The “I Like That!” Page

Here are the best results of each day’s work, as voted on by the class. In other words, upon hearing these works, everyone in the class says, “I like that!”

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Lighter Fluid

by Gabrielle

I asked, “What is your problem?”
You said, “I wish I knew.”
My life was filled with color,
yet yours lacked any hue.
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So I said, “Let’s adventure,
and find what sets you free.”
You shook your head and claimed
you lacked the curiosity.

Then I bought you a puzzle,
but you only kept one piece.
I found the rest, thrown away,
my heart began to crease.

I asked, “How can I help you?”
You gave me a flat gaze,
and said, “Leave me alone,
I find comfort in my haze.”

Then I turned away defeated.
No words were left to say.
I was vitality and brilliance,
You were bland and gray.

I found your note this morning,
it said that you were fine.
It said you’d found adventure,
and you were about to shine.

This was not what I meant,
when I preached curiosity.
You wrote, “I’m drinking lighter fluid,
let’s see where that takes me.”

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Antes Del Amor

by Nikki

He was once just a stranger in the crowd
Until I fell in love
And now he is the first face I look for
How crazy does that sound

Until I fell in love
I thought it to be silly
How crazy does that sound
To think I once knew so little

I thought it to be silly
To care for another so much
Now how crazy does that sound
I thought I knew it all

To care for another so much
I put his happiness above mine
I thought I knew it all
Before I fell in love

To put his happiness above mine
And now he is the first face I look for
Before I fell in love
He was once just a stranger in the crowd

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Death to Death

by Gabrielle

Your words have set me free,
The kindness of your speech.
My spirit has been lifted.
I’ve been graced by your mouth.

The lightheartedness that comes forth
From your lips of gold.
I’m in a state of constant longing
For but a moment to converse.

The heaviness that once encumbered me,
Has transformed into life and revelation.
You’ve spoken my release.
Death is swallowed up in victory.

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Ode from Class

by Mariana

O my books!
how exquisite
you are!

Steadfast and
thoughtful
Dearest
my star,

you are
superb,
benevolent
to behold!

The Greek
gods were
all-powerful
But you
are tenfold

more!
What great
Deed
have I
done
to deserve
such a
life

To have
you by
my
side
As if
man and
wife

O my books!
I love you
so!

A life
without
you is
like a life
with no
heart

Empty and
Lifeless,
a zombie
I would be;

a bird with
no wings,
A violin
with no
strings

a shell
of a
person
I surely would
be.

Will you
then
accept
this
humble ode?

O books!
from a lover
whose
words I
have
sowed.

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reflective

by Raven

i see a lot of things
a lot more than any of you
i see a lot of strangeness
in my special point of view

girls hold up their cellphones,
cameras pointed straight at me.
taking several pointless pictures,
i hear they’re called ‘selfies.’

boys are equally as vain,
they flex their biceps, shoulders square.
seemingly trying to make up for
what isn’t really there.

but sometimes i see other things,
whether it’s a he or she.
more commonly i see stares,
critical of whatever they see.

i see a lot of things,
things not many people do.
but whenever you look at me
all you ever see is you.

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This is a poem that…

by Tre’

This is a poem that makes no sense,
That can’t be understood,
That no one wants to read,
That plays on repeat over and over.

This is a poem that has stopped trying,
That has given up on appearances,
That no longer wants to be a poem.
Strange how much poems and humans are alike.

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Sorry

by Gabrielle

I’m sorry I proved you right,
I’m sorry I made you say it,
Of all people, I never thought you,
I never thought I could break your patience.

I’m sorry, I guess I can’t help it,
I’m sorry, I guess I’m just mean,
But I guess I’ve proved you wrong also,
Your patience was not so supreme.

I consider this a great feat,
Since you said I’d never cry,
I’m sorry to prove you wrong,
But now you’ve formed the tears in my eyes.

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If aliens were looking at life on earth…

by Tre’

If aliens were looking at life on earth,
They would be quite astonished.
To see the foggy, hidden truths,
That our colonies have established.

They would look amongst themselves,
And say, all the while revolted,
“Why are humans so evil?”
No whisper could be spoken.

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A Couple of Band Geeks

by Mariana

Two statues frozen in time
A beautiful moment, a wonderful find
The first, a chiseled Greek god from above
Tanned and exotic, looks down to his love

A fair-skinned beauty with rosy pink lips
Eyes closed, blonde hair peeking in wisps
Looks up to that god with shaggy brown hair
Caught in the sweet little moment they share

Chins barely touching, a keyhole lies there
Helping us see the love in the air
Like a zebra has stripes, the contrast is stunning
Both black and white, as one they’re becoming

Feathered hats along heads
Golden circlets in threads
Regal and beautiful,
One pictured speaks,

Just a couple of band geeks.

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Too Dumb

by Bri

There once was a boy from the West
All the while he hoped for the best
So he got on his knees
And said “Jesus, please,
That I know all the stuff for the test.”

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Lessons of Courage and Fear

by Raven

In my life I have known Courage.
We met when I stood up to Mother
For her decades of daunting demands.
Nowadays, Courage isn’t around,
No longer holding my hand.

I find Courage when I need it most
Though I don’t always reach far enough
It shines brightly to draw my eye
Though I never call its bluff.

In my life I have known Fear.
We met the minute I was born,
When I was met by strangers’ eyes
These days Fear thrives in its new role,
A disease consuming my mind.

Fear finds me on a day to day
In the opinions of others I’m caught
It takes and takes, a greedy thief
Creating riches from my thoughts

I’ve learned that Courage and Fear are different.
Courage says I could have glory
When Fear reminds me of regret
The former, my heart has always longed for
The latter, a constant threat

I usually fall to Fear’s persuasion
A fact I wish were fiction
Courage is not as convincing
Or doesn’t have as much conviction

I just wish you could see the two
At war with one another
I wish one was my friend.
I wish I’d never met the other.

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Twelve Dollars and Fifty Cents

by Gabrielle

The babysitter called the parents to ask if she could cover up the creepy clown statue standing in the hallway.

“Call 911,” the parents shouted into the phone. “We don’t own a clown statue!”

In that moment, the babysitter’s head shot back up to where the clown statue had once stood. Empty air loomed where the statue was no longer. A tear slipped down her cheek, and her eyes fluttered closed for only a fraction of a second, squeezing out more hot liquid.

“Okay,” she breathed to herself. “Okay, Makenzie. Grab the kids.” Following her own orders, she moved through the house quickly (but silently), first grabbing Jaime and Kyle from their room, then Todd from the one adjacent. The infant Leah was still fast asleep when the babysitter scooped her up from the bottom of her pastel yellow crib.

“Downstairs,” Makenzie instructed the children. Her body was numb but she still had the good sense to keep moving as she headed towards the last child’s room.

“Go straight to the neighbor’s, don’t stop for anything. Jaime, take Leah,” she instructed handing the infant to her older brother. The group headed for the front door in absolute silence as their babysitter headed in the opposite direction towards the last child’s door. Suddenly, the silence was broken by an oddly-lighthearted feminine giggle that rang though the house.

“Keep going!” The babysitter whisper-screamed at the children who had stopped and turned around to look towards the noise. Then Makenzie, trying to forget the chilling laughter, crept silently towards Kaylee’s door. A creak sounded throughout the house as she stepped on a loose board of wood in the flooring. She let out a silent breath of still-scared relief. Despite her heartrate shooting up rapidly, she was okay and almost to Kaylee’s door. Being especially careful to stay quiet, she approached the door that, to her surprise, was cracked open. A pink and yellow tinted light shone through softly, and through the open slice of the door, the babysitter could make out Kaylee’s figure sitting up awake.

“Shhh, I told you this would be fun.” Kaylee whispered in her childish voice that at one point, had seemed quite adorable to Makenzie. It was at that moment that Makenzie realized Kaylee was not talking to her, and was instead speaking to someone else in the room. A feeling of pure dread crept from her toes, to her chest, and then breathed down the back of her neck. She moved her head slightly in order to sneak a look at the other person in the room with Kaylee. The rotation of her neck made a very slight noise, one that would probably go unnoticed in the day of any typical human. That noise, in the deafening silence, now sounded like the shattering of glass upon concrete. It was quiet, but loud, and Makenzie knew it. She closed her eyes as if doing so could stop time, but upon opening them, she realized two things: One, time was still going, and two, there were now two pairs of eyes staring directly at her through the crack of the door.

“This job,” Makenzie thought, “is not at all worth $12.50 an hour.”

The clown statue was standing next to Kaylee, unmoving.

“Why are you down here?” Kaylee asked before further explaining, “Mommy said you were going to stay upstairs tonight.” Speechless and trembling, Makenzie stood supporting her weight on the doorframe. No words came to her mind, not to her lips.

“Why won’t you answer me?” Kaylee questioned. But still, Makenzie was struck silent.

“Hey!” Kaylee screamed, and at the same time, the clown’s face shifted into one of sheer anger. “Kaylee,” Makenzie tried, completely freaked out, “Let’s just go find your family and leave that nice clown statue alone, okay?” Without hesitation, Kaylee responded.

“No. You’re not one of us and neither are any of my siblings. You can’t tell me what to do. I am not leaving my clown and nothing you say can make me. In fact, we just killed the neighbors. We can get you too if you don’t–” As Kaylee ranted on, the clown began to smile. He pulled his arm up behind Kaylee’s head and with a single, swift movement, brought a knife down into the middle of her skull. Kaylee’s eyes widened, still fixed in Makenzie’s gaze, and she began to cry. As the silent tears rolled down her face, she asked a simple question,

“Why?” The clown, smile still slapped on his face, held a finger to her lips.

“Oh, right,” Kaylee sobbed, “I wasn’t supposed to tell about the neighbors, was I? I’m sorry. You’re my friend. I’m sorry. I won’t tell next time, I promise.” As the word “promise” left her mouth, Kaylee’s body went limp. It sagged forward and Makenzie nearly threw up. Then the clown got up and pulled the door the whole way open. Pushing past Makenzie, he paused and put a finger to his mouth, earning a slow nod from the poor babysitter. With a wave of his fingers, the clown walked down the hallway and directly out the front door.

Soon after, the horrified parents of once five—now four—children came home to find the police surrounding their home. Four of their children were found asleep outside of their dead neighbor’s house. The other was found dead in her room with a dagger in the center of her head. Their babysitter was found unconscious in the hallway, her body in a state of shock that paramedics were not sure she would wake up from. And loose, somewhere, was a clown.

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Cafe 5:48

by Gabrielle

As I walk reluctantly into Cafe 5:48, an odd smell assaults my senses. A mixture of musk, grease, and bleach brings a slight watering to my eyes, but the growling of my stomach urges me towards a booth. I wish I had never bought a stupid car off Craigslist. If I had just dealt with catching the bus every day, I would already be home by now. But I had to go against my better judgment and buy the car, and now I’m stuck at this dingy café waiting for the old, smoking mechanic next door to fix my old, smoking car.

I keep my eyes plastered on a laminated menu so as not to focus on the café walls, stained with all sorts of unidentifiable matter.

“Hi, my name is Brandy, and I will be your server today. May I take your order?” An overly-cheery—dare I say forced—voice chirped. I ordered a club sandwich (again, against my better judgement), fries, and a bottle of water. Brandy nodded intently after every word I spoke, slightly creeping me out. After taking down my order, she ripped a sheet of paper from her pad and placed it down on the table.

“Is this correct?” she asked. I looked lazily at the paper, expecting to see exactly what I had ordered written in ink, but was sent into a state of panic by what was actually there. On the palm-sized paper were scribbled the words Please help me. Call 911.

I sat dazed, staring at the paper before finally coming to my senses. Eventually, I nodded so as not to be conspicuous, before saying,

“That’s exactly it, except no mayo.” Only then was I aware that nobody else was dining in Cafe 5:48 anymore but me. The couple that had been all over each other when I had entered had probably left while I was busy judging the 1×1 black and white floor tiling. Only at that moment did I notice the cook in the kitchen, with his plump face, rough skin, and unsettling scar running diagonally from the middle of his forehead to his jaw. I felt my heart rate increase upon noticing the possessive and demanding way that he looked at Brandy as she handed him my order. I sighed at the unfortunate luck of being placed in this situation, and with a still racing heart, began to form a plan.

I tried something simple at first. I walked outside and dialed 911, only to realize that my cell service was nonexistent. I took a deep breath and walked back in. The cook was now sitting at the center of the Café, staring directly at me. Brandy was nowhere in sight.

“Fries take a while,” he explained with a hearty chuckle,

“Sorry, there’s no cell service to keep you entertained.”

I afforded him a tight-lipped smile and explained weakly, “If that’s the case, I’m going to go see how my car is doing.” The cook nodded and waved his fingers almost tauntingly.

I almost cried in relief when I saw the mechanic. Another person. Thank goodness. I was not alone in this insane dystopia of a place. I went to him immediately, and most of the built-up tension in my head started to disappear.

“Do you have a phone, sir?” I asked.

He ignored my question and said instead, “Oh there you are, my good man. Did you finish eating already? I’m not quite done fixing her up yet.” Despite being a little annoyed with the man, I tried again,

“Can I borrow your phone? It’s important.”

He smiled at me and handed me a wrench saying, “Maybe you can help me fix your car. It’ll get done a lot faster that way.”

I shook my head. “No,” I said firmly and through clenched teeth muttered, “I need your phone. May I borrow it?” His smile immediately turned into a frown, and his once warm tone became chillingly hostile.

“She doesn’t need you. You’re not going to call the police.”

At his words, my blood ran cold. He knew about her, about Brandy. It was in that moment that realization struck me. I started slowly, “Is… she crazy or something?” The stone expression slowly eased off the mechanic’s face, and he nodded cautiously.

“Yes,” he began hesitantly, “She has some sort of mental illness; always forgets who she is and that she works at the café, so she goes and tells people she’s been kidnapped. Look, I’m sorry things got a little tense just then. It’s just frustrating. Don’t get me wrong, I feel for the poor girl, but even more so, I feel for her husband. Imagine having a wife like that, one who tries to run away from you and gets men to call the police on you every other day. It’s insanity; I’m sure you understand where I was coming from.”

“I do,” I affirmed, “I’m sorry you have to work right next to that craziness every day, and I’m sorry I played into it. I won’t keep you from your work any longer, thank you so much. You’re doing a great job,” and with that, I strode back to the café.

Brandy was there when I got back. She looked crushed, as if she knew what had been said and had experienced this defeat before. Without a word, she set my food on the table and left. After I had finished eating, Brandy showed up with the bill. This time, there was no writing on the paper receipt. I slipped in my card and wrote the tip down on the receipt, then I started counting. 13… 12… 11…. When I reached 4, I stood up from my table. When I reached 2, I was opening the door. When I reached 1, I saw Brandy sprinting after me, and by 0, we were halfway to my car. The mechanic did not have the time to react as we wrenched open the doors of my car and hauled out of the station. We left just in time to see the cook come sprinting out of Café 5:48, screaming and cussing us out.

If I learned anything that day, it would be that Café 5:48 was named after the exact time Brandy Allen was kidnapped 5 years ago, and that I will never ever use Craigslist again.

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The Hidden Gift of a NIghtmare

 

by Cruz

“Ring-a-ding-ding” goes the sound of the bell hanging on the rusty handle as I open the door of this old café. The sudden dark of the room makes my eyes take a few seconds to adjust. I rub my eyes and slowly look up while following the lines on a red striped dress to perhaps the most stunning waitress I’ve ever seen. A young blonde woman with blue eyes that could sway any man in the world without even trying.

“Right this way,” she says in an infatuating voice. I follow her all the way to the last booth at the end of the café. While walking, I look at the walls to see dusty old pictures and newspapers, from what looked to be two-hundred years ago.

“Is this ok, sir?” she says while putting the menu on the table.

“It’s perfect,” I reply softly. I sit down and move myself all the way to the inside of the booth. Being surprised by the dusty filth, I scan the room to familiarize myself with this interesting café.

The first thing I see in the very corner of the room is an old broken T.V. with frozen colors that look unpleasant. My eyes jump out of their sockets when I see a large, old, wrinkly dog lying down nearly a few feet in front of me. It isn’t moving at all until I give a short whistle. Then one eye opens ever so slowly with the weight of its age, then closes. Looking back down, I notice the menu right in front of me. I open the menu to see burgers, fries, pancakes, and steak as the only things on there. “Click clack.” The waitress’s high heels made it easy to know when she was coming.

“May I take your order sir?” She says while taking out her pen and note pad. I clear my throat and say, “I’ll have the burger and fries, I guess.”

“Coming right up sweetie,” she says, while looking me up and down. The way she holds herself and the sound of her voice have me enamored instantly.

Smiling as I think to myself, I find myself dying of live boredom. I wake myself up from daydreaming to adjust my blurred vision. When I focus my eyes, I spot an old jukebox at the end of the room. I stand up and walk over to the box. The list of songs is very unfamiliar to me. “Hmm, I think I’ll just pick a random one.” I say to myself. I close my eyes and pick the first song that comes up. I press play, and it plays an old rock and roll song. Closing my eyes, I sway my head and bite my bottom lip in enjoyment as I make my way back to my booth. As I sit back down, I notice an old woman sitting in the booth in front of me. How did I not see her before? I think to myself. She is facing the other way, so I can’t see her face. Curiosity strikes my mind. Then, the power goes out.

“Is anyone there? Hello?” I shout. But no one answers. Sitting in pure darkness, I huddle myself in the corner of my booth to protect my negative thoughts. All of a sudden, I see the T.V. turn on all the way at the end of the hallway. The same T.V. that I thought was broken has a picture of an old lady in a nightgown on it. My body fills itself with terrified nerves. I then feel a slight breeze graze across my left arm. I couldn’t move a muscle even if I tried. It’s like something has taken my ability to move out of my body. I close my eyes even though I can’t see anything.

The lights flicker a few times before I can even open them. As I see the last pink ray of light shine through my eyelids, I open my eyes the same time as the light turns on. What I see sitting down right next to me is the old woman from the T.V.! Her eyes roll back and fill themselves with white dripping with black tears, her wrinkly face sags down past her butt chin. Then, the light flickers again. But this time, when it turns back on, I can’t believe my eyes. She is on the table, bent over backwards with her teeth stretched out and sharpened by the devil.

“AHHHHHH!” I scream in terror. She jumps and sticks onto the ceiling, looks back at me, and makes the highest pitched sound I’ve ever heard. The sound turns my hearing into a constant buzzing noise. I press my palms against my eardrums while clenching my teeth so hard that I begin to taste blood. The lights then flicker again, but this time, when it turns back on, the blonde waitress’s head is on a plate in front of me.

“AHHH!” I scream disgustedly. Emotions grab ahold of me as I curl up into a ball and look down at the waitresses chopped off head. She was so beautiful and sweet. “Wife material” some may say. Then, red hot anger rises from within my body. My face begins to transform into something I’ve never seen before. My eyebrows begin to form a stiff, furious look. I close my mouth to hide what lies within it; a cringing smirk, flexing my jaw muscles till they cramp. That’s when my confidence level created its own booster. I was ready to exterminate the old woman.

Being aware of my surroundings, I stand up out of the booth. With the lights still on, I make my way to the wall and put my back against it. As I look around, while being cautious, I feel an object touching my right hand. I look down to see a sledgehammer leaning up against the wall. I grab ahold of it just in time as the lights turn off. “Be calm.” I say to myself. The lights turn back on for a second, and the first thing I see is the old demon woman running at me full speed from the other end of the café. “AHH HEEE!” The old lady screams as she runs. She’s coming quick, so I have to make my move fast! In perfect timing, I lift up the large hammer and slam it down right in the middle of the demon’s head. “TUNK! SPLAAT!” As the large, heavy hammer flattens her skull, it splatters thick blood all over the creation.

With blood all over me, and a dead, crazy old woman in front of me, I know I need to make a run for it. Zooming out of this demonized café is the only thing on my mind. I take one last look around and book it to the door, avoiding the dead bodies on the floor and almost slipping on the thick red blood. I kick the door open with all of my might and run straight into a herd of police officers, pointing their guns at me. “Put your hands up! Get on your knees! Stay there!” They shout repetitively with great anger. In shock, the first thing that comes to mind is to run for it. But, as soon as I take my first step, “Sink!” One of the police officers shoots a tranquilizer into my right arm. My vision begins to darken, and I drop to my knees in sorrow. “Ahhh!” I scream loudly. Then, I drop down to the ground as If I were a rag doll. “I-i-i-t w-wasn’t m-m-me.” I scramble to say.

Before I disappear into the tranquilizer’s sleeping serum that is spreading throughout my veins, I see a ghost of the beautiful blonde waitress standing behind the angry crowd of police officers. Being unable to move or talk, she says the best thing, “Just, let go, it’s easier that way.” While smiling, she tells me to close my eyes and join her.

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A Good Bad Person

by Raven

The inside of the bus was hot and dusty and had that bitter, stale smell only sweat has, though such a stench was to be expected with the sun beating down on everyone through the thick glass of the bus windows.  Even I was sweating from my seat in the aisle, but it wasn’t just because of the heat. I could feel the back of my cotton shirt starting to stick to the spot on my back right between my shoulder blades beneath my black trench coat. But most of all, I could feel the hard metal of the .45 millimeter handgun in my inner coat pocket above all else. It wasn’t a particularly heavy gun, but in the moment it felt like an elephant leaning against my chest with each grueling second that passed.

My premature guilt was plaguing to say the least. I didn’t have to look around the bus to know it was a full house.  There was a teenage boy listening to music in the seat across from mine. A group of old ladies wearing colorful dresses occupied a couple rows of seats towards the front of the bus. I even heard a baby cry behind me.

I don’t know what I was waiting for.  Part of me thinks that I was waiting for someone to notice my odd choice of outerwear on a humid summer day. Part of me wanted some superhero to come to these peoples’ rescue and stop me from shooting up this bus. Despite the consequences I would have undoubtedly faced, I wanted to be found out. Maybe then this whole thing could’ve been aborted.

But I knew, no matter what, that if I didn’t go through with this that my little sister would die. I didn’t know why the people who took her wanted me to shoot up and rob a bus full of people. It seemed like such a pointless crime. I didn’t understand what it was supposed to accomplish. Why these people chose to blackmail me was also a mystery. But when I saw that video of Lyssa tied to a chair, bruised and bloody, getting answers wasn’t my number one priority. Saving my parents from the grief of losing a daughter, much less because I wouldn’t fulfill a demand, was the only thing that mattered.

I felt the jerk of the large vehicle as it came to a stop at a traffic light near a busy intersection. My phone vibrated in my back pocket, and I was so jumpy that I flinched at the feeling. It was as if the alert was timed perfectly with the stop. I subtly reached for it, digging it out of my pocket. On the screen, I had a text notification from an unknown number with one simple word.

Now.

This was it. My grace period was over. The time to debate with the angel and the devil on my shoulders had come to an end. I had approximately two minutes to do this or my parents would have one less daughter. I had to push aside the prevalent nausea I felt fighting for my attention, as if to talk me out of doing it.

I remember thinking a lot of things before I stood up. But there was one recurring curiosity that I had in that moment.

Is this why bad people do bad things?

Reluctantly bringing myself to my feet, I took a step into the aisle of the bus. I tried to control my breathing, but the fear pulsating through my entire body had other plans. Tentatively, I walked to the front of the bus, passing several people who gave me weird looks. But I guess everyone assumed I was just going up to ask the driver a question, because no one stopped me. A war raged within me as I took each step, as if the simple act of walking went against every fiber of my being. I kept my gaze fixated on the floor in front of me the whole time. When I finally reached the driver, I could feel her eyes on me.

“Can I help you with something?” she asked, looking me up and down.

I almost didn’t hear her with my heart pounding in my ears. Tears stung my eyes, threatening to spill over, as I lifted my head to look her in the eye. All I could think about was how everyone in this bus was someone’s brother, sister, daughter, or son. I didn’t need a mirror to know my regret was plastered all over my face.

The bus driver’s facial expression went from annoyed to perplexed when I didn’t say anything. I slowly turned away from her, tears spilling down my face in the process, to face all the passengers. Only then did some heads start to turn and pay attention to what was going on. My trembling hands rose to the opening of my coat, one holding it open and the other reaching inside to grip the gun by the handle.

My fingers lingered for a few seconds as I enjoyed my last few seconds of being able to say I was a good person. I thought about my responsibility as an older sister to protect Lyssa, in hopes of somehow making this easier. I thought about her, safe and sound, in our parents’ arms after all this was over.

I tried to make myself believe that anyone else would do the same thing in my position, but that didn’t change what I was about to do.

“God, forgive me.” I whispered under my breath before I quickly pulled the weapon out and aimed it right above my head, firing two bullets through the metal roof in one swift motion.

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To Tell the Truth

by Mariana

I like to think that honesty is the best policy in every situation. My petty little sister always chirped at me, like a too-talkative bird, that I was too honest about everything. Huh, as if she ever did anything but lie her way through life.  I can almost hear her nagging voice when we were kids.

“At least I’m not a heartless brat about everything like you. Keep it up, Jane, and you’re going to end up hurting someone, and it will be no one’s fault but yours.” I nearly scoffed at the way she had spoken to me, her older sister. The memories play out as if I am once again a hapless child, yet for some insane reason, after nearly 10 years without so much as a call, her words haunt me. The wind rustles my hair as I exit the White House pulling me out of the memory. Shrugging off the intrusive thoughts, I straighten my posture and head toward the parking lot. Emma doesn’t matter to me, I think to myself. You’re the most successful scientist in the country and you’re worried about something your sister said to you as a kid. Good grief, woman, get a grip. 

As I approach my parked Mercedes, I can’t help but take a moment to admire how my hard work has paid off. My perfectly pressed lab coat shimmers gold in the car’s reflection, and my eyes peer out of auburn hair, dark and firm, reflecting all of the determination I feel inside. There was a time when politicians and businessmen had been shameless deceivers of the public and would lie through the smiles and promises they made. As slippery as snakes and as deceptive as con artists they were, and I had despised each and every last one of them.

At the start of my career any and every one had guffawed at my idea, that when essential, a serum could be used to make one tell the truth. An impossibility they had called it. One man even had the nerve to scream at me that If I ever found this “voodoo liquid” he would sooner use it on his wife than believe such folly. I had gritted my teeth and shoved away the urge to lash out, replacing it instead with the burning desire to finish what I had started. And 5 years later, I was the one laughing because my idea? It had worked. Large quantities of the serum I named “Veraci Nullantenus,” or “Vernus” for short, were quickly manufactured and distributed to only those of high importance, should they ever need to acquire the truth from someone. I took special care in petitioning that all politicians be injected with the serum before each conference or speech and was pleased when none but the president himself approved. The world rejoiced over their “newfound honesty,” and since then, I have taken my place as head scientist of the the country. Huh, if only Emma could see me now. She’d be groveling, taking back every nasty comment she’d ever made about me. The world is better like this. With a pleasing beep, I open the car door and sink into the lavish seats customized to my curves and start the car, listening to the soft purr as it comes to life. I reach back to put my purse on the seat when movement catches my eye.

“That’s weird,” I mutter, “I could’ve sworn I just saw someth-”

It happens quickly, and I don’t realize what is occurring until it’s too late. A white-masked figure lunges from the darkness of the car, and I feel hot pain erupt as a fist connects with my jaw. Instinctively clutching my jaw, I forget to protect myself, and the assailant yanks my head back and shoves something cool and rough against my face. White spots dance across my vision as my muddled mind tries to process what is happening. With my last ounce of strength, I scream and clamp down on the hand that holds me, earning a moment of reprieve from the attacker. Faster than I could’ve thought possible I’m out the door and running, yelling for help. But it’s late, and no one can hear me. I have just enough time to think I’m going to die before the figure is looming over me, and with a swift kick, my mind goes blank, submitting to the obscurity of my unconscious body.

I wake to a blinding fluorescent spotlight over my head. My arms and legs are bound to a chair in the middle of a small room. The cement floor is filthy and fences and various chains line the outskirts of the room. As I get my bearings, I spot three figures in a corner talking among themselves, though I cannot make out their words. Still drowsy, I manage to make a very unintelligent sound and draw their attention.

“Good, you’re awake. I’m Dimitri, it is such a pleasure to finally meet you, Jane,” a man says approaching me and extending a hand, an evil smirk plastered to his face. He is a tall man with massive muscles rippling across his arms and legs and has surprisingly fair features, though his skin looks gaunt and has a sickly yellow tinge to it. The other two wear white masks, and one appears to be a woman, though both stand at the same height and have the same dark hair and honeyed skin. When I don’t take the hand because of my bonds he simply chuckles and stares at me. My body still aches, and I feel the dried blood on my face crack as I lean forward and spit as close to Dimitris eye as possible. I’m rewarded with a surprised grunt as he wipes off the spit.

Sneering, he tsks me. “Come now, I expected more from you, Jane. I had hoped to do this the easy way… but, no matter. I’m sure you’ll be very compliant either way.”

“What do you want from me?” I sneer back, unwilling to let them see my fear.

“Why, only what we deserve, my dear! Brian, get the tools.” he says, turning to the masked figures, and the man named Brian disappears out from the corner into what appears to be another room.

My eyes dart around the room, searching for something, anything, that might help me evade these cruel people. A moment later, Brian returns with a bag and lays it out. I catch a sickening flash of silver as Dimitri plucks a scalpel from the pile.

“Jane. Let’s make this simple, shall we? I will ask you a question, and you will answer. Answer wrong and well…you don’t really need all of your fingers now do you? Good, let us begin.”

Terror blazes through my body as the reality of the situation dawns on me.

“Where is your sister Emma?” Dimitri asks simply, voice dripping with venom.

Bracing myself I reply, “I don’t know.”

Mock sympathy crosses his face as he lifts the scalpel. “Pity,” he says, “I quite liked your pinky.”

I thought I was prepared for the pain. The scalpel bit through my flesh as easily as it would butter as my screams echoed in the near empty room. Dimitri seemed to enjoy my pain.

“I will ask you one more time. Where is your sister Emma?”

I couldn’t remember when she had told me to stop by her apartment nearly 10 years ago, before we got into that argument. I hadn’t cared to even pay attention. Bracing myself once more I mutter, “I don’t know.”

Silent tears stream down my face as he takes my pointer finger this time, cutting it nearly to the second knuckle.

“Why…?” I manage to groan.

An amused smile appears on Dimitri’s face. “I’d have thought you would’ve guessed by now, Jane.” His face takes on a darker look as he continues.

“You took something important from me.”

“I don’t…I never.”

“Ahh but you did. Thanks to your little ‘discovery,’ we were forced to give up our freedom, to always tell the truth. I was quite the politician before you destroyed all of that. It isn’t right what you have done. To force the truth upon others. The truth is what we make it, or at least it was until you came along with your stern looks and pouty proposals. You forced me to say what I did not want to. And now, I will gladly return the favor.”

He pulls out a surgical syringe filled with purple fluids, and my heart drops. I’d know that substance anywhere. I invented it. Fear grips my body, and I watch helplessly as he pulls the plunger back and inches it toward my spine. His lips brush my ear as he whispers, “And this time I will take something important from you too. You might claim to dislike your sister, but killing her will leave a far bigger hole in you than I could ever put there myself because you’re going tell me where she is, and you’re going to know that you did this.

The needle violently pierces my skin, and with a gasp, warm liquid enters my body as the serum starts to take effect. I relax helplessly as it penetrates my central nervous system and forces me to obey, to tell the truth. The truth that I had wanted so badly for everyone else to tell, but that I would give anything to lie about now. My eyes glaze over.

“Where is your sister Emma?” Dimitri asks finally, a coaxing smile upon his face.

A tear drips down my cheek, but my face is blank and my tone even when I answer.

“Her address is 32 Dickenson Street in Virginia. She usually goes to the Manwell’s coffee shop each morning before going to work.”

His eyes glint with a twisted sort of excitement. “That wasn’t so hard now was it, Jane? Brian, show our guest out now. It was such a…a pleasure to have met you.”

Then as Brian kicks me in the face my mind is once more engulfed in darkness. I don’t mind the darkness now though. It shields me from the pain. The knowledge that my sister will die because of me. She was right all along. The memory of her voice haunts me like that of a damned soul.

“Keep it up, Jane, and you’re going to end up hurting someone. And it will be no one’s fault but yours.”

How badly I wished I’d listened to her, my younger sister. As I woke up I was back in my car, the only evidence that the whole thing hadn’t been a dream are my missing fingers and the 20 missed calls from my mother. All I can do now is destroy the serum and try to move on. To hope that that is enough. I used to think that honesty was the best policy in every situation, but now… now I don’t what to think.

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Cutting the Cord

by Raven

“Are you sure you wanna do this?” my hairdresser asked as she held a pair of scissors to the back of my neck. A tight, low ponytail of my long, jet black hair cascaded right in between the blades of the barber shop trimmers to the small of my back. I took a deep breath, allowing the salon’s scent of nail polish remover and hairspray to fill my nostrils as I took one last look at myself in the mirror. I felt my stomach turn with a sense of anxiety, as if I was strapped in at the top of a fifteen-story-high rollercoaster, looking down at my inevitable doom. I relished in the fact that this would be the last time I’d ever have to see the same reflection I’d seen for the past fourteen years of my life.  In my last remaining seconds of normalcy, I answered the question with a confident nod and closed my eyes as I heard the first snip of many and felt the weight of my entire ponytail fall to the ground.

I made it a point to keep my eyes closed throughout the whole process. I wanted to be shocked when I saw my new hairstyle of choice. All I could do was listen to the sounds of my hairdresser, Lauren, as she reinvented my look. She would often ask me questions about how my life was going to fill up the awkward silence; to most I would give one-word answers. In between her inquiries, I’d focus on the traveling snips of her scissors. Eventually, I heard the clatter of the metal trimmers as Lauren set them on the table and heard her turn on a buzzer.

“This is it,” I thought as the buzzing sound of the men’s tool got closer. “This is my ticket to standing out.” My pulse skyrocketed as I felt the plastic safeguard lightly graze the back of my neck. I could feel short, stray hairs collecting near my shoulders. It reminded me of what it feels like to wear an itchy wool sweater. After a while, the buzzer began migrating to near my ears, and I could feel my head getting lighter and lighter with every passing minute. I wondered if that was what it felt like for my dad every time he got a haircut.

When the buzzing stopped, I heard short bursts of an aerosol spray can around me. I could tell it was hairspray when some mist landed on my tongue, and I coughed profusely. It tasted like cleaning product. I had miraculously committed myself to keeping my eyes closed and was more than ready for the big reveal. I heard Lauren sigh with awe and felt her untie the sheet she had clasped around my neck to keep my hair from getting on my clothes.

“Allright, you are just about done! Open your eyes!”

Slowly, my eyes fluttered open, and I looked at myself like I was a relative at a family reunion that I had no relationship with. As if I kind of knew who I was looking at, but I was not entirely sure. After the shock wore off, I accepted the fact that it was me. The girl I used to see in the mirror was now a fiercely independent young woman with boy-cut hair. My long locks were traded for hairs no longer than an inch at most. My hand reached up to touch the back of my neck, and I was shocked when I could no longer entwine my fingers with my hair – it was too short! My eyes trailed from my reflection down to the floor, and I found a sea of black hair just beneath my chair. My exposed forehead now had side swept bangs down to my eyebrows, shielding them from view.

A dramatic haircut had now completely transformed how I viewed myself. I reminded myself of Ruby Rose, my favorite actress from Orange Is the New Black, which only boosted my confidence even more. When I went to school the next day, I finally felt like I fit in despite how different I now looked from all the other girls at school, but I didn’t care because I got a compliment about my confidence to rock my new hair from every single person I walked past. I felt like I finally had something special about me, even though I now know that I was already pretty special. My new ‘do was now a part of my identity. The old me, who did what everyone else did, was gone, and the new me dared to break the social norm of girls wearing long hair – even if it meant occasionally being mistaken for a guy.

 

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The Ultimate Pickle

by Mariana

I like to think that when life gives you lemons, you should swap them out for pickles instead. These eye-squinting, sour-tasting, throat-parching yellow balls of citrus were enough to make me want to chuck them right back at life. I don’t want your nasty lemons! I almost screamed as we passed yet another lemonade stand. In all my 8 years of life I had never before seen so many of the same vendors trying to sell over-priced food and bottled up fun to sun-burnt tourists, their fanny packs jingling with cash; welcome to America’s First Theme Park. Truthfully, however, I had come to Knott’s Berry Farm for one thing and one thing alone: The Ultimate Pickle.

Tales of the legendary entity had been sung throughout the lands, yet when they reached my wandering ears I could hardly believe it. Taller than a grown man the pickle rose, each lump on its ridged body built like that of a bodybuilder. The juices cascaded down its body, a grass green river, anointed by the great food gods above. Frost lingered on its voluptuous form like a sheen of glistening snow, and when you bit into it, oh, the sound! As clear as thunder and as crisp as a foot stepping into a mighty pile of leaves with each delectable bite. With all this, it was no wonder that I too was anxious to try for myself such a phenomenon, for surely, it must be one of the seven great wonders of this world.

I remember the smug look on the server boy’s face as I walked up to him and pleaded for the prized pickle. He asked for money first, of course, as any true businessman would, and went back to fetch it. I remember hearing the sudden, piercing “pop!” of a can as thrilling as that of bubble wrap under pressure, and the enchanting pitter-patter of juice dripping as lulling as the rain. But most of all, I remember my look of disappointment when the boy handed me a deformed green lump. The thing that lay before me was no more than an inch longer and an inch wider than any normal pickle, in fact, I dare say the pickles back home looked better than the fabled lie in my hand. They must have made a mistake, I kept telling myself. For surely my small stature or tiny hands must’ve confused them. But, after a while, I slumped my shoulders and with a resigned huff, threw the foul thing away and walked away. I promised myself that if I ever went back there, I’d stick with the lemons.

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Bloody Feathers

by Cruz

Driving through the cane fields looking ahead as if I could see through the thick layer of scattered smoke being created from the dry dirt. Feeling every bump and thump in the road as we drove past stranded cars that wouldn’t make it to the destination, which I, myself, was not aware of. I asked where we were going, but I couldn’t get an answer out of my dad or my brother Jordan. Dad always told me not to worry. He believes that everything is easier on everyone if people worry less.

After an hour of driving, we find ourselves at an open area with a large crowd of people, as if something exciting has been going on. I step out of the car with my brother as he holds me close. I look around, and I see a large crowd of men in the form of a circle cheering with excitement.

“Watch your brother”, Dad says to Jordan.

The sound of the crowd shouting made it hard to know what was going on. Me and Jordan then decided to get a better look. His hand squeezed mine so tight that my fingers turned numb within a few seconds. We made our way around the crowd to see the excitement. All of a sudden, Jordan stopped walking, he was looking towards the crowd with a face that I was uncertain of. Being too short to see anything, I began yanking on Jordan to lift me up and show me. After pulling on his clothes for quite a while, he then gave in and decided to show me. He got down on his knee, looked me in the eyes, and made me promise that I wouldn’t tell anyone what I was about to see. He grabbed me by the arms and put me on his shoulders. Lifting my head up slowly, I see it with my own eyes.

Chickens with knives tied to their legs, kicking each other vigorously. Sharp knives piercing their skin effortlessly. Blood squirting into the crowd as feathers stuck onto it when it hit the ground. People throwing money into the ring as if they were paying to watch chickens kill each other. The bird with silver feathers, left with just half of its body, was thrown into a trash bag, and launched into the cane fields. I then found myself with the same look that Jordan had on his face. A look, that is indescribable.

Red and blue lights began to flash, sirens filled my small ears with panic. Jordan grabbed me and headed to the truck. He threw me in the back seat and sat down in the front. He told me that we had to stay there till dad got back. We sat in silence for a bit as all the commotion was happening outside. We waited and waited. I couldn’t help but think about what I saw back there. A tear rolled out of my right eye and down into my mouth. The taste was unpleasant. Bitter and salty, as if it was what sadness tasted like. Jordan tried to comfort me by talking about other things or playing music, but nothing could get that out of my head. I heard a knock on the back window, then the driver’s door open. Dad had finally come back. I knew that he was worried sick about us when he had his mean look on his face. But I knew he was relieved to find us safe and sound.

“Let’s go home and never talk about this again. And don’t tell mom!” said dad. “Sound good, boys!?” he implied.

“Yes, dad,” we said politely. We drove off, back onto the dirt road to make our way out of the cane fields. While driving off into the dirt and dust, I swore to myself that I would never go back to the cane fields EVER again.

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As You Wish

by Mariana

Like most children I spent the earlier part of my days drooling over shows some fancy producer had deemed appropriate for holding our short and wandering attention spans. Yet, even as a child, nothing I saw had even an ounce of creative appeal to me. While other children were proudly declaring what they wanted to be when they grew up, I was stuck wondering if anything good would even show up. That is, until one fated afternoon, when I came across The Princess Bride. With princesses, castles, pirates, and riveting adventure packed into one disc, I suddenly knew: I wanted to be a princess.

It called to me like that bowl of Cookie Crisps had called to me earlier that morning. Most children my age shouldn’t have truly been able to grasp the concept of the movie, yet, you wouldn’t be able to tell by the look on my face. I nearly knocked the table over as I ran toward the TV. Eyes wide, mouth agape, and fingers pointing, I shouted, “It’s Princess Buttercup! It’s Princess Buttercup!” As you can probably tell, she was a big deal. Wait, don’t tell me you’ve never heard of her… no? Well, let me tell you. Princess Buttercup was the most amazing princess there ever was. She was not born a princess, and I think that’s part of why I fell in love with her. She was kind and just and fair and smart, everything a proper lady should be, yet, she was merely a commoner. My mind raced as she went from simple commoner to royal princess adorned with all kinds of wealth and splendor. If she can go from nothing to something, then so can I!  I thought to myself. At the time, I lived in a tiny village with almost nothing in between for miles, so it’s safe to say, I could relate.

Yet, it wasn’t just the titles and pretty dresses that drew me to admire her. No. It was her courage. Through everything she faced she was brave and strong. She wasn’t merely a damsel in distress, but held her own, in a very different but all the more inspiring way. So, as her story came to an end and the credits rolled out, I knew that her story hadn’t really ended. It would live on through the courage and bravery I tried to carry with me, strong as pieces of armor.  For what is a princess, if not kind, and fair, and just, and smart? And above all, brave.

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Friendships and Broken Hearts

by Toby

Friendships and broken hearts,
Left me fumbling in the dark,
Make up your mind, you make no sense,
Stuck over here, feeling tense.

Left me fumbling in the dark,
Your words have already left their mark,
Stuck over here, feeling tense,
Someone call an ambulance.

Your words have already left their mark,
Now I don’t know where to start,
Someone call an ambulance,
I don’t need your second chance.

Now I don’t know where to start,
This journey has gone much too far,
I don’t need your second chance,
Yet I feel I’m bound by clamps.

This journey has gone much too far,
Make up you mind, you make no sense,
Yet, I feel I’m bound by clamps,
Of friendships and broken hearts.

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Hey, Don’t Die on Me Now

by Lukela

Carelessly
She and I play,
The entrance to
Adventure,
Dark and unknown.
Deep within the
Shadows, we
Delve ourselves
Through
A new world.

The silence,
So sharp
You drink water
And hear
The leftovers
Crash on the ground.
Pebbles shifting,
These cat-like ears
Of mine twitching,
At the chance
For more sustenance.

Her voice,
Faint,
Light,
Like the wind
Rushing through
A field of green grass.
She can’t sing,
But she did make a wager.
Her voice grows weak,
Or is it
Just me?

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For a Friend

by Kai

This is a poem that sulks, alone
In the corner, patiently daydreaming
Of her chance to make you see
Because how could this poem be good enough,
For the likes of you?
Because why would you take the time,
To read in-between the lines?

And when the inevitable cloud of dread,
Floats back into view
This poem wishes it had fewer stanzas,
Less syllables, and more rhymes

This is the poem that loves too deep
From the depths of the unexplored,
To the craters of the moon.
Like the shining star, too far from view.

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If the Slipper Fits

by Kai

I have worn
Your favorite shoes,
That we had both
fallen in love with,

The ones you wore
just to show me
that they are yours now.

Forgive me,
They earned you
A lot of compliments
And lots of  talk,

But, hey,
You know what they say,
If the slipper fits,
Wear it.

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It Isn’t About You

by Jordan

Life isn’t about you,
It doesn’t revolve around you,
The world doesn’t take place because of you,
The world may barely be affected by you.

Life isn’t about you,
Nature doesn’t do things just for you,
Just to make life better for you,
Nature continues without a thought of you.

Life isn’t about you,
It didn’t begin for you,
And it doesn’t continue for you,
It never was, because of you.

Life is just your existence on the Earth,
Just like everyone else.
Life is an experiment,
Of what can and cannot be done.

Life is a condition,
Separating us, from inorganic matter.

Life is Schrodinger’s cat,
You never know until you open the box.

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Freedom

by Lia

Thrown into the sky.
Adrenaline courses through my veins,
Wind gusts through my rustling feathers,
Wings flap viciously as I prepare for freedom.

My world is now panoramic.
No longer forced to stare at the same ocean,
Through the cross-hatching of wires,
Infinite crystal-clear views await.

Free to move further than,
Six inches of open space found in my cage.
I can fly around the world,
Explore the globe.

From the Great Wall to the Leaning Tower,
Over fields and oceans,
Skyscrapers and suburbs,
Soaring through the wind.

Free from the cage
That I once called home.
My world is now endless.
I’m free.

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The Boy and the Fish

by Kai

People say the goal of resilience is to thrive, but in my case, I had to be resilient to survive. Survival wasn’t easy. There were days I felt like giving up, just throwing in the towel and surrendering myself to the unforgiving powers of nature.

It was winter in North Point, Alaska, and I, a 9-year-old, newly orphaned boy, was struggling to make it. The Storm had not been kind to anyone. Homes were destroyed, families ripped apart, and lives changed forever. Everyone was struggling to survive, and the hope for salvation grew dimmer and dimmer with each passing day.

My parents didn’t deserve to die. No one deserves to die, at least that’s what I used to think. But the harsh cold of winter had taken its toll on my heart, forcing the once loving and empathetic organ to become merciless and morally corrupt. I was forced to be this way, forced by the snow, by the cold and the wind, forced by the hands of the God I no longer prayed to, the one who would never answer my prayers, forced by the ones who took my parents away from me.

They wore black from head to toe—the only accent of color coming from their heavy fur coats, the ones that earned them their names. “The Coats” were a savage group of survivors. They were ruthless, going around tearing up refugee camps, taking everything they could, depleting the promise of salvation.

My mother and father had promised me that the camp we had chosen to settle in would be home. They promised no harm would come to us, they promised we would be safe. They were wrong.

It was in the dark of night when they came for our village. That was the way The Coats did it. Under the cover of darkness, they ravaged our camp, leaving us with nothing. I had been the only one to escape with my life. My parents, along with the 20 other families in the camp had not had been so lucky. It had all happened so fast, far too fast for my young mind to process. All the screaming, the pain, the blood. It had all been too much for me, so I ran. I ran until my legs gave way, and I fell to the snowy ground.

And so here I am. Kneeling in two inches of brackish snow, near the pond my parents used to take me to, watching a fish sway back and forth in the frigid water. I have but one thought in my mind in that moment. Survive. With that in mind, I plunge my hands into the icy water, and wait. I wait patiently for the scaly beast to fall into my trap. Feeling the slippery scales of the fish between my palms, I close my hands, trapping the creature in a cage of fingers. I yank my hands from the water, coming face to face with my soon-to-be dinner. With hunger and desperation in my eyes, I bite down hard into the fish.

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Buddy Bird

 

by Kai

Ask anyone from Hawai’i about what they think of mynah birds. It is likely many of them will mention the distinct ring of a mynah’s cry, and the constant annoyance that they feel anytime that cry is heard. Feral birds, like mynahs, carry potentially harmful diseases, and are not normally household pets. My mother and I used to agree with many of these negative ideas about the noisy black birds, until one day one flew into our lives and changed them forever.

As a child, I always looked forward to waking up early on Saturdays. Cozy pajamas, the inviting smell of my motherʻs cooking, and colorful cartoons were all a child like me needed in order to be entertained.

One Saturday, with The Winx Club playing on our small TV, the incessant caw of mynah birds outside, and the distant crackling of bacon frying in the kitchen, our regular Saturday routine was panning out perfectly, until I saw a flash of black breeze through the open screen door and into the kitchen where my mother was. Being the naive seven year old that I was, I assumed the worst.

I imagined that my mother had just been knocked out by a flying rock, causing her to spill the soon-to-be feast of bacon and pancakes meant for my enjoyment. Firing up my imagination, not two seconds later a scream rang throughout the house. I sprang off the couch and into the kitchen where I could only imagine my mother lay, a frightened mess.

Carefully creeping around the corner and into our tiny kitchen, my mind flashed with horrifying images of spilled bacon, dustings of flour on the floor, and my mother laid out with a rock in her head.

To my surprise, I found my mother to be in one piece and the kitchen spotless. Everything looked as it should, until I looked up at my mother’s head. Perched proudly on her long blonde hair was one pudgy mynah bird.

That was the first of many run-ins with that bird. Days passed with no bird incidents, but about one week after the bird had first visited us, he appeared again. This time I was outside on our lanai painting when I felt a weight on my head. I slowly turned my head to the right, and in the reflection of a sliding glass door, I made out the silhouette of a confident black bird on my head.

The mynah soon began to visit my mother and me daily. He would fly into our kitchen and land on our heads or arms, and we would let him. He was a harmless bird, sweet even, and eventually we began to think of him as a pet. We even affectionately named him Buddy Bird.

We became accustomed to his appearances and even looked forward to him. As a child who was obsessed with Snow White, having a wild bird land on me and at my call felt like a dream. Buddy Bird had grown to love us, and we him.

One day, after my mother and I had fed Buddy and sent him off, my father came out to the lanai for his notorious afternoon smoke. I watched from the couch as my father took one last drag from his cigarette, my eyes wide as I watched the thick cloud of smoke escaped from his lips. With a sigh, he flicked what was left of the poison stick off the lanai and made his way back inside.

It was in the dead of night when we heard the piercing cry of Buddy Bird. I sat up in bed and looked to the window expecting to see Buddy flapping his wings in the sunlight as I had seen on so many mornings before. But instead, it was still night, and I could barely make up his tiny black frame in the dark. Buddy continued to cry out, and soon both my parents were awake and upset. His crying continued, and as we all sat up in bed, we smelled it. The thick heavy stench of burning leaves.

My parents and I sprang from the bed and rushed outside to the source of the smell. Underneath the house, buried in the pile of dry, dead leaves, a single cigarette smoldered at the heart of a small fire. With a speed I had never seen him use before, my father reached for the hose and extinguished the flames.

Weeks passed, and Buddy Bird visited us less, until one day he stopped showing up. My mother and I would wait in the kitchen and on the lanai longing for the familiar, gentle claws on our head. We missed our feathered friend and often wondered why he had chosen to fly in that one morning. We didn’t know why he had stopped coming around, or why he had chosen our family. All we knew was that if he hadn’t, we might not be alive today. To this day, whenever my mother and I hear the caw of a mynah bird, we smile

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The Secret Behind the Green Eyes

by Kiana

Everyone in the household knows her as the Band-Aid that keeps the family together.

Lost a shirt? “Momma!! Have you seen my black Brandy Melville shirt?”

Can’t find the salt “Momma!! Where’s the salt?”

Need to be picked up from school? “Momma can ya’ pick me up today?”

Momma knows the answer to everything. Momma is always there when you need her. To look at Momma, one sees nothing but security, beauty and comfort. But no one sees the pain inside, behind her green eyes, what goes on when she isn’t finding your black Brandy Melville shirt, or fetching the salt, or picking you up from school. Momma is dependable, Momma is strong, Momma is kind but Momma isn’t invincible.

Normal people go to work from 9 to 5 and still complain. Not Momma, Momma is different. Momma wakes up at 6:30 to take you to school, Momma makes sure you have your lunch packed with those candy Gushers you like so much, Momma remembers to pick up the milk for your breakfast cereal, and when things go wrong, who do you go to? That’s right, Momma because she knows you. Momma won’t care if you punched Joey in the face for picking on your brother, Momma won’t judge you because you have an 89.5% B+ instead of that A- you wanted so badly, and Momma won’t tell you it could be worse; Momma will remind you that it will get better. Her job never ends, she isn’t allowed to quit, and she doesn’t get vacation time.

What creeps in the gentle, good night when we’re sleeping in the comfort of our full-sized bed, covered softly with that blue and purple polka dot comforter that Momma bought? What happens when we finally shut our eyes to take a break from our day? The tears she lets out get drowned out by the music blasting in your earphones. You listen to Childish Gambino and Trey Songz while she cries because the only thing she’s holding onto is the love she has for her children. You worry about finding out which shade of blue to wear for the next day while she’s sitting alone on the couch clinging to her only friend, a glass of wine, or two; in fact, let’s grab the whole bottle. She worries about the IRS payments, your tuition, the mortgage, the car payment, oh, and God forbid the electricity gets turned off. Her sadness comes on with the rise of the moon, but once the moon kisses the sun goodbye, the superhero is back. You’d never guess.

Momma, the superhero. She carries herself beautifully, effortlessly, and she never asks for gratitude that could never be measured anyway. And one day, when you realize that sometimes the rain falls on even the shiniest souls, you won’t ask her to drive the extra 45 minutes to pick you up from school, you won’t go out with your friends and leave her worrying about where you are and who you’re with, and you’ll remember that life will get better, and you’ll make sure she knows that. You will make her breakfast in the morning and make your bed before you leave for school. You will thank her and remind her how much you love her. You will make sure she feels the love you have for her so that when it’s all she’s clinging to, it will be enough.

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Message in a Bottle

by Keely

As I stand at the empty American Airlines counter I see my boss Sharon walking towards me.

“Hey Sharon!” I say.

“Hi Meg! I noticed that you haven’t taken advantage of your vacation days.”

“No I haven’t. I didn’t feel like going on vacation.” I say

“Well, you should really consider taking a break from work,” Sharon says with a compassionate smile.

“Okay I’ll think about it,” I say

After a few days of thinking about my options, I decide to tell Sharon that I want to take my vacation after all.

“Great! Have a great trip, Meg!” she exclaimed.

I decide to finally take a trip home to visit my father. I haven’t seen my father since my mother passed away. That was 10 years ago.

After I get off the plane I start thinking about the beach and how long it has been since I put my feet in that pristine blue water and sat on the warm sand. An hour later I find myself at the beach.

I find the waves calming and the ocean breeze refreshing. Coming home is the best luck I’ve had in a while.

I take a walk alone on this secluded beach and stumble upon a bottle that had washed up on the shore. Inside the bottle there is a message. Before unfolding the piece of paper my mind flashes back to when I was five.

When I was five years old my mother took me to this very beach and wrote on a piece of paper, ”Remember, the secret to life is to work hard and not be afraid to pursue your dreams. Love, Mom and Meg.” Then she rolled the paper up and put it in a glass bottle and set it afloat in the ocean.

My mother told me that if the bottle ever came back to me, then it wouldn’t be luck, but fate. I never thought that I would ever see that bottle again but my mother always believed in destiny. I don’t know when it was when I stopped thinking like that.

As I unfold the piece of paper, I can’t believe my eyes. I read the same message that my mother had written all those years ago.

After the eventful day, I go home to see my father. I tell him everything that happened. He says that it is my mothers’ way of telling me that it was time to come home.

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