‘Jet, come eat breakfast,’ Mom said.
What? What’s happening? Startled and half-asleep, I jumped up out of bed and banged my head on a chair. “
“Jet, come eat breakfast,” Mom said.
What? What’s happening? Startled and half-asleep, I jumped up out of bed and banged my head on a chair.
“Oh, just five more minutes,” I said, falling onto my bed.
“Come now,” Mom said in a strict Mom voice.
“OK,” I said with a sigh.
Creak, creak, creak. I came down the splintery wooden stairs.
Oh, hi there. My name is Jet. I’m twelve years old. I live in a war zone in my homeland city in the forest. My city and two other cities fight day and night. My city’s name is Wild Fasts. I don’t know why. The other city is named Steel City because it is foolproof, but it’s not really a steel city — it is a desert full of dark-skinned people. The last city is named Sharp because they have sharp, deadly knives and are full of bandits on a dock. My mom says my dad died in the war when I was three. We are lucky we are even alive right now.
I sat down in front of Mom.
“Here, today’s meal is toast,” Mom said.
“Thanks, Mom,” I said. “Oh, and Mom?”
“When do you think it is going to stop?” I asked.
“You know, the war,” I mumbled with my mouth stuffed with toast.
“Oh, I’m not sure. It could go on forever,” replied Mom while pouring milk into the glass cups.
“I wish I could free these people from this ongoing war,” I said.
“Maybe if you really work on it, it will happen,” encouraged Mom.
I knew she was just encouraging me, but I smiled. I finished breakfast.
“See you later, Mom. I’m going to meet my friends,” I said.
I went to the park. I turned all 360 degrees. Where are they?
They came out from behind an ice cream truck.
Chapter One: DNA
“Hey! Why do you scare me like that every time?” I shouted.
“It’s fun!” my friends said simultaneously, giggling.
“But it scared me half to death!” I muttered under my breath.
Anyway, these are my friends. They’re brother and sister. The sister named Ruby is twelve and the brother named Vac is eleven.
“So, anyway, what do ya want to do? Because I’m as bored as hell,” I ask.
“Wanna race?” Vac asked.
“Sure, because I’m going to win,” I said.
“To my house,” Ruby said.
“Bu — but that’s…”
“Then do ya Q-U-I-T?” Ruby cut in.
“No way,” I said.
“Then let’s go,” Vac said.
Three… two… one… go!
We dashed. I dashed so fast it knocked the wind out of me
“Done, haha! I’m done already!” I shouted in awe of myself. I looked around. There was no one there. This is gonna take a long time…
Finally, Ruby and Vac arrived five minutes later.
“We are done,” they gasped simultaneously. They were on their knees gasping for breath.
“What took you so long?” I asked.
“What do you mean?” Ruby asked.
“And what happened to your legs?!” Vac panicked, not taking his eyes off my legs like if he did, something would stab him in the back.
“Wha — OMG! There’s cheetah fur on my leg!!” I panicked too. We went to my house to talk to my mom. “What’s happening to me?” I shouted while pointing at my leg.
“I knew this day would come…” she whispered to herself while putting a hand on her forehead.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Your Dad’s DNA — it’s forming,” Mom told me.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Your dad was half-cheetah.”
I was half-beast.
Chapter Two: New City
Now I know why our city is named Wild Fasts.
“But… I don’t understand what you mean! And — and you said my — my dad’s dead!!!” I shouted, tears dripping down my cheeks .
“No, he’s not dead. He’s in the wild somewhere. I just know it,” Mom told me.
“How did he get there?” I asked, still petrified.
“Like you wanted, he tried to make peace, but they thought it was a trap, so they attacked instead. The others made it back but — but he couldn’t.” She finished talking and sobbed.
I was mad — no, furious! But sad at the same time. I wanted to run out of here and find my dad. But I didn’t know if I would make it or not. Plus, I didn’t know where he was.
“I know you want to find your dad, and I will let you. But you need to know how to control the cheetah in you, so I’ll lead you until we get there, and then I’ll go,” Mom told me.
“OK,” I told Mom.
“Don’t forget us,” Ruby and Vac said simultaneously.
“It’s too dangerous,” said Mom.
“Just go with it. If they say something, they never take it back,” I told Mom like it was just common sense.
“OK, just one tiny, little problem… It’s that — this person in the other city,” Mom told us, saying the last part more quickly.
“First, that’s a big problemo! Second, how can we trust that ‘person’?” said Ruby.
“That ‘person’ trained Jet’s dad,” said Mom.
Why is everyone saying “person” like it’s important? I thought.
“OK then, let’s go in twenty minutes,” Vac said.
We got out of our city no problemo, but that was the easy part.
We spent several days in the forest sleeping, walking, and eating until we made it. There was a wall of stone and guards in every corner. The only way was up. The good thing was there was a hill near us.
“Ruby, did you bring the paper like always?” asked Vac.
“Of course,” Ruby said.
“Can you give it to me so I can make a glider for each of us? Then, we can glide in there from the hilltop,” said Vac.
“Fine with me,” Ruby replied. “Here,” she said while handing the paper over.
We went up the hill.
“That was a good hike,” I gasped while I basically fell.
I would have tumbled down if my mom didn’t stop me.
Chapter Three: Arguing
“You guys should rest. We will go at midnight,” Vac said. “I’ll be making the glider.”
“Now, who made you boss?” Ruby asked.
“I’m not the boss. I’m just saying I’ll make the glider and you guys should rest,” Vac told her.
“Yeah, well, I want to help!” shouted Ruby.
“Well, I think I’ll be better off if I do this alone,” said Vac while he was making the glider.
“Well, I’m the one who gave you the paper,” Ruby said.
Blah blah blah…
Mom looked in her bag.
“What are you looking for?” I asked.
“Clothing to disguise us,” my mom answered.
“There, a cloak.”
“OK, now let’s rest.”
At midnight, Vac and Ruby were still arguing, but they had made the gliders.
“Ok, now zip it,” I told them.
They finally stopped.
“Let’s go,” I whispered.
We glided. It was actually really fun, like flying. Mom and I were way in front of Vac and Ruby.
I saw Vac mouth, “This conversation is not finished.”
“Everyone got a cloak, right?” Mom whispered.
“Yes,” we whispered back.
We landed safely because it was night and no one was awake.
“OK, let’s wait ‘til sunlight. When it’s time, Mom will tell us who the ‘person’ is,” I said.
We lay down on the hard, cold rock waiting to sleep. Very slowly, I closed my eyes into the darkness.
We opened our eyes in the bright sunlight.
“I officially hate living in the street,” I said.
“Same,” Vac agreed.
“Let’s go,” my mom said.
My mom and I started walking, but Vac and Ruby were arguing about who was going to find the “person” first.
Chapter Four: The Person
My mom and I were so focused on finding the “person” that we didn’t realize Vac and Ruby were running a different way and arguing about who was going to find the “person” first.
They kept arguing until they found themselves lost and sat down on a bench, not knowing which way to go.
“OK, because we’re lost — and you know it, too — why don’t we just give up on this pointless argument?” Ruby growled.
“Deal?” Vac asked.
“Deal,” Ruby replied.
“Are we good?” asked Vac.
“We’re good,” Ruby answered.
“Good,” Vac said.
“Now, where did we come from?” Ruby said.
“There — no, there — no, I don’t know,” Vac said.
“There,” said an old lady nearby, pointing to the way they had come from.
“WHERE DID THIS OLD HAG COME FROM?” Vac shouted.
The old lady whacked Vac with her walking stick.
“I probably deserved that,” Vac mumbled.
The old lady was wearing brown ripped clothes, sharp teeth, and had sharp nails like talons and a white outline at the eye tail.
Ruby shot a glance at the old lady.
“I think we are supposed to know her,” Ruby whispered.
“Mom, what does the ‘person’ look like?” I asked.
“Just an old lady,” my mom said.
Chapter Five: City Trouble
I fell to the ground.
“Hey, what are you doing?” said the big guy I had bonked into.
He was bald and basically three feet wide and six feet tall. I made him so mad that he looked as hot as a flaming piece of charcoal. He was about to hit me, but he missed. It seemed like I was too fast for him, but then my cloak drifted off.
Security guards surrounded us.
“Oh crap,” I said.
There were two reasons why I said, “Oh crap.” First, the security guards surrounded us. Second, the cheetah DNA was once again forming.
We stood back to back. There was one space that was not closed.
“Let’s run through there on the count of three,” I mouthed through the side of my mouth, ticking my head.
“OK,” my mom mouthed back.
“One… two… three!” I said.
We ran for it.
My mom ran as fast as she could. I went the same speed, not turning back and not knowing where to go until we saw Vac and Ruby with the “old lady.”
“What are you doing with the ‘person’?!” I shouted.
“Oh!!! So this old hag is the ‘person’?!” Vac said. OK, I shouldn’t have said that, he thought.
Chapter Six: Grandma
“I knew there was something suspicious about this person,” Ruby said, balling her hands into fists.
“Why are you running?” Vac asked.
“No time to explain,” Mom and I gasped simultaneously. The security guards were catching up.
“Run!” I told everyone.
We ran. Vac was the one who dragged the old lady. We turned a corner and, fortunately, the door was there, but unfortunately, there were even more guards at the door’s entrance.
We turned another corner before the security guards could and went into an abandoned building to hide.
“Mom,” Mom whispered to the old lady happily.
Ruby and Vac stared in awe at my mom, jaws dropped.
“What?” Mom said, looking uncomfortable.
“Let’s talk about this afterwards,” the old lady scolded Vac and Ruby, whacking them with her walking stick.
“So, what should we do?” Vac whispered.
“What about we make them follow us into a trap?” Ruby asked.
“That is not a bad idea,” Mom said.
“OK then, let’s do that plan,” I said.
“You’re saying it like we have another choice,” Vac said to me.
“Whatever. Just go with the plan,” I quickly said.
“OK then, who’s the bait?” Vac asked.
Nobody raised their hand. They were all staring at me.
“OK, fine. I’ll go,” I sighed.
Chapter Seven: Escape
Thirty minutes later, we had already set up the trap. It was a simple one, you know: dig up a hole and put sticks over it, then cover it with leaves. Anyway, I went to the front entrance and got their attention. Then, I ran.
I jumped over the booby trap, and when the guards chased me, they fell into the hole.
“Let’s go before backup comes,” I said.
We ran for the door. It was already open. We ran until we couldn’t see the city.
“I think we lost ‘em,” Ruby said.
We settled down in the middle of Wild Fasts and Steel City next to a tree. We set up camp and went inside tents.
“I guess the Steel City isn’t foolproof?!” I said.
“It could be in the history books: the group who — ” Vac started saying.
“Don’t get ahead of yourself,” Ruby cut in.
“So, ummm, old ha — I know what you’re thinking; you don’t need to hit me — I mean, Grandma,” I said.
“Yes?” she replied in a croaky voice.
“Did you really teach my dad, Flin?” I asked.
“Yes,” she croaked.
“Can you teach me?” I asked.
“I suppose,” said the old lady with a small smile.
“We will start the next morning,” the old lady croaked.
“Wait, so why didn’t you tell us she was your mother?” I asked my mom.
“Because you would ask too many questions.”
“That’s true,” I replied, trying to block a tirade.
“I guess I’ll go, then,” my mom said.
“Wait until sunrise,” I said with gleaming eyes.
“OK then,” Mom said with a sigh.
“Then let’s rest up,” Ruby said. Nobody could argue with that.
I went into the tent with Grandma and Mom while Vac and Ruby went into the other one. I lay down. Now it’s not long until I see my dad.
Chapter Eight: Lessons
It was beaming sunlight when I woke up. My mom was about to leave. She and Grandma were hugging. We said a quick goodbye and hugged, too. When I hugged my mom, she said, “Do what Grandma says,” and slipped a pen in my pocket without me noticing. When my mom left,
“So, Grandma, what are we going to do?” I asked, cutting the silence. “Hunting, fighting, racin — ”
“Meditation,” Grandma cut in.
“Why?” I said, a little disappointed but trying not to show it.
Grandma glared at me.
Under a tree, Grandma and I sat down and closed our eyes. I twitched. I snuck a peek to see if she was still meditating. She was still meditating. I was aching, but I was trying my best to stay still. I wanted to know how much more I’d need to keep it up, but no matter what, I’d do it to find my dad.
So, I survived, and at the end, I was more comfortable. When what felt like two hours had passed, I stood up and felt a jolt of aching pain. It was only a cramp, but it hurt pretty bad.
The next day, I asked if we were going to do something else, but she gave me the stink eye, so I listened and sat down and closed my eyes. Every passing day was less painful but still very painful.
Two weeks had passed and we were still doing the same thing: same old mediation.“I can’t believe we’re wasting our time meditating while we could be looking for my dad!” I told Grandma, who twitched, but she didn’t respond. She was too busy meditating.
Chapter Nine: Frustration
“Let’s meditate,” snapped Grandma, cutting the silence.
“OH, now I’ve had enough! I mean, every day I meditate, and what do I learn?! Nothing! SO. I. QUIT!” I shouted, storming out of the tent and sitting down under the same old tree.
“Dogmatic,” sighed Grandma.
I skipped lunch and went near the tree to eat dinner ALONE. I slept outside, but I couldn’t sleep in the frosty, cold wind until Ruby came.
“What happened this morning?” she asked.
“Stuff,” I mumbled.
“Come on, dude. Break the silence act,” Vac said. I jumped.
“Seriously, come on! Do you need to keep sneaking up on me?” I growled.
“Stop stalling and spit it out!” Ruby snarled.
“Fine, I quit the whole thing!” I blurted.
“I’m sure she knows something. After all, she trained your dad,” Vac suggested.
“Sure, just trust an old lady that I learn nothing from,” I mumbled under my breath.
“What?” Ruby said.
“Nothing,” I said.
They walked away.
“Well, just give her one more try,” Ruby said.
The words echoed in my head. I sat there, waiting a little longer. Then, I tiptoed into the tent while Grandma was snoring. I slipped into the sleeping bag.
I’ll give her one last try.
Sunlight came into the tent, burning my eyes. My eyes blinked rapidly. I saw my grandma outside. I trembled, every step I took getting me closer and closer to her, but at the same time she was going farther and farther away. My legs were wobbling like my bones had been removed.
No! Get a hold of yourself, I told myself.
“Bbbttthhh,” I shuddered.
When I was in front of Grandma, I stopped. The words I wanted to say were stuck on the tip of my tongue. The only two words that came out were… “I’m sorry.”
Chapter Ten: Test
I was sweating, waiting for the answer…
“You’ve passed your test,” she answered.
She’s kidding, right? I thought.
“What do you mean?” I stammered, not knowing what else to say.
“This has been a test all along and you’ve passed it,” Grandma cackled.
“What was?” I asked, happy but confused.
“You see, I was testing you to see if you would come back or not,” Grandma answered.
“But how did you know I was going to quit?” I questioned.
“I’ve had experience with many apprentices to know you were going to quit,” she explained.
“But…” I started.
“Tsk tsk tsk. Let’s just do the next level, shall we?” Grandma cut in.
“But just remember to do meditation daily,” she said.
Immediately my grin turned upside down.
“But you can rest for today,” she told me.Yes! I raced into the tent and lay down. I had the word “daily” stuck in my head, repeating over and over until the darkness swallowed me whole into the world of sleep.
Chapter Eleven: Message
It was finally sunrise.
“Rise and shine,” Grandma said.
“Five more — ” I started to yawn.
She frowned. I didn’t argue. Grandma walked outside to the campfire.
I wore the clothes I wore the day my mom left. I felt something in my pocket, but I was too sleepy to notice. I half-sleepwalked outside to the campfire.
“What are we doing?” I asked half-heartedly.
I clutched my stomach when I saw what she was eating. Ruby and Vac were looking at Grandma, awestruck, but she hardly noticed.
“Hunting,” Grandma said, her words muffled by the deer fur in her mouth.
In that exciting moment, the only word I could say without barfing was, “OK.”
Grandma finished eating the deer and wiped the blood on her sleeve.
“Wanna come?” I asked Ruby and Vac while they were frozen like statues.
“Yeah, sure,” they mouthed back, or maybe they twitched, but after that they both nodded, so I guessed it was a yes.
I dragged Vac and Ruby until they finally recovered from the shock of seeing Grandma eat the deer raw. I almost barfed just thinking about it. Anyway, we followed Grandma until we came to a stop behind a huge rock. I was about to ask why we stopped, but I spotted the rabbit, and the first thing I thought she was going to do was show me how to catch it, but I was wrong.
“You can catch it right?” Grandma asked.
“What in God’s name are yo — ” I started.
I fell on my knees. Brownish-gold dirt smudged on them. The rabbit heard the noise of the thud, so it quickly ran away. I had two choices: shout at my grandma and ask her why she pushed me or run after the rabbit. I had to choose quickly because the rabbit was running away, so I chose to chase the rabbit because I could deal with her later. So, I dashed after the rabbit with all my might. The rabbit was too fast even though it was as small as a little baby.
Faster, faster, faster, I thought to myself.
I burst forward at the speed of light. I caught the rabbit in a matter of seconds.
“I caught it! Ugh, now I’m lost.”
Many hours later…
“This. Is. So. Tiring.” I walked to the camp. Tired.
I tripped on a rock and fell head first into the ground as a pen slipped out of my pocket. I grabbed it, stood up, and held it up to the moonlight. I saw a message that said…
Chapter Twelve: Messages
Every night, I went out into the moonlight to see if there was another message. But on the fourth day, I saw a name written on it:
TO BE CONTINUED…