Dad? Mom? Lucy?” (Lucy is my Girl Scout counselor.) No one was there. I just kept walking. 

Again I felt that soft furry paw on my shoulder. I spun around quickly and saw… The cutest animal ever! It was soft and furry with legs and paws. It had two antlers and a nose. I quickly realized that it was probably the imaginary creature animal the baboon was talking about. 

“Imaginary creature? Hello? What’s your name?” I said. 

The imaginary creature looked impressed, probably because I knew what an imaginary creature was. It said, “My name is Proppy, and if you want I can take you to my imaginary creature land.” 

I said, “Okay, because I am really lost.” 

Proppy squealed, jumped, and hugged me. He took my hand and led me through a doorway that I swear was not there before. We went through the passageway and the imaginary creature land was super cool. Proppy chose where we wanted to go. He said there was a rainbow/candy island, a winter wonderland, a waterland, a fireland, and a regular land where all the imaginary creatures lived. The creatures could choose where they wanted to go without hustle or bustle. There was also a royal land where the queen lived. It seemed like every group had a leader but the fairies. 

He said we were going to the royal land to meet the queen, who he told me was super nice and would like me right away. So, he chose the royal land, and we went through a rainbow rollercoaster. At the end of the rainbow rollercoaster was a palace decorated with shells, gold, silver, marble, and more. It looked majestic and beautiful. We stopped in front of the castle and entered through two huge golden doors. 

Proppy went inside to talk to the guard, and after a while, we went inside. There stood two imaginary creatures that looked just like Proppy, except Proppy had white fur and they had blue. We went further inside, and we saw the queen. She was wearing a heavy velvet cape embroidered with golden designs. When she talked, it seemed as if birds were singing. 

Not wanting to waste any time I said, “Hi, I’m Nancy and — ” 

She interrupted me and said, “Well, hello! Can I do anything to make you feel more comfortable here at the castle?” 

I said, “Well actually, I was wondering if you could tell me how to get to the human world?” 

After a while, she responded, “No, but I know a wizard that can get you there.”

Frustrated, I muttered, “This is a wild goose chase.” 

The queen, not noticing a thing, said, “Stay here for the night, and Proppy can lead you to the wizard’s den in the morning.”

 The guards led us up to a bedroom that was very pretty. The covers of the bed were red and the pillows were red and embroidered gold like the queen’s cape. The floor was carpeted red velvet. The lampshade was white, and the doors were gold. The doors were labeled “Human Room Number Five,” so I realized this was a room they kept just for humans. So, they had to bring a smaller version of the bed for Proppy. They gave me a fresh set of clothes, and I used a bathroom labeled “Human Bathroom Number Four.” Then, Proppy and I fell asleep to dreams of the scary adventures that lay ahead of us.

Chapter 6: A Talk With a Wizard

Early in the morning, Proppy woke me up to have breakfast with the queen, who was now wearing a green velvet cape embroidered with a white tree. I was surprised when the waiter brought a plate with — how should I describe it? — FILLED with every color of fluffy, delicious marshmallows. 

The queen said, “Bring on the other appetizers!” 

Out came different types of pastries, juices, chocolates, and more. I ate so many of the “appetizers” that afterward, I had no room for the main course: different types of pies and cakes! Everybody who was sitting at the grand oa4k table was watching me with odd expressions on their faces. After dessert — er, I mean breakfast — was done, teary expressions appeared as the queen gave us instructions for our journey and our never-ending sweet filled bags. I thanked her endlessly, as Proppy ushered me out the door. I managed one final “bye” as the golden doors closed. 

Nothing exciting happened when we were walking, so let’s just fast forward to when we got there. We saw an old, spooky cottage with spiders on it and we entered. Inside was an old man with a long, blue velvet robe and a small wooden table which contained a very big book with gold designs and lettering. It seemed to be a spell book, and next to it was a crystal ball and a wand. He didn’t even look up as he said in a deep voice, “Hello, what brings you here to my old cottage?” 

By then he turned around and we could see his green eyes and sharp nose. I said confidently (even though I was scared of him), “We — I mean I — need instructions to get out of the woods. 

“Hmmm…” he murmured. “Tell me child, how long have you been here?” 

I said, “Three days,” without emotion. 

Proppy was not even next to me. He was too busy playing with the crystal ball.

“I can open a passageway right now to get you back. In fact, if you came to me sooner, you could have been home two days ago.” 

“So open it!” 

He briefly nodded, and Proppy said, “You can visit soon right?” 

“Yes, Proppy,” I said. “Thank you so much,” I said to the wizard. 

“Of course, my child,” he said. 

“Bye!” I said to Proppy. 

“Bye!” he said. I jumped through the magical passageway.

Chapter 7: A Happy Reunion

I suddenly appeared in the middle of a crowd of police officers. Must be a search party, I thought to myself. By that point, I had service and called Mom and Dad. 


“Mom! I made it out of the woods, and I’ll call a taxi to get home.” 

“Ok! You don’t know how much we were worrying.” 

I disconnected and hopped into a nearby taxi. Did I mention that I was in downtown New Jersey (that’s where the hiking trail was), and I live in Manhattan, so the drive was more like one hour? When the driver got to the stop, I would have given him a tip, but I didn’t have any money on me. 

I opened the door to my house and walked into the living room and… surprise! My Girl Scout counselor, troop, friends, and family were all crowded in our living room. They brought out the most beautiful cake I had ever seen. It had yellow designs all over it, and it had purple layers. On top were plastic letters that read, “Welcome Back Nancy!” We had so much fun. Some friends stayed over, but some friends stayed late and left. Like late. Like REALLY LATE. 

In the morning when everyone had left, I told my mom and dad all about my adventures over juice and toast. They were so proud of me! But here came the bad news: at dinner, I overheard Mom and Dad talking about going in there and capturing the magical creatures. I assumed, and still assume, they’re joking. 

The big takeaway I learned from this is that sometimes you can’t just rely on others. You have to take action. Like, if I waited for the police to find me, I would still be in the woods right now.

The End

Odd Aunt Lenore

Chapter 1

Aunt Lenore was a small old woman with a wobbly bun perched on her head. She had an owl named Agatha who was always perched on her shoulder. Aunt Lenore spent her days sewing and embroidering new clothes, which she sent to my family in big, bright pink boxes. Nobody knew what her house looked like. She hadn’t had visitors in 47 years, and her only electronic device was a phone bolted to the wall. Enough about her though. Let’s get to me.


“Miss Meadow! Miss Meadow!” the postman yelled. I looked up from my book, confused. Meadow was my rabbit. “You have a package from Miss Lenore!”

Why would my rabbit have a package? I ran down the stairs and opened the door. The postman was standing behind a huge box, red-faced and sweaty, probably from carrying that box all the way here.

“Thanks, Mr. Postman, but I’ll take it from here,” I said.

I lugged the box inside and got out some kitchen scissors. But when I tried to cut it open, the scissors bounced off the tape. It was like rubber. I examined the box from all angles. The only clue I found was a small label on one corner of the box. It read: xxxmailersxxx has sponsored this delivery. I peeled the label off and grabbed my bike out of the garage. Wheeling it out, I realized something. Wouldn’t my parents freak out if I wasn’t at home? I left a hastily scribbled note: gone out to mailers. Then, I hopped on my bike and began the 4-hour ride to the offices of the mailers who had sponsored the delivery of the package from my odd Aunt Lenore. 


“Name?” a grumpy old man asked when I walked through the door. “And business?”

I sighed. I had ridden all this way just to be interrogated by an old man. “My name is Nora Almentine, and I’m here to talk to the person who sponsored the delivery from Miss Lenore Almentine.”

“Eh? Related, are you?”

“Yes, now can I talk to the person who sponsored the delivery of Miss Lenore A?”

He chuckled. “I got us off track, didn’t I? Now, yes, I’ll take you to the office of Mr. Harold Druchins.”

He led me to a small room made entirely of glass. There was a table in the corner with a black swivel chair and a computer on top. Harold turned out to be a tall man with slicked black hair and a tuxedo. His eyes were ice blue, and his gaze made me want to run away and hide somewhere. But I couldn’t do that. He was my only chance of finding out how to open that box from Aunt Lenore, and then I could finally figure out what was in it!

“Hello Nora, I am Mister Harold L. Druchins. I have helped one thousand people with your situation, so I guarantee that I will not fail,” he said, sounding out all the syllables clearly.

“Ok,” I peeped. But I believed him. If he couldn’t open the box, I didn’t know who could.

Chapter 2

I told Harold everything. I told him about the box, how it was addressed to my rabbit, and how it wouldn’t open.

“Do you have a sample of the tape?” he asked. I shook my head. “All right then,” he sighed. “Meet me tomorrow at my office with a sample of the cardboard and of the tape. If you can’t get it off, just lug the whole box behind you.”

That night, I chopped and stabbed at the tape as hard as I could, but I couldn’t get the tape off. The cardboard, however, was easy. So the next day, I hopped on my bike and began the familiar ride to xxxmailersxxx. Harold was waiting for me there.

“Well?” he gruffed. I guess he wasn’t done with his coffee. Grown-ups are always grumpy until they finish their coffee.

“Um, I could cut the cardboard, but not the tape,” I murmured, my old nervousness under his gaze returning.

“Well? Why did you visit, you fool! Just slice off a side! Then the box is open! Boom, magic, and THEN YOU CAN LEAVE ME ALONE TO DRINK MY COFFEE!” he yelled. 

Knew it. He hadn’t finished his coffee. He turned and left me there. Alone. I shrugged it off, too excited to care that I was yelled at by an office worker.


When I got home, I immediately sliced off the side of the box. Inside was…

“Aunt Lenore!?” I gasped.

“Yes,” she said in a sly voice. “And don’t get all piffywiddles, I just came here to tell you a story.”

“What story?” I asked, suddenly wondering if everything I was told was a lie. Was the Earth really round? Were there really 50 states?

“My story,” she said.

“But– you can’t remember enough to tell stories!” I blurted.

“Yes I can,” she said.

“Why’d you address the package to my bunny?” I asked. Where were these questions even coming from?

“Well, Meadow was the only name that I could remember in this household! Funny, right?” She chuckled.

“Just tell the story. And stop stalling,” I growled.

She took a breath. “Ok. Here it is…” 

Chapter 3

“So, when I was little, I played video games all the time. When I was older, I bought a cottage. Now, they wanna demolish my cottage, and someone’s gotta stop them!!! THE END!” she said.

“That wasn’t much of a story…” I sighed.

“Well, does a story need to be long to be effective?” she asked sassily. “And next time, speak up! My ears aren’t in tip-top shape, y’know.”

I groaned. No one told me Aunt Lenore was so… well… sassy.

“Lady, did you just groan? Wow, you sure are a hard one to impress. Are you always a cloud like that on sunny days?” she snootily interrogated me.

I turned my nose away, to tell her that she wasn’t the only sassy one.

“All right, sassy niece, just tell me if you are gonna help me,” she smirked.

“What do you expect, Aunty L?” I asked her.

“Maybe… YES?” she pleaded.

“NO,” I snapped. “I’m sorry for what is going to happen to your house, but I really am not the person you want for this job. I’m clueless about clues, you see.”

“Oh, Nora,” Aunt Lenore snickered. “The only thing you need in this case is sass. There’s no clue finding, investigating, or any of that fifflesnorf. I’m only asking you to come to a hearing.”

“NO!” I yelled. “WHY CAN’T YOU HEAR ME THE FIRST TIME!? Look, I’m so, so sorry for what’s happening to your house, but I can’t!”

“Why? Is it that you just don’t want to help me? You’d rather just side with the public because it’d be too embarrassing to be on the side of your ol’ Aunt L?” she pressed.

Wow. This lady excels in sass. I knew there would only be one way out of this. Be on her side. “So, here’s the deal. I’m not siding with the public, because I think what they’re doing is awful. But I’m not siding with you, either. I didn’t even know this was happening until a couple of minutes ago! Do you expect me to just choose your side without information? How do I know you didn’t sign a contract and then turn on your word? But I’ll still be one of your biggest supporters, and I bet a lot of other kids will, even if we’re not in the room with you. The public made the wrong choice, and I fully disagree with that choice. So, I don’t know enough to fight in your favor, but I do know enough to side with you. So, if the public ever hears this: a citizen’s home is more important than a mall! Sure, a mall serves more people, but if you demolish a home, you’re making the citizen who lived there turn on you. I may not know why this is happening, but I do know it’s wrong. EXTREMELY wrong. So, if you make this decision, I will turn on you as well. Goodbye, government. I hope you make the right choice.” I said.

Aunt Lenore smirked. “Ha!” she laughed.

“What do you mean ‘ha’?” I asked.

But Aunt Lenore just kept on smirking, and then, FINALLY, she strolled right out of the door. 

Chapter 4

“Welcome to the morning news station! Today, we will be showing a LIVE hearing!” a way-too-cheery news reporter said gleefully into the screen. “Here we are, 9:35 AM, at the city’s town hall!”

The cameras showed a large, very fancy room, with one chair in the middle for my aunt Lenore. She walked in, with her gray hair half up, half down, little pink glasses perched on her nose, a pink tape recorder, pink jeans, and a white t-shirt.

“Hello, court,” she said, without a hint of sass. I was surprised. I didn’t know the lady could even breathe without sass.

“Hello,” the judge said. “Please sit in that chair, and state your argument.”

“People are on my side,” she simply said back. Hello again, Aunty L’s sass.

Then, she hit play on her tape recorder, and the speech I made yesterday was playing! ON TV! By the end, the judge was wiping her glassy eyes, and the court was flat-out bawling.

“Well, in — er by the order of the court, we demand people leave this lady’s house ALONE!” the judge yelled, her voice still wobbly.

I lept off of the couch and cheered. Everyone had been watching the hearing and had heard my voice. And my dad was bragging about it endlessly. He put together a parade barbecue party, all to celebrate how I stopped the demolition of the house. And “houses are more important than malls” became the town’s new motto. It was a day to remember. 

The Closet of Doom

Chapter 1: The Closet, Part 1

I walked down a dark hallway, barely able to make out a rectangular box, a closet. I heard whispers from inside.
I couldn’t make out what they were saying. It was an old-looking closet made of wood, and I had a mysterious urge to open it.

An icy hand touched my shirt when I woke up. I was lying in bed, staring up at a spider web in the corner of my bed. I looked down at my nightshirt to see that it was soaked and that the glass of water I had left there before I went to bed had spilled onto my shirt.
I looked at my alarm clock. 2:58 AM. Friday the 13th. August 2020.
I got up and looked out my window. I thought there was a strange rectangular box sitting in the backyard, and again I heard whispers like in my dream.
I had a strange urge to go downstairs, outback, and open the closet door.
Suddenly, I was no longer in control of my mind. I was looking through the eyes of a person I didn’t know, their memories. This person had stepped into the closet and was screaming as he fell into a dark hole. The words Friday the 13th. August 1913. 3:00 AM flashed into my head. Everything blacked out, and then it showed another person — a girl this time — looking out of the window of a room the same shape as mine but decorated differently from the same dark closet. She looked around, and I saw a calendar in her room.
It said: Friday 13th. August 1957. 63 years ago. An old-fashioned alarm clock in her room said it was exactly 3:00 AM. She stared at the closet and seemed to make up her mind as she stepped out into the cold night air and went to open the closet door. She was just about to open it when I came back to my senses.

It was 3 days later at 7:30, and my mom was calling me.
“Aidan! It’s time for school. Wake up!”
I got dressed and went downstairs to find my younger brother already sitting at the dining table eating his breakfast.
“Did you sleep well?” asked my mom.
“Yes,” I lied. I had actually stayed up all night like on Friday and Saturday, thinking about the closet. “I need to go to the backyard to check something.”
“Can I come?” asked my younger brother, Jacob.
“No, it’s not something you want to see,” I said.
“Just take him,” my mom said.
I sighed. “Fine.”
“YAY! We’re going on an adventure,” shouted Jacob.
We stepped outside and walked to the backyard.
There was no closet there.
I bent down to where the closet should have been, but there was nothing except a few lines where my family had stepped, like everywhere else in the yard.
“Nothing,” I muttered to myself.
My brother frowned. “What?”
“Nevermind, you go to school. I’m coming.”
He jogged off to the garage to get his bike. I was about to do the same when I realized it wasn’t lines on the ground but 12 numbers.
“Odd,” I said aloud.
“AAAIDANNN!” yelled my brother from the garage.
“Coming!” I said, casting a final glance at the 12 numbers.

Middle school. The most boring possible place I could be. My history teacher, Mr. Hamilton, was giving us a dull lecture about the war of 1912.
“It dated from October 8th, 1912 to July 18, 1913, and it was part of the Balkan wars,” he said, but I didn’t hear the rest of his lecture. I was once again looking at the old closet and had the strange sensation of opening it.
“Aidan! AIDAN!!! Time for lunch,” I looked up to see my best friend, Nicholas Smith, shaking me hard.
We walked down to the lunchroom and waited in line to buy our lunch. Nicholas had bought his food, and it was my turn. I glanced at the lunch lady and realized with horror that she looked exactly like the same closet I had been thinking about all day.
I closed my eyes. When I open them, I thought, she’ll look the same as she always looks, not like a closet.
I opened my eyes and there was nobody there, no closet or lunch lady. Only the students eating lunch. I looked down at my tray of food and realized I had a hamburger and fries on my tray already. This was odd, I didn’t remember getting any food. I looked around and realized everyone was staring at me like I was a freak, and that I was the only person in line. I walked over to Nicholas’s table and started eating.
“What happened?” he asked.
“Nothing,” I muttered to him as he continued to stare at me.
“Are you feeling ok?” he asked
“Yeah, fine.”

It was after school. I had just come home and started doing my homework when again I saw the closet outside my bedroom window. I had the disturbing sensation that I had to open it.
I stepped out into the hot afternoon sun and was halfway through the backyard when my mom said, “Aidan???”
I looked back and saw my mom looking at me from the kitchen window.
“What are you doing out there?”
“Oh, uh,” I thought quickly, “I’m trying to get the soccer ball that I kicked into the backyard at night.”
“You can do that later, come help your brother with his homework,” she said.
I looked back at where the closet should have been. It was gone as I had expected, so I did as she had asked.

Chapter 2: The Closet, Part 2

I was lying in bed 5 hours later thinking about the closet and what I should do with it. I was afraid to fall asleep in fear that I would have more horrible nightmares. Should I open it or not? What was inside it? What did those 12 numbers mean? What were these visions I had about?
I awoke the next morning with bags under my eyes. I had gotten only about 2 hours of sleep that night, and those 2 hours I was asleep were full of nightmares and visions.
I ate my breakfast and walked to school, still thinking about the closet through my first lesson, science, while my teacher Mrs. Daniels was giving us a lecture about the mathematician Isaac Newton.
I kept thinking about it even at lunch, but thankfully I wasn’t stared at again. It seemed that everyone had forgotten the little “incident” that happened yesterday. Everybody, including Nicholas and the teachers on duty, seemed to be going about their days as though nothing odd had happened just yesterday.

Fortunately, nothing weird happened today. In fact, it was a relatively good day. We played soccer in gym class, and I helped my team win 7-3. The only thing that went wrong was when I got home again, I saw the closet in the backyard and had the mysterious urge I had been having for days to open it.
This is it, I thought. I was going to find out what was inside once and for all.
I took a step towards the closet then a tiny voice in my head cried, NO!
But then again, the urge to go open the closet filled me.
I made up my mind and started walking carefully towards it. When I was only a few feet away I reached out to touch the handle, just another inch…

I bolted and sat upright in bed, panting hard as I looked around the room and realized it was again 2:58 AM. Was all of that a dream? Including the school day? Or did I perhaps take a nap when I got home? My mind was buzzing with questions, all of them about the closet and what lay within it.
Then I saw something out of the corner of my eye, outside the window.
A half-robot girl had walked out of the closet!
I jumped out of bed and got a baseball bat from my closet just to make me feel safer, even though I knew that if I did meet that disturbing-looking girl, I probably wouldn’t stand a chance.
I walked out into the cool night air and looked to where the closet had been.
Unlike other times, it was still there.
Suddenly, two hands grabbed my shoulders, and I whirled around to find myself face to face with the very girl I had seen outside. I did what most other people would have done: screamed.

I awoke to find myself in a dusty chamber made of gray stone. I looked around and found an open door. I stood up and walked towards it, my knees shaking hard as I built up the nerve to look through it.
Nothing. It was nothing but a dark hallway. The closet was sitting in the middle of the hallway.
I stepped closer, put my hand on the ice-cold handle, pulled, and looked inside. I almost passed out as I jumped back to see a chair with a bunch of metal scraps in it.
No, not metal — a half-robot girl.
She looked up.
“Hello,” she said.

“Wha — what do you want?!” I stammered as she arose from the chair.
She breathed in. “Finally,” she said. “A new test subject for DOOM.”
“What???” I asked in horror.
“This,” she said. “This is the Closet of Doom. It was made in 1911 and holds anyone who goes inside it captive so we can test potions on them. I’ve been trying to find a subject for more than 60 years. There was a new hope when you were born in 2007 and your parents moved into the same house in which the maker of the Closet of Doom lived. I gave you terrifying visions of this closet — yes, I was the girl in the vision when it was 1957, and that boy was the first subject two years after it was created. Now, you will stay here while I return to my factory.”
“N-no, I’m leaving now, I’m not being a test subject in this Closet of Doom,” I said as I took a few steps back toward the room I woke up in.
“How are you going to get out of here?” she asked with a twisted smile as it dawned on me that I couldn’t actually get out of here.
“I-I’ll find a way,” I stammered.
“Good luck,” she said and disappeared.
“Hey! Come back,” I waited a minute.
No response. I wanted to start crying.
I was trapped in an underground chamber where nobody knew where I was, and I could only leave when someone came across this creepy closet, and who knew how long that would take?!

Chapter 3: My Discovery


I had been stuck for over a year now and was getting used to life down here. Only another 49 years or so, I thought gloomily. My family had probably moved on from the mysterious disappearance of Aiden Hawkins. I had figured out over the years that you do not age or need to eat when you come down here. Down here, you just wait for time to pass, doing nothing except watching the gray stone walls. The only source of light down here was a little crack in the top with sunshine coming in. That was also my only way of knowing if it was day or night, and to make it even worse, there were dirty puddles, leaves, and sticks all over the floor.
I didn’t know how I didn’t even go insane just staring at the walls and sleeping for a whole year. I occasionally heard footsteps overhead from my family playing in the backyard. The first time that happened, I tried shouting to them.
“Help me, I’m down HERE!!!” I’d yell until my throat was sore. But I had learned this dungeon was sound-proof — or something of the sort, even with the hole in the top.
I walked around, counting how many steps I walked, tapping the wall.
Suddenly, I heard a creaking sound, and the wall in front of me opened like a door leading to a long, dark hallway. My heart beat super fast, and I stepped into the dark hallway.
It seemed endless from my point of view, pitch-black and vast. I didn’t have a flashlight or anything of the sort, so I was hesitant to go inside.
I looked around the room. Something caught my eye: a pair of glasses.
Something clicked in my mind like two pieces of a puzzle. I remembered from a science lesson I had in sixth grade that you could make a fire with sun, glasses, a leaf, and water. I strained my mind to remember. Then, click. It was as if someone in control of my mind could hear me. Put a drop of water on the inside of the lens and let the sun shine down through it onto the leaf below.
I tried it once. Tried it again. The third time yielded no result. Growing more and more upset, I adjusted it to face the sun, but to no avail. A fourth time let up smoke but nothing more. Only on my thirteenth try did I start the fire.

Now carrying my makeshift torch — a stick stabbed through a leaf with fire on top — I walked down the dark hallway.
I put the glasses in my pocket, knowing they might come in handy and get me out of another sticky situation like this one.
As I walked, I passed disturbing things: skeletons, dead rats, and mold.
I walked and walked until I found a big stone door.
I pushed. It stayed shut.
I pushed harder. It stayed shut.
I pushed my hardest. It stayed shut.
I kicked it. It stayed shut.
I was about to kick it harder when something caught my eye.
A keyhole.
I knew there must have been a key to unlock this door but didn’t know where it may have been.
Suddenly, an idea flashed into my head. I rummaged around through my pocket and found the glasses. Carefully taking them out, I pushed them slowly into the keyhole.
I turned it and heard a click.
YESSS! I thought to myself. I took the glasses out. But I must have taken them out too fast because when I pulled them out, the part I had stuck in was no longer in one piece.
I put the glasses back into my pocket and pushed the door open, ready to punch anyone I saw.

Chapter 4: DOOM HQ
When the door creaked open, I saw a room. It looked like it had just been grabbed from an old-fashioned house. There was a moth-eaten couch that looked at least 100 years old, one of those old-fashioned black and white TVs with a long antenna, and a box with some fruit and potatoes — which looked as though they were very fresh and had just been bought from the store.
However, there was a modern-looking desk with a Lenovo computer sitting on top of it.
I took a step into the room and looked at the computer. It showed live security footage of a small stone room — no, the room I had been in less than 10 minutes ago,
Who lived here? I wondered. Why did they have old and new stuff put together, and why on earth would they keep an eye on people that were trapped like me? Did they create those rooms?
I looked around again. There was something else. A sign: founded in 1911, DOOM testing area A1.
Was DOOM a company of some sort? I thought. What did they test? Why did they test humans? My head was exploding with questions.
On the desk the computer sat on, I saw a box with glass beakers full of green liquids. They were labeled: foodless life potion. I put one into my pocket.
Suddenly, I realized what they were for. I didn’t have to eat down there because they had tested the potion on me. But that still didn’t explain why I didn’t age.
There was a door in the back of the room. It blended in so it looked almost invisible, and I approached it cautiously.
I pushed it open to find myself in a room exactly the same as the last one. I walked over to the computer on the desk. It showed live security footage of the same chamber I was in but from a different angle. I looked in the box to find even more glass beakers holding purple liquids labeled: potion of age-less life. That explained why I hadn’t aged in the chamber, either. I put one of these in my pocket as well.
I looked around and found a door beyond it.
I opened it and found myself in a big room I suspected was for meals because of the tables and trays.
I heard loud voices and lots of footsteps walking towards me from a hallway on the left of the room. I quickly looked around for a place to hide and leaped behind a trash can a split second before a group of robots had arrived — about 50 of them, all metal skeletons.
There were signs all around the room that read “DOOM testing area,” and the robots stepped up to megaphones. Suddenly, I heard something from the megaphones.
“YES, MASTER,” said all the robots at once. They sounded hypnotized.
I shuddered. They were going to discover that I had escaped the chamber, then capture me and test this death potion on me! Whatever that was meant to do, it definitely wasn’t something good.
I was looking for a place to run when I realized that the voice coming from the megaphone was the voice of the girl I had seen in the closet.
Was that girl the one leading DOOM?
One of the robots started walking towards me, and I half ran-half crouched, trying to escape without them noticing me. But as I passed the overflowing trash can, I tripped over a banana peel and fell forwards as everyone turned to look at me.
I did what everyone would have done: RAN!
I ran for the door I had come through, but I was stopped by a red transparent laser fence.
I looked around. One of the robots was projecting the light from its hand. I knew well enough not to run through the laser and get myself killed. The robot who had stopped me seemed as though it was the boss.
“STATE-YOUR-NAME-AND-YOUR-BUSINESS-AT-DOOM-TEST-AREA-980,” it said in a very slow voice. It stuck out a hand, and I saw a machine come out.
“Uh… I’m-I’m Nicholas Smith,” I said a little bit too fast. The robots all tensed. They had mechanisms on their hands that looked disturbingly like razor-sharp knives.
I grimaced. So the machine was a lie detector. They probably trusted me even less now that they knew I had lied to them.
“I’m Aidan Hawkins.”
“Your business?” the bot asked.
“Ummm, I got trapped here,” I said. They let go of the laser, and I took my chance and ran for the door.
I ran into the next room and slammed the door shut behind me. I could hear the bots shouting, “SECURITY BREACH. SECURITY BREACH. SECURITY BREACH. TESTING LAB A2 AIDAN HAWKINS.”
I ran to the door that led to the first room. It was closed and locked from the outside.
I was cornered. I looked for a place to hide and found a big box that was big enough to hold me.
I stepped inside and closed the flaps. The air circulation inside was bad, and it was very dark. The only light came from the crack between the 2 flaps.
I had gotten in mere seconds before the bots broke down both doors and stormed in.
“Where is he?”
“Search under the desk and inside the box, behind the door as well.”
I was doomed.

Chapter 5: Saved by HOPE

I thought desperately of a plan to get out of here, but I couldn’t come up with one. I hid there, waiting to be captured and taken to the creepy girl.
Why me? I thought. Why couldn’t someone else have discovered this closet? Why couldn’t it have been a stranger who had to fight this future-tech evil mastermind?
I looked around the box and saw a dark figure hiding there. I almost screamed, but it clapped a hand over my mouth.
“I’m hiding from them as well,” he said.
“Who are you?” I whispered anxiously.
“Benjamin Smith,” said the boy.
I fell over in surprise. “Wait a second, you’re Nicholas’s brother?”
“Who are you?” he asked.
“I’m Aidan Hawkins, his best friend.”
We shook hands.
“How did you get trapped in here?” I asked him.
“I found this closet and got pushed inside it, into a dusty chamber.”
“Really? That’s exactly what happened to me!” I exclaimed.
“Shhh, keep it down,” he whispered urgently. “The robots are coming to search this box, we’re sitting ducks here.”
“I’d like to live in freedom another minute or so, then,” I replied quietly. But there was no need. The robots were gone.
I peeked out of the box and saw an ice-colored figure standing in the middle of all of the broken DOOM robots, holding two long ice-colored swords at their sides.
The moment it saw me, it vanished into thin air and reappeared right next to me with its swords raised.
“Who are you?” they asked.
“I’m A-Aiden Hawkins. I was trapped down here by some weird closet. Who are you?” I asked them.
“I am part of the HOPE military, BOT DC 129. We are taking part in the war against DOOM. It has been going on for 134 years now.”
“The war? What is all this, and why are you here?” I asked.
“I’m a spy, and this war started like this: HOOM was a very happy place, until one of the rulers got into a fight with one of the very rich men. HOOM broke into two and started a war. There is no longer any peace. HOPE supports the king, and DOOM supports the rich man. The wealthy man in charge died two years ago, and his wife has taken over. You’ve probably seen her before: white dress, half-robot, insane smile, looks like a kid because of their ageless-life potion. I come to figure out what they’re doing,” he said all in one breath.
“They’re testing potions on humans,” Benjamin and I said together.
“What potions?” BOT DC 129 asked.
“Ageless potions and foodless potions,” I said quickly.
He eyed me suspiciously as if I was the enemy.
I looked away. “How did you teleport like that?” I asked, trying desperately to change the subject.
“We have very advanced technology. Years ahead of humans.”
“So, can we go to your base or whatever?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said, “but be careful.” He waved his hand and I became invisible.
“WOW!” I exclaimed. He did the same to Benjamin, then set off, and we followed him obediently.
He led us through a wall that looked so solid that I braced myself for impact. But I walked through the wall, and when we came through, I saw more than 100,000 HOPE soldiers lined up together.
“Why are they lined up?” I asked, amazed.
“We are preparing for the great siege,” our guide answered.
There were cryo-tanks and rocket mechs all around the huge courtroom. A big chair stood in the middle of it all, and in it sat a man with a big beard and glasses.
I suspected this was the king.
“60 seconds till we fight!” he announced. “50-40-30-20-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, charge!”

Chapter 6: The Attack on DOOM

The sound was deafening. I saw all the 110,000 or so soldiers charging our way. I moved out of their path just as the first scouts moved in to clear the area. More and more stepped through the barrier after the scouts, ropers strapped on jet packs, and flew through the roof. Benjamin and I went through the barrier after them.
What we saw was complete chaos.
Robots were being destroyed, blue troops appearing everywhere, ropers dropping and sliding down ropes through the roof. Explosions were going off everywhere, and there was a 90% chance that Benjamin and I, if we headed onward, would trip over a DOOM robot head or arm.
I didn’t know if that was a bomb timer, but it didn’t sound good, and all the remaining HOPE soldiers were retreating.
As Benjamin and I burst through the wall, we were knocked forwards onto our stomachs by the impact of the explosion.
I looked around. DOOM soldiers were streaming in and rounding up the remaining HOPE soldiers. The king had vanished.
Benjamin and I were running towards the exit when a red laser struck Benjamin on the back and he fell to the ground, stunned.
I stopped and shook him hard “Benjamin!!! GET UP!”
He had been knocked unconscious.
I dragged him to the door and kicked it open, slamming the door shut after us.
Benjamin opened his eyes. “Hello? Where am I?”
“Come on, Benjamin, we’ve got to go!”
“Huh?” The last few seconds dawned on him. “Oh, shoot, let’s go!”
We ran down a long hallway and arrived outside on a huge grass field. I saw a big building with an electric fence surrounding it. I turned and saw DOOM soldiers running after us, firing lasers at us.
We ran to the building’s huge electric gates and shouted for someone to open them.
“Somebody open these gates! We’re getting chased by DOOM soldiers!”
Two HOPE soldiers opened the gates and shoved us inside. Then they took out two big guns and shot them through the wall, ricocheting off all the DOOM soldiers and breaking them apart.

It was 2 hours later and we had explained our story to the HOPE soldiers that were in the huge building. There were at least 1,000,000 remaining HOPE soldiers. Most of them were guarding the building up top with sniper rifles we learned they called the “AntiVirus.” The building was amazing
There was a weapon room full of weapons of all kinds and a giant dining room big enough for at least 3,000,000 HOPE soldiers. I asked where the king was, and they said that they didn’t know. I told them he wasn’t at DOOM’s base, and that he had disappeared. They then said that he was probably captured by the DOOM troops.
They told us that they planned to attack DOOM’s fort. I asked how many troops would be going, and they told me that 10,000 would be heading in first and clearing the harder DOOM troops, and then another 100,000 would be taking out the troops guarding the king. Then they claimed that DOOM would send reinforcements and that they would then send in 1,000,000 troops — 200,000 to secure the king and the other 800,000 to take on the reinforcements. Then, if everything went right, they would go back to the HOPE HQ and bomb the entire DOOM fort.


Three Minutes Before the Earthquake

Three minutes before the earthquake happens, Izzy has to escape the house. The floor is shaking, the house is falling apart. Three, two, one, the floor fell apart! Izzy almost falls but more trouble is coming, a flood! Izzy gets so scared, she packs all her stuff and runs away to a different town where her family lives. 

Ten more seconds! 

Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one… the flood is coming! 

Izzy almost gets washed away. She finds her mom, dad, and big sister. She is so happy to see them. The town looks very new, kids are playing soccer, and parents are talking. It looks like no disasters will happen. So from now on, there will be no more floods.  


It is the year 2045, and global warming is at its worst. Temperatures are high and civilians aren’t helping. Tons of plastic waste is being released into the ocean. Beaches have trash on the shore instead of glistening shells and sand. However, people are forming groups with thousands of people, trying to save the ocean. 

It is a new school year, and Diego and Randy are close friends who are now in the 5th grade. Their school is near Bird Key Park in Sarasota, Florida. They patiently wait for Mr. Smith, who teaches facts about the world, and today he’s doing a lesson about oceanography. After class, Randy asks Diego if he can look at some of Diego’s vacation pictures since he recently went to the beach. As Randy flips through what feels like a perpetual album of photos, one photo catches Randy’s attention. There are soda cans and plastic bottles all over the sea shore. He asks Diego if the entire beach had pollution and Diego begins to tell the story.

Diego goes on about how horrible the ocean smelled and the look of it. He is glad they left. Diego says he saw way fewer seagulls than his last visit. He went for a swim and saw no more/fewer fish. The seashore was nauseating to even look at. The water was opaque and the coral reefs were bleached.

Mr. Smith finally arrives at the classroom after being 10 minutes late because he had to fix some air conditioners in other classrooms. He teaches the class fractions, decimals, and ratios. After 45 minutes, the class is dismissed. Since they both live near a beach, Diego and Randy decide to take a look at the ocean one more time. It is truly appalling. The coral reefs are nowhere to be seen, and it has a vigorous plastic scent. They both want to change this. They would need to build a huge community if they want to have a huge impact. Two average schoolboys determine to make a change.

Diego and Randy head to Randy’s house, where they can both start planning in the backyard. Since they are just average students, they probably won’t be able to make a community from scratch, so they decide to join one. With almost 60% of the ocean covered in garbage, they will need all the support they can get. Diego snatches his mobile device from his house across from Randy’s house and surfs the internet, looking for a program that helps get rid of the waste in the ocean. After a brief five minutes of vigorous searching, Diego finds a website that is free to sign up and takes place around their house. ORCA (Ocean Recognition Community Association) is the name of the community. Randy and Diego ask their parents if they have permission to sign up and they receive their consent, but only if they sign up themselves.

Once Randy and Diego finally complete the survey, they spring into action. Diego and Randy ride their bikes to the ORCA to meet and greet each other. They go to their local beach and get to work. They recycle about 50 pounds of trash that is left on the beach on the daily. It is dusk and both of the boys need to go back home. After they wake up the next day, they meet up in school with their other friends and tell them about the community. About half of the students they ask agree, varying from grades 4-12. Some of them need supervision, and the rest just need permission from their guardians.

Randy and Diego meet up at the daily community meeting with some of their friends. The boys introduce their friends Samantha, Briann, Al, Hyram, and others to the people in ORCA and they head to the shore! Samantha and Briann are siblings. Briann is in eighth grade and Samantha is in sixth grade. Briann is always looking for an adventure and Samantha just wants to follow in her brother’s steps. Al and Hyram are both in sixth grade, Al and Hyram have been best friends since kindergarten. Hyram is obsessed with clear skin. Hyram has his entire family supporting his decision. Even though Hyram wants to become a dermatologist when he grows up, he still wants to be with his friends instead of studying dermatology by himself. Al is the total opposite. Al would put a healthy skincare routine at the end of his bucket list, but he is obsessed with sea shells. Al doesn’t have a future career planned, but it is fine since he is only in fifth grade. Al’s older brother just moved to college and his family has planned a surprise party at the beach when he comes and visits. But with the beach in this condition, the party won’t seem to last long.

After 2 hours, they weigh all of the waste they have collected and they collected 80 pounds of waste today! There are still 3 hours before curfew so all of the kids in Randy and Diego’s school who signed up for ORCA print out flyers about the organization and place them all around the school and neighborhood. The next day, almost 20 more people join ORCA!

After a week or so, the seawater has become more pellucid. Some people in ORCA are oceanographers and they help take out the dead coral. More vibrant fish begin returning in the reef and more seagulls return in larger flocks. The next day, the community had recycled 100 pounds of trash! Randy and Diego are very proud of their decision because they feel like they made a huge impact in their neighborhood but they still have a long way to go. In a month, Diego and Randy help recruit over 50 people and a total of 340 people who sign up for ORCA. They recycle about 600 pounds of trash this month.

A few months pass by and 800 people sign up for ORCA. It is the end of the school semester, and Randy and Diego feel so proud. Randy, Diego, Hyram, Al, Briann, and Samantha helped cause a huge impact on their local beach. The water is very clear now, and the sand has very little waste in it. More people and tourists are visiting the beaches more often, and now, this is like a second-nature to most of the attendees. ORCA has raised a bunch of money and have been receiving loads of support. They plan to do larger projects and go further in the ocean, helping other beaches, and even other bodies of water.


Randy and Diego finally graduate from fifth grade, they apprise their parents about all of the positive impacts that they helped cause. With approximately 1,000 people in ORCA throughout the nation, they will need larger plans. During summertime, ORCA plans to go deeper into the sea and venture to other polluted beach resorts and bays. Diego and Randy have all of the free-time since they won’t have to worry about schoolwork or disarranged schedules. The community split into two groups. Group one consists of 250 people, and they’ll help clear out and filter the polluted water. They will also help clean up the land, giving it a crisp look. Group two consists of 400 people. Their duty is to head out to bays or further into the ocean to unearth trash and succor endangered sea creatures.

The Fourth of July is here, and now there are more visitors. With many more visitors, Group one will have many issues trying to recycle and trash the leftovers of the consistently visiting citizens. At this rate, the bay would clear up much more slowly. Some of their schoolmates, Samantha, Briann, Hyram, and Al were also in Group one. You had to be 18 years old or older, or 14-17 years old with guardian supervision to contribute in Group two. The older kids from the school went to Group two. Al’s parents took part in Group two. After three and a half hours, both Groups had a meeting to discuss the difficulties and simple parts. The next day, ORCA tries to buy all of the equipment that they need for a new contemporary morning. ORCA gets the money because of other huge brands donating to them for their good actions and to send support to ORCA so ORCA can grow larger. ORCA also creates a website, which has a donation section. The kids meet up and they trail off from Group one. They scout for plastic trash in the sand, and selfish people who just throw their garbage into the sand or sea. They pack their stuff and took off. After about one whole hour in, the kids notice how far they had trailed off. They end up lost.

They decide that it would be best to walk the other way, but everyone is already fatigued. Hyram begins to panic because he’s afraid that he’ll lose all of his skincare products. 

Al isn’t too upset because there are many shells on the shore. While they are walking the opposite way, Al takes his time because he is analyzing and collecting sea shells. Randy remembers about the mapping paper he packed earlier today. Unfortunately, Randy forgets to actually map out the trail. So they are really lost. They decide that it’d be smartest to just walk towards the city rather than Group one on the shore, since they are still in Sarasota, but just farther away from Group two. Briann glares into the distance and notices Group two on their boats returning. They try to track down Group two’s stop and head there. After walking up a steep hill of sand that was shards of glass, they decide to take a break. Luckily, they all packed snacks and water before heading far off into the bay. Randy and Diego snack on some fruit salads. Al eats some chips. Hyram eats some papaya and watermelon since he heard that it is good for your skin. It is 6:30 P.M. and then Samantha sees black silhouettes in the distance. Could it be civilization?

Samantha squints her eyes and then the picture is clearer, they are palm trees. Briann takes a minute to listen, and he hears popping and cheering. It is the Fourth of July Fireworks! The kids sprint up the hill, despite how weary they are. The fireworks slowly become louder. If this were to be any other day, the kids might’ve been alone for a much more prolonged time. They see the neighborhood gathering up and cheering. At last, they are safe. Each and every one of the kids sees their guardians, waiting for their return. They reunite and celebrate the Fourth of July together.

A few months pass by and they continue to do their daily deeds. They all have moved up a grade, but Samantha and Briann are moving to Salisbury, North Carolina because their father has work there. However, Briann still wants to be a part of ORCA. He saw this as an opportunity to expand ORCA. The kids have one last meeting before Samantha and Briann move away. Once Briann and Samantha move, they will advertise ORCA so people from where they live would want to also sign up. Before they move away, Briann tells Randy his plan so the next day Randy tells some people in ORCA and they think that would be smart. With all of the money they had raised, expanding would be a smarter choice than buying advanced equipment. Al, Hyram, Diego, and Randy help clear off more trash on the bay and they meet up after they complete their work. The kids stare into the ocean, talking, making jokes, and reminiscing all of the fun times they had with each other. They feel proud, even though they haven’t cleaned everything they wanted to in a year.

Jenny’s Candy World

CHAPTER ONE: The Cookie Tower 

Once upon a time, there was a teenage girl named Jenny who always wanted to be a princess. Jenny lived in a candy town with her mom and dad. Jenny knew her dreams would never come true so she decided to become a superhero. Her parents would always tell her that no one could just become a princess. She wanted to prove to her parents that she could become a superhero and a princess. 

One morning, when Jenny walked to the Cookie Tower, she saw the cookies slowly falling down. The cookie tower is a cafe where you would usually go to eat cookies. Jenny was worried that there might be people inside the tower. Jenny went inside the tower and saw people trying to make it out the back door. 

Jenny asked the barista, “Are you guys okay?”

“No, the cookie tower started to collapse!” said the barista. 

“Okay, how can I help?” Jenny asked.

“Just make sure that everyone is out of the Cookie Tower by the time it is going to collapse.” 

“Okay, everybody out!” Jenny said. She pushed open the door. 

Everyone wanted to get out of the Cookie Tower. Everyone ran out of the Cookie Tower and watched it collapse. 

The barista said to Jenny, “Milk from the bucket from the construction next door spilled on the Cookie Tower and it caused the Cookie Tower to start to go down and get mushy.” 

Jenny walked over to the construction area and she found the head construction worker. “The Cookie Tower got destroyed. I would like to ask you if you can build it again.” 

“Okay, but it may take a while,” he said.

“Okay, thank you,” said Jenny. 

Everyone thanked Jenny as she walked back for saving their lives. Jenny now felt one step closer to becoming a superhero.  But Jenny also felt one step further from becoming a princess. 

CHAPTER TWO: The Candy Store

Jenny walked over to the candy store to treat herself to some candy. The candy store was next to the old cookie tower. It was made of yellow cotton candy and smelled like pineapple, and you could take a bite as you walked down the street. Jenny realized the candy store was closed. She thought to herself, The candy store is never closed. Jenny felt a little bit upset. She walked over to the candy store owner’s house. It was in a chocolate apartment complex. When it got too hot, the apartment would always melt, so they would have to rebuild it again. And when it rained cotton candy and was humid, it would also collapse from that, too. 

When she got there, she realized that Nina, the candy store owner, was already outside and Jenny asked her,

“Why is the candy store closed?” 

“Because we had to shut down because of bankruptcy.” 

Jenny asked Nina how much was needed. 

She told Jenny 109k. 

“That’s a lot of money.” 

“I know, but I have to get it.” 

“How?” Nina asked. 

“I will loan you some money, and then when you get enough, you can pay me back.” 

Nina started to jump for joy. “Thanks, Jenny, you can get whatever you want in the store for free. Thanks. Wait, but how do you have all that money?” 

“I used to work for the richest man in Candy Town,” Jenny said.

From this, she thought she was going to give up being a princess because a princess got help and didn’t really help other people. She was just going to become a superhero.  

CHAPTER THREE: The Parents Talk  

Before coming back from Nina’s house, Jenny was craving chocolate from the yummy chocolate roads. Now Jenny was ready to start her walk back home. When Jenny got home, she called her parents downstairs

 “Mom, Dad!” called Jenny. “I have some great news,” said Jenny.

“What?” said her parents.

“I am a superhero!”  Jenny said.

“That’s nonsense,” said her parents.

“NO, IT’S NOT!” Jenny said as she stormed into her room. I am moving, Jenny thought to herself. Jenny started packing up as she listened to music. As Jenny walked down the stairs, of course her parents were not even home. She caught a gummy taxi all the way to the other side of Candy Town! When Jenny arrived at the new apartment, it smelled like a yummy s’more. It got late, so Jenny unpacked and got to bed. 

The next day, Jenny thought to herself when she woke up that she was feeling more like an adult. She had to go to the supermarket to get food for her brand new house. She walked to the store and everything was a gummy or a type of candy food, like her favorite vegetable was broccoli ice cream. After she bought herself some food, she was on her way back to her new house. When she got there, she realized she needed furniture. She called the candy store to ask if she could take some old furniture for free. Nina said yes. Jenny had this one chair in mind; it was a gummy bear chair. When you took a bite, it grew back to being a gummy bear chair. She picked up her chair and went back home. But when she got there, her parents were waiting for her at the new apartment.

CHAPTER FOUR: Jenny’s Way 

Jenny didn’t say anything when she saw her parents, she just walked back up to her new apartment. 

“Wait up!” Jenny’s parents said. 

“No, I am done with you guys, you were never there for me, but I will be able to be there for myself and take care of myself like the family I never had!” Jenny said. 

Jenny walked up to go inside her apartment so she could put her new chair down. Jenny’s parents were forced to leave because they were not a resident of Candy Town. 

Nina called Jenny’s candy phone. “Hey, Jenny!” says Nina. 

“Hi,” said Jenny.

“Is it ok if I come over to help you today?” 

“Yeah,” said Jenny. She hung up the phone. When Jenny got off the phone with Nina, she began to burst into tears. She was so torn apart about everything. Jenny went to text Nina and tell her not to come. Nina did not reply.

Jenny went to sleep and she slept for days and days and days and days and days. When Jenny woke up, she finally realized that she needed to be her own superhero, who fought for herself and who was powerful no matter what. After that day, Jenny was never down anymore!


Here I was. The last place ANYBODY would ever imagine. Here, I’ll give you 1,000,000 dollars if you can guess it. See, I told you so. I was here floating on my bed in the middle of the huge Atlantic Ocean. 234th day, the last millimeter of bread eaten, and, according to my clock that broke 103 days ago, it was 3:01 AM. My last relationship that I ever had was also… the final food I would ever eat (yes, it’s depressing, but I’ve only had relationships with food so far. It’s not ok).

“I hate you,” I said. That was all I could mutter. All I could say for the last 234 days of misery. Cause of course your ‘BEST FRIEND’ will go ahead and say,

“I dare you to go sail across the world! Without a sailboat.” That’s what friends say when they realize you are the most evil, horrible person on earth. And see, I could have just said no. But I hated my life. If I were to describe my personality to you, you would think I was the most horrid, evil, hideous person to step on the planet. And I am. I AM the most awful person to touch the earth. So I ran away from my own home. I was happy to get that dare. At the time. Now all I want is to survive. But I think I have proven that’s impossible.

235th day, already resorted to sea water, and possibly 1:010 AM (my clock is bad). Last relationship was yesterday at 2:59 AM. The last water was two days ago.

Ok, I think I’ve learned NOT to drink sea water. I’m in AGONY… my throat is even DRIER and I think I swallowed a seahorse. Not pleasant. Like at all. I have lost almost half of my body weight and I have probably already lost most of the water in my body. The mattress is soggy and I’m kinda sinking in it. I saw a cruise boat pass by, but they saw I was absolutely covered with cuts and dirt. They thought about rescuing me, but instead tried to run me over. This is an everyday problem. Don’t worry about me. Actually… is that a shark? Ok, maybe help me.

236th day, NO MORE SEA WATER, time is 1:12.988787:80 AM (yes, that was a forehead slap moment), last words spoken were, “I hate you,” two days ago. Supposedly, I’m supposed to die today because of LITERALLY NO WATER FOR THREE DAYS.

Ok, are you kidding me. That way, that way, that way, that way, that way, that way, that way, that way, that way, and that way. Nothingness. Empty space EVERYWHERE.

I thought that there would be no water for three days and you die. This is my third day. And bread does not have water in it.
Ok, does bread have water in it? I ain’t got any water and I’m alive? Maybe this is Heaven and I just don’t know. Do you realize when you’re in Heaven? I have too many questions and no answers

237th day, I’m alive? Time is unreadable to my eyes, and I feel like I am going to die… finally.

Just die already. Everything is extremely blurry and my stomach feels like an ocean in a hurricane. I’m begging to die.
Even IF bread had water, that was three days ago. I should be dead by sundown.

237th day (continued), it’s sundown. I can feel death. It’s like a snake. Coiling around you until you die. Squeezing you tighter and tighter. Then once it’s bored, it finishes you off. I know, it doesn’t sound very pleasant. Right now, the snake of death is at my neck. Trying to kill me. I refuse. But it always wins. I can scream, yell, shout, but nothing will help me. What should my final words be?

“I hate you.”

The waves engulf my almost dead body. What will people think… when they see a dead 11-year-old girl in the ocean.

238th day, I’m dead. No sense of time.

I actually can’t tell if I’m dead or not. I’ve lost all feeling. And I can’t open my eyes. But my mind feels refreshed. And my throat… can’t feel it. I can still hear. The waves crashing against… wait. Crashing against what?

“Are you alive?”
“Are you disrespecting me?”
“Talk to me!” This was painful to hear. But I had to get used to it. I had already learned three things: I’m not dead
Whoever these people are gave me water. I like them.
I’m on a sailboat trapped under the bench, tied up.
At least I couldn’t feel the slaps I was given. I was slightly disappointed. I don’t deserve to be alive. I had tried to say help for about two hours. Hejiuwp was the closest I got. At least I could make noises?

239th day, I’ve given up on trying to live. Finally a working clock– midnight.

They are lost, too. When you start in, Japan I don’t think you can make it to the Bermuda Triangle. These guys too dumb to find the the back of their hands.
“Ahem,” one of them said to the other.
“What? Did you finally realize that we actually are in California?”
I heard a sigh, then he said, “Ummm, North is actually that way!!”
“What! That’s impossible! The S on the compass means North!” It was my turn to sigh this time.
“Dif ya kna daf the n mans norf?” I stated. They stared at me and I realized I still could NOT talk.
“I think you need more water.” And without hesitating they threw me overboard, this time without a bed to keep me up (oo, I realized they thought I said something else that was very mean).

240th day, no clock whatsoever, no food, no water, should I even try to survive?

Nope. I’m not even gonna try to survive. Why do humans have to float? If we did not float, I would be deader than TWO doornails, let alone one. Those weird poor sailors couldn’t even take care of themselves, let alone another poor girl. I might have destroyed their lives. As soon as I find anything to float on, I will immediately eat it? Will that kill me? How about just hanging off and sticking my head in the water until I die? I have already tried that. Your mind won’t let you. On my 200th try, I gave up and kept swimming. Nothing EVER works.

241st day, yummy driftwood, I FOUND MY CLOCK! (12:2334 PM… my clock is comforting, but not useful).

I don’t think driftwood is poisonous. I ate it and I probably feel better to be honest. I’m probably gonna get hypothermia soon. I found half of my mattress floating around. It was soggy and gross. Needless to say, I left it behind. It’s currently a storm and I’m just hoping lightning won’t hit.

242nd day, my clock is finally broken. So is my right leg. Last water three days ago. Why is it raining FROGS?

“Ow. Ow. Ow.” Weird frozen frogs are falling from the sky. My leg is broken. I almost drowned yesterday when a huge wave came. Why is this happening to me? I’ve heard of this strange occurrence happening before. When a tornado hits a lake. BOOM! Frozen frogs falling from the sky. None have hit my head yet (I would absolutely die if it did). Only about 10 in a 15 foot range each minute. That means about… 18328.6666667 falling every minute in the whole Atlantic Ocean (as you might have figured out, I’m a math prodigy).

243rd day, no idea what time it is. My right leg is still broken (duh) and bleeding (saltwater is not fun for the cuts).

This is agony. Wait wha– is that– MY BED?! I swim to the bed and crawl on. It feels like… HOME. I might never get back to my real home but this is just as good. I might be bleeding to death, but for the moment, it does not hurt. This is Heaven. This is all I need.

Awkward Barn

Thinking back, I can hardly believe how such a peaceful trip ended up in a scandal that ruined our family. Oops — I forgot to introduce myself. I’m Ronald P. Miller. Well — it used to be Miller. That was my dad’s last name. Now, it’s Johnson. 

The Awkward Barn 

I was staring out the window of my dad’s Toyota when it all started. It was a quiet day. Cloudy. The dirt road was full of bumps, and unpaved. I didn’t tell anyone, but I disapproved of this road.

We were driving out into the country to visit my paternal grandmother. In case you don’t know, that means my father’s mother. But — oops, again — I’m not supposed to talk about him. I think I’ll have to to get through this story.

In any event, we were going to visit my grandmother. She lived in the country and owned a farm. Yup — a real farm. Cows, chickens, the lot. The whole shebang-bang. Even a big red barn, forever since called by my family “The Awkward Barn” (when they even discuss it). 

Granny Miller welcomed us with open arms. Literally. She gave me a hug that squeezed out all my organs. Even though that’s not scientifically possible. I’m on the school’s honors program, and if my health professor found out about this, he would go nuts. 

We were welcomed into the house, and I went to my room in the loft. That is a place in the barn where hay is kept. I set up my sleeping bag on two bales of hay and placed my backpack on the ground. My mother was sleeping on the other end of the loft, on the rickety bed with the old quilt, full of holes and stains. I disapproved of that quilt. I never told her that that quilt was the vomit quilt used by relatives when they were sick. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. Was that the right choice? Looking back now, I don’t know. 

Then I headed down the rickety stairs. I heard my father talking to my grandmother. 

“… had him. I didn’t ever want you to,” she was saying. “That’s why I put them in the loft.” 

“Ma,” I heard my father say. “You know my thoughts about this. When we…” 

“What are you two talking about?” I blurted out.

“Ronald!” cried my father, looking surprised and almost relieved. “Er… how much did you hear?… ” 

“Oh, I’m terribly sorry.” I said quickly. “Was this a good time? I didn’t mean to butt in like this.” 

I don’t know if that was the best way to say it. I was really thinking in the moment. If my English professor were here, she’d make a thousand corrections. But that’s not very realistic. If my math professor were here…

“Oh, no! It’s a perfect time!” said Granny Miller, sticking a smile on her face. Was that smile part very respectful of me? Our school counselor would freak. 

Granny and my father acted happy, but I could tell something was up. I don’t want to hide things from my family. But before I could ask them what was up, Granny said,

“Who wants apple piiii-iiiiiiiie?” She took a cold piece out of the fridge and held it up in front of my mouth. I didn’t like cold pie. Still don’t. But I ate it, just to be polite. I had a few disgusting bites, then took one of Granny’s porcelain plates and put it and the pie on the table. To clarify, the plate was on the table, and the pie was on the plate. Was that hard to understand? My English professor says to not use long, unnecessary sentences. I’m totally getting held back this year… I barely scraped by last term, with only Bs and As. My best grade was only an A+++! If I want to stay on the honors program, I need to average at least an AA. I mean, they don’t publish the actual criteria, and no one I know has ever gotten that grade, but I know I need to stay on top. 

After the pie, we played Trivial Pursuit: Farmer’s Edition. My father and Granny teamed up. They won, obviously. My mother and I were a team, but we barely managed half a point. Oops — you can’t actually get half a point in Trivial Pursuit. Our school’s Board Games Club director would get so mad at me. 

After that, we played Monopoly. I won. I am a master of strategy (not to brag. I hate to brag. Was that bragging? I hope not. I bet soon I’ll be seeing the school counselor on an hourly basis). Granny grumbled a bit, but I think she’s just competitive. Then, we played Scrabble. I knew I could win, but I gave mother a chance, opening up places where she could score big. I thought it was only fair, because she hadn’t won a game yet. When we finished scoring, and mother won, Granny slammed her fists down on the board and got this really angry look in her eyes. She had come in last, her best play was “COW,” eight points. 

Okay,” she growled. “Let’s eat dinner now.” 

We had sheperd’s pie. In case you don’t know, that is like mashed potatoes, but with some meat and carrots and peas. And things. It is pretty good. But all throughout the meal, Granny kept rambling on and on about all the original Millers being shepherds in Ireland or England or some country. Whatever it is, it’s been scratched off the family tree by now. Also, my mother called that company that tests your DNA to make sure I was actually part Irish (or other foreign country from my father’s side). 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

After dinner, Granny served apple pie (luckily, heated up). She gave herself a big piece and gave Dad a medium piece. I got a smallish piece. She was about to cut the tiniest of slivers for Mom, but then said loudly, “You’re on a diet, aren’t you Jessica?” and did not give her any pie. 

No one said anything, but my mother, Jen, is not on a diet. 

That night I couldn’t sleep, but I pretended to so mom wouldn’t fret. I thought about how Granny knew full well my mother’s name, and that she was not on a diet.

Granny… Granny wouldn’t say things like that, I reassured myself. She’s old. 70. She probably forgot mom’s name… and maybe my mom was on a diet earlier… but didn’t tell me…  but if she was… on a… diet, why didn’t she tell… me? I wondered sleepily as my head started nodding — for real this time. 

By morning, I hadn’t forgotten about the diet thing (oops — my English professor doesn’t really like the word, “thing.” I bet you anything I’m getting held back. And my school’s Gambling and Statistics instructor would agree). 

I went downstairs and saw a large breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, ham, pancakes, and a load of fruit. The table was the kind of table that was a rectangle. There was a tall chair on on each of the short sides and two shorter chairs on each of the long sides. The table was empty. I was about to sit in one of the tall chairs when Granny came in from the kitchen and sat in it, pushing me aside.

“Excuse me?” I asked politely (I think), but just at that moment, she started loudly pouring herself orange juice and splashing a lot. Then, my dad came in from the bedroom (Granny was in the master bedroom because she owned the house). Right now, I’m wondering if there was another reason she was in the master bedroom and mom had the vomit quilt. 

“Hey gang,” said dad cheerfully, absentmindedly taking a seat on the other tall chair. He glanced at me and a sad look passed over his face for a second. Then, he stared down Granny and said loudly, “Why don’t you come sit next to me… Ronnie boy.” But he did not look at me. He was staring hard at Granny the whole time. 

Carefully, I sat down next to dad, torn between staring at Granny or looking sad. I ended up looking sort of sympathetic at Granny, which I was sure pleased no one. It was a very uncomfortable breakfast. 

Afterwards, Granny took us all into the barn. Long story short, I don’t like barns. Very unhygienic. And too much dung and messy animals. Barns smell terrible! But I didn’t show it. Instead, I pretended to thoroughly enjoy the whole stinky experience (oh no! Really I am not being respectful at all! Though, mother says I should feel free to speak my mind about The Awkward Barn).

Near the end of the tour, Granny was showing us the animals. After the cows, sheep, and horses, we came to the pigs. Dad seemed to want to get on with it quick and get to lunch (it was noon already — or should I use the exact time? My math professor will have fainted by now, I’m sure), but Granny couldn’t get enough of the pigs. She kept rambling on and on about pigs: what they ate, how they were born, how they pooped (pardon my language), on and on and on. She concluded her lecture with: “And last but not least… you really are a PIG, Ronald.” 

I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked. My mom was sad. But my dad was furious.

“Ma,” he huffed. “I told you not to bring this up.” 

“Why am I a pig?” I asked, as politely as I could be. 

“Because–” started Granny rather nastily, but father interrupted. 

“Let me,” he growled. “Tell this story.” He huffed a little, then began.

“When you were born, we made a deal.” He sighed heavily. “I guess I should tell you why. My mother… never wanted me to get married. She just wanted me to stay in this house forever because… I’m an…” 

Suddenly Granny spoke. “Because I just want you to be my little boy forever, Dedalus.” Then she fiercely whispered, “I can’t have you giving away family secrets! We’re the only two who know this and it’s going to stay that way!”

Dad looked sad but resigned. “Fine,” he said. “Because she was an overprotective mother. See?” He whispered to Granny. “I’m not lying to my son. Anyways,” he continued in his normal voice. “She was never the biggest fan of… well… your birth in general. So we compromised. You would keep our last name, and your mother picked your first name. But she… she chose the middle name.” 

“Did you ever wonder what that ‘P’ stood for?” asked Granny with a nasty grin.

“Er…” I said. I had never really thought about this and my parents had never told me. I always assumed it was something like “Patrick,” or “Paisley.”

“PIG,” bellowed Granny. “Hahahahaha!” I couldn’t believe it. But Granny was so nice! I just… just… there must have been some explanation. I stood there for an eternity, desperately waiting for someone to say, “April Fools!” (although it wasn’t April Fools’ Day. My World Customs teacher would go ballistic).

But right then something in my mother snapped. “You have no right,” she said, shaking, “no right to speak to my son like this. I’m — we’re leaving. He is going to live with ME and MY family and not you… people. WE’RE LEAVING.”

And with that, she took me and marched out of THE AWKWARD BARN. 

As we drove off, we passed a Miller’s Hot Dog Palace (not Granny Miller). It used to be my mom’s and my favorite restaurant.

We ate lunch at McDonald’s.