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Society’s Consequence

6 Apr

By Destiny Gonzalez
Denver Online High School

Turning of wheels as they screech along the far, long intersections. My pale skin is scorched by the rays of sun. As I dwell upon my sunburned skin, my mind reveals my own truth. The world has not one worry about my daily situations.

It was exactly three years ago. I remember the dirty, dry sensation on my lips. BOOM! BOOM! Blasting my ears and probably breaking my eardrums. The jets are back and the other so-called “team” is underground, finding new strategies to win over our world.

I’m back to reality, and I can still feel dirt on my lip. I ask myself, “Has anything changed?” The worth of a quarter to me is the worth of the capital’s gold tip to the city. I’ve probably gone mad. I always catch myself talking to nobody. “Is there a chance for change?” Maybe I can give you can idea of how much hope I have left. It’s smaller than a millimeter and smaller than the air itself. That’s just it though. It’s small but it’s there. It’s lost. My hope has been lost since Iraq scarred my memories.

Every Sunday, I walk around Downtown Denver because the Broncos are playing and maybe generosity will cross people’s minds as they pass by me. I sit and let the laughs and yells of joy sink into my brain, dreaming if I could only be one of them.

My name is Deene. Ironically, my name means “hope.” What a joke. It all started on March 19th 2003. We the people made the decision to invade Iraq. My family and I were very close, that was until I left for war. My mother and sister waved goodbye in what seemed to be my worst nightmare. We were hiding in ditches, out of breath and gasping for air that was only dirt and smog from the choppers.

My eyes are filled with darkness and my body feels like it’s floating. My body weight and existence feels lesser and lesser by the minute. As I focus on the weirdly random sensations my body contains within, it barely occurs to me that I have passed out.

“Get up, Deene! We need to go! Get up now!”

As my eyes tear open from the darkness, I am in a solid, green tank. My gruesome reality is back.

Six years have passed, but not one detail from that day has escaped my psyche. I asked for nothing in return. I’m not selfish, but how did I end up on the corner of the road? What happened to the supportive family I had waved goodbye to before I took a step onto that plane to Iraq?

My mind twirls through the hypnotizing emotions I hold, and I start to wonder. What if I could go back to the day my caring mother and sister waved their soft, worry-less hands at me saying, “Goodbye, son. I love you,” and, “See you later big brother.”

What would I change?

Taking the extra step through the white airport doors, my heart bled with anticipation. “This will change it all,” I said to myself.

But then I think, I am not a person to live in regret, because at one particular moment I knew exactly what and why I walked through those double, white doors, onto the gravel to save the life. The life that once had given me life. The life of the people. Though this runs through my head, I ask myself, “Is regret the same thing as simply wishing for a different path?”

Frustrations twist through my brain as I understand the differences between these two contrasting ideas of my past. Those doors. Those doors. Those doors. That’s all that’s on my mind. They led me to protect the civilization that once had given me hope and pride. But they also led me to the extinction of my hope and pride. My path has turned into the unknown of Mother Nature. Sunny one day and rainy the next, that’s all.

It’s a Tuesday and today it is raining. Foggy car windows have happy faces that children draw with their innocent fingers. I just need to find somewhere to stay dry for a while. I walk into a couple of convenience stores, but after a while the clerks kick me out because they believe I’m stealing. I don’t blame them, but I get fed up with the rude, negative vibes I get from the people who I protected at one point in my life.

I walk up to a tall, dark man, who has the nerve to tell me to “get lost.”

I slowly say, “If you had respect and any knowledge of my past you would be thanking me. Check your head, man.”

Nobody takes the time to ask me why I’ve ended up on the street-corners, because they’re worried about taking their families out to eat or they’re worried I’m a crazy man trying to steal their cars. However, the only way I consider myself crazy is that I protected people who are more worried about themselves than anybody else. I understand they have their own success to worry about, but what about me? Why am I automatically counted out?

I stress and must control my anger towards the disgusted, selfish looks society gives me with their laser eyes. I’m treated like a savage, a crazy animal locked in a cage at the zoo. Why not, though? Why not act like a wild animal? I mean, that’s how I’m treated. This is why I grieve over regret and taking another path. Hasn’t anyone heard of perspective or “being in somebody else’s shoes?” Maybe they have, but it’s taken as a joke like everything else is these days.

I walk into the gloomy, dark day once again. I remember the rainy days when mom and I would play board games all day, drinking hot chocolate. I wonder if she still plays board games on days like this. I wonder if she is still in the same house. Curiosity overpowers my mind, and hey why not take a look for myself?

I walk the lonesome streets to find my destination. There it is. Memories go through my head like a beam.

I remember when my sister was still in my mother’s tummy. I remember playing Go Fish on the light brown table, the table full of stains from when Mom always dropped nail polish remover there. I can still smell the disgusting scent of the remover. Mom never learned.

I walk towards the door and clear the dust off the window with my old, grimy hand. I expect to see my family crying for their long lost son and big brother, but that’s just a wish I have. Reality is completely different. They’re playing Monopoly, and my mom is letting my little sister win. I know because she used to do the same exact thing for me, just to see me smile. My mother gives my little sister, Karen, a high-five. Karen won. Smiles gleam and shine from their faces as they fight over who gets the TV remote control.

My eyes drift towards the backyard. To the window, the window where my room used to be. I hope my old Kiss posters are still hung, so they never forget about me. However, I am prepared for disappointment. The disappointment fills my sighs when I see boxes stacked up. My room used to be royal blue, my favorite color, but now my room’s white. What used to be a seven-year-old boy’s room is now a storage room for Dad’s old tools and suits. My presence has escalated to air above the house, the air nobody bothered to notice. It’s gone now.

My heart sinks beneath my feet. I can’t believe what my eyes are seeing right now. I can’t believe they’ve forgotten me. Our memories, moments, and laughs, all gone.

On my sister’s sixth birthday, our backyard was filled with guests, my sister’s friends from school, family members, and even my dad. I was sitting in the kitchen as everybody stood outside gossiping. Nobody noticed that I was nowhere among the crowd. They never did. I sighed as my father walked into the kitchen.

“Aren’t you going to come sing Happy Birthday to your sister?” he said.

I got up slowly. But my dad told me to sit back down. Why couldn’t I have just pretended to be happy? Now I know I’m headed towards one of those serious talks, the kind of talks you appreciate in the end but wish they never took place.

“Got damn it, Deene, look what you did now,” I whisper to myself.

“What’s wrong? You seem so quiet lately. I know something’s bothering you.”

“Nothing I just… I don’t know. Ever since Mom’s therapist said she should start paying more attention to her daughter, I feel like I’m not as important to her anymore.”

“Look, your mother is just going through a lot right now, but no matter what I’ll never leave your side. No matter where I’m at, what I’m doing, I won’t leave.”

I remember that day as clear as a crystal glass. And he kept his word. He never left my side. Oh how I miss the delicate sound of his voice. I miss his reassuring smiles that reminded me of how proud he was to call me his son.

Since he got into that car crash, my life has never been the same. I knew my mother was going through a lot, and I always tried my best to keep that in mind. But was she going through so much that she would even forget her own son?

I was not and never will be hateful towards her. I do not see the point in revenge. My thoughts are nearly covered in pain. The kind of pain you get when logic doesn’t seem good enough anymore. The kind where your headaches are no longer in your head but in your heart.

I walked away from the house because I was tired of it all. Tired of not being appreciated, not being treated with respect, tired of being forgotten and not knowing how to be remembered again. Regret did not sit at the edge of my heart anymore, waiting to fall down the abyss of my feelings. I wish my mom cared, I wish my little sister remembered.

However, that’s not the point anymore. Because if I had never been a soldier, Dad would have never seen that I changed. He cared for me, but he thought I was selfish, and I was. My dad’s image of me is probably ten times more meaningful to me than what my mom thinks of me, only because Dad is gone and Mom is still here with time ticking on the clock of second chances.

My hope is weighing down day by day. I sit and wonder if mom is missing me, and if I still have a chance to be remembered.

What if I knock at the door and just hug them? Or is that too forward? What if I call them on a payphone and help them remember by repeating all the memories that have played in my head over and over? But what if they don’t believe it’s me?

Tears roll down my face like a tire rolling down the road. I patiently sit on a bench in the park, by our old house. I try to figure out how I will face my past and make it my present once again.

Mom and my little sister never drove anymore after dad passed. He said driving was “overrated.” He always made us walk, and said, ” Our days can be as bright as the sun if we take a step a day to realize the paradise we live in.” Paradise? I thought to myself. Yeah, right! Those were his “magical” words to get us to walk to the store and basically everywhere else we went.

I begin to fear that if I wait too long my chance of earning my family back will be lost. I walk towards a little stream where my little sis used to go to catch mini fish. Who knows if she still comes here though?

As I breathe calmly, I sense a shadow behind me. A child figure just standing, waiting, breathing heavily. There’s a small sound of weeping coming from this figure, the kind of weeping when it sounds like the eyes are about to become a waterfall, and the sadness becomes a part of your voice even though you aren’t so lonely anymore.

The shadow is light and grey. The trees are beginning to sway back and forth with the wind’s movement. I can feel the pressure behind me like back when I was in Iraq’s homeland. The pressure reminds me of someone pushing me into a ditch to suffocate me, or it could be someone pushing me into a ditch to save my life from a grenade. Back then, getting hurt didn’t matter because I could pass out and see my father once again. See him in my visions with a blank, black background, like a movie that never made use of a green screen to show a fake image. I would see the man that meant the word home to me. That’s the word that stuck with me all these years: home.

The shadow steps a bit closer, and I hear the old, green grass crunch like a bag of chips. It gets closer and closer. I will either be saved or suffocated. At this point, I have no idea which will occur.

I slowly turn my head and my eyes wander over this figure. Innocent, blonde hair swept to the side of this young girl’s face. She has soft, peach colored lips and bright blue eyes. The beauty of her eyes are over-shadowed by the emotion they hold. Her expression appears as if she’s seen a ghost or seen a pig fly in the middle of December. She’s pale and astonished.

“Brother is that you?”

A grin begins to form on my face, and my eyes grow a bit bigger than normal, because I knew exactly who this was. Everything I’ve ever dreamt of wanting. She runs up and hugs me as tight as she can, and we both shed a tear.

“Me and mom need you back! We’ve been wondering for so long, brother. Come back home. Please?”

I’ve been waiting to hear that for so many years, I am speechless. “Of course I’ll come back sweetie.”

My little sister, my mom, my dad in my memories, and I. This was family. This was home. This was me.



Red Barren

6 Apr

By Jemma Breslin
Denver Online High School

Her chest rose and sank with every inhale and exhale. Her heart pounded, yet her hand was steady. She slid her finger over the smooth silver trigger of the AK47. The cool New York air whistled through her straight brown locks. Her eye focused on the target, a tall blonde woman with a tan trench coat. Her heart pounded faster, her breaths deeper. Her finger tightened on the trigger, when a small girl with the same blonde hair jumped into the target’s arms.

“I can’t do this,” she said, turning back to her younger sister.

“Chloe you have to!” her sister snapped.

“Clio, you don’t understand!” Chloe had tears in her eyes.

“You know what she’s done! You know what you have to do!”

“I can’t do this,”

“Chloe! You know the rules. It’s either you or her! If you don’t kill her, which keep in mind you are capable and have been trained to do since you were four, then Aba will kill you. They won’t keep an assassin who can’t assassinate!” Clio exclaimed. Although she was only eight, she spoke like a 30 year old.

“I’m sorry Clio, I can’t do this!” Chloe cried, running from the building they were perched on.

Clio grabbed the AK47 even though she wasn’t allowed to kill until she was at least 14. She took a deep breath and with a slight grin she pulled the trigger.


Clio’s clear blue eyes batted open at 4:00 AM as they did every morning. It had been 10 years since she had saved her sister and made her first kill, and yet that dream still frightened her. She wasn’t scared because she killed someone—she quite enjoyed it actually—but because if anyone found out, it would be the end of her sister. Since that night Clio had killed 207 people, 152 of which were assigned to Chloe.

Clio slipped on her running shoes and put her messy, curly hair in a high pony. She sprinted out of her apartment in upper Manhattan and zoomed down the street. She returned from her eight-mile run exactly at 5:02, seven minutes worse than yesterday. Disgusted, she did 500 sit-ups and 100 pushups.

In the midst of making her morning protein-shake, her watch beeped. She smiled, the adrenaline already pumping through her veins. She turned off the blender and ran to her room and into her closet. She moved the clothes aside and knocked three times on the hard wood. The wood panels slid open and three computers equipped with a keyboard and mouse moved forward. The middle computer scanned her clear blue eye, making sure she was Clio.

A beep sounded and a green light appeared, meaning Clio’s eye matched her record. A window on the middle screen appeared, revealing an old, old man with gray hair and over 100 wrinkles. His face held a stern look, but he smiled when he saw Clio.

“Ah, Assassin 531, how are you doing?” His deep Hungarian accent was very gruff.

“Hello, Aba, What’s the mission?” Clio said.

“I always loved how you get straight to business. Igor Ovrutsky, Russian President.” As the name left Aba’s lips, a separate screen showed Igor’s full bio.

“What does he want?”

“Ah, he doesn’t want anything. We have strict orders to take him out. Looks like you’re going home. You leave tomorrow at 1700. Do not fail me.” Aba winked, then the screen went black.

Clio giggled with excitement. She printed out the papers and hid them under her pillow. She then sprang out the door.

She ran as fast as she could to a small quaint house just outside of Manhattan. She walked through the door, smiling ear to ear.

“Aunt Clio!” a little four-year-old chirped as she jumped onto Clio. She had the same clear blue eyes and sun-blonde hair as Chloe.

“Hey, Lucy! How’s my favorite niece? Can you tell me where mommy is?” Clio asked picking her up.

“In the kitchen.” Lucy smiled. “Want to play dollies?”

“I have to talk to your mommy first. Then I’d be happy to play. So how ’bout you get started and I’ll come in a couple minutes.”

Lucy nodded her head.

Clio put her down then walked swiftly to the kitchen to see Chloe cracking eggs. “I think you’re doing something wrong. Your daughter wants to play dollies. We never ever played dollies,” Clio teased.

“Good morning, Clio. To what do I owe the pleasure?” Chloe sighed.

“I’m serious, Chloe. If you want her to join the Academy next year then you might want to trade those dollies in for-“

“A machine gun?” Chloe interrupted.

“That’s a little drastic, don’t you think? I mean she’s only a four-year-old girl,” Clio joked.

“Yeah, well, I don’t think she’ll be going to the academy. What do you want?”

“Well, that’s a shame. But I have great news! I’ve gotten a mission beyond all missions! I’m going to kill the Russian president!”

“Cool,” Chloe didn’t seem too happy.

“Can’t you even act happy for me? That was your best skill back at the academy.”

“Sorry if I’m not leaping for joy at the fact that you’re going to kill another human being,”

“Hey, I was trained for this, you were trained for this, so just because you don’t have the guts to do it—” Clio was getting heated.

“You don’t think I have the guts? I have the guts, but what’s more important is I have the compassion and the ability not to kill! I’m not some cold blooded killer with no emotion,”

“Fine! Well you have fun with that compassion, and those dollies, because I’m going to do something important with my life.” Clio marched out of the room, steaming.

She got back to her apartment and blocked out the conversation that she had just had with her sister and did what she did best, which was get down to business. She read everything on her new target, and by the end of the night she was an expert on Igor and had planned out the entire assassination.


Clio got on the private jet and was off to Moscow. She parachuted out of the plane over a mountain pass 40 miles from Russia. She pitched a tent as the Russian sun started to set and the harsh winds started blowing through the trees.

The next morning, she packed up and was on the road by 4:30 am. She moved swiftly and easily through rough forests on the mountains. Finally she saw the beautiful city just 10 miles away. She again made camp, settled in her sleeping bag, and read the map. The president would be entering the cathedral no later then ten and his speech would start at eleven, which meant she had to be under the church and in position by 9:30. She snuggled down and fell asleep.

The next morning she packed up and headed for the cathedral. She got to the city and went down to the underground trains. At 9:00 she was on the s54 heading past the cathedral. When she saw that she was approaching the point to get off, she slid open the door, jumped out, and did quite a smooth dive-roll, landing on her feet without hurting anything.

She reached into her backpack, grabbed her flashlight, and turned it on. The pale circle of light moved ahead of her through the dark underground, which reeked of waste and garbage. Finally she reached the site.

Her watch beeped. 10:29. Adrenaline pumped through her veins as she started giggling with excitement. She set down her backpack and pulled out her handgun and bomb. She ran and jumped, attaching the bomb to the ceiling, then sprinted behind a wall and readied her rifle. Five minutes later screams echoed down as the ceiling collapsed and the president came falling through the ground. He was the only one down there with her, as she had put the bomb right where he was standing.

He groaned in pain and tried to stand up from the rubble. As soon as he was up, Clio took a deep breath and pulled the trigger. He dropped as soon as her silver bullet dug into his skull. Clio smiled, then ran from the site through her escape route.

She met the jet back at the drop-off site one day later. The crew congratulated her as she ate her milk and cookies, her reward to herself for killing the president.

As soon as she landed, she wanted to go tell her sister about her flawless mission. She leapt through the city so proud and euphoric. She reached her sisters house, not caring about the fight that they had just had a few days before. She walked into the door with a smile spanning from ear to ear.

The smile soon faded as she saw the house was completely and utterly destroyed. It looked like a bomb had gone off. Glass cracked underneath her feet as she tiptoed across the broken room. She called out Chloe’s name, praying to the gods that Chloe’s sweet, calm voice would answer.

She made it to the kitchen, where something wet and gooey seeped through her white sneaker. She looked down to see her shoe painted red with blood. She had stepped in a big puddle of red. Right beside the puddle lay Lucy’s four-year-old body. Clio did not need to check. She knew Lucy was dead.

Her stomach jumped as she kept calling Chloe’s name and no answer returned. Finally she reached the bedroom, where she saw Chloe’s body. Her sister’s once-blonde hair was now as red as fire. Clio couldn’t breath. She felt as if someone were choking her. Her knees buckled down to Chloe.

Clio’s eyes started to water, a feeling she hadn’t experienced for a long time. She never ever cried, not when she was getting beaten, not when her mom dropped her off at the academy, not when they told Chloe and her that their mother had died. She hated giving in, she hated emotions, but she couldn’t help the tears streaming down her cheeks.

She set her sister’s head on her knees and cried softly over her. Her body felt numb. “I’m so sorry,” she choked in between cries. After a long time of tears, she set her sisters head back on the ground.

Her blurry vision started to focus as the last tears fled her eyes. Her eyes caught something on the wall. She wiped the tears and saw REDBARREN written in blood.

Her mind zoomed back to when she and Chloe had first made up the code word. It was the day after Clio killed Chloe’s first target. They were sitting on the Academy’s scratchy blanket on Chloe’s bunk. Chloe was wrapped in their mother’s rainbow colored quilt with her head buried in her hands, crying. Clio was trying to console her, but she didn’t know how. She was so detached from her emotions that she couldn’t empathize.

“Chloe it’s going to be okay!” she said desperately trying to get Chloe to stop crying.

“You don’t know that! If they find out they’ll kill me!” Chloe wailed.

“No they won’t. Look, Aba has been giving me private lessons. He said I could be the best assassin they’ve ever had. They couldn’t kill my sister. If they do I won’t kill for them,”

“Yes they will!”

“Okay, look. How about this: if we find out that they know, we’ll run away and they won’t touch us. We just need a code word…Red Barren! You remember that book that mom used to read to us?”

Chloe nodded.

“Everything will be okay. I love you, Chlo-bird.”

As Clio stared at the blood-written walls, anger filled her entire body. She knew who had done this. She knew what she had to do. She had to kill Aba. She kissed her sisters forehead one more time and then ran from the house.


Clio packed all her guns and some clothes in a small backpack. She remembered that every year exactly on March 31st all the assassin masters from around the world would meet in Chicago. It was March 29th.

She went to her garage and grabbed her motorcycle. The vroom of the engine excited her as she sped off into the night sky. She rode countless hours without any sleep or food. Her anger fueled her to keep going without taking breaks. Finally, one day later, she made it to Chicago. She parked her motorcycle one block away from the point where Aba would be in 24 hours.

She scaled the building with ease, and no harness. She was on top of the highest building in Chicago with a perfect line of sight to the point. She unrolled her sleeping bag, snuggled down inside, and stared at the stars above her. She felt as if she were chained down to the earth. She hated her life now. With no Chloe she had no drive to keep going in life. She just had to complete this mission, then everything would feel better she thought.

She didn’t sleep a wink. How was she going to kill the man that taught her everything? But she promised her sister she would. The hours went by as slowly as a snail crossing 500 miles.

Finally the meeting started. Clio set her AK47 on the ledge and got ready. Aba’s wrinkled face appeared. He was smiling. This made Clio sick.

She took a big inhale and exhale. Her hand was steady, but her heart was pounding through her chest. “This is for Chloe,” she whispered. Her finger traced around the smooth silver trigger. With one deep breath she pulled the trigger, but it no longer gave her the joy she’d once felt. The bullet hit his head, which flew back in one quick motion. Screams echoed throughout the city.

Clio sat back, her back resting on the building. The sky boomed as rain started to fall. She started to cry, thinking that her chains were broken but she still felt like a prisoner. As the raindrops gathered into different puddles, Clio saw the faces of all her killed targets appear.

All of Clio’s emotions that were once locked deep inside her heart came bursting out. She wailed, tears springing from her eyes. “I’m so sorry,” she screamed. She stepped up to the ledge, crying. “I’m so sorry,” she said one more time, and stepped off the building.

Mid-fall, time seemed to slow. The raindrops gathered and formed Chloe. “Everything’s okay. I love you.” Chloe said. Clio smiled. All the chains had now broken. She was finally at peace as she hit the hard concrete below. No longer a prisoner.







Crazy Meets Crazy

6 Apr

By Cody Ray   
Denver Online High School    

“And here’s your 85$ in tips. Looks like it was a good night for you!”

“Yeah, it was all right. I’m just ready to get home now.”

“All right. Well, be careful out there. There’s been a lot of crime going on at night. Walk safe!”

I stuff my tips into my backpack and throw it over my right shoulder. I make my way out the back door of the restaurant. I step down the metal-grated stairs onto the cold streets of the alleyway. Steam makes its way out of the manholes on a warm night like this. I take a left and bend around the corner onto the evil streets of Detroit. My footsteps melodically pace a few blocks until I realize a man all in black following me. I decide it’s best not to react and I keep walking. My heart beats faster and faster as I realize the man is getting closer and closer.

Blocks and blocks go by and my pace starts to quicken. The man continues to follow me. I finally arrive about 30 blocks away from my work and turn right into the front gate to my house. The man stops at the end of the block and watches me as I unlock my front door and step inside. I walk upstairs to my bedroom and peek out the window to see the man walk to the bushes by the gate in front of my house and crouch down. He scans my house but can’t see me.

I continue to watch the man for an hour or so until he starts to turn around and walk back. I grab some black jeans and a black hoodie from my closet and put it on, and then I quickly get my money out of my backpack and throw it onto my desk. I throw my backpack onto my right shoulder and run downstairs. In the kitchen, I grab a knife and wrap it in an old t-shirt lying on a chair and place it in my backpack.

I almost make it to the front door when I realize I forgot to take my medicine. I look at the orange bottle sitting on the counter. “I haven’t taken any since this morning. I should probably take it.” I start to walk to the counter to grab it, but I realize that the man is probably blocks away, so I rush out of the front door and lock it behind me.

I walk through my front gate and take a left onto the block. The wind whispers my name. “I should’ve taken the medicine. It’s too late now.”

I start to run quietly down the street until I finally see the man slowly striding down a street about a block and a half ahead of me. I stop running and start to follow the man while keeping a half block’s distance. My hands grab my hood and pull it up over my head.

Blocks and blocks pass until I see the man get into an all black Cadillac Escalade. The car roars to life and the lights turn on. They shine right on me. I continue to walk while pulling out my phone. I pretend to be texting while I walk past the car, making sure my face is out of sight. I take the first left into an alleyway and wait for a moment. I hear the car pull out from the curb. Running to the end of the alleyway, I see that the car is starting to travel west. With my phone in my hand, I go to the “notes” app and jot down the license plate number: F46YG0.

With a quick scan of the dark alleyway, I see a small black Kia. I walk over to the car and make my way to the driver’s door. With a scan of the alleyway, I see nobody but a homeless man passed out by a green dumpster. I take my elbow and jam it into the driver’s window. It shatters and the alarm starts to blare. The homeless man stirs and looks up but quickly falls back into his drunken sleep. I unlock the door and hop into the car. Ducking my head, I open up the steering wheel column. I connect the ignition wire to the battery wire. The lights come on and the alarm stops. I then strip the starter wire carefully and touch it against the battery wire. The car’s engine comes to life and I take off.

Turning right out of the alleyway, I then take another left and start to head westbound onto the interstate. After weaving in and out of traffic, I spot the familiar license plate. F46YG0. The black Cadillac Escalade is traveling slowly in the right lane, so I switch into the right lane about four cars back. Voices ramble in my head. I try to ignore them but I can’t help but listen to the overpowering mind. I wish I took my medicine.

Suddenly the brake lights in front of me flash and my foot slams on the brake. There’s a stoplight ahead. I’ve followed the black Cadillac off the freeway, but now it’s on the other side of the light.

“Don’t let him get away!” the voices in my head yell. “Run the light!”

I quickly pull right onto the sidewalk and speed up towards the red light until I hit the intersection going 75. A car darts across the intersection and I jerk the wheel to the left and to the right barely dodging the car. “That was close,” I whisper.

I see the Cadillac take a right into a local strip club. I pull in and park on the other side of the Caddy. In my rearview, I see the man step out of the car and walk towards a Toyota truck parked right next to him. The window of the truck creeps down and a hand reaches out.

The man reaches into his pocket and secretly pulls out a wad of money and a piece of crumpled up paper. “Could be important information,” a voice says. Tossing the money and paper into the Toyota, the man starts to walk away towards the entrance of the club. The Toyota window starts to roll up and, just before it’s all the way rolled up, I hear gunshots. They blast through the window of the Toyota.

I look over to see the man close to the entrance, gun in hand. He runs over to his Cadillac and hops in. He speeds out of the parking lot, and I follow him. I hear sirens.

The Cadillac dips into the closest alleyway and pulls behind a dumpster. He turns his car off, opens the door, gets out, locks his car, and starts to walk deeper into the alleyway. I pull over on the street. Quickly, I scan through the glove-box of the Kia and find a flashlight. I throw the flashlight into my backpack and sling it over my shoulder. I hop out of the car and start to walk across the street towards the alleyway. The man is almost at the end of the alleyway now. With a glance around the alleyway, I see a fire escape ladder that leads to the top of a three-story building right above the man. With a big leap, I jump up and grab the ladder and start to ascend.

When I reach the top of the building, I slowly creep into a position right above the man. I peek my head over the edge and see the man lean up against the dumpster and pull out a red handkerchief from his pocket.

“Might be in a gang,” I whisper to myself.

The voices come back and assure me that I’m invincible. “Doesn’t matter if he’s in a gang.”

I scope the man’s surrounding and notice that the dumpster is filled with trash bags up to the top. “Looks like the garbage man never came,” a voice says. The man starts to walk away from the dumpster. “This is my chance,” I mutter. I jump off of the three-story building and sink into the trash bags.

The man jerks around, pulls out his gun, and slowly and cautiously makes his way towards the dumpster. He gets closer and closer until he finally reaches the dumpster. He peeks over the lip. Nothing. Nothing but trash. He turns around and starts to walk away.

Buried beneath the trash, I quietly move the trash bags to the sides so I can get out. Something grabs my leg. “It’s probably nothing. I should’ve taken my medicine.” My head peeks out of the dumpster and my eyes set upon the man, who is pacing back and forth.

Gun in hand, twirling in his fingers, the man screams and mumbles.

“Sounds like gibberish,” I whisper.

The man points the gun at the bottom of his chin and pauses. He takes a deep breath and then pulls the gun back from his throat and starts twirling it in his hands again. Pacing faster and faster, the man’s mumbling speeds up.

I sink back into the dumpster and take my backpack off. Searching through my backpack, I find the t-shirt. I grab it and unwrap it to find the kitchen knife.

Pinching the blade between my thumb and my pointer fingerm I hurl it towards the man. The knife flies through the air and pierces the man in the back. He falls to the ground, dropping his gun. I hop out of the dumpster and run towards him. Picking up the gun, I aim it at his head and start to question him about why he followed me.

A smirk forms on his face. He laughs and laughs. “I never followed you!” He yells and laughs at the same time.

I hear sirens.

The man laughs as I touch the barrel of the pistol to his mouth like a kiss. He mumbles and mumbles. His mumbles sound like the voices in my head.

“Do you not realize?” the man stutters.

“What is there to realize?!” I yell, begging for an answer.

The man continues to laugh as a police car pulls into the alleyway, shining lights into my face. I glance up to see the police officer step out of the car. Another quick glance down and I see the man is gone. The pistol tickles my mouth and I finally realize.

“He was never real,” I whisper to myself. I should’ve taken my medicine when I got home after work.

The cop yells, “Get on your hands and knees!”

I stumble to my knees and yell.

The cop walks over with his gun pointed at me. “You’re being arrested for first degree murder.”

My mind races with confusion. I never killed anyone. “What do you mean?” I ask the officer.

“The man at the strip club.”

My mouth goes numb and my heart starts to race. The officer kicks the gun out of my hands and it flies about 30 feet away from me. Confusion races through my mind.

“Then what about the two cars?” I ask.

“You were driving a Cadillac. What do you mean about two cars?” the policeman answers.

I glance over to where I parked the Kia and see that it’s not there. The policeman puts my arms behind my back and cuffs them. He walks me to his police car and throws me into the back. With a slam of his door, we start to drive.








The Shake

6 Apr

By Maddison Krass
Denver Online High School

I lay here in my bedroom watching TV. It is just past Valentine’s Day and Carlos, my boyfriend, sent me some beautiful roses. Considering I’m not good with plants, I’ve tried my best to keep up with the whole watering thing. I’m thinking of the stupid fight that Carlos and I had. As I was talking to him earlier on the phone, I could hear his phone vibrating a lot. That’s been going on for about a week or so. Maybe he has someone else on the side. I have no idea, but the idea is really bothering me and it has me thinking twice. All of this is giving me a headache so I go take an Ibuprofen. After that, I lie back down, turn my heating blanket up to high, and try to fall asleep. When I lie down, I see the TV moving. But this is Colorado. It’s impossible for an earthquake to happen here! At least that’s what I thought.

The shake keeps getting stronger and stronger until it’s all I can hear. It’s as if a machine gun is hitting my house. Everything is falling from my shelves, my desk, my bathroom cupboard. Then all of a sudden, I hear my mom scream.

Hearing that makes me realize this isn’t a dream, this is reality. This is really happening. I run upstairs to the kitchen, where I see my mom surrounded by broken plates, glasses, and breakfast. The shake stops. I pick my mom up off the floor and she holds me as tight as she can.

“We’re out of food. There’s nothing to eat because we forgot to go grocery shopping. If only I went yesterday like I planned. Oh gosh, this is horrible!” Mom says to me, bawling her eyes out.

I try to calm her down. “Mom, you’re forgetting the food in the freezer in the garage. We have a stove and a microwave and water. We’re still in good condition. Just take a breather.”

Mom rushes down to the garage and gets all the meat that was in the freezer so it can defrost. I go downstairs to my room, where I see that everything fell but my roses. I put some more water in the vase.

After that, I go back upstairs, where my mom and I sit watching TV. I’ve just gotten a text from Carlos. It’s a picture of us from before I left Albuquerque, and he’s written me a really long note telling me he loves me and he doesn’t want to lose me. I don’t know if he means it, considering all this fighting that has been going on.

Fergie, my dog, is barking. My stepdad, Rudy, must have just gotten home. It’s 8:00 pm and he is usually home by 5:00 pm. He walks in and explains. Turns out he was waiting in traffic for three hours because of the shake. We’ve all had a long day, so we all go to bed early after we eat.

All I can think of is the shake. I keep asking myself, What if it happens again? What happens if I don’t wake up tomorrow? The shake keeps me awake until four in the morning, just wondering. I finally sleep for about two hrs. That’s when it all begins all over again. The shake. The rumbling beneath my bed, the machine gun sounds come back again.

Rudy comes in my room. “Maddy,” he yells, “we need to get out of here! Pack your stuff. Hurry! We’re leaving back to Albuquerque.”

I can’t even process what he’s saying. I sit here with a blank expression. I can tell Rudy is confused about why I’m like this. He stares for a moment and then grabs everything in my closet, gets my suitcase, and packs everything in there. Then he returns upstairs to my mom, who is screaming for him.

There goes my phone, as always, at six in the morning with a Good Morning Beautiful text.

I text Carlos back “Good Morning” real fast, and put my phone down. He has just added to my problem. Now I’m worried about seeing Carlos and wondering if I’m going to die. Love has my mind on him for sure.

After ten minutes, the shake stops. My roses still stand there on my desk. They’ve wilted and some petals have fallen, but I wonder how everything fell except the roses. Is this a sign? The petals? Them wilting? I don’t know. All that my mind can process is that I need to bring them with me when we leave.

I’m thinking, Wait. If we’re going back to Albuquerque, I’m going to see Carlos. I’m anxious because even if I’m there I probably won’t talk to him since we’ve been fighting.

We put all of our stuff in the trunk of Rudy’s car and start heading to Albuquerque. It starts shaking again as soon as we get to Castle Rock. We stop at a gas station until the shake stops.

After five minutes, we’re headed on our way again. Fergie comes and sits on my lap and lies down. I can fill the trembles and chills going though her body. All of a sudden, we get a flat tire.

“Why God?” Rudy says, looking up to the sky.

I look to my right and start laughing.

“Why are you laughing Maddy? This is a serious situation and you’re laughing?!” Rudy says, irritable.

I point to my right and Rudy starts to laugh too. There’s a tire store right next to us.

We get a new tire and head on our way again. I pour some water from my water battle into my vase of roses. They’re turning brown on the bottom. More petals have fallen.

The shake happens again when we hit Las Vegas, New Mexico. Yet again, we stop and wait. This isn’t new to me anymore. I’m thinking of it as a part of my life now. As that’s happening, I look at the roses and it makes me cry. I just got a text from Carlos that said he misses me and loves me. I want to think he is a good guy and that he loves me, but I know something is going down when I’m not there.

Finally, we get to Albuquerque. My mom takes me to my friend April’s.

“Okay Maddy, here’s $30. Use it wisely until we find a hotel, which probably won’t be very long, maybe a couple hours. But stay here with April. Explain to her the problem and I’ll call Shawna, okay? Do you understand?” my mom explains to me.

Tears rush down my face. She wipes them with her shirt and hugs me real tight. I take the money, and my mom leaves with Rudy.

When I ring the doorbell, April opens the door and sees me crying. She rushes me inside. “Maddy, what kind of crazy shit did you do? Did you run away?” she asks.

I tell her what happened and she gives me a big hug.

We eat. Then we go to Walgreens and get some more food. Her sister Jennifer comes to pick us up. Since Carlos lives in Albuquerque, we go to his house to say hi.

When I walk into his house, I go straight to his room. He looks up at me with a big smile on his face and walks up to me and gives me a hug and a kiss. I’ve been waiting for one of his hugs for a long time because they make me feel happy and warm.

“Oh my God! You look amazing, Maddy. Beautiful as ever!”

I see his phone vibrate and I pick it up off the nightstand.

He takes it out of my hand and says, “It’s broken. It’s been spazzing out like that for a while.” I see the lies in his eyes but I don’t say anything.

The only thing I say is, “Well, I hope you get it fixed because it’s been doing that for a while. ALL THE FREAKING TIME, CARLOS!”

His eyes look guilty, but he laughs and kisses me on the forehead.

April grabs chips from the cupboard and says to me, “Lets roll, Maddy.” 

Carlos kisses me as I say goodbye. I take my hand out of his and go to the car.

When we get back to April’s house, we watch a movie and then go to sleep. When 11:00 pm comes, Mom texts me to say they’ve found a hotel and they’re coming to get me in the morning.

I wake up at eight, and Mom and Rudy get to April’s house at 8:30. We go to the hotel and settle in.

Five days pass, and I haven’t watered the roses. Petals have fallen and they’ve turned full brown. Full brown roses can’t be good.

All of a sudden I hear a knock. I open the door and it’s Carlos.

“Let’s go get some dinner Maddy! I am so happy that you are back,” he says.

Yet again, I sit there with a blank expression. Carlos lifts my head up, “Something is wrong,” he says. “Did you find another guy? You didn’t look okay a couple days ago either.”

If I know Carlos after one year, his fear is losing me. While he sits next to me I’m thinking about the past. I remember when we first got together. He always told me, from day one, he never wanted to lose me. Does he mean it? I’ve been through hell and back with him over the past year, and all I can think is that no other can take his place. I don’t want to lose him.

But all I can say is, “Why do you fear losing me? What’s so special about me? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to lose you, but why?”

Carlos pulls a box out of his pants pocket. “Promise me something, Maddy. Promise everything to me, and this ring will mean everything. I guess that’s why they call it a promise ring, huh?”

I stand up, look at him, then look at the ring. I put the ring on my finger. It just looks so familiar, but I can’t think from where. I’ve seen this ring before, and I stand there just gazing at the ring. Am I in shock or feeling loved?

I know this ring isn’t mine, and I can’t help but say, “I need time. Come back tomorrow. Call me later on, okay?” I can’t help but feel so much emotion that I cry.

Tears rush down his face. “I love you,” he says and kisses me goodbye.

His kiss makes me believe he’s the one. Am I sure? Does he make me feel safe? I don’t know. He makes me feel so right, but also terribly wrong or unsafe or regretful.

All I can think of are those roses and Carlos. Not so much him, though. Something bad is going to happen I just know it.

Later on that night, we’re eating at the hotel restaurant, Sadie’s. I sit very quietly and just eat my food. I see April coming toward the table, looking as if she fears telling me something.

“Maddy, I think you need to hear this. Do you guys mind?” April asks my parents. She’s breathing heavily.

My mom nods her head.

April and I go up to the room. I’m trembling as I put the key in the door. I walk in, turn around, and sit down in the chair next to April.

“What do you have to tell me that’s so important, April?” I ask.

She takes a deep breath and starts. “It’s Carlos. He’s cheating on you, Maddy. I know you love him and all, but I saw with my own two eyes. He was kissing Elian when we were at boxing. Believe me, I’ve been wanting to tell you, but I didn’t know how. Its been going on for about a week.”

I stare at April. Inside I’m fuming with anger, but on the outside I pretend it’s nothing. I knew this would happen. “Well, all I can say is I wish him the best. I just don’t want to let him go, April.” I start to cry.

April holds me tight.

I look at the ring, then look at April. I remember that April had this same ring when she was with Carlos. All that is processing in my mind is how dumb I am. I feel stupid, I feel betrayed, I feel regret and love at the same time. I feel the floor tremble, the bed, and the roses fall. The shake is happening yet again. Not here, not now. Can things get any worse?

April and I scream for help as loud as we can. It’s useless. A crack in the wall is what we see. Glass is shattering from the mirror that stands across from the bed. Both of us feel the cracking moving through the floor. Then all of a sudden, a hole. A hole is in the floor, and April has fallen in. I grab her arm and hold her as tight as I can, until she slips and falls, screaming. The one person I trust more than anybody has fallen to her death. The hotel is collapsing. I close my eyes and hope this is all a dream. I keep opening and shutting them. Open..Shut..Open..Shut!

The hotel has collapsed. Am I dead? I don’t know. I know I just don’t want to open my eyes. I feel somebody grab me. I scream in shock. As soon as I open my eyes, I ssee the last person I want to see right now…Carlos.

“Maddy Maddy Maddy, stop screaming. It’s just me.”

I look at him in anger. I want to kill him, but I still have love for him deep inside. “You cheated on me after one whole year, Carlos. I trusted you.”

Carlos looks at me as if he is ashamed.

“You should be ashamed since you said you never wanted to leave me. You liar! You’re a liar!”

He grabs my arm and kisses me, preciously and gently. I have no feeling or emotion for the five seconds it lasts. I’m kissing a liar and a cheat! I want to leave him so bad, but he might be the only way I can survive through this.

“I’m sorry, really I am,” he says. “Its just Elian kissed me first, but I was thinking about you the whole time. I didn’t like it. All I can say is I love you. Period.”

I look into his eyes and I cannot help it: I still feel no emotion. “I knew you would make up a stupid excuse like oh she kissed me first. But no, Carlos. That is bullshit,” I say as I pull away from him.

I walk away from him through the debris, the bodies, and then I see those damn roses. Why do they keep popping up? The glass is shattered and so is my heart. I’ve lost my best friend, I don’t know where my parents are, and my first love has cheated on me. I know I’ll live my life in depression from this point. Carlos appears next to me and takes my hand, and we walk to his house. I eat and then take a nap. I keep dreaming and dreaming constantly about the shake.

I wake up and see Carlos lying down watching TV.

“What time is it?” I ask him.

“10 o’clock” He tells me.

I want to get away from him, but I’m so caught up in his love. I sit next to him and give him a hug.

“I was on my way to go see you and I saw the hotel collapsing. I thought I was going to lose you.” He buried his head in his hands. “I was just grateful to find you alive.” He gives me a hug and cries.

He sits back up and watches TV. I can’t help but stay there. This has to be my life right now in this moment. But no, I don’t want to live with the guy who I loved no more. The fact that I will be staring at his face from now until forever will make me love him more.

I walk out and realize everything is going to change. Carlos comes to hug me. I nudge him away and realize he is just a stranger to me. Somebody that I used to know, somebody that I know, somebody that I used to love.

I walk back to the old house that my family and I lived in when I was little. I stick the key in the lock, open the door, walk in, and again smell that fresh air of good memories. Ready to take on the world and stand my ground. This is a new life, a new me.

I can’t grasp the feeling that everybody I loved is gone. It was all for a reason though. I’m relieved but still living in regret. Everything was so wrong and right on so many different levels. The shake will live in my memory, but not in reality any more, I hope.

Mission Unknown

6 Apr

By Hallee Ray
Denver Online High School

Shattered glass rained down from the window above me. I ran into the weathered, war-torn building to take cover from whoever or whatever caused the window to break. The night before, my division had moved into the town to continue our ambush on the opposing army. We were to conquer the town, where the information we needed was kept.

The government back home was crumbling. The country where my family remained, unsafe from the revolution stirring outside our home. The rebels had attempted to overthrow the government, plunging the world around them into chaos. Our mission was to preserve what this country had aimed to take from ours and to understand why they had attacked. The plan was to take this information back and use it against the rebels to stop the revolution from continuing.

When we reached the thick trees surrounding the town we were met by a team of snipers who took down eight of our fifteen men. After our comrades were killed, the rest of us moved into the town. Our other groups flocked into the town and used landmines to seal off the building we needed to break into. Landmines like they had planned to use to destroy this town.

People used to live here. Memories were locked away in the dull crumbling corners of the walls, but their importance would be shattered with gunshots and bombs. Soon enough, our enemies came, halfway through our mission.

I still didn’t understand why the information they had was so important to us.

I crouched, sheltered behind a busted doorframe leading out into the street. Bullets splattered against the brick outside and I heard a scream come from a lieutenant in my drafting group, Doug. The first friend I had made in our unit. When everyone else called me weak and incapable, he was the one to defend me. He accepted my hatred of the government for separating me from my family. He crumpled backward and fell hard on his back, clutching at his stomach.

The person who I assumed shot Doug walked forward, aiming his gun at Doug’s head. When he was completely in my line of sight, I rested my gun against my shoulder, brought it to eye level, and aimed. In. Out. I pulled the trigger. Blood soaked through the back of the guy’s shirt. He sank to his knees and toppled over onto his front just a foot away from Doug, who was still clutching at his stomach, groaning in pain. I scanned the area outside the door before running out to Doug’s aid, checking the above windows for others. In the broken window above me, a man stood, lining up a shot to Doug. I swung my gun up to aim at the man, pulling the trigger as soon as he was clear through my scope. The bullet caught him strait in the forehead, sending his head backward, his limp body following. I quickly swept my eyes around the deserted street again.

“Look at me,” I urgently whispered to Doug. “Breathe. It’s okay. We need to get you to shelter. The other’s are retreating.”

He groaned, his face contorting into a grotesque display of pain.

“Up,” I demanded, pulling him to his feet. I slung one of his arms around my shoulders and started to run, his legs half dragging along.

We rounded a turn to find three enemy soldiers patrolling the street. I dropped Doug behind an overturned truck with its end pushed against a dusty tan brick building. I unholstered a pistol and checked to make sure it was loaded. The street was cracked beneath my feet. A small fire burned in the upstairs window of what used to be a bar across the street. I inched my way to the front end of the truck. I peeked around it with one eye. The three soldiers stood in the middle of the street in a tight circle, engrossed in discussion. I scanned the building across from where I stood, looking for any sign of other soldiers. The windows were clear. On the other side of the road, I could see a doorway into the bar, which was closer to the soldiers than to me.

I shuffled back over to Doug, who now slouched against the tan, crumbling building. I looked up the wall of the building. There were a few windows, all empty, hopefully. I nodded at Doug, and he returned the gesture. I motioned for him to follow me to the end of the truck. He picked himself up, suppressing any noise, and perched himself wearily on the balls of his feet. Around the corner, the men were still just as engaged in conversation. They should be more cautious. Somebody has got to be on lookout for them.

“I’m crossing to the other side. Take care of any others, not those three just yet,” I whispered. I took a deep breath and, as quietly as possible, ran across the road to the bar.

My movement caught the attention of one of the three soldiers. “Hey!” he shouted, bullets trailing me.

I nodded across to Doug, who stood up, still grasping onto his side, and took out two men who I’d drawn out of their hiding places behind two upper windows. Meanwhile, I threw my arms around the concrete wall and pinned the three soldiers in the street, hitting each of them in the heart.

“Come on!” I yelled, running back to Doug.

We continued our retreat to the boats with his arm draped across my shoulders, occasionally killing a stray soldier. We saw many of our soldiers heading back into the forest where half the groups had planned to retreat, and others heading to the beach where the ships waited. When we reached the beach on the edge of the town, we found a group of our men taking shelter and protecting the ships. The others paraded down through the sand, killing a few of the enemy soldiers who were in close pursuit.

“Hurry!” one of them yelled, his gun pointed around us, shooting the enemy.

We picked up our speed, trying to maintain stable steps in the sand. By then, most of the rest of our group was in the boat. I ran to the boats, avoiding the rain of bullets. Then I felt it: a sharp stinging crawling its way through my thigh. I fell to my knees, not able to support my weight anymore, dropping Doug helplessly in the sand behind me. I tried to stand, but I couldn’t muster enough strength to pull myself up. Then another sting, almost knocking me over. This one was sharper, splintering my collarbone, sending shards swimming into my muscles. Warm blood ran down my arm into my palm, dripping from my fingertips into the warm sand. I stayed on my knees, swaying with the wind, blinded by pain. I needed to pull myself together. Another bullet skimmed the bottom of my ribs. The force pushed me back into the sand. My hands rushed to the wound in my stomach and I gasped for air, barely getting enough.

I stared at the blue sky. The clouds gently rolled across the sun and cast a cool shadow over me. My vision blurred and dark spots began to creep over my eyes, replacing the image of the sun poking through the clouds.

I felt a hand on my good shoulder. “Get up!” the voice strained, but I couldn’t hear clearly. It was almost as if someone had stuffed cotton in my ears. Everything sounded distant, like it was a room away. The hand desperately shook me. I wanted to get up, I did, but the feeling of the sand crawling up my blood-soaked, sunburned skin pulled me farther into the dark.

I imagined a knock on my door back home, my wife answering it with our six-month-old baby in her arms. Covering her mouth, tears falling away from her beautiful blue eyes. Years later, having to explain that Daddy never came home, but to be proud because he was brave. Holding the last letter he wrote her every night as she fell asleep, still numb with my memory.

“He’s dead, let’s go!” another voice even farther away shouted.

The hand stayed on my shoulder, still shaking me. I felt a hard smack on my cheek and finally pulled my eyelids open enough to see a blurry Doug crouched over me. Blood stained his shirt, but he seemed to move in less agony, his body accepting the bullet wound. He started dragging me across the sand. I screamed in pain until I felt cool water wash over my legs, seeping into the wound in my leg. Nothing was clear yet. I felt multiple hands grab me and drag me over the side of the boat. I heard Doug flop in next to me.

The boat lurched away from the shore and into the steady rock of the sea. I blinked a few times, attempting to gather a clear vision of the shore from where I sat propped against the side. Bodies scattered the roads and the sand, but the severity shrank as we treaded farther into the sea. All those people’s families, having to get the message that their loved one would not be coming home and how sorry they were. My head still spun with dizziness.

“Lieutenant,” the general said behind me, clapping a hand on my good shoulder, “thank you.”

I gave a puzzled look back.

He smiled. How could he smile after this? “You drew the attention away from me and I have all the information we need. We can prevent the revolution from continuing. Those bullets you took saved our country.”

I smiled, and then winced from the pain shooting through my body. My eyes began to black out again, and then I fell to the floor.

Awkward Love

6 Apr

By Dayja Cade
Denver Online High School

I got my first job as a pet sitter to keep my mind from thinking about my ex-lover Key. I just know it’s going to be great! I mean, how much trouble can a couple of dogs be? Well, of course once I arrived at The Victoria Manor, I found myself gazed upon by five unstill, rambunctious, slobber-covered pit bulls. I automatically realized that this day was not going to go as smoothly as planned.

I stood in the doorway, suddenly jostled into the house as the owner, Victoria, dashed to her luxurious Maserati Gran Turismo and swiftly made her way out of the neighborhood. I finally decided to pick my jaw up off the floor and get on with the task ahead.

Today was going to be a walk to and from the dog park up the street, which seemed manageable as long as Rex, Ralph, Rockie, Ryder, and Joe somewhat gave me a sense of control. Being the optimist that I am, I grabbed their leashes and hooked each one securely, making sure no slip-ups would occur. As we headed out the door and down the driveway, I noticed Rex strained ahead of the rest of us. He strangely started picking up speed, and I scanned the surrounding area to see what was piquing his interest.

Sure enough, before I could take absolute control, they all took off running after an Orange Tabby cat that had been sitting on the sidewalk but was now darting into the street. So it was five dogs following a cat, and me being drug along by five males practically five times my own weight. How ridiculous I must look. A neighbor who was mowing his luminous green lawn stopped to stare and chuckle, then returned to his duties without a word.

At last I was able to regain control, and my breath, as the dogs finally realized there was no catching the cat. Surprisingly, we arrived at the park calm and in one piece. I was thankful, for my sake, considering what could have happened.

Seeing that there was not a lot of activity at the park, I felt comfortable enough to unhook each anxious, excitement-thirsty canine. As I watched them bolt back and forth and round and round the fenced-in area, I laughed at their never-ending energy. Then I slowly backed into a convenient shady section, never once lifting my eyes from the troublemakers. Suddenly I could no longer move, as though I had backed into a wall. I turned and found myself facing a man with a broad chest. As the tip of my nose pressed into his chest, I noticed he smelled as though he had stepped out of the shower only seconds ago. He was clean-shaven and had tousled his sandy blonde hair to perfection. He had a laid back skater/surfer style, but I could tell he spent time deciding what he was going to wear. I inched towards his deep-as-the-ocean blue twinkling eyes. When I saw that they held all the beauty in the universe, I shyly turned my head down. Finally stepping off of his Supras, I found my voice and apologized.

“Umm, I am so, so sorry, I didn’t mean to—”

When he cut me off, I thought surely I was going to get fussed at. “No no, your fine.” Those words so sweet, so gentle, spoken in a deep, raspy tone made me instantly melt into a puddle of flaming love.

Hearing rough play brought me back to reality, where the wild dogs in my care were hurdling over the fence one-by-one—except Joe, he was the only decent one of the bunch. Instantly, catlike reflexes came over me as I dashed to collect them, getting all but Rex, of course. Falling over bumps in the grass and getting tangled in leashes, I could imagine how insane I looked.

To my surprise, the man I had met was walking toward me with Rex happily at his side. I could not thank him enough, and even offered my pet-sitting services at no charge. Like the gentlemen he was, he refused and instead asked if he could take me to lunch sometime. I once again stumbled over my words, accepting his invite. As I walked back to Victoria Manor, I could hear Jay quietly chortling at my bashful attitude.

The next day I was dreading my towing by the pit bulls. Sitting at the park, I got a text saying, “Hey, where are you?” It took me a few seconds to comprehend what was happening, and then DING! I had forgotten I was supposed to meet Jay at McAlister’s for lunch. I quickly replied, asking if he would not mind bringing lunch to the park since I was with the dogs. He agreed and made his way to the park shortly after. I felt our surroundings were the perfect place to get to know more about each other.

We soon grew accustomed to hanging out at the park whenever I was pet sitting. As the days progressed, we became good friends, which was all I needed at the time as I was still getting over Key.

I met Key in ninth grade and thought of him as my high-school sweetheart. As junior year came around, he began to hang out with the wrong people and get sucked into a lifestyle I could no longer handle. He would party, do drugs, and drink till he could not any longer.

Key and some friends even made their way up to the roof of a three-story suburban party house. Key had been dared to jump from the roof into the pool. Although Key and his friends were pumped and “knew he was going to make it,” he slipped, somersaulted, and tangled himself in the nearby tree that none of them had taken into consideration. As he dangled from a limb, all everyone noticed was that he hadn’t spilled a single drop from the beer in his hand. That was when a huge roar erupted, like it was the greatest thing that ever happened. I had the opposite feeling, thinking it was completely foolish.

I told Key many times to cease drinking because it showed a side of him I did not like. On many occasions he lied and told me he was going to quit, but he broke every promise. Being his girlfriend became a constant embarrassment till I got the courage to leave him. For good.

It had been two years since the break-up, and during that time I had built a wall that was unbreakable. Expressing my feelings and accepting other’s feelings became a challenge. I did not want to let another guy like Key gain my trust only to hurt me.

I tried everything to keep it together with Jay, to prevent Jay’s feelings from bursting through the appearing cracks. Slowly, one day at a time, I let go of my need to control everything, and Jay found a way to make me feel comfortable enough to trust again. He was not going to give up, and I saw determination and yet patience within him.

Jay was always there for me to catch me when I fell, whether I fall over the dogs or fell in love with him. Jay Bum and I grew closer and closer, and so did the dogs and us. It was like they had become a part of who we were and what our relationship centered on. We ended up adopting them all from Victoria. She obviously could no longer keep up with them, since she had started calling me over even on my off days. However, I did not mind as it meant I would be with Jay.

On one cold day, when I was given permission to invite Jay over to assist me with the dogs, he said something I would never forget:

“Lilly Bear, I love you unconditionally. Nothing will ever change that, no matter how awkwardly you love me. The day you backed into me was the day I knew I had to keep you in my life. I had never met a girl that made me feel the way you do.” Words of sheer passion and tenderness coming from my one, my only, and last true love.


To Love A Monster

6 Apr

By Lanessa Ramirez
Denver Online High School

It seemed as if in a blink of an eye life became so much harder and more complicated. Ultimately it became a living hell, like trying to swim in a pool full of ice. Soon life became cold for me, cold like ice.

You know my story don’t you? Everyone knows my story. All about my horrible amazing love for the monsters. Everyday was suddenly another word for making love with the monster.

I was lying down on my queen-size bed, under two blankets. It was one of those cold winter nights, cold with ice on the ground that will complicate your life early the next morning when you’re running late for work. I closed my eyes and lay on my side, my favorite sleeping position. Soon I was in a deep sleep. Everything turned black and my left leg twitched. I was awakened in a store. No one was in sight. I didn’t hear any sound. It was as if lighting struck me with confusion. What was I doing there? Why was I there? When did I get there? How?

I just continued to walk down the same aisle: Breakfast and Cereal Aisle #5 it said at the top. It appeared as if a tornado had taken place. The cereal was opened, frosted flakes covered the whole floor as if someone had dumped a whole bag. I kept walking because curiosity set in. I saw blood on the floor, on the frosted flakes, and all over the cereal boxes at the end of the aisle. How did the blood get there? My heart began to pound rapidly. I could hear it in my ears. Soon even my ears began to thump. My head started pounding too.

I heard a voice, but it was too far. I couldn’t understand what it was saying. Then I heard a scream. It got louder and louder. I saw a familiar face: it was my baby brother running towards me screaming, his face covered in horror like a little kid watching a scary movie for the first time. “RUN! GO! GO!” he screamed.

I stared with a blank look on my face. What was going on? What was I running from?

From the corner of my eye, I got a glimpse of a tall African-American guy running after him. I got a clear view of his jaw and saw that the left side was gone. How was he even living? I screamed, incapable of believing what I was seeing with my own eyes. I ran the other way.

I imagine I’m on the track field. “RUN!” Coach Fred screams. Fifteen seconds on the clock, I can make it. I’m sprinting. Nothing can stop me from reaching that finish line.

I heard Josh scream, “Emma!” Back to reality. We found an unlocked door. We ran through it and found ourselves in a dark storage room. It was dark and scary, but at least we were safe from the man-turned-monster. After a good thirty minutes, we had faith that he was gone.

We opened the door and looked around. We saw a door that looked like it led to a loading dock. We wanted to make sure we had some sort of weapon before walking through another door, since we weren’t sure what might lay behind it. We found a core bar. That would do. I opened the door, while Josh held the core bar so tightly in his hands I thought it might explode. My ears were ringing, my body rushed with emotions, my legs felt heavy. I slowly twisted the door knob, my hand shaking. Nothing was behind the mystery door, except a parking lot.

Josh and I took a deep breath as we realized there was nothing to be scared of. It was like the rainbow you see after the rain. There was a mini van, old but safer then just walking. We found a way in through the sun roof. There were no keys as I’d expected, even though part of me had hoped there would be. Josh explained that he knew how to hot wire a car, that knowing this had gotten him into Juvenile Hall. In this case, I guess you could say I was more thankful than angry that he knew how to do so.

But I insisted on driving.

Every street we drove down was empty. No little kids were running outside playing with soccer balls, basketballs, or dogs. Everything was so quiet. I passed the freeway. We were almost home. I felt butterflies , but then a lump grew in my throat. I pulled up in front of our gray, medium-size house with the beautiful red roses on the fence. We did a count down “1..2…3…Let’s go!”

We ran as fast as possible to the front door, and didn’t hesitate opening it. Everything was dark. My heart feels like a hammer is pounding it. Did the monsters get to my family before I did? I went into my mom’s room, then my sisters. Nothing. No one is there. I looked in the closets and little spaces where they could be hiding. I couldn’t find them. “Where are they?!” I shouted. Josh didn’t respond. Tears filled my eyes.

Then I remembered that this house was a little older then most. There was an attic. I found a chair, climbed onto it, reached up for the attic door and pushed it open. Sure enough, I saw a distant light. A part of me filled with hope. In a fairy tale, they would be up there, safe, waiting for Josh and me to come home. Josh helped me up with a push, and then I helped pull him up.

We heard voices whispering. They were soft like rose petals. I saw familiar faces again: they were my mom and my baby sister. Tears filled my eyes again, this time they are tears of joy. I run to them and hug them ever so tightly. I kiss my mom on the cheek and ask her what happened. She said she didn’t know.

My sister, Joy, began to tell us how mom and her had to fight the neighbors because they tried to eat our dog and then tried to eat them. Joy went into the story:

“Me and mom were in the kitchen when we hear Bella bark, and then she starts to cry. I see the neighbors jumping over the wood fence. They looked so hungry. I ran outside to yell at them to get on their side or I would call the cops. They ignored me, as if my screaming was as silent as a mouse. They kept trying to catch Bella. As soon as I saw their eyes were pitch black, I panicked. Bella ran inside as soon as I opened the door. Who knew an animal could show the emotion of fear? It’s like she knew she could’ve died. My heart was in my throat. I closed the doors as fast as I physically could. My body tingled, I was so scared. I ran into Mom’s arms crying, asking her what was wrong with them? She knew we needed to hide. She threw me and Bella up in the attic before she finally came up here.”

I glanced over at my mom, waiting to hear what she had to say. She stood quiet, blankness on her face, staring into space. I knew something was wrong. I saw her hand covering her neck. She never moved her hand that night. When she fell asleep I moved her hand gently, making sure not to wake her. I saw what she had wanted to hide so badly. It shattered my heart into pieces. Tears ran down my cheeks like raindrops on a windshield. My mom had been bitten by one of those monsters. My pain settled into my heart and eyes. I couldn’t help but cry, and cry. I knew about zombies. I knew what I was eventually going to have to do.

It was around three in the morning when we watched our loving mother transform into a monster. Even then she was beautiful. We could see she was resisting the change that was going to happen. After a long twenty minutes of tossing, turning and shouting, she finally gave in. She was fully changed, a stranger. Her warm, beautiful, gold heart was now black and cold like ice. She looked up at me and her face didn’t look any different. She had crinkles on her forehead and the most luscious long black hair. She smiled, but her eyes looked different. They were black. Her love for us wasn’t there anymore.

I couldn’t bring myself to face the fact that I had to kill the only person who ever put me before themselves. My eyes burned, my heart ached, and it was hard to breath. I felt hot. I felt intense. I didn’t want to be in this situation. Why? Why me? Why? I needed to hurry, quick.

“Grandpa used to keep a pistol hidden up here,” said Josh.

He scattered the dressers, searching in back of them, and sure enough there was a pistol, sleek, clean, and black.

“SIG Pro,” Josh said. “Grandpa sure loved to talk about his brand new pistol. Before he moved out he told me where he hid it. He told me if I ever needed protection, there it was.”

I looked my baby brother and sister in the eyes and said, “I’m so sorry for the way life turned out and for what your about to see. Please understand. I hope one day you forgive me.”

Memories flash. I remember my mom taking me to the park, where we swing till dawn.

She went after Josh. She was fast.

“Aaa! Someone get her off!” Josh screamed.

Joy didn’t hesitate. She ran and pulled her mom off of her own brother, pushing her with all the strength she had left. I needed to act quickly. BANG!

Afterward, silence filled the air.

I still picture the bullet slowing, going into the forehead of my only mother. It’s dark here, and cold. There are tiny white snowflakes. They’re beautiful and cold just like Mama. When I look into the mirror it is her face I see. Her right is my left. We are exact opposites, mom and me. She is cold and controlling. I’m codependent and cowardly. Good, bad. Left, right. She has always been there with open arms.

We stayed in the attic the rest of the night. I stood right by Mama’s side. I kissed her forehead and closed her eyes. I couldn’t sleep the whole night. I just tossed and turned and sobbed. I already missed her.

Early the next morning, I came to the realization that if the rest of my family stayed up in this attic we would not make it. I remembered the time mom and I went to see the boats that left for London. I knew what I had to do to save my baby brother and sister. I woke them from a deep sleep. You could see it on their faces, that they wished this was all bad nightmare. I told them we were leaving, we needed to go someplace elsewhere.

Joy began to cry.

I looked deeply into her eyes and told her, “NO! You need to stay strong.”

You can be on the only road you’ve ever known and WHAM! a semi comes from nowhere with no warning, rolls right over you. Sometimes you feel okay, sometimes it’s not so bad, but you know things will never be the same.

I was walking beside Joy and Josh as we were about to board the boat. We felt safe enough to talk and laugh. I saw a familiar face. I saw the hideous horrid monster out of the corner of my eye.

All of a sudden everything turned black. I felt pounding. My heart tingled and stung like it was dropped into a bucket of acid. My eyes burned, my knees trembled with the biggest fear of all: having to face the grotesque monster. My body started to turn cold like ice. I was not there. “Em!” I heard from a distance, but he was not far enough. My heart shattered as if it were made of glass. I hated that name.

Em died the first time she was forced to cope the best way she could, with daddy going to visit her in the night, back when she was only ten. No one understood what it was like growing up with a monster for a father.

Now the only way she’s able to feel some sort of solace is by binging on tasty food, food that I need to vomit exactly an hour later or it will settle into my thighs. I need to look “stunning for Daddy,” as he always used to say. The secrets I hide for others keep me coming to the call of the blade, and the blade answers. The razor is beautiful as it cuts through my thighs. And to fill the void I have inside my heart, I drink dad’s whiskey that he leaves in his closet. That’s not all. I smoke marijuana to relieve the crazy thoughts that never stop. And what used to be on occasion, but has now turned into everyday, I take his lovely Oxycontin.


CITATIONS: The series of Ellen Hopkins books inspired me to write this story.