He Who Planted Me

By Kaitlyn M.

     A simple seedling grows into bush full of relentless thorns. The thorns grow strong, with needles piercing opportunity, happiness, and optimism. Darkness crowds its inner center, as it overtakes the once beautiful garden.

     With its disruptive path, it destroys the soil who planted it. The nurturing soil drys to dust, and the wonderful memories of sunshine fade to gloomy days. Its roots run deep, cutting ties with those who surround it. The bush grows larger, stronger, and overbearing. The other flowers cower at its strength, too afraid to tell it to stop.

     Through the thick, a rosebud appears. A sign of hope, an offspring of change. A little rosebud blooms into an independent, courageous flower. She exudes an ambitious color of bright red. She has dreams of growing beyond the leaves that restrict her.

     She reaches towards the sun with her petals. The sun peaks from the clouds, and glows bright in the afternoon sky. Its rays touch far deeper than the rose’s surface. For a while, the rose believes that she is safe. Comforted in the sun’s warm embrace, she begins to feel truly alive.

     She lays out her petals without a trace of hesitation or fear. She is confident in her own beauty. For once, she is free. However, sunshine cannot last forever, and on a fateful day, the bush peers over at its budding rose. With rage, it trembles with an anger deeply implanted within its character. The sun is frightened, and quickly hides behind a wall of clouds for protection.  

     A rose without sun, is a child without its mother. Vulnerable, the rose succumbs to its fate. The rose cannot live without its bush, even if it kills her. The rose closes its petals, cries a tear that mirrors the rain that used to strike it, and dies.

     The rose falls suddenly. Past the thorns that threatened her, the leaves that consumed her every thought, and the tangled web of branches that held her every nightmare. She hits the ground softly.

     As time passes, her petals wither away. She turns into dust that blows away in the wind. The air grows cold, and the bush falls asleep for the winter. There will be no spring for the careful rose. She is long forgotten in the changing of the seasons.

     In her death she finds rest. She is no longer plagued with false love and promises. She finds peace in her disappearance, and whispers words of love in the breeze. She finds a new sense of purpose. 

     This rose... is me. 

 

The Twistedly Abstract Art of Self-Betrayal

By Krishna P.

  Betrayal. It's multi-faceted. It's versatile. It lies somewhere among vices, painful truths, irony and regrets. It can also be self-inflicted if it stems from conscious ignorance. More often than not, it's the product of overreaching expectations.

 

     We revolve around the idea that we deserve satisfaction from the things we choose to put trust in. We cannot handle having made a decision that does not prove to resonate with our expectations. It hurts our ego. It hurts us. Especially when what we put trust in is ourselves.

 

     I think of our "dark sides" as shadows. There is a shadow somewhere inside each and every one of us. For some, the shadow resides within the mind. For others, the shadow lives in the heart. When the shadow exists in both places, mayhem becomes inevitable and unpredictable. 

     My shadow flourished in my heavy heart. I had refused to tame the darkness it brought. I was delusional. I saw the darkness as comfort, and as a tool that would help me escape mediocrity. 

 

     One day, some of the shadow's darkness crept up into my mind, slowly, silently, deadly. 

 

     That darkness then forced me into what seemed like its infinite abyss. As I fell through, I felt the painful grip of envy's vines around my feet. The imperfections that I had taught myself to love shook me to my core. Despair washed over me. Narcissism began coaxing me into loving myself in the most terrible ways possible. The urge to destroy flooded through my veins. Their expectations that I had made my own were slowly tightening around my neck. Ambition planted itself in my brain, but it didn't push me to escape this. It didn't give me the power to escape what I didn't know at that time was torture. The ambition's thorns would prod me not to rise above that darkness, but to rule over it. That deadly ambition did not inspire me to get the best of the darkness before it got the best of me. 

 

     At that time, I had still refused to accept that I was neck deep in trouble. My naivety had lied, telling me that that was what I had to endure to claim my place in this cold world. 

 

     So to my surprise, I just kept falling. I was not able to rule over the darkness. At first, to my horror, I had thought that I didn't have a place in this world I could occupy. I thought that I would forever be confined within my inability to conquer the darkness.

 

     Luckily, somewhere inside me, I had a shred of hope. It's light was the first I had seen in what seemed like an eternity. Only then it began to slowly dawn on me that I was hurting myself by giving into the desire for an identity that they falsely deemed ideal. I became desperate to escape the darkness, but I couldn't see a way out.

 

     So I panicked,

 

     and crashed,

 

     And broke.

 

     At least I had reached an end. I had hit the bottom of that seemingly endless pit. 

 

     Darkness isn't infinite.

 

     Sitting there, bleeding, I realized that the things I believed were the keys to glory were just traps. They were empty promises that brainwashed those who didn't tame their darkness. 

 

     I cried, ashamed of having betrayed myself because of my overreaching expectations. Ashamed of letting them feed me their lies.

 

     I slowly unraveled myself from envy. I retaught myself to love my imperfections. I breathed in deeply, and then exhaled the despair and the desire to destroy. I let go of the neck-tightening expectations. I buried shame and freed myself from betrayal’s weights.

 

     I nurtured the desire to create. I began loving myself in the right ways. I taught myself that mediocrity does not exist; there is an abundance of uniqueness in every place, thing and being. 

 

     That fall I took was what taught me that betrayal is anything but simple. It is the deadly consequence of refusing to tame the darkness within. 

 

     Tired, I closed my eyes. The next time I opened them, I was back home...and that's the only place I've been ever since.

 

Eyes

By Mauranda D.

     “Those eyes.”, Mrs. Bishop, the owner of the coffee shop down the street, whispers to Canela, “Those eyes, they make my soul ache.” 

She is staring so intently at Canela it frightens her. As Canela tightens her grip on the white coffee mug in front of her, she raises her eyebrows. “Whose eyes?” she asks, scarcely a whisper. 

     Mrs. Bishop points a polished bony finger at Canela, her sharp nail pressing into her chest. “You, my love.'' She makes a broad sweep of the shop behind Canela, grabbing all of Canela's friends attention. “Their eyes, your eyes, all so cold, so broken, so curious. Who hurt you, my love? Who made those eyes so afraid?” 

     Canela couldn’t answer, she just looked down at her shoes. These sudden outbreaks of strange and mysterious questions never really surprise her. Mrs. Bishop is known for saying interesting and strange things, especially towards Canela and Canela’s friends, who Mrs. Bishop like well. At this point, Harrison is behind Canela, who stares just as intently at Mrs. Bishop as she did at Canela a few moments ago. After a few seconds,  two more friends, Lucas and Isaac, come up to the counter. Mrs. Bishop breaks her gaze from Canela and looks at Harrison. 

     “And you… eyes so shattered. But that is not all. Your fingers, bitten to nothing and bloody. Hands, so rough from fighting too hard and escaping too quick. Who are you fighting? What are you running from?” she asks, grabbing Harrison’s free hand and running her pointer finger down the back. 

     She then parts Harrison and Canela and reaches for the hand of Isaac behind them. Canela grabs the mug off the counter before it spills, and she cradles it in her hands, trying to absorb all of its warmth. She wasn’t cold before Mrs. Bishop spoke. She swears, this woman is a witch. 

     When Isaac is in front of her, he can’t look at her. But she smiles and touches his face, cradling it in the palm of her hand, “You are the most afraid of the bunch, Isaac, deeply haunted, those eyes of yours, so haunted. The strongest, no doubt. But sometimes that gorgeous heart of yours betrays you. You hurt too much and hurt too long. Such a burden, to be loved.”

     Behind him stands Lucas, wide-eyed but skeptical. Even though his mother is the same as Mrs. Bishop with her mystical words and sweet aura, he doesn’t believe in their magic. His mind, still focused on the knowledge that makes sense and the facts that are logical, refuses to think to hard about the things that scare him, and Mrs. Bishop scares him. 

     “And you, oh my dear boy, that mind of yours betrays you. hold my hand -- that’s right. You are such a sweet one, such a pure soul, I can see it in those eyes of yours, so lovely, but afraid, just like your sister.” 

     She looks past Lucas, to the one boy who didn’t come up to the counter to hear what Mrs. Bishop had to say, Ben. The deepest pain is in his eyes, and he is so afraid to hear it. He sits, making a home of the table he is at, feet propped up, an unopened newspaper on his lap. His eyes are shut. He won’t let himself be understood today, he thinks. But he should know better than that. 

     “And Ben.” Mrs. Bishop yells across the room, “Come here my love, I know you can hear me, let me see those souls of yours.” 

     Ben cocks his eyebrows, then opens his eyes. “I don't need my stars read today, miss, thank you though.”

     Canela looks over at Ben, still so afraid of what he may hear, but he knows he will hear it, doesn’t he? 

     “Ben!” Mrs. Bishop yells, startling him out of his seat. Her voice, shrill, thick with not only a heavy Brooklyn accent, but also a sort of vintage melancholy, like a memory you cannot remember.

     He walked up to her and puts his elbows on the counter, resting his chin in his hands. 

     Mrs. Bishop takes her finger and raises his chin up, moving his face around and examining it from all angles, she does this for a few seconds before she speaks. 

     “Your nose, broken at least ten times, unbalanced and crooked. Your belly, never full, always hungry....and look at these arms…” she says.

     She picks up his arm and rubs the palm of her hand up and down, like a comforting mother. “Cigarette burns and scars, so many scars. But it’s those eyes, those eyes that you hide from me. They are so deeply haunted, but they, unlike the others, are not afraid. they’ve never been afraid.” 

     She let’s go of him, and he steps back to his friends. They are all at the counter now, and she smiles sadly at them as she examines them one by one once more. 

     “I promise you each one of you have scars on your back from carrying the world on your shoulders, no one ever asked you to endure all this sadness, but here you are. Starry-eyed, but afraid, thousands of ghosts live in these eyes in front of me. Thousands of them.”

 
 

The Dandelion Crown - Part Three

By Sophia R.

     “I’ve always wanted to visit Koshe,” Araceli mused as we walked. When we were in the flower shop, she’d looked weary, but now that her errands had been finished, she held herself regally. Already a tall woman with salt and pepper hair, the large straw hat she wore only added to her height. She had so many flowers woven into it that it could’ve been its own flower shop. And for someone who must’ve been well into her sixties, she was a fast walker, making me jog alongside her.

     There was almost no one on the streets now, yet from closed doors and open windows I could hear the buzzing of people preparing for whatever was going on tonight. I could smell it too, and not just the aroma of flowers. The wafting scent of food was making my stomach growl with every other step I took. “It must be beautiful there.”

     “It is, if you can get past the heat and sandstorms.” I said, shifting the flowers I held in my arms. “But otherwise, it’s really something. Walking on the ground there is like walking on a rainbow—the sand in the deserts there come in almost every color, and it’s so fine that sometimes it’s like you’re walking on powder.”

     “Goodness! How long have you lived there? If I ever go, I’ll need someone to take me to the best spots there.”

     “Oh, I’m actually from Brelle—completely different landscape over there.” Whereas Koshe was always under the burning sun, Brelle’s weather ranged from so foggy you couldn’t see five feet in front of you to rainy enough to solve Koshe’s drought problem. “I was only visiting there; my father’s the captain of a ship, and we were bringing some cargo from there to Ollestria.”

    “And now you’ve decided to arrive right when the whole kingdom is getting ready for our annual celebration?” Araceli gave a light laugh. 

     “If we’d stayed on course, we would have docked a few days later, but our ship crashed into some rocks, you see. But don’t worry!” I quickly added when she gasped in horror. “The rest of the crew and I are fine, it’s just our ship that needs to be repaired before we leave again.” 

     “Then that’s why you’re looking for an inn, right?” I nodded. “Where did you crash?”

    “Siren’s Pass,” I said, “Not many people know about it, but it’s a strait between Ollestria and Scantrum.”

     “I’ve heard of the rumors,” Araceli said thoughtfully with a frown. “Some of the Ollestrian sailors used to talk about how dangerous it was, but like many of us, no one was ever sure whether it was true or not. Still, what in the world made you decide to go that way?”

     “Believe me, that’s what I was asking myself the entire trip.” I rolled my eyes. “I spent the whole time trying to convince my father to change course, but he didn’t listen. None of them did.”

     I sighed. Even if Dad hadn’t harbored any bad feelings towards me after the crash, I still felt like it was my fault. If only I’d tried harder to convince them to go around Scantrum instead of throughit. Maybe Araceli guessed what was on my mind, because she placed a hand on my shoulder and gave it a small squeeze. 

     “Yet you tried to do what was best for your crew,” she said, “even in the face of doubt. That was a very brave thing to do, Archer.” Araceli tapped the dandelions in my bouquet. “Miriam must’ve seen this in you when we were in the shop; make sure to weave it into your crown later.”

     I glanced down at the flower and frowned. 

     “You never explained the whole deal with the crown rush,” I said, changing the topic. “What is that? And what kind of festivities are going on tonight?”

     “How much do you know about Ollestria?” Araceli asked. 

     “Not very much.”  

     “Take a look at the buildings.” I did. Even though most of the buildings looked fairly new, they were still covered by vines, like Miriam’s shop, making the street look like it was being taken over by nature itself, yet it didn’t look like anyone had tried to chop them off the walls. Some buildings had plants that came close to covering their windows, but as I walked past, I realized that they had been carefully trimmed to keep the view of the street. 

     Something snagged my foot, causing me almost to trip. Between the cracks in the sidewalk, even the patches of grass were left to grow. Talk about a safety hazard. 

     “The whole town looks like a forest.”

      “Long before our time, Ollestria was struck by a meteor, leaving gaping hole in the middle of the country.” Araceli said. I nodded. “The impact of the meteor left the homes of the people who lived in the valley it later created in ruins, and was powerful enough to change the atmosphere completely. Before the meteor crash, the land here was arid, leaving the people to live nomadic lifestyles, as they searched for places to build their homes. When the meteor hit, thousands of people died, and the little civilizations created were destroyed. For a long time, it was thought that the Ollestrian people would die along with the rest of the land there. 

     “Then, one day, one of the women who survived the crash approached the site where the meteor lay. Until then, no one had approached it for fear that it would only create more catastrophe, but the woman ignored the supplications of her people. She claimed she had received a prophecy from the universe that said the Ollestrian people could be saved from their suffering if she touched it, so she acted on it, desperately wanting to help them. What she didn’t know, was that it would come at a sacrifice. 

     “As soon as she placed a hand on the meteor, the ground began to shake and crack, swallowing people and debris from their villages, but the woman refused to move. Suddenly, she heard a voice coming from the meteor, as if it was talking to her. It told her that the prophecy had been true, and that for her faithfulness, the universe would grant her, only her, one wish. The woman could have asked to be saved from the earthquakes, or even for a home, now that hers had been destroyed, but she didn’t.

     “She asked for life. Not for herself, for her people, but the voice told her she had to use the wish for herself, so she made a deal. She wished to become life itself, and give part of hers to those that needed it. With her final decision made, the voice agreed to grant it. The earthquake ceased, but almost immediately, the woman turned to dirt. The people that were still alive watched her become absorbed into the earth, waiting to see what would happen. Nothing did for a few days, and slowly, they began to lose hope, thinking that the universe had fooled them. 

     “Then one day, a small bud emerged from the dirt patch. A tree grew rapidly where the woman last stood, spreading its roots under the ground, reaching from where the meteor lay to the where the land met the ocean shores. The once arid land became lush and rich with minerals, the trees that grew near the villages shielded them with their towering forms, and new species of plants began sprouting everywhere. The Ollestrian people, though sad to see one of their own leave them, were grateful for the sacrifice she’d made. As a token of their gratitude to her, they decided to make the tree a crown. Each person added a different flower, one that represented who she had been known as when she was still human. 

     “Now, I don’t remember all the flowers that had been woven in, but the three that stuck out to me were azaleas, daffodils, and magnolias. Azaleas are known for their femininity and softness, sometimes associated with motherhood. In this case, mother nature. The daffodils were a tribute to the new life she had given Ollestria, and stand for remembrance, for each one of them carried her in their hearts as they walked through the land. That’s why the last flower was a magnolia, representing the love for nature. 

     “From then on, it became a tradition to present the tree of life with a crown, and later on, people began giving their loved ones crowns made of flowers signifying their best qualities. The festival of life is both a day to remember the sacrifice the woman had made for her people, but also to cherish our time with loved ones and humble ourselves, for, as we believe, when we die, we will go back to the earth from where life began.”

     When Araceli had finished the story, I was quiet for awhile, letting her words sink in. I wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but we were in front of a small, pink house covered in vines I could only assume was hers. On the vines, little blue flowers were in full bloom. I wondered what meaning those had. 

     “Was it too much?” Araceli asked with a small laugh, watching me.

    “No, it was… incredible. So then that’s why you and Mariam were trying to ask me what my best qualities were, and why everyone was carrying around so many flowers today?” 

     “It is an important day, after all.” She nodded, and pulled out a key from the pocket of her dress to get inside her house, taking her bouquets from my arms. “Wait here for a moment, won’t you? I have something for you.”

     I looked at my flowers with new eyes as she went inside, like a language I couldn’t understand. Though, that’s what they really were, weren’t they? Each one had a completely different meaning than the other, how was I supposed to make a crown without knowing what which symbolized what? 

     “If you try to make your own this year.” Araceli appeared at the door again, and handed me a worn out book. “It’s a dictionary on the different meanings of flowers, and since children are taught by their families how to weave their crowns, there’s no step by step guide, but this should have some pictures to give you an idea.”

     “Araceli, thank you, but I really couldn’t figure out what my strengths were in the shop, how—”

     “Make one for your father then,” She said, putting up a hand to keep me from pushing the book back into her hands. “I’m sure he’d appreciate the sentiment, once you explain it.”

     I could see myself doing that. 

     “I hope I’ll see you tonight Archer, take care.” Araceli shook my hand, and with a final wave, I started back for the docks. 

 

False Lovers

By Lara R.

     “I did not mean to come here.” he said to her, pleading with as much persuasion as he could muster. “My body just walked on its own, I swear!” The walls seemed to close in on him every second he spent in the house. The house that looked so grand in the inside despite its shabby appearance on the outside. Yet, even with the windows that hung on a jaunty angle or the rotten wood with paint peeling off its walls, he still entered.

     “That’s the point, sweetheart. You wouldn’t have entered in the first place if it weren’t for my beauty and charm.” She laughed—no, she cackled at the sight of his face crumpling. Crumpling like withered leaves at the start of fall. She lounged on the loveseat with a fur scarf draped around her neck while her perfectly manicured nails rested on a golden box, the size of his hand. 

     He scowled, “Too bad your beauty and charm weren’t enough to keep me from dumping you.” 

     His ex-lover hissed, “And who will you end up with? Where’s this girl you keep talking about? What’s her name? Carol? Clara? No, no no, it sounds more like Clarissa…” She listed off names with her fingers. “Clarisse?”

     His face paled the same moment her lips curled like a predator watching its prey. He was the mouse, falling into the trap of the cat. “What did you do to her?”

     “Why? Surprised when you found me instead of Clarisse? Poor child, must’ve been wondering why her new boyfriend didn’t show up in her house.” 

     “What. Did. You. Do.” 

     She feigned surprise at his gruff manner, “Sweetheart, did you think that Clarisse having the same likes and dislikes as you was a mere coincidence? Did you think that someone could get into your heart as easily from only three dates? Did you think it was weird that she somehow guessed the names of your two cats?” 

     His mouth dried up, lacking any words to say. The woman’s red lips twitched in amusement at his stunned silence and his brain faltered to form a conclusion. How did she know everything? At last, he sputtered, “You used magic on me again...you-you monster!” 

     She waved her hand as if waving flies away, “Well, not really. It’s more like me using magic on myself, honey.” 

     “I-I don’t understand.” 

     In an instant, he saw what she meant as her face contorted. Her hair straightening, lips puckering, eyes turning to the shade of brown… And right in front of him, stood his girlfriend or whom he thought his girlfriend was, Clarisse. “Fancy to see you here, dearest.”

     His head started spinning and he laughed and laughed from the sheer hopelessness bubbling in his body. If only he could laugh hard enough for Clarisse to laugh with him and say it was all a prank; if only he could laugh hard enough for this nightmare to disappear; if only… But these "if only"s will never mean that they will turn into reality as much as he wished. If only. “You’ve done it again, haven't you?”

     “It depends what you think I did.” And her voice was exactly as Clarisse was. Except that this Clarisse never existed in the first place. She tilted her head just like Clarisse did when she was asking a question, and her eyes widened in innocence. Just like Clarisse. Clarisse this, Clarisse that.

     “Ruined my life. Twice.” He couldn’t be mad at her as long as he could see Clarisse’s face. But now he could see the real witch in her. “You played with me over and over again as if I’m your toy. Well guess what, I’m not a toy! I was never yours in the first place!” He clenched his hands to the point where his fingers started feeling numb.

     “Oh shut up.” Miraculously, he did. “Were you ever curious of what resides in this box?” He raised his eyebrows from the sudden change in the subject and from the unusual snappy tone. Clarisse had never been snappy, not to him at least. She took his silence as a cue to continue and her hand pulled out a doll. A doll that coincidentally had the same clothes as him. A toy that looked just like him. 

     He found his voice again and said, “What is that?” More with horror than curiosity. 

     “Darling, the reason your body betrayed your personal will was because of this beautiful doll.” She twisted the its hand, and at the same moment, his hand did the same thing. “Now, let’s have some dinner, shall we?”

 

The Abstracts: Seer - Chapter Three

By Danielle N.

     After dinner, I trudged onto the stair landing, when I felt a creak and the wood give was slightly under my feet. I stopped mid-step, remembering I still hadn’t checked on the tongs. I sprinted downstairs to see what happened to them.

     The garage was wiped clean of everything personalized, like we were going to sell the house. My carpet in the center of the room must have been coated in sawdust, and was removed. The world map was rolled up in a corner, the black sharpie marks showing through the other side faded. My desk was shoved into the wall, the waste bin standing on top like a solitary statue guarding a temple. The bookshelf was still standing, thankfully, but the edge of the shelves were all bent crookedly in the same way, presumably where the bookshelf hit the floor when it toppled forward.

     I took a few steps forward, taking in all the damage. Did I leave the tongs on my desk? That was the last place I remembered seeing them, but the tongs certainly weren’t on the desk now - they would have fallen over in the earthquake. And that was already a lot of damage, because I left the side open, when I assumed I would work on it the next day after school. There’s also the possibility that it was crushed by something - perhaps the bookshelf? At that point, it would be beyond repair. And after the earthquake ended, whoever had cleaned up this dump would have moved the severely - damaged tongs, or thrown them away. And even if I couldfind them, and they were in some salvageable state, I have none of the supplies I needed to fix it! Anyway I looked at it, I was screwed!

     As I paced to my desk, I glanced at the ceiling, where I had hung a piece of cloth I painted to look like a space landscape. It was gone, hanging in tattered pieces by the world map. In my head, I imagined my parents going around the place, saving whatever they could from the merciless hands of the construction crew.

     I cautiously opened my desk drawers, as if the tongs would be balanced precariously inside, about to topple over and break. But I knew they wouldn’t be here. But it couldn’t hurt to look, right?

     I forced myself to look. There was nothing in there. I blinked a few times to make sure. Nothing. What?!This was the drawer where I kept all of my blueprints! Every design I had ever put into ink onto paper was gone. 

     These papers meant everything to me! Lyla sometimes even snuck down here and stole a few, but couldn’t make the slightest sense of them, so ended up putting them back. My family knew they would mean the most to me! I don’t give a damn to what happened to the world map- it can be replaced, my desk can be replaced, even the plush carpet that cost me more than three hours to find an affordable price for can be cheaply copied and sold for twice the price somewhere! But my blueprints were the things that I poured my heart and soul out into, and whoever was unlucky enough to be found with one was going to have a bad day.

     I didn’t even notice how hot my face was getting, while I tried to make sense of this. They are gone… all of them… 

     Stop! Get a grip on yourself Vikki! The blueprints are gone, just deal with it. It’ll be no use crying over it. I sighed, and continued looking through my desk.

     My art supplies are still here in the top left drawer- replaceable stuff like markers, paint brushes, pencils, erasers, lead, a few tiny jars of bright paint in rainbow colors that sicken me to look at. They never last. The top right drawer is full of journals I write things in-stuff like invention ideas, theories, even poems I write when Lyla or Brandon are pissing me off. Some of the journals are missing, which sucks too, but much less than the missing blueprints.

    I push my desk back to the center of the room, the legs squealing on the newly-polished hardwood floor. I don’t know what kind of idiot would think to put the waste bin on top of the desk, so I put that on the floor too.

 Now to tackle the bins.

          I really should have been more careful putting those up. They must have spilled over in the earth like a landslide; somebody stacked them up in the corner just behind where the desk used to be, and only a few sad pieces of electric wire and bolts rolled around inside. 

I spent the rest of the time between now and bed turning the house upside-down, searching desperately for any supplies I might have dropped in the earthquake. My dad said one of his fellow employees searched her attic and found a super-old computer in there- the type where the screen was about the size of a large tablet and the sides were covered in off-white plastic. She didn’t have any use for it, so she was giving it away. Apparently, no one else gave two hoots to an old PC, so Dad took it, saying his daughter liked to tinker with stuff like this.

And I got most of my materials from that moldy old PC.

Of course, of my old supplies, there was the two motherboards I dropped into the pages of my journals to mark important ideas, and a washer that slipped off my finger into the back of my bed the night of the earthquake. There was some rubbing alcohol in the medicine cabinet, and the old computer dad gave to me to salvage was full of helpful electrical wire, screws, older-fashioned motherboards, but I’m sure I can tinker them into a workable-state. But mostly, the computer was full of metal under all that plastic, which would be super useful. Still, I’m missing much more than half of my supplies. Dad offered to order a bunch more supplies, but he doesn’t know what brands are the best for specific types, or how to tell them apart. Still, beggars can’t be choosers, so I gratefully accept.

 

My mom is treating me like I’m made of glass. I was only in a coma for two days, but the Dr. Easton gave my mom a note to keep me home from school for at least two weeks to help “your daughters extremely delicate cranium heal.” But it’s not like I enjoyed it; I’m not allowed to do anything- I can’t work on finding my tongs, I can’t salvage more stuff, can’t watch TV or research, can’t read or write, can’t do homework…

         I’m just dreading what people at school are going to say.

         It was just two days in a coma! Does that equal two weeks where I only toss and turn in bed? 

         On the other hand, my mom was almost always here with me. I was allowed to talk to her, and ask her to do stuff for me. It was mostly ordering specific brands of motherboards, washers, and other junk like that, searching for my tongs, making ramen for lunch, putting the Garage back together, and so on. But we mostly talked. Mom said Lyla actually cried when she heard I was in a coma, but to never, ever mention that she’d told me.

         But I was still locked to that bed, all day. And nobody can ever understand how torturous it is, having so many important, entertaining things to do, and not being allowed to do them.

         

         Mom found the tongs.

         “It’s incredible, really. I searched every corner of that basement, and nothing came up. And there, in the corner, I saw a little glinting light. And there were your tongs, just sitting in one of those bins. I’m afraid they’ve been a bit roughed up from the earthquake, though. I don’t see how they could possibly work, but you asked for them.”

         The cool metal felt like it was imprinting itself upon my palms, assuring me that it wasn’t some taunting nightmare. The tongs were back in my hands, and I could recreate their blueprints, and continue tinkering with them. I’ve had so many ideas for inserting the concentrated electricity-

         And right then, my mind started throwing itself into the side of my skull.

         “Oh, honey, I’m so sorry!” My mom reached for the tongs, but I gripped them as tightly as I could, with the serious migraine going on. I just got these back, I couldn’t let her take them again!

         “Victoria, you aren’t supposed to stimulate your cerebral cortex, that’s the section most damaged from the earthquake.” She bit the edge of her nail, acknowledging a bad habit she never got over. “Oh, this is all my fault. I thought if you knew they were safe, you could stop worrying over them. I thought showing them to you would be a good idea…”

         I saw then the death spiral her mind was going through: First she would blame herself, then she would restrict me even more to bed, then I wouldn’t be able to tinker as much, then… 

Then… 

“No, mom! I’m sorry. I’m so relieved they’re safe, and I couldn’t be more grateful to you. Could I just… have them a little longer?”

         My mom pursed her lips, but I barely noticed. Relief cooled my face like an autumn wind, and now, even more than before, I wanted to do something, not sit around like a useless horklump. And now that I had everything I needed, I could start, if only I wasn’t stuck in this stupid bed because of Doctor Easton’s stupid note. Two weeks in bed for two days in a coma my butt.

Panic Pancakes - Part Four

By Rachel F.

     At that moment I want to scream. I want to scream at my dad for dying and leaving me all alone, I want to scream at Jamie for leaving me at such a hard time, and most of all I want to scream at Henry for everything.  Then after screaming at Henry, I want to punch him in the face and kick him off earth.

     I wipe the tears from my eyes, and then I see Jamie, rounding the corner.  I straighten my shoulders, blow my nose, wipe my eyes again, and brush the wet bangs from my eyes.

     “Hi,” Jamie calls.

     “Hi,” I call back, a smile spreading across my lips.

     Jamie smiles too but it’s not a super friendly smile and more of a mischievous smile.  I look away for a second and Jamie gives me a side hug. “Common let’s go,” she says, motioning towards the east side of town with her hands.

     We walk through the east side of town and towards the end of town while stopping on the way to get Starbucks frappuccinos.  Jamie insists on paying at Starbucks and while I am perfectly capable, I let her pay.

     We sit in a beige booth and drink our frappuccinos.  Mine tastes so chocolatey and good, as the ice chunks melt in my mouth.

     “So,” I say. “This forest, I mean...um it’s safe, right?”

      Jamie chuckles to herself.  “Girl, of course, it’s safe.  Do you really think I’d lead you to danger?” she asks.

     My mind flip-flops and my gut churns.  If this were even 2 weeks ago I would of gone with my gut and ran all the way home.  I would have looked like a wuss, but at least I would be alive.     

     But a lot has changed in the last week and I think I’m starting to consider Jamie as a friend again.  I trust her so I just shake my head and ask, “What are we doing there?”

     Jamie takes another sip of her drink, chuckles to herself before saying, “That my friend is a surprise.”

     We sit in Starbucks for a little longer and finish our drinks before continuing on.  My legs are wobbly and jelly-like as we walk uphill. My gut churns more and the whole frappuccino that I drank, isn’t helping.  Part of me is suspicious of Jamie. Part of me keeps thinking that this is all a trap and that I should run away screaming. This is the part of me that is panicking as we get further and further away from home. 

     But the other part of me, the part that keeps walking and is telling the panicking part of me to chill is remembering how good of a friendship me and Jamie used to have. This is the part of me that wants me and Jamie to rebuild our friendship and stop Henry Davidson.  This is also the part of me that wrote my initials next to Jamie’s, so many years ago. And, this is the part of me that when I saw Henry’s initials next to Jamie’s, I cried. So I keep quiet, stop panicking, shut out the part of my brain that tells me to turn around, remember the good old times of me and Jamie, remember my dad, remember carving my initials on the tree, forget about Henry, focus on this moment right here, focus on the past week of me and Jamie, focus on how much fun we’ve had, and most importantly, keep walking forward.

     We walk forward for a while, not saying much.  I try to focus on every step individually and I try to focus on my dad.  What would my dad of done? He would of trusted his instinct and right now, my gut tells me to turn around and run.  But for some reason, I don’t. For some reason, I keep walking side by side with Jamie. Matching her strides and looking forward.  The sun is bright in the west with little clouds and we have a while until it gets dark. For a second, I close my eyes and breath in the crisp, cool air.  I focus on my breath and my steps, in step, out step, in step, out step. In step, out step, in step, out step, in step, outstep, instep, outstep, instep, outstep, instep, outstep, instep...until I can see the start of the forest.

     When we reach the end of town, I see the start of the forest.  We cross the street and start up a dirt trail. The trail swerves and curves as we walk and I start to panic.  As we walk further and further into the forest I panic more and more. My arms get all sweaty and my hands clam up.  My hands start to shake as we start to see only trees. The trees are big redwoods that dot the trail. They grow more in number and denser and denser until I can barely see the sky.  The sun barely peaks in through the clouds and the trees. All to a sudden, it gets really dark, and I get really scared.

     It grows darker and darker as my shadow gets longer and longer.  Soon, me and Jamie are shuffling along on the narrow path, single file.  We just keep shuffling along, not saying anything as the sun starts to set.  It goes from day bright to orangey pink really fast and all I want to do is run all the way home.

     We shuffle and shuffle and shuffle some more until Jamie stops short.  I step on her heels, “Watch it,” she whisper yells as she turns her head. She shuffles forward again and I follow in sink. A couple seconds pass and then Jamie stops short again.  This time, I make sure I don’t step on her heels.  

     She turns right, and I follow her.  “Look,” she says, pointing to the west.  I look the way she’s pointing and I see a beautiful sunset.  All oranges and pinks and purples with some yellow.

     We keep walking a little further until Jamie says, “Why don’t you lead?”

     Carefully, we trade places and shuffle on.  “Stop,” Jamie says.

     I stop and Jamie points toward a bluebird, “Look,” she says in amazement.  I look at the bluebird with little black wings and a blue stomach. Jamie walks away a little bit and a second later I feel a sharp pain on my back.  I get pushed down and a second later I’m on a slab of concrete. I turn around and see a Jaime shaped silhouette pushing something on a tree. Then I hear a crash as steel bars come down around me, locking me in a dark, cold cell.

     The shock washes over me and words get caught in my throat.  I feel like crying and I get all panicky. “Jamie,” I blubber.  “Jamie, why,” I say, bursting into sobs.

     She looks at me and for a second I feel like she’s changing her mind until she says in a nasty tone, “Audrey, you know why you are in this cell, you know why Henry rightfully bullies you, and you know why we’re not close anymore.  You ruined it, Audrey. You ruined it when your mom stole money from Henry’s mom. And I really do wish that we could still be friends, but I’m in too deep.”

     Jamie wipes her tear stained eyes and nose on her jacket and says, “You’ll figure it out, I know you will Audrey.  But I’m in way too deep.” And with that, Jamie turns around and disappears down the hill.

 
 

Paper

By Eileen H.

     You work at a small hole-in-the-wall coffee shop near your house. “Get a job,” your father said, and so you did. They pay isn’t great, but you don’t really care. You get free coffee on breaks, after all. 

     Since the shop is so small, you don’t get too many customers. This leaves you free to open your notebook and draw most of the day. Your co-workers think you’re really good at art, but that’s just because you practice so often. 

     Then only time you really have to be working is the lunch rush, from 11 o’clock to 1 o’clock. Amongst the small crowds, you can easily pick out the regulars, who always come in at the same time and order the same drinks. 

     -11:10 AM - The young Miss Jonas who comes in and orders a straight black coffee to go. She always seems a bit frazzled, and is usually on the phone. 

     -11:30 AM - Mr and Mrs. Vert, who always order two coffees with as much whipped cream crammed into them as possible, with a single cherry to share. They both have quite the sweet tooth, and often are so romantic with each other you wish they’d get a room.

     -12:00 PM - The 10-year-old twins Betty and Crim, who always walk in quiet and a bit sad, holding out a crinkled five dollar bill and quietly ask if they could have the daily pastry special. Their mother has been sick for a while now and you suspect they’re bringing the pastry to her every day. Lately you’ve been slipping in a few extra things for them.

     There’s usually nobody else you can easily recognize (though some are becoming progressively more familiar) until a little after 1 o’clock in the afternoon.

     -1:15 PM - The old, disheveled-looking man who walks in and pays a single dollar, then takes a small stack of napkins and starts fiddling with them at the far table. You try to watch him sometimes, but his back is always to you and you can’t tell what he’s doing. Eventually, he stuffs the napkins in his jacket pockets and leaves. You worry about him sometimes, since he always has the distant look on his face. More than once you’ve seen him bump into somebody or something. One time you ran over in alarm because he ran into the door and collapsed, but he regained his bearings soon enough and bid a hasty farewell before you could do much.

     After the lunch rush, there isn’t much to do. Your shift is from 8 AM to 3 PM, so after it ends you pack up and head back home. You’re homeschooled, which is why you could take such hours. Although technically, you’re on vacation since both your parents have left on an important business trip (they work in the same place), leaving you alone for the next month. You’re seventeen, you can take care of yourself, but it’s still a bit strange for the house to be so empty. It doesn’t take long before you’re tired of the silence, and you feel like taking a walk. You grab your notebook and a few pencils, as well as a jacket. You then step out of the house, barely remembering to lock it before you leave. 

     You’re headed towards the park, which is a nice and relatively populated place where you can relax comfortably. You’re a pack animal at heart after all, and the emptiness of your residence was a bit too disconcerting. As you reach the park, however, you see the old man. The one who never gave you his name at the coffee shop despite being a regular. The one who always pays for a stack of napkins which were basically free. 

     “Hey,” you say to him, walking over in a state of impulsiveness. He turns, wild-eyed and alarmed, before he registers who you are and relaxes.

     “The barista at my favorite coffee shop,” he says with a crinkly smile. “What brings you here today?” 

     “Not much,” you admit. “Just thought I’d get some air, and maybe draw a few pictures.”

     Upon seeing your notebook, the man lights up. “You draw? May I see?”

     With some hesitance, you hand over the book. He opens it, and stares at your drawings with wide eyes, making you feel somewhat self-conscious. 

     “Wow, these are great! I could never get a handle on this kind of art,” he says enthusiastically. He puts your notebook down and rummages through his pocket. He pulls out a folded hexagon made out of paper. “This is pretty much the only thing I know how to do. Can’t even make a paper crane…”

     You stare at the hexagon. It doesn’t seem too special, but you have a feeling that there’s more to it than meets the eye. “You can make a hexagon with a square piece of paper but not a crane?” 

     The old man laughed and rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. “Guilty as charged. Still, these things are pretty cool. This one’s a tri-hexaflexagon, but I think I have some hexa-hexaflexagons in here somewhere…”

     You stare. “It’s a what?”

     “A hexaflexagon.” The old man shows you how to fold it just right so when you open it, you discover a third side of the paper contraption. Then, he gives you another one which feels just a tad thicker and heavier. 

     “Try and find all the sides for this one,” he tells you with a wink. After ten minutes of obsessive folding, you’re completely befuddles and absorbed by these strange creations. Then, something occurs to you.

     “Wait, these are all made out of paper. What do you do with the napkins everyday?” 

     The old man smiles. “Well, I try my hand at origami and other things. I also try drawing, like what you do. They don’t always look great, but alas.”

     Before you can stop yourself, you end up blurting out impulsively, “Well, I know how to make a crane. I could show you if you show me how to make one of these hexaflexa-things?”

     The old man beams. “It’d be my pleasure.” He extends his hand out, and you shake it. “I’m Jonathan Bell, by the way. You can just call me Jon.” 

     You smile in return. “You already know my name, since I always have a name tag when I’m at work.”

     Jon laughs. “True, true.” He draws out a notebook and rips a paper from it. “Now, shall we get started?”

     You learn a lot from Jon, and have quite a good time. You sort of know how to make a folding hexagon now, though your failed attempts remain littered around you. Jon, on the other hand, has very nearly mastered the art of paper crane making. It’s quite impressive, actually, how quickly he learns. 

     You bid him farewell, and leave with a light and happy heart. You quite look forward to work tomorrow now, knowing that you’ll see Jon there. Perhaps he’ll even be able to make a paper crane out of all those napkins this time.  

     It is 1:05 PM. You find yourself surprisingly eager to see Jon again. Maybe you could take a break from work and chat with him again. 

     Suddenly, you hear an ear-splitting screech, akin to that of rapidly pressed brakes, and a loud thwack which followed. There are cries of alarm outside the shop, and your blood runs cold. You sprint outside with the rest of your co-workers, but once you witness what’s going on, you can only stand in place, motionless. 

     It was a car accident. There was a man going too fast, and he couldn’t stop in time. He hit the pedestrian who was walking across the street.

     The pedestrian was Jon. 

     “Call the ambulance!” people everywhere were shrieking, despite the vehicle already being on its way. But their voices were dull and background noise to you, as you stare at the motionless body on the sidewalk. Unsure of what to do, you run back into the shop. You stop, and try and get your thoughts sorted out.

     Freaking out doesn’t make a lot of sense, you try to reason. You only knew the man for a day, basically. Serving him napkins for a month or so didn’t count.

     Despite this, you still can’t explain this terrible pang you now have in your chest. Taking another deep breath, you look at the stack of napkins on the counter, free for the taking. You’ve only really successfully made something that wasn’t a crane once, but maybe you could get in practice.

     With shaking hands, you start to fold. 

Living a Dream

By Allison J.

     You’re worthless! You’ll never amount to anything! I wish you were never born!

     I wake up with a gasp and sweat covering my body. It’s just a nightmare, I thought. Everything is going to be okay.

     I glance at the clock on my bedside table. 5:24am. Great. I’ll have to be up in a few minutes anyways. I still have some last-minute things to pack.

     My name is Charmaine Belle Chase. Most people call me Char or Belle, though. Today is my last day in Hell. Or as most people call it: rehab. I’ve been in rehab for the past two years, but today I’m finally getting out of this god-awful place.

     Ring "Charmaine Chase, please report to the lobby. I repeat, Charmaine Chase to the lobby.”

     I looked at the clock once more. 6:00. Finally! She’s here!

     I run out to the lobby, lugging all my belongings behind. “Aunt Sadie!” I screeched as I pulled my aunt into a ginormous hug. She laughs and hugs me back tightly. “Oh Belle, I’ve missed you so much!”

     The head nurse of rehab walked up to us with a smile on her face. “I’m extremely happy for you two. It is such a joyous occasion that Charmaine has finished rehab! I just need you to sign some papers, and then you’ll be all set,” the nurse explains.

     My aunt walked off with the nurse into an office, leaving me by myself in the lobby, only to be attacked in a group hug. “Char! We’re going to miss you so much! Promise you’ll write? And maybe send us some gifts or photos from Italy?” My best friend Kara squealed.

     “Of course! I’m going to miss you guys too! I’ll try to keep in touch the best I can. And maybe, once you all get out, you can all come visit me at my aunt’s villa by the beach!” I managed to yelp out due to lack of breath from being hugged so tight.

     At last, my aunt walked out of the office and came to help me with my stuff. “Ready to go kiddo?” she asked. “Let’s do this! Italy, here I come!” I whooped. Aunt Sadie just chuckled at my enthusiasm.

     I waved goodbye one last time to my friends and the nurses before turning around and getting in the passenger seat of my aunt’s rental car. We had the air conditioning on full blast, keeping us from getting burnt by the sweltering heat of North Carolina.

     Sadie drove us to the airport, where we unloaded our travel bags before entering the crowded airport. We handed in our boarding passes and went to sit down in cushy first class.

     Once we were seated, I started telling her about my time at rehab, about my friends and all of the activities we did while out in town trips with the center...

 

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