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Score - Chapter Three

By Deven P.

     I only had one thing set on my mind: ‘Win that competition’. I soon realized once I got home that I had to balance out school with practice. It was tomorrow and I had to have the right mindset. 

     I looked at the spider web-infested clock and remembered that I had to go to the library. I sprinted out of the door again, and went to Big Glasses’ house. Once he was all set up and babysitting, I grabbed my school stuff and ran to the library. Algebra, complex sentences, and ancient Brazil. Algebra, complex sentences, and ancient Brazil. Algebra, complex sentences, and ancient Brazil. I started to doze off until I opened more doors into the dreaming world.

     I tasted the sweet sense of clouds all around me. Under. Over. Around. There was also a massive stadium surrounding me full of cloud people. It seemed as if they were white robots programmed to clap for me. The sky was covered in clouds. The ground was clouds. And at last, the ball was as well. It suddenly hit me; this was like the competition.

     I took the ball and started to do what I did best. The ball felt so good on my feet. Every touch that I took, a misty white cloud flew out from the bottom. I started rough at the start, but once I hit 50, I started to get the hang of it. By every touch that I took, the crowd got louder and louder. 200...210...220...500! 

     “Marcos wake up!” yelled the librarian. That quickly snapped me out of my dream and turned me into game mode.

 

Through the Mellow Sway of Wind to a Tree Branch

By Amelia Z.

     As much as I’d like to believe this world is pink, and the clouds are cotton candy. Every time I do something in my brain shuts it off as if reality himself is slapping me in the face and laughing at my dreams unapologetically. I always enjoyed looking at the sun through the mellow sway of wind to a tree branch. I feel as though I’m looking at a real-life painting. The beauty around me absorbs me, holds me tight till I push away to only see blackness. The sky, the sea, places so far away from me, seem so peaceful, why is this bliss not inside me? I’m in a forest, one not too far from my house. Laying on the dirt. My arms hold my head up as I cross my legs and just search the sky. I think I’m dumb. At least I think at all. Most of my peers are too logged onto their phones to think. Scrolling through Instagram all day long seeing what they hope their life could be like, but failing to do anything to make it happen. I hear a brook running, down the hill, past some trees, behind some rocks. Running rapidly, I can hear from all the way at the top of the forest. I wonder why it’s running. I wonder what it’s running from, if it’ll ever one day, just be still. Then I apply this to my own mind. Constantly running thoughts, swarm all day long in this sucker. I wonder where they come from, is it the same place as the brook? Is it running for the same reason? Will I ever one day, just be peaceful? What is the difference between fate and karma, if there are such things? One you deserve and one will happen no matter what. What if it’s in someone's fate to have bad karma, no matter how hard they try to “earn” good karma? My thoughts are paused momentarily as I observe a simple blackbird. Gross bug-like eyes, old worn-out feathers, thin legs, small beak. Why is such an awful looking thing so beautiful far away. In the sky, I can’t see your ugly characteristics. I see your flips, and your acknowledgment of your own freedom, soaring high- looking down upon the world you inhabit. Oh beautiful blackbird, do you too- have racing thoughts that you can’t shut off? A melody in your brain on repeat? Occasionally, I have small spurts throughout my day where, just for a second, my brain slows down. It’s not still, just slower, and I see. I see the clouds above my head and the funny shapes they resemble, I see the flowers blossoming and filling the air with a candy-sweet aroma, I see rich colors around me, the deep, playful blue in the sky, the bright green grass nearby. I hear ocean waves in the distance, and birds chirping. These are the things that lead me to believe in the great pink world. The innocence in nature, then directly followed by the grotesqueness. The tune nature plays for her civilians, makes them run and jump, leap and soar, still, every living creature has this insatiable need to survive. No matter their circumstances, every living body just wants to live. I never understood this. Why does a drowning beetle, still try to swim out of the pool? Why does an older person dying of cancer still try to receive so many treatments? You know to survive will be a tough battle, and you’re time is oh so close to come, why bother? Why does every living creature have a need to live? It’s embedded in every brain and I’ve never understood why. No matter how small the brain, somewhere in there is the need to live. No matter how badly you want to die, you still get up everyday and go through the obstacles, no matter how badly you wish to be free of the system you still live by it in every way. So you see, walking on the path of life is great, it’s safe and normal and everyone's done it. You can see the people ahead of you on the path, the people behind you. The people who’ve finished, or are almost at the end, and they’re happy. But even stepping foot by foot on this path sickens me. Makes me want to run into the forest, and it looks dark from here, but I’m sure inside somewhere is bliss. Is a hill that runs down into a creek. Somewhere that I can look up, and see the sun through the mellow sway of wind to a tree branch. 

 

It Was Supposed to be Fun Mom Said

By Briana L.

     Friday night, I can hear mom yelling for Adrian to hustle with his laundry. He was only seven and never really grasped the idea of how much laundry soap to put in so I always do it for him. My mom calls me the bright one in our family even though I’m only fourteen and often get told that I look older than my age. Tomorrow mom said it was going to be fun, because we are going on a road trip. We haven’t been on one since Jess turned ten in the beginning of this year. Dad had a important business meeting to attend to so he could not make it this time. I wasn’t sad at all I was actually happy that we didn't have to listen to the football or baseball radio station for hours on our trip. I asked mom probably a thousand times what will the weather be like when we go and she would constantly give me a lame reply of “oh it’s supposed to be sunny with some rain” or “maybe snowing”. I thought she was playing games, she is , mom said that it's a surprise and we can’t tell anyone that we are going. I wasn’t aloud to tell my friends where I was going. Which in my opinion was odd.

I      was caught off guard by the beeping noise from the laundry machine that meant Adrian is finally finished with his laundry and it’s mine and Jess turn. We always wash our clothes together. It's faster. We hacked the system, one of us fills while the other one puts them in the dryer then we both fold. Easy, quick, done. Mom likes it that way, she never has to worry about us taking forever like some people in the family.Meanwhile, Mom had all her clothes done and ready to go, what was odd is that she packed dad's “super secret”folder. No one is allowed to touch it, but I guess mom can. It makes sense though cause she’s an adult. I quickly finished packing and so did Jess but, of course we had to help Adian with his packing because he couldn’t decide to bring Mr. Captain Bruno or Sir. Sniff A-lot Scruffs, they were just a frog and turtle. I packed one and he packed the other. Jess and I would always wonder why those names for such basic stuffed animals and everytime we would ask him he would bash us with his creativity as a “higher superior”than ours. Adrian probably heard that on T.V. or something cause there’s no way that he knows what that word means. 

     Jess and I were on the couch watching our favorite T.V. show when suddenly we heard a loud boom that sounded like thunder. Then the ground started to shake like there was a storm outside. Mom immediately turned off the T.V. and told us to be quiet. For a hour it was like this, dark, creepy , and quiet. The only sounds were outside, through the window there were flashing red and blue lights and sirens going on and off. After, mom carried Adrian and told Jess and I to go to our room. Jess and I stayed up talking about why mom was acting weird and why she’s in such a rush. Also, I asked Jess, “ what do you think happened to the Johnsons next door? Why was there so many cops?” 

Jess replied with, “Maybe they were corrupt people and we never knew.” 

     Then we came up with this idea that the Johnsons where undercover agents that worked for another Country and did inside jobs. We laughed then fell asleep. 

     “Road trip!” exclaimed Adrian down the hall as he runs down stairs already dressed up and ready to go. Mom was excited too she seemed normal and herself again. Jess and I quickly got dressed and raced to the car and loaded and took off. 

     While on the road we played a game of A-Z, where you find a word starting from the letter A and keep going from each person to Z. This was a lot of fun when dad would join because he always find some crazy word on each sign. We were having so much fun that we spent two hours already in the car and we got to a stop where there was a huge line of cars and a cop at the end he seemed to be checking each vehicle. Suddenly, mom looked panicked before I could ask her what was wrong she turned to me and told me to put Adrian in the trunk. I looked at her and before the words could come out of my mouth she grabbed my shoulder and told me again. I rushed out of the car quietly and told my little brother we are playing hide and seek but to be very quiet and Jess knew what mom told me and thought she was crazy too. After we closed the trunk I popped the middle back seat open so air could get to him. Mom turned to me and told me when the officer comes by to say that I’m eighteen. The officer was tall and had a very stern voice tone, I was sweating like never before. I stuttered when he asked me my name and my age. Then he asked if I had any siblings I replied “yes only one that’s Jess”, I pointed on the back seat, with no hesitation after that I felt my mom at ease. He asked Jess for her full name and age then let us through. I asked her as we drove a good five minutes away “ What in the HECK was that!” 

     Mom sighed and said that “we had a new rule in our state that you can not have anymore than one child, but since I told you to tell him you’re eighteen. Then you are technically an adult, so we could have Jess as the child. Where we are going we won’t have to worry about that but, It’s going to be awhile before we get there.” 

     I sat back and didn’t say a word for a bit I thought about how Adrian, the loudest seven year old anyone would ever meet, would stay quiet. In the shadows till we can expose him. This was life now. No dad, a worried mom, Jess, a quiet Adrian, and a fake eighteen year old on a road trip to another place where we can live life. For now we are a family of three on the road.  

A     s time passed by, Adrian was calling for mom. When she finally gave him attention he asked to come out of hiding and mom had to tell him the truth of why I put him in the trunk. Adrian really didn’t understand the concept of why the Government would only let every house to have one child. He asked why dad didn’t help. 

     Mom replied with, “dad is trying to fix things so we don’t get caught.”

     Adrian seems to not care as much because after mom told him all this, he asked for his stuffed animals and a snack. Jess gave it to him, a little after that she started to cry. I turned to mom and asked if she can pull over, She said no and told me to climb in the back and handle it. I asked Jess what was wrong and all she wanted was dad. She’s a really big daddy’s girl and always did stuff with him, literally anything and everything. Or example, instead of helping in the kitchen on Thanksgiving she sits with him and watches football or atleast try to. I told her everything was going to be okay and dad would be here soon but that wasn’t enough to stop her from crying. Jess turns and yells at mom “what if we get caught? What if they find Adrian? What are you going to do keep driving?” 

     Mom strikes back with “ its hard enough without your father here with me, and I need you girls to step up and be stable for Adrian. You’re lucky he’s sleeping. He can’t see you cry he already doesn’t understand and if he sees you freak out he will too. I’m sorry Jess I can’t cry. Not now. Not till I know we’re safe.”

     Jess wipes away her tears and nods at mom and lays down on my lap. I told her to take a nap and relax. I decided to stay with her and Adrian. When Jess was finally alseep I asked mom, “what would happen if we get caught”. 

     Mom replied with, “don’t repeat this to Adrian or Jess but, I have daddy’s folder and it has your guys birth certificates in it. That’s why he told no one to touch it. He knew this was going to happen and that’s why he went to the office two days earlier so he could change your birth date and erase Adrians. When you told the cop your name and age he put it into the system along with your sisters. If we get caught with Adrian they take me away and put Adrian in some kind of adoption place and you get to take your sister cause they think your eighteen.” 

I was frozen in silence taking it all in. For the first time in my life I was thinking about how life would be without my parents just a fourteen year old and taking care of her ten year old sister. As the thoughts of where would I live and have her go to school. What job would I have and how to calculate money for my taxes and paying for food, insurance, rent, and clothes. I fell asleep.

     When I woke up it was pitch black outside no street lights and no road signs. I asked my mom where we were she said somewhere safe, I thought yeah for now. We approached this abandon old house, and I knew we were going to sleep here. I was not having it . Mom told me to wake up Jess and Adrian and to have them get a blanket and pillow. Jess had a whole attitude and didn’t want to go into the house mom said it was the only time she could sleep till dawn. We all walked into the house. It smelled like rotting meat, Jess started to gag. Mom said it was only one night and Adrian didn’t seem to mind the smell he started running around the house like it was ours. Mom went into the kitchen and found candles and a lighter in the cupboard. Then she started to place them in a couple of rooms. There was one in the living room, one in the kitchen, and one in the bathroom. Mom wanted adrian to stay with us but we lost sight of him till Jess said she heard him talking to himself upstairs. So, mom goes up to get him. She screams. Jess and I rush up the stairs to find a family of six. Terrified all of them are clinging onto each other. My mom didn’t say a word she just grabbed Adrian and went to walk back down stairs but the Lady that had a Flower dress on stood up and said, “please don’t tell.”

     My mom casually turned around and nodded. The lady said her name was Irene. She said, “you look exhausted, would u like something to eat ?”

     Mom agreed and thanked her. They both went down stairs and Adrian wiggled away to stay with Jess and I. We turned to the children and Adrian asked for their names and ages. I quickly apologized and said he doesn’t really understand what’s going on. They laughed. They all looked at each other and the oldest spoke first. His name is Alex and he is fifteen and he was super cute and had the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen. After he introduced himself I introduced Jess, Adrian, and I with our real ages. Alex introduced his siblings, there was Taylor who was eleven, Lexi and Colby who were twins and eight years old, then there was Rylee who had these bright blue eyes and was the sweetest seven year old I ever meet. I wish Adrian was like her maybe she’ll rub off on him after tonight. Jess played with Colby and Lexi and Adrian and Rylee clicked. I was with Alex and he decided to pull out a deck of cards and called everyone together, well just the kids. We played a intense game with laughter and smiles being shared all around. For the first time on this road trip I didn’t worry about the future, I could live in the moment of being fourteen with my siblings and new friends. After the game my mom and Irene came back up stairs. As we said goodnight Alex smiled at me. We walked down stairs and Jess was teasing me all the way down. Mom told us to stop and get some rest for tomorrow. Jess and I shared a sleeping bag and fell asleep. 

     Morning came I heard mom with Irene in the kitchen talking as the smell of coffee fills the air. As my eyes started to open, I saw that the sun wasn’t really up yet but, I knew it was time to go. Then suddenly, there was a knock at the door and I froze reaching for Jess. Mom rushed in to the living room and quickly gave Irene Adrian and told her to take him upstairs. Then, mom took a deep breath turned to me then opened the door. It was dad. 

 
 

The Daffodil Crown - Part One

By Sophia R.

     It was harder than I thought to walk on dry land after weeks of being onboard a ship, and harder still to do it without looking like a drunkard. Despite Selby’s attempts to shake me off, I firmly held onto his arm as we walked. Or, stumbled in my case. Even though we were already off The Victoria, I could still feel the ground swaying from under my feet,. 

     “May as well just leave ye on the ship, if yer goin’ ter be needin’ a companion wherever ye walk.” Selby grumbled. 

     “It’s called sea legs,” I said, “I thought you out of all people would’ve known that, seeing as how you’ve spent more time on a ship than on land.”

     “Yet I’m standin’ up straight a fiddle, aren’t I?” Selby said, and sighed. “I still can’t believe that happened.”

     I swore I could still hear their faint lullabies, even though we were no longer stranded in the narrow passage that was supposed to have been a shortcut to Ollestria. The strait had been rumored to be home to sirens that lured ships to their death with their beautiful voices, but almost everyone on the crew had called blasphemy. Almosteveryone. I’d been the one trying to warn them to go the long way, even if it meant our cargo shipment would be late, but as I quickly learned with being the newbie on a ship— no one listened. Even the Captain— my father, had refused to.

     “You were right, Archer,” Selby said, and shook his head, as if he couldn’t believe he was admitting it. It was he who’d doubted me from the beginning of our trip. “Your father and I should’ve listened. You’ll make a fine captain one day.”

     “At least we’re all safe,” I said, and shrugged. If the first mate saw the smile I tried to hide, he didn’t say anything. “Anyways, it’s not like we’re stranded in a small fishing town, right? ”

     Ollestria was a huge nation, a giant piece of land that stretched from the icy Reverian waters to the scalding coast of the Koshe Gulf. This being my first time here, all I knew about it was that it was responsible for a third of the world’s produce, and that thousands of years ago a meteor had struck the middle of the country, leaving a deep crater rumored to bring good fortune to the land. Whether that was true or not, I couldn’t say, but I’d always been a stickler for myths. 

     As if the Siren’s Pass hadn't proved that already.

     Either way, this place had more than enough resources to get our ship up and sailing again. But how long would it be until then? I glanced at the rest of The Victoria’screw, busy unloading crates of cargo and what was left of the fine china that was supposed to have gone up to the Ollestrian royal palace. On other end of the dock Captain Declan was discussing something with an Ollestrian sailor, who kept shaking his head every few minutes. Even if his expression seemed calm enough, I knew my father well enough figure out he was worried that our mishap with the sirens meant the rest of our deliveries were going to be late. 

     I frowned and looked at the other ships surrounding us. Why couldn’t we just borrow one of the Ollestrian ships to make the rest of the trip? We had enough crew members to do the job while the Captain stayed back. We were a large crew, after all.

     “Oi, Selby, come an’ give us a hand, won’t ye?” Selby and I turned back to The Victoriato see who had called. Olsen, the crew’s cook, was waving at us with one hand, dragging a trunk down the ramp. Behind him, other crew members were taking most of our personal possessions off the ship.

     “Where are we going to leave our things while we’re here?” I asked. 

     “An inn most likely, that must be what yer father’s askin’ that sailor over there.” Selby said, nodding his head in the Captain’s direction.     Olsen called again. “Go and see for yerself if there’s anywhere nearby where we can lodge. We may have ter split the crew up, since there’s so many of us, but I’m sure a town as big as this should have at least one inn.”

     “Are you sure you don’t want me to help carry anything offboard?”

     “Ye’ll be more useful lookin’ for lodgings— plus, yer sea legs will only get worse if ye go back on the ship.” Selby smirked and clapped me on the back as he started heading back to The Victoria, but turned over his shoulder a second later, “Don’t wander too far, and meet back here if you find anythin’!”

Life of Lies

By Ujwal S.

     Ten years ago, Ben’s parents died in a car crash when he was eight – or so he was told. This was the first of many lies he was about to uncover.

 

***

 

     It was a typical Friday night. Ben’s grandmother was at the senior center so he had the house to myself. He had just finished dinner and was settling down to watch a James Bond thriller, when a sealed envelope on the kitchen countertop caught his eye. In bold red letters, it read, “For Ben.” As he opened it, a neatly folded word puzzle fell out.

     Clutching the piece of paper tightly in his hand, Ben raced up the stairs and into his room, excited at the prospect of a new challenge. Growing up, his mom would come up with secret codes for Ben to decipher – a game they enjoyed playing often. It would barely take him five minutes to decode those ones, but today’s two-line code was a tough one to crack. Ben sat at his desk frustrated, trying to make sense of the message. Suddenly, the first line clicked.

 

     We are spies. Captured.

     Who could it be and what are they trying to tell me? Ben thought to himself. His head in a daze, he pushed on to solve the second line, which turned out to be even more shocking.

 

     Talk to Uncle Jeff. From Mom and Dad.

 

     Ben’s eyes darted over the message a hundred times to make sure he had not made a mistake. As he tried to fathom this cryptic news, a flood of emotions hit him: hope that his parents were still alive, betrayal because he had been lied to, but most of all, fear that the fate of his parents rested on his shoulders. 

     Yet, Ben wasn’t surprised by the note. As he reflected on the few lingering memories of his parents, things started to add up. When Ben was four, he joined his first karate class. By the time he was ten, he was a black belt in karate, a master of jujitsu and trained in taekwondo. Ben spoke five languages fluently and could hack a computer in less than a minute. Ben thought back to all the “business trips” his dad would make and the complicated security system to his mom’s office. As Ben connected the dots, it became apparent that not only were his parents spies, they had been training him to become one too.

     Ben’s thoughts were startled by a loud crash downstairs. It was too early for his grandmother to be home. Who could it be?Ben didn’t wait to find out as gunfire erupted. He scribbled a coded note to his grandmother, and dashed out the backdoor. He took one last glance at the place he called home – it would be months before he returned – and set off on a brisk jog to Uncle Jeff’s place. Ben was about to start his life as a spy.

     Ben wanted to know the truth. The cryptic note had shattered everything he believed to be true. His head hurt fromthe storm of thoughts banging against one another. The cold, biting air and the light London drizzle stung his face, but it was a mere distraction from his rushing thoughts. Right now, Ben needed to get to safety, and he needed answers. 

     Ben finally reached Uncle Jeff’s house. The front gate lay open, the porch light already on. Ben knocked, then tried the door and walked in, not giving a second thought as to why the door was already unlocked. 

     Inside, Ben stared open-mouthed when he saw sitting next to Uncle Jeff at the dining table, none other than his grandmother! They sat hunched over a large map, frantically scribbling out codes and symbols, a bowl of once-steaming soup sitting untouched between them. 

     Ben broke the silence with a flabbergasted, “What are you doing?” They stopped their work and tried to explain, but for every answer sprung five new questions. Finally, Ben had to get to the point that was nagging him the most: his parents. As Ben heard more of the story, his hope grew - his parents could be alive. But there were just too many gaps in the timeline of his life, and nothing the two of them said could fill all of them right now. 

  As the conversation dragged on, Ben finally ran out of questions, but felt more lost than he had before. It dawned on him that the only way to discover the truth would be to fulfill his family legacy and embark on the mission.

     Ben shrunk in his seat at the sheer prospect of what lay ahead of him. Confused and scared, he tried his best to put up a brave front, but everyone in the room could see that. Ben reached to thumb the red beads of his bracelet but felt an emptiness on his wrist. A shiver gripped his toes and snaked up his spine. He didn’t go anywhere without the bracelet. His mom had given him the bracelet for his fifth birthday. He had worn it on his first day of kindergarten, but not the second, because everyone had made fun of him for wearing it. But he wore it again on the third day, and everydayafter that. He had worn the bracelet on hisfirst trip to Disneyland. He had worn it to his first swim lesson, learning how to dive the hard way, when it slipped and fell to the very bottom of the pool, forcing him to fish it out. The bracelet was there during the best of times, and the worst of times. But now it was gone. 

 

     Across the table, Ben’s grandmother’s heart ached over the decision she had made earlier that day. On her way out that evening, she had grabbed Ben’s beloved bracelet and brought it to Uncle Jeff’s house. Together they destroyed the bracelet because, unknown to Ben, it was actually a tracking device. The bracelet had been given to Ben for his safety and monitored his location at all times. The bracelet also had a recording device which could be controlled remotely. If Ben was going undercover, he had to be untraceable. The bracelet, as valuable as it was to Ben, was a safety hazard. 

 

     Ben gathered himself and looked up and saw his uncle and grandmother peering back at him with worried expressions. Looking beyond them, he saw his parents anxiously waiting for him, and once again Ben felt ashamed for thinking about himself. 

     He nodded to his uncle and grandmother before getting up to go to his room. Uncle Jeff replied with a proud smile, but the worried expression on his grandmother’s face lingered. Ben made his way to the guest room. 

     Ben lay in bed and thought long and hard. He tossed and turned, shifted his pillows, but nothing brought sleep. The same negative thoughts kept swirling around in his head. 

     He didn’t know what to do, and more than that, he hated the feeling of being lost. Today’s news had shook his world and left him reeling once again. His parents would have known what to do. They were real spies. And now, Ben wished he had learned more from them. 

     Ben’s parents had obviously done their best to prepare him for this day, but it was Ben who hadn’t paid attention. If he had done things correctly, he would be saving his parents right now. Instead, he was helpless and confused. Ben had the skills to succeed, but he regretted not spending enough time with his parents to learn how to apply them. 

     That night Ben met his father in a dream. He explained how proud he was of Ben. His father helped him break down the problem, his demeanor calm and confident, just like Ben remembered. Ben suddenly saw the way to rescuing his parents and vowed to do his best. When he got up the next morning, he was energized and fueled from his dream last night. Fear turned into excitement and worry turned into eager anticipation. 

     The next morning was overcast, but an orange ray of sunshine broke through the clouds and struck Ben’s bed. Ben awoke with groggy eyes and a carefree feeling, before last night’s adventures came back to him. He strolled out to the kitchen where his grandmother approached him and asked him to put his hand out. She dropped a brand-new green bracelet in his hand. 

Ben’s mouth froze. For the hundredth time in the past two days, he couldn’t produce words. But this time, he was tongue-tied for a good reason. 

     Ben immediately put the new bracelet on. While the weight and texture were slightly different, and of course red was a better color, he thought he could maybe get used to it. 

     What his grandmother failed to tell him at the time was that the green bracelet was actually another tracking device in disguise, one that would allow her and Uncle Jeff to follow Ben. However, they did tell him that it allowed for two-way communication. With a press of a hidden button, Ben would be able to record, send and receive voice messages from his command center, Grandma and Uncle Jeff. It ached his grandmother to hide the whole story once again, but it was for Ben’s own benefit. 

     As Ben ran towards the subway station, the beads reflected the bright sun that had now broken free from the clouds, illuminating the path ahead of him. For once, everything seemed right again, Ben thought. 

     Ben made his way through the crowded train car and found an empty seat. A few moments later, an unassuming man took the seat diagonally across from him. Ben didn’t bother taking a second look, but soon he wished he had. Two stops later, the man pulled out a gun from under his jacket and grabbed Ben into a tight brace. 

     With a roundhouse kick that produced a sickening crunch in the man’s knee, Ben bought enough time to dash out the door. He didn’t bother looking back, he just ran. Ben heard his name called in the distance and foolishly ran towards the source. Two men built like tree trunks grabbed him by his arms, wrapped a thick black cloth around his eyes and threw him into the back of a black car. 

     Ben couldn’t tell where they were going, but he guessed they drove for about 15 minutes when the car stopped and the menpulled him out. They removed the blindfold and pointed forward. With no other choice, he marched towards an ominous building. 

     As soon as the main lobby came into view, Ben stopped. He stopped so suddenly that he tripped over his own feet. Standing in rows were 50 boys around his age. On a podium at the front was an impressive man in a light gray, custom three-piece suit. 

     As Ben heard more of the speech, his mind began to tune out again from the shock of the news. It had been a setup. This whole thing had been a test to see who would make the best spy. The note, the mission, his parents, everything. His parents weren’t alive, it was just a ploy to spurn him into action. 

     A mix or rage and sadness grew inside him. The green bracelet now burned on his wrist. Had Uncle Jeff and his grandmother been a part of this? 

     Ben’s thoughts were interrupted by applause from the other boys. Ben had won. He had demonstrated the best abilities on his fake mission and was going to receive further training. In that moment, Ben made a decision. He took off his bracelet, crushed it under his foot and strode up to the front with what he hoped looked like confidence. For the second time in two days, Ben was about to start his life as a spy. 

 

Lucid

By Angelica L.

     It's ten after three, and I'm taken by sleep. 

     I look up at the sky, it's painted. Beautifully painted. So detailed, that not even the most legendary artists could paint as well. The brush strokes, the way the stars seemed to twinkle, and the moon, it shone so bright that it had to have been shining for someone. Perhaps that someone was the sun. I was so mesmerized by it that not once did I stop to think, to ask myself why the sky was painted in the first place. Whilst looking upon the skies scenery the park bench I sat on and the trees around me seemed to melt away. This left me sitting on a hill full of green grass. Though the whole time the sky remained painted. The stars still in place and the moon intact. Although now there were planets. I could see each planets moons, Saturn's rings, and jupiters big red spot. I could see every planet in line rotating around the earth, as if an Astroid of some force knocked them closer to our world. Every planet had some little detail about it. Something that made it unique. I stared at each with their different specks and sand dunes, holes and craters. Though I was very confused and even though my life seemed to be losing control the world kept spinning the stars kept twinkling and the moon kept shining. 

     I stand up from my spot on the ground and single oak tree overhead. From the distance a ukulele starts to play. I follow the sound of the music which leads me to a man on a stool. The playing was so soft it almost put me to sleep. I ask him who he is though he just gives a nod and fades away. In his place a little girl remains.  

     "What's your name?," I ask. 
     "Lucy," she replies before disappearing into thin air. 

     Before I had any time to think the whole scene started to fade away and was being replaced by light. 

     I was now laying awake in my grey gloomy room.

 

The Boy and the King

By Vanessa L.

     On the wooden floorboards was a lance, with dried mud and dirt still crumbling off of the silver tip; it was basking in the moonlight and reflected it onto the plain ceiling of the room. A single candle lit the room, providing the inhabitant with a sense of security and warmth and the room with heat and a calming light. The quiet night was only disrupted by the sound of quiet crickets and shallow breathing, but also by the sound of crumpling pages.

     The brown-haired boy, Jurian, had a book in his hands.

     The book was old; the pages were yellowing and the leather cover that smelled so wonderful was worn out. Fading ink prepared to take away the enticing story that pulled so many readers in, but his hands were still firmly gripping the book - he refused to let his attention off of the pages.

    His green eyes were calm, yet strangely urgent, as they absorbed the words and the narrative. Whispers began to join the chorus of nighttime sounds as his mind created image after image, each one based off of the story.

     Jurian smiled simply thinking of the character - an ordinary boy, fighting to save his village from being taken over by an evil kingdom. The boy was described as brave, valiant, and strong, but also a clever villager determined to do anything to save his friends and family; it was everything that a boy wished to be, it seemed

     He closed his eyes after reaching the end of the chapter, imagining the boy, with a sword in his hand, preparing to fight against the king, even if it seemed futile. There he was, in front of the towering stone castle; it would be their final obstacle before they won. He would have to crane his neck to see the very tops of the castle, where archers were already positioned, their shining silver weapons ready to attack. Blue eyes scanned his surroundings. There were horses and guards that most certainly outnumbered their weak infantry.

     But he had hope, and he thought that was enough. He turned around to face his army, who were all exhausted after a day of trekking through mountains and rivers. There was something in his eyes, however, that forced his soldiers to stand up straight, eyes widened, the grip on their weapons tightened.

     "Now!"he would scream, as the soldiers charged, bronze and wooden weapons in their hands. Pages turned faster and faster as soldiers continued to fight. The scent of blood hung in the air, mixing with the cries of soldiers that had lost their close friends to the enemies. In the midst of this chaos, there was a single boy running, his feet hopping over warm corpses and red soldiers that blocked his entrance to the castle.

     Until he saw him: the king.

     The king was sitting on his throne, already in full battle armor as if he had expected the boy. He would stand up, unsheathing his sword; the sound of metal sliding against metal would ring in the grand hall, and the boy would prepare for an attack, moving into a defensive stance. There was silence as the two stared at each other, as Jurian and the boy had adrenaline pumping through their veins, as all three of their hearts pounded loudly, until the mere sound overtook all of their senses.

     The boy moved first, charging right at the king. Uncontrollable tears were pouring down his cheeks as he screamed insults and curses at the unbudging king. He raised his sword, ready to lower it on the king's iron helmet, only to have a silver shield block it.

     More and more slashes were thrown at the king, but all of them were intercepted by the same silver that the boy was beginning to hate. His throat was starting to hurt, his voice was starting to become raw, and his tears were starting to cloud his vision, to the point where he couldn't see the silver details on the king's armor. His legs eventually faltered beneath him, forcing him to kneel as he tried to catch his breath and regain his strength.

     He kneeled, his chest rising and lowering quickly; his eyes were glaring right at the king, who set down his shield and waited.

     Jurian took a deep breath, the king's deep voice rumbling in his head. "If you wish to defeat me, you may also wish to regain your strength before trying again."

     "Why don't you just kill me now? You have the power to do so anyways."The boy's blue eyes were filled with tears of anger, and each tear that rolled down his cheek reflected the patterned ceiling of the hall.

     The king only chuckled, removing his helmet. Two blue eyes, cold and sharp as ice, were revealed. A gasp escaped the boy's lips - they were identical to his. "You are brave for saying that, my-"

     Creak. Jurian looked up, his eyes widened in alarm.

     Someone was opening the door.

     His hands moved to slam the book closed, sending dust everywhere on his bed. It stained the white cloth that was underneath, leaving a gray smudge on it that Jurian ignored. He leaned over to put out the candlelight with his fingers, which were still raw from doing the same thing, just a week ago. However, as soon as he could feel the warmth of the candlelight, the door fully opened, revealing a figure. His black eyes were glaring right at Jurian, who had never felt smaller in his life.

     He was caught. Again.

     "Son."

     Jurian's hand reached for his book, fingers wrapping around the familiar leather bind. He felt his heart catch in his throat, pounding louder and louder until he was certain that his father could hear it too. "Father."

     His father’s eyes darted toward the book, which was sliding towards Jurian, inch by inch. He felt his hands grasp the book tighter in hopes of hiding his trembling.

     His father walked over, his heavy footsteps shaking the house. They were too similar to thunder - loud and threatening. Jurian took a breath, swallowing the bile that was crawling up his throat.

     "You've been reading again." The tranquility made it infinitely worse. Jurian backed up, trying to mask his fear

     "I- Father... I was just-"

     "No excuses. This is your fifth time doing this." He sighed, picking up the lance that Jurian had thrown on the ground. "Reading during midnight... Imagine how excellent of a soldier you could have been if you stopped caring about worthless paper and ink."

     Jurian took a breath, eyeing the lance. He suppressed his shivering, refusing to make eye contact with his father.

     "What kind of Acker are you?" His father's voice trembled. "We Ackers have been known for fighting, not reading."

     "Y-yes, Father."

     There was a silence, but Jurian could hear his father's temper rising as each second passed. The black-haired man eyed the boy with a type of disgust in his eyes, with a fire that burned behind it every time he looked at Jurian. "If I'm right, then give me the book."

     Jurian shook his head. "N-no, father."

     His father raised an eyebrow, towering over the boy. Jurian felt his breaths grow quicker as his father moved closer to him, his shadow blocking out the candlelight from the hall.

     "Say that again."

     Jurian hesitated, looking down at the book that he was now hugging so tightly. "Y-you don't understand, father; this book has been around for hundreds of years. It's-"

     A quiet gasp escaped his lips as his father's hand slapped his face.

     He sneered, looking down right at Jurian. "You're nothing like your brother. At least he listens and obeys me... at least he lives the proper life of a Acker, as a soldier!" His voice continued to raise as he spoke. "You're a useless son! You've done nothing for this family, nothing for anyone!"

     Jurian shook his head, using a hand to wipe his tears away. Perhaps it was his racing mind, but the room around him was spinning. His face flushed at the mere thought of his father complaining about how he did nothing, nothing at all, and he found himself narrowing his eyes. He looked up at his father, a glint in his eyes.

     Protect the book.

     "Useless? Nothing? Is it wrong for me to enjoy doing something other than fighting?" Jurian cried. "I'm not like you and Tielo, father; I actually have a pastime unlike you two!"

     He was panting by the end of his statements. This - his reaction - was new. He wished to say more and to get everything off of his chest, but it was his father's look that stopped him: it was a look of pure anger, that Jurian had only read about, but never experienced.

     His panting changed back into shivers and trembles. His stomach felt like it was stuck in a never-ending drop. He moved back a little, his hands gripping the book that he refused to let go of. His father's eyes widened with madness. "You insulted your own father. For Nire's sake, how did I end up with a bastard like you?"

     Jurian curled up into a ball as soon as he saw his father's hand raise. He braced himself for the impact, whimpering quietly, and felt it milliseconds later, right on the back of his head.

     The pain was the exact same as the one he felt when putting out the flame with his fingers - it burned. However, his was different. It was as if fire was in his veins, his heart pumping flames from the top of his head to the rest of his sore body

     Jurian raised his head slightly, expecting this to be the end, but he felt another wave of pain, coming from the back of his head once again. It burned, more than the first time, causing tears to come out and drip all over the book. The smell of mildew and yellowed pages comforted him, barely steadying his heartbeat.

     Twice quickly became thrice as his father hit him once more. This time, he let out a small cry, only to stifle it himself by biting his hand. He continued to sit there, shaking, not trying to put on a front anymore; the cold tears were landing on his cotton pants. His face was hot. From what, he didn't know.

     His father bent down, lifting Jurian's face with a single finger. Ignoring his son's tears, he pushed Jurian's arms away from the book, and the boy didn't bother to resist.

     "Moldy pages. Leather cover, tattered and almost destroyed," he said, his voice steady. "The Boy and the King. Very well. I expect to see this book on the table tomorrow. If I don't-"

     "You'll destroy my entire room to look for the book," Jurian finished, his voice meek.

     His father nodded, standing back up. "Yes. For this outburst, I will add three extra hours to your training, overlooked by Tielo. Do not talk back to me again. Do you understand?"

     Jurian looked up, widening his eyes. "But-"

     "Do you understand?" His father said these words slower than before.

     "I..." Jurian hesitated. "I do."

     "Very well. Rest soon, Jurian." His father leaned over, blowing out the candle. A scent of smoke and old books, a smell that Jurian hated, filled the air. He felt as if the warm embrace of the night and shadows was disappearing as the scent was getting stronger and stronger by the second.

     Jurian didn't bother to relight the candle, even after the door creaked shut. He sniffled, wiping more tears away, and lay down on the bed. The book was still in his arms, and he closed his eyes to remember the rest of the story.

     The boy was the king's son.

     Instead of fighting, he would drop his sword in shock. The king would then extend his hand, giving the boy an offer: to rule the world. Together.

     The boy would then refuse, picking up his sword once more. He would prepare himself to fight against the king, one last time, to determine the fate of the world: to either be ruled by him or his power-hungry father.

     "Very well,"the king said, a shadow on his face. "You have chosen your own destiny."

     They would clash blades, one last time, father against son. With a final slash, the boy would fall, his body joining the endless corpses outside.

     The world would be the king's after all, just like he planned.

     Jurian pulled the book in, closer to his chest, and fell fast asleep, a leftover tear rolling on the cover.

      The next morning, his father noticed something at the table.

    It was a book, a fairly old one, by the looks of it, with moldy pages and a tattered leather cover. Looking closer, he smiled once he realized what the cover read, in faded golden ink.

     The Boy and the King.

 
 

The Abstracts: Seer - Chapter One, Part Two

By Danielle N.

      I continued the tests throughout the day in each of my classes, but all of them came back negative. I knew this was the most likely scenario, but a small part of me was hoping someone in my class was a Seer. Soon, with low spirits, lunch arrives.

     At lunch, I usually sat with this girl who recently moved here from Ireland. Her name was Bridget. She had long, thick red hair, a round face and nervous, jade green eyes that compliment her hair. She never said a word to anyone when she arrived, and stared at her desk for the entire period. I’m not sure if she’s shy, scared or something else, but she and I both loved to read, so we sat together at lunch. She prefers science fiction to fantasy, though. Any bit of conversation we have, I usually asked yes or no questions,so she didn’t feel pressured to talk. 

      I’d recently finished my book, so I wasn’t reading anything at the moment, so I ate with my right hand and used my left hand to try to fix the tongs. Seemed like the place the metal bent put too much stress on a computer chip. It was easy enough to fix, and they were good as new in a few minutes. 

     I noticed the wind picking up, and shivered against my thin hoodie. I picked up the tongs and tucked them safely into my backpack, so the chilly breeze wouldn’t push them off the bench or anything. Once I finished eating, I entered the warm library and glanced around the shelves, wondering which book would catch my interest. I pick out “The Diabolic,” and only realized it was science fiction once I was running to my next class. 

     Once I got my materials ready for class, I pulled out my prototype notes, planning on building another model of the prototype after school. Closer to the bottom of the page, I glance at a note I’d jotted down in homeroom.

 

Detecting brain waves remotely requires extremely concentrated electricity to detect. No accurate way to measure this, build prototype, test, then add more energy in next model if needed. 

 

      I tore out the section and stuck it in my freshly - checked out book, where I would probably see it again. Maybe there weresome kids in my class that were Seers!

     I didn’t bother scanning anybody else that day for brain waves. If I really did need a more sensitive scanner, it wouldn’t do me any good to continue scanning people anyway. I felt excitement and hope bubbling in me, but it instantly fell away when I remembered what class I had next: PE.

     I’d say in an average American PE class, 10% of the students are superjocks, 40% of students get along fine in PE, and the last 50% is where I am: the awful runner, clumsy throwers, and dreading PE the whole day.

     I shoved my PE shirt over my head, not changing into shorts because it was freezing outside. Almost everybody else was doing the same that day. Since we were in our “Track - and - Field” unit, everybody strolled onto the vast grassy field for our newest torture.

     Our PE teacher, Mrs. Holly, beckoned us onto the track. It wasn’t actually off the grass. The grass was chalked white and drawn into lanes in a big oval. Everybody cameover, leaving me in the back of the crowd. There was a group of kids and a teacher in the background who’d set up some type of experiment where soda bottles got shot into the air. It was the only thing that has entertained me in PE the entire unit. 

     Mrs. Holly, who might have been a prison warden two years ago, told us to get in groups of 2 - 4. Since I have practically no friends, I just join some friendly - looking girls who needed another person in their group. Their names were something like Melanie, Maddisonand Maria. 

Mrs. Holly hollered at us to quiet down, and shouted “You’re all going to race your group once around the track: now, all of you get in a line!”

Now that was unfortunate. The three M’s were all superjock girls inthe track team after school. All of them wanted to go first, and since I was the minority, I didn’t have much say in it. Also, I thought, better to get this over with sooner, right?

     I chose to start in the inner ring, where the path would be shortest. The M’s didn’t mind much, since it was practically a guarantee they would overtake me.

     Mrs. Holly started the stopwatch, and I decided to just jog at first, take it easy. I numbly took notice of the M’s zooming ahead, already forgetting about me. I just jogged along, and felt my lungs burning before I was even halfway finished.

     Then it got worse.

     “Vikki! Hi!” When I felt like I was about to start walking, I heard Lyla, my younger sister, superjock Lyla, yelling at me and waving frantically. Apparently she was in that group launching soda bottles. Lucky me.

     “Oh boy.” I muttered to myself as I tried to ignore her, tried not to care if she saw me losing so pathetically. But I couldn’t ignore her, so I kept running, kept pushing myself forward, until I felt like my legs were going to fall off. I tried distracting myself with my breathing: in through the nose, out through the mouth, in through the nose, out through the mouth…

     I glanced upward, and only just noticed that I was almost right behind Melanie. She was the first one to take off, and the best sprinter of the M’s. But she must have used too much energy in the beginning, and was falling behind, letting Maria take the lead. I glanced at her back, and forced my tired, sore legs to overtake her, to pass her…  

     After what felt like years, I pulled ahead. I suspected that might have been because Melanie took pity on me and let me pass her. But I saw the starting cones, and I finally let myself walk when I came to them, ignoring Mrs. Holly shrieking at me to not slow down at the finish line. But I really didn’t care at that moment, not when I could finally rest. I collapsed onto the grass and tried to catch my breath.

     “Victoria, if you’re in an Olympic event you can’t slow down like that. Fractions of a second count.And get up and off the track - other groups are going.” I could barely fathom getting up again, so I rolled off. I was vaguely aware of some kids giggling at me, but I just laidthere on the grass, too tired to feel self-conscious.

     Once I’d collected myself, I went to get a drink of water, only then noticing the throbbing bruise on my forearm. I must have landed on it to brace myself when I finished the sprint. I was so tired that by the time I’d walked to the gym, got a drink, washed my face and walked back to the field the period was almost over.

     And that period was all that I looked back on when I said that that today was an awful day.

 

      That night, once my mom finally fell asleep, I tiptoed down the stairs as quietly as I could without driving myself insane. My workspace was in the basement, and as long as I didn’t let my arachnophobic or claustrophobic tendencies take over, it was pretty cozy. The only downside was the door. It was really bulky and old, and always creaked so loudly no matter what I tried. So that entrance was out.

     However, no one except me knew there’s another entrance to that room. To fit the stairs down to the basement under the staircase, the staircase wasn’t very steep at all. The stairs stopped after about five steps down, and turned right, continuing down. To the side of the landing, there’s a tiny lock, and when Dad bought this house a few years ago, I was the one who found the key next to the lock. 

     After the second night, I unlocked the trapdoor, and looked inside. I guess I expected to find a treasure chest, or a diary containing the last written words of a murder victim, or SOMETHING that would be of any interest to me. Instead I found a staircase, leading down to the basement, easily accessible from the door behind the stairs. The room was full of cobwebs, and spiders the size of my fist hung sleepily in the corners. I fought back what was either a scream or vomit, locked up the hatch, and dashed up to my room. The next day I found a hand - vacuum and slayed every single hairy, eight-legged beast I could find. Victory was mine! Once the basement was free of the murderous beasts, I transformed the battlefield into my own little hideaway/workshop. I dubbed it the Garage.

     I pulled the key from my pocket and shoved the tiny piece of metal into the lock. The lock turned as easily as if it was just oiled, even though it’s been rusted through for years. The trapdoor silently opened, and I inched down the stairs to the Garage. 

     A plush blue rug covered the entire floor, tickling my toes. A futon was set up in the corner, covered in blankets and finished homework projects I never found a place for. A world map covered one wall, where I marked the state capitols with black sharpie. A bookshelf lines the opposite wall, all of my favorite series filling its shelves, stuff like Harry Potter, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, Red Queen, The Ugliesseries, Divergent trilogy, The Tales of Beedlethe Bard, The GrishaTrilogy, The Secret Series, Keeper of the Lost Cities, Percy Jackson and a few of my lesser favorites but still worthy a read: City of Ember, The Barcode Tattoo, Scythe, A Tale Of Two Cities, and so on. My desk’s in the center of the rug, a waste bin on one side and atop the desk my laptop, binder, homework, pencils, pens, and so forth. Plastic bins are layers on the back wall, holding flat pieces of metal, nuts, bolts, tools, copper wire, electrical wire, batteries, eye bolts, threaded rods, washers, skims, U-bolts, spacers, pins, anchors, motherboards, paint, oil, rubbing alcohol, and anything else I might need. The bins were layered on top of each other, and just grazed the ceiling.

     As seen above, it was a big pain in the ass to get anything I needed. Once I took down the top bins to get to the materials I needed, it was almost 10:00. I worked until almost 1:45. I would have continued longer, but I was already nodding off and the last time I had checked the prototype, it was covered in drool.

     I took that as a reminder that teenagers rely on 9 to 11 hours of sleep each night, and I wasn’t going to get half of that tonight. I decided to do myself a solid and take a break from the project, call it sick tomorrow, and continue working on it. My brain was swimming in circles as I sat up, and started a sprint as I dragged my sleepy corpse up the stairs. I collapse into bed,not bothering to wash away the oil stains on my hands.

 

Panic Pancakes - Part Three

By Rachel F.

     When I’ve cried for a good 10 minutes and I have nothing left to cry out.  I roll onto the floor and just sit there. The day goes by, I eat lunch and then dinner without feeling anything and without saying anything.  

     At night, I can’t sleep, I keep tossing and turning until I finally just get up and walk down the hall.  I go into the kitchen and get a glass of water. Then I get some chips and I’m about to walk back to my room when I hear a noise.  I hear a little boom, tap, tap, tap on a window and freeze in place. I walk over to the window that I think it’s coming from, lift up the shade, and pull open the window.  I get a huge blast of cold air and I don’t see anything. All I see is the moon and stars, glistening above. I’m about to close the window, thinking that it was just an animal when I see a note and a box.  I chill goes down my spine, partly from the cold and partly from the feeling that someone’s watching me. I shake the feeling away and reach down to grab the box and note. I start with the note, it says:

     Dear Pancake,

I would like to inform you that the apology that I made was fake.  Also, my mom didn’t really make me apologize, the school did and if I didn’t they would fire my mom from the administration.  And, I’m not really suspended. You probably already knew this but I just wanted to tell you to make sure. Oh, and watch your back cause it’s about to get a whole lot worse.  Hahahaha.

From,

     Henry

     I start to panic that whatever I’ve faced from Henry before is going to get a whole lot worse.  I wonder what on earth could be worse than what he’s already done but then I remember that he’s the one and only, Henry Davidson.  I get another chill up my spine, as I realize that there is another page. I turn the page and see a note from a friend that I haven’t talked to in forever.  Her name is Jamie and she was my best friend all the way through 3rd grade. She would stand up for me against bullies and she was always my shoulder to cry on.  But then in 4th grade, we had different teachers and Henry was in her class. All of a sudden she was hanging out with him a ton like she had a crush on him. That’s when the bullying from him started and since then she’s been his little sidekick.  But Jamie wrote me a letter which gets my hopes up a little so I read her letter. It says:

 

     Hi  Audrey,

I know we haven’t been the best of friends recently and that you probably have a grudge on me, and I’m sorry about all of that.  In 4th grade, I started hanging out with Henry because I thought he needed a friend, but I never meant to mess with our friendship.  He really isn’t too bad of a person once you get to know him but what he did today with the syrup was not right. If it’s all-right with you, I would like to make it up to you and still be friends.  Can you meet me tomorrow after school by the fire hydrant at 4 o’clock? If you can, just come. If you can’t, slip a note behind the bark in the tree that we used to climb. And if you still have a grudge on me and still hate me, I understand so just crumple up this piece of paper and throw it in the trash, whatever you do don’t tell Henry I wrote you this letter.  I had to sneakily staple it onto the other note that he left you. Oh and I’m also breaking off my friendship with Henry so that we can hopefully be the best of friends. Tomorrow, I’ll be Henry free and ready for my Audrey.

From,

     Jamie

     I looked at the letter again and I can’t believe that it’s actually Jamie.  It’s probably not even Jamie. It’s probably just Henry pretending to be Jamie and when I come tomorrow he’s gonna pour more syrup on me and bully me even more.  But I’m going to to the fire hydrant tomorrow anyway because it’s not like I have anything to lose. If it is Henry he’ll just call me a pancake and tease me which I’ve seen before.  But, if it’s actually Jaime, I wonder what she’ll say and I wonder if it’s at all possible for us to be friends again.

     After I read through Jamie’s letter again, I reach down and grab the small box.  The box is small and flat with a white ribbon inside. At least I think it’s a white ribbon until I realize that it’s the ribbon for lung cancer and attached to the white ribbon is a pin.  The pin is a little money sign and immediately I start thinking about what it could be for. I know it’s the ribbon for the lung cancer that my dad had and I wore a pin like that for a year after he passed.  And now, looking down at the white ribbon, I know that this pin is the exact one I wore. The one I wore was my dad’s and had a little red dot of spaghetti sauce on it just like the ribbon that is currently in my hands.  But one day, I lost that ribbon and I was so devastated. It was the only piece that I had left of him that really showed who he was. He was a white ribbon. Clean and pristine but with a little spaghetti sauce which represented his sense of humor.  After I lost the ribbon, I cried for hours. My mom and I tried to buy another one but it wasn’t the same. The new one didn’t smell like summer breeze deodorant or minty fresh gum, and it certainly didn’t have a spaghetti stain. It was also too shiny and not dirty enough like my dad’s.

     I look back at the pin that was in the box.  I have no idea what the money sign means or how someone found this, but I see a note.  The note says:

     Ring any bells?  Come on, I know you know pancake.

     I just stare at the note. I have no idea what it means, but obviously whoever wrote it which was probably Henry thinks I do.  Another gust of cold air comes in through the window and I have to steady myself against the ledge. I take the box with the pin and the letters, closing the window tight.  After that, I grab the bag of chips that I left on the couch and head back to my room. I tiptoe up the wooden stairs and around the corner that leads to my room. I place the letters and the box under my bed for safe keeping and climb into bed.  Next thing I know, I’m fast asleep and dreaming about tomorrow.