The Alleyway Portal - Chapter Two

By Jason W.

     As he walked closer, Jeridiah noticed that William and Alistair were both following close behind him, and was relieved that his friends were still there.

     Slowly, the three of them crept closer and closer, until they all heard a quiet buzzing. Their hearts racing, they crept even closer, so they could almost touch it. 

     “It looks like a tunnel. Think I should go in?” commented William.

     “No, don’t! If you don’t know what it is then you shouldn’t do it.” Alistair hurriedly answered.

     “Well, I’ll go in,” said Jeridiah, and stepped in.

     “Ugh! Well, I guess we’re going in too then,” complained Alistair, and stepped in after William.

     “Um, where are we?” asked William.

     “In a sewer somewhere,” replied Jeridiah.

     “C’mon, let’s get out of here and see what’s outside,” said Alistair.

     “Well there’s a grate over there, we could try climbing out of it,” said Jeridiah, pointing up.

     The three boys climbed up, and Alistair, who went first cautiously peeked out. 

     “I think it’s fine, we’re in someone’s backyard.”

     They crept out, but while Jeridiah and William kept walking, Alistair hung back and looked around suspiciously.

     “Hey, what’s wrong?” asked Jeridiah.

     “I don’t know. I just get the feeling that someone is watching us,” answered Alistair.

     “It’s probably nothing. I mean we just crawled out of a sewer, and we have no idea where we are.”

     “Yeah, you’re right. Let’s go see who lives in this house.”

     They went up to the front door and knocked on the door. After waiting a while, the door opened up to reveal a man in his late fifties. The man spoke to them in rapid German.

     “Uh, I’m sorry, but we don’t speak German. Do you speak English?” inquired Alistair.

     “I said, who are you? And what business do you have with me?” the man replied with such fluency that it surprised Alistair.

     “My name is Jeridiah, and these two are William and Alistair,” said Jeridiah, pointing to his two friends, “We were just wondering if you could tell us where we are. We went into a tunnel near our house and just appeared in the sewer in your backyard. Also, where are we? The houses here don’t look like the houses near home.”

     “My name is Friedrich, and you are in Germany, in 1945. The tunnel you spoke of, might be the wormhole the Nazis are planning to use. You said it was in my backyard?”

     “Yes.”

     “Well, Hermann Göring, a Nazi leader, is planning on using that wormhole to invade the year 2020. He already knows about the wormhole, and our spies have reported that he plans on invading in four days.”

     “We have to stop him! Even if he doesn’t win, it could change the history of the world!” exclaimed Alistair.

     “Come in. We can discuss what to do about this. I am a German rebel who wants to stop the Nazis. If I am correct, you are American?”

     “Yup!”

     They entered Friedrich’s house and talked about how to stop the Nazis from invading the future. Suddenly, a loud pounding came from outside.

     “You must hide! Nobody can know you were here. I believe it is the Nazis, and they will want to hunt me down. If they kill me, it is up to you three to stop Göring. Under the bed in the bedroom is a trapdoor. You will find important documents including addresses and names. Go now!”

     The three of them dashed to the bedroom and grabbed the papers. As they were about to climb out the window, they hear a fight in the living room and a gunshot. They slowly creeped to the door and peeked out. Nazis were leaving the house, with Friedrich lying on the floor, a bullet in his stomach. After the Nazis left, they rushed to Friedrich and saw that he was somehow barely alive. 

     “You must go to those addresses on the papers in order. Find the first house that still has living residents in it. Show them the papers, and they will help you destroy the wormhole and defeat the Nazis.” whispered Friedrich in a hoarse voice, as it got quieter and quieter. The boys stayed with him until he died and then ran off to find the addresses on the papers.

 

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

By Alyssa G.

      The gurgling sound of the coffee maker could be heard from down the hall and the delicious scent of hazelnut coffee hit his nose. A small smile played at Isaiah’s lips as he began to wake up from a dreamless night. His eyes peeled open and adjusted them to the sunlight that grazed over him. The sun was just peaking through his shades and there was a  sound of soft humming coming from the birds outside. He slowly got up from his bed, making his way over to his open, bedside window and peered out. Isaiah could see the sunrise over the beautiful hills of Los Angeles. The sun greeted him like it did every other morning. He took a deep breath in, letting out a sigh. Isaiah couldn’t recall every morning to be as beautiful as this, but this one had to be the most beautiful by far. 

     Isaiah stepped back, looking around the familiar large, light-blue room. It wasn’t as cluttered as he thought it would be. Usually, books would be stacked to the high heavens and much as papers and clothing did. His desk that was snug against the wall across from his king-sized bed would be messy and his laptop wouldn’t be found under everything. Empty plates would sit on his desk, bookshelf, dresser, and even his floor, hoping to be put away soon and washed. The window would be shut and a musky scent would fill the room. And, most of all, Isaiah himself would look like a mess. His curly, black hair would be thrown about, and he would smell like complete B.O. His face would look dirty, skin desperately needing some serious color, and his eyes would be dead. Isaiah Sylvia, like most days, would be a walking zombie. But this morning, he didn’t look as bad as he expected. He stood in front of his mirror, shirtless, staring as his almost scrawny features. His sun-kissed skin was dotted with the freckles his mother always said were “angel kisses”. His arms were thin, much as his legs were, and he had gained only a few pounds from last month. He gazed at his lips, chapped and a little red. Fading marks covered some of his chest and his neck, and a part of Isaiah wondered where they came from. His memory was fuzzy, and the only thing he could think of was how messy his hair was. Isaiah’s thin, long fingers traced one of his curls back behind his ear and the others tried to comb through his tangled locks. He kept on, but knots were starting to form even more. It was no use in trying with his hair anymore. He sighed, looking around for a shirt on the ground he could wear. He picked up a black t-shirt with the words DON’T CARE scribbled in white that popped out. He threw it on and left his room entirely.

     He trotted down the long, spiral stairwell that led down a long and sunlit hallway. Isaiah glided along the hall filled with pictures beyond pictures. Endless memories hung there with family and friends watching as Isaiah slowed down to stop and stare. He could see his parents laughing, his cousins, aunts, and uncles having the best time of their lives and he could see Max and him together. He couldn’t exactly remember when this picture was taken, but he believed it was when Max got his first award for best performance in a movie Isaiah couldn’t remember the name of. They were at some restaurant, celebrating, and Max holding his award up proudly and Isaiah by his side, pointing and smiling at his brother. Perfect teeth glowed like their eyes and faces did that night. Everything was just right that night. Everything was so perfectand almost a little cliche. As much as Isaiah didn’t want to admit it, he hated that perfectness. He hated that cliche, but to him, it barely crossed his mind that night. It was Max’s night, and he just wanted his brother to be happy. Isaiah stared for a few moments longer, taking in his brother’s perfect features. Max always had the brightest smile in the family. His eyes would glimmer in those flashing lights and he would practically glow. He had the same set of hair as Isaiah, but better. His skin was a little darker and little freckles could be seen up close. Max was taller, but not by much. Yet, he would tease Isaiah about it, and for some reason, Isaiah would laugh. As much as he wanted to drop kick him, Max always knew how to make him laugh.

     The smell of fresh bacon and the crackling of grease in a pan crashed Isaiah’s train of thought. He glanced over to his side, peeking over the corner of the hallway and stared into the light-grey colored kitchen. His brother was standing over an electric stove, flipping over bacon in one pan and pushing eggs around in another and singing Starmanby David Bowie horribly offkey. Isaiah stifled a laugh and eyed the other food on the white marbled, kitchen island. Chocolate pancakes were stacked up high on a little plate that was in the middle of everything else. Bowls of endless fruit were scattered amongst the sausage, biscuits, hash browns, and cinnamon rolls that were there. Isaiah almost frowned at Max’s attempt at trying to eat ‘healthy’ by the fruits sitting there, yet he couldn’t help but smile. At least he was trying, and maybe that was a good thing. He ambled his way into the kitchen, shivering at the sudden cold floor hitting his bare feet. Isaiah went over to the cupboards over the sink, a little bit away from Max, and took out a coffee mug. He poured himself a cup, heading over to the refrigerator for creamer and sat down at the island. The majority of his coffee had to be the french-vanilla creamer and hints of sugar here and there. It wasn’t much coffee anymore, but more of just about everything else. Isaiah took a large swing of it and placed it back down onto the marble countertop. His brown eyes poured over the food again, quirking an eyebrow at all of it. 

     “What’s up with all of the food?” he asked, taking another sip of his drink.

     Max stopped singing and flipped over the bacon again. “For our guests, of course.” he hummed. 

     “Guests? I thought it was just the two of us.” Isaiah said. 

     His brother whirled around with a bright smile on his face. If the morning sun was hitting him just right, Isaiah would be pretty sure that his smile could possibly blind him. Max, with the pan of bacon in hand, set it down onto the countertop along with the eggs. He turned back to the cupboards, searching for the right plates for this occasion. 

     “No—not just the two of us. There’s Jessie…” he started quietly, “...and your guest, obviously.”

      Coffee caught in his throat, choking him with rage. Isaiah slammed his mug down with some of the coffee spilling over and began to cough and wheeze. Max barked out a laugh as he quickly wiped the countertop with a towel, going back to the cupboard again. He took out four sets of plates, retrieved some silverware, a mug for him, and two glass cups for Jessie and Isaiah’s ‘guest’. Max went back to the kitchen island, still laughing as he set everything down and sat across from his brother. 

     Isaiah tried his best to breathe and managed to. He let out a strangled huff, asking, “w-who?!”

     Max shrugged. “I don’t know.” 

     “Male, female?” Isaiah questioned. “Who?”

     His brother sat back in his seat, drinking some of his coffee and taking a plate out for himself. “Male...or female? Possibly both? I can’t remember.” he answered. “Oh! But I did bump into someone early when I came back from my jog. She was in a rush to get out of here. Said something like, “my boyfriend is going to kill me,”—ah—something like that.”

     Isaiah ran a hand through his curly locks, only for them to get caught into the knots stuck up there. “Was it just her? Please say it was just her,” he mumbled. 

     “I don’t think it was just her,” Max said. He scooped some pancakes onto the plate, alongside some bacon and eggs. He quickly dropped it in front of Max. “I’m pretty sure there was someone else.”

     He let out a long groan and desperately wanted to slam his head against a wall. “Dear God…”

     His brother chuckled. “Yeah, I know. I’m surprised you didn’t wake up with a headache this morning. You had one hell of a night, bud.”

     “What?”

      “Hmm?” Max hummed as he started to fill up his own plate with countless food. “You don’t remember?”

     “Clearly, I don’t.” Isaiah fumed. “What. Happened.”

     Max jabbed at his pancakes and sliced right through the fluffiness with his butter knife. “A lot happened. You went out drinking with Jess and me and we were all having a good time. But you kept going and got stupiddrunk and started crying and then you said you wanted to go to a club. So, we did for a while, but Jess got tired and wanted to leave. We tried our best to get you to leave, but you didn’t budge and we just left. Next thing I know, it’s one in the morning and you FaceTime me and—Jesus—you were out of it. Someone was holding onto your phone while you were trying to talk to me—emphasis on try. And then you puked somewhere, I heard a girl and a guy laugh, and you hung up. Then you stumbled in around two A.M. and went upstairs with your guests...and...here we are.”

     Isaiah groaned again, rubbing his hands over his face. “You can’t be serious.”

     “Very,” Max replied. “But, yeah, that’s what happened. I don’t really want to go into the details that you faintly remember, but there it is.”

     “I feel like such an idiot…” 

     “You are.”

     “Eff you, Max,” Isaiah said as he picked at his food. He bit his lip as he poked at his pancakes. “You haven’t seen, you know, the guy?”

     Max shrugged again. “It’s a pretty big condo. I’m pretty sure he either got lost, left or he’s still in your room and you don’t even know it.”

     Crap. 

     Before Isaiah could bolt, the sound of footsteps filled the hall, quieting the two. A girl, a year or two older than Isaiah, walked in with her eyes glued to her phone. Her black painted nails tapped against the tiny screen vigorously and a part of Isaiah wondered if it could break under all of that abuse. Dark brown hair hung to her shoulders, covering her brown eyes and the majority of her face even when she looked up at the two. She had a confused yet playful smile upon those soft, cherry-colored lips that complemented her golden-honey skin tone. She was wearing Max’s old Nirvana Smiley™ t-shirt which hung low and almost all the way past her knees. It only hiked up against her legs as she took a seat next to Isaiah, who was seemingly glaring at her. Jessie Fetcher had to be one of the girls in Isaiah’s life that he loathed the most. Even though she seemed pretty and was nice to Max, he still didn’t like her due to many reasons that he couldn’t stand to point out. The only one that he wouldpoint out was that she always had an on-again-off-again relationship with his brother, breaking up with him and getting back with him whenever she felt like it. Isaiah hated her for that and couldn’t understand why Max didn’t see what he saw. Max, being himself, of course, was blinded by love. And who could blame him? Jessie Fetcher was his first for everything. They had been together since high school, knew each other since middle school, and grew up together since they were three-years-old. Max loved Jessie and Isaiah had to do the same. 

     “Jess, hey,” Max smiled, “you sleep well?”

     She stretched and yawned. “Yeah, actually. Slept like a baby.” Jess looked at Isaiah with a smirk. “What about you, Izzy? Sleep well?”

     Isaiah frowned. Max only called Isaiah that nickname and she had the audacity to use it? Geez, why did Max end up dating a girl like her? 

     “I slept...okay, I guess,” he answered. 

     Her eyes flicked toward Max as he handed her a cup of orange juice and a plate of eggs and bacon. “He doesn’t remember what happened last night?” she asked with a mocking tone.

     Max grinned. “Not a thing, hilariously.” 

     She quirked an eyebrow. “Really? After that girl who ran out of here, he didn’t remember a thing?”

     Isaiah stabbed his breakfast. “No, I didn’t. I can’tremember a thing. I certainly can’t remember that girl or guy that’s around here, somewhere.”

     “There was a guy?” Jessie said through chewed food. 

     Max nodded. “There was a guy,” he stated, “and we don’t know if he left or not.”

     “You didn’t bump into him this morning?” 

     “Nope,” Isaiah answered before Max did. “I don’t know where he is, and I hope I don’t see him either. Who cares anyways?”

     Almost a few seconds later, a slam of a door and footsteps following emerged from down the hall. A slight smirk painted Max’s lips and a giggle came from Jessie as they waited for whoever it was. Isaiah sat there, contemplating if he should make a run for it or stay and let himself get humiliated once more. He chugged the rest of his coffee, letting it burn his throat in the process, and didn’t bother to bat an eye toward the guy who made his way into the kitchen. A gasp came from Jessie and Max and the guy stopped there in the doorway. Utter silence filled the room and Isaiah was sure enough his thoughts and his heart pounding against his ribcage could be heard. He didn’t make a move, but his eyes were wandering over to the short and beautiful guy standing there. His sandy hair was everywhere and his blue eyes, that were brighter than anything Isaiah as seen before, was blown up and beautiful. A shocked expression laid on his face and the soft freckles that were splattered on his face glowed in the morning light. Warm, sun-kissed skin was miles and miles up and down his body. Fading marks stained his neck, but was covered by the t-shirt he was wearing. Isaiah’s t-shirt. That was Isaiah’s t-shirt that he was wearing—a black t-shirt with a fading band on it. Yeah, that was his for sure. The guy combed his hair down, shrugging the awkwardness that laid upon him and walked over to the kitchen island. He took a plate and didn’t even care that much about the stares, especially coming from Jessie. He took most of everything and plopped down next to Max, who was as shocked just like his girlfriend. Still not paying attention, Isaiah kept his eyes on his plate again, trying to finish what was left. There was no way he was going to look at this guy, even if he did look a little familiar. No way in hell. 

     “Skye?” Jessie choked out.

      Isaiah’s head shot up and his eyes flew right toward him. Skye’s blue eyes were boring holes into his skin, watching Isaiah’s fifty expressions wash over him. An unsure smile flew to Skye’s face as he waved to Jessie, saying, “Hey, Jess...long time, no see, huh?”

     She threw her hands up in the air. “Well, yeah! Long time, no see!”

     Max looked at Isaiah with wide eyes and mouthed, Skye? Really? 

     “When—when did you even get back to L.A.?” Jessie asked.

     Skye shrugged, taking a bite out of his cinnamon roll. “Uh, a few days ago—I think?” he recalled. 

     “And you didn’t even bother to call me? Or text me?” she fumed.

     “No…?” Skye said, unsure of the entire situation itself. “I was busy.”

     She huffed. “Busy? Busy doing what?"

     Isaiah bit his lip harshly as he glared daggers into the back of Jessie’s head. He could see Max in the corner of his eye, trying to get his attention before going off on this girl like he was supposed to. He sucked in a huge breath and pushed himself from the kitchen island angrily. Eyes flicked toward him as he left the kitchen and out onto the porch, looking over the other houses below. His gaze was cast upon the sun, barely making its way up past the hills. Different shades of oranges, reds, and pinks glistened across the sky, peeking through the clouds that were starting to form. It was strange to think about it—those clouds beginning to form even when it wasn’t supposed to rain today. He stared up at the sky, dumbfounded as he watched the sky darken and those warm colors soon to disappear within the clouds. The air picked up around him and it was no longer that warm, summer breeze. Instead, a cold breeze danced around Isaiah, making him shiver from head to toe. His dark, curly hair went along with it and danced along as well. Isaiah stared up at the sky again and quirked an eyebrow, wondering why that was happening. Maybe it was because of the bad mojo in the air. Maybe it was because of Jessie and her idiotic ways. Maybe it was Skye, who happened to follow him like a lost puppy right onto the porch. 

     Skye made his way over to Isaiah and stood right next to him. His hands rested easily on the railing and tightened every time the cold breeze hit him. He gazed upon the houses below with that faraway expression of his that always made Isaiah’s heart skip a beat. Skylar Millar always had the look that caught everyone’s hearts, including Isaiah’s heart. Ever since high school, he had been lovesick over him and his cute looks. Isaiah wondered how many people had fallen for him since high school. A billion, probably, he thought as he focused his gaze back toward the cloudy sky. 

     “So,” Skye started.

     “So.” Isaiah mocked. 

     “Are you always this rude to your... guests?” 

     Skylar Millar wasn’t just a one-time fling. It was more of a thousand, maybe even a million if he was counting every morning, night, and a skip in between classes or work. 

     “Not really,” he said, “usually, they’re gone by the time I’m awake. Usually, they don’t stick around and make a whole scene out of nothing with a girl I hate. Just one time and never seen again.”

     Skye chuckled, “yet, we’re always bumping into each other. Every day after class; every day after extracurriculars; we always seem to find a way to each other.”

     Isaiah scoffed, “this isn’t boarding school, Skye. It’s not like those nights or—or those little blips between classes and after-school things. It isn’t like that—not anymore at least. It’s life now and we’re basically adults.”

     “We’re both 21. We’re still young.”

     “Still,” he argued, “We’re not teens anymore. We’re not those stupid teens cooped up in that tiny dorm in the middle of nowhere! We’re here—in a big city that we both have our own separate lives in. Things are...different. It isn’t like boarding school where it didn’t matter—”

     It was Skye’s turn to scoff. “Where it didn’t matter?” he repeated and turned to him with anger in his eyes. “You’re saying it didn’t matter?”

     “That’s not—” Isaiah sighed, “—what I’m trying to say is that we were young and stupid. We didn’t know what to do with ourselves back in boarding school.”

      “Of course we did, Isaiah,” he said.  “We knew what to do with ourselves, and we did it anyway. Yeah, we were stupid, but it still was something! It still meant something, didn’t it?”

      “Skye,” Isaiah said, reaching over to hold onto his hand. The other guy jerked himself back, fuming with steam spewing out of his ears. A fire raged within that body of his and an icy glare froze Isaiah in place. Isaiah took a step back, hoping that Skye wasn’t planning on throwing him over the ledge. It was probably where he belonged right now, especially after the words that came out of his mouth. 

     “No,” he snapped, “no, I’m—I’m not going to hear some lame excuse for you to run away from your problems again.”

     Isaiah rolled his eyes, “it’s not an excuse—”

     The short boy’s hands curled into small fists as he stared deep into Isaiah’s eyes. “I want to hear you say it, Izzy. I want to hear you say it,” he said quietly.

     “Say what?”

     He took a deep breath in and let it all out soon after. “I want to hear you say that it meant something. That all of those nights and days meant something, Isaiah. I want to hear you say it.”

     “Or what?” Isaiah countered.

     Skye didn’t respond to that. He only repeated, “I want to hear you say it.”

     Isaiah paused for a few moments, letting time skip to the beat of his thumping heart. He cast his eyes toward Skye and hoped that maybe, just maybe, he was going to let this one go. That he wasn’t serious about what he said moments ago. That he would start laughing it off like some horrible, awkward joke and act as if it didn’t really mean anything. He didn’t. He stood there, his hair covering his blue-blue eyes that had pain mingling within them. Skye was waiting for an answer that was never going to come, and Isaiah felt horrible about it. A dark shadow grew over them and the sound of thunder rumbled above. What a coincidence.

     “Well?” Skye said, his voice cracking. “Say it.”

     He bit his tongue. He couldn’t say it. He just couldn’t. 

     Skye’s expression shifted. “Right, right,” he laughed sadly, “I see.”

     “Don’t be like that,” Isaiah said, “you know it isn’t like that, Skye.”

     “Clearly it is!” he yelled. The clouds above rumbled and grumbled once more. “Just say it, Isaiah. We both know what you’re thinking!”

     “Say what?!”

     “Say what you are thinking. Right now.”

     “I’m not thinking of anything.”

     “Liar!” Skye snapped. Dark, gloomy clouds loom above and a single raindrop directly hit Isaiah’s face. It rolled down his cheek slowly, leaving a cold stream right after. There were more, one right after the other, raindrop after raindrop until it started to pour around them. Isaiah’s hair was completely drenched just like Skye’s, drooping down to his shoulders and casting a shadow over his eyes. He could barely see him anymore. Only the blurry vision of him stood there, waiting and waiting for Isaiah to say what was on his mind. There was nothing there. Nothing he could say to Skye to make up for what he said earlier. Whatever Skye was feeling, Isaiah couldn’t feel it right there and then. He was empty. Bottomless, empty, and cold. Nothing more or nothing less. Isaiah couldn’t feel...anythingat that moment, and that had to be the most terrifying thing in the world.

     Rain poured around them and a pool of utter despair filled his stomach. His nails pinched into his palms to the point where little crescents formed in his sun-kissed skin, and he couldn't breathe. For some reason, Isaiah felt like he needed to find Max. He needed to find him because...he didn’t know why. 

     “Liar,” Skye seethed, “liar!”

     A snowball was caught in Isaiah's throat as he choked out, “what?” 

     “You’re a liar! A complete liar!”

     As mean and childish as Skye was, he never really acted like this. He would usually take a calm approach during arguments. Yes, he did have his fair share in yelling to get his point across, but it was never like this. It was...different. It wasn’t the Skylar Millar he thought he knew.

     “How could you lie about that, Isaiah?” 

     Isaiah stared at him, confused. “What are you talking about?”

     “How could you lie about Max like that? How could you lie to him, of all people?” Skye said. “He’s your brother, isn’t he? How could you do that? How could you let him go?”

     Isaiah whipped his head toward the kitchen, expecting someone to be there. But there was no one. Jessie wasn’t there and neither was Max. They were gone. Max was gone. Max was gone. He was gone. Gone. Gone. Gone.

 

     Where was Max? 

 

     “Max,” he quavered, “where is Max?”

     Skye took a few steps forward and stood right in front of Isaiah. He pushed him and kept on pushing until the wet railing was pressed up against Isaiah’s back. “It’s all your fault, Izzy! You liar!” Skye hissed out with his hands pushing into the taller boy’s chest. In which his hands were turned into fists, punching hard and not stopping even when Isaiah was trying to comprehend what was happening here. 

     “It’s all your fault!” Skye yelled again. 

     Isaiah caught his fists, gripping onto them tightly. “What? What was my fault? What did I do?!”

     “You—you killed him, Isaiah! You killed your own brother!” Skye boomed. 

     No. No. That can’t be true. It just can’t.

     He pushed Isaiah again and again. The railing was jabbing into his back and his shirt was dampening by the second. Isaiah’s hands flew back there to hold himself steady as the words seeped in and the pushing that was coming from Skye. He felt lightheaded, sick to his stomach, and completely dazed. He could only feel Skye’s hands on him and the fading screams coming from his mouth. The grip on the railing loosened and so did his sense of reality. Isaiah felt like falling over this railing and falling forever. The grueling thought in the back of his head as if he did really kill Max. That it was his fault for Max dying. That he did every little thing to push him to the edge. Maybe it was true—Isaiah killed his own brother.

     How in the world could someone live with something like that on their shoulders?
     “It should’ve been you, Isaiah! It should’ve been you!” 

     Isaiah felt like pinching himself or even trying to get out of this entire situation itself. This couldn’t be real. It was a dream. Just a dream. 

     “You should’ve died, not Max!” Skye raged. “And now look at what happened! Max is gone and everything is complete crap! You should’ve suffered...you should’ve gone through all of the pain!”

     It’s all a dream, Isaiah kept telling himself as he closed his eyes. Just a stupid dream. 

     “You let him die, Isaiah! You let him go! You let him suffer! You put him through so much!”

     I just need to wake up.

     “It’s all your fault!”

     Need to wake up.

     “You killed him!”

     Wake up.

     “You deserve to die just like he did!”

     His eyes flew open when Skye took the last push. It was hard enough to knock him off his feet and send him over the railing. He tried to reach out for Skye before he fell over and called out for him, but his voice was caught in his throat. His stomach went hollow as he went back, not able to save himself for his own good. Isaiah found nothing but only the air was rushing through his hair and hitting his back every second he plunged down. The drop wasn’t supposed to be this far, but it was and he felt like he was falling forever. Isaiah had let out a scream after what it seemed like a few minutes as he fell. The ground that he was plunging toward rushed up closer and closer and closer and—

     Then he woke up. 

 

The Witch's Collection of Forbidden Books

By Brittany M.

     The ladder slid quietly across the tall, dark mahogany bookshelves as the woman held up her lantern to scan the backbones of the fiction section. Spotting and pulling down what she was looking for, she descended the ladder, her short heels clicking against it's wooden steps. 
"If you have an eye set out for mystery, you simply cannot go without Mr. Feltz's 'Marigolds of Bronze and Silver'," she said, placing the book and lantern onto a desk settled within the bookshelf. 
     Although the front was blank, the leather cover and spine of the thick book were dark red with ornate gold lettering and floral designs. Its pages were sun-kissed and dog-eared, and the whole book was beginning to fray at the edges, all hinting at much previous use. Both book and the man that picked it up were very old indeed. His wrinkled but steady hands inspected the pages before thanking the girl and moving it carefully to hold by the crook of his elbow. 
     His grandson told him of the young lady and of her eccentricities that morning. Supposedly, she had no interest in anything but a life totally to herself. Her appearance gave the suggestion of being in her twenties, and the silence around her house indicated she was sadly alone. Her entire house smelled of ancient wood but even older books, and everything had a specific style he couldn't place. The antique, intricate, almost dark sort of look gave the man a feeling of great calmness. The kind you feel sitting in a comfortable chair drinking something warm; when the lights are off and there's nothing to see by but a lit fireplace.
     "Is there anything else you needed?" she asked him. 
     "That should be all. I read quickly, though, so I may be back soon. Thank you, dear. I'd best be on my way now. Have a wonderful night."
The man walked up to the library doors and took a last look around before exiting. From here, he could see the whole room.
Bookshelves took up the entire walls in front of and behind him, and clusters of various shorter ones were scattered cleverly about the room. The windows taking up the walls on the left and right we looked about 25 feet tall and curved at their tops a few feet before they met the ceiling. The elegant blue curtains were drawn open, letting moon- and candlelight illuminate the room. In front of the windows to his right were two faded, gold-colored armchairs, a sofa of the same color and Victorian style, and a small mahogany coffee table covered in several papers. It looked like a nice, comfortable place to read and work. 
     In front of the windows on the other side of the room, deep blue velvet carpet walked up solid mahogany stairs and spiraled to the floor above; the velvet seemed to darken and spot with embroidered stars the farther up it went. He got an odd feeling looking at those stairs. His eyes flickered to the woman’s silhouette in the candlelight and, once assured that her back was turned, an invisible force began to pull his feet toward the stairs and the mystery that could lay in the room above.
     His hands ran along and admired the carved mahogany stair rail as he floated up the steps. Trying the doorknob at the top, he found the door unlocked. It slid open, revealing the startling room beyond. The air changed immediately as he stepped in. All was still, cold, and creepily uninviting. Unfamiliar herbs hung from the ceiling to dry, and something was boiling in the corner of the room. What caught his attention the most however, were the books. Each book cover was blank, save for a horrified and shocked face on each. Upon picking up and opening one, he was suddenly transported into someone else’s life. Within seconds, he had lived through all the memories of this stranger, locked inside the pages of a book that no longer seemed like a normal book at all. The very last memory he witnessed was of this room and seeing the girl from downstairs before everything went black. When he woke from the book's tellings, he furrowed his brow. He didn’t understand. What kind of horrid joke could this be? Whose lives were these?
     Heels clicked gently on the floor behind him and the girl from downstairs looked at him blankly when he turned to face her. She was holding an open book: the very one she had given him just moments before. He knew what was happening now, and what kind of library this was. He was going to be confined behind the prison bars of text that would relay the story of his life. He’d be able to do nothing but watch the scrolling letters and live eternity repeating all the memories he’d already lived. His limbs had begun to shake in terrified anticipation. 
“I don’t believe I’ve added a man with such age to my collection. The closest I think would have been a peer of mine when I first studied witchcraft perhaps three or four hundred years ago. While I doubt it will be, I look forward to seeing if your life was any more interesting than the rest.”
     With the woman’s words, she became very old. She transformed into a horribly deformed creature that was unrecognizable from her previous appearance. Her presence was now choking him, and her eyes flashed with a spark of something otherworldly. He could smell her earthy breath as she inched closer and grabbed a hold of his thoughts with a cold, grotesque hand. He couldn’t believe he would be imprisoned within a forbidden book by a witch. A witch he had trusted so easily just minutes before. Imagine! What a fate this is! He almost laughed, but the old woman smiled wickedly. Without another thought, the man’s vision suddenly went black.

 

The Abstracts: Seer - Chapter Seven

By Danielle N.

     We do this a few days every week. The bests times are when the fewest people are in the house. In most cases that means when Lyla is doing piano lessons or when mom is off running errands. Dad usually keeps to himself upstairs in his office, pretending to work but actually playing on his guitar watching “R” rated movies. For this reason, we don’t usually watch out for him. But of course there are days when Netflix isn’t responding to him, and he has to take a break from his guitar and checks in on us. Bridget can usually See him coming, and we stop in time, but Bridget isn´t always paying attention.

     “What are you two doing down here!?! Victoria, stop that!”

     I felt my blood freeze for a second, then felt a cold sweat overtaking me like a fever. Bridget took off the blindfold and glanced up. Dad was staring at us. He looked so alarmed you’d think he saw me murdering Bridget.

     “Oh, we’re sorry for scaring you, Mr. Jenkins. We’re just practicing martial arts for when we become spies. I take lessons at a dojo in the town square. I’ve been teaching Vikki what I’ve learned.”

     Dad lingered a little longer before muttering “Well, as long as you two are taking precautions…tell me if either of you get hurt…”

     I looked up the stairs, wondering if dad really did just let us off the hook like that. “Do you really take martial arts?”

     “Well, I did back in Ireland. My dad’s still trying to find a nice place for me to continue lessons.”

     “Cool. What’s it like?”

     “Exhausting. Most of it is self-defense. My teacher was really old and had gas issues, so there weren’t many in the class. But my dad promised we’d find a good place this time.”

     “Wait, tell me more about the teacher?”

     “His skin was hanging off his bones like a super old elephant. And almost every minute, he would let it rip REALLY loudly. He’d be adjusting my position while farting.”

     At this point I was laughing my head off. Bridget goes on about how some of the kids in his dojo called him Mister Fartinator, and he’d make anyone who said that act as a volunteer when he was teaching a new move. At some point they were learning positions in which you could very easily break a person’s arm (but Fartinator told them to NEVER actually break somebody’s arm. He was only teaching them that so if they were jumped or attacked their opponent would go limp and wouldn’t move) and he heard the faintest whisper of “Fartinator.” He whirled his head around, and Bridget giggled as she explained how his wiry white hair fell into his open mouth. He shouted something in Japanese fast and jerkily. When people saw how red his face was, they shut up, but the kid who called him Fartinator was still giggling in the back, his eyes closed. 

     “Come up here, lad.” Fartinator said in sharp Irish. “I want you to help me demonstrate the positions I’ve been teaching the class.”

     And that poor kid was stuck into a bone-breaking position for the entire class to “observe closely.” 

     “And I was like, ‘Yo, Fartinator! It’s just a stupid nickna-’”

     And that’s when I thought she was going to be sick.

     Bridget gasped and clutched her stomach, like she was cramping. She started groaning in a disturbingly low voice and then screamed. She uncurled herself and hunched over, her arms bended and curiously stiff. Her eyes were almost glassy. She kept taking in haggard breaths, while I started screaming for dad to come downstairs quick, Bridget is choking. She was shivering all over and I helped her sit down. Dad rushed downstairs, his eyes wide and terrified. Bridget took one more huge gasp, and went limp. Then I started screaming, tears pouring out of me. 

     “Dad! She’s dead! Bridget’s dead!”

     “I know, honey, just stay calm, stay calm… I’m calling 911...Oh my god…”

     I started shaking all over, and tried to get her into a position in which she could easily breathe, but then I realized that her chest was just barely rising and falling, so I laid her down flat on the floor and tried to apply CPR to her, but dad cursed at me to stop it, and I was so scared that I couldn’t find the nerve to respond.

     I heard an ambulance outside, and the thundering footsteps of at least a dozen people thumping down the stairs. Two men in bright orange vests lifted Bridget’s body onto the stretcher, while I kept trying to make myself stop crying, emergency care arrived, they’ll save her.

     “Mister Jenkins?” A very tall police asked dad.

     “Yes, yes that is me.”

     “Was either of you in the room while she-”

     “Yes, my daughter was.”

     “Name?”

     “Victoria Demothi Jenkins.”

     “Both of you come with her. It would be best if you rode in the front section of the ambulance, so you don’t distract any of the staff trying to save...who?”

     “Her name is Bridget. Bridget O’Brien.”

     Dad rattled on with other info, as we trekked out the house and into an ambulance. We sat down next to the driver, as the police listened to Dad, occasionally asking questions.

     “Did she go swimming that day?”

     “What?”

     “I said, did she go-”

     “I’m sorry, I heard what you said. But how does swimming have to do with anything?”

     “If she held her breath for an extended period of time, it might lead to less oxygen entering her bloodstream, causing it to slow. She would become lightheaded, and a risk of fainting if she did sedulous exercise immediately afterward.”

     “Vikki, what does sedulous mean?”

     “In that scenario, it meant she was doing harsh exercise.”

     “Thanks hon. In response, officer, she did not go swimming, however she and Vikki were playing in the basement.”

     At that point, we’d arrived at emergency care. We drove around to the back, where there was a parking lot full of ambulances. The emergency staff had placed the stretcher with Bridget onto a rolling cart, and were pushing her through the doors. I started to follow, when the policewoman commanded me to sit down. She led us around to a police car parked a few spaces to the left of the ambulance, and told us to sit in the back. I suppose any kid under 8 years old would be thrilled to sit in the back of a police car, but I was scared stiff. As far as I was concerned, Bridget had died in my hands. I could still feel her staggering breaths in my arms.

     We drove for about an hour, but it felt like days. The policewoman was still questioning dad, and he was still answering her. His voice was starting to waver, and he was coughing. When she asked why, he said he had a mild illness and he had been coughing all week. This was true. He kept everyone up at night with his coughing. I rubbed my temples as several nights of insomnia weighed on me.

     We finally arrived at a building a rather long way away from town. It was in the center of a large flat ground, and mountain ranges surrounded both sides. The building itself didn’t look like much. It appeared to look like a giant concrete block with a little door on the outside. I noticed a small sign with a police badge on it, marking this as a police checkpoint. There was room for only one car in a tiny locked parking lot to the side of the building. The policewoman kept driving in, as a small sensor scanned the car’s license, and opened the gate. She parked the car, telling us to wait and be silent, and mentioned that the car was microphoned and recorded.

     From the moment she locked the door, I started a timer in my head, and watched as the parking lot locked again. She typed into a number pad, and a piece of the building was sucked backwards with an ancient groan, and pushed to the right. She walked in, and the door - or whatever you called that - closed. I examined the car curiously, and imagined her walking into a room with a high - ceiling with a giant video surveillance screen along one wall. The idea that somebody was watching and listening to everything we did sent chills down my back, and I skooched around to give dad a hug. And at that point all the shock and fear that went into the past day came pouring out. I cried. And the entire time I was terrified that the policewoman was going to come back and start shouting at me to stop crying but I didn’t care, I didn’t care. My best friend could have been in a coma and here I was a million miles away from any news of her. The sky gradually darkened, and I watched the sun set in brilliant bold colors.

     At 56 minutes, the policewoman came back, and told us to get out of the car. I was still scared, because I still felt wetness under my eyes and I could tell she knew. Dad couldn’t say anything, but instead held my hand and lightly squeezed. His hand was almost twice as large as mine, and I hardly hurt him when I squeezed his fingers with all the bundled up energy inside me. I felt tears well up again, and felt like the biggest wimp to ever walk the earth.

     She made us stand to the wall, and she entered the code into the door. It was a small entrance, and another officer was waiting inside. He had a large, flat nose and eyes like pieces of cold blue steel. Wordlessly, he walked in front of us, and she in the back. The hallway was very dark and thin, and we had to walk single - file. We came into a small room with a desk and four chairs. Naturally, dad and I took the chairs farther away from the door, and the two officers took the other two.         

     The chairs were made of cold metal, and I took to staring into my hands most of the time. Dad kept a determined expression, and I envied how he learned to hide his emotions so well.

     The two police walked in behind us, and entered a code into a receiver in the wall. It beeped twice, and then slid forward to release a slim folder filled with four papers. The woman took out all of them, and read their contents out to us. It was family info, stuff like gender, race, age, grades and allergies. They would ask Dad questions about the information. Meanwhile, I could only concentrate on how cold I was, and why why why didn’t I take a jacket?

     Eventually, Dad got tired of these charades, and slammed his fist on the table. “Yes, that is all correct. Now may I please ask why my daughter and I have been dragged half across America?”

     “The works of the government are not of your concern.” The policeman says frostily. “Now may I ask that you remain silent while I question your daughter, or you will be removed from the room. We are prepared to use force.”

     I silently pleaded for dad to stay. The policeman continued. “Victoria, what were you and Bridget O’Brien doing at 4:30 this afternoon, fifteen minutes before Bridget had her heart attack?”

     Well, I thought, at least he told me what happened to Bridget. “Before Bridget moved here, she took martial arts class-”

     “Where did Bridget move from?”

     “Ireland.”

     “Which city?”

     “I don’t know.”

     “Why did her family move?”

     “Bridget never told me, and I never asked.”

     “Who taught her lessons?”

     “I don’t know, but she said the kids in the class called him Gassy Elephant, because he looked a bit like an elephant and he passed gas more often than usual.”

     “How many kids were in the class?”

     “I don’t know, but it was a small group.”

     “Would you say it was about seven children?”

     “Yeah, about seven. I think.”

     “I understand. To go back to my original question, what were you and Bridget O’Brien doing at 4:30 this afternoon, fifteen minutes before she had a heart attack?”

     I sigh, getting kind of fed up with this. “Look, you just picked me up from my house, not even considering how weird that is, and you start demanding I-”

     The policeman slams his fist onto the table with inhuman speed, making my head pop up mindjogglingly fast. The policewoman hadn’t said anything yet, and didn’t look the least bit surprised. “Miss Victoria, surely you realize what this place is?”

     “No.”

     “This is an interrogation room. At this very moment cameras are picking up every intake of breath you take. It is reading your heart rate and your body temperature and even how much food is in your stomach. These walls are completely missile - proof and there are several helicopters positioned around this place designed to lift anything running on the ground. You will not get out of here. So I suggest you cooperate.”

     I’d only read about people like this in books. But this was real. This was really real, and I doubted that anybody would hear or help me if I screamed. I was miles and miles away from anybody, and anything could happen to me in this concrete room with four chairs and a table and nobody would be there to help.

     So I told them everything.

     I told them about my research on Seers and everything I ever made to detect their brain waves, and my befriending Bridget, and discovering she was a Seer, and teaching her to hone her abilities, and every single detail I noticed when she had her heart attack.

     “You say she had glassy eyes?”

     “Yeah, her eyes looked like they were made of milk and water.”

     “Do you mean the colored part of her eye - the iris - turned glassy? Or that her entire eye was glassy?”

     “Her entire eye was glassy.”

     “I understand. This is my last question, Victoria.”

     “Okay. I’m listening.”

     He pauses, thinking of how to phrase the question, I hope.

     “What do you think caused Bridget’s heart attack?”

     I shrug. “I don’t know.”

     He shook his head, frustrated. “Victoria, you have proven that you are persistent and curious. You’ve forgotten more knowledge than anybody three times your age. Surely you must have some idea?”

     “No, not this time.”

     The policeman cursed in frustration. “Victoria, what do you think we made you wait for so long?”

     “To intimidate me into telling the truth?”

     “No! That girl in the hospital called Bridget was your friend, correct? And you didn’t wonder what may have caused her heart attack?”

     I felt like dirt. “I-”

     “Victoria, you have so much scientific knowledge inside you, but you just can’t use your head. The brain is a sensitive thing - how do you know that you didn’t just break that girls brain? You’ve been stressing her on using her Eye over and over, and now she’s in the hospital. All because you were careless!”

     “But it was HER IDEA!”

     “AND YOU, AS SMART AS YOU ARE, SHOULD HAVE HAD THE SENSE TO TURN HER DOWN!” He leans across the table while he screams at me, his face as red and hateful as anything. I think I may have peed myself.

     “You should be put on public probation for this, Victoria. Anyone with any sense in the city council would throw you in jail. You nearly cost this girl her life.”

     After staring me down for a few seconds more, he sat back down. I took that as an excuse to stare at my feet, wishing I could cry and wouldn’t cry at the same time. “But lucky for you, neither of those things will happen to you. As I said, that is my last question. You will be driven back to your house now. And you should expect that we will be keeping a much closer eye on you, Victoria.”

     I felt so stupid. How, howcould I’ve let this happen? I’ve been so stupid, and Bridget had seemed so eager to learn, and I was eager too, and now Bridget’s in the hospital! I should have refused to teach her, I should have not told her, I should have-

     “Vikki…”

     I lifted my head toward Dad. He began to say something, but the policewoman driving interrupts us. 

     “Be quiet. You should know that any word you say can and will be used against you.”

     “I’ve had enough of being told to not talk to my own daughter. You have finished interrogating her and I have the right to speak.”

     Slowly, the policewoman turned back to the road, and didn’t speak again.

     “That cop should not have said that to you, Vikki. I’m sure you already feel terrible, and him blaming it on you is the worst thing he could say to a child. And, Vikki?”

     “Yeah?”

     “No matter what you did so far, you are still a child, and I am going to stand by and support whatever you do. Everybody makes mistakes, and this is just a bad mistake you made. And you will use this experience in the future.”

     “Bridget’s still in the hospital, dad.”

     “Yes, for a heart attack, according to what the policeman says. I don’t know about you, but I don’t see how you can link brain injury to a heart attack. What happened to Bridget was just an accident they’re blaming on you. ”

     “I hope so.”

     I still felt crummy, but Dad did have a pretty decent point. And it was nice to know that dad is behind me on this.

     But then I thought about school.

     Everybody completely freaked out in class when they learned I was in a coma, and after this I was sure that Brandon was going to dance with joy when he heard. Maybe this time he’ll actually do something creative to piss me off.

     It was a miserable ride back home.

 

Threads and Sheets

By Aishwarya W.

     The faint beeping of a device sounded like a foghorn to him in his haze of darkness, assaulting his ears, and sending him reeling at how loud the constant beep beep was. He was tired, every bone in his body felt like jelly. It was hell, sleeping in the dark, damp hospital bed, waiting for either death or salvation, whatever came first. 

     He wondered if his children were doing fine. The faces of little Ari's, and young Chloe's apparent devastation were etched in his mind like the very initials on his future, but forthcoming gravestones were. When he tested positive for the one thing he never wanted happening, he felt like a failure, lying there, all day, all night, not with his family, to support them, to see them. He wanted salvation, a release from all the anticipation they were going through. 

     The nurses came four times a day with discouraged faces, and a scowl. He looked at them as they changed the IV, adjusted the monitor, scribbled something down on their papers, and he wished that someone would say SOMETHING to him. Ask him how he was feeling. But no. It was a routine. They gave him a once-over, checked his tongue as an added measure, scowled, and left. 

     At times, the only person he could talk to was his 'neighbor', Old Joe. Old Joe seemed to have an oddly cheerful perspective on life. He knew he'd recover despite being almost 80 years of age. Old Joe knew he would once get out of his bed and walk the mile to his freedom. 

     He silently wondered if the nurses were supplying some kind of gas to Joe discreetly. 

     "Tell you what, Cheerios." Joe called him Cheerios because he had asked a nurse for Cheerios one wild day. 

     "Once we get outta this hellhole, I'll take you out for ice cream, and a nice fancy dinner. Maybe give you some Cheerios too. You can bring your kids, both Ari and Chloe, I'm gonna bring my Norma. What say?" 

     He smiled. He wished it could come true. For a long time that night, he was awake, imagining different scenarios that involved Old Joe, and ice cream. Those kind words of Old Joe's had left a deep impact on him. Because sometimes, all he needed was a beacon, something he could quantify, and Old Joe's quiet smile, and charisma, even when invalidated, had given him that. 

     Days passed, in a slow flurry of both of them lying there, in a long hallway of sleeping patients, some yelling in pain, while the others just in silent suffering, Joe and Cheerios got closer. Joe told Cheerios about Norma's weird habits, it was apparent that he loved his wife, and Cheerios told him about his daughters and his estranged wife. Sure, they were in pain, but it was the mutual happiness of finding each other that kept them going. Sometimes, all you need is a thread to hang on to, and for Cheerios, that thread had become Old Joe. 

     After a trip back from the common restrooms, he sat down on his bed, suddenly tired. Cheerios had no energy left. He called out for Joe, wanting to hear his upbeat voice, but there was no response. Cheerios thought to himself, that he must have slept. Lying back onto the stiff bed, he soon drifted off into his own deep slumber. 

     When he woke up, everything was eerily silent. Joe would normally greet him as he woke, but as soon as his eyes adjusted to the light, he felt as if his soul was sucked out of his body. 

     Joe's bed was empty. 

     He had no recollection of what happened next. He called out for the nurse, basically yelled at the top of his voice, and she came running, afraid something might have happened. 

     "Where is this man? The-the one sleeping beside me?" 

     She pursed her lips, and looked at her feet.

     "He succumbed to his disease yesterday. I'm sorry, Mr. Jones, I know he was a good friend of yours."

     Cheerios couldn't speak. He was numb. His emotions spiralled, but all he felt was empty. If someone like Old Joe, someone so happy and cheerful, could not see it till the end, how can someone as unhappy as himself can? An immense sense of dread washed over him. He wondered if all his future was always this bleak. He wondered what Norma would feel once she gets this news. He shuddered. He couldn't even bear thinking about Norma.

     He shook off the darkness, when the nurse's voice came back into focus. 

     "... so, naturally we have to shift you now, Mr. Jones." She called on several ward boys and before Cheerios could protest, they lifted him and placed him on the same bed that Old Joe was on. 

     "Did you... Did you change the sheets?" He asked hazily as exhaustion took over.

     "No, Mr. Jones, we're short on those." Came the nurses placid voice, as he slipped into the darkness. 

 

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