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Score - Chapter One

By Deven P.

     My room was adorned with shadows while some light approached my bed. The cheap adobe was the red material used for all of the houses in our Brazilian village. The only things that were in my room were my straw bed and the desk that my Papa made out of dark brown wood before he left us.

     “Marcos!” my mama yelled.

     “Yes Mama,” I replied.

     “Go do your homework!”

     “Ok Mama.”

     I remembered how I had to study to keep my scholarship at Princeton Academy of Gifted Students or PAGS. I peeked out through the cheap murky handmade window and saw the kids of my village playing soccer. I pictured scoring a goal over the big kid next doors’ head. The big kid next door. He was almost the least of my problems at the moment. In the meantime, I had to focus on keeping my place at PAGS and keeping away from Pablo or El Padre. All of the kids at PAGS were privileged. I looked at my dry, sandy feet with chipped toenails with disgust, remembering in awe the white boots El Padre wore. They were crusted with honor and respect, which flew off the soles with every step he took. The perfect white stitching lined up the sides. Perfect white laces that were so bright, it made your head hurt. The glory that radiated from his face scared many. 

     “Marcos!” Mama yelled. That quickly snapped me out of my jealousy.

     “Yes Mama”, I responded.

     “Go fetch me some milk and chicken for dinner from Francisco’s Market.”

     “Ok Mama,” I obediently responded, walking out of our creaky excuse for a door. I began to wander through my thoughts. First, I had to keep up with school and second, I had to stay away from bullies. Sometimes during my free time, I went to the library and had my best friend, Big Glasses, babysit my little brother. This brings me to a touchy topic of my life.

     “Move, moron!” yelled a random passer. This distracted my line of thoughts.

     “Oops, sorry,” I gulped and started to sprint quickly. My cheap sandals with worn out soles in them slapped the ground with force that shook my whole body. As I started to slow down, I remembered that my Papa had left my Mama for a younger woman. We were all disgusted and heartbroken. It was as if he didn't care. It was as if he didn’t like us. It was as if he didn’t even love us. After this, my Mama started to work full time at the diner except for weekends. She also had a nightshift at the graveyard until 2 in the morning. So my main problem here was taking care of my younger brother after school.

     Ding dong! Those were the doorbells to the store.

     “Hey Ms. Maria,” I said cheerfully.

     “Hello Marcos,” she responded with a smile that warmed up my heart.

     I skipped through the store looking at all of the vegetables. They almost all looked like plastic. Vibrating with color. My stomach started to rumble which caught the eye of nearby customers. I dreamed of having a full feast with all types of colorful vegetables. But then I remembered my mama had specifically told me to get chicken and milk with two dollars. I quickly grabbed the stuff, bought it, and exited two wooden doors similar to the ones of my room and front door. 

     So back to taking care of my brother. I had my best friend Big Glasses to take care of him in return for reading lessons since, like all of the kids in my village except me, he went to the public school nearby. I wanted to fit and go to that school, yet my mama wanted me to excel in school, so she put all of her savings and Papa’s child support money into me getting an outstanding education.

     Once I got back home, I started crying in my bed for no absolute reason. It was as if tears were just running out of my eyes. It was as if the tears had a mind of their own. All of these thoughts just overwhelmed me to a point that I couldn't handle them anymore and just let them overflow me.

 

Land of Many Scars

By Esme Z.

     A thin stream of air rushed in through the cracked window. Shivering. Lani hated her dingy room,  a room with peeling paint and bare floors. A painfully bright white bed was tucked into the corner. Across the room, Lani’s possessions were scattered. Shivers racked Lani’s trembling body. She was scared. There. A reason. She was sure of it now. She had felt it yet again. A premonition. A Sight. Lani’s family had been gifted (or cursed, some said) with foresight.   

     In a world where magic was scarce, Lani had been hated, respected, and feared. The three were not so far apart, Lani thought. But in the small village where Lani lived, magic was very, very rare, so Lani was treated even more terribly than most magical folks.

Even worse, Lani’s foresight came with a price. Lani could only See bad things, and there was no escaping them. And what she Saw right now chilled her to the bone.

     Water rushing into the village. Screams. Lani herself, standing on a tall rock and watching it all. Looking lost. And people howling, “this is all your fault!” as they were swept away by the raging water. And then the ground, rippling from somewhere deep inside… chasms ripped into once whole rock, water pouring into the scarred earth, bringing people with it… bringing people down, down to the heart of the earth.

An earsplitting scream tore Lani from the Sight. Breathless, she realized it was her own. Even though she hated them, she had to warn the village. Lani’s feet thumped into the ground, racing for the majestic Bell Tower. Climbing twisty stairs, Lani’s breath rasped, her heart burning. Finally.

     It had not been the first time she had rung the Bell. Lani did not like to think about the first time she had rung the Bell. So Lani picked up the BellRope and shook it as hard as she could.

     What happened next can only be described as outright pandemonium. People ran from their shops, wailing in terror. They remembered only too well the last time the Bell had been rung.

     The Bell set off a chain reaction. Loud, deep gongs sounded from the city hall in response. And howls from the terrified crowd of people mingled with the din. The creatures, the FireLizards and HellHounds that abounded in the village, they started making their own noises, rasping hisses and keening howls that tore Lani to the bone. And then Lani, panting, raced home through cobblestone streets and screeching crowds, into the hated comfort of her room.

     And deep inside her scrappy little room, Lani remembered.

     The Bell. As she rang it, the vision that Lani had Seen came to terrifying life. A Fire. The roaring, flickering blaze. A spark that consumed all who saw it. A burn upon the land. Choking smoke. Blistering heat. The Fire that killed so many. Lani had escaped. She had jumped into the lake, which was dangerous in itself. Everyone had heard of what lived in the lake. She had watched waves of thick smoke rise from the ruins. She had seen the bodies, or at least what was left of them. She knew too well what the village had suffered.

     Lani breathed deeply,  back in the present. She stood up, and walked back inside. She gazed at the misty grey sky. And then she walked out, out into the open, ready to face what was to come.

 

The Depths of the Sea

By Taylor T.

     The dock was made of old rough wood, worn by the sun and the wind and faded to almost white. Small shops lined the edge of the wharf, bearing old metal signs with peeling paint with rust flaking off onto the ground. The sky was carpeted in dark gray clouds while sunlight weakly shone through like light percolating through a curtain. A small boat rocked on the choppy grey waters, worn like the planks of the dock with a white sail flapping in the rushing winds. The smell of salt water and fish tickled my nose, and the wind ran through my jacket. I balled my hands up into fists as I shoved them into the pockets of my red jacket and shivered. My dad, dressed in a dark green windbreaker, jeans and boots, held his fishing poles and net as he stepped onto the boat, rocking in the water.

     “Come on,” he said, “There's no need to be afraid of the water.”

     I step onto the planks, and the boat rocked precariously beneath me. It felt like heavy stones were weighing my stomach down. My hair blew behind me, flapping with the sail in the wind.

     “Dad, I don't want to.”

     “Come on, the water isn't scary.”

     I sit down on the wooden bench and hold the rough rope that leads to the sail. My dad rests his nets down and we start to sail the choppy waters. The sail billows as the wind picks up and the sky turns and ominous grey and black and the low light dims even further. An albatross sails over our boat and flies off into the fuzzy line of the horizon.

     “We're gonna go a bit further out than usual, okay bud?” 

     “Do we have to?” I whined. If we’re getting shipwrecked, it’d be easier to swim back if we were closer to shore, I think.

     The sea scared me. I didn’t know what kind of creatures lurked beneath its watery and murky depths, or the numerous accidents and people who had met their graves at its sandy bottoms. But my father was a natural at sea. Every Monday morning, he would leave early and fish in the early dawn light and come back with dinner. It was summer and my mom was away so I had to come. He expected me to love the sea, just as he did but I was terrified.

     The boat rocks back and forth in the turbulent waters. The shore has long since disappeared and I longed to see the old ramshackle wharf, even with its blinking lights and rusted signs. I stare at the blurry horizon as a terrible feeling creeps up on me. My father, completely at ease throws the net and begins to wait for fish to come. I shake my head as if it could get rid of the sickness in my stomach and the sinking feelings, but it doesn't. Thunder roars like a giant beating drum in the sky as the rain starts to pound down.

     Our small boat is tossed back and forth as the waters rage. Fear creeps into my voice,

     “Dad, can we go back to shore? Can we please, please, go back?”

     “Just a little more time. It's hardly raining!”

     I stare up at the sky, carpeted in black clouds and heavy rain drops fall on my red hoodie and soak my jeans.

     “See, nothing’s happening. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

     “Dad, it’s raining really hard. We should go back,” I say timidly.

     He hauls his net in, filled with wriggling fish, their lungs screaming as they lay on their deathbeds of land, not sea.

     “There!” He exclaims happily, “Dinner.”

     Pride leaks into his voice as he stares down at his catch.

     “I’m gonna teach you to fish!”

     “Dad, no.”

     “Come on! It will be fun! At least try it.”

     I stare up at the wind lashing the canvas sail, whipping my hair back and forth. The rain falls even harder now as the light dims. The deck is slick with rainwater beneath my feet. “Dad…” I start, but I never get to finish my sentence.

     A bright bolt shines down from the sky and strikes the wooden mast. A fire erupts on the column of wood as a scream tears from my throat. The boat tosses back and forth as a massive wave comes and then the unthinkable happens. The boat flips over.

     The boat flips with a shuddering crash and I’m thrown from my wooden perch on the deck and meet the salty, cold water. The air is torn from my lungs as I struggle back up to the surface of the waves, losing my bearing. The world spins around me in dark rain and clouds with creatures lurking beneath the surface. I feel something brush against my legs and panic screams through my stomach and chest, the searing cold and the fear of whatever is down there. I tell myself, it’s just kelp and seaweed, nothing more. I struggle to keep my head above the raging waters as I frantically paddle and pump my legs. The sea looks like shining obsidian now and the sky is a dark, opaque gray. Waves lap at my face like a dog lapping at ones face, except colder and saltier. Just get to the boat, I scream at myself. Fear tears at my chest. I struggle through the masses of waves to the overturned ship and I clamber onto its slick and algae covered bottom. It kinda looks like green satin--nevermind I can think about that later. I cling to the boat for dear life as the waves toss me back and forth and I can hear the sickening crunch as the mast cracks off underneath the waters.

     The algae felt slick and slimy underneath my fingers. Barnacles and other creatures stuck to the bottom of the boat as if held by super-glue.

     “Dad!” I cried.

     “Dad! I’m right here! Get up!”

     My only response was the wind and rain whistling in my ears.

     “Dad! Dad! Come on!”

     He had to just be messing with me. He’d suddenly pop out of the waves and then we’d be back at shore and everything would be okay. I stare down at the water, horrified. A green jacket sinks to the depths of the ocean. No. NO. Maybe he ditched his jacket so he could swim better. It floats downwards and downwards, circling through the fish and currents. My stomach performed backflips, over and over again. I cling to it helplessly. I can’t maneuver it, because the boat is too big and the algae keeps me from even sitting up without presenting the risk of falling back into the water and turning over again. Lightning flashed in the sky and thunder roared as the wind and rain relentlessly pounded me. Tears swam in rivulets down my face as choked sounds emanated from my body. Just hold on. Someone will find you. Cold. Now shivers run rampant through my body as I hold onto the boat. So cold. The world begins to fade as I scream, NO, and everything turns dark.

     I feel the grainy texture of sand under my fingers--not silky smooth like some might describe it, but gritty. My eyes are exhausted from crying as my throat burns from the intake of saltwater. My cheek is pressed to the ground and cold water hits my jeans uncomfortably. I push myself up, exhausted and I stare out into the gray skies and stormy seas. The constant drumming of the rain has stopped, and it almost feels quiet. There’s the boat, now a mess of ruined paint and cracked planks from the wrath of the sea, laying in its grave on the borderline between the sea and sand. Screaming sirens, piercing the air like shrill thunder invading my ears. The last thing that I see is the red sirens, casting a light in the darkness before the world blacks out.

 

Sarthen's Fall

By Owen H. 

     Sarthen stepped up to meet his opponent. The townspeople were gathered in clumps, quietly murmuring gossip to each other. The dark figure had appeared at the tavern, seemingly out of nowhere, and after sitting and listening to the local gossip, had immediately challenged Sarthen, the legendary swordsman. Sarthen himself was of simple background. He had lived a normal life, but when evil had threatened to destroy the world, he had taken up the blade, and fought away darkness. Though it was presumed that the evil had been defeated, there were legends of dark sorcery that could save a wizard from even the most fatal wound.

     The figure was tall, and slightly frail. He looked Sarthen in the eye as Sarthen’s right hand man, Pythan of the snakeshifters, read the ancient rules. “You shall stand with your back against the other. You shall then pace tothe edge of the circle. As the fireball is to be heard, you are to turn and face your opponent.” Sarthen never quite understood that sentence. It made little sense to him that the right hand man should launch a fireball. While it was a loud noise, it could be potentially dangerous. As Sarthen’s thoughts wandered, Pythan continued. “You will continue to fight until someone yields,or is no longer capable of yielding.”

     At that, he a saw slight glint from what appeared to be a smile from the dark figure.  

     “If you yield,” Pythan continued. “Your opponent must henceforth stop fighting. Do you understand?”

     “Yes,” Sarthen said. He had heard those words many times before, and completely understood their meaning. The dark figure remained silent, but slowly bowed his head in agreement.

     Sarthen turned to stand with his back against the figure. As he stood, he felt the icy touch of the figure’s hand. As he started to pace towards the edge of the circle, he felt a feeling of dizziness come about him. When he turned at the fireball, his eyes could barely focus!

     The dark figure stepped forward and swung his blade at Sarthen. Sarthen moved his shield to block the blow, but the force of the hit feltso jarring he could barely stay on his feet. Grunting, he stepped forward and swung his long swordin a huge arc towards the figure’s arm. The figure easily ducked the blow and swung out wildly towards Sarthen.

     Sarthen began to relax his grip. It was obvious this man didn’t have very much training, and it would be unreasonable to expect a large challenge. But to his amazement, the hit felt so strong that he was knocked to his knees. As he fell, he felt an overwhelming sleepy feeling, but pushed himself back up, willing himself on. 

     When the figure swung an overhand swing at him, this time he was ready, and dodged to the side. While the figure was still weak from having just struck out, Sarthan swung a killing blow at his head. Amazingly, instead of slicing through his head like he had expected, the blow fell just short, pulling him forward with the force of his swing. The figure hit him fiercely with his shield, forcing Sarthen onto the ground. This time, he did not have the strength, or the will to get back up. With a single blow from the figure, he fell, never to rise again.

 

Panic Pancakes - Part One

By Rachel F.

   I walk out my front door, and into the sunshine.  I reach for the railing and grab it, holding it tightly.

    ‘It’s ok, Audrey,’ I remind myself, ‘You can walk to school by yourself without getting a panic attack.’ I grip the railing even harder to make my hands stop shaking, adjust my backpack on my shoulders, and walk down the steps.

   School is only a few blocks away from home but the walk feels like it takes hours because of how worked up I get.  Ever since I was a little girl I would get really worked up over nothing and it would turn into panic attacks where I would faint and fall on the floor.  Anything that I ever did for the first time I would freak out about and this only got worse as I got older. Now I”m 11 years old and I’m still freaked out over tiny things.  Whenever I do anything like even saying hi to someone, I get all panicky and want to curl up into a shell like a turtle. Because of this, I have no current friends, unless you count Ms. Shawna, the librarian, and every day my mom drives me the short 4 blocks to school.   Today though, my mom had a very important early meeting.

As I walk to school, I look at the ground.  How the sidewalk is in neat little squares, and I look at the reflection of myself in a puddle from last night’s rain.  As I look at the puddle, I see a girl with dark brown hair, brown eyes, and dark blue glasses that make me look like a nerd.  And, I also see a girl who is the only person in her neighborhood who’s 11 and still has their mom drive them to school.

  I sigh, while looking at the puddle, but as I turn to leave, I see a boy. ‘Oh no, oh no, oh no,’ I think as I start to have a panic attack.  Right up the street is the boy that teases me and calls me Panic Pancakes for reasons I rather not discuss. I take one step and then another, foot after foot, after foot, after, “Hey pancakes,” I hear someone call.

    ‘Oh, shoot,’ I think, That can only be one person, Henry Davidson.  All of a sudden, my hands start shaking, then my arms, then my legs.  My legs feel like jelly, my arms like spaghetti and I want so badly to be able to turn around and run home.  But it’s too late, I’m in a full blown panic attack. My feet are glued to the ground and my heart is beating, so fast that it feels like it’s about to burst.  I try to walk over to a lamp post to steady myself but I’m completely frozen. I feel dizzy and nauseous and my feet feel like bricks, oh no, oh no, oh no.

   Next thing I know, I’m face down on the concrete with my head spinning.  It takes me several minutes to fully wake up from my daze. Slowly, I roll onto my back with my arms by my sides and my legs in a V.  I look up at the sky and then I see the worst person to stick their head into my view, Henry Davidson.

   “Well, well, well, what do we have here,” Henry snickers and a shiver crawls up my spine.  “It looks like I’ve found myself a panicked pancake who took a little bit of a doozy.” he snickers again and the crowd that he’s accumulated snickers with him.  I feel my armpits sweating and tears that could at any moment fall down my face. Right now, I want to get up really badly and run but my head is spinning way too fast and I’m too scared that he’ll do something worse to me.

   He chuckles to himself before continuing. “You know,” he continues.  “I haven’t had breakfast yet and it looks like I came to the right spot for a little purple nosed pancake,” I hear more chuckles from the crowd as he peers down closer to me so that I’m looking at his dirty blond hair.  His olive green eyes have a mischievous look and it’s taking every ounce of my body to not scream, but I just stay in place. I keep my eyes focused on the clouds above and how if I tilt my head slightly to the right I can see a cloud giraffe.  

   Henry stands up to his fullest height, walks around my head and then he’s out of my view.  I try to crane my neck to see what he’s doing but I can’t really see anything and all I see is him talking to his friend.  I think about getting up and that maybe he’s done but just as I’m thinking this he comes back into view. When he returns, he has his arms folded behind his back like he’s hiding something from me.

   “Did you really think you were getting away that easily?” He asks.

   I just sit there and say nothing because if I do, I’ll start crying. My mind is focused on the clouds up above and the smell of pine trees.  Henry chuckles again and takes his hands out from behind his back. From behind his back, he produces a clear bottle with a brownish liquid inside.

    At first, I have no idea what it is or what he’s going to do with it, until he says, “You know, I was planning on making these pancakes a little sweeter.”

   The crowd holds their breath and I scream inside.  Tears burn the corners of my eyes and I try to blink them away.  Then, with one fluid motion, Henry tips the bottle upside down and out comes a brown, sticky liquid, syrup.  I shut my eyes and try to breathe but none of my counting techniques and none of my breathing techniques work.  Tears burst out of my eyes and I sob and sob while Henry dances around me with super sticky syrup. The syrup stings my eyes and floods into my mouth, making a sickly sweet taste.  

   When the steady stream of syrup stops, and all the laughter tunes down Henry snickers again, then he says, “Well now we have ourselves a sweet syrupy panic pancake,” and with that, he circles around me and disappears out of sight with the rest of the school.  

   When I can’t hear anyone laughing anymore and the whole school has gone inside I take off my glasses and rub my sticky fingers over my eyes.  I try to open them but it’s no use. My eyes are basically glued shut and I struggle to sit up. I reach over to a nearby bush and grab a large leaf.  Then with my shaking hands, I rub the leaf on my face to try and get the syrup off. It slowly comes off and I stand up, then I trudge the rest of the way back home.

 
 

The Abstracts: Seers - Prologue

By Danielle N. 

     The seemingly endless lines of text scroll by my eyes at incredible speeds. From the darkened windows, I can see my reflection, where the green background of the website was reflected in my seafoamglasses. I’m just scrolling for now, searching for a paragraph or two out of an ocean of text. Certain words stand out, such as brain waves, psychology, recent studies, and volunteers.None of it was what I’m looking for.

     I’ve been sitting here for much longer than my mom allows. She doesn’t let me use a device past seven o’clock. I don’t care. She can come down here and pull the plug herself. I didn’t even get to half of the stuff I needed to get through today, and the computer will be off in a few minutes.

     I’ll have to finish as much as I can before my mom comes down here and sees that I’m still on the computer. I look through a few websites I marked earlier today, All About Us (Brain Waves), Chicago College of Human Behavior and others. I even hacked into a government website loggingtheir private information in a government classified code! Not that it took much longer to read, I spent a good partof summer vacation memorizing Morse code, sign language and other random languages that I can’t really use anywhere. Anyway, all of the websites lead to dead ends, or didn’t give me the info I was looking for. Occasionally I got an interesting website, but they turned out as duds. One of them: Websites for Dummies led me to a link about brain waves. I think this is what I’ve been looking for.

     After assessing the information, we led a test in which paid volunteers went into a simulation that involved the test subject in a scene right before a disaster. The disasters varied from a car crash to a black hole. This simulation is designed to scan for brain waves from the participant. After running the simulation though roughly 700 people, one, who shall remain anonymous pertheir request, emitted brain waves that acted like memory foam, in the sense that it reacted to the disaster, but several seconds before it happened. Our researchers still do not understand why this is happening, but they are observing more individuals 24/7, and attempting to find more people with this unique ability.

     There was more, but I was interrupted by the gentle, then harsh thumping as my mom strode down the stairs, already drilling a hole through me with her eagle eyes.

     “Vikki, I’ve told you - off the computer! You’re ruining your eyes!”

     “Mom, I already told you, I’m doing homework. I need some extra time…don’t you have to pick up Lyla from piano lessons or something?”

     “It’s PAST NINE, Victoria. You’ve had enough time for this whole week! You have five seconds to get your butt to your room before I pull the plug.”

     “Just a few more minutes, mom.”

     “Five…”

     “MOM, I’m not kidding.”

     “Four…”

     “You have no clue how important this is!”

     “Three.”

     “I’m serious, Mom!

     “Two…”

     “Could you just listen?!”

     “One…”

     “Fine!”

      I started closing down the computer, feeling like my head was full of hot steam rushing around. In retrospect, I guess I was acting kind of immature, but I really didn’t care right then. 

    “Oh, and by the way, Lylawas picked up four hours ago by your dad.” She said with a smirk as she strolled into the kitchen.

     Groaning, I crawled upstairs to my room, feeling like I wanted to break something. I settled for punching my pillow. After I cooled off, I trudged to my dresser to find some pajamas. 

     That night, I tried to get to sleep, but I just couldn’t get comfortable.  I tried lying on my back, but I felt restless and turned to the wall. That was nice for a while, until I remembered that if somebody broke into the house then I wouldn’t see them if I had my back turned to them. I turned toward the rest of the room,which was exactly the same as before. My limbs felt like lead, and I was so tired, but at the same time I felt this nervous energy telling me to move! So at some point, I rolled myself over, still feeling fatigue pulling me down.

     I spent a few more minutes tossing and turning until I gave up trying to get to sleep and dove under my blankets. I do this whenever I have trouble sleeping. I curled up into a ball, and brought the blankets up around me, so only my head was showing. I just need to make sure I don’t fall asleep like this, or my dad’llmake fun of me the whole morning until I go to school. I don’t know why he thinks it's so cute. I look really odd when I do it, but it makes me feel safe. I closed my eyes, and think over my project, feeling numbers and jumbled lines of code replay in my head.

     Before Mom so rudely interrupted, I was looking over some interesting patterns in the human brain. Some person was emitting brain waves that reacted to events that happened in the future, putting it simply. 

     Some people called this precognition: The name for seeing into the future. I call these people Seers. Some people mistake it for quick reflexes, but Seers power’s are so much faster and accurate than a simple measure of reflexes. 

I opened my eyes, and lie back down again. I felt adequately tired, and ready to get some rest. I closed my eyes, and let the chirping crickets lull me to sleep.