Paul Has Left the Crisis

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826NYC Books 372 Fifth Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11215 Paul Has Left the Crisis: An Anthology by 826NYC Students at Uncommon Charter High School © 2022 by 826NYC and the authors. All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. First 826NYC edition March 2022 Manufactured in the United States of Brooklyn 978-1-948644-90-7 The writing in this book was produced in the 2021-2022 school year at 826NYC’s Young Writers Publish project at Uncommon Charter High School. The classes were run by Willie Filkowski. Designed by Ciara Cordasco Edited and proofread by Christine Corbin, Carly Fisher, Michelle Haska, Chad Hewitt, Tiana Moe, and Hillary Tacuri. Printed by Bookmobile This program is supported by 826 National, the Amazon Literary Partnership, The Jane Friedman Anspach Family Foundation, Con Edison, The Find Your Light Foundation, The Hawkins Project, International Paper, The Rona Jaffe Foundation, The Kettering Family Foundation, The Minerva Foundation, The Resnick Family Foundation, The Yelp Foundation, and Youth, Inc. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. The program is also made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. Additional support comes from the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit 826NYC is grateful to the many individuals who support our work. To see our full list of supporters or make a donation, please visit

826NYC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages six to eighteen with their creative and expository writing skills and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. Our services are structured around our belief that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success.

This book is intended for mature audiences, with some topics, themes, and language that may not be suitable for young readers.

Table of Contents 9 11 17 25 29 39 45 49

Foreword · Willie Filkowski War of the Gods · Vanessa Bailey :Eternity · Jordyn Bankston Rie to Rien · Raoudath Fofana When a Normal Life Turns into an Interesting One · Lonnie Irving Jr. The Obsidians · Zion Loyd The Crisis That Lead to Unrighteousness · Malachi Megginson My Verse · UCHS 2.0 x 826NYC

» 53 57 59 69 71

My Verse Alternate Endings Vanessa Bailey Jordyn Bankston Raoudath Fofana

Acknowledgments About 826NYC

The young, brilliant writers in the following pages created the most wonderful writing community during our twelve weeks together. I was thrilled to spend time in the room with them while they dreamt up their various fictitious worlds. Their conversations were dreamy, philosophical, generous, kind, imaginative, hilarious, and energetic. We started our twice-a-week sessions together with a breakneck tour of several different genres of creative writing. But it was hard to ignore the squid-shaped shadow cast upon us by a certain binge-able TV show that had just premiered as our work began. As we discussed what type of book we might make together, the answer was obvious. Sort of. So, in this anthology you’ll find short stories written independently by these students in response to a bake-off style prompt that pushed them to spread their tentacles beyond what they might already know about the genres of sci-fi, speculative fiction, dystopian fiction, and fantasy. These stories are a kaleidoscopic response to questions like, What, actually, is darkness? Who is really in control of my life? What if things were different? You’ll also find a short story called My Verse, written collaboratively, as a whole class, right up until the point where sparks start to fly—check out a sampling of how the students each ended things differently. These students worked hard to render their imaginations into writing and they helped one another to strengthen and fully realize their visions as well. I’m in awe of how willing they were to dream up new worlds in which to tackle the problems of our current one. To Vanessa, Jordyn, Eli, Jeremy, Raoudath, Lonnie, Zion, Malachi (and our part-time friends Aiden and Devon), thank you so much for your huge brains and your hard work. Always be writing! And to you, the reader, enjoy!

Willie Filkowski 826NYC Teaching Artist January 2022

Paul Has Left the Crisis

War of the Gods By Vanessa Bailey

“Crap! Crap! Crap!” she mumbles as she jumps from rooftop to rooftop. I don’t get paid for this, she thinks as dark satyrs chase her through the wet city. They start throwing their magic blades at her, almost cutting her. Just when she thought they had finally run out of weapons to throw at her, one of them starts summoning green fireballs and throws them at her. Seriously?!?!, she thinks. This is some BS! She gets far enough away so she can hide behind a chimney and pulls out her flute with a spider charm on it. She plays a few notes, and then three other versions of her come out of thin air with a big smoke cloud. “Scatter,” she tells them, and they nod and go in different directions. She crouches down behind a dumpster while one of the clones leads some of the assassins away. When they get far enough away she breathes a sigh of relief. She gets up and almost makes it out the alley when she gets blasted in the back by a magic attack and falls face-first into the ground. She slowly gets up and turns her now bruised face to see her opponent. “I thought tracking people down was beneath you,” she scoffs. “I made some exceptions,” the figure says as he walks towards her. “Besides, I wanted to see an old friend.” “Friend’s a strong word,” she retorts while reaching her hand to her side. “Looking for this?” he asks as he waves her flute in the air like a trophy. “You’re getting sloppy.” “And you’re getting arrogant.” She gets a dagger from under her cloak and attacks him with it, but he keeps dodging. She’s already tired from the earlier fight, so this was pretty one-sided.


Paul Has Left the Crisis “Give it back!” she says while out of breath. “You’re not exactly in a position to threaten me, spider.” “Don’t call me that!!!” “Make me,” he taunts. “Seriously. You can’t be this immature,” she says with an eyebrow raised. Imagine her surprise when he suddenly has a little smirk on his face. Something’s wrong, she thinks. Her eyesight suddenly gets blurry and she gets a serious headache. She notices a glowing light coming from her side. A cut that had blood mixed with green stuff coming out of it. “You don’t look so good.” “What is this?” she asks “Poison from the world snake of Ragnarok, the best poison I could find.” He swings at her but she dodges and headbutts him. Blood flows from his bruised head. He curses. Amaliah smiles as she passes out from her injuries. He catches her before she hits the ground. He scoops her up in his arms and, with a giant flash of lightning, he disappears. “Aw shit!!! I’m late!” Icari says as he runs down the hallway. He runs up the never-ending stairs in hopes of success, forcing himself to run despite the clear exhaustion on his face. He makes it to the third floor, his 1st period class on the other side of the hall. Less than 30 seconds left. “This is BS, dammit, BS!!!” he grumbles. Why do I have to hurry back from Cairo just to get to school on time and still end up running late? He slips, but recovers before he goes face-first into the ground. “Next time she’s on clean up duty!” Time’s running out and the classroom is just a few doors down. “I’m gonna make it.” Ten seconds. 9,8,7,6,5,4,3. Icari slips onto the floor and slides into the classroom like a baseball player trying to reach a base to be called safe. (Or something like that.) The bell rings and one of his classmates closes the door behind him. “Made it,” he says. He gets up off the floor and notices that everyone is staring at him. Some laughed under their breath, some complimented him and some just looked confused. The only one that wasn’t amused was the teacher. She was known by many


Paul Has Left the Crisis names: “The Grim Reaper,” “The Executioner,” “La maestra con boca grande,” but her official name was Ms. Flanagan. “Nice of you to join us, Icarus.” Please don’t be on my ass today, he thinks. “Sorry about that, Ms. Flanagan.” She sighs. “Just sit down. You’re taking away time from those who actually bothered to show up on time.” “Yes ma’am.” Icari responds while struggling not to say any of the less-than-appropriate words he had floating in his head at that moment. He goes through the rest of the day in peace luckily. He starts to head home as soon as he makes it out of school. “Finally I can get reacquainted with my video games.” Unfortunately, his happiness is short-lived because his necklace suddenly starts to vibrate. He looks down at it in annoyance. “Seriously? Looks like someone got herself in trouble again.” He pokes the necklace and sighs. “Let’s just make this quick. I have homework to do.” He goes to the field and hides under the bleachers. He makes sure no one else is around before he grabs his necklace and says “Icari son of Anubis” and the ground opens up, taking him away. Amaliah tossed and turned as she tried to get up from the bed. “Ugh, my head! What happened?” Her memories come rushing back to her, causing her head to throb even more. “Oh, right,” she grumbled. She looks around the room. It was pretty bare. Just a good sized bed with some thick sheets, and a fireplace. Wait, a window! She starts to get out of the bed but falls down. She clutches her side in pain. The cut on her side was now treated and bandaged, but she could still see the veins glowing green through it. She stares at it and sighs.


Paul Has Left the Crisis “You know what, fine, this might as well happen.” She manages to drag herself to the window. “Maybe I can…” She looks through the window and sees snowy mountains and deep caverns for miles, with a magical ice barrier too because why not. “...Or not.” Suddenly she hears footsteps coming from outside. “Shit!!!” She just stayed there since she knew she couldn’t get back to the bed in time. The door opens and the figure from earlier comes in. He notices her slumped by the window and asks… “You weren’t thinking of jumping were you?” She remains silent. “Where am I?” “Somewhere safe,” he replies. “I doubt that.” She coughs a bit more. He scoops her up and carries her back to the bed. “Put me down!!!” she exclaims. “I’m not a sack of potatoes, you damn lightning rod,” she says while kicking and hitting his back with her fists. “Lightning rod? That’s the best you could do?” “Piss off!!” she snaps. He puts her on the bed. “Just shut up before I move you to a dungeon or something.” “If I do, will you tell me what’s going on?” “No.” “Can I at least get my flute back?” “Nope.” “What? Afraid I’ll pull something? Oh, maybe I’ll make you see ghosts or have you see bugs crawl all over you,” she mocks. He just stares blankly at her. Her grin fades. “Seriously, nothing?” “Nope.” “Well that’s disappointing,” she grumbles. “I know they’re fake, why would I be scared?” He walks over towards the fireplace and throws some


Paul Has Left the Crisis more wood in it. “If you’re not scared then give me back my flute.” He ignores her attempt to patronize him as he takes off his coat and wraps it around her. “Better?” he asks. Amaliah looks at him and points to her side, which is still glowing by the way. He stares blankly. “So that’s a no?” “Why are you like this?” she asks, exhausted, the lack of shame in his answer taking what little energy she had left. He shrugs. “At least I asked.”

To be continued...


Paul Has Left the Crisis

: Eternity By Jordyn Bankston

everyday feeling like it doesn’t matter. never understanding what the point of all this suffering is. wishing to sleep eternally to put an end to this pain. no matter how much i pray there is silence. “what’s the point?” i hoist my body onto the ledge of the bridge. the waves crashing the rocks below. my tear stained cheeks rise as a broken smile meets my face. finally, i would make a decision for myself about something that i wanted to do. “on the count of three.” “one.” breathe “two.” breathe “three!” halt i jumped off the bridge, ready for a big splash and pain to shoot through my body eventually ending my existence. warmth. instead of feeling the cold water i felt warm, like someone was holding me. i opened my eyes, seeing i was on green grass. i sluggishly turned my head seeing a man before me. my mouth stuck shut. i noticed an unfamiliar man holding my body in his arms. strawberry. the smell of strawberry cologne mixed with the crisp grass flooded my nostrils with a calming sensation. the man holding me lifts his head, smiling at me. “you’re finally awake dearest! i thought you would be asleep forever!” i blink in confusion. “who are you?” the man looks at me, puzzled. “you don’t remember me? mari’go, we’ve known each other since we were children. it’s a shame you don’t remember your own best friend.” i stare blankly at the man. “am i supposed to know who you are?” how in the world did i get here?


Paul Has Left the Crisis

; (shift in pov) mari’go’s eyebrows furrow as she tries desperately to remember her blurry childhood. the man speaks as she thinks. “well, i’ll see you at the table. the tea is about to get cold.” mari’go’s face is struck with realization. “gyeong-wan?” his eyes lit up at the sound of his name being called. “so you do remember me?!” he sprints over to the girl, hugging her with the power of 10 men. her face turning blue from the force of the hug. “c...ant breathe…” he releases her from his tight grip, letting the color go back to her worn face. gyeong-wan smiles at her, showing off his perfectly bright, white teeth. ‘he looks so cute.’ mari’go’s smooth maroon skin tinted red of embarrassment. ‘what in the world, mari?!’ she shakes her head and gives gyeong-wan her full attention just to see that he’s gone. “what the…” she pauses looking around. her eyes frantically searching for her friend, her comfort, her peace…she finds him standing next to a table, preparing a drink for the dehydrated girl. she sat down. she doesn’t really care. it’s not like he’s real. why should i care? the girl stood up from her spot. she sluggishly moved her weighed-down feet to the table where gyeong-wan sat. gyeong-wan helped mari’go sit in her spot. the dull-colored girl sips hot chamomile tea. the sweet flower-like aroma captures her in a trance. nothing mattered to her more than this small time of euphoria she was able to experience. she sat the tea down after the tiny sip, not so much as looking at it again. happiness. it was a weird feeling. ‘i dont know how much i like it. even though it did feel good.’ “do... not…. tea?” small words. barely after this she drinks tea with the boy at the table. her head slowly raised to meet the eyes of her acquaintance. he looked at her as though he was anticipating an answer. she looked away from him for a half of a moment before looking at him again, his eyes still begging for a response. the boy slowly figured out that the girl was confused and most likely didn’t hear him. his guess was correct. the pale skinned, peachy pink-cheeked boy repeated his question. “do you not like the tea?” his lips keep the same smile he always had on his face. the no-longer-confused girl shook her head, forcing her once-stuck shut lips to open again. “that’s not it… i’m full.” “when you barely ate? here, eat a scone. you’ll love it.” mari’go was once again in a trance by something, but this time it was something other than a flowery smelling tea, as though an old mem-


Paul Has Left the Crisis ory that was meant to be locked away barges out of its chamber. the pair sat at a cafe after school. the long day ended with the two sharing tea at a jazz cafe near their small apartment complex. mari’go vividly remembers the same chamomile tea blessed the nose of whoever smelled it. the same sweet but earthy smell of yellow flowers filled mari’go’s nostrils. the same trance she went into from the sweetness of the drink. ‘deja vu?, no this has happened before. but did it? i don’t know… no. this never happened before. i’m just going a bit insane, that’s all.’ denial. the pair find themselves in a beautiful home. a three story house colored a light blue. a door, white and grand with silver accents. they walked inside the large home, exposing mari’go to things she hasn’t seen in a long time. she looks around and finds different things that remind her of things from her childhood. it’s like a home made in her head. “when i–” mari’go hears the strange boy speak. she turns her head and looks at the boy speaking, however he stops before finishing when she looks at him. she raises her eyebrows, asking him what he wanted to say as though she was telepathic. gyeong-wan stays silent, making himself not only scarce but suspicious to his guest. the end of our first day exposes its doubtful, denying face. the nonchalant girl looks at him as he’s making breakfast. she inches closer to him, trying to see what he was cooking without getting noticed by him. she climbs onto the tips of her toes, peering into the sizzling pan. her face creates a small look of confusion as she notices how there’s nothing in the pan. how is it sizzling…? mari’go creeps away from the wall she was once standing near, trying to find her way back to her room. as she scurries away her head bumps into something soft but solid, something warm that smells like paper… the smell of the coffee stained papers from a story of a drunken man, obsessed with the woman in a shampoo commercial. his fairy of shampoo. the book resided at the top shelf of mirin’s book store, a vintage store that didn’t have many customers but the couple. “mari’go!” gyeong-wan ran to mari’go. he looked like he was running in slow motion, with sparkles radiating around his entire body.


Paul Has Left the Crisis was this love…? no way… how could i love this dork? gyeong-wan reached the waiting mari’go, trapping her into a hug immediately. his large arms made its way around mari’go’s much smaller head. both of the teens’ smiles were as bright as 1,000 suns. “hey mari’go... can i tell you something?’’ the girl nodded to his question. “when i see her i’m no longer lonely-” mari’go’s trance ends before the past gyeong-wan could finish saying anything to mari’go. what he did say was part of their favorite poem, fairy of shampoo. the comfort she once had from both him and that song turned sour, bitter. the happiness she once had in life was stripped from her when he was taken away from her… the rage she felt spread from her heart to her legs. mari’go stormed out of the beautiful home, finding herself walking every which way, not knowing where she was going or when she would stop. anger. the road was narrow with no sidewalk. a lot of trees that were very tall and green. she walked along the yellow line in the middle of the street. she found herself on a main street. she doesn’t hear anything. it’s silent, as though nobody was there. she looked throughout the homes and her suspicion was correct. nobody was there. she went into the market, seeing that nobody was there either... a car’s roar cuts through the silence of the ghost like town. out of the car came gyeong-wan. gyeong-wan approaches her with a different smile. it was a sad smile. “why’d you leave like that? i was looking for you everywhere. did i make you mad? i’m sorry if i did. could you forgive me? it was my mistake.” gyeong-wan rambled on and on apologizing to mari’go, who was flustered at the sight. she sighed, finding herself forgiving him. “it’s fine, i just got a little upset myself. it’s nothing wrong with you.” mari’go walks past the boy until gyeong-wan stops her. as though they were in a korean drama, he softly grabbed her from the wrist. he pulls her into a tight hug. the once nonchalant mai’go felt her heart pounding? is my heart beating? am i nervous? why do i care? why am i confused? my mind shouldn’t be running a mile a minute. “mari’go never leave again... please…”


Paul Has Left the Crisis day two comes to an end. mari’go is awakened to the sound of sizzling yet again. she creeps downstairs, looking at the empty pan yet again. she walked away to her room bumping into gyeong-wan yet again. her heart beating yet again. however, this time a note was given to her. “i was planning on giving this to you in bed, but you woke up before i had the chance to.” “good morning, beautiful. i’ll be outside in the garden if you need me. i made chocolate chip pancakes. your favorite. they reminded me of how rich, sweet, and dark your eyes were...” gyeong-wan keeps doing things that remind me of his life. i deny the feelings. then my heart flutters. then i get red with anger. i get confused. all these emotions i don’t remember having for a long time. to whoever sent me here… can i have a little more time? bargaining. in the past two days mari’go has encountered a number of feelings, feelings that she couldn’t feel in the past three years. those feelings left for reasons. reasons she doesn’t want to admit. reasons she doesn’t want to understand. instead of understanding, can’t i just live the rest of my life out here? feeling something? do i really need to leave? i’m enjoying myself here. he makes me want to smile. with countless questions in her head, mari’go both starts and ends her third day. it was back. the numb feeling she didn’t know she had felt before. she didn’t feel her heart jump out of her chest whenever gyeong-wan would run and hug her. she didn’t have the power to move her legs out of her bed like she did before.


Paul Has Left the Crisis she felt like giving up yet again, like life was worthless. depression. were those emotions on a time limit? why can’t i understand myself? day four comes to an end. as if the world gyeong-wan lives in is an everlasting loop, mari’go hears the same empty sizzling coming from the kitchen. mari’go sits in her bedroom. she doesn’t move an inch. the past four days she spent in this world, opposite of her own. this place was bright, colorful, and had her love. while her own world was grey, dark, and didn’t have her love. she thought of how boring it was not being around anybody. she thought of how she gradually went from being numb to being confused to being happy to being sad. she went through an evolution emotionally, but in the end was sad, just like how she was in her own world. if i’m going to be sad, why should i stay here? because of gyeong-wan, you idiot. would i be able to bring gyeong-wan with me? i don’t know how much i really like it here. but i want to stay with gyeong-wan….. in the midst of her questioning herself, her brain reminds her of a memory that was truly to stay trapped in the back of her head for all eternity. the memory was so vivid she could feel the blazing sun burn on her skin. mari’go sat on a bench in their–her and gyeong-wan’s–meadow. her head fell onto the back of the large wooden bench. her smile beamed as she closed her eyes, seeing colors of red and orange. music softly playing in the background. you could faintly hear the lyrics, “should i just hug you silently? the dream is almost ending already. but i will let go of my heart and sing you the last song.” mari’go’s body relaxed. her heart full, her happiness practically radiating off of her. with one shriek that feeling all came to an end. mari’go’s eyes wide, her body sprinting to where she heard the cry for help from, her eyes frantically searching for gyeongwan to make sure it wasnt him who was screaming like that. “GYEONG-WAN!” mari’go repeatedly screamed. seconds felt like hours.


Paul Has Left the Crisis her once loud screams turned to squeaks as her voice grew small. fear pumped through her blood as she found her friend to be gone. tears streamed down the distraught girl’s face. she saw the limp figure of her first love, her last love, of her best friend. her finger poked the cold body. “i’ll be nearby, baby, sweet goodnight. i will always be by your side.” the lullaby played loudly in the quiet meadow. the lyrics working almost as a messenger for gyeong-wan, telling mari’go what he wanted to tell her, though he never could. the sight, the smell, the feeling it all made her nauseous but she couldn’t release what was in her. not the food, nor the feelings. the traumatic memory reminded her of all these emotions. her head spiraled from it, only this time she was able to release what has been in her for all those years. the unhealthy obsession of wondering how she could have changed it, all gone. the punishment she put herself on due to something she couldn’t control, she was released from it. gyeong-wan rushes into mari’go’s room upon hearing her regurgitate everything she’s been desperately holding onto. he sees the unexpected smile on mari’go’s face. he also sees the tears building up in her eyes, her shoulders shaking from both laughing and crying. “what is wrong with me? this place is creepy. why in the world am i staying here?” mari’go spoke to herself. gyeong-wan became angry at her words. “SO YOU’RE LEAVING?!” his voice shook the room. mari’go’s lips formed an ‘o’ in surprise, then sure enough turned into a warm smile. i can’t really say. i want to leave, but at the same time i don’t want to leave. even in the uncertainty, i should still accept. acceptance. the fifth day shows its face to leave. —“the young man wakes up from the dream” jang jung il “the shampoo fairy”


Paul Has Left the Crisis

Rie to Rien By Raoudath Fofana

Far in a foreign town there was a girl named Ama who was an orphan. She was a tall, curvy and quiet girl. When she was a child, she would talk to everyone and do anything to help those in need, however as she grew older she became introverted since she understood the cruelness of the world around her. Since the day she was publicly humiliated by the adults of the town for admitting a stray cat into her house. She was called a witch and all her good doings weren’t trusted. She never knew that saving an innocent cat could be the cause of her downfall but she didn’t care. Ama was actually a special girl with the power to be sympathetic towards anyone and anything—even if it’s undeserving of mercy—that’s why the townspeople think she’s a witch trying to lure people in and later eat them like she ate her parents. Apparently, she ate her mom the queen of Rie when she was 3 months old and her father Duim died 3 years later. She doesn’t know herself because she doesn’t know her parents. After all, one is nothing without a teacher or purpose. Since she was 3 she lived alone, eating in her sleep, reading the books on the huge shelf in the library room. She took care of herself from 3 until now—the age of 17. She was special, and after all that she endured in her life, she knew she deserved the trials because it made her a warrior now. She was unstoppable, she decided it was her job to change the town of Rien (nothing) back to Rie (laugh), the happy town they had during her parent’s youth (she knew by reading the books). The townspeople had a meeting to discuss how to resolve problems and everyone respected and got along with each other. Instead of opening her eyes to the extremely hateful and dangerous people around her and finding a way to escape, her desire to help them and make them independent fueled the night of her 17th birthday and she played the loud music on the special headset and danced around her house. Waking up late that night to put on her linen tarkhan dress, Ama put on her wide leg trousers, the light breeze from the open window tickled her neck hair and she smiled. This is what her parents wanted her to be, she didn’t kill her mother because she died due to cancer and she was a miracle baby. Last night on her 17th birthday, a dream was revealed to her: she was chosen by her parents to fix this town and she could read minds, teleport, and had the power to create potions with the help of the books and ingredients in the room labeled Kayroom. That night she made a couple potions


Paul Has Left the Crisis for determination and perseverance. Going over to the window, she looked down at the sleeping town that looked so peaceful from an innocent person’s point of view. This town however was full of lazy, selfish people who will do anything to prevent their peers from going far. She puts on an LT dress and lies on her bed with the intention to be in the king’s house; she instantly disappears leaving a couple of rose petals behind. She moves closer to the king’s bed which makes her feel like she’s voluntarily walking into a lion’s den. She pours the potion in his snoring mouth and recited **xr to become invisible, she watched comfortably as he swallowed the potion and started snoring louder. She tiptoes to the window and goes to all the neighboring houses, turning invisible, holding the breaths of townspeople and pouring the potion in their mouths, after turning invisible and making sure they have swallowed, she moves on. She reached her goal of one hundred houses that night. She went back home because her mom’s diary said she should never overwork herself. She figured if she did half of the town which is three thousand, they will influence the other half and in thirty days she would be done influencing the townspeople to work hard in order to get themselves out of poverty and the king’s potion was going to make him selfless and give him other characteristics of a great leader. Fast forward a month later, Ama reached her goal of potioning three thousand people who in turn influenced their friends, family and acquaintances to be hardworking in order to have a life where they lived comfortably. And on the 31st night of April, Ama slept in her library, specifically crawling on top of the third shelf and she felt relieved and proud of her work. She woke up to loud pounding on her metal gate that was never touched by anyone since the death of her parents. She fell on her back as she turned to roll out of bed, forgetting she slept on shelves. She quickly got up and ran towards her gate that was falling apart due to the loud blows it was receiving. She snatched the handle of the cold metal door. Banshee, the oldest man in the village, struck her with the big wooden stick in his hand and Ama fell to the ground once again. “Why did you do this to our village? Do you think that’s what your parents did? Don’t you know you’re supposed to teach the village and use potions to make them retain information instead of going the easy route? Useless girl.” Ama remained on the ground as is paralyzed by the fall, however a million thoughts were racing through her mind. Did she not do a good enough job? All the thirty nights she stayed awake working to make her parents proud, did that all go in vain? A sudden swing in the wooden stick startled her as Banshee started yelling even louder: “Go see the chaos you created, your potion to make our people determined made them tenacious, ready to kill each other in order for their own goal. And that led to the king being beaten


Paul Has Left the Crisis to death by 8 young men who wanted his wealth.” Zoning out again Ama wondered if she failed her parents? Her fingers began shaking when she realized she was given a warning through the breaking of several potion glasses on her 6th night and the flashes of chaos in a foreign town. Will her parents forgive her? Next moment Ama saw herself being dragged by the old man, deranged and feeling like she would never be enough. Ama quickly got up and dove her nails into the old man’s wrinkled skin. Her nails went straight in and blood came gushing out. She then jumped on him and started sucking the blood out of him, a few bystanders ran away from the scene having finally seen Ama’s true colors. Sucking the salty blood of the old man, Ama knew this was what she would enjoy most. Humans are ungrateful and she could never be enough so she has to be a clear enemy to them. She’s gonna prove them right about being a witch.


Paul Has Left the Crisis

When a Normal Life Turns into an Interesting One By Lonnie Irving Jr.

A boy named Jaake lives in a bland town where everyone continues to do the same exact thing as the day before in the exact same way. Until one day, Jaake depressingly says, “Another bland moment of another bland day,” as a girl falls from the sky on top of him, which breaks Jaake’s cycle of his bland life. The girl helps Jaake get up and apologizes for what she has done. Jaake, who is surprised by the amount of emotion and color she has on, says, “I am alright,” in a less enthusiastic manner. He asks her, “Who are you?” as he is confused by her. She says “ My name is Jane,” as she dusts herself off and then pulls out a necklace from her pocket to see if it was damaged or not. Jaake then asks, “Where did you come from?” unenthusiastic as ever. She replies to him with, “I came from the sky.” ”The sky?” as Jaake looks up in confusion. “Yeah. But now I have a question. Where am I?” as she looks around and sees how depressing, sad, and boring this bland town is. “This is Gray Town. Where everyone feels gray and everything looks grayish.” Jaake said as Jane said, “I can see that.” She starts looking around for something and then finds it. It is her bookbag, in which she pulls out a small box. Jane opens the box and there is a flash of light. A human-like black fairy woman appears and looks kind of tired. “What do you want now, Jane? You have used me three times already today so you have two more times to use me until I am done for the day. So, let’s get this over with,” the human-like black fairy woman says with urgence and aggression. “Calm down, Kocci,” says Jane, and Kocci immediately replies with, “It’s Ms. Kocci to you.” This frightens Jaake because he has never seen such magic or anything like that before. “Who is the boy?” says Kocci.


Paul Has Left the Crisis “He is a boy that I just met named Jaake and I want to take him with me so can you take both of us so that he can also see the world. He lives here in this sad, bland town.” And Kocci says, “I can see.” Then she says, “I can … but then that means that you will only have one trip somewhere since I don’t have the power to move both of you twice. So … are you sure?” as she looks at Jane and Jane looks at Jaake. She asks him, “Do you want to see the world with me?” lending out her hand to him. Jaake hesitates as he thinks, “Everything happened so suddenly and out of nowhere but, if I can leave this place then…” As he finishes thinking, he takes her hand and he says, “Yeah, I do.” Kocci then asks them, “Where do you both want to go?” “Let’s go to the Tropical Islands!” says Jane as Kocci teleports them to a city in the Tropical Islands. They teleport onto a bumpy, rocky sandwalk as Kocci says, “That is all I have for today so I am going to sleep. So don’t bother me!” And Kocci flashes back into the box. “Wow,” says Jaake, who was looking around in shock from the bright, yellow sun and the bright colors and the bustling crowds of people walking or in cars or riding bikes or scooters. “Follow me, Jaake. I want to show you something,” Jane says as she starts running up the hill. Jaake tries to follow but is unable to really run because he is used to only walking. Jane sees this so she runs back down the hill for Jaake and starts to walk next to him at his pace. Back in Gray Town, Jaake’s family is confused and kind of worried about where and what happened to him. On the big screen in the Area 99 underground base, there are multiple big red errors and orange alerts that pops up onto the screen. The officials start to become shocked and surprised by this dilemma. The chief of this project rewinds the camera footage in Gray Town and sees Jane teleport into Gray Town and teleport back out with Jaake and he hears about what they are doing and where they are going. The chief then tells his workers, “Look through each and every electronic device in Tropical Islands right now!” as the workers go to their stations. With the chief saying, “I will get both of them and fix this problem that they’ve both created for me before the higher-ups realize what has happened.”


Paul Has Left the Crisis Meanwhile, Jane walks up the hill holding Jaake’s hand, leading him to a window of an electronic store. He looks into the window and he can see the TVs that are off. But then, out of nowhere, they immediately turn on as he sees a superhero come from the sky and onto the ground like a superhero in a blue and green outfit with a yellow cape. “Hey, kids. I am the superhero, Super Health,” says the superhero with the multi-color outfit as the kids on the TV look at him in awe. Super Health then says, “Kids, remember this: you should always eat your fruits and vegetables to grow big and strong. Make sure to always have fun and make friends by being kind to others. And don’t forget to always take care of yourselves,” and everyone waves and says, “Bye,” on the screen as the TV changes to something else. The show says, “It is July 8th, 2030.” Jane then says, “Let’s go and look around some more,” to Jaake, who is still standing there in front of the TV screen. Jane then grabs Jaake’s hand and runs farther up the hill as Jaake comes back to consciousness. They run up the hill but back at Area 99, one of the workers sees both Jaake and Jane on a monitor connected to the TV that Jaake was looking at in the window of the electronic store. He tells the chief of the project and the chief says “Call my three lieutenants and tell them that we are going to the Tropical Islands.” Now it is dark on the Tropical Islands and both Jaake and Jane were on the top of the hill. Then Jane says “Just wait for a bit and something cool is going to happen.” After a few seconds, there is a flash of many different lights and colors. Jane tells Jaake to look down the hill and Jaake sees that there are many people dancing. Some of them are in costumes and others aren’t. There are floats of many different shapes and sizes with many different colors. There are crowds of people watching the floats and people dancing from the sidelines. After the parade, there is a fireworks display. And when it is all done, Jaake continues to sit there on top of the hill in happiness and excitement. Jaake then sits up and says “Thank you, Jane. This was the best moment of my life and I wouldn’t change it for anything.” This makes Jane blush and say “It was nothing,” as she continues to look away. Then they hear a rumbling sound. This confuses Jaake and he says, “What was that sound?” Then it happens again as Jaake looks down to see that his stomach looks like it’s moving as Jane says, “I guess that it is about time that


Paul Has Left the Crisis we went somewhere to eat.” They both get up and walk back down the hill as Jane explains to Jaake what just happened to his stomach. Then they see steam coming from a restaurant. They walked closer to the restaurant and then they walked in. They see a few people eating and that the steam is coming from a pot on a stove in the kitchen. Jane orders a plate of spaghetti and a plate of chicken and fries. Jaake asks Jane what both of those are since he has never tasted or heard of those dishes. Jane replies, “It’s a surprise then.” About ten minutes later, their dishes are done and on their tables as Jane tells Jaake the difference between them. Jaake is astonished by how delicious and tasty they both look. Jane then lets Jaake have a taste of both and asks which he wants to have. Jaake tries the spaghetti first because it looks the most delicious. Jane teaches him how to eat it and then he tastes it and says that it is the best food that he has ever tasted. (Which makes sense since he has only eaten gray salad his whole life.) His face is taken over by a big smile. Then Jane tells him to try the chicken and fries. So he does and that smile goes from a big smile to a huge one. He says, “This food Is great also! But, I think that I prefer spaghetti more.” Jane says that it is fine and that he can have the spaghetti as he goes back to happily eating the spaghetti. This gives Jane a big smile because Jaake is also happy. As they eat their food the most dreadful thing happens. The bill comes and the duo has no money. So Jane takes out Kocci’s box and makes her appear. Kocci says “What is it now?” grumpily. Jane asks, “Kocci, do you have enough power to take us both somewhere other than here?” She replies with, “Yeah. Sure. Why do you want to leave?” Jane shows her the bill and says, “Good thing that you called me because we can’t pay $20. We are broke so we better get out of here quick,” and they all jump into the empty bowl to escape. A couple sees this and are extremely shocked and surprised by this and they try to do the same thing to escape their bill but it doesn’t work and they break the bowl so they had to pay for both the bowl and their bill. The group then pops up on a beach from another bowl. They look around to find out where they could be. They find out that they are in the Temperate Zone and Kocci and Jane are excited at where they have ended up. Jaake asks, “Why are you both so excited?” and they say, “Just follow us,” and they each grab one of Jaake’s hands, running really fast into the city. On the beach, a government official is relaxing when he sees Jane with the others and contacts the chief and tells him that Jane is now in the Temperate Zone. The chief orders his officials to look at every


Paul Has Left the Crisis camera in the Temperate Zone for them and he tells his lieutenants to go to the closest city to Calm Beach in the Temperate Zone. Jane and Kocci are running through the city streets with Jaake being held by both of them. They stop in front of a fancy clothes store and both Kocci and Jane looked through the window in awe at the good-looking clothes. They both start to walk towards the entrance of the store to get a closer look of them and try them on but are denied entry by the Guard. The Guard tells them, “Did you expect me to let three poor people enter here? You don’t even seem to have the requirements to even enter into here so leave. Leave, you peasants,” and he shoos them off with his hand. They reluctantly walk away as Kocci angrily yells at him and they continue to walk away. Jane asks “How much power do you still have, Kocci?” and Kocci turns back to Jane and says, “Enough to take you both somewhere else but if you are planning on trying to rob the fashion shop we can’t because I wouldn’t have enough time to teleport us in and out. Also, I think that the security in there will be way worse inside than outside.” The group continues to walk down the busy streets where it is really loud and crowded with cars beeping their horns really loud and multiple times. Construction is happening on the other side of the block and people are yelling on the phone so that they are heard over all the noises. This both scares and shocks Jaake at the same time, especially since he has never seen such tall buildings before. Meanwhile, this was starting to annoy and anger Kocci even more and so she shouts so long that she has teleported them somewhere else entirely. This surprises Jaake and Jane because they are teleported out of nowhere. When Kocci has calmed herself down, she looks around in confusion and says “Where are we?” and Jane says, “We don’t know. You teleported us here.” That is when Jaake pointed to a gigantic sign that shows the date is July 8th, 2050. That is when Jane, shocked and surprised, says “Are we 20 years into the future? That can’t be possible, right?” Kocci starts to become excited and says, “We might be able to go back to that fancy clothes store this time,” which starts to excite Jane. Jaake sees that they would be running back to the fancy clothes store and says, “I will catch up with both of you and I will walk around and see how different this future city is from the past city that we were just in.” Jane says “Alright” and both Jane and Kocci begin running blocks down the street toward the fancy clothes store. Jaake continues to look around the future city which has metal buildings, hovering cars, and it is less crowded, and it looks like it is a more metallic gray looking city compared to the dirty brownish looking city in the present. Jaake enjoys the fact that he can see the difference around the world and from the


Paul Has Left the Crisis future and the present. Back in the present, the lieutenants of Agglomeration City are looking for the group. They get some help from people on the beach, people on the streets and the guard that says, “Yeah, I saw them. They looked poor and tried to enter here, but I didn’t let them in and shooed them away. Then they walked over there.” The guard pointed to his right (the lieutenant’s left).The lieutenants start walking the same way that the group walked down. That is when they see a crater on the sidewalk with people looking at it. The lieutenants start looking around the crater for clues for what created this, while also closing the area off to citizens. That is when the chief arrives and brings some type of gadget and uses it. The gadget is used to create a hologram of what had happened a few minutes beforehand. They all watch what had happened on this block and the chief tells his lieutenants, “This is a Tier A Level Emergency now so send soldiers all around the world to find them. The boy isn’t dangerous but the person who was with them and the girl are a different story. We need to capture them before something happens.” The lieutenants contact the agents at Area 99 and tell them what the chief said and hundreds of special agents are sent around the world to locate the 3 escapees. But back in the future, Kocci and Jane are trying out future dresses and other clothes,which had better fabric that was flexible yet also strong with more colors and unique designs. The whole store has a welcoming and friendly vibe to it that makes people want to stay longer and try more outfits out and buy more. They have lots of fun and feel great trying out all the clothing that they want. Jane then tries out an outfit in pink with Kocci wearing a purple outfit. That is when Jaake walks into the store and goes to look for Jane and Kocci. When he sees them, he is in awe at how good they looked. He nervously says “You both look good in those outfits,” which makes Jane blush and she says, “Thanks” and Kocci says, “Thank you. I know that this purple outfit fits my beauty look.” The group walks to the front to pay for the outfits and four different bottles of perfume. They walk down the Sidewalk of the Future and Jaake asks, “If you had money this whole time then why did we eat and not pay at that restaurant?” and Kocci says “Paying for clothes is different from paying for food at a restaurant. Clothes make us look good and fashionable,vwhile food just gives us energy to walk.” Jane is shaking her head in agreement and Jaake said, “Alright.” The group continues to walk around the Future seeing the differences between the Present and the Future. Jaake starts thinking and he asks, “Are we going to stay in the Future?” and Kocci and Jane turn to him and then each other and then back to him and say, ‘Yes” at the same time. Jane continues as she says, “We are safe here and have less prob-


Paul Has Left the Crisis lems here,” and Kocci adds on saying, “Yeah. Also, there are way better clothing stores and cooler things than the Present had.” They all agree that staying in the Future would be great. They walk toward an electronic store to get a phone for both Jane and Jaake so that they have a way to contact each other when needed. The electronic store has Futuristic phones that are more like watches instead of phones but they can do everything that a phone can but better and more. For example, people can call each other on the phone but not like they do on FaceTime. Instead, they can see a hologram of them and sometimes the background where they are depending if they are in high quality mode. Additionally, when watching videos or playing games, they can make a hologram where they play as the characters or see a hologram of the video. Jaake and Jane are really excited to use their new phones and to see what else they can do. They test out their new phones to better understand them and see how they were different from Present phones. “These watch-phones are so much better than phones in the present,” Jane says. The group continues to walk through the Future City. A humongous screen on a business building starts to show videos of a new technology that is being created. That is when Kocci sees on the screen a power generator that generates so much energy that a blast of power is felt through the screen which makes Kocci start to glow with a bright, white glow. When the group is able to see again, they realize that they are back in the Present. “Huh? What just happened?” says Jane. “I think that we are back in the present,” says Jaake. “But, how?” Jane asks. “I think that whenever Kocci gains lots of power, she is able to teleport from the present and future.” Kocci then says, “Dang it. We are back in the Present.” Lots of people start to crowd around them in confusion, interest and curiosity. That is when two agents see the crowd and try to see what they are interested in. The agents then see the group of the three who had the crowd’s attention and they realize that those three are the people that they are looking for. They contact the lieutenants and the chief to tell them that the three people that they are looking for are back in the City. The lieutenants and chief hurry over to the City to finally capture them. The group tries to find a way to get out of the crowd but are pushed back. Kocci chooses to just force her way through the crowd and Kocci creates a path for the other two to follow her and go through as they run past the crowd and around the next blocks to evade the other people. The agents follow behind, close enough to see them and know


Paul Has Left the Crisis where they are going, but also far enough away for them not to know that they are there. The group is far away from the crowd of people and the people that have seen them. The group goes behind a building in a back alley to get some rest and regain their stamina. That is when the lieutenants and chief arrive at the site where the crowd is and follow the location of the two agents. A few minutes later, the chief and lieutenants arrive at the location of the two agents and the group and get their tools ready to capture them. That is when Kocci becomes serious and starts running away as she tells the other two, “Hurry up! Let’s go!” which confuses the both of them but they follow her with Jane also becoming serious. That is when Jane asked “Is It them?” as Kocci said “Yeah. They are right behind us.” This confused Jaake and he asks, “What are you guys talking about? Who are you talking about?” as he continues to run, even more exhausted from running before. “We are being followed by the government,” Jane tells Jaake. This surprises Jaake and he asks, “What?! But why are they after us?” he asks in confusion and fear. Jane replies with, “It’s because…” but she was interrupted by a net that had captured Jaake, who is lagging behind them. “JANE!” Jaake yells in desperation for her to save him as Jane runs back saying “JAAKE! I am going to save you!” Then Kocci yells, “Jane. No! What? Don’t run back to save him because you will be captured as well!” and she stops and runs back to Jane to stop her. However, another net is launched which captures both Kocci and Jane. When the net reels back to the agents, lieutenants and the chief, one of the lieutenants says, “Don’t try none of your powers, fairy girl because it won’t work since this net is resistant to your power.” The other lieutenant presses a button on a remote causing the sleeping gas to enter the net. As they all start to fall asleep, Jaake hears one of the lieutenants say, “Time to go to sleep, test subjects.”


Paul Has Left the Crisis

The Obsidians By Zion Loyd 6/06/2021 This day always comes and I always hate it. Walking into those hellish gates that strike fear into every breathing thing, the sickening feeling of murder piercing my chest like a knife. I walk up to a big man with balding hair, greasy skin, a mustache filled with his latest meal and a metal badge on his chest, giving him the impression of a superiority that will never exist. The man looks me in the eyes and with a great breath, he exclaims, “Name?!” “You know my name, Pete.” “Hey! That is Officer Calrone, to you… you freak,” Pete says. Focusing my aggression towards the idiotic officer, I address him with a mellow tone, “My dearest apologies, Mr. Calrone. My name is Eren Vastil Obsidian, the second. I am twenty-years-old and I am here to visit my family.” I give Pete a smile, even though we both know my pearly whites are being used to coat a mask of aggression and annoyance. He rolls his eyes and slowly walks to the computer. Technology is the only thing that can command this fortress. He points his stubby fingers towards a white elevator door. “Your family,” he says with a disgusted tone, “was moved to the 7th floor due to other prisoners not wanting them to be near them. Go to the elevator and when you approach the 7th floor, you will be notified what to do after.” The Elevator. The worst part of this experience. I walk into the elevator and watch as the cold metal doors close. I am now closed off from society and now submerged into the burning inferno called Purgatory. Hearing of my family’s little movement causes a big stir within my own subconscious. Every year I come here, I deal with at least ten minutes of going from floor one to floor three, and although those ten minutes are hardly bearable, I fight through. Each floor, I fight the multiple tsunamis that flood the elevator doors and swim to the top like a shark breaching to the surface. It is a living hell. The elevator creaks as I reach the first floor. I close my eyes and wait for the door to open. Metal releases this terrible emotion that can


Paul Has Left the Crisis only be described as bloodlust. Ever since I was a child, I knew I had this God given gift of feeling emotions from people. Regular people usually have this emotion, but in small amounts. In places like prisons, though, that emotion is a constant presence that’s strong enough to choke a man. Floors one through three aren’t usually bad because those are usually filled with robbers, thieves, and possibly a few murderers. But floors four through six are filled with psychopaths, arsonists, serial killers, and terrorists. I know the question you are wondering: why is my family even in this prison and on the seventh floor filled with all these crazy people? That answer is simple. The Obsidians: Eren Obsidian (my father), Vanessa Obsidian (my mother), Virgil Obsidian (my elder brother), and Erik and Jill Obsidian (my two younger siblings) were all a part of a Satanic cult that practiced human sacrifice. That answer isn’t “simple,” but it’s the best answer I can give. My family is full of serial killers and the worst part about it was that I was the one who turned them in. Although I was 17 at the time, turning them in gave me the ability to become a detective, so I’m kind of grateful for my terrible family. Anyway, that’s why my family is on the seventh floor: because they suck. Oddly enough, having this inner monologue made it so that I am now on the third floor. The doors open and I experience the disgusting emotion that no normal human should face. But this momentary hatred should have ended by now. I look around at the buttons on the door and I see that the number three is blinking red. I peak my head out of the elevator and to my surprise, to the left of the elevator door I read this: Floors 3 - 7 Elevator out of service Take the stairs Damn. Of course, on this day the elevator isn’t working. The gods must hate me because this is just terrible news. I walk out of the elevator and approach the officer stationed at the door. “Hello officer…” I say, looking at the officer’s badge, “Vallegro?” The officer chuckles at me “Vah-leg-grow.” “Oh, apologies, Officer Vallegro… What’s the deal with the elevator?” “Oh, they’ve been out of commission for a week. You’re gonna have to take the stairs to the floor you are trying to go to. What’s your name and the floor you’re trying to go to?” “My name is Eren Obsidian and I need to get to the seventh


Paul Has Left the Crisis floor.” The woman looks at me, and I already know her second response: “Are you related to the…” “Yes, I am.” The woman’s kind demeanor oddly enough doesn’t change and I am surprised. “I’m the middle child.” “How’s that?” she says with an odd tone “It’s odd,” I say with a nervous smile on my face. “You know what, I’ll tell you something. There is an elevator that will get you to the seventh floor, but the issue is that you will need an officer with a key to take you.” “Are you serious? That would be good news for a change.” The woman smiles and stands up to walk me to the elevator. We step in and she takes her keys and we start the elevator. From floor three to four, I feel the bloodlust, but as the officer speaks to me, that disgusting feeling within my body weakens. Instead, I feel the calm of having a pleasant conversation with someone. From floor four through seven, it is bearable. I walk off the elevator and thank the woman… Officer Vallegro, whose first name is Marian. I enter the unfamiliar floor with the realization that I should have asked for directions. Before that idea leaves my mind, I hear a familiar voice scream my name from down the hall. “ERENNNNNNNNNN!” I turn my head to the right to see a bright light at the end of the hall. At that moment, I feel this terrible sensation that doesn’t even feel like bloodlust, but the urge to murder. I know this sensation is coming from my family. I walk down the eerie hall slowly, not knowing what to expect. I enter the bright room, not knowing what to expect. There they are: my dad and my three siblings, but my mom is nowhere to be seen. Of course, they are shackled from head to toe. “Where is mom?” My father laughs. “She’s getting her shackles put on. She has a surprise for you.” “What is it, a birthday cake?” “Why not be optimistic? I think you will like the surprise,” says my idiotic older brother. He always tries to speak, but I never trust his opinion. I sit and wait in silence as one minute becomes two, two becomes three, and three becomes me, becoming annoyed. “Where the hell is mom?!” I scream out of annoyance and oddly enough, as soon as I scream those words, I hear a pleasant humming from the hall. This beautiful voice is calming my mind and I know this is my


Paul Has Left the Crisis mother. Although I know of all the atrocities they have committed, that voice oddly makes me happy to see my family. I see my mother enter the room and I can’t help but smile. But then I see something that creeps me out. My mother’s stomach seems larger than usual. “Hey mom, what the hell is that?” She smiles at me and with all the psychotic happiness in her soul, she screams two terrifying words: “I’m pregnant.” And with those two words, I can only form four word from my mind: “I hate my life.”


Paul Has Left the Crisis

The Crisis That Lead to Unrighteousness By Malachi Megginson

Pre-crisis It’s 5:00 a.m. on December 28th and dawn has settled in. The sky is baby blue with thick, bloated clouds filled with enthusiastic pigeons flying in circles, waiting for some pure, whole wheat bread. Leaves are growing rapidly as the trees start to bloom and grow exponentially. But just wait a minute… it’s December right? Trees are growing? Yeah, ever since four months ago, some sort of phenomenon took place. The conspiracy theorists mentioned a year before that there was something called “PROJECT: GREAT RESET,” which resulted in a new lifestyle for everyone. I’m in awe about this revelation. As Paul brushes his teeth with his charcoal toothpaste, he goes to reach for his cracked TV remote, trying to turn on some cartoons. However, the TV is stuck on channel 12. “We are still trying to discover the origins of this unique phenomenon as we contact several sources that we aren’t getting a lead on. This is Jay Hunter, broadcasting from News 12.” The TV turns off. Paul glares at the TV with a malicious smirk, his eyes looking like onyx gems. “Well, everything is coming to light. Hmph.” Paul has been aware ever since that day—the one where he stopped using his heart and started using his mind. Paul accepted a movement similar to historical times called the “Great Awakening 2.0,” where society now vividly sees the cold dark abyss that was hiding from society: powerful individuals on the planet and only fools would not accept the truth. Paul admired the “Great Awakening” dearly, knowing that the world that he desired so much had been received in his hands. School had become totally controlled by technology. Paul joined the virtual classes, but did not interact much at all. Paul despised the idea of his school being aware of the controlled system, the lies, the biased information, and the downfall for the new generation—a bunch of lies. Paul pulls his black slashed gaiter down to his neck as he goes downstairs to check his mailbox. Paul takes his silver key, screws in the lock and opens the box. Paul notices a bunch of white mail, including


Paul Has Left the Crisis a game informer magazine. However, something catches Paul’s eyes: a purple and dark black envelope with a long triangle and what looks like an eye in the middle on the stamp. Paul, standing very still, almost as if he was a statue, holds the envelope as his hands start to get hot and moist. The envelope reads: For someone very special, Paul Thawne. Please open and please be enlightened. Thank you for your precious time, brother. Paul feels extremely conflicted. He has known that this will be the day when his life changes forever. As Paul stands with a bright sinister smile, the sky starts to turn red, the trees start to blow away and break off. The people start to run around and scream til their lungs burst, screams of agony and pain. The time is now… Crisis. Crisis Paul looks outside, distraught as he sees red tornadoes in the distance. It was what the project was literally all about: The Great Reset. Paul puts on the rest of his clothes, goes into the bathroom, and looks into his mirror. Time to change the world. Paul notices on the envelope that there was some type of code that was scannable through his Z-phone, which he takes out swiftly and scans the cryptic sigil. Paul stares at his phone and sees coordinates spread out across the distorted digital blue map. The red tornadoes start expanding wider and wider, ripping the beautiful blooming nature into shreds. Mothers and fathers on their knees, looking up at the disaster, praying to be saved. Younglings running over each other as the street lights start to fall and knock over. People throwing each other into the tornadoes to save themselves. Paul smirks at all of the evil going on, and now sees his brother and his friends running. “YOOOO Paul! Come with us now! We gotta go!” Paul looks at his brother and his friends, slowly taking his left hand and aiming it towards his left eye in what seemed to be darkness. “You should’ve listened to me… now you must repent.” Paul’s brother Elvis looks at Paul with anger and shouts, “This is not time to be freaking dumb!” Paul looks at his brother with one last grin. “Take care, Elvis.” Paul looks at his phone. The coordinates have finally been made visible to him, as he sees an open sewer where he drops down into. As Paul runs to chase the unknown, Paul’s brother and his friends are screaming, getting tired, panting, and struggling to breathe, as the tornadoes start to get closer and finally sweep them up off their feet. The weight of the friend group has been lifted to the point that the friends are almost balloons floating to an endless eternity in a void. Paul runs straight through the sewer as the world is rumbling and


Paul Has Left the Crisis destroying itself. Paul comes to an obsidian black cubed wall bursting with dark black lightning and energy. Paul looks at his phone, “Free yourself, fellow disciple.” Paul inhales deeply all the air he can catch before he encounters what lies ahead. Paul stood and thought about his mother, his father, his brother, his friends, his family, his bonds, and all the significant things to him on earth. Paul exhales… Paul takes his left hand and reaches into the black cubed wall and touches the wall. Paul has left the crisis. Conclusion So Paul, tell me your tale, your story. You have now reached the most high, the most important, the strongest. Welcome, Paul. You are now a part of Zanova.


Paul Has Left the Crisis

My Verse »

A collaborative story with alternate endings By UCHS 2.0 x 826NYC

It’s a rainy night and Zion Zekes lived his actual nightmare earlier today. A redneck Karen came up to the counter yelling, “Ummm, excuse me? Tell you what! Y’all gave me burnt nuggets!!” and opened a paper box of twenty nuggets. The nuggets were, in fact, black, burnt, and dry. When Zion reached to take the nuggets back, they disintegrated into the air and darkened Karen’s dying hair. Tonight, Zion is sitting at his computer, programming an alternate reality. He’s eating salty, greasy french fries, staining the keys on his keyboard and gazing upon his own chaotic creation. The loading screen comes up: animated skeletons dancing with saucy fries. This is his portal to the dark web. It’s another exhausting day of keeping that digital world alive. He focuses on this world, because his own world is difficult. Humans are unpredictable, but in the virtual world he can control things. And Zion likes to control things. But what Zion doesn’t know yet, is that there’s one obstacle in his way. In this digital world, anything that appears in his consciousness can become real. The game is called MyVerse, and in it, Zion can be a god. Today, he’s angry because of the chicken nugget incident, so he turns the sky red by entering the code, “<sky=devilish-red>.” In the rural town that Zion controls, the streets are simple, pretty, with clean roads and dim lights. You can hear the footsteps of people running, walking and going about their days. The blue of the sky evaporates, losing its bloom, as the new red sky spurts like blood across the horizon. The people of the town freak out—their eyes widening because they can’t believe what they’re witnessing. Men, women, and children trample over each other as they try to run away. They’d rather be anywhere else, even though there’s nothing they can do about it. Their doom is inevitable, and Zion celebrates with another fistful of greasy fries. Karmi Newton is the only person in the town who isn’t trampling someone or getting trampled herself. She knows the history of this town, and this world. No one else can understand that the god who keeps


Paul Has Left the Crisis manipulating their world is actually predictable. Karmi knows this. She is unchangeable. From Zion’s perspective, Karmi is the one frustrating piece that doesn’t move. He enters a code to try to figure out the problem. He types, <face=x>. Zion is trying to solve that one bug that you can’t define. MyVerse spits back, <face=unknown>. This is not possible because Zion created every person in this universe. He zooms in on the glitch that is resisting him. Karmi survived a different version of another world that Zion created. He destroyed that world because it was a Netherworld—a place where things were chaotic, wild and crazy. Karmi maneuvered around a world filled with fire tornadoes and lava pits. Her body glitched. The particles and pixels fell apart in the old world and came back together in the new one. She looked mostly the same in the new world, but she knew something was different. Over the years, she became lucid. While Zion was focused on Karmi, his mom was calling him. But he wasn’t paying attention. As she comes up the stairs, closer to his room, she yells impatiently, “Zion Bartholomew Zekes!” “Ohmygodohmygodohmygod,” he says, as his concentration shatters. Startled, he tries to switch tabs back to his disgustingly unorthodox and difficult calculus homework, accidentally spilling his super-charged McDonald’s Sprite on his multi-monitor supercomputer. Zion’s mother busts through the door. “I’ve been calling you for ten minutes now!” As she appears in the doorway, the computer screen flashes and distorts. It turns green, then purple. Multiple alert boxes appear and close themselves. It sounds like fireworks on the 4th of July. The computer is malfunctioning, and shooting sparks everywhere.


For Raoudath’s ending, turn to page 51 For Jordyn’s ending, turn to page 55 For Vanessa’s ending, turn to page 57


Paul Has Left the Crisis

My Verse By Raoudath Fofana

Next moment Zion found himself in a new place but it’s still familiar. As he got up and limped his way out of the chaotic street, he noticed the red skies and racing cars on the road and pedestrians trying to all fit in the shopping mall and realized this was his world, his game. He became scared because he would have never thought this was real. He relaxed for a moment knowing everything was fine, he just needed to find someone to direct him to east safe where he’ll type his password to reset the world. He then started limping around the strange world full of running people trying to find someone who wasn’t scared enough to answer, help him to his destination. Meanwhile in the sad world Zion’s mom died from a heart attack immediately after witnessing her son disappear and when Zion’s twin sister Leto got home from school and saw her mom on the floor, angry at the smell she put on gloves and carelessly dragged her into the garage banging her head multiple times on the way. She was glad this selfish woman was gone because she had prayed for it everyday. Myrtle was always an ignorant woman who even hated herself because she was a woman who gave Zion all the attention and ignored Leto. She loved Zion very much and bought him everything, even tho Leto did better in school and was a grade above Zion despite having started school at the same time. Myrtle just loved her son more and thought women were meant to stay home. Leto was gonna stop schooling after high school. Leto then went to her room to work on her AP calculus homework which she enjoyed because with formulas she could get the answers unlike her life which had no formulas or solutions. In the virtual world Zion struggles to get anyone to help him get to east safe. Whenever he approaches someone and tries to speak to them, the person just ignores him, almost as if he’s invisible. The chill breeze and changing of the angry red sky color to maroon indicates nightfall. Feeling lonely and guilty, Zion lays down on a side of the sidewalk and tries to sleep. Instead memories of how he never got to make any decisions on his own rushed back to his mind. He blames his mom always trying to control him and in his pursuit to get his way he used all his college money to buy the My Verse game from the darkworldcreep. com website enraging his mom who in turn made him work at McDonald’s in his junior year. His thought went to his sister who was naturally


Paul Has Left the Crisis better than him. The next moment he was woken up by the super bright light on the street indicating someone was playing the game. He knew immediately it was Leto and he knew he had to do something so he went to look for Karmi who would help him.


Paul Has Left the Crisis

My Verse By Jordyn Bankston

Zion’s mother stared at him as he stared at his monitor. His screen flashed once again before the picture flashed to one of his characters glaring at him. It went dark, his head was pounding. His body rose. Zion looked around him. “This isn’t my room..” he grumbled. The sky was red like anger. Zion watched his people scream at him to move. “How dare you speak to me in such a way?! I created you!’’ Zion glared at >3211>. >3211> looked at Zion in shock, a bit of horror even. >3211> backed away from Zion and ran to safety. “What a bunch of weirdos. Is this what I created? It’s not like anything bad is gonna happen.” Zion cursed under his breath. He knew the severity of the codes in his universe, but it always reset itself after whatever happened was over. Whatever happens is over….. Wait. What happens when I’m upset? Zion thinks to himself. He racked his brain about it for the longest. He hit his hand on his head. Hit it with a pole. Stared into the red sky, waiting for his eyes to burn off before he figured out what happened. A sudden rumble in the ground reminds him. “Oh shit….” His face goes pale and he stands frozen. Petrified, he turns around and sees a giant ball. He runs away from the rolling ball. “WHY WAS I SO OBSESSED WITH INDIANA JONES?” he screams at the top of his lungs, running for his life. Karmi appears, watching the man run away screaming. What does he mean, ‘Why was I so obsessed with Indiana Jones?’ Who’s Indiana Jones? “OH MY GOD?!” Karmi expresses. Her reflexes help her stay out of the way of danger. With a woosh, pow, and a hop she escapes the rolling ball and stops it from harming the odd boy running around as though it was still following him. She appears next to him, scaring him. “You know the ball is gone, right? You don’t need to keep running,” she mentions. Her eyes look back at nothing but an open road. Zion slowly turns as well, seeing the…


Paul Has Left the Crisis

My Verse By Vanessa Bailey

I wake up in the morning to the sound of cracking and wind blowing. Nothing new, I thought. I went downstairs after going to the bathroom. Almost stepped on the dog again. My bad. I really should move him from there, but I can’t seem to be bothered. He just looks so peaceful. I opened the cupboard looking for food. “Guess I’m having cereal again,’’ I grumbled. There’s no milk so it doesn’t taste good. I go to my window and open the curtains to look outside. I see fire tornadoes. I stare blankly out the window with the bowl of cereal in my hand and go “Aw, F**K.” Welp, guess I’m going outside. (Karmi dumps her cereal and changes her clothes to head out). I’ve seen a lot of things in my life, you know. Earth Golems, flying pigs, the occasional hailstorm. I’ve seen it all, but I gotta admit fire tornadoes are a new one, in this world at least. I know this world’s not normal, it’s obvious, but no one here seems to realize that. They all think I’m weird so I usually stay by myself. Probably for the best ’cause if they knew what was really going on, they’d probably go insane. I don’t belong here, at least not this version of here. My world was a lot more broken to say the least, hotter too. A first draft that got trashed and replaced with this suburb that’s otherwise full of sunshine and rainbows. I’m not bitter or anything, I’m just saying that this world is pretty pathetic. They spend all their time running around from the danger that they don’t realize that there’s a pattern to this, much less question why this is happening to them. You see, despite how long it feels, these disasters are timed, an hour at best. I timed it. At 6:00 the danger always ends and we get reset, except me of course. I envy them sometimes. I mean, they can just move on like nothing happened. (Mind you, she’s thinking about all this while surveying the town and maneuvering through the rubble). I make it past a few junk piles and find some guy unconscious on the ground. Normally, I would’ve just passed him by or searched him for something useful. I mean, he’s gonna reset anyway right? One problem with that plan though: he didn’t have a code. “That doesn’t make sense,” I thought. You have to have a code. Everything has a code. Without a code you don’t exist! Even though I have a code, mine is a little different. But he didn’t have anything, no ones, no zeroes, no nothing. How’s he even here?! Before I could even think about it much, more fire tornadoes started to form in our general area. “Looks like you’re coming with me.” Didn’t even get so much as a groan in response so I threw him over my


Paul Has Left the Crisis back and headed home, which wasn’t easy. “I really need to stop taking in things off the street.” (30 minutes later.) I put him on the couch and started contemplating what the hell was happening and who he was. Obviously, the two are related, because this is too big a coincidence even for this world. I searched his pockets but all I found was a name tag for McDonald’s and some pocket money. “Zion Zekes, huh?” I mocked, “Well, I’ve heard worse.” His hands were greasy as hell, so I’m guessing he ate a lot of what he sold. But there was something else that I found pretty interesting. He keeps mumbling about something called the “Myverse” and chicken nuggets. Normally, I would’ve just labeled him crazy and moved on, but something was off. For one thing, we don’t have a “McDonalds” around here and I definitely would have noticed him around town. So, A) He’s self aware like I am, B) He’s not from this world, or C) He’s just crazy. I headed towards him to check if he’s still breathing properly but as soon as I poked his forehead, a shock went through my body. It felt like a bolt of lightning straight to the heart. Her body temporarily destabilized. The ones and zeros scramble around trying to reform her. “The f**k was that?!?!?!” I watch as my code tries to correct itself. She glitches. “Welp, never doing that again.” I mumbled some curses at him, not like he reacted. Only thing I can do since I can’t touch him. I guess that shock did something, because he’s starting to wake up. Zion wakes up in pain. He opens his eyes and finds that he’s on a couch. He turns to his left and sees a girl sitting on a chair staring at him. Brown hair, brown eyes. “Rise and shine, Zekes.” she says. He jumps up in surprise. “Who the hell are you?” She raises her eyebrow “That’s the thanks I get for saving you?” “What?” He looks around and as the grogginess wears off, he realizes that this isn’t his house. “This isn’t my room.” “No shit, Sherlock.” “Where am I?” “Hell.” “What?!?!” “I can’t believe you fell for that,” she laughs. “We’re somewhere


Paul Has Left the Crisis that we don’t belong, but ended up regardless.” Zion looks at her puzzled. “Come again?” “That’s the best answer I can give you right now.” Zion sighs and wipes his face. This girl is crazy, he thinks. “You know, it’s pretty weird that you don’t have a code like the rest of us.” “Code?” “Don’t worry about it.” She grabs a bowl of cereal from the table in the next room. “I didn’t have time to make anything else.” “Where’s the milk?” “Don’t have any.” He started eating the cereal. It tastes like dry nothing. She hands him a cup of water. They sit in silence for a while. This is awkward, he thinks. “So you’re God, huh?” she said. He spits out the water in surprise. “What?” “God, you know, the person that created all of us,” she says while handing him a dish towel. “What are you…” “Myverse.” He flinches. “How’d you know about that?!?!” “You talk in your sleep.” He looks down, embarrassed. “What did I say?” Zion asks nervously. “Enough.” “Like?” She grins mischievously. “Oh, you know. Stuff about zombies, tsunamis, dragons, there were chicken nuggets for some reason.” “Oh yeah, and trying to kill me!!!” He blinks in confusion. She sighs. “Face unknown,” she says. Zion’s eyes fly wide open, “You knew?” “You really think I couldn’t feel that I was being scanned?” She scoffs. “I’m different from your other creations, you know.” “But how?” She sighs. “Let’s just say that my code was written differently.” Zion opens his mouth to ask questions, but then it hits him. “Wait a minute. I tried to delete her! Isn’t she mad at me? She’s not gonna murder me in my sleep, right? What happens if I die here? Do I reset or…” Karmi looks at him, his worried expression clear on his face. She


Paul Has Left the Crisis shakes her head. He’s mumbling again, she thinks. “I’m not going to kill you.” “How’d you…” “You mumble. A lot.” She rolls her eyes. “You must be horrible at keeping secrets.” He gulps. “You’re not mad?” She shrugs. “What good would that do me? Besides, it’s not like I can hurt you, so quit worrying about it.” Zion breathes a sigh of relief, but then looks at her curiously. She’s nothing like him. She’s surprisingly understanding for a NPC (non-playable character) that he tried to kill. “There’s no way I would’ve made someone like you. You sure you’re not a lost avatar or something?” “I’m sure.” “Then, are you a glitch? A bug? Some kind of virus?” Zion asks excitedly. Karmi rolls her eyes. “I’m not any of those things.” “Then what are you?” She smiles “I’m Karmi. Like you’re God. Nothing more, nothing less.” “Just Zion’s fine.” He sighs. Being referred to as “God” just feels weird. Zion finishes his cereal while Karmi heads off to another room. Something about work. “I’m done. Let’s go.” Karmi comes back with a duffel bag and a bat in hand. “Where are we going?” “To fix this world. There’s no way I’m staying in an end-of-theworld scenario.” “What’s wrong with my world?” Zion asks, offended. “You’ll see. Oh, and it’s probably gonna be awhile, so get ready.” She heads outside. Zion heads to the bathroom and when he comes back, he notices something furry lying down in the kitchen. Some kind of animal. “Is it sick?” Zion wonders. “Hey, are you okay…” Zion looks at the other side of the dog. Its legs were crooked, its body almost transparent, and in the space where its face was supposed to be, you could see the code that made up its body. Zion screams, horrified. He backs up too quickly, so he falls. Karmi comes running soon after. “What happened?!?!” she yells, as she turns the corner and sees Zion a few feet away from the distorted dog. She breathes a sigh of relief. “Oh, guess you’ve met Glitch.” “Glitch?”


Paul Has Left the Crisis “My dog.” “That’s a dog?!?!?!” “We don’t have time for this. Get up.” Karmi puts on her gloves and reaches out her hand. He takes it and she pulls him up. “Let’s go before the whole place burns down.” He follows her but can’t help but look at the lifeless dog in the kitchen. He shudders. They walk in silence for after that. (30 minutes later) They’re climbing through the rubble and the silence is getting to Zion. “This is too awkward,” he thinks, “Gotta say something, anything.” “So, your name’s Karmi?” “Anything but that?!?!” He thinks. “Yeah? Problem?” “Nope.” They walk in silence once more. “Not again.” Zion thinks of something. “So, uh, what’s up with your dog?” “Why’d you ask?” She laughed, “Freaked you out?” “Just curious.” Karmi sighs. “Well, since it’s not that obvious, his code wasn’t finished.” “Is that why he looks like that?” “Yep. That’s why I took him home with me.” “Are you sure he isn’t…you know.” “What, dead?” “Yeah.” Karmi stops in the middle of the road. “I don’t know. He doesn’t move, doesn’t wag his tail, or anything. He just sits there.” “So why’d you keep him?” “I don’t think the person who left him like that is in a position to judge my actions.” She scoffs. “Besides, I pity him. I mean, that’s what I could’ve been had you not finished my code. Sometimes I can’t help but imagine myself being self-aware in that state.” “I didn’t know.” “You’re God, how could you not know?” “I didn’t think anything I made was alive!” She raises an eyebrow. “Is that why you destroyed this world as you pleased almost every day?” “That…” Zion falls silent. There wasn’t a right or wrong answer. Nothing he said could take away the trauma that she endured. Her bit-


Paul Has Left the Crisis terness wasn’t even settled, though he couldn’t even be offended by it. “Look, let’s just get you to where all the problems started so we can fix this world and send you back to yours.” “Fine.” They walked the rest of the way in silence, which was probably for the best. They make it to the edge of the disaster’s center. “Welcome to hell, ladies and gentleman.” Karmi says sarcastically. A barren wasteland filled with ash from black meteorites falling down to Earth while fire tornadoes roamed as far as the eye could envision. Zion’s mouth drops, then he closes it back up after inhaling some of the ashes. “You want me to go in there?!?!” he exclaims. “Don’t you have force fields?” “What force fields?!” “Nevermind. Just keep walking.” They survive the fire tornadoes and ash storms, but then another problem arises. “Look out!!!” Karmi shouts. Zion looks up. A bunch of fireballs started glitching into existence and reigned down from the sky. “Are you shitting me? Why is everything on fire in this place?!?!?!” she screams. Zion looks down, feeling guilty. “When I get back, I should cut down on the fires,” he thinks. Karmi grabs the edge of his sleeves while telling him to run. The fireballs increase their intensity the closer they get to the center. They made it, of course, but what they saw made even less sense. In the middle of all this chaos was a woman hovering in the sky. She had golden armor, red hair, and eyes that glowed like they were on fire. With a flick of wrist, she sends a bunch of meteorites flying towards the town. Karmi looks up in amazement. “Now that’s a God,” she says. Zion is speechless, his mouth open a bit in disbelief. Tears start to form in his eyes. He wipes them away. “That’s not a God!” Zion exclaims. “That’s my mom!!!” Karmi looks at him in shock. “Then why the hell is your mom trying to destroy us?!” “I don’t know! I didn’t even know she was in the Myverse!” “How’d she get here?” “She must’ve got transported here too. We must’ve gotten sepa-


Paul Has Left the Crisis rated when being transported here.” Zion explains. “I’ll try talking to her.” He runs toward her. Karmi wanted to argue against it but he was already out of earshot. She sighs. “I guess he should be fine. Whatever gets the job done.” Zion gets as close to his mom as possible. She can’t hear him yelling so he throws a rock while thinking, “Please don’t ground me for this.” It hits her in the face. “OW! What the…” She looks down and sees her son waving at her. She gasps in surprise. “Zion? Honey, is that you?” “Hi, Mom.” Zion says nervously. “Sorry about the rock but you couldn’t hear me.” “So, throwing rocks was the best solution you came with,” she says sternly. “Anyway, what are you doing?” “Destroying this place.” “Uh, yeah, can you stop doing that?” “No,” she says bluntly. Zion blinks in surprise. “Why not?!?!” “Zion, you’ve been spending too much time on this game. I’ll admit it’s quite addictive but you hardly even leave your room anymore except for work and school.” “Mom, listen to me, this world is alive, the people too, I’ve met one of them.” “Sweetie, they’re just ones and zeroes. They’re not real.” “Yes they are. One of them led me to you. Her name’s Karmi and…” “See that’s exactly what I’m talking about. You named one of these things?! This is a prime example of why this place needs to be shut down! And I’ll do that even if I have to tear this place apart brick by brick.” “I can’t let you do that, Mom.” “Let me?!?!” she mocks. “Zion, step aside before I get mad.” “No.” His mom frowns. “Just as stubborn as your father. Fine, maybe teaching you a lesson will make you listen better.” She summons a giant fire dragon and sends it hurdling at Zion, but before it can reach him, Karmi pulls him out of the way. They head face first into the sand dune. They cough sand up when they pull themselves out. “Karmi? I thought you were staying back.” “Even from a hundred feet away I could tell that that conversation wasn’t going very well. Didn’t think she’d try to kill you though.”


Paul Has Left the Crisis “You got any weapons in that duffel bag?” “Always.” “Can you spare one?” Karmi puts her bag on the ground and goes through it. She pulls out a weapon and hands it to him. Zion looks skeptically. “A bat?” “You’re not exactly trained to use anything else.” she explains. “Ready to fight your mom?” “Not really. You?” Karmi smiles. “I’ve always wanted to defeat a God.” She takes out her guns. “Where’d you get guns from?!?!” “From that time you turned Myverse into a Purge/Hunger Games hybrid.” “Convenient.” “Very.” Zion and Karmi come from behind the sand dunes and attack Zion’s mom, who’s now on the ground. The fight seemed pretty uneven till Karmi pulled out an arm cannon and shot at her. This fight lasts for a long time but eventually ZM (Zion’s mom) starts to get tired. Zion tackles her. “Mom, this is insane!!! Just stop this.” “You’re the one fighting your mom over a computer game!!!” she retorts. Karmi, being absolutely done with this, just knocks her out with the bat. The fire tornadoes stop, along with everything else, and ZM just lies there. “Mom?!?!” Zion shouts while tears start to run down his eyes. A message pops up in the middle of the sky reading: “Congratulations, you defeated the big boss of the game. What’s your wish?” Zion immediately starts to say, “To go home,” but he stops and turns to Karmi. “Wait a minute. Will I be able to see you again?” Karmi shrugs. “Who knows? This might be the last time we see each other. Hell, you might not even remember any of this.” “There’s no way.” “Well in any case, you need to go home so you can fix my world, remember? It’s not like it’s gonna fix itself.” “Right.” “Besides, you need to get her out of here before she wakes up.” “You got it.” Zion reaches his hand out. “Are we cool?”


Paul Has Left the Crisis Karmi shakes it. “We’re cool.” Zion turns to the pop-up and tells it his wish. A light starts to emit around him, and he disappears. Karmi plops down on the ground. All the energy leaving her body. She wipes the sweat off her brow. “Glad that’s over.” “What’s your wish, Karmi?” She jumps up in surprise and notices the pop-up is still there. “Wait, I can get a wish?” She starts thinking about it. “Well…” she starts. Zion wakes up at his computer. He looks around. Everything’s the same. “Wait, was that all a dream or something?” His mom started to call him for dinner. He looks at the time. It’s 4:50. Ten minutes before everything started! Zion jumps up. His mom calls him again, and he answers while leaving his room and running down the stairs. “Oh, you actually came down. I thought I was gonna have to get you.” “Nope, I’m good.” Zion sits at the table, but then the doorbell rings. “I wonder who that could be?” “I’ll get it.” Zion rushes to the door and opens it. His eyes open wide. “Karmi?” “Hey Zekes.” “How are you here?!?!” “I’ll explain later. Right now, I need your help.” She grabs his arm. Zion gets dragged behind her. “Wait, I can’t go. My mom just made dinner.” “Don’t worry, we’ll be back before she even notices you’re gone. Now, come on. I am not sure of most laws but I’m pretty sure dogs aren’t supposed to drive.” “What?!?!” “Don’t question it.” A spaceship suddenly appears and they jump into it. It flies off into a portal that collapses in on itself as soon as they go through it.


Acknowledgments In our Young Writers Publish program, 826NYC works with classes of students and teachers on creative writing projects around and beyond New York City. During the Fall 2021 semester, students from Uncommon Charter High School explored themes and genres from poetry to chooseyour-own-adventure stories, and settled on creating this collection of science fiction and speculative fiction, featuring worlds both original and familiar. Paul Has Left the Crisis is a compilation of the original work of these students. A huge thank you to the 826NYC teaching artist, Willie Filkowski, for creating classrooms where students were able to play with language and ideas freely, to collaborate thoughtfully, and to boldly try new things each week. Your support, encouragement, and consistency helped our young writers tap into their imaginations and memories to produce such moving work, and your care in helping them brainstorm, write, and revise throughout this project was invaluable. We are particularly grateful to the staff at Uncommon and particularly the High School 2.0 team, including Mike Taubman, Giovanni Zaccheo, and Tyrell Taylor for their support of this project. Thank you for inviting us into your classrooms and facilitating such a smooth collaboration. Your hard work and steadfast dedication to your students allows them to flourish as young writers and thinkers. At 826NYC we depend on the dedicated volunteer editing and design cohort that make our publications a reality. Thank you to Vanessa Friedman for overseeing the editing, proofreading, and design of this book. Thank you to Ciara Cordasco for designing such a beautiful book for our students. To copy editors and proofreaders Christine Corbin, Carly Fisher, Michelle Haska, Chad Hewitt, Tiana Moe, and Hillary Tacuri for their careful attention to each of the student’s pieces, thank you. A big thank you to 826 National, the Amazon Literary Partnership, The Jane Friedman Anspach Family Foundation, Con Edison, The Find Your Light Foundation, The Hawkins Project, International Paper, The Rona Jaffe Foundation, The Kettering Family Foundation, The Minerva Foundation, The Resnick Family Foundation, The Yelp Foundation, and Youth, Inc. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. The program is also made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. Additional support comes from the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit 826NYC is grateful to the many

individuals who support our work. To see our full list of supporters or make a donation, please visit Thank you especially to the 826NYC staff for their behind-thescenes support of this project, from curriculum development and the book-making process to volunteer recruitment. Finally, thank you to the students at Uncommon Charter High School for taking risks with your writing and sharing your words and worlds with us. Writing can be a challenging and hopefully fun process, and your dedication to your craft and your vision shines through in these pieces. We are all excited to see what you’ll create in the future!

826NYC Location and Leadership

826NYC and The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. 372 Fifth Ave Brooklyn, NY 11215 718.499.9884 STAFF Joshua Mandelbaum, Executive Director Jesusdaniel Barba, Programs Coordinator Janna Cisterino, Development & Communications Manager Rico Denard, Store Associate Chris Eckert, Store & Operations Manager Vanessa Friedman, Publications Associate Julianna Lee Merino, Programs Coordinator Summer Medina, Volunteer & Programs Coordinator Stella Raffle-Wax, Store Associate Mandy Seiner, Volunteer & Programs Manager Naomi Solomon, Director of Education TEACHING ARTISTS J’miah Baird David Ewalt Willie Filkowski Daniel Goulden Varud Gupta Daniel Jackson Jaydra Johnson

BOARD OF DIRECTORS Michelle McGovern, President Ted Wolff, Vice President Ray Carpenter, Treasurer Kathryn Yontef, Secretary Michael Colagiovanni Jen D’Ambroise Liza Demby Jamal Edwards Amir Mokari Sheila Peluso Katie Schwab Danielle Sinay Andrew Sparkler Alyson Stone Maura Tierney Thom Unterburger Sam Valenti

826NYC Programs WRITE AFTER SCHOOL Reading and writing go together like peanut butter and jelly. Write After School students work alongside 826NYC staff and volunteers to build their reading, writing, social-emotional skills and unleash their imagination as they play and learn about the power of language. Three times a year, students revise their creative writing for publications that are printed in English and Spanish and shared with families, volunteers, and community members at celebratory readings. WRITE AWAY WORKSHOPS Young writers come together in Write Away Workshops to explore a multitude of genres and subjects and to develop their voices. Groups write freely and participate in imaginative writing activities and lessons. Whether it’s a song, a piece of climate justice sci-fi, or a nature guide, young writers leave the workshop with a piece to be proud of, as well as a newfound understanding of the topic, and new friends. WRITE ALL ABOUT IT In Write All About It, reporters from grades 5-8 learn how to conduct a great interview, how to write a classic news story, and more importantly, how to sniff out where the great untold stories of Brooklyn are hiding. We focus on hyper-local news to see how it connects to what’s going on across the country and around the world. Student work is published regularly in The 826NYC Post on 826NYC’s Medium page. YOUNG WRITERS PUBLISH Turn your classroom into a creative writing lab. During Young Writers Publish residencies, 826NYC teaching artists collaborate with educators on creative, impactful, curriculum-aligned projects that transform students into published authors. Residencies run from six weeks to a full year, depending on the project. Each Young Writers Publish culminates in a book, newspaper, zine, podcast, film, or performance featuring your students. WRITE TOGETHER 826NYC hosts classes across New York City for Write Together: an interactive writing experience that encourages creative expression, explores the elements of storytelling, and strengthens writing skills. Elementary-aged classes collaborate on illustrated children’s books, middle schoolers choose their own adventure, and high schoolers learn the art of memoir writing during a fast- paced and whimsical 90 minute narrative program.

TEEN WRITERS COLLECTIVE Teens are the next generation of literary leaders. That’s why we launched the Teen Writers’ Collective. The collective brings together young writers from around the city to explore the art of writing and literary citizenship. They are a community of passionate and creative peers, serve as 826NYC youth leaders, and inspire younger students and peers across the network. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS & WRITERS Dungeons & Dragons, the epic fantasy role-playing game where players craft characters to take on magical quests that can change with the roll of the dice, has a home at 826NYC. A band of adventurous authors in grades 5-8 play out an entirely original tale and chronicle their fantastical deeds in character point-of-view journals, histories, and scene writing. Sometimes the greatest gift is the friends we make — and make up — along the way. STUDENT PUBLICATIONS Through our programs, our volunteers work with students to help them create stories, poems, and ’zines. Because we believe that the quality of students’ work is greatly enhanced when they are given the chance to share it with an authentic audience, we are committed to publishing student works. By encouraging their work and by guiding them through the process of publication, we make abundantly clear that their ideas are valued.

Paul Has Left the Crisis is an anthology of short fiction that leaps into the dark, murky, algorithmic waters of contemporary life. Written by 826NYC creative writing students at Uncommon Charter High School in Brooklyn, the stories range from quiet and melancholy to loud and adventurous; from dystopian and speculative to hilarious and satirical. They explore the fear embedded in the things most familiar to us: the fear that what we view as completely real might be only a simulation, the fear that what we most despise might be living inside ourselves, the fear that society is on the verge of collapse and we’ll have to do all the saving single handedly (after we finish our homework), and the fear that simulated dogs might not know how to drive. Join these brilliant students on a glitchy, funny, fantasy/sci-fi/spec-fi/digital/horror, saucy-fries-and-fire-tornado-filled adventure into the future and into various, parallel, presents.

ISBN 978-1-948644-90-7

9 781948 644907

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