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Score - Chapter Four

By Deven P.

     “Come on Marcos, suck it up man,” Big Glasses told me. He wasn’t the best at motivational speeches, but I needed all that I could get. I had already thrown up twice. I remembered being so cocky, and I immediately regretted it. I felt my palms get as wet as the Pacific Ocean. Also, on my forehead, ran the Amazon River. Honestly, on the outside, I tried to act tough, yet my inside leaked with uncertainty.

     Once we got to the rich town field, we both noticed that around the field, the bleachers were filled up with people, just like ants would crowd around a piece candy. The field was painted with paint in so many colors, I couldn’t even count. Green. Yellow. White. Blue.

     The sign up sheet had a line of rich kids. I saw a few from my village. I got a bit closer and realized that I was dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Guess who was in line? I’ll give everyone a moment. Yup, you got it right. El Padre. Aka Pablo Valencia. I wanted to just run away into my safe bed. Yet reality slapped me in the face and I had to follow through. Now started the hiccups. Those inner earthquakes always happened when I am nervous. 3rd grade talent show. 6th grade spelling bee. I can go on forever. What I had to focus on now were two things. Win the competition and hide from the beast that was going up against me.

     Everybody soon signed the sheet and I got to write my name. I walked to stand in another line to perform, and couldn’t help but notice some familiar hair in the crowd. It was Big Glasses! He had come to cheer me on, and I definitely needed that right now. Everybody soon started to finish their juggling and get their scores. Out of the around 60 people there, El Padre was definitely beating everyone with 97 juggles. 

     Then it happened. It was my turn. I was last in line. Time froze. I was just observing everything now. Not focusing on reality. The grayish pigeons flying clumsily in the air. The small insects creeping all around the ground. The gleam of the shining sun on the glossy grass. Until…

     “Marcos! It’s your turn! You can perform anytime today!”

     “Oh ok,” I replied sheepishly as I slowly walked up to the stage.

     I ignored all of the mean looks and comments that were thrown at me and focused on the red and green puma ball. I chipped it up slowly and began to do my thing. My legs were like the motors of my car body. The road was already paved for me. Now all I had to do was drive to victory.

     As the number of juggles I did slowly started to add up, I started to feel more in the zone. 60...61...62...89...96. Everything stopped again. All I had to do was hit the ball one more time to tie, and twice more to win. 97...98! Everyone cheered as I booted the ball as hard as I could. I had won the competition. I ran out the field and thought to myself, ‘I’ll collect that money later!’ 

     I ran as fast as I could with my old shoes. I ran as fast as I could with my tired, scarred legs. I ran as fast as I could into victory. This was only the beginning of a new life. A new dimension that my family and I would begin to experience as I was offered those succulent contracts to play for the best teams in Brazil. As I was running, I knew that I had finally achieved the biggest dream of my life.

 

Allegory of the Dog (based on Allegory of the Cave)

By Jayda D.

     And now I said, let me show a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened;-Behold! A dog! living in a skyscraper apartment. He is old now, some golden retriever mix of old shoes and lazy boy recliners, and he lays back on a sofa with his paws hung over the edges. The pads of his paws are little dry cakes and his nails have not been trimmed in far too long. His hanging tail hammers along to the steady beat of a clock. The dog cannot read this clock, but the dog can feel the clock, feel the steady pulse of its thumping, and his frayed fur ruffles up.

     His owner is usually home by now.

     A short woman, his owner wasn’t home too often. While the dog was confined to the hardwood floors of the penthouse, she herself seemed to just be a visitor. She would drift home in a flurry, blouse buttoned all the way up, and just as quick as she came she would be gone. The dog could never meet her eyes. Rarely did the woman even lay her eyes on him, but when she did, they seemed to be glassed over, preoccupied with thoughts of coffee stains and computer screens. She didn’t care for the dog, but he didn’t understand this. Neither did she, to be quite honest. His old brown eyes irritated her, the tilts of his head, the way she could always find one of his golden hairs within arms’ length. Nevertheless, he was her dog, and she had kept him since he was a puppy, but she hardly ever gave him any thought at all. 

Either way, she was late, and the dog noticed her absence. How could he not? She was his owner, and regardless of how she felt towards him, he was devoted. Rising from his spot, the dog marched over to the front door of the apartment suite. 

     Today, as if by miracle, the door was cracked, slightly ajar. This was new, and the dog wasn’t sure know how to respond. After a brief pause, the dog put his snout through the opening and gave a sniff. His wet nose nudged up against the wooden door frame, and wiggled it’s way out into the hall.

     The dog wandered into the corridor, quietly pawing down the boring hall carpet. His eyes gazed up yellow doors, each perfectly in a row, all illuminated by little cubes of light. Past elevators, past golden locks and expensive looking vases, he continued, eventually reaching the end of the hall. The dog pushed his way through the grey fire exit and began bounding down steps, cautiously at first, then faster and faster. 

All at once, the whole world seemed to be a different colour. The dog was outside. The dog had been outside before, in the air at least. His apartment home had a fairly large garden attached on a balcony platform, where the dog was allocated his “business doing”, but what he was discovering now and what he knew on his balcony were definitely not the same. The golden retriever looked at the black street and saw his snout peeking back at him in a puddle. He gave a short bark at it, and nearby passer-goers on the street seemed to realize his presence. Filled with excitement, the dog lifted his old legs and began racing down the street, as if he was only a pup again.

     The dog ran and ran forever. His spit seemed to fly down his face as he smiled the way only golden retrievers can. It was too much, all at once, but it was lovely. His paws were cold and wet but he kept moving, weaving his yellow fur through a tapestry of people. He came to a patch of green, a park, it seemed. He slowed down to a prance and rested on a patch of dry grass centred in a piece of sunlight. Before the dog even knew what happened, a delightful occurrence arose. The dog saw a sight so wonderful- another dog! It must've been a mix of something heavy. A pitbull or a mastiff, with it's muscular body. Immediately, the golden retriever rose in hopes of befriending this new dog. The mixed breed bounded towards him, or so the escaped dog thought, rapidly gaining speed, when all of a sudden it's body flung itself up and his drooling jaws opened up to clasp a flash of neon green. A tennis ball. 

     As the new dog came back down, it was realized that the new dog was a she. She came leaping towards him, dropping her tennis ball, and giving him a few sniffs. The golden retriever was overjoyed; this was a momentous occasion for him. He made a friend!

     A man came walking over the hill, breathing sharp breaths into the chill air. He was out of breath from throwing tennis balls and then chasing his mutt around the park all day to keep her out of trouble. He neared them, happily muttering something about her “making a new pal” or “easy girl”.

     The man smiled down at his mutt. The golden retriever could see the way the owner’s eyes crinkled when he smiled. The way he reached down and delivered a scratch to her large head. The way he looked at her like he wanted to be seeing her, like he felt something real when he saw her. The way she didn’t even notice it; the way she jumped on him and nuzzled her head on his calf without hesitation. This was love, in its purest form, and the golden retriever could see it. This is what was missing, what his owner had never taken from or given him. She had never spared him the time to scratch his head or pat his back. There were no playful exchanges, no belly rubs, no excited barking, none of these gentle indications of compassion.

     The mutt rushed up and began carefully sniffing along the purebreed’s yellow fur. She wobbled over on her chubby legs, meanwhile her owner came and scratched the older dog behind his ear. The man bent down, looking at the tag around the golden retriever’s neck, and wondered aloud to himself about how this dog managed to get all the way to where they were standing. The man had brown eyes, an ashy brown like desks and trunks and old chocolates. He looked so full of the love feeling, so full of compassion, that the golden retriever almost bet to himself that if he were to follow him and the mutt home, they would most certainly take him in. He could sense it in the eyes, in the way he hunched over the dogs, in the way he cared.

     The love missing from his life was so starkly contrasted with this man, and the golden retriever realized that no one, human or canine, should ever have to go another day without it. Although he very well could have gone home with this man, what about his own owner? What would become of her if he didn’t show her what she was missing?

     The dog made his decision. He let out a hopeful bark and turned away from his new friends. 

     Running back the way he came, the dog dragged his muddy paws on the city concrete. He couldn’t wait to see his owner, to go and teach her how to throw a ball or scratch his head or look at him like he was the world. Now that the dog knew, he would love her like he was supposed to do, and teach her how to do the same. 

     He rushed back up the way he came. Up stairs and through halls until he found himself back at the door he started with. This time, it had been shut, so the dog scratched his paws at it's stoop and began to whine. From inside, he heard a sigh and a click of heels, stamping to the door, irritated by the noise. She peeked her head out of a sliver, and glanced to the left and right. Gazing down, she was a bit surprised to see her dog, whom she thought was asleep or lazing about in one of the many rooms of her penthouse.

     She opened the door, and immediately the dog was all over her. He ran about her feet, barking and drooling and trying to jump up on her. Her head began to spin as she saw the brown skid marks his full paws were leaving on her cream coloured carpeting. All at once, she began trying to grab him, frantically reaching for a fistful of fur to latch on to. He just kept moving, excited from all the attention his owner was giving. The dog felt as if they were off to a good start in their newfound bond. 

     As the woman was gaining in frustration, the smell of overcooked chicken filled the apartment. The woman quickly realized she had left the oven on in the midst of the madness. Not only that, but her carpet stains were quickly setting in and she had left the front door wide open. She let out a slight scream and rushed to fix everything all at once. The dog, trying to maintain his owners thoughts, flashed back to the dog from the park, the way the pitbull had jumped up in such a lovely matter to catch a flying ball, and how delighted her owner was afterwards. In remembrance, he flung his old frame up at his owner, effectively knocking her down as he begun to lick her face.

     This was it for her. With all the strength she could muster, she pushed the golden retriever off, and dug her fingers around his collar, yanking him to the glass sliding door on the other side of the room. Slamming it open, she dragged him onto the terrace, where it was lightly drizzling. She turned away and let the door slide shut behind her, not even looking back.

     The dog sat for a moment, his snout pointed down in confusion. What had he done wrong? Maybe it was all just too fast? 

     With his snout still caught at the glass, he saw her shifting inside, taking food off the stove. He felt the rain drops gain weight, and land on his back. The dog felt his stomach rumble, partially out of hunger, but partially out of confusion. He wanted her to love him, to pet him, to throw him a tennis ball. Instead, she had shut him out, and the poor dog couldn’t understand why. He laid his body down on the damp rug, paws crossed, with his wet whiskers sagging down. The mud from his paws begun to streak onto the cold balcony cement. As he stared at the glare coming off the glass door, trying to forget the things he had learned today, memories of green parks and chocolate eyes melted away, and the rain began to let up. The dog turned on his side, and with his ear laid against the wet step of the door, he could hear the cool ticking of the old clock once again. The dog fell asleep.

 

A Knight's Arduous Task of Seeking Entry to the Castle

By Alexander T.

     As dawn broke, the dusty knight trudged up the castle steps in his supposedly silver armor encased in a shell of dried mud and small sucker fish. His helmet weighed down on him as if it were a headband of lead, and his body seemed to swim through air as thick as mercury. As he wandered weak and weary, his feet ached with the quaint and curious pinch of a swollen sore. Only this and nothing more.

As he reached the doorstep (or was it a gatestep?), the gatekeeper stood tall before him with his upper body poking over the stone wall, looking just as smug as he had been a moon ago.

     “You’re a persistent one,” he articulated to the approaching figure. “No matter. Shall you try again?”

     The steel knight nodded, and drily coughed.

     “Very well then. Here is another one.” The gatekeeper cleared his throat, secretively glancing down at the slip of paper in his hand. “A young village boy, Peter Piper, picked a peck of pickled peppers. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers (a peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked), how many pecks of pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick?”

     The knight flipped open his rusty visor and cough-scoffed. “That’s so easy. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, right? You said a peck of pickled peppers that Peter Piper picked! 

     “So,” he deduced,” the number of pickled peppers he picked is one! You tried to trick me into slipping up again, but you just played yourself! Aha! Haha! Ha!”

      “Augh, no no no wait wait wait I’ve got it wrong, I’ve said it wrong.” The gatekeeper shook in his leather boots and glanced back down at the sheet. “It’s that Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, a peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked. How many pickled peppers did our Peter Piper pick? No, not pecks, no pecks.”

      “Then it’s a stupid question!” the self-proclaimed ‘civil and genteel’ knight exclaimed. “A peck is what, some fraction of a bushel? Then it depends on the size of the peppers, which depends on the type, and the,... the... You can’t answer that! You can’t change the question! Stop smirking at me! I can tell you’re smirking up there!”

     “Ahaha.”

     “Stop it! You’re so agitating, you know!” A ferociously miniscule growl rung inside the metal helm. “It’s just some intentionally agitating use of awful alliteration without any aim except for being annoying.”

     “How ironic...” exhaled the gatekeeper. His face maintained its usual stoic appearance, but below, his body convulsed with mirth.

     “What’s ironic?! Stop laughing at me!” The allegedly gallant knight yelled, shaking his fist at his enemy grinning out of his reach.

     “huuu...Phew.” The gatekeeper stared at the rapidly brightening sky in order to calm himself. “Then let me ask you this. If Peter Piper picked that peck of pickled peppers that Peter Piper picked, then where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?”

    “Why should I care?” the knight snorted. “What kinda riddle is this now? I didn’t expect some kind of Spanish Inquisition. Go ask the man himself if you wanna know wherever peck of pickled pepper peeper.....hrrrnnnnnnngh!”

     “mmph---!” The gatekeeper momentarily disappeared from above the stone wall.

     “You little... look me in the eyes. With a straight face!” 

     The gatekeeper rematerialized above the gate, clearly struggling to contain his amusement.

     “Stop curling your lips in! What’s with you, is it reealllly that funny??” The dashing knight waggled his sword in the direction of his unworthy adversary.

    “No, nope, nothing funny. Hahaha.” It appeared that his adversary did not think much of him at this moment in time.

    “Hmph. Then how about this, if you think these are so great?” The knight straightened his figurative tie. “How much wood would the woodchuck chuck if woodchucks could chuck wood, ehh?”

    “Hm...” the gatekeeper paused to think. “Well... it would huuh... chuck as much wood, as a woodchuck.. would chuck if... a woodchuck, could chuck, wood!”

     Defeated, the knight clicked his tongue. “Tch.” 

     “Ha.”

     The gatekeeper turned to pull the lever on his right, once again dropping a screaming, armored silhouette into the muddy pit below. He wiped his hands on the hem of his shirt, and went back into the castle in search of a cup of coffee and a ham and cheese bagel.

 
 

The Daffodil Crown - Part Two

By Sophia R.

     Selby was right about one thing: the town wasbig, and busy too. Everyone seemed to be in a hurry as I tried to navigate through the crowded streets, and ended up pressing myself against the walls of buildings to avoid crashing into people. Eventually I found myself standing in a plaza that was less chaotic than the main street had been. A quick look around told me I wouldn’t find any inns here, but maybe one of the shops would have someone I could ask. I headed for an old building covered in vines that read Amaryllis and Joy.

     The second I walked in, I thought I’d wandered into a garden; at least, that’s what the shop looked like. There were flowers everywhere—the counters, in pots on the ground, and some were even hanging on the ceiling, like they’d decided to grow there on their own. 

     “Can I help you, young man?” asked a frazzled looking woman arranging a bouquet behind the counter, some dirt smudged on the edge of her nose. “I’m closing up soon, you’ll want to make your bouquet quickly.”

     “Oh, I’m not here for—” I started, but was interrupted by an elderly lady who bustled in, looking even more frazzled than the florist, holding a several packages and an enormous bundle of different types of flowers. 

     “Excuse me,” she said, coming up to the counter and setting down the flowers, “do you have any freesia left? This is the third shop I’ve been to this afternoon, but it seems everyone’s run out!”

     “Let me check in the back, I’m sure we do,” the florist said, and disappeared through a door I’d mistaken for another wall of flowers. 

     “Running some last minute errands?” I said to the woman, who was starting to fan herself with her straw hat. It was pretty humid in here. 

     “Is it that obvious?” she replied, giving me a weary smile. “Today’s been such a busy day for me, I’ve been going from one shop to another all morning.”

      “You and the whole town, it seems,” I said. “I thought I was going to get stampeded by the people on the main street earlier.”

      “Well it is a special day, after all, isn’t it? Even so, I should have planned ahead to avoid the crown rush, knowing how florists almost always run out of the one missing flower people need.”

     “Crown rush?” I repeated. 

     “Apparently I’m not the only one who holds off until the last second, as my mother often told me when I was a young girl,” she chuckled, “but what I mean is that most people plan out their crown arrangements well ahead of time, but wait until the day of the festival to pick them up. I suppose it does keep the flowers fresh, but we do have spray tonics that do the trick just fine… ”

     I blinked. What was she talking about?

     “You’re in luck ma’am, I had one bundle left hiding from me in the corner,” the florist said happily, coming back into the main room with a bouquet of white flowers that she set on the counter and began to spritz them some kind of liquid in a bottle. “Are these for a grandchild, perhaps?”

     “My youngest of three,” The woman nodded. “The other two already turned thirteen, but I always contributed at least one type to their crowns when they were younger. At least with this one, I have a few more years before hedecides what his best qualities are, though I hope that as he grows he’ll be as amicable as he is now.”

     “I remember wanting the same for my daughter when she was younger,” the florist said, “Every year I always added a white chrysanthemum onto her crown, and when she turned thirteen, I didn’t think she was going to put it in, but in the end, she did! Oh, I was so proud of her that day.”

     “It always is a special moment, and even a little nostalgic for ourselves, isn’t it?” The elderly woman handed the florist a few coins and gathered up her freesia before turning back to the rest of her packages. “Oh dear...”

     “I’m so sorry to have been keeping you waiting,” the florist said to me, though she seemed to have forgotten I was here for a moment, as she cleaned up the counter with a dirt stained rag. “What did you need?”

     “I just came in here to ask if you knew of any inns in town,” I said. 

     “Inns?”

     “Nothing too fancy, but somewhere that has lots of rooms available.”

     The florist stared at me incredulously. “When do you plan to stay?”

     “Tonight, and for a couple weeks at most, if possible.” Realistically, I couldn’t imagine The Victoria being fixed in as short as a few days, despite what the captain of the Ollestrian ship that had rescued us had promised. When the florist kept staring at me, I realized that a few weeks was stretching it a bit. “Or, at least somewhere where a large group could stay for a few days—”

     “You do know what today is, right?” 

     “Uh,” I paused. “Friday?”

     “Friday!” The old woman scoffed, struggling to hold onto all of her things. “Tell me, boy, have you finished your preparations for tonight?”

     “Er—”

     “I only hope that you at least have your flowers for your crown,” she said expectantly. A second passed, and her face blanched. I turned to the florist, hoping somehow she would understand that I was completely out of my depths here.

     No such luck.

     The next ten minutes passed in a flurry of differently hued flowers being shoved in my face as the old woman and florist scurried about the shop, which wouldn’t have been so bad, except that they kept asking me the strangestquestions.

     “What would you say your greatest strength is?” The florist asked, setting several flower pots on the counter. “Have you overcome adversity in any way or recently lost a loved one? How would you describe your values?”

     “Uh,” I hesitated, rubbing the back of my neck. This was getting way out of hand now; I didn’t even know these people! “Look, I appreciate the flowers, but I just needed to find an inn, and I have no idea what a crown rush is, for that matter.” 

     Both women paused and stared at me, looked at each other, then each heaved a sigh of relief. 

     “You should have mentioned something earlier!” the florist said, starting to once again clean the spilt dirt from the counter. “Do you know how difficult it would have been to get your flowers without knowing you?”

     “Pretty difficult, especially since I wasn’t sure what you were talking about. Anyway, about the inn?”

     “I’m afraid you’ll have no luck with finding a place to stay tonight, dear, what with all the festivities. You can still go around and have a look for yourself, but there are people from all over Ollestria —and even some abroad, coming tonight.” 

     Suddenly, a bell rang, most likely from the clock tower that I’d seen near the plaza, which caused the florist to turn to a smaller sunflower shaped clock above the shop door. 

     “I’m so sorry, we must have been keeping you from getting home.” the elderly woman said with an apologetic smile, and once again picked up her packages, struggling to balance them all in her arms. 

     “Here, let me help you with that,” I said, taking the bouquet of freesia and some other blue flowers from her. 

     “Thank you— I don’t believe I caught your name, actually.”

     “Archer,” I said, extending my hand out to her, “Nice to meet you, er—”

     “Please, call me Araceli,” she said warmly. 

     “And your name?” I turned to the florist, who had put all the pots back to their respective spots on the shelves and counters. 

     “Mariam, it’s a pleasure to meet you, Archer. I’d still like you to take this, just in case you join our festivities tonight.” Mariam pushed a bouquet she’d been arranging for me into my arms, and among the different kinds, I only recognized dandelions.

     “Thank you, they’re beautiful. Here—” I fished out some coins from my pocket and handed them to her, “Do you take currency from Koshe? Sorry, it’s all I have on me right now. ”

     “Money is money,” Mariam smiled, “I’ll exchange them tomorrow. Oh, and I sprayed the flowers already; they should be fresh for a couple days, at least. Since we’ve only just met, I put a little bit of everything, enough for you to make a basic crown that still represents you as a person.”

     “I’ll explain everything if you’d be so kind to help me carry these home,” Araceli said to me, “I’m sure there’s an inn nearby where you might have luck finding board and bed. If you’re carrying money all the way from Koshe, you must not be from around these parts.”

    “Something like that,” I said, and after wishing Mariam a happy holiday, Araceli and I made our way out and towards her home. 

Margaret Patterson Was a Lighthouse

By Gracie C.

     Margaret Patterson was a lighthouse.

     She was named Margaret, but nicknamed Peggy by her mother. After Peggy’s Point lighthouse, her mother always told her, a beautiful Canadian lighthouse that Margaret’s mother had seen countless times, but somehow, Margaret had never seen closer than a photograph.

     Her mother reminded her countless times that she was named after that lighthouse. Maybe that was why the lighthouse kept showing up in her dreams. But Margaret didn’t want to conform, so on her tenth birthday, she proudly walked up to her mother and declared that she wanted to change her nickname.

     Margaret, on that birthday, became Maggie. Her mother was destroyed.

     Maggie’s mother wanted to name her after something beautiful, something meaningful. But maybe, even though Margaret was now Maggie… she would always be the lighthouse.

     All her life, Maggie wore a camera on a strap around her neck, the fabric fraying and ripping at the seams. She was always oddly disconnected, living her life through that camera lens and refusing to allow anything to touch her emotionally. That's why she always clung to the physical things. Otherwise, her barriers would crumble.

     The camera was older than she would have liked. It didn’t work as well as she would have liked. In fact, saying that it worked at all was a bold statement altogether. It was her mother’s camera- a silver and black one- from 1989, her mother told her. The monochromatic metal casing was discolored slightly by dirt and age, the white lettering above the lens beginning to peel and yellow. But the camera was her mother’s, and there was no way she would ever let go of it. 

     That was her fatal flaw. She wouldn’t let go of anything, especially anything concerning her mother. 

     Not when her mother was barely holding on.

     Everyone in the Patterson family was barely holding on. Dylan, Maggie’s brother, locked himself in his room and cried, unceasingly. Her father just sat quietly in a peeling leather armchair, letting it all fester and grow and worsen in his head. He stared blankly at the television while he drank his coffee, almost seeming like he was still a little drunk from the night before. Which, he usually was. And Maggie’s mother: for the longest time, she was the one who was really barely holding on. She was the one who wore a little knit hat from the hospital and smiled, smiled through the pain. Smiled as she was being put to sleep for surgery, smiled as she woke up in the morning with tears streaming down her face… smiled when she saw her daughter. She had seemed to be the least broken out of anyone in the family.

     Which, sadly, was true. And Maggie was the second-to-least broken. Not because she didn’t love her mother, simply because she closed herself off. She wouldn’t put down her walls, and just when her mother needed her most, those were the days she was so disconnected that no one could even hope to reach her.

     Maggie’s mother was a combat photographer in the United States Navy. She lived through her lens, photographing wars and natural disasters and third-world countries where children died every day. But she never, not once, felt scared. All because she had the camera lens to come between her and the world around her.

     And then one day, she couldn't see to take pictures anymore.

     When Maggie’s mother got sick, her sight was first to go. The retinoblastoma, the doctors said, was to blame for that. The tumor was to blame for everything. But, rather than blaming anything at all, she gave Maggie her childhood camera, the camera from when she was her daughter’s age, from when she had just discovered the wonders of photography. Her gift to her daughter was, in a way, the gift of having the whole world within her reach through photographs.

     And Maggie, without so much as a second thought, began to learn how the best pictures were taken, and how to find the best lighting, and what the best angles were, so she could stand and take photos without having to open her eyes to what her reality had become.

     With a sad smile, Maggie stood up and lifted her camera, snapping a photo of her mother who was, as usual, lingering in a blurry state between wakefulness and sleep. Her eyes were half-open, unfocused, bleary… and the beauty of the piercing blue eyes that were a prominent trait in the Patterson family was gone, the wonder vanished. 

     A camera shutter. Maggie’s mother blinked.

     For one second, that disconnectedness faded, and Maggie, for once in her life, felt like she had really stepped out from behind her lens. She felt like she could reach out and her mother would be there. She felt, even though she knew it wasn’t true, as if there was no great divide between her and the rest of the world.

     And then her vision returned as the white-light ring formed by the camera’s flash dwindled, and then, with a blink, it was gone. The great divide between mother and daughter returned as well, and Maggie shuddered as she felt herself pull away from her mother's bed.

     But it wasn’t her. It wasn’t a conscious choice for her to step away. It just happened.

     Everything had become a blur to Maggie Patterson. Every day, whether she was awake or dreaming was the question that burnt through every single thought and turned the workings of her brain to ashes.

     She dreamed of flying, she dreamed of standing on water; she dreamed of isolation, sitting in a lighthouse with an impossibly bright light that turned around slowly, a sun guiding sailors on their paths.

     When she opened her eyes, strangely enough, she felt more out of reach than she did in her dreams. Her waking state was her true state of isolation, no matter how many nights she dreamt she was inside that lighthouse.

     There was a photo of a lighthouse on the mantle. Peggy’s Point Lighthouse.

     Maggie’s mother was sick, very sick. The tumor had taken all her energy, but she still remained. And Maggie was very similar to her mother, she was a wonderful guide.

     A lighthouse that guided sailors through the dark. 

     Maggie’s mother reached out her hand, her breaths labored and the pauses between breaths becoming increasingly longer.

     “Maggie… are you here?”

     Maggie did not speak, she simply removed the camera from around her neck, set it down on the couch, and took a seat on the edge of her mother’s bed.

     “I love you so much. Promise me you'll keep taking pictures, okay? Promise?”

    Maggie finally let her guard down. Her mother’s hand was right there, and she took it into hers, and suddenly the lighthouse danced in her vision for just a moment before fading from view.

      “I promise, mama.”

     A lighthouse, illuminating the darkness with the brightest light imaginable.

     “You're the light of my world,” her mother said, her voice raspy. She gripped Maggie’s hand tighter and gave a weak smile, reassuring her daughter that everything was okay.

     For once, the wall between mother and daughter crumbled. The camera was in Maggie’s free hand and her mother reached over, feeling the cold metal against her even-colder fingertips. 

     Light danced in her mother’s eyes, and love in her heart. Light and love reflected across miles upon miles of sea; light and love that still radiated in her mother’s heart and all among her body.

     And this love that her mother felt, it was almost better than sight, in a way. Because she had her own little lighthouse, guiding her through her darkness and leading her to the shore.

     That light was her daughter.

     Maggie Patterson was a lighthouse.

 
 

The Abstracts: Seer - Chapter Two

By Danielle N.

     “Oh, honey, she’s awake.”

     I blinked twice and looked around my room, which turned out to not be my room after all. Mom was sitting on my bedside, holding a cold pack to my head, and Dad was leaning on a pole in the corner. I guessed we’re in a hospital, based on the fact that three of the four walls are white curtains.

     “Awesome. When did the doctor say she could leave?”

     Doctor? What doctor? My head hurt from the chill of the cold pack. I swatted at it, surprised that my coordination was so off.

     “You want it off?”

     I tried to speak, but found that my mouth was completely numb.So I settled for nodding

     Mom removed the pack, and I felt around the area, desperately scratching at it. But before I could, my mother pulled both my hands away, and placed the cold pack back on. The itch subsided into an aching cold, which was better, I suppose.

     “mmmmMMMIRRRrr”

     “You want a mirror?”

     “Uhh hhhhh”

     “Here you go, honey.”

     My eyes widen the same time as the stranger facing me in the mirror. If I squinted, I could sort of see the resemblance, but there was a lot of swelling in my left cheek and jaw. A tiny needle was stuck into my lower chin, completely numbing anything below my eyes. A huge bruise covered my nose, like a giant blueberry burst over it. But all of that was small, compared to the bulky neck brace locked around my neck.

     Mom must have seen my surprise. “Vikki, you were in an accident. There was a small earthquake last night, and it let a ceiling board loose. It fell on your head and chest. Our house wasn’t hurt, but you were in critical condition. You’ve been out for two days.” Two days?!

“But you’re safe now, and the doctor just told us that we can come home as soon as the damage is taken care of.”

     “ppPProootpye...”

     “What’s that, hon?”

     Stupid needle!

     “PPProooTTyp...”

     “Prototype?”

      “uhhhHH...”

     “Oh, you made something last night?”

     I nodded eagerly, then immediately regretted it. If the prototype was shattered last night, I wouldn’t be able to rebuild it! The image of the blue tongs in pieces on the floor flashed through my mind, and I willed it to go away.

     “Honey, you know you’re not allowed to work at night! I bet you barely got enough sleep. You could have been hurt even worse, since your body was more sluggish from lack of recharge!”

     I tilted my head - well, as much as I could in a neck brace-and squinted at her. Mom’s always making these assumptions about how the body works, and I never know if it’s true or not. If I had a device, I would look it up, and tell her she was wrong. If she was right, I’d keep my mouth shut. Because…y’know, moms.

      “Izzz Oc?”

     She shook her head sympathetically, golden brown curls bouncing in her face. I braced for the worst. “I’m sorry, honey. I didn’t see any new devices downstairs. Your prototype might have fallen during the tremor. Are you sure you made something?”

     I gave her my best expression of “Of course I made something!” I held up my hands, presenting the grease stains still there.

     But they weren’t there.

     “Oh, yes, thank you for reminding me. I need to clip your fingernails, they’re getting disastrously long!”

     She looked through her bag and pulled out, among other things, a shiny silver nail clipper. I try to groan, but all that comes out is a gurgle. I felt my face getting hot as my mom clips my nails, like I’m a toddler.

     “I’m sorry, do you two need a minute?”

     A doctor with sleek black hair and jade green eyes was peeking through the curtain, carrying a clean white medical kit.

     “Oh, no, go ahead. I was just clipping her nails, but I suppose you could have done that- I mean, if you felt it was necessary...” Flustered, my mom stood up, hands clutching her purse tightly, and almost glided across the glossy tile floor. I silently thanked the doctor.

     “Hello, Victoria. My name is Doctor Easton. I’ll be checking that you are in a fit enough state to leave the hospital.”

     Her tone was neutral, but her way of staring at me relentlessly was enough to send jitters down my spine. 

     Her checkup was much different than the ones I usually got: When she checks my blood pressure, the balloon thingy squeezed my arm much tighter than necessary, and she only stopped when I asked her to. She forced me to strip almost naked and stand on the scale for almost half an hour while she changed the settings and moved the scale around, making sure she got the most exactresults. When she finally let me sit down, she began to poke me with needles (“To see how your body reacts to different substances,” she said), not even telling me what they were.

     “But, why would you need to test that? It-that doesn’t even make sense! I had a head injury, why would - I mean - What?!?”

     “You need my word to get out of this hospital. If you refuse to cooperate I can simply keep you in here for the next month. Would you prefer that?”

     I open my mouth, outraged that she would threaten me like that, but decide to just go with what she said so I could get home as quickly as possible.

     As I put my clothes back on (Mom brought a pair from home), Easton whipped open the curtain, where all the doctors and nurses and patients can see me struggling to pull a t-shirt over my head. Easton looked over her shoulder, fake-gasped, and slowly - so slowly! - closed the curtains.

     “Oh my goodness, I am so sorry! I didn’t realize you were still changing! Please forgive me, I can’t believe myself -” I swear I saw her grinning.

     I felt blood pounding in my ears as I pulled on my shirt and some jeans. I kept my head down as we left the hospital, wishing I could disappear.

      The moment we got home, I popped out of the car, raced into the house and collapsed onto my new bed. Everything in my room felt so melancholy. The old TV that constantly broadcasted TechGlobe updates was obviously destroyed beyond repair in the earthquake, and the pedestal holding it showed dents on its surface, like it was grieving the loss too. My faded loveseat in the corner facing the TV was gone too.      The bookshelf here was filled with the oldest books in the house- the baby books, picture books, beginner series, the stuff I would never bother to reread. I donated about half of them to charity last month, but Mom insisted that I keep a few- “just in case I want to remember what Cam the Camera’s best friend’s name is.” As if I’d ever care about something like that. The circle carpet in the center of the room can’t get the bits of sawdust and woodchips out in the wash, leaving it’s beautiful deep turquoise color slightly dusty. I’ve always wanted to dye the tip of my hair the same color of the rug. My bed was stiff and boxy, qualities that’ll probably disappear once I break it in.  I closed my eyes, inhaling the sharp tang of wood furnishing. It’s hard to believe they did all this in two days. 

     My mind was so lost in thought I don’t notice the sun dipping lower against the horizon. Mom came in after a few hours to say it’s dinner time, and even though I was not hungry, I go downstairs with her anyway.

     Dad and Lyla were already at the table, Dad spooning some mashed potatoes onto his plate, Lyla picking at her fingernails. Lyla’s short blond hair was stiff and slightly damp, water trickling onto her shoulders and down the back of her shirt. Her two front teeth are missing, and she always tells people I punched them out and she swallowed them when they ask. 

     “Well?” Lyla barks as I climb down the stairs. “What happened?”

     “I-what?”

     “What happened? Everyone at school is talking about it.”

     “Honey, please, it’s been a long day.” Mom says as she picks at her chicken thigh.

     “Mommy, I just really wanna know, and Vikki didn’t say anything in the car.” Lyla turns to me, smirking in a way that makes me want to punch her if I was in the mood. “Brandon says he heard you scream from his house.” Lyla said, ignoring mom.

     I sigh, closing my eyes and pinching the bridge of my nose. “That’s dumb. He doesn’t live anywhere near here.”

     She shrugs, flicking shining water droplets off her shoulders. “That’s what he said. He also mentioned something about you being an obsessive sci-fi freak and attempting to contact aliens, and the earthquake messed up your signal, and you got yourself electrocuted.”

     This makes me open my eyes, and I squeeze my lips together, trying not to laugh. “I bet he did.”

     “I mean, I’m not saying I don’t agree with him…The sci-fi freak part. Not the part of you contacting aliens. That too stupid, even for you.”
     My eyes dart up, my head still facing my mashed potatoes. “I’m sorry, I believe I was the one who got A’s and B’s in my report card?”

     “Pssh. And in PE?”

     My face turned a bright shade of cherry. I still hadn’t gotten over my PE grade.

     “That’s not important-”

     Lyla grins. “You got a ‘Not satisfactory,’ and I got an ‘exceeds expectations.’ And no one else in my cla-”

     “You also managed an average of B’s and C’s in every other class, so don’t you go calling me stupid, Lyla.”

     Mom slammed her palm on the table, silencing everyone. “We don’t judge your worth by your grades, or by your strength. What we do judge you on is the fact that you turn in what you are truly proud of, and that isn’t affected by what grade you get on it. So cut this out.” Her voice was cold as ice, sending shivers down my back.

     Mom drew back, and continued eating. Lyla bounced a few times in her chair, slightly irritated. After a few moments of the solitary sound of Mom chewing pasta, everyone else resumed eating.

Panic Pancakes - Part Four

By Rachel F.

    I wake up with a jolt from my dream.  

    In my dream, I was held captive in a net that was hanging from a tree.  Henry was below it and squirting syrup in my face. But then, Jamie came and saved me by cutting the net.  After that Jaime and I were best friends forever. I wish my life could be a dream. Everything would be so much easier because if something bad happened, I would just wake up. 

     I go to school today like a normal day with my mom driving me and afterward I go to the fire hydrant.  On the way there, I dilly dally because I don’t want to seem too eager, especially if this is all just one big prank.  When I finally make my way over there I see Jamie sitting on a nearby bench, swinging her legs. My heart starts picking up pace of what I’m gonna say and oh no, what am I going to do?

    I know what I’m going to do, I’m gonna do what I always do, panic like a freakin’ pancake.

    My hands get all clammy and I brush them on my shirt.  Then I take a deep breath and walk over to Jamie. Jamie has bright red hair that lights up in the sun and dark blue eyes like no other.

    Today, she’s wearing a blue skirt and a pink shirt with paisleys all over it.  Her hair is neatly combed into a high ponytail that sticks up and slightly to the side.  I look from her to down at myself. I’m wearing a pink T-shirt with a star on it and blue jeans that are a little too big and baggy.  My hair is pulled back in two sloppy braids and my bangs are brushed behind my ears. Compared to Jamie, especially with my oval glasses, I look like a dweeb.

    I start to turn away and run all the way home, but it’s too late, “Audrey, you came,” I hear from a voice that can be no other than Jamie’s.  And in a second her arms are wrapped around me in a bear hug. She pulls away and looks at me, then she says, “Come on, let’s go to my house, I baked cookies,”

    At that moment I want to turn away because I feel like it’s a trap.  But Jamie’s cookies are the best and I haven’t had them in so long. My mouth starts to water and a follow Jamie all the way to her house.

    Jamie’s house is on the nicest street in town.  It’s a big ranch house with modern appliances and stunning finishes.  

    When we walk in, I’m greeted with the amazing smell of cookies.  Inside are oak hardwood floors and a cozy family room with gray walls.  I look around for another minute and then I’m greeted by Jamie’s mom, Mrs. Hemmington.  Mrs. Hemmington is a stocky, slightly plump woman with a fake smile that is always plastered on.  Today, she’s wearing a very dark shade of lipstick, a dark blue blouse, and a yellow paisley patterned skirt.  This family sure loves paisleys.  

    “Oh, hello Audrey, I haven’t seen you in a while,” Mrs. Hemmington says in her thick southern accent and a mean tone.  Mrs. Hemmington never liked me and was probably happy when I started to not show up.  

    When I was here, back when Jamie and I were the best of friends, I used to hear Jamie’s mom telling Jamie to go find a better friend and that I wasn’t good enough.  And, I guess Jamie finally listened to her mom.

    Right then, Jamie grabs my arm and pulls me into the kitchen.  As we walk, the smell of chocolate chip cookies gets stronger and stronger until I can practically taste the cookies.  I plop into a kitchen chair and Jamie gives me a plate of cookies, “Let’s go to my room,” she says.

    “Ok,” I say as I follow Jamie up the stairs.  

    In her room,  she sits on her bed and I sit on the floor.  

    “What do you want to do,” she asks?

     I shrug and she turns to her computer.  We just sit there for a while, eating cookies and just sitting there.  Jamie finally turns on Netflix and we watch a boring movie about this weird place where dogs fly, and everything is twice as big as it should be.  

    Finally, when the movie’s over I go to leave.

    “Wait,” Jamie says when I go to get my bag.  “You should stay for dinner,” she says, and then she looks at me with these cute puppy dogs eyes.  I hesitate for a moment to tell her I should really go but then she says, “Fine, go, whatever,” and turns back to her computer.

     I think about leaving but it seems like Jamie wants to be my friend so I say, “Um, Jamie.”

    “Yeah,” she says, looking back at me.

    “I guess I can stay for dinner,” I say while playing with my shirt and looking down at the hardwood floor. 

    Jamie looks at me with her big blue eyes and then comes and hugs me, “You’re my best friend,” she says as she grabs my wrist, pulling me onto her bed.

    The rest of the night is pretty uneventful.  Me and Jamie play games and laugh. We eat dinner together and watch a movie after.  The whole time, Jamie is super nice, almost too nice. She brings me hot cocoa and we sip it while we watch a movie.  But the whole time I feel weird like someone’s watching me and Jamie’s planning something. But that fear gets less and less strong as the night progresses, and by the end, I embrace Jamie and she walks me home.

    The whole week, I’m hanging out with Jamie.  Laughing, playing, and overall just having a blast.  On Saturday we go to Aqua Adventure water park and on Friday we shop for bathing suits for Aqua Adventure.  I pick out a magenta one piece with different colored polka dots and Jamie picks a yellow two-piece with little dogs and bones on it.  On Saturday, we go down tones of water slides that twist and turn and at first, I start to have a panic attack, but Jamie calms me down.  And, after the first water slide, they’re all a breeze. Then, after we swim we go to Jamba Juice and gets smoothies. Jamie pays for all of it, even though I try to tell her that I have money and can pay.  But the weird thing is that when I say that, Jamie just laughs and pays anyway. Then, I get panicky until Jamie calms me down by handing me an ice cold smoothie.

    On Sunday, it’s cold outside and so, Jaime and I go to her house and make pie while of course drinking hot cocoa.  Monday, we go to school but hang out at lunch. Tuesday is the same.

    Then, on Wednesday we both go to school and at lunch, Jamie tells me about a forest which leads to a really cool peak with a pond that we should go to after school that day.  So, after school on Wednesday, I meet Jamie by the tree that we used to climb back in 2nd grade. I get there first and sit under the tree to wait for Jamie. Me and Jamie used to climb this tree for hours at a time and race to what we thought of as the top.  One day, we nailed in flat pieces of wood to the tree and built a fort, sort of like a treehouse. We spent days designing our treehouse and when we were done we took a stick and engraved both of our initials into the trunk.  

    Now, I run my fingers over the initials.  First Jamie’s, which are a jagged J and then a slanted H.  The bark is bumpy but soft and I run my fingers over and over Jamie’s initials.  Then I move onto my initials. My initials are AS which stands for Audrey Sawyyer.  And as I run my fingers over my initials, I feel the groves of a slanted A, and then a wobbly S.  I also feel the bumpy but smoothness of the bark and right under our initials are the letters BFF because that’s what we were.  In second grade we were best friends forever and ever and ever. It was never just Audrey or just Jamie. We were basically one cohesive person and we went everywhere together.  We were attached at the hip and inseparable, until 4th grade. In 4th grade, we tried to still be friends but that bitch of a person, Henry Davidson ruined it. Suddenly it wasn’t Jamie and Audrey but more like Henry, Jamie, and Jamie’s old friend who I think is named Audrey.  And then after a while, it was just Henry and Jamie and I wasn’t anything. That was the worst 6 months of my life. First, my dad dies from cancer, then I lose my best friend to some idiot, and then I get bullied by that idiot.

    I stand up, noticing that my butt has a big green spot and tears are brimming my eyes.  The tree sways with the wind and I suddenly wonder where Jamie is. I place my hand again on the tree and walk around it.  I walk around the massive trunk with my hand brushing the bark until I feel something bumpy. I push back my bangs and there, engraved in the tree are the initials HD and next to those initials are the initials JH with a heart around them.