The Alleyway Portal - Chapters Three and Four

By Jason W.

         “Hey guys, I’m really tired and hungry. Do you think we could stop for some food before going on?” asked Jeridiah.

         “Sure. We’re almost at the next house, we can check that place. If there’s nobody there, we can eat there and rest. Otherwise, we can talk to them about what Friedrich told us.” said William. The boys had been walking for hours and gone to 4 of the houses. The houses were far apart, but they did not want to take the main streets since they would be easily recognized as American. So they stuck the side streets and made their way over to the houses. Every house they went into was terrifying. It was always quiet, and when they turned the lights on, they would see bodies lying around with blood spattered all over the walls and floor.

         “Is it this one? It looks like the picture on the paper. What’s the house number?” said Alistair, after walking for a while longer.

         “Yeah, it is,” confirmed William, who was holding the papers. They slowly ventured in, and thankfully did not see any dead bodies in the entrance. They walked farther in and did not see any sign of people living in the house. They looked around the house and found it to be a very nice house. It had two stories with big windows all around the house. The further they explored, the more they discovered. It had a massive living room with plush couches with fluffy pillows and a glass coffee table in the middle. They kept exploring and found the dining room and kitchen. The kitchen had a great many cupboards and stoves and even had a refrigerator.

         When they went into the dining room, they got a huge shock. In the middle of the room was a huge dining table, except that it had been broken along the middle. On the ground in a corner of the room sat two boys. One of the boys, who looked to be around thirteen or fourteen, immediately jumped up and pulled a pistol out of his trousers and aimed it at William, who was the biggest one. The other boy, who looked much younger, about seven, clutched his teddy bear and glared at the three boys.

         “Wait, wait! We’re friends!” said Jeridiah, holding up his hands in surrender. 

         “You speak English? How can trust you?” asked the older boy, in somewhat broken English.

         “Here! Look at these papers. Hopefully, they will explain the situation to you.” said William, and gave the papers to the boys. The two German boys looked over the papers and had a quick conversation with each other in rapid German.

         “So, Friedrich dead?” asked the older boy.

         “Yeah, we were there when he died. My name is Jeridiah. These are Alistair and William, my two best friends.” replied Jeridiah.

         “Oh. My name Karl, and this my little brother Jens. We also have older sister called Johanna.” said Karl, who was the older brother.

         “Are you guys hungry? You look super thin,” asked Alistair worriedly.

         “Yes. Our sister go get food for us, but gone long time. Do not know what happen.” answered Karl.

         “Well we have some food, but not a lot. We can give you this food, and then go get some for ourselves,” said Alistair, “Also, how come Jens doesn’t talk?”

         “Thank you so much! Also, Jens has not learned English, and I only learned little bit,” exclaimed Karl.

         “Well, we have some bars and stuff, but we’ll go get the food and be right back,” said William.

-------------------------

         They left the house and walked over to the closest market. 

         “Okay guys, I’ll go get the bread, Alistair is in charge of vegetables, and William go get meat. We’ll meet back here in about two hours,” said Jeridiah before running off in the direction of baked goods.

         Jeridiah followed the smell of baked goods until he arrived at a row of stalls selling German pastries and bread. He grabbed a few pastries and a loaf of bread and went over to the baker. The baker looked at the bread and pastries and held out a hand. Jeridiah pretended to look for money in his pocket. Instead, he pulled out a wad of paper, unfolded it, stuffed it into the baker’s hand, and ran off. He ran in circles around the whole market before finding the meeting spot.

         Meanwhile, Alistair ran in the opposite direction looking for any fresh vegetables. As he ran, he scanned the stalls for anything green. Suddenly, he stopped and sprinted over to a stall. This stall was full of fresh lettuce, eggplants, tomatoes, and many more vegetables. Alistair chose two heads of lettuce and made a run for it. As he ran, he heard the stall owner shout and make chase. Alistair sprinted off, and in a desperate attempt to shake the owner off his tail, he ran in between two stalls. As he turned around, he saw the big man walking menacingly towards him, and swallowed audibly. Out of nowhere, a young girl, around seventeen years old, ran in front of the stall owner and spoke to him in German. Slowly, the owner’s face changed from anger to understanding. 

         “Hello, Alistair, my name is Johanna. I am Karl and Jens’ older sister.” said the girl, turning to face Alistair.

         “Uh, hi. How did you know my name is Alistair?” asked Alistair, taken aback.

         “Well, I was supposed to go shopping, but on my way out, I saw that you and your two friends were climbing out of a sewer, and I thought that to be a bit suspicious. So I watched you go to Friedrich’s house, saw the Nazis go in, and heard the gunshot. After that, I waited until you guys walked out of the house to go to the other rebellion members’ houses. When you went into my house, I snuck over and heard you talking to my brothers. I followed you over here, and saw you getting chased, so I came down.” Johanna replied.

         “Oh, thanks. Well, I need to go to the meeting place to meet my two friends. Do you wanna come with us or go to your house first? Because we’re going to your house after we get all the food.” said Alistair.

         “I’ll go with you,” said Johanna.

         “Okay, let’s go then!” exclaimed Alistair. Johanna leads the way back, because she knew the whole market, and had watched them split up.

         William, however, went to get meat. He ran around the market, but couldn’t find any stalls selling meat. After running around for ten minutes, he finally found a stall in the corner of the market that sold bacon. He snuck up to the stall and took a bag. Using the bag, he took twenty slices of bacon and took off. As he was running, he thought he heard the slapping of feet on concrete, and panting chasing after him. William ran and ran, his heart almost bursting out of his heart, and he was panting like a dog. As he ran, he was conscious of everybody else in the market watching him as he ran past, but he kept running until he reached the meeting point.

         “Oh, there you are William. Are you okay?” asked Jeridiah.

         “Yeah, I’m fine,” panted William.

         “Hey guys, I found Johanna!” shouted Alistair as he ran over.

         “Hi! Should we go back?” waved Johanna.

         “Sure! Let’s go!” replied William.

 

We're Looking for the Sky - Chapter Two, Part Two

By Alyssa G.

         Isaiah’s heart was thrashing against his rib cage, going a million miles a second. He peeled his eyes open and adjusted them to the dark, gloomy skies of Los Angeles. He was surrounded by a pool of sweat when he came back to reality, staining the bed sheets underneath him and even stuck onto his back as he sat up. Isaiah looked around his room in a complete daze, trying to catch his breath and taking in the musky scent as well. Clothes were scattered everywhere just like half-eaten meals and bottles of whatever he drank previous nights before. Books, magazines, papers, and articles were cluttered on his desk and the corner of his room, reminding him of Max’s spontaneous death. A scream, a cry for help was caught in his throat, held back by his own consciousness. If he did scream, if he did cry, no one would hear him. He was alone in that large condo of Max’s. No one was there to hear him. No one was there to hold him and tell him that it was all just a dream. That Max wasn’t truly dead. That Max was there, making breakfast for him like he always did. A part of him hoped that were true, but he knew deep down that it wasn’t. There was no point in believing something so ridiculous. Max wasn’t going to come back and that was Isaiah’s fault. 

         He slid off his bed, groaning to himself as a sharp pain hit his head. Slender fingers ran through his curly locks and easily got caught within the tight knots. Grumbling to himself, he threw on a shirt and tried to find his way out of his room. Isaiah was constantly tripping over a bottle or two, stubbing his toes by the second. Isaiah stopped to pick one up and as he did, the mirror in his room caught his eye. It was covered by a shirt of his and he couldn’t even see his own face. There was no point in doing so, but the thought of it was strange. He couldn’t—didn’t want to see those dead eyes, curly hair, sun-kissed skin, or freckles. Every time he did, he saw someone else staring right back. Someone that wasn’t him. All he saw was Max crying as blood dripped down his forehead. Isaiah couldn’t bear to see that again. Now, thinking about it, all of the mirrors were covered up or taken off. And Max, well, he was still crying, but it was only faint little cries that Isaiah ignored.

         He made it out of his room soon after, clumping down the stairs and into the decrepit hallway. Isaiah rushed past the hall with the pictures screaming at him. He didn’t bother to stop or bat an eye. Max was there, smiling, always smiling, caught in a little moment of time. Just that little moment, not to be heard of again. Isaiah was planning on taking those pictures down, each and every one of them, but couldn’t bring himself to it. He thought that maybe after a day or two from the funeral he would be able to. But he couldn’t stand to see Max smiling like that in that one moment, frozen in time. Something had to be done though, but not yet.

         Sighing, he staggered into the kitchen, hoping for someone to be there. Isaiah stood there in the doorway, waiting and waiting for—he didn’t know. Max, maybe? Max making breakfast for him, laughing at him for another stupid night, trying to get rid of that hangover from the night before, and being the brother he was. Only the faint memory of his brother was there, flipping pancakes, pushing eggs in a pan, and looking for Advil to cure Isaiah’s horrible headache. Isaiah smiled a little, just a little, before frowning to himself to think of something that wasn’t ever going to happen again. He pushed himself into the kitchen, starting up the coffee maker and took a mug from the cupboard. His stomach grumbled loudly, calling out to him. Isaiah shuffled over to the refrigerator and wondered if he even had food in there. The last time he actually had food was when Max was still alive. After everything, the food either sat there or ended up eaten by Isaiah. Most of it was gone after yesterday and just as he suspected, there was nothing in the fridge.

         His eyes darted back to the gurgling coffee maker and that familiar scent of hazelnut coffee hit his nose. He closed the fridge and went back to the little coffee maker, grabbing his mug along the way. He poured himself a cup and sat down at the kitchen island alone. A few sips here and there, then a casual sigh would slip out of his mouth. Isaiah didn’t know what to do with himself, especially being alone in that large, empty condo. The only sound that could be heard was his shaky breathing, the soft, dying gurgling coffee maker, and the little pings coming from his phone that ended up on the kitchen floor. Isaiah hopped off his seat, taking a hold of his phone and groaned. There were millions upon millions of unread messages coming from both sides of the family, friends who never really cared, and fans that couldn’t seem to get the message that he wanted to be left alone. Newspapers, magazines, paparazzi, and countless people were conjuring up stories on what truly happened to Max and even making up blatant lies about his own brother. Something on the lines of him being a total idiot; a rude person; an addict of different things that weren’t even in Max’s dictionary.

 

         How could people even say those things about him?

 

         He started to think back to that girl at the funeral. The one who was trying her best to get something out of Isaiah, but didn’t luckily. He grumbled to himself, feeling the angry course within him just thinking about all of those people who tried to get dirt on Max. His blood began to boil as he stuffed his phone into his pocket and stomped his way into his living room. The boy, along with his coffee, glided past the open patio door and from the corner of his eye, he could see the little flashes and flickers of the camera’s going off. Isaiah glared toward the window, flipping whomever off with his free hand and closed the blinds quickly. He hated the paparazzi more than he did even when Max was alive. They always had their noses in everyone’s business and would go out their way to get the crappiest dirt on someone. Isaiah couldn’t remember the last time going out without a camera in his face and a person stopping him and his brother to ask stupid questions. There was no running away from them, especially in this city, even if he tried.

         Isaiah plopped himself down onto the dark amber couch that across from a little coffee table and a large, platinum, flat-screen T.V. Leaning back into the cushions, he could feel a weight lifting off of him. No more eyes, no more people looking into his life for the moment felt like utter bliss. Isaiah couldn’t remember the last time he was in his house without people waiting outside for pictures or trying to find a way in. All he wanted was to be alone, was that too much to ask?

         He fished the remote that was wedged between the cushions and flashed it toward the tv. The screen itself flickered to life and the first thing he saw was Max Sylvia and Jessie Fetcher: “a twisted love story”, according to the anchorman on the news. His deceiving smile caught Isaiah off guard for a moment before he went on, spewing out nonsense to his anchor partner, who didn’t have that much interest in today’s scoop.

         “...Fans today are still questioning the death of Max Sylvia. Some speculate that Jessie Fetcher, a high school girlfriend and an everyday girl of L.A., part took in his death, in which, investigators are now looking into….”  the man from the t.v. stated, “...fans are outraged with this theory, saying that Fetcher loved Max dearly, and wouldn’t hurt him, not even a fly. But others say that she would, calling her a fake, cheating—”

         Isaiah muted the T.V., tossing the remote onto the floor. Only the images of Max’s face and a smile flashed in front of him with Jessie right next to him, taking in everything like she always did. The theories may have been true and that was something Isaiah didn’t want to believe. At times, he did because it was another reason to make Jessie stay away from him. Yet, at other times, he didn’t because of Max. He would do anything for that girl, even though she wasn’t worth it at all. It was, in a way, sick to think that she would have anything to do with his death. And, yes, Isaiah had thought about it before. What Max wrote in his letter about her, just those few things, it almost seemed like she was a part of the reason why, but then again, she wasn't. Isaiah didn’t even know the reason why Max took his life. He was still questioning it, and he was going to find an answer. One answer or maybe two. Something to understand why Max did what he did. He needed a word, a symbol, a sign.

 

         A loud knock came from his front door.

 

         He flicked his eyes in the direction of the door and waited. He sat there, quietly, and waited. Isaiah thought that maybe if he didn’t move, say anything, breath, think that whoever was there would leave. Just like in the movies, they would leave, but they didn’t. Another knock emerged from the door, louder than the last with more force and anger. This time, he stood up, looking down the empty hall. A silhouette of a man was there, standing by the window. The guy peered in and knocked once more.

         “Isaiah!” he called out with that familiar, squeaky voice. “Isaiah!”

         Skye, he thought.

         Isaiah made his way into the hallway, mentally preparing himself for whatever could happen next. He thought that he could stop himself now, wait at the door, and never answer. He could just turn around and watch crappy t.v. for the rest of his life. He could tell Skye to leave him alone forever. He could do all of that, but he opened the door instead and a terrified, angry Skylar Millar pushed his way through and stomped into the house.

         “Well, hello to you too.” Isaiah deadpanned as he closed the door.

         Skye didn’t look back and he made his way into the living room. Plopping himself down onto the couch, he let out a line of curses and grumbled at the anchorman and Max’s fans. He wasn’t that big of a fan on news, especially celebrity things like that and stuff that involved his best friend, Jessie.

         “Can you believe this?!”

 

Eye Elevator

By Ruby Y.

     Life has very simple rules to get straight to extreme heights but still, we aren't getting there since we have always lived with wrong dreams. The dreams that the world made were always passed from every mouth to every young brain. We can't label our dreams based on the terms that the society made for no one but everyone, and that surely doesn't include us in it until we want ourselves to be a part of it.

     Grades are something that is like a daylight robbery system, where you are a topper at one phase, but surely not for the coming phase; those numbers are going to kidnapped, maybe by the person sitting next to you or by the girl you never spoke to or by the guy who failed the next semester or by the guy who sat on the last bench for all his life.

     We have given a lot of importance to the digits that have always been on a piece of paper, let it be money or on an exam sheet. Since it's all in the mind, those digits play mind games with you, me, the society, and the world. This is an issue that matters to the kids and parents in the world, but there are two kinds of people who exist in this situation. Actually, they exist for this particular situation only and the results announced are the best news for them. The first type of person is the one who got worse grades in exams, faced many failures at a ripe age, but now, when compared to others, are at a high position and well-settled in their life. These people show their exam grade sheet and not their struggles. They need attention and they succeed in getting it. By the next set of students who are going to appear the coming year and get motivated, those grades are not everything; but later, the circumstances belong to them and not to the people who showed off their grades and are now hidden nowhere.

     The other group of people are the ones who score well and are at the top of the year, having their photos on the front page of the newspaper. But their demotivation to the next batch starts when they say that they always enjoyed their lives and have never stayed up late at night or joined any tutoring classes. If you don't want to share your success mantra, okay—but at least don't get innocent students to ring on it.

     If every child is born with some uniqueness within them, then how does society expect every kid to score the same? Do grades make a kid lesser to another kid? Are grades the identity card that kids wear during their youth? What if a kid scores less in one exam? At least he tried his best, because no kid wants to make his parents sad! And grades are today but not tomorrow, today every neighbour or relative will talk about it but tomorrow again it's you and YOU are good enough for you!

     It's okay if you don't know what you want to be; rather, you and your dreams have been heard. Dreaming and working are altogether different concepts, as when we work, we don't dream about it anymore. Society is someone whom no one met, not even the successor, nor even the failure!

 

The Abstracts: Seer - Chapter Eight

By Danielle N.

         When the police car drove up to our house, Lyla ran out the front door and into Dad’s arms, screaming on and on about how she beat her high score in a random video game because mom gave her extra device time. I don’t think she realized that her father and sister were just driven out of the state to be interrogated, and she was freaking out because she beat a high score in a video game.

         Mom rushed outside and wrapped both me and dad in a neck - breaking hug, after shooing Lyla away. She started rambling on and on about how she was going to sue the pants off the idiot who decided driving off her husband and daughter to another state to be interrogated without getting permission from the family was a good idea.

         “You must have been so scared, honey!’ Mom frets as she pushes a piece of my air out of my eyes. “The police who told me where you two were let slip that the interrogation facility was specifically designed for criminals with a particularly bad reputation! And I can hardly see why a fully-trained cop would suspect a child!”

         “No, mom...they think I caused Bridget to go to the hospital.” And I tell her everything that happened.

         “Honey...I-I don’t know what to say. I mean-”

         Dad comes to my rescue. “What you were going to say is that the city council is going to get sued. Vikki here couldn’t have caused a heart attack to come upon Bridget by brain damage.”

         Lyla finally pops up, eager for attention “Vikki, did the police people torture you?”

         “High heavens, no!” Mom practically shrieks at Lyla. “Victoria, they didn’t torture you, did they?”

         “Of course not, mom! This isn’t the middle ages.”

         Lyla chimes in again, eager to prove me wrong. “No, actually they can torture people. Tiffany’s dad is a policeman, and she heard from him that they had just caught a criminal in a kind of super evil society. He wouldn’t say what the society was called, so they tortured it out of him.”

         “What was it called?”

         She shrugs, her hair popping up where her shoulder bounces it. “Tiffany says her dad wouldn’t tell her. Classified, or some rubbish.”

         “Her dad seemed to tell her enough.”

         “Yeah, but the society’s name was, like, super super secret. And Tiffany said she tried everything to get it out of him. That night, she crept into his room and whispered in his ear to get him to say it in his sleep, but he ended up wetting the bed, and she got caught.”

         Okay, that is a little funny, so I chuckle. But then I feel awful for laughing when I know Bridget is in the hospital and I’m being suspected of putting her there.

         “I’m sorry, guys, I gotta go to bed.” I push through them and collapse onto my slightly-less stiff bed. Then Lyla trots in, not the least bit tired. A giant frown is painted across her face

         “Vikki, mom sent me up here to tell you that I broke your water-fountain thingy.”

         “What!??!”

         “You heard me. But don’t worry, I cleaned it up. I even taped together some of the plastic stuff.”

         “Why were you down there in the first place?”

         “I was waiting for the iPad to charge, so I took a basketball and started bouncing it, but then it bounced through the door under the stairs and down the stairs and landed with a giant kerplushhhhhhh into the fountain. And I remember what happened when I touched it last time, so I wouldn’t go near it without wearing gloves.”

         I don’t listen to half of what she says, I’m too darn tired. I don’t even know what time it is, and a quick glance at the clock says it’s 12:43. I groan, and shoo Lyla out of my room. Too tired to even change out of my street clothes, I flick the lights out and fall fast asleep. 

 

         I don’t wake up - wouldn’t wake up, mom says - until around 10:50. I think my body just refused to get up until I had sufficient sleep. Mom says she didn’t try too hard to wake me up because she knew how late I had stayed up and also that it was a school holiday. Usually I like school holidays, because I have extra time to geek out in the basement, but now that I’m on an official making-stuff ban, I decide to attempt making Belgian Waffles off of Bridget’s recipe (she had printed a copy for me).

         One thing that I know for sure about myself is that I like stuff that works by rules. The metal plate will stay stiff until I heat it up and bend it to the shape I desire. But cooking has no boundaries. If you follow the recipe, the dish might come out a masterpiece, or you might mess up a tiny thing and the whole recipe stinks.

         After lifting up the waffle iron and cautiously peering inside, I couldn’t see the waffle. Everything was black. But I had a lot of time and a lot of ingredients (none of my family is very big on cooking), so I poured the batter down the drain, and tried again.

         And again.

         And again.

         And again.

         And then Mom made me do the dishwasher because the kitchen was a mess, and open a window cause the fire alarm just went off. And after I did that I tried again.

         And again.

         And again.

         And again.

         And then, I opened the waffle iron, tired and ready to give up, I saw a waffle.

         A real, Belgian waffle.

         I treated it like it was made of gold, yet delicate as glass. And biting into it, I thought I was eating gold in pastry form. Not bad. Not bad at all.

         Actually, for a cruddy cook like me, I might as well have made diamonds from dirt.

         “Hey, dad! I actually made something edible!”

         “Oh? That’s nice, honey.”

         “No, dad, seriously! Come out here and at least look!”

         “Okay, I’m coming…”

         Dad looked much worse than I had expected. He had huge bruise-colored bags under each eye and wearing little more than a T-shirt, plaid pajama pants and a long olive green bathrobe. His black hair, so much like mine, was sticking upward in all directions.

         He glanced at the pile of waffles on a plate on the kitchen table, and grabbed one. He looked at me suspiciously, then took a tiny bite. He looked down at the waffle, chewing a few times, and took a few more bites. Soon, he had devoured the whole thing.

         “Vikki, what are these?”

         “Belgian Waffles, dad. Bridget showed me how to make them the first time she came over.”

         Dad nodded a few times, grabbed a plate and stacked it with waffles. “Well, they are very good. Um, how much sugar do they have?”

         “1 ½ cups, dad.”

         “And how much batter is there?”

         “I don’t know.”

         “Well, these are pretty good.” He’s backing away into his office again, eager to get back to work. “That’s a good recipe to eat. Give Bridget my thanks. I mean, when she comes out of the hospital…”

         And dad is gone. I grin, and help myself to a few pastries of gold. And for once it was made by me! But honestly, if you ever tasted my cooking, these...these are something else.

         Five days after dad and I were interrogated has passed, and I was packing up, ready for school. But the bus I usually went on was completely empty, besides the driver. The sidewalks were completely bare, not even the usual preschooler walking her dog down the street.

         There was nobody walking down the halls, and it was total silence everywhere. I didn’t see any teachers, any students, any staff- for a minute, I was thinking that school was closed for some holiday. But then I felt my stomach drop. What if the school was in a code black? That policeman said I should be in jail, so the school might have thought that I was a kid carrying a gun and- No, the policeman said I wasn’t going to jail, or even put on public probation. They were just going to keep an eye on me. So, after a quick trip to my locker, I visited my first class of the day, and cautiously tried the door to see if it was locked.

         It wasn’t. And everybody who was in that class was there, acting totally normal. I looked around and, since nobody had seen me yet, I sneaked to a desk at the back of the room, where only the people who deliberately looked over their shoulder would see me. But, looking around me, it didn’t look like anybody knew what had happened over the week. Maybe this was a truly juicy piece of gossip that would never spread over the school. Maybe-

         “OH MY GOD, LOOK! THERE’S A FUGITIVE IN THE CLASSROOM!”

         Everybody jumps in their seats and looks around, confused. And, of course, it’s Brandon, with one foot on his chair and another on his desk. He is pointing directly at me, his finger inches away from my nose. I back my head away from him, and there’s a crazed expression on his face. 

         I bring my hand up to his finger and forcefully but slowly push it away from me. “Brandon, what do you want?”

         “What I’ve always wanted, chica.”

         “That doesn’t even make any sense. And could you please get off your desk, your feet are covered with mud from when you splashed one of those poor kindergarteners.”

         “I haven’t done that since elementary school, Vickstagram. But what I want to know from you is, what’s your latest criminal activity? Gonna murder anybody? Break into a house?”

         “Brandon, shut up. I’m not even in trouble, and anybody who really knows me would tell you that I’d never do anything like that.”

         “Yeeeeeeeah, so I’ll just go ask that person what they know.” He starts fake-marching to Bridget’s desk, and then makes a fake surprise face. “Oh my goodness! The one person who really knows Victoria is gone! Where could they have gone?”

         I glared at him with what I hope portrayed utmost hatred and anger, in the hope that he becomes paralyzed from the utter hatred shot out of my eyeballs.

         But of course that would only happen in a book.

         “Bridget?!?! Oh, poor Bridget! She’s in the hospital suffering from a heart attack! And she’s the only one who really knows Vikki! If you know what I mean.” And then he shoved his face into my personal zone.

         And then, right out of the blue, I got a crazy idea.

         After checking that it was 100% clean, I leaned forward and gently kissed the tip of his nose.

         His eyes dilated for a second. He was obviously stunned, but his weight was too far forward on the desk, and it tipped over sideways, taking Brandon with it. His crotch landed on the hard edge of the desk, and his expression was permanently imprinted in my brain, followed by the loudest shriek in the history of shrieks.

         “EEYYYYYAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!”

         He sort of pushed himself off, and starts writhing in pain on the floor like he was trying to do the Harlem Shake. And I didn’t know what happened next, because my brain was giddy in exceeding glory and revenge. When he screamed, every single person in the classroom’s hand’s shot to their ears. The only thing I could even think to compare it to was a chihuahua bark, except louder and higher and coming from a human voice. When Brandon finally regained the ability of speech, he was screaming at me.

         “YOU CRAP, YOU AWFUL PIECE OF CRUD, YOU SENT A PERSON TO THE HOSPITAL AND YOU’RE IN TROUBLE NOW!”

         I sighed. Not even a direct blow to the crotch could shut this guy up. 

         “VIKKI’S A JERK AND A FUGITIVE! SHE MURDERED BRIDGET!”

         Everyone was staring at Brandon like he’d gone mad, which, to be perfectly honest, isn’t such a long shot. But he scared me. He really scared me. How he kept screaming all the awful things I never did, and how I was going to jail as a teenager. Maybe he really was insane. 

The teacher finally came into the classroom, and a million people, including Brandon and me, started shouting explanations at her.

         “It was Brandon, Mrs. Miller!”

         “Brandon was standing on the chairs and landed on his crotch! It was sooooo funny!”

         “Mrs. Miller, I saw what really happened, come with me!”

         “VIKKI TRIED TO KILL ME!”

         “Oh, be quiet, Brandon.”

         “EVERYBODY BE QUIET.”

         Mrs. Miller’s shout echoed around the room like a superball bouncing around the room. Mrs. Miller’s an old lady with soft brown eyes and a crooked nose. She was born sometime in the 1940s, and refused to give out her age, but I’d guess she’s about 70 now. She always wore the same sweetsy blue dress that poofs out really big at the hips every day she’s in the classroom. She wasn’t our real teacher - he was out at somebody’s wedding - but she subs at my school enough that kids know her. And everybody knew that she used to be an opera singer.

         She smiles sweetly at us, and clasps her bony hands together in kind of let’s-work-out-our-differences gesture. “Now, who was trying to kill a chair called Dick?”

         Nobody knew if Mrs. Miller had a hearing issue. If you’re whispering in the back of the classroom, it’s guaranteed that she’d call you out for it and make you stand in the corner “like I did in grade school.” But if you were trying to tell her something important, she acted like somebody’s grandmother who forgot her hearing aid. It’s caused everybody a number of headaches. 

         Brandon pushed his way to the front of the crowd, his back hunched over and his hand acting as a protective shield to his…downstairs.

         “IT WAS VICTORIA, MRS. MILLER!” he lost the throat and lung capacity to shriek like he did when he fell onto the desk, but he still more - or - less shouted this. “SHE TRIED TO KILL ME BY...Er...um...you know what? Never mind...” And with that, Brandon somehow shut up. 

         “Are you sure dear? You look like you’re trying to find some pocket change you dropped. And that only happens when you’ve lost something.” Mrs. Miller still had a dazed - but - still - sweet smile on her face, and I was pretty sure she didn’t understand a word he said.

With her words, he shook his head rather distractedly, and went back to his desk, his head in the center of crossed hands.

“Well, if there’s nothing the matter, we should get on with our lesson for the day, hmm?” And with that, Mrs. Miller dutifully strode to her desk, and started the day’s lesson.

         “Would everyone please take out your textbooks and turn to page 323, and we’ll begin the day by reading pages 323-329. Hailey, would you read aloud?”

         “I’m sorry ma’am, I can’t. I’ve got this cold and I’ve been coughing a lot, and-” And she shoved her face into her elbow and coughed. Very loudly. Mrs. Miller had been substituting for long enough to know that nobody wants to read a 6 - page long passage, and just picked people at random to read nowadays.

         Mrs. Miller frowned a very fake-looking frown. “My dear, that’s an awful shame.” And then she smiled again, with her hands in ladylike fists. “May I suggest some Doctor Get - Better Wonder Cough Syrup? It could cure anything from strep throat to coughing back in my day. I used to work there back in 1953, you know. Well, in that case, Sidney! You have a lovely maturing voice, and I expect you can read this passage easily enough.”

         Sidney was a pale freckly kid with white - blond hair. He glanced up from his drawing, and glanced around frantically for somebody to help him. Of course, when Mrs. Miller said he had “lovely maturing voice,” she meant his voice cracks and dips every second he was talking. But he couldn’t very well use that as an excuse, so he started reading. It’s like he was speaking out of a frequency scrambler. 

Mrs. Miller propped her textbook against some type of concrete box, and placed her romance novel inside of that, so it looks like she’s reading the textbook when she’s not. This is usually how she runs the class, and if we finished reading early she told us to “take a piece of paper out, and write a complete summary of the passage. I will collect and grade them at the end of the period.” But she never does. She doesn’t even remember to pick them up at the end of class. So, for those of us who aren’t unfortunate enough to get picked to read the passage, Mrs. Miller is a glorified free period.

         I propped my textbook upright and started doodling on a loose piece of paper, letting my thoughts run free. I’d only read about great discoveries being found by accidents, and here I was with a discovery of my own. If you just embarrass Brandon badly enough, he’ll lose so much pride that he no longer has the ability to speak.

         I should remember that trick for later.

 

Unlike the Rest

By Subhangi N.

     At the time I was dreaming of one connection along the scintillating stars, and persuaded the waves to go insane when it felt me across the watery grave, that hour I knew they weren't waiting for my arrival. I shut my eyes with the instance how it burnt itself and enlightened the plights, then I recognized my desire for the stars there, knowing my love was up there, fluttering across the cosmic region, rambling alongside the splendent moon and the shimmery stars, arousing me to reach there soon. Yet my cadaver remains here in this sphere, though the soul buoyants in the air. I know the world isn't my place anymore.

 

The Storyteller

By Rudrani K.

     I entered inside, and everyone turned with a surprised and stern look. I never got as much attention for my storytelling and poetry as I did that day!!! Hundreds of thoughts passed my mind in that pretty moment. Like, did I wear something really attractive or did I post something weird on my page… blah blah blah…

     So this was my happy place for the last three-and-a-half years. This cafe gave me a living and the owner, an old but energetic grandpa-aged man, always gave me a positive vibe. He knew everything I was going through and helped me sincerely.

     But that day this place hit differently!! Though I knew most of the audience members, as they visited this place daily. I managed to reach Hannah, the kind waitress, a good friend of mine. I asked her about the attention I was getting in the cafe.

     She gave me a surprised look and then, after a few seconds, said, “This should be your only question to your audience today. Jane, you are amazing, you don't even need any poetry today, just go and ask this question to your pretty audience, bless you."

     "Okay, fine," is all I said. But my mind zoomed in on her words; all the way to the stage I was excited in a tense way. "Hello guys!!!" is all I could blurt out.

     “Hello, Jane darling,” came a familiar voice from behind. I turned and discovered Mr. Robert, the owner, coming towards me. He put one of his hands on my shoulder, and turned towards the audience and said, "Here's our young astrologer."

     I faked a smile but I was astonished. "I am not an astrologer or stuff. C'mon uncle Robert."

     He laughed and called out to Krish, one of the audience members. "Krish darling, share your realization," Robert said.

     "So, I was walking past my workplace yesterday evening and a beautiful lady came straight to me and asked me for a date. This never happened to me in all my past years. Her features suddenly reminded me of the character Kiera from one of Jane’s stories!! And the whole situation too was like that story," Krish finished.

     "Jane, do you remember your story of a poor orphan and his diary? I met someone with the same life circumstances a few days back!!" another person from the audience said.

     "Jane, your character Nicholas, from the story the other day, with those pink blush lips, dark and thick hair that falls on his face everytime he looks down, and that muscular, attractive body… I was in love with that character that day and I found Ben!” I looked at the guy aside her.

     Oh my god, it's real, my character Nicholas is real!!! There were thousands of guys outside looking like my character, but Ben radiated a different vibe.

     I was astonished then, I still am… Even after all these years, they still call me "The Magical Storyteller " and my stories still come to life!!

 

Deserving to Heal

By Naeva A.

     He was the one who survived. It had been a fire, or perhaps a flood; 5 corpses, or perhaps 6. The details of the story do not matter, in the end, he was the one who survived.

     There is a pain that comes with surviving, a guilt, a constant heavy weight on your chest. The dead move on beyond the pain of the moment, but it is the living who stay behind and suffer, that one unanswerable question shuffling around in their heads – what makes them deserve to live?

     Perhaps it is pathetic to be jealous of the dead, but it is true, he envied them. He envied the mother or the father, the brother or the sister, maybe the friend, envied them their cold unknowing ignorance. It is true, he had thought of joining them. He did not know if they were waiting for him, if anything was waiting for him, but what did he have left to live for? But still, a part of him clung tenaciously to life, an animal urge inside him that refused to stop fighting to survive. Every passing day was a sin, every breath felt as if it was stolen from the cold corpses he once held dear, filling him with shame at his cowardice. He did not have a right to live.

     He was used to pity, to kindness and compassion and sympathy that he felt he did not deserve, that made him itch and sweat and yell that he was not the one that needed kindness. But not many could hear his story and look through his watery eyes into his broken heart and not find softness in their souls. Throats that were accustomed to harsh laughter found soft words. He was surrounded by these voices, these whispers, these words, telling him it was not his fault, that he was alive, that he was loved, that there was happiness ahead, a promise or a gift that he should not squander, at least for the sake of those who were gone.

     It does not matter when those words convinced him or in which of them he heard the clear sound of truth. It does not matter when he started to find compassion in his heart to give back, or whom he gave it to. This story is about what came after.

     When his heart healed and his eyes became clear, the softness of the people around him began to disappear. They heard his story and looked at his smile and there was anger in their eyes. How could anyone live through that and not be filled with shame, not feel the weight of guilt pressing down on their chest? How could anyone be so heartless as to heal, to smile, to live? Throats that were accustomed to soft laughter found harsh words.

     It does not matter what those words were, only that they existed. It does not matter if they were ignorant, for they were loud. It does not matter if they were cruel, for they were inevitable. He deserved a happy life only if he could never live one, deserved to be free of guilt only if he could never let it go, deserved to survive only if he could never truly live. He deserved to heal, only if he would never be able to.

     I do not know what he did after, whether he listened and broke or stood stubborn in his truth. For your sake let us say he moved far away with the people with warm hearts and soft laughter and wishes of happiness and smiled and laughed and lived, the creases near his brow the only acknowledgement of past sorrow.

     I was not told that story.