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A Pocketful

19 Oct

By Emma Davis
7th Grade

One Sunday several years ago my little sister, mom, and I were on our way back from the Ela fruit stand with a bag of apples and some peaches. I stuck my hand in the top right pocket of my chocolate-colored cargo pants, drawing it out again as soon as it was in, preparing to remove the thorn that had jabbed the tip of my thumb. But as soon as my thumb was out of my pocket, I screamed bloody murder, my eyes wide with fear. There on my thumb was a yellow wasp, its stinger lodged in my thumb-tip.

I froze, my already warm face burning with embarrassment like a blazing wildfire, my mouth dry and gaping. Time stopped. My mom’s hand rested on my thumb, the wasp frozen like a statuette. All around me people’s heads were turned to me, and the sweet smell of frying donuts hung stock-still in mid-air.

Buckled In

19 Oct

By Annaliese Abbasi-Chavez

I walked out of the house, prepared to be greeted by my bubbly friend. Instead, Janine did not come out, so I walked down my concrete steps and my excitement slowly dwindled away. I peeked into her mom’s car, the front seat, the back seat. Only her mom, Lisa, was there to pick me up and take me to my horseback riding lesson. I acted as if I didn’t care that we would be alone together, to be polite. I parted my hair in the back as I handed my bag to Lisa. The trunk slowly opened, dust flicking off in a frenzy. She tossed my bag into the back.

I slowly walked back to my mom, tugging on my shirt as she said, “Where’s Janine?”

“She didn’t come,” I replied, taking a deep breath. I tightly hugged her and set off into my reserved seat in the front.

Exhaust trailed behind us as we buckled in, and my conversation with Ms. Lisa commenced as she blasted Maroon Five’s work from years ago.

Being stuck in a car with your friend’s mom may seem like a bonding experience, but for me it was torture. I’m not usually uncomfortable with my friends’ parents, but when they start asking if their daughter is having dark thoughts on social media, then it takes a turn for the worse.

Not to mention, this parental figure loves Maroon Five, so the whole way I was stuck in a situation of being uncomfortable on the highest level.

“So, how have you been?”

“Oh, great! What about you?”

“Fantastic. It’s so great to see you, Analiese.”

I widen my mouth into a toothy grin.

“Has Janine been okay, you know, on social media?”

“I mean, yeah, she posts every now and then.”

“No, I mean does she seem depressed?”

“Oh, um, no,” I slightly lied.

A couple of odd seconds later, “You would tell me if she did, right?”

“Oh yeah, of course,” I said, blushing like a fresh-picked tomato.

As we were going speedily into the turn, I thought, If she was, I don’t think I would have the guts to say something, and shouldn’t she know if her daughter is depressed, which she isn’t, I don’t think, but her bio is a little deep, is she okay, I mean she’s not acting different. I finished my thought after a few long seconds of contemplation in my own slightly deep mind.

Weeks before, I went on a trip with Janine. I Snapchatted her and asked how she was, and she replied, “Not good. No one loves me.” 

“Well, I do, very much. You’re one of my best friends.”

“That’s true. You’re right.”

When her mother dropped me off at my final destination I was relieved.

To be fair, Lisa is a very sweet person, so in the long run it wasn’t that bad once we walked into the barn. I thought, She drove me all the way up here. That was really kind of her, even if it was a dreadful drive.

Waiting for the Bell To Ring

19 Oct

By Riley Christian
7th Grade

“Marie Antoinette was…” Mr. Gordon droned on as I listened to the scratching of pencils on paper. All of a sudden, as I wrote down, “Let them eat cake!” I felt a hand on my shoulder and an arm draped across my back. I froze. I felt the all-too-familiar tingling all over my body. My cheeks were burning like Tartarus as my heart pounded in my ears. Afraid to look, I turned slowly, to be faced with the big grin and freckles of my crush, Spencer. My breath caught.

I lost all control of my thoughts and gave him an awkward smile as he leaned back in his chair. I returned my gaze to the front of the class, trying not to jump up and run out of the room squealing.

This was more awkwardness than I ever experienced, and I had cried in front of two hundred people. I wished that the bell would ring already so that I could do one of those cool maneuvers with my hair as I walked outside.

RINGGG!

As soon as the bell echoed in my ears, I was snapped back to my mind, as if my heart and my brain were connected like a jigsaw puzzle.

And so it began…Awk-ward.

 

A Few Months Later 

I pulled on the cardboard edge of my poster-board to talk to Leslie, who was right in front of me.

She pulled back hers and whispered, “Here comes your mom.”

I whirled around.

“Hey, honey! I was wondering if I could meet Spencer?”

I sighed and agreed.

Before I knew it, Leslie had pulled Spencer over and told him.

 

The Next Year

At Mia’s sleepover, my initial thoughts were: awesome house, awesome mom, awesomeness in general. Then came the typical spilling-your-heart-out confessions at night.

Before I knew it, the subject of Spencer came up. Spencer had been placed in a different ability group, and without thinking I told Adriana how I felt about it. By 3:00 a.m. it was forgotten.
The Next Day

“Hey, Riley! Adriana told me something earlier about someone having confidence in me. Do you know anything about it?” As soon as I heard the words spill from Spencer’s mouth, I knew Adriana had told him what I said about him.

“Um, no,” I said, and instantly began talking to my conscience, Orchid, as I debated with myself whether or not putting my head on the desk would give me away as Spencer talked to my friends asking them questions.

Finally I made my decision.

 

Study Hall

I was too freaked out to think about anything else except the ABC Drama that I was trapped in. So, knowing what relaxes me, I whipped out a few sheets of notebook paper and wrote a story about a prince and a girl named Ella.

 

Recess

Spencer was on the tightrope, so I walked up to him, shoved the story in his hand forcefully and walked away. He went off to read it in a corner while I waited with baited breath for a response.

Castiel

9 Sep

Excerpt from a novel by
Julia Knudten
7th Grade

18:00 hours
Captain’s Log,

“Dear diary” just sounds too stupid. Captain’s Log sounds more official and fancy. After 256 tests, Rose and Xander finally were able to wake me up. But now I can’t even go near a frying pan.  I found something out recently, and trust me, I would never want to tell anyone. At first, it was a little headache, nothing too bad. Then over the course of a few continuous hours, it started to feel like someone with a blunt object was hitting me in the head, OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER, you get the point. I felt a sick trickling sensation on the crown of my head, only to find it was blood. I was surprised no one noticed it in my silvery white hair; I was sure it would stain it. Anyway, I felt something that made my head feel like a jaw with two sharp canines coming in. They were short, tiny nubs on the top of my head. If I told anyone, I was positive that they would make continuous jocular references to them. I think they might be horns, but I don’t know. And I think my hair is changing colors again. First brown, then silver, and now what I think to be a black tint with flashes of gold. I don’t know what’s going on with me. Maybe it’s a serious allergic reaction, or something like that. I just don’t want to be that one leader who had horns. That’s sort of humiliating.  Oh well.

– Castiel Marena Rivers

My hand started cramping a little bit. I put my small pen down. I sighed and shoved the journal back into my canvas sack and headed out of my room. But before I could turn the handle to my door, a giant wave of pain washed over me.

Rose

Of course, while walking to my personal training room, I had to run into the one person I was honestly surprised even got into the army. Elke. I glared and pushed past her, obviously enraging her popular fury.

“Watch where you’re going!” Elke said, trying to gather my scattered attention. “Excuse me? Hello? Anyone in this emotionless vessel?” she screamed into my face. Something made my sense of smell curdle, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

“Yeah, I’m here,” I stated simply. “But I don’t find anything interesting about you to talk about. You ran into me, I did nothing. Now excuse me, I have to help save this screwed up world if you don’t mind.”

“I’m doing that too! But I’m not as dedicated as you because I actually have a life to attend to.”

“Really?! Wow, I haven’t noticed. Congratulations on doing something other than what you signed up to do!” I said, cursing the air with my foul words.

“Please. I could take you down, little Rosey Posey. I bet I work 10 time harder than you ever could,” she sneered. A sickening smell lifted into the atmosphere, nearly knocking me out.

“Bring it, Elke.” I swept her feet, landing her on her back, defenseless.

Her horrid perfume stench filled the air. I smiled, trying to hide a grimace, my response to her bad taste in fragrances, and continued walking to my desired destination. As I stepped past her, a raging stampede of her personal followers sprinted to her aid.

Why she was so popular, I had no idea. She was an immature girl who was forced into the Second Defense after her own father kicked her out of First Defense. I heard something that I could fully agree with: Elke was kicked out because 1) she didn’t even lift a finger, and 2) she didn’t try hard enough. She wanted to stay home, live a rich and famous life, but her father thought if she went into the family business it would give her some dignity and common sense.

And that HORRIBLE orchid perfume, Elke practically bathed in it. Not a single inch of her body wasn’t covered with that scent. Apparently it was her signature—not written, then your hand would cramp. She thought it made her more appealing. I thought it would definitely be the death of me. She wore so much, one little gasp could be your last, because you would die of asphyxiation, choking in her stinky grasp.

Later that evening, the air was getting thicker and thicker in my chamber, making it harder to breathe. I had to escape this warm death. I opened the door with a small creak, and the chilling air relieved me of the humid atmosphere. Stepping into the moonlight, I breathed the last bit of remembrance into the air. My once murky brown hair, now turned to a sweet mahogany. My originally pale face was now florescent in the pale light.

I trudged into the bog, where the arms of trees etched new shadows across my head. The black hood I wore over my light armor turned to a dark, beautiful maroon. The freezing air burned red into the tip of my strangely pointed ears. My speckled brown eyes flashed with bits of gold in the corners, highlighting the small spheres. My thin leather boots, now caked with mud, but still flexible and in decent shape. This was only a small trek, I would be back soon, but then again, I never wanted to leave.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a whole legion of guards surrounded me.

“HALT! YOU WILL BE HELD FOR TREASON! YOU LEFT YOUR POST, SOLDIER. THAT IS BREAKING ONE OF OUR FINE LAWS,” the leader said as one of his cronies tied my hands tightly behind my back. “YOU WILL BE EXECUTED FOR YOUR CRIMES.”

I had no clue what was going on. It was stupid that anyone would think that I would break the law. I wanted to tell them everything, but it was unlikely they would believe me. Crap, I’m so screwed. I thought pessimistically.

Castiel

It wasn’t what I thought. My eyes were playing tricks on me.

“ROSE!” I screamed as she turned her head…well, as much as she could. The look of fear stretched across her familiar brown eyes. The first friend I made in the orphanage was about to get her head chopped off.

“Ignitus, this woman is a criminal. She must pay for her deeds,” the executioner pleaded softly.

“Release her.” I stated firmly.

“Bu-”

“I SAID RELEASE HER. She is a soldier of the guard, and she has more ranking than you could ever dream of,” I growled.

They released her head from the little dip in the wood.

“THE REST OF YOU, GO HOME,” I screamed at the small group of citizens gathered to see the beheading.

I grabbed Rose’s arm and pulled her aside. “Yes, hello. I’m overjoyed to see you, not beheaded!” I yelled.

“I know, I know. I was just leaving my chambers to go for a walk in the woods. But, apparently, a warrior that looked just like me, left their post in Kirme, and they thought I was that traitor. And since it is heavily against the law to leave your post, I was taken. Sooooo yeah. How’ve you been?” she smirked.

I laughed a little. “Oh, you know, leading a rebellion, kicking Carrion off his own boat. It’s hard work. Oh, and I had to kill Dominicus and then put him back together. The same old same old.”

I was glad that I made it in time, so that my friend didn’t die for something she didn’t do. I sat in the harbor watching the waves crash against the slowly rotting wood.

“Now this isn’t so—” Rose started talking but was cut off by a large deafening ring.

Must be noon, I thought, not thinking much of it. But, as I looked over at Rose, she had a look of complete terror etched across her face. “Rose, what’s wrong?” I said.

“Th-that was a war bell. Something must be coming,” she said, slightly shivering.

“That was just a normal old church bell. Something horrible isn’t going to kill us, Rose. We’re going to be fine. Look, I haven’t been here long. I don’t know how many bells this section has, but I assure you that there is nothing to worry about.” I persisted, but she just wouldn’t listen.

She turned to me, a grim expression plastered to her face. “Cas, I’ve studied in this sector. I know everything about it. I think I’d know if it was a warning call. And I’ve never heard one like that before, so that must mean that something HUGE is coming our way.”

“Yes, of course, how could I be so ignorant?!? A whole legion of Umkaila  and red wolves are coming straight for us. If there’s any problem, I’m positi-” I was cut off by a large screech, which was soon followed by an ominous howl. “Oh crap.” I said, all the blood draining from my face.

“I TOLD YOU!” Rose screamed as she jumped up and sprinted to the entry

I barked orders at the soldiers, making each and every one of them understand the grave danger that we had fallen into. I was given my scythes and courageously made my way to the castle’s gate. I nodded at my soldiers and they made a thick line, prepared to either die or live without a few limbs.

“SET!’ I screamed at the first line of archers. They all pointed their elegant bows at a 90-degree angle, arrow tips gleaming in the afternoon sun. “FIRE!” They all released with a loud twang and impaled the majority of the monsters.

The monsters still kept on running and slowly prowling towards us. I felt like I could read their thoughts: they all screamed dinner! This made me excited. It was about time that I had a little battle. But I knew that blood was going to be spilled. And unfortunately, most of it wouldn’t be the monsters’.

Once again I felt that metallic lifeline spread across my tongue. The archers were almost out of their deadly ammo. I wished that this would all end. I think that they did too. I ran through the midst of the soldiers, making it to the very front of the line. Spreading my arms wide, I could sense danger. I smirked and made a small barrier around my army.

“CASTIEL, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Rose screamed through the sea of confusion.

“Saving.” I smiled back at her.

In my peripheral vision, I could spot a small river of tears streaming down my face. I felt a burst of pain in my one good arm and an attack on my left leg. I sighed, giving one last burst of life. I went to the floor, creating an ancient rune around my feet, mumbling an incantation I have never heard.

The world around me caught fire and made a haven for me, but nothing died, except the land surrounding me. My vision slowly turned to a shade darker than black and I finally gave up. Letting the shadows absorb me, I disappeared into a false world of monochrome. No light, but also no sign of darkness in sight. I felt at peace, and then something woke me up, a slight shake and then vicious gurgles of misinterpreted words. It sounded like blood and despair in their true forms. But I would never be able to see them. A sensation of a million nails digging into my spine emerged. Flashes of the past, and memories that no one would understand. No one ever understood.

I woke from my daze. My small army was still protected by a fiery barrier. I smiled, slightly grimacing. I lifted my head from the stale warm grass. The air was humid and it was impossible to take a decent breath. Coughing up a small pile of blood, a wave of crazed laughter washed over me without my consent. I looked up and glared that the prowlers slowly crawling towards me.

I shouted an incantation that I have never heard but knew by heart. I yelled, each word getting louder and louder. Everything that I never wanted in the first place was finally in a steaming pile of ashes. I fell into a little dream-world once again.

Rose

Castiel was knocked out for multiple days. None of us knew if she was ever going to wake up. After countless hours of getting nothing but sympathy, I had enough. I always told myself to never get attached to anyone, but this was an exception. Castiel was the family that never dropped me off at a doorstep and ran. She was the closest thing to it.

Everything was off, even me. Most of the more trained and famous fighters who agreed to fight in this rebellion were pushing to elect a new leader. It’s been three days and they’ve already moved on. Show some respect, I thought as I pushed past people in the tight streets.

I saw the bells before I heard them. A loud ringing like a rock hit me in the head. Something about it sounded airy and soft. Then again, it was like a million meteors striking your ears. It was a deadly red sound. The birds around me seemed to silence its violent sound. Their vocals flowed through the air in yellow and a beautiful off-white. This was different for me. Usually it was sound, now it was colors and pain. I felt normal and different all at once. The clicking of horse hooves sounded like a heather grey or a gentle brown as I past the stables. The hypnotic calls of the seagulls shouted colors of vibrant cyan or a crisp mint green. I wonder if others felt this as well, because it was more vivid than anything I’ve ever felt.

Castiel

I’m usually calm in a crisis. Then again, this wasn’t a crisis. It was a dream, a hallucination, something too far from reality. I was lost inside my own head, seeing everything that I have remembered, or counted as a memory. My head seemed to be there just to mock every regret and fear that’s ever occurred. Lost in the woods, and tripping over long tangled roots was not a happy time. A low growling haunted me in the distance. I touched the trees, looking for a weak spot to hide.

Could be a red wolf, but since when are monsters haunting my dreams? Sure, the thing under my bed was in here, but when you bring something from the real world in here that is just the most creepy thing that I’ve ever witnessed I thought as I climbed the thick bark, hoping for a better view, which, luckily, I did get. Looking over the vast forest, I saw something grey with a metallic appearance.

I cut myself while climbing down, but the bark’s sharp and sticky texture was somewhat soothing. Running through the thick underbrush, jumping over roots that seemed to want to kill me, I finally made it to my desired destination. But, it wasn’t a thing, it was a pile of ash. I thought I had seen something valuable while sitting in my little perch, but it was high upon the mountain of ash.

I carefully climbed my way to the top. Looking around, I grabbed a thick, smooth object and sprinted down the collapsible pile of gravel—only to find that it was a rock. A ROCK! I chucked the rock into the forest, but didn’t hear anything when it landed. Suddenly without warning, everything around me burst into flames.

I was fine, but I glanced at something that made my stomach acid curdle. My friends, tied to each other, obviously knocked out, and slowly being cooked in the flames. I used all the strength I had left to untie them. It didn’t work.

Something glimmered in the fire. Not fuel, or anything combustible. Something shiny. I grabbed it, rubbing my fingers over its smooth surface, only to find the other side was scratchy as a high quality sand paper. It was shaped like a teardrop, light as one as well, but the end of it was so sharp it could easily take out an eye. A brilliant idea popped into my head, fueling the gears that were stuck in place for far too long. I ran over to me grumbling friends, cutting them free and creating a protective dome around them.

Friends are my family. And family is my greatest flaw now. I thought as I tended to their wounds. My old friend, Return, was the first person to stir from the mysterious slumber.

“Are you okay, Cas?” she faintly whispered.

“You should worry about yourself. I’m just dandy. Are you okay?” I said, reigning in my sarcasm. I always thought sarcasm was a bad thing, but over the years I realized it wasn’t quite that bad, but it wasn’t mandatory either. So I tried not to use it, but unfortunately I seemed to be fluent in it.

The floor below me turned into a mushy surface. I slowly sank further and further into the ground. It was solid a second ago. Am I just going insane? I questioned myself, which I usually didn’t like doing. My small dome was failing, quickly deteriorating and disappearing. The ground soaked me into itself like a sponge. I couldn’t help the others. I couldn’t even help myself!

I let the ground absorb me. As my head went under, I woke with a large bang. Apparently, for the last five days, Rose and Xander were coming up with ways to wake me. Today was test number 256, and it was two frying pans.

I sighed. The excruciating pain dropped to my lower torso. The pain was growing since I’d woken. Pain surged through my back, connecting to my shoulder blades. It dawned in bigger and bigger waves. I wanted to cry out, but that would cause unwanted attention. I felt dizzier and dizzier, the room spinning around me. The ground crashed into me faster than a simple snap. The fall certainly didn’t help the pain at all. Cries quickly found their way out. I sounded like a wounded animal. My tears stained the wood floors.

The incoming horns caused no pain. I think they were finally done growing in.

“Cas, are you okay?” Xander said.

Rose was standing behind him. “You sound like you’re dying!”

“I’m fin-AHHHH!” I screamed in agony. My breaths came in short gasps.

I saw something, or SOMEONE appear in the corner of the room. It was blurry, then I automatically knew who it was. “It’s about time you  transformed.” Carrion said in a low growl.

I scowled. He was only here to mock my pain. “GO AWAY!” I shouted fiercely.

The stabbing sensation in my back grew worse. Before I knew it, two fiery angelic wings sprouted out of my shoulder blades. It was a little surprising. I screamed, but this time it was only out of surprise. I sort of smiled. It was badass.

“Oh god.” I heard Carrion whisper under his breath. Knowing he was scared fueled my pride.

“Run.” I stated coldly.

His figure started to fade.

My hair was a shade darker than black. My eyes were a crimson that could pierce through your soul. My wings were a beautiful rose-gold.

Without my consent, the door flew open and Carrion’s apparition disappeared. I shrieked.

Xander and Rose stood there, jaws scraping the floor.

“Cas, why didn’t you tell us?” Rose blubbered.

“I agree!” Xander said.

I sighed. They needed an explanation. “Knowing you guys, you would laugh…” I pleaded, a guilty blush dusted across my cheekbones. I just wanted to disappear. My wings wrapped around me, comforting me in distress.

“Who do you think we are? We’re your friends!” Xander said.

“We aren’t monsters, Cas,” Rose said.

“I was scared!” I said. My wings collapsed and hid behind my back. “You two are intimidating!”

“Come on. Let’s show everyone.” Rose said, grabbing my arm and pulling hard.

I shook my head. “NO!”

“Come on! Be brave for once!” Xander said coolly.

My hand almost fell off due to Rose’s ruthless grasp. The doors to the main hall opened as if on cue. She dragged me to the middle, where every single soldier was gathered. They all silenced once they saw us enter the room. I might as well give it to them straight.

“So if you haven’t noticed…I’m a phoenix,” I blurted.

One guy in the back coughed uncomfortably. It was silent for a few minutes. They all stared in awe. My palms became sweaty under all this unwanted pressure. I decided to spread my wings for proof. Then the hall erupted with cheers. This was a better reaction than I expected. I smiled, but something I saw in the corner was unsettling.

Hidden in the shadows, there HE stood. This time, it wasn’t an apparition.

“YOU.” I growled, marching towards him, growing angrier by the minute. He was standing casually in the shade, like nothing was wrong. And he called out my name.

Murder and Girl Scout Cookies

9 Sep

By Emma Davis
7th Grade

 

I knew something was wrong. It smelled like something died in there. Maybe something had. Maybe…I walked in. Everything was normal. Except for the body lying on the floor.

He was a big man, six-food-seven, broad-shouldered. He was sprawled out on the floor, a spilled cup of coffee lying next to him.

Lily ran in. “Okay! I’m getting—” She stopped, seeing the corpse lying on the floor.

“Told you something was wrong,” I said.

Lily is my weirdo friend who always has the beautiful smell of mothballs, hair products, mascara, and wood shavings—I always thought she spent a lot of time in her garage, but actually she spends a lot of time with her pet ferret, who also smells like, well, wood shavings.

“I’ll call the cops,” she said, wide-eyed with fear. She pulled out her phone, which for some reason unknown to mankind, also smells like wood shavings.

I opened a window, casting a light on Lily. A five-foot-tall, lanky, thirteen-year-old girl with icy blonde hair, sea-blue eyes, and skin as white as milk. In Lily’s opinion, the moon is a hunk of cream cheese orbiting earth, and the zombie apocalypse is liable to happen twenty years from now. I don’t believe either of those things, but you know, that’s just Lily.

“Okay. Don’t worry,” she said into her phone. “We’re not panicking…Yes, he’s dead…We wouldn’t do that…Okay, the address? Hold on a sec. Hana, what’s the address?”

“7598 North Barrel Court.”

“Thanks. 7598 North Barrel Court…Yeah, the yellow one…Okay, thanks.” Lily pushed a button to end the call, and turned to reassure me, “He said he’ll be right over, Hana.”

Five minutes later two police cars were parked on the street. An average size man stepped out of one. “Okay, kids. Where is this so-called corpse?

“It is a real corpse, y’know,” I said. “I live across the street from him—”

“No need for explanation, young lady.”

I kept going. “—and he usually is a very social man. But he hadn’t been out of the house in three days, so Lily and I went to check it out.”

“Young lady, you—”

I cut him off, “I’m sorry, officer, sir, but we’re not tricking you.” I stood up straight and tall, hoping to make myself look less like a scrawny teenager. I looked him in the eye. “Sir, there is a dead man in that house.”

It wasn’t what I thought. My eyes were playing tricks on me.

“Okay, young lady. Where is this corpse now?” the officer asked.

“Well, I don’t know! It was there a second ago. Look, the coffee’s still there.”

“What coffee?”

There was no coffee anywhere on the floor.

“Sir, I swear, there was a dead man in this house. There was also a spilled cup of coffee. It was right here.” I pulled up the rug and saw a brown stain on the carpet underneath. “Sir, I told you.”

“You’re right. That is coffee. Then where did the body go?”

SLAM! Just the angry next-door neighbor.

“What was that?” the officer said.

“Probably just our angry next-door neighbor,” I replied.

“But it sounded like it came from in the house.”

“Whatever. I gotta go see if Lily’s okay.”

I walked around the house, the yard. No Lily. I started worrying. Lily is a bit of a door-slammer though, so it was probably her. I tried to call her. No answer. That was weird. Lily always answers her phone. I blew it off as just her weirdness. I went back inside the house.

“Sir, I forgot to tell you that this man’s wife was on a trip and is coming home today. She’ll be picked up by her niece, from what I heard.”

It had rained the night before. It always does in Seattle. There was fresh mud on the ground.

The officer walked outside, soon coming back in with a look of shock on his face. “There are two sets of footprints outside. One coming and one going,” he said. “I guess I’m gonna have to believe you. You don’t wear size seven-and-a-half men’s shoes.”

“Um…yeah, no…”

***

A flock of birds sang in the winter trees, voices white, sweet, and airy as whipped cream. Even though there is no winter air this winter and there never is, Seattle’s just like that. As I stepped up the front porch, a tingling in my spine appeared out of nowhere. Mr. Willoughby had been dead for two days. His body still was not found. Neither was Lily. And now the police thought I would be of help? Obviously they were on the wrong track.

I banged the old-fashioned wolf-head doorknocker. A short, balding, middle-aged man with glasses opened it. “Would you like to buy some Girl Scout Cookies?” I asked.

“Of course, young lady. How much?”

“Five dollars.”

“Okay. Here you go.”

“Thanks.”

He placed a crisp five-dollar bill in my palm. I left, hopeful that this time the fingerprints would match.

***

For the last week, Lily had been missing. I was scared, not knowing if I’d ever find her, not knowing where she was or what had happened. I stormed upstairs to my room, slamming the door. I slid spinelessly off the wall and onto the cold, hard, linoleum floor. I felt like I was drowning, my limbs falling off one by one, the deep, blue, rolling waves of the ocean engulfing me, wrapping me in an infinite black blanket of emptiness, of sadness, of despair, of Girl Scout Cookies.

Cold, slimy tentacles wrapped around me, dragging me down to the endless depths. I struggled as much as I could to get away, but…

“Hana! Hana! Calm down! Calm down!” I opened my eyes to see my mom standing over me.

My pajamas were clinging to me with cold, clammy, sticky sweat. When my mom left, I peeled my clothes off and got dressed in my Girl Scout uniform.

I sat down at the table to eat my breakfast, then I went to the bathroom to brush and floss.

“Really? Finally?” I asked, hopeful that our little army of Girl Scouts was finally done with our task.

“No. We’re just out of cookies,” the police chief said.

“Mmff,” I replied, slumping into an egg-shaped chair. “Look, do you know how many stupid boxes of Girl Scout cookies I’ve sold this week?”

“Four hundred.”

“Yes. And look at the soles of my tennis shoes. I stuck my shoe in his face, revealing the worn soles and gaping holes in them.

“Mmff,” I said again.

“Yeah, well, it’s an mmff to us too. Do you know how much those cookies cost?”

“Mmff.”

“Well do you?”

“Mmff”

“Come on, do you know?”

“Yeah.”

“How much?”

“Dunno.”

“Come on.”

“It’s three dollars a box, and that—a”

“—adds up really fast, I know. How many times have you had to tell me that?”

“A lot.”

I kicked off my shoes and started rubbing my sore feet. “Mmff.” I threw myself back in the chair. “Listen. Thirty a week is too much for me. I…”

But I was never able to finish because a thin, gangly dark-haired man in a lab coat rushed in right then. “We found the fingerprints matching those on the windowsill of the Willoughby house,” he said, dropping a folder on the chief’s desk and then bustling out.

“Really? Finally?”

“No. Just out of cookies again,” he said, flipping through the papers. “Just kidding. Girl Scout soldier #230 came back with the money this morning.”

“Sir. Where were you on the night of the thirteenth?”

“Watching TV at home, I told you.”

“Tell me the truth.”

“Okay,” he said, his voice shaking like a leaf. “I was at the home of Winston Willoughby.”

“What were you doing there?”

“Hana!!!” my mother’s voice interrupted me.

“Yeah?”

“What are you doing in that bathroom?” she asked.

“Interrogating the floss.”

“What?”

“Forget it,” I said

After flossing my teeth, a packed a small tote bag with a flashlight, some rope, a few snacks, my book, phone, and wallet. When everyone was asleep I tiptoed downstairs, slid open the window and snuck out.

I think it looked kind of weird to see a thirteen-year-old girl sitting in her pajamas reading To Kill a Mockingbird on the midnight train to Eugene, but who cares?

I stepped onto the platform in Eugene and instantly saw a B-cycle station. I dropped twenty bucks into the payment slot and was soon off to 1298 Michigan Lane, Eugene, Oregon. I biked for about thirty to forty-five minutes until I dropped my bike on the green grassy lawn.

As I crept up the steps, a familiar and unwelcome tingling crawled up my spine. I shivered as I rang that cold, silver doorbell. No one answered. I started to body-slam down the door, but found it unlocked. You could have practically heard me blink when a tall, lean man with dirty blonde hair stepped out of the murky shadows with the stealth of a cat. He was holding a knife. I stared for a moment. Then, having decided not to bite his ankles, I pulled out my phone and took a picture of him.

“I’d better get going now. Bye!” I said nervously and ran across the lawn, not giving another thought to the man with the knife.

I pedaled as fast as I could to the nearest Eugene Police station.

“You’re telling me that some guy committed a murder and he’s still in the house?”

“Yeah.”

“And you’re asking for a warrant for his arrest?”

“Yeah.”

“I’ll give you the warrant, ‘cause you’re probably completely wrong, and I’ll also give you a police escort.”

“Okay. But when I’m right don’t let this go public, okay?”

“Fine.”

He drove me back to the neighborhood in a police car and parked on the street by the house. We stepped out, breaking the ominous silence that seemed to hang in the air around the house. We found the middle-aged man hiding in the closet. “I have a warrant to arrest you, sir,” I said. We took the man back to the police car, grumbling and handcuffed.

The investigation conducted by the Seattle Police was completed, and the results were that this man had committed murder because he wanted revenge on both of the victims, my neighbor and the guy in Eugene. He wouldn’t admit why.

“So, case closed,” said the police officer on the phone.

“But you still haven’t found Lily?”

The doorbell rang.

“One sec,” I said to the cop. I ran over to the door. To my surprise, on the other side was…Lily? I gaped. “Come in here!”

She walked in, rolling a suitcase behind her.

“Where were you?”

“I was trying to tell you. I had decided to take a train to San Francisco.”

“What?”

“I was tired of daily life, so I grabbed a little money and went to San Francisco for a few weeks.”

“I never will understand you, Lily,” I said, walking to the phone. “I’ll call you back. I just found Lily.”

 

 

 

 

Mushy and Green

4 May

By Ian Zwerling
7th Grade

At first glance it looks like mush. Just some random things pushed together. It looks hardly edible and smells like an uncleaned horse pen. But when you taste it the flavor explodes. The tartness of the strawberry fills your mouth as though you were eating them right off of the bush. Then comes lemon, very sour yet sweet in its own way. Your lips pucker as the taste moves over your tongue. Finally the coconut, bringing back memories of when you went to Hawaii. All of those flavors clash, creating one super flavor. Sweet, sour, and nice. You smile as it moves down your throat.

The wait felt eternal. I waited in bed for my mom. Finally my mom came in and gave me a good-night kiss. It was when she left that I really started to wait. After what felt like the whole night, it started.

Smoothies are mushy and green.

The bed slowly began to move, creaking like an old staircase. Just this noise was enough to put me on edge and I began to get nervous. I reached for my blankets and pulled them up and over my head, hoping this would prevent an encounter with The Octopus.

When I thought it was over, I pushed my blankets down, only to jerk my hand back when it touched something mushy. Out of the faint light I could see that it was a slight shade of green. Mushy and green. Hmmm, that reminds me of my mom’s smoothies.

Smoothies are smooth but also thick.

Then I heard it. I heard the slow slithering of an octopus. Its tentacles moved back and forth across the floor. The tentacles moved swiftly and smoothly, but they were thick so they couldn’t fit into the small spaces of my room. Smooth and thick. Smooth and thick. Again, just like a smoothie. This was like an octopus smoothie.

Success has unlimited flavors.

I heard the octopus move toward the edge of my bed. Intent on keeping it at bay, I grabbed my automatic Nerf gun and fired off a round. (Yes, I came prepared.)

Hearing the noise, my parents came rushing into my room, “What on Earth do you think you’re doing?”

“Keeping the octopus out,” I replied.

“Give me the gun,” my dad said.

Reluctantly I handed it over.

“Now get some sleep,” they said.

It was when they left that I made my second move. I grabbed a flashlight, turned it on, and looked under the bed. To my surprise, no one was there. I went to bed, my mouth filled with the umlimited flavors of success. Who knew it could taste so good?

A Cart to the Future

7 Jun

by Clare Drewes
7th Grade

I woke up to a full moon. The world below my feet was still, but it wasn’t supposed to be. There was no clanging of pots or voices shouting commands, there was just silence. I opened my paper screen and leaned out the window. There was a very strong smell in the air, not the usual peanut sauce but something more distinct…smoke.

I raced downstairs. The smell was becoming stronger. I ran into the shop’s kitchen. My forehead began to burn. My throat closed up and I couldn’t swallow. The skin on my feet felt raw. Something powerful was eating at my back. I turned around and saw flames running around the perimeter of the room. I ran into the courtyard and found my mother on her knees. “Jia! Jia!” she repeated. “My house! My House!” Water was gathered and the flames were soon gone, but the kitchen was a pile of smoldering ash.

As the sun rose, bystanders and helpers left. My mother was still in the courtyard. “Laupo! Laupo!” she cried. “Husband! Husband! Chie Hui Noksu, your father, look for your father.” My body was still. I did not look, because I knew I would find nothing.

My ears were ringing from the noise surrounding me. Street vendors harassed passers-by, and little children dogged street buggies. The city, Shangjiakou, was not exciting but painful. The pain I felt was not from the unfamiliar sites, but the distant familiarity of it. Rice porridge, fish stock and overwhelming curry filled the street with an amazing aroma. It smelled like my father, my house, and my city. I wanted to bury my face in my father’s apron and escape. I wanted to escape just like my father did. I could escape from my mother, my life, and most of all, my uncle.

Birds scattered as the cart came to a stop in front of a small shack. Red curtains covered openings in the wood house. Dead potted plants framed the ill-fitting door. The roof sagged at the corners, and patches of wood covered places where tile had fallen off. A large tub of water filled with clothes sat in the yard. A large man approached us. As he came closer, his unshaven whiskers became visible. His nails varied in size, and dirt made up the rest of his hand.

“Akio,” my mother greeted my uncle. His name, Akio, means glorious hero, but behind his back he is referred to as Dai, the large one.

He smiled as if he was proud of his home and his nearly toothless mouth. “Kazue, Miho, come! Rin, the bags won’t unpack themselves.”

Cousin Kazue and Miho and Aunt Rin were used to Akio’s frequent requests. The two scrawny girls met my brothers and took them inside the house. Aunt Rin waved towards my mother and quickly grabbed the largest bags. As Akio and my mother went inside the house for tea, Rin and I unloaded the cart.

I woke up early, and to my surprise nobody was awake. My brothers were on the floor and my cousins were squished into the bed I shared with them. I grabbed my white linen dress and tiptoed past my mother in the house’s front room. Once I was in the street I asked one of the few pedestrians where I could find wagashi, traditional Japanese treats. As I passed other shack-homes, I discovered a small alley. The shops’ many stories rested on carved, water-stained wood beams. The old walls looked as if they were having trouble carrying such large structures, so they clung to their neighbor’s walls in hope of help. Old doors allowed morning mist to creep underneath their cracks, but one shop looked different. Purple-hued smoke was protruding from one building’s doorframe.

I cautiously knocked on the wood. The knocker was wet. Red paint marked my hand. More fresh paint dripped from the eaves above me. I entered the building, seeking a wet cloth to clean my garments. As the door opened, a cloud of smoke whipped against my face. My eyes watered, but I continued moving. As my tears drained, I saw a candlelit room. It looked as if the storekeeper had been here for hours. The candles were merely stubs. Wall space without candles was filled by dolls. The dolls all had very foreign characteristics. Their skin was dark and their hair was brown, unlike any of the people in China. Two of the dolls seemed to be a pair. A short girl holding a teacup stood next to a man with a very stern face. The man held a canvas bag in one arm and a cooking pan in the other.

A voice startled my concentration. “Do you like those dolls?” I turned to find a round, balding man standing next to me.

“No!” My harsh tone shocked the man as well as myself. “I am looking for something more friendly, for a child.”

His face eased and his wrinkles moved even farther down his face. He slowly led me to a basket full of Asian girls wearing pink dresses. I smiled, thinking of my cousins. I handed the dolls and a few coins to the man. As he took the money, he handed me something else in return. A wet rag. “For the paint,” he added. I noticed the rag had already been used, but I gladly took it. I retrieved the dolls and left the shop without another word.

The sun had risen above the tall buildings. I traced my steps back to the small shack village. As I entered the house, anger swept over me. I was not missed. No one ran to me, relieved I was safe. Instead, my mother sat at the table bawling, with my aunt.

Without being noticed, I slipped into the children’s room. The two little girls sat in the room playing with cloth scraps. Miho and Kazue were beaming as I presented them with the ornate dolls. They quickly swapped toys, agreeing that Kazue’s doll looked like her and Miho’s doll looked like her. How the girls came to this conclusion I do not know, for each girl was identical, as were the dolls. They quickly ran to show their new possessions to their mother.

As the twins left, my uncle entered. He began sorting through my belongings. He seemed pleased with his discovery: an ivory hairpin painted with pink plum blossoms. My father came to me. I saw the two of us under one of the katsura trees in the family garden. A large gust of wind knocked my hair down and decorated it with many heart-shaped leaves. My father unraveled a piece of cloth, revealing a beautiful hairpiece. He twisted my black mane and held it in place with the new gift. He smiled and held my hand. I’ll miss you. He mounted a horse and departed from the sweet moment.

My uncle must have sensed my hesitation because he felt the need to explain himself. “Your riches are gone, and you no longer have need for such luxuries.” Once I heard the front door shut I broke down.

Hours later I found myself propped up against the wall. Red tears emerged from my cheek. My fingertips were stained from blood and my long fingernails remained inside of my face. Moonlight exposed the shadows around me. I tried and tried with all my might to rise, but my body was exhausted. I gave up and allowed myself to stay in the corner. I listened to breathing. Little sharp breaths and long ones craving more than air. Murmurs of rewarding dreams and a visitor who seemed to be enjoying the solitude and silence of the night as much as I. A thin face appeared in front of the window. The moon outlined his face and highlighted his prominent cheekbones. Our eyes locked. His expression indicated generosity. I knew what he needed.

I left the room and fetched a bowl of rice accompanied by a kiwi. When I returned I was not surprised to find him inside of the room. I did not need to offer the food to him. As he enjoyed the rare “delicacy,” I observed him. His frame was thin and short. He could not have been older than eight years, but his eyes looked as if he had lived for hundreds. He placed the bowl on the ground and swiftly climbed out of the window. Where he had sat lay a small piece of string and a green bead. I knew this was his offering of thanks.

***

Smooth, wet, thin feathers rested in my palm. Laid before me sat tens of chickens. They could not see the disgusted, woeful mien of mine and I regretted that. I had had no intension of slaughtering a living thing this morning, but that was not my choice. His face was red and spewing drops of spit toward mine. His pockets were flat. He had no money. He knew the collectors would come for the money soon, the money that he had bet the night before but didn’t have. The money he still didn’t have. I wandered through vendors’ stands.

“Shen, Shen, Shen Diawan Lok. She-” I stopped. My chin reached towards the sky. A man with broad shoulders blocked the sun.

“You need Shen Lok? I am here.” He bent over and examined the cart full of chickens. “Akio needs money?” My expression obviously answered his question. “Well, I need more chickens. Put them in that.”

Before I placed the chickens into a barrel filled with warm, brown water, I looked at the man one more time. He nodded. The little bodies fell to the bottom, until one rested on another. I needed not to ask for payment, for it was already in the cart.

As I toted the handcart behind me, I saw more. Dirty children sat in front of businesses. The one I had met the night before looked like emperor Sung Ch’ao. Their wide cheekbones suggested that they once had full faces. Their bodies sat on top of small sticks, legs. The youngest was sitting alone. I parked my cart and sat with them. “Hello. Where is your mother?”

The child stared at me. He stood up and began walking away. I followed. He twisted my mind as we ventured deeper into the neighborhood. I lost track of his torn blue shirt. “Come,” he called. Following the sound, I found myself in front of a fence. He opened a gate for me. Inside sat a dirt patch. Goats rested their heads over the many puddles of water.

I continued walking, without my little guide. As I turned corners, more children became visible. They ran into cloth tents. Some greeted me by tugging on my clothing, but I did not stop for them. Dirt became less visible. Structures squeezed into awkward corners and borrowed neighbors’ walls. I began to turn. My turns turned into circles. The slum lasted for miles. I could not see the end or the beginning of this foreign community.

Something was picking at my back. I swatted it away and turned to look for the pest. I found two small watering eyes. This face was not a stranger. It was my guide, the little boy who I had found on the street. I leaned down and hugged the child, to make up for my aggressive swatting. He smiled and took my hand. He led me to a tent. Standing next to it was a cart full of smiling children. I smiled back. The boy climbed in. I found my strength and began to pull. To my surprise, the children weighed very little.

As I ventured further into the village, I gained speed. Wind wisped the hair away from my face. Shapes started to dance around me. Some people shouted, but the children’s laughter was louder. I did not care that blisters were forming on my hands or that my shoes were covered in mud, but that I was entertaining children who had very little to look forward to.

My pleasant thoughts distracted me. I tried slowing down, but the cart’s force was too strong. My toes gripped the ground, but the dirt provided little traction. My hands released from the cart, which pushed my body into a wall. The sound of splitting wood confirmed that the cart had crashed as well. I tried to get up but I couldn’t. So a child helped me. A little hand grabbed my hand and pulled. The frail figure could not possibly pull me up by itself, so I helped. The children smiled once I stood up. I tried to smile, but the sight of my uncle’s cart overpowered me. Three pieces of wood rested on the wall. The children understood my sorrow and led me to another opening in the wall.

As I sulked I felt worried. Then my sorrow disappeared. Why did I need to go home? I was surely not appreciated there. I surely did not appreciate my uncle letting us stay with him.

My blissful thoughts were interrupted. “Are you lost?” The man from the doll shop was there to save me, but I did not want to be saved.

“Maybe.”

He took me back to his shop and presented me with a cup of tea. Sitting behind his counter was a boy. He looked like the children I had just been with. He looked like my night visitor. He was my night visitor. He waved.

“Hello,” he said. “Did you enjoy your visit to the tent village?”

“Yes, I was in the tent village. It was nice. Were you following me?”

He laughed. “I think you were following me. That was my home you were in. That was my brother you were playing with.” He was amused by my dazed expression.

The friendly company relaxed me. I sat and chatted with my new friends.

“That is why I am in Zhangjiakou,” I said, after I told them some of my story.

“Your father, why did he leave?” The storekeeper, Bai, was puzzled by my family’s strange relationship.

“He owned a store and had to travel, a lot. He made friends while he was gone. He and his friends shared similar beliefs. They would meet often and discuss things, but I understood very little because they were speaking in a different language.” I wanted to reveal everything, but I could not risk him telling the government.

“Did it sound like this?” Bai began to speak in the language of my father.

I cried. I cried for my father. “Yes,” I answered in between sobs. “And his friends looked just like you and the boy and the children.”

“Kueng. Your father looked like me, Kueng, and my brother?” the night visitor said, giving me his name.

***

My visits with Kueng continued very regularly. Though I enjoyed my recreational activities, my home life worsened. My uncle was not pleased by my absence from home. He scolded me. He beat me. He forbid me to leave. I no longer had the privilege of delivering chickens every morning. I could not even see Kueng’s brother on the street. My daily activities only consisted of laundry, slaughtering, and cooking.

Tonight was special. It was warm and beads of sweat formed on my forehead. I sat outside of the window. The grass was white in the moonlight. So was Kueng’s face. I did not mind this illusion. I loved the sight of him.

His face was stern. “Would you like to learn the language of Mongolia?”

“What? No. Would you teach me? Well, maybe. Why?”

“You will need to learn it soon. You have another visitor.”

“My only visitor is you.”

“Well, maybe you will be the one visiting them.”

His mystery bothered me. So did his optimism.

“I will come back tomorrow and we can begin.”

Weeks passed, and I became conversational in Mongolian. I would sing to myself in my new language when the adults were gone. My voice attracted many visitors, but none of them were the visitor Kueng had mentioned. After neighbors applauded my performance, they would chant, “Down with Sung Ch’ao!” Their passion frightened me, yet I enjoyed the attention. I mentioned these events to Kueng, but they did not please him as they did me. They startled him and he left abruptly. He did not return that week. Or the next, or the week after that. My performances stopped and my life was drained of all enjoyment.

My little sister had arrived. My mother had foolishly mentioned the arrival of my first period to my aunt who willingly told her husband. His reaction was worse than I anticipated. I was to reside in the garden shack for the next week. I was told to clean the yard of chicken pellets, but other than that I was to stay in the shack until I was sanitary. My mother cried when she heard Uncle Akio’s request.

“She is just a girl. Don’t force her to go through this,” my mother pleaded for my freedom.

“She may look like a child, but she is not. She still lives in my house and she is to listen to me. I am the man.”

The bowl of rice I received every day was not enough. Hunger and sadness consumed me. My week was only halfway over.

My eyes squinted in sudden light. My pale face had been unaccustomed to light for the last three days.

“Come with me. Your visitor awaits you.” Kueng’s voice was a sweet lullaby to my ears.

I responded in Mongolian, “I am eager to meet this visitor. Will you tell him about me?”

“Come now.”

I knew he would not spoil such a secret, so I followed obediently.

We first arrived at Bai’s shop. I was given a black cloth that I was ordered to put over my eyes. Then I was taken outside and placed into a cart, perhaps. Kueng pulled the cart, very quickly. My vision would have been blurred if I could have seen, instead my memories were. I saw my life from age five until this moment. My future could not be determined. The cart had stopped.

Kueng led me through an open piece of land. My eye mask was removed and I found myself inside the slum. Kueng’s brother stood in front of me. In his hands two dolls slept. They dreamed of days spent together underneath a katsura tree. I knew this because these were my dreams. My doll was wrapped in a pink dress. Her eyes were outlined in a charcoal paint. Next to her sat her father, his long dark hair pulled into a bun. His thin frame was covered by a blue wrap he wore whenever he was home. He was in mid-gesture, his arm reaching across his body, his hand holding a very pretty object. A hairpin. Little cherry blossoms had been drawn on it.

“You knew of the hairpin my father gave to me.”

“No. But your father did.” Kueng’s face broke into an enormous grin.

***

One of the tents opened. Inside lay a man. The bandages the man wore blocked his face. I approached him. He was just as anxious as I was. “You are beloved katsura blossom, more beautiful than any other plant, but smart and kind like me.” He chuckled at his own joke. “I have missed you and it broke my heart when I left you and your mother and your brothers. I had to.” He explained to me why he was forced to leave.

His beliefs were those of a Mongolian, for he was a Mongolian at heart. He knew the people of the country and longed to be with them. He often traveled across the border to trade supplies for his shop. He learned of the Mongolian leaders who planned on invading China and eventually ruling. He held war meetings in his shop. These gatherings were known. He was forced to burn the papers and documents that would prove his loyalty to the Mongolians.

He fled the village and went to live with his close friend, Bai. He told Bai many stories of his family. Bai knew who I was, but could not tell me of my father until my father would be respected by the government. The only government that would respect him would be the Mongolian leaders. The Mongols had taken over China two days ago. The year was 1276. He was now an advisor to Mongolian Emperor Kublai.

***

My emotions were high. The day continued to escalate. I left the tent and was greeted by Kueng. Beside him sat the hairpin, to his other side sat a pile of coins. “You know your uncle is controlled by money.” He grinned.

***

Three carriages entered Zhangjiakou. They were all decorated with red and gold painted dragons. The dragons wrapped around the chair legs of a throne. On top of that throne sat my father. He was now second advisor to the Mongolian emperor. The first carriage was already leaving. Its passengers consisted of my family. The second carriage held my closest friends, Bai and Kueng. The third carriage was full. Twenty excited children bounced inside. They were the children of the slum. The children who had given me so much hope and joy. We were ready to live a life of happiness together. A life where only we would determine our future.