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Live Again - Part One

By Alex R.

     What is the point of holding a gun to a dead man’s head?

     This is the question I ask myself over and over as I stare down the barrel of the handgun leveled at my forehead.

     Rain blasts from the sky, soaking me to the bone. Clouds the color of tar boil above us like a witch’s brew. Droplets stream down my pale face. My rump is getting damp as water gathers on the roof beneath us. We are at the top of a twenty-story skyscraper, and there is nothing to stop the wind from gnawing at us. I’m afraid it might knock my poor brother right off the roof.

     Aiden, my fifteen-year-old brother, stands quivering twenty feet away from me on the edge of the roof. I can only see his profile, and sometimes not even that as our captors mull anxiously about us. He has uncooperative dark hair, slicked down by the pounding rain, and a sharp nose. His wide eyes are fixed on the traffic below, and he trembles, hands clutching the loose flaps of his jacket. Dried blood sticks to his forehead from a superficial but painful-looking wound. I know him well enough to recognize tears mingling with the raindrops dripping from his pointy chin.

     He’s always believed that your choices manipulate the outcome of your life, but he’s done nothing to deserve having a gun to his head, and it’s killing him.

     Desperate to comfort Aiden, I try to stand, but pain shoots through my broken leg, immobilizing me. It’s all I can do to keep from blacking out. I’d already taken too much of a beating to get up. I’m not very big for my age anyway. The man holding the gun gives me a sharp kick, and I double over, groaning through my teeth. My crutch lies nearby, out of reach.

     I shoot a pleading glance at Dominic, the useless, fidgety man standing nearby. He keeps his gaze on the ground and refuses to look my way.

     Sighing, I rest my head on the wet concrete. With my clothing soaked, I look like a cat that was thrown into the rain – mangy, small, and miserable.

     Xavier Mandus paces back and forth next to a looming generator on the center of the roof. The yellowish lights coming from the windows of surrounding skyscrapers cut across his thin, ghoulish, tattooed features. Inked in his skin is half the face of a dragon or a demon or goodness knows what. It spans from his right ear to the center of his nose, chin to forehead. The tattoo darkens the area around his right eye and makes it look like a hollow cavity. Its leering smile leaves my stomach twisting. If not for this disturbing fact, I would never have suspected he was a murderer.

     Mandus snarls into the receiver of his cell phone, “I’m giving you ten more minutes, and then your boys are going to start eating bullets. How much good will your 80K do you then?”

     Aiden squeezes his eyes shut as another round of tears roll down his pale, soaked cheeks. His lips quiver, but he doesn’t say a word.

The urge to comfort him swells inside me, but I have no way of getting to him. There are five men on the roof, and I’m a nineteen-year-old boy with a broken leg.

     Mandus looks at me with pitying eyes as he snaps the phone shut. His tattoo gives me a soulless stare, and I can’t help but remember the day that he held me as I died. Petted and comforted me as my lifeblood soaked the ground. Then again, only an hour ago, he’d beaten me with my own crutch. How could a man be so cruel and so tender?

     “You weren’t joking when you said your parents didn’t care, did you, Jack?” Mandus says in a gentle tone.

     “I may have problems, but lying isn’t one of them,” I reply.

     He offers a sad smile and pulls a walkie-talkie from his belt, murmuring, “Any sign of the money?”

     After a moment, a gravelly, buzzing voice replies, “Not yet.”

     I’m trembling with fear but not due to the prospect of dying. I can’t die. That one fact stood firm amidst this horrendous situation. If not for Aiden’s presence, I would have been confident in my ability to talk my way out of this. My gaze flits to my miserable, crying brother, then to the gun in front of my face. He’s the one I’m scared for.

     “You don’t need the guns, Mandus,” I say as calmly as I can manage. “We’re not going anywhere.”

     “I know.” Mandus shoves his hands in his pockets and takes several steps forward, letting his tall, brooding shadow fall over me. “But I don’t want to take any chances. I only get one shot at this, and I couldn’t make 80K this quick anywhere else.”

     “It won’t do you any good, you know.”

     He lets out a laugh, the skeletal tattoo contorting grotesquely. “Don’t tell me you’re still clinging to that delusion.” Shaking his head with amusement, he waves the gun monkey away and crouches in front of me.

     I glare at him, disturbed by how much he knows about me.

     He rests one hand gently on the cast beneath my knee. “If you are dead, why can you still break bones? Why can you still bleed? Why are you even still here?”

     My tongue lies dead in my mouth. These same questions have been writhing and twisting inside my mind like beasts at war for two years.

     “It’s called a psychosis, Jack. You should understand that by now.” His cold fingers brush the rough scar on my forehead. “All it takes is a couple misfiring neurons. A mechanical failure.”

     Terrible rage overwhelms my senses until I think I might explode, and my hands ball into fists. But I close my eyes and count to ten. After all these years, I’ve learned to be patient with people like Mandus, even when they think they’re the ones in control. “You don’t know anything about it,” I said quietly. “Let my brother down from that ledge. We aren’t going anywhere. You know we aren’t.”

     Mandus stands, rubbing one hand against his chin. He is silent a long moment.

     My eyes drift to Aiden. He’s looking at me through pleading, teary, swollen eyes. Eyes that always awarded him attention from the girls at school. He was the good-looking one of the family.

     It’s okay. I mouth. It’s okay.

     Trust glistens in his eyes, and he gives a faint nod. Self-hatred begins to boil inside me.

     How can I save him?

     Before Mandus can reply, the voice buzzes through his walkie-talkie again. “They’re here. 80K, like promised.”

The effect these words have on the group is instantaneous. The four gun-monkeys relax a bit, rolling their shoulders or shifting to the other leg. Dominic’s shoulders slump, and he lets out his breath. Aiden begins to sob with relief, his shoulders heaving. The only one that doesn’t appear relieved is Mandus.

     Mandus looks down at his watch with slow, deliberate movements, and he shakes his head skeptically. “They’re two minutes late. For a businessman, your father ought to be better at keeping his deals.” He takes a gun from one of his companions, then glances at Aiden and I.        “Don’t worry. I’ll make it very quick.”

     An uneasy, humorless laugh bubbles up in my throat, before I can stop it – my immediate response to fear.

     “W—wait,” Aiden protests, shaking with terror as one of the men locks his arms around his chest and jerks him away from the edge. “P—please... Please...”

     “It’s not nearly as bad as you think,” Mandus says in the calm voice of a man that puts down animals for a living. He looks at me and asks,      “Would you like to stand up? Or would it be easier if you’re lying down.”

     Stunned, I choke out, “I...want to stand.”

     It takes a few moments for two of the men to prop me up against the generator. With my back pressed against its icy gray metal, I only have to put my weight on one shaking leg. I can’t help but wonder if it will hurt, if it will go through me harmlessly...or if I really can be killed.

Aiden has no faith in my claims, and he begins to struggle weakly against his captor’s grip. “No! Please!” he cries. “Please! I’m begging you...”      The man clamps a hand over Aiden’s mouth, muffling his protests. Defeated, my brother hangs from his grip and sobs, tears streaking his cheeks.

     “Let my brother go,” I croak. “He doesn’t need to be involved.”

     Mandus shakes his head. “He’s seen our faces. I can’t let him go now.”

     I close my eyes, taking a deep breath, and say, “It’s alright, Aiden.”

     Raindrops run down Mandus’ tattooed face as he points the gun at my forehead. Whatever I feel, I won’t feel it for long. Mandus offers a faint, mocking smile. Maybe it won’t be so hard the second time, huh? Maybe you’ll be more ready to let go.”

     Aiden begins to wail through his captor’s hand.

     And I can only stand there and wonder how it all came to this.

 

Mr. Linden's Library

By Asha M.

Evelyn

     “Now tell me this,” I said to my friend Adelyn, “Why on Earth is that book glowing?” We were walking together at a bookstore, trying to pick a book for our report when I suddenly saw the dusty, old book in the corner. It was covered in vines, and it was glowing bright green.

     “Glowing?” Adelyn asked, “It’s not glowing. It’s just some weird, old book that’s covered in vines.”

     “It would probably be an interesting book to write a book report about. Let’s go see Mr. Linden,” I said, even though I really didn’t want to see him. He was the librarian, and he was a creepy, old guy who looked about 2,000 years old. He rarely ever left the library, and the rumor was he even slept there!

     Adelyn shivered, mimicking my feelings. “Do we have to?” she whined, though she knew we did.

     “Books don’t check themselves out,” I replied, trying to lighten up the mood. We slowly trudged over to his desk.

*********************************************************

     “Um… uh… can we, like, check out this book?” I stuttered in a tiny, meek voice.

     Mr. Linden slowly peered down at us, his twisted, stern face towering above us. “You sure you want this book, Evelyn?” he croaked.

     “Uh… why wouldn’t I?” I asked, my palms sweating.

     He peered down at me with the creepiest stare.

     “Here.” We didn’t have to say anything else. I grabbed the book and we dashed out of there together, as fast as we could. We were probably going 20 mph, but I didn’t care. No way was I going back to Mr. Linden’s library ever again.

*********************************************************

     After we had been running a few blocks, we stopped, panting. Poor Ginger, our dog, was trying to keep up. I pet her, my mind flashing back to the day I got her.

     I was walking around in Central Park when I saw a sandy path I’d never seen before. I started walking and saw a starved, muddy puppy digging food out of the garbage. Her cute puppy eyes stared at me and I just had to take her home, so I picked her up and started walking back on the trail. Suddenly, the path disappeared. I was completely lost.

     “You’re the one,” I heard someone say. I slowly looked behind me. Mr. Linden was there, and then he wasn’t. Then, I was at home.

     “We can’t keep him,” my aunt had said, after me telling her the story. “That dog’s already making you crazy!”

     So Ginger was my secret pet who lived in our basement when my aunt was around, which was… never.

     And, until now, I had never thought about how I got Ginger. But weird stuff seemed to be happening to me that day.

     “Do you think he followed us?” Adelyn panted, breaking my trance. She turned around. “No,” she said, answering her own question.

     “Now, I’m not sure if I want this book,” I said.

     Suddenly, we burst out laughing for no apparent reason, the way best friends do. I wiped my eyes, brushing my chestnut-brown hair off my face.

     “It’s fine,” Adelyn replied. “He was probably just trying to scare us.”

     “Well, bye,” I said, walking off to my house.

     “Bye,” Adelyn replied.

     Suddenly, I realized something. “Adelyn,” I called, “How did he know my name?”

     But Adelyn was too far away to hear, so my question was hidden amongst the everyday chatter of New York City, like a rain droplet, falling to the Earth, and no one but me knew it existed.

 

Adelyn

 

     Well, that was weird, was my only thought. The creepy librarian had just singled Evelyn out in front of the whole library. I’m not sure Evelyn noticed, but the ENTIRE library was staring. And it was the New York Public Library, one of the most popular libraries in New York City!

     It was sundown. When I got home, my uncle would definitely freak out. Ever since my mom had left, he had been WAY too overprotective. And when my dad died… well, let’s just say I wasn’t allowed to be alone for an entire year afterward. He can be very hard to live with sometimes. So hard that Evelyn’s aunt had basically adopted me. So that was why I took a little detour. And that was how I ended up at the coffee shop. And that was when I bumped into the guy in the black suit.

     Why is everything so quiet? I wondered. And nobody’s moving. In fact, the only person even breathing was the guy in the black suit.

     “Adelyn!” he said merrily, “I’ve been looking for you!”

     “I’m sorry,” I replied, “Do I know you?”

     “No,” he said maliciously. “But you will soon.” He placed a sweet-smelling cloth over my mouth. And everything went dark.

*********************************************************

     I woke up to sunrise, in a black limousine. I had no idea how I got there. Last I knew, I was walking the streets of New York City. How long have I been sleeping? I wondered. It could’ve been just the night, but I had a feeling it had been more than that. I peered over at the clock. September 23! I had been sleeping for three days!

     “Yes,” a guy in a black suit said to his space gray iPhone SE, “I’ve got her.”

     The guy in a black suit, I thought. Then it all came rushing back to me. The coffee shop, the frozen people, and the creepy guy who knew my name. A lot of people knowing Evelyn and my names, I realized.

     “Now that I’ve got her,” the guy continued on his phone, “All I need is Evelyn. And I’m betting the book will get her.”

     That book wasn’t a prank! I thought. My palms were sweating. If that book wasn’t a prank, that meant I was never going to be normal again. And what I had learned from fantasy books was that that wasn’t a good thing.

*********************************************************

     “What do you want from Evelyn and I?” I asked the guy who was talking on the phone. “We’re just ordinary people.”

     The guy let out a huge laugh. “Just ordinary people?” he asked, “Well if you’re ordinary people, explain this.” He gave me a picture.

     I looked at the picture. It was of me stabbing a book with a golden sword. There was also a pale figure standing next to me. So pale that it could’ve been a trick of the light, but it was there.

     “The prophecy of the bo0k,” he explained. “It was told by Esmeralda Peaks, a famous divinator. It was one of her last prophecies, and it goes like this:

*********************************************************

When the book falls into the hand of the Daughter of Eve

And the life is taken, please take heed

For a copy of a soul yet not a copy of a bone

Will destroy the book and plant it to be grown

And out of the mud rises a plant of beauty

When Adelyn and Evelyn return to their duties

*********************************************************

     "We knew, of course, that we needed you and Evelyn. It mentions your names in the prophecy, after all. Now tell me, have either of you checked out any, ah, interesting books lately?”

     “And why should I tell you?” I replied.

     He quickly leaned over and grabbed the scruff of my neck. “Because I told you so.”

     “Y-yes… she d-did. It-it was g-glowing.” I stuttered.

     Now, I started trying to decode the prophecy. The first line is pretty self-explanatory; it just means Evelyn getting the book. The second line means someone dies. The third means the dead person's BFF or soulmate has something to do with it. The fourth means they would destroy the book and plant it. The fifth line means something good would happen. And the sixth was our place in it, but I had no clue what it meant.

     “Who are you?” I asked.

     The man laughed. Then he placed the sweet cloth over my mouth and I fell unconscious again.

Evelyn

 

     How did he know my name? This was the question that followed me around wherever I went and now it had followed me into bed. I couldn’t sleep. I peered over to my nightstand. Water bottle, clock and… book. It was 1:24 am and I couldn’t sleep in the fear that the book would do something to me. But I was so tired, so my eyelids betrayed me, and I saw black. And I saw everything all at once, right in front of me. I was nothingness, but I knew I wasn’t ready to die so I stopped staring, returning back to this world.

*********************************************************

     My body was strangled in vines, sprouting out of the book. I really was dead. “No, this is a dream, this is a dream,” I pleaded, and to make sure it was, I pinched myself. Ouch. No. I cannot be dead. There is no way. I’m just 12! I let out a huge, long scream of anger at the world.

Then I started running, through solid walls, through thorny bushes, through thin air. I was a ghost, just a remnant of a girl. He had warned me about the book. Now it was too late.

     I sat down and had a big, long cry. A cry for my mom, my friends, my life, myself. Why, oh why did I listen to Adelyn and take the book?

I heard a soft humming. An ancient scroll appeared at my feet, so I bent down to take it. “The prophecy of the book,” it read.

*********************************************************

When the book falls into the hand of the Daughter of Eve

And the life is taken, please take heed

For a copy of a soul yet not a copy of a bone

Will destroy the book and plant it to be grown

And out of the mud rises a plant of beauty

When Adelyn and Evelyn return to their duties

*********************************************************

     A shimmer appeared before me. First, it was all white, then it started glimmering gold in some places. It glowed brighter, then took the form of lips. “Evelyn,” it said. “You are a special case. You are dead, but you shouldn’t be. You will get one chance to live again.”

     “O-Okay,” I stammered, “Is Adelyn fine?”

     The vision chuckled. “For now she is.”

     After all that had happened, I needed to take a nap, so I glided over to my bed and fell into a dreamless sleep.

 

Adelyn

 

     I woke up to the putrid smell of rotten eggs. A gray cloth had been placed over my mouth and my hands and legs were tied up. What happened? I asked myself. You got kidnapped, my subconscious answered. And it all came flooding back. The coffee shop, the weird guy, the prophecy…

     I scanned my surroundings. A mouse, a broomstick, a locked door and… cameras. Those would need to be dealt with. I realized that the mouse had been pushing a pair of wire cutters toward me. Strange behavior for a mouse, I thought. But I took them.

     “No ‘thank you’?” the mouse asked in a crabby voice, startling me so much that I jumped back 2 feet and right out of the chains binding my feet.

     I grabbed the wire cutters with my elbow’s and dashed to the door. Locked. Dang it.

     “I’m not going to hurt you,” the mouse said.

     “I can see you’re not gonna hurt me!” I half-yelled, “You’re tiny!”

     “Well, haven’t you seen a talking mouse once in your- No. You haven’t,” he said, looking at my shocked expression.

     I used my elbows to cut the rest of my chains with the wire cutters, felt for the door and slammed through it, dashing away like a car on the Autobahn.

*********************************************************

     “Wait up!” the mouse called, “You’re not gonna get anywhere like that!”

     Lasers blocked my path. He was right. Double dang it.

     I took a few deep breaths.

     “What do you want?”

     “I want to help you, of course! You’re the Adelyn of the prophecy, aren’t you?”

     I nodded my head.

     “Well, then the first step is escaping.” He slid under the lasers, not meant for a mouse, and came back 5 seconds later with a key. But instead of disabling the lasers, he threw the key into the lasers! The laser sliced the key into two and it made a loud clatter and sizzle as it hit the ground.

    “Thanks a lot!” I yelled. “Ruining my only chance of escaping!”

     “Anything wrong, Your Highness?” the jail guard asked in a frustrated tone. He came clomping up from the other side of the lasers and disabled them with his key, which I now realized looked very different from the key the mouse had found. The mouse looked at me. I silently apologized.

     The mouse came up straight to the guard and… bit him?

     “Hey!” the guard shouted and chased after the mouse.

     Now was my chance. I knew I couldn’t make it down all the way - I was in a room at the top of the Empire State Building, I didn’t have an elevator key! I grabbed a rope from the storage closet and thrust it out the window. I looked down. 1454 feet above the ground. I suddenly felt nauseous, but I jumped and slid down. I’m definitely going to die, I thought. But some magic, fate, or pure luck made me think fast enough to stop, inches from the ground, giving me a serious rope burn. I let go and my feet touched ground at last. But what I didn’t know was that I would have been a lot better off staying in that tower.

 

     I dashed over to Evelyn’s house. I had to warn her! The book WAS dangerous… it might even be deadly! I looked around. It was just an average fall sunrise - probably 7 am. Evelyn would be about to wake up. I shivered. It was close to freezing - strange weather for a September morning

     I picked up my pace. Evelyn might leave before I got there! I looked over at the sign. 22nd street - 2 minutes from Evelyn. I continued running.

     I was finally there. I stood, panting. I opened the door to a still household and saw a note from her aunt saying, “Out on some errands. Be back at 8.”

     I relaxed. No one would be in the house besides Evelyn and I.

     I walked over to Evelyn’s bedroom. I relaxed at first, seeing Evelyn sound asleep. Then I noticed something. She was ghostly pale! Evelyn was… a ghost!

     I let out a scream, waking Evelyn. The book had gotten to her - how long until it got to me?

     “Shhh!” she hissed.

     “You’re dead,” I sobbed.

     “No, I’m not,” Evelyn said, color returning to her body.

     “But - you were so pale!” I exclaimed. “You’re really alive?”

     She nodded, and I hugged her. Then I realized something. The book was gone!

     “Evelyn?”

     She looked up.

     “We have to get that book.”

*********************************************************

     “So, let me get this straight,” Evelyn started. “You want us to raid the Empire State Building, one of the most heavily protected places in New York City?”

     “Pretty much,” I replied. And we were going to, until Evelyn fainted. She turned pale and then started shaking.

     I fished out my phone and hastily dialed 911.

     “This is Adelyn Cervara. My friend just passed out at 339 Fifth Avenue…”

Evelyn

     I woke up in a cot, surrounded by doctors. I saw my aunt, sitting in a chair next to me. I was in the hospital.

     A sudden wave of dizziness and nausea swept over me. Then I noticed my hands. They were ghostly white! I tried to turn them back like I did when I saw Adelyn. I looked. Still white.

     I groaned - now everyone would know I was a zombie.

     “Evelyn?” I heard a voice say. “Evelyn, are you all right?”

     I looked up and saw a blurry silhouette. Adelyn. “What happened?” I asked.

     “We don’t know,” someone replied. We’ve checked everything - allergies, sickness, stress…

     Later that day, I was allowed to leave, with no intention of ever doing that again. Adelyn pulled me aside.

     “You’re turning pale again!” she scolded. “Do you WANT everyone to realize you’re a ghost?”

     “I’m trying,” I retorted. And I did. Color started returning to me, but not enough. “Hopefully this can pass as me being sick. I’m going to go take a nap.” So I did.

*********************************************************

     The next few days were normal. We went to a movie, had sleepovers, all the normal stuff. I had to beg my aunt to let me go outdoors for even an hour; but once she was convinced I was fine, I even got to go to school for half the day! The only problem was the paleness was slowly taking over my body, and this time, I couldn’t stop it.

     “Evelyn?” my teacher asked, “Are you okay?” It was the middle of English, and my teacher had just asked me if I was alright. Busted, I thought. I stood up. “I’m fine” I said, though I wasn’t. My skin was turning the color of teeth - almost pure white! It wasn’t going to be long now before I was found out.

     But there was something else about this that was worse. I was feeling more sick by the day. I had fainted twice since the hospital, and had a constant, pounding headache. My grades were slipping from B’s to D’s and F’s. And I had to sleep at 7:00 each night. I really had to tell Adelyn, but I didn’t know how.

     At lunch that day, I pulled Adelyn aside. “I’ve been getting paler every day,” I said. “And I’ve been getting terrible nausea and dizziness.”

“Well, there’s one thing we know for sure,” Adelyn replied, “The book is the cause of that.”

 

Adelyn

 

     “Name?” the lady at the desk asked.

     “Emily Marquez,” I replied, “And this is my daughter, Karin.” Our quest to find out more about the book had taken us here, where I was kidnapped, and some fake identities were required… and some costume makeup.

     “Floor?” she asked, rolling her pencil around on the desk.

     This was the trickiest part. I’d rather take an elevator straight to the very top, but you couldn’t get there.

     “80, please,” I replied.

     She took me to an elevator and punched in a number, then slid her card in the slot. From there, we went to the 86th, then the observation deck on the 102nd floor.

     “Here you are,” she said. “The top of it all.” Or so she thought.

     “How do we get to the top?” Evelyn/Karin asked.

     “Just wait,” I replied. And we did. The clock ticked on and on. The sun started setting, and I took out my phone to pass the time. It was 7:00 pm by now. We waited, and waited. “Couldn’t we have come later?” Evelyn whined, mimicking my thoughts.  Just as I was about ready to leave, the man who had kidnapped me came by.

*********************************************************

     We followed the mysterious man. He walked up the the observation deck… and jumped off! But then something weird happened - a couple inches from the ground, he disappeared in a flash of black smoke!

     “Do you wanna go first or should I?” asked Evelyn/Karin nervously.

     “Let’s both do it together,” I replied. “1, 2, 3, JUMP!” It took us a minute more to actually jump, but when we did, we screamed so loud that we turned the heads of the people, now 100 feet above us.

     We were a third of the way down, and still going. This is how I’m gonna die, I thought. I saw the ground, coming closer each second. We were going to die, and no one was going to notice.

     Then, a few feet from the ground, I stopped. And suddenly I wasn’t falling anymore, but I was on the real top of the Empire State Building, 1,454 feet above the ground!

     “Can I just say something?” Evelyn asked. “That was the most terrifying experience of my life!” Her makeup had washed off. I felt my face.       So had mine. Well, so much for going in disguise..

     Then I noticed the door. It was a large, obsidian door with carvings of skulls.

     “Let’s go,” I told Evelyn. “Okay,” she replied. So she walked through the door, unarmed. I had nothing but myself and my mind, but I followed.

*********************************************************

    Our plan was to find the book, grab it, and rush out, but I could immediately see that wouldn’t be effective.

      Why? Well, because we had just barged right into the middle of the largest group of monsters I had ever dreamed of, and the mysterious man was right in the middle.

     So we did the only thing we could. We ran. We ran past the guards, past the jail cell, into a relatively small room. A beautifully decorated pedestal stood in the middle, with the book on top. The only problem was that it was 20 feet in the air.

     “Evelyn, come here,” I hissed. “Climb the bookshelves.” And we did. We leaped to the top of the pedestal, and I grabbed the book. Then I realized my fatal mistake.

     “How will we get down?”

     The bookshelves had fallen over, and monsters had stormed the room.

     “Jump!” Evelyn yelled.

     “What?” I screamed.

     “JUMP!”

     We jumped.

 

Evelyn

 

     What a bad idea that had been! Just like coming here was a bad idea, just like checking out the book had been the bad idea to inspire all the bad ideas. But when we landed, the monsters bouncy heads got us hopscotching all the way out the door. It was like the bounciest trampoline ever! I flung myself off the building, and Adelyn did the same.

     We were free falling again, but this time, I was relaxed. I wasn’t going to die - my first attempt had proved that. But wait - I was too close to the ground! Adelyn had disappeared above me… I had passed through the barrier without activating it!

     The last thing I saw was a flash of white light, as I thought, I died twice in two weeks - what worse can happen?

*********************************************************

     I woke up with doctors surrounding me again. I was in the hospital - which at least meant I’d survived the fall. But how? I wasn’t an A+ student, but I knew enough physics to know that falling off the top of the third tallest building in New York should probably kill you.

     I looked around. Adelyn and my aunt were the only people there that I knew, which made me sad for a moment, but then I realized I should be glad I was alive.

     I sat up with no more than the usual nausea and dizziness. All the doctors and visitors immediately looked up.

     “You’re… awake?” my aunt finally asked.

     “Pretty much,” I replied. The next few moments were filled with hugs, tears and laughter.

     “I’m… alive?” I asked finally.

     “Well, you’re not a ghost are you?” my aunt replied, trying to lighten up the mood, but she only managed to dampen it. Both Adelyn and I knew, in fact, I WAS a ghost.

     But, for the sake of getting out of this stuffy place, I said, “I’m fine. I can leave.”

     I finally managed to persuade the doctors to let me go. They were a little concerned about my paleness, but I told them it was a side effect of some rare post-hospital disease called morbepicinium. That would take them a while - and they might actually think it existed!

     “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?” my aunt yelled as soon as I got home. “Telling me you were at the movies, and then running off to the Empire State Building like you hadn’t seen it a million times before… it’s a miracle you’re alive! You are grounded for a month, young lady!”         And she stormed off, leaving me miserable in my bedroom.

     We need to destroy the book NOW! I texted Adelyn. Bring it to my bedroom tomorrow morning.

     My phone vibrated immediately. I looked at the screen: We’re doing it in Central Park, where you found the dog.

     Why? I replied.

     Trust me.

 

Adelyn

 

     “Do you have the book?” Evelyn asked.

     “Yep,” I replied, holding up a bundle of clothes in a clear purse. “Can’t be too careful.”

     “So where exactly are we going?” she questioned.

     “Don’t know.”

     “Don’t KNOW?”

     “You’ll feel it in your bones.” I wasn’t sure about this, but I knew the place in the picture was somewhere in Central Park. We suddenly got to a wide clearing with a magical air. Something was wrong.

     I saw a golden sword and picked it up. I hesitated.

     “Well?” Evelyn asked impatiently. “Unwrap the book!”

     She shouldn’t have demanded that. As soon as the book was uncovered, she went into one of her worst fits ever. Her body was translucent now, her skin invisible. Her eyes, lips, and clothes were all that seemed to remain.

     “Headache!” she screamed, doubling over. I tried to help her, but she had no mass. My hand just passed through.

     “GO! Stab the book!” she yelled.

     "I’m not leaving you like THIS!” I cried.

     “Well, stabbing the book won’t hurt,” she said sarcastically.

     “What if it does?” I asked.

     “JUST DO IT!” Evelyn screamed. And I did.

     I picked up the glistening golden sword and stabbed it. I stabbed it again and again, until the monstrous noises that I hadn’t realized were there… were gone. Then, for the sake of obeying the prophecy, I buried it. Immediately blue and orange plants started growing, twisting together into some beautiful, complex pattern. It was breathtaking.

     It was like my mind was clear for the first time in weeks. And Evelyn… I let out a cry of joy. Color was returning to her face, her tortured expression gone, replaced by a glowing smile.

     Then I realized… the vines were forming words!

     “Thank you Evelyn and Adelyn,” it said. “Thank you for freeing me.”

 

Shattered Windows

By Mishaal H.

“Over Labor Day weekend I learned that movies are liars. Now that is a well-known fact as  I’m pretty sure most of us know we are not 

living in a war-torn society where love is illegal, or being forced to fight to the death for some Overlord's  amusement, or something like 

that. But what I learned movies lie about is how much it hurts to break a window with your body. Seriously, you may laugh but I’m not 

kidding. In movies, some poor human will be pushed through a window or jump through it and will land a story or two below. If they jumped they’ll land on their feet perfectly fine despite the fact that they just jumped through a closed window. And if they were pushed they may 

land on the ground and they’ll just groan and get back up practically unscathed! Then they’ll start fighting again, how?! It isn’t even close to 

that easy and I should know, that’s what happened this weekend. 

Have you ever heard the expression ‘the calm before the storm’? That’s what happened, I got to wake up late. Make myself a delicious mug 

of hot cocoa – well at least I hope it was delicious I never got to try it- while reading an absolutely fantastic book that took me to another 

world, it was perfect. Though apparently, it was too perfect because a wild dog just had to get involved! Now I’m sure you’re all wondering 

where the wild dog came from, well we have the fact that people are just plain dumb sometimes. Or maybe it was plain evilly spiteful. 

Honestly maybe it isn’t as plain as I said, but either way. 

Anyways as I was saying I was happily enjoying my morning, well closer to the afternoon when the door opened. Now naturally I assumed it was my parents, oh don’t look at me like that because you would’ve too. So I just called out “Hi,” and went back to stirring my sweet hot 

cocoa. Though as I learned over the long weekend wild animals are not the most polite creatures, seriously no ‘Hi’, ‘Hello’, ‘How you doing?’ 

none of it! Though I suppose he barked once, right before he pounced. Imagine how terrifying that is; thinking your parents are home, then 

hearing a bark and realizing whatever came through your door wasn’t part of your family and definitely wasn’t supposed to be there. And as

the icing on the terror cake, I had a split second to turn around and see it pounce on me before it knocked me out the window through the 

glass. I don’t know how much force I applied on the glass so don’t go telling Mr. Ladson that I do – I’m looking at you Jackson – because 

all I know is that it was enough to shatter the window, and hurt a lot. Besides if that wasn’t enough I had to land on a surprisingly strong 

bush that bruised my spine more than it would’ve been if I’d just landed on the cold hard ground. 

Now if all if this has confused you let me make it clearer; A wild dog pushed me through a window shattering the glass and out into the yard. I don’t know how much simpler I can make that so please wipe those blank expressions off your faces. So I landed in the yard and blacked 

out because falling out of a window hurts a lot and woke up in the hospital. I think that waking up in the hospital is the scariest thing that 

can happen especially after blacking out because everything’s all hazy and you don’t remember what happened so all you know is that 

you’re in the hospital probably because you’ve been hurt and you don’t know how or why. Then you worry if someone else is also hurt so you

work yourself into a panic. Then just as you’re about to go into full on panic mode you start to remember but since your brain for some 

reason decides to remember the scariest part first it didn’t help; I remembered the wild dog pouncing. Which is a terrifying thing by itself let alone it being the only reason I can remember for being in the hospital. Of course, a doctor came in and stuff started coming together. I 

ended up with a bruised everywhere and more cuts from the shattered shards of glass than I can count, along with a third degree burn. 

How’d I get a burn from falling out the window, you may ask. Well, another thing I learned this long weekend is that hot cocoa is evil. A third degree from hot cocoa, it sucks. So yes, Jamie I did not lie when I said that hot cocoa made my arm look terrible. Yesterday I was told the full story and that my younger brother found me when they all came home from the park an hour later and I was released from the hospital 

with a minor concussion, and as I said earlier a bruised everything and cuts everywhere. Then despite my recent release, I was forced to 

come here today, so that’s fun (not). To conclude, what I learned was that movies are liars, blacking out and waking up in the hospital is 

scary, and hot cocoa is evil, also to a lesser extent the doctor who gave the okay signal for me to come here is evil, and that was my Labor Day weekend.”

 I folded my report. “Any questions?” I looked around amused as realization slowly seeped onto my classmates faces as to why I was bruised

and cut and burned, thinking about it I must’ve looked partially crazy. 

     “Well, that was an… enlightening report about your weekend,” Ms. Lacaro stood up, “it definitely explained your new look to us. Though, 

Vanessa, dear you were only supposed to write two sentences.” 

“I can make it two sentences,” I offered, “Two extremely long run on sentences.” 

Ms. Lacaro frowned at me but the corners of her mouth were twitching, “It was extremely detailed and very interesting.”  

“Thank you,” I said as the bell rang, hmm… that was strange when I’d started there’d been twenty minutes of class left, time really does fly. 

“Well, I suppose we’ll have to finish up presentation’s tomorrow, class please give a round of applause for Vanessa.” The sarcastic kind of 

applause that you could only find in schools filled the class. 

“Why thank you!” I gave an over exaggerated bow, then winced since everything was sore, “I’ll be here all week!” I walked out into the 

sunshine leaving behind a class with thoughts of shattered windows. 

 

The Lost Key

By Amrita B.

The piano looms in front of me, an embodiment of my recent past. It seems to taunt me; its black and white keys lie untouched, yearning to be played. If you look close enough, you can even see just the tiniest speck of dust on the third C key, a reminder of something that I used to know. The sight is unfamiliar and unnerves me, and I realize that my parents must have been too preoccupied to do something like 

remember to clean the piano.  

I reach forward and timidly touch one of the black keys. The room remains silent, and I feel a tugging at my chest, knowing that I have lost 

my touch. I push the key down harder this time, and the sound echoes throughout the room, a sound that used to fill the house every day. 

I remember waking up in the hospital bed. I don’t remember the accident or the driver hitting us, but I remember waking up with a sling 

around my left wrist.  

I recall the pasty white walls of the hospital room, the absurdly disgusting food and the never-ending sweet scent of the lilacs and angelicas 

that the kids from school brought.  

My mom’s tear stained face watched me, concerned.  “She’s awake! My god, Alisha’s awake!” My mom urgently called out to the 

nurses.  They said I was lucky. Only my left wrist was permanently damaged. Every other part of me would be fine.  ​

But, didn’t they know that the wrist is the only part that matters to a pianist?  

Some friends from music class came in, bearing bags of candy and baby pink balloons. I could see the worry in their eyes, but I could also see something else- a hint of satisfaction. In a way, I couldn’t blame them. My injury was a chance for them to earn their way up to 1st chair. The look disappeared as soon as it arrived, and I hugged my friends happily.  

“Alisha, are you okay?” They asked. Okay. The word didn’t really mean anything, I realized. But, I nodded anyway to make them feel better.  

My dad spent hours taking me to a physical therapist, desperately trying to console me.  

“You can learn to play piano with one hand.” The physical therapist assured me, her kind eyes crinkling. “It will be hard, but you can do it. Here.” She showed me dozens of videos of people with prosthetic limbs and only one hand playing the piano. If I closed my eyes and listened, I 

couldn’t tell if the person had any disabilities. Because I could feel that energy, that feeling of wonder, even through the low sound quality of the therapist’s computer.  

My eyes roam over the dozens of trophies and ribbons displayed neatly above the piano. 1st Place, 2nd Place, Honorable Mention…  

A memory comes to mind: my first piano recital, years ago. I was seven years old and terrified. I was playing a three-page piece by Bach, and my piano teacher was supposed to turn the pages. I was wearing my favorite pink and purple dress that my 

grandmother had bought me as a seventh birthday present. I remember bowing and starting the piece. The first two pages went well; my 

foot played the pedal in perfect sync with the melody. Unfortunately, my piano teacher forgot to turn the third page, and I stopped playing, 

unsure what to do. I remember the silence in the concert hall, the unnatural gap and the hesitant stares. Then, my teacher quickly turned 

the page, and I started playing again, the sound so lovely and elegant that I was sure everyone had forgotten the pause.  

For a while, that felt like the worst moment in my life. But, I soon forgot what happened, my piano teacher apologized, and I played many 

more recitals.  

I play the opening lines of Für Elise with my right hand. I love that song; it was the first piece of music I learned to play.  

The song comes to me instantly, and my hand sweeps across the piano, immersed in each individual note. For a moment, I feel like I am a 

professional concert pianist in the 1800s, playing for some rich nobles at a party. I imagine a whole ballroom of people watching me play 

and dancing to the mysterious song. People swirl around the ballroom, dipping and twirling in rhythm, as my fingers fly across the keys. 

But, when it is time for the left hand to play, I stop, and there it is again- that silence. The unbearable silence. I remove my hand quickly.  

I am overcome with emotion, an unfamiliar feeling that I cannot describe. I am angry at the drunk college student who crashed into our car, and I am angry at myself for being in the car when my parents told me not to go to that party.  How was I to know what would happen? It 

was a stupid mistake to go to that party, a mistake that I can never take back. ​

For so long, the piano had felt like a part of me - an arm or leg that I couldn’t live without. As I poured my soul into the piano, none of my 

worries seemed to matter, and I could feel my heart racing as a blend of sound emerged. Playing the piano was my message to others. A 

message that I felt obligated to share with the world.  

Without the ability to play piano, I feel lost. There are certain emotions and feelings that one cannot put into words. Like painting, piano is an art that allows me to express something that I can’t express any other way.  

I place my pinky finger on the first key, and absentmindedly my ring finger pushes down gently on the E flat. I trill the two notes again, and 

suddenly I don’t want to stop. I know that the left hand part is coming, and I won’t be able to play the harmony. As my right hand sweeps 

across the keys, I skip to the melody. It’s the same notes repeating, and it doesn’t sound like Für Elise, but there’s something refreshing 

about the sound. It occurs to me that I am hearing the tune differently, in a way that evokes a bittersweet emotion.  I think about writing a 

song. I’ve always wanted to, but composing requires a sort of mindset that I thought I never had. But now, strangely, it seems almost within my reach.   

I smile and play the melody of Für Elise. I play for all that was lost, but I also play for all that lies before me.  

 

The Metal Chip

By Shana E.

     Fingers tapped out a familiar melody and the player mentally frowned. How many years had passed? How many times had he had to play this same song, over and over? Too many to count, he knew. Still his fingers moved. He couldn’t stop, not even if he wanted. His hands, his body were not his to control.

     “Good job, Mathias,” ‘Father’ said. He nodded. There was nothing else he could do.

     Humans thought they were oh-so clever when they discovered that the brain could indeed be changed. Mathias was one of the first. As a young child, he had a metal chip implanted in his brain. And from that day, he lost control.

     The young child would want to stay up late, eat cookies and disobey. The metal chip said, no, he shouldn’t disobey, he should be a good child. And Mathias had to follow the metal chip.

     All the adults praised the chip, praised the program for making Mathias such an intelligent, athletic, well behaved, perfect child. But didn’t they understand? It was not Mathias who was these, it was the chip.

     Mathias tried so hard to tell them. But each time, the metal chip stopped him.

     No, it seemed to whisper, no, you do not speak out against me. Say, instead, how much you love your mother.

     So that was what Mathias had to say. As he grew, he had less control. The whispers became words, and then commands, and Mathias was powerless to resist. He consoled himself that at least he could think of his own free will, that that had not been dominated by the chip.

It was boring, and tiring, in that mental prison. He could not see the world outside, the only things he knew were of his young child self. In that sense, Mathias never grew up. He never had a chance to.

     The metal chip seemed fine with this prison. It would seem to check upon him, and satisfied he was still contained, would go to whatever Mathias was supposed to do. Sometimes, in rare moments, he felt the brush of wind, as though he were running, and the exhilaration of solving a taxing problem. It was never enough though.

    As the-days? Months? Years?- passed, both the metal chip and Mathias seemed to change. The metal chip used to be a presence only, but a domineering one. But soon it seemed to gain substance. The metal chip turned to a mist, and then to the form of a teenaged boy, who Mathias seemed to recognize. As the metal chip became more solid, Mathias became less so.

     Mathias grew tired and weak. The thoughts that used to flow so easily in his head now came haltingly and grudgingly, as though they wished to stay in whatever paradise innocent thoughts come from.

     He sat huddled in his prison, and the metal chip came less and less often. Before, Mathias would have loved it. But now, he wished not to be alone, to have someone, even that parasite.

     But the metal chip did not come. Mathias grew weaker and weaker, folding in upon himself. No thoughts came at all now, and he could not remember how the wind felt, what light was, and even his parents.

     Any heart, any soul he once had left, and it took too much effort to open his eyes. One day, he could not even do that. Thus Mathias was in darkness, for days and years to come.

***

     “Wake up,” a voice demanded, and he felt a sharp pain in his ribcage area. Despite the pain, his nonexistent heart lifted with joy. Someone had come! He was not alone!

     “Wake up I said,” the voice said again and Mathias happily complied.

     It was the metal chip, more solid and human looking than ever, and eerily familiar. But Mathias cared not, for the metal chip had come! He was not alone.

     He tried to speak, to express his gratitude for the visit, but nothing came out. He tried again and again but nothing came out. He looked up, scared.

     “Okay, here’s the thing,” the metal chip said. “I’m going to have to let you go; you’re too much of a pain to carry. I have work and college to deal with, not to mention a girlfriend. I don’t have time for a ghost.”

     The words shook his core. He looked up at the metal chip, really looked. His eyes widened, his heart stopped. With the last of his strength, he whispered, “M-m-thias?” he exhaled and collapsed on the ground, sweating furiously.

     “That’s right,” he heard the voice of the metal chip-no, not the metal chip, Mathias- but could no longer see. Everything was dimming so      fast. No! He screamed in his mind. He did not want to be left in darkness again.

     “Once again, I’m sorry,” Mathias said. “You take up too much space I can use for school, and you have nothing that people care about. You’re worse than useless.” If Mathias said anything else to him, he did not hear. Everything was dark and quiet. His thoughts, which had started to flow once again, were stopped and soaked up by the blanket of sleep. But he would not wake up from this.

***

     Mathias sat up in his bed, his heart beating fast. What a dream he had! Or nightmare, he supposed. He padded along to his parents.

     “What’s wrong, Matt?” his father said, looking at his young son.

     “I had a scary dream, Daddy,” Mathias said. “I think I died.”

     “It was just a dream, Matt,” his mother said. “So push it out of your head. The world has no place for such dreams. Today your lessons start.”

     “My lessons?” he asked. Did he have lessons? He didn’t remember having lessons before.

     “Have you forgotten?” his father said. “You will be starting to learn the piano, and you will go to a language class. You will start with math classes, and possibly skip a few grades when the time comes. Your English, writing I mean, also needs work. We will start with sports too, swimming, soccer, those sort of things. Get ready Matt, because your life is beginning and therefore work begins too.”

     And all he could was nod. He couldn’t go against his parents - the metal chip.

 

I Walked By A Person

By Niki E.

     I walked by a person one day on the street in the nicer part of town. It was a lovely, sunny day with the fragrance of flowers, pastries, and other common town smells in the air. People took the time to say hello to each other and smile. The streets were free of any litter but weren’t laboratory-clean. Everywhere seemed full of light and curiosities. This was the first time I actually left my side of town to go here. It was not an easy place to get into. Not because of the residents there or the place itself closed off the entrances but because people from where I live and other places are scared to go in. We do not feel like we’re good enough to be there and when anyone from that place comes to visit us, we shut them out because they bring a part of that place with them without realizing it.  

     So I walked by a person one day and turned around. Somehow, I did not catch the person’s face, which seems impossible as we both walked towards each other in broad daylight. Driven by mild curiosity, I followed this person and took note in the confident stride and the casual air that seemed to surround them. The person went to a shop and bought a fresh loaf of bread, some cheddar cheese, and a bag of luscious-looking grapes that owned a color purple that would make a stylish coat. From the window, I could make out that the person seemed to be engaged in casual conversation with the cashier who was smiling back at the person. The guy then said something along the lines of “my daughter loves your work” and “you’re the… the world to be able to write so easily.” Then the mystery person spoke.   

“Believe me, my writing is only as good as readers think it is, and that is a better reward than money or fame. To tell you the truth, it all started with my first true work on a train when I was going out into the world. It’s actually a funny story, but I’ll tell you another time.” said the mystery person in a voice I couldn’t quite identify. The clerk quickly glanced where I was and registered my crouching frame. Swiftly, I darted behind the store and into the alleyway, which was remarkably clean, and watched the person exit.  

     I followed my mystery person to the local park where the grass was green and the children played. Right now, the person is taking out a pad of paper and pen and scribbles words onto the pages. I don't know how I know but this person is a gifted writer who loves the profession and does it for the joy of it. I myself imagine that I am like that too but I do not write very often. I just waste the gift away.  After about fifteen minutes, the person stood up and went to the local library. The library was different than any library or building I have ever seen. Its structure was composed not of brick, concrete, or stone but books. Each book was turned on its spine and stacked to create various parts of the library. There were rainbows of color and stretches of size. Another part of the library was that it was not completely grounded. It rose up with larger books supporting the spiral staircase that raised the actual book-housing segment in the air. As I took in this magnificent building, my mystery person entered the building and did not come out. It was turning to evening and I had to return to my apartment.   

     At my mediocre abode, I lied down on the aged sofa and glanced at the outside. Unlike where I was that day, this part of town where I lived was full of people who grumbled and looked down as they walked. The dominating color palette was of monochromes and the faded attempts at brighter colors. I sighed and closed my eyes. The nicer part of town was clearly out of my league, but perhaps I could set up residence there if I tried. I sighed again and rubbed my eyes. What am I thinking? Someone like me in a place like that? How could I?

No, there is no chance for me there. It is far better for me to stay here. After all, moving would mean work and planning and… So tired. Crazy thoughts always come to light at night. What an oxymoron. I’ll stay in the same place. However, as my eyelids shut together, a small part of me said, Why not?

     It must have been a few months until I snapped out of my litany when one night I woke up in a frenzied panic that something was horrendously wrong. I kept running around like a chicken with its head cut off until I saw a long, faded red coat deep in my closet. A memory of the person I walked by so long ago flashed in my head. Of course, the mystery person did wear such a coat only it was newer and had big buttons. I do not know why I did not remember that before. Now come to think of it, I have not seen the person exit the library. I grabbed the red coat and dashed outside. I hopped onto to an unlocked bike and rode for all I was worth; no one was about so I had no cars to worry about. While I was rushing about, I did not stop to look that it was 4 am in the morning. When I arrived, there was no one around and it was not even dawn yet. So lonely I felt that I started to cry. My feet took me to the library. I sat on the steps with my red coat half on.    

     Eventually, the sun rose with its rays peaking the sky rosy with clouds dotting it like careful strokes of a painter’s brush. Still no one woke. No human that was. The insects and birds were beginning to start the day. I was so tired. How long would I wait? A dove flew on the roof. The roof. Unconsciously, I began to climb the library by its side to see the roof. When I got there, I could see to the beyonds. It might be a trick of the light, but I think I could see the faint outline of my town in the distance. If only I could stay up here forevermore. I lowered myself from the roof and walked to the park where I had followed the mystery person. I sat on the same bench. What was I expecting? The leaves of fall flew from the tree above me like chances lost in the wind of time. So many chances of hope, adventure, love, and self-discovery lost because I could not get the courage to take them. If only…  

     No. No more. This feeling of hopelessness is becoming unbearable. I shall return home to my sofa and my dim town. If I cannot go beyond what I am and I cannot go within myself, then how can I ever expect myself to be someone I could be? It was my destiny, to be condemned to that dim town. This town I am in and I are not compatible. It was only 4:30 am on the plaza clock, and there are no trains to get back yet. 

Walking by foot is far too long of a journey and I hadn’t had breakfast. On the pole across the street, there was a chart of public 

transportation schedules. The next train does not come til 6 am. An hour and a half hour to kill. There is a mud puddle ahead. I kick at it and now my red coat is a disgusting poop color. I did not even know mud could stain that bad. I ditched my coat in a trash can and continued

walking. When I circled back to the library, I saw on the bench to the left was a beautiful, red coat. And not just any coat. It was their coat! The mystery person’s red coat!  

     Lordie, why did whoever they were leave it here? As I neared closer to it, it occurred to  me that there might be a wallet or something valuable in one of the pockets. 5 am. Suddenly, the time I had till 5 became precious. My mystery person would come back here to retrieve

the coat and if I am there when they do, the mystery will be solved. I will finally know what they look like. I still do not understand what is so important about this human that would cause me to act like this just to glimpse their face. The person probably will be shocked that I was

following them all this time. Does that make me a stalker? I hope the person doesn’t think I am a bad person.  

     Fear I did not know was there began to spread through my chest like cracks in the earth. If I do meet the mystery person, the riddle will be solved. There will be no more mystery or need to leave my side of town ever again. Can I really submit myself back to my dim room after being here? I looked down and realized that I have donned the red coat. At this point, I do not care what anyone thinks of me. I do not know what to think of me. Scratch that, I know I am honest. I admit that it is warmer now that I am wearing somebody else’s clothing. There is nothing to do now but wait and sit, something I have been doing for my whole life. The colors fade away from me and I lose all perspective and awareness of space as my mind unravels into a deep reverie.   

     There are so many reasons as to why I could have come here, but none of them seem to fit my predicament. Was I hoping that by going here, everything would be different and what I should do would be clear? Maybe I needed to take a break and see why I shouldn’t leave? If I go back, there will never be anything that could stir me out again into the world. If I stay here, I risk running to the person and seeing their face. I could leave both towns as I now do not fit in either. I am more than the lost person I was sitting on an aged sofa but less than the mystery person. I must leave to go abroad. Yes, that is a good idea. I know there is nothing for out there or here. If I leave, it would mean running away. Running away from what? From- My reverie was interrupted by the sound of a dog barking to signal the owner that it is now almost 5:10 am. The first train will be ready to leave soon.  I stand up and slowly take off the coat. God, I feel like such an imposter, a fake, a

genuine phony. Now there’s an oxymoron. I chuckled humorlessly to myself. There was no more reason for me to wait for the person to come, to wait for a sign of what to do. I am sick of waiting and this whole town reeks of age and lost dreams. First things first, I gotta get rid of the coat and my dimpy home in the other part of town. I simply leave the coat where I found it and take the train back.  

     At the end of the day, there was nothing left but a dim bulb, an empty fridge, and this month’s rent in an envelope on the mail rack. In my rucksack, I packed my life’s savings, clothing, some food and water, id papers, and some old mementos of times I’ve forgotten. I nearly started to tear up as I looked through them but quickly reminded myself that I wasn’t going on memory lane but the train. As I walked out of the building, I passed by my old furniture and saw a notebook and pen in a partially opened drawer. Without fully understanding why, I took them and put it along with the rest of the things in my sack. ​As I headed towards the train station, I went to the lost and found box to dump some of my smaller stuff. In Box 45, I saw a familiar red coat.  Why does that stupid red coat follow me around everywhere? In a huff, I snatched the coat and stuffed it in my pack. If I ditched it somewhere else, it could not possibly end up where I was going. “All aboard! We leave in two minutes!” called out a man near the front of the train. I boarded the third class car and stared out at the station with a sudden twinge of sorrow. What do I have to be sad about? I am finally leaving this dump of misery! It’s all you ever known, a voice in me whispers, but that feeling will soon fade out of my subconscious and be forgotten. The landscape out of the window becomes a blur and so does the last of the town’s limits. The place I have known is now no more than a speck in the landscape soon to not be even that anymore. I pull my eyes away from the back and look ahead to the front.  

     I scan my compartment and then look at the red coat. Strange, it looks almost exactly like the one the mystery person donned. I put it on and began to write of this change in me and what I am going to do now. Perhaps when the train comes to a stop, I shall buy something to eat. I have a liking towards some purple grapes. Maybe I will buy another notebook because I have somehow already up filled 10 pages and at this rate will need another.  

     To my right, there is a mirror for passengers. The face in the mirror looks familiar not as my own but as someone else’s. Someone else who wears a red coat and has a notebook and pencil their hands. Who does that remind me of? No matter, I feel like I got my writing flow back after all these years. I remember my mother told me that the best person you could ever be was yourself. If I could be only half as amazing and talented as I want to be or as alluring as the mystery person is, then that would be enough. Day faded to night on the train. As I ate my dinner, I admitted to myself that I still wished to know who that mystery person was. And, all of a sudden, I flashbacked to when we passed each other on the street and realized that maybe they did too.  

     Closing my eyes, I felt a heavy burden lift from my shoulders. Before I lost myself to dreams, I thought of a new story idea which I would title I Walked by a Person. Musing on the dedication page of the story I felt that was going to be hit, I figured that I would dedicate the idea to the mystery person. My last thoughts as the grey town faded to a blur were that the mystery person would be happy at this. For the both of us.

 

     I turned around that discovered something extraordinary.

 

     The mystery person is me!