Mount de Sales Academy's Upper School Literary Magazine Page Break
Volume 13: 2020-2021
Table of Contents
Thus, Always.......................................................................................... 4 World War III........................................................................................ 13 The Little Things.................................................................................. 15 Eros....................................................................................................... 16 Crash and Burn..................................................................................... 17 Oh How Cliche..................................................................................... 21 Bright, Right?....................................................................................... 22 The Blackest Day..................................................................................24 Evergreen.............................................................................................. 25 The Path of Existence and Legacy........................................................26 Interdependence and Pain..................................................................... 28 The Best ofYou.................................................................................... 29 Tuesday................................................................................................. 30 My Grandfather's Teeth........................................................................ 31 POV...................................................................................................... 32
Portals................................................................................................... 33 Principality............................................................................................34 Isabella.................................................................................................. 35 Rise....................................................................................................... 36 Too Young For A Broken Heart............................................................ 37 The Green Trees....................................................................................38 La Vie en Rose...................................................................................... 39 Huh?......................................................................................................40 Hope......................................................................................................41 Chicago................................................................................................. 42 The Essence of Our Nature...................................................................43 Maasai Dirt........................................................................................... 44 Black Queen..........................................................................................45 Light and Lines..................................................................................... 46 An Afternoon in the Mountains............................................................ 47 Sunrise, Sunset......................................................................................48 Credits............................................................................................... 49
Thus, Always Akuorkor Allotey, 12th grade His opponent had short blond hair and piercing blue eyes. His opponent's name was James, whose father was a nobody. Alroy’s father, on the other hand, was the captain of the guard. As they squared off, his father looked like he wished that James was his son instead of the bumbling, freckle-faced ignoramus with a ribbon tied tightly in his long, red hair. Said ignoramus was Alroy. There was something so elegant about the art of sword fighting. The arc of the blade. The clang of metal on metal. The dance of two opponents, swift and graceful. Strokes like feathers with the force of an ox behind them. Locked in a battle of life or death where the victor wasn’t the strongest, but the most precise. It was all so complex, yet so simple. It was a skill that Alroy had yet to master himself. He lacked agility and precision. He made sparring look ungainly and uncoordinated. He had just about all the elegance of a fish out of water, and his father made that clear to him every single day. Alroy would flounder about aimlessly with the blade in his grasp, then get tired of losing and charge. His way was brute force and rage. He would take his enemies by surprise because no one would expect a lean-looking kid like him to have so much hidden muscle. Then, once they were on the floor, he would forgo the sword and pound their face in with his fists. No elegance. Just blood. Usually, once his opponent was on the ground, it was over. James was beneath him. No one ever expected him to play this dirty, nor did they have time to react before they saw stars. Unfortunately for Alroy, James was as quick with his fists as he was with his sword. Alroy’s head snapped to the side from the force of the punch that was delivered, long ginger locks flying freely as they tumbled out of the loose grasp of the ribbon. Blood welled in his mouth, tangy and bitter, and he spat a mixture of blood and spittle onto the ground. Beneath him, James smirked. The squires who had been watching the match grew silent. His father sighed. Alroy exploded. When they dragged him off James, he had more than wiped the smirk off the blond’s cocky, perfect, face. The walk home was ... frigid, to say the least. Alroy’s father wouldn’t look at him, let alone talk to him. That was fine with the teen, who was sulking, expression twisted as he scowled at the ground. He had disappointed his father again. Perhaps that had been his intention.
He had never wanted to be a squire, or a soldier, or a knight. He’d had the position shoved upon him by his parents when they moved and his father had been appointed Captain of the Royal Guard. He hated being a squire, but at least it gave him an outlet for his anger. Every time he messed up, every time he left the training grounds with bloodied knuckles and fire in his eyes, he hoped that his father would allow him to stop, allow himself to see what a brute his son was becoming. Yet his father seemed unable to see past the “glory” that would soon paint his family name when Alroy was among the ranks. He seemed to think that one day Alroy would just pick up a sword and swing it rather than his fists. The only day Alroy would ever use his sword instead of his fists was the day that he gave up on his dream. He wasn’t sure what the dream in question was, but he knew that it wasn’t fighting any pointless war for the desire of the king or queen. It wasn’t training more young lads and lasses to wield death and destruction before they could even comprehend the repercussions of their actions, before they could even consider the enemy as anything more than just a faceless barbarian from another province, region, or country. His father said that he thought too much. Leave the thinking to the women, he would say. They enjoy doing frivolous things to occupy their time. We men—we get things done. The first thing his father did when they arrived at the house was to storm off, no doubt to go tell his mother about today’s training failure, another amongst many. Alroy slipped off to his room so that he wouldn’t have to hear her chastise him. His room was one of the only places he had privacy, away from the prying eyes of the other squires and from the nagging of his parents. He flopped onto his bed with a sigh, not bothering to change out of his dirtied livery and chainmail, regardless of the discomfort that it caused him. He blankly stared at the ceiling for a moment, then rolled from his bed and pulled out a book. It was just a small, leather-bound notebook. He had gotten it from a friend before his family had left Ireland. It was where he wrote all his thoughts, all his feelings. His undecided aspirations and his amorphous plans for the future. He was sure that if he kept failing, his parents would eventually give up and realize that he was absolutely worthless for something like defending the kingdom. Then he would become a ... gardener, perhaps, hands deep in the soil as he grew new life. Or maybe an astrologist, charting stars and futures! He could even be a sailor, well-muscled and tan as the wind blew back his ginger hair. Maybe a scribe with a long flowing robe, writing by candle-light. Or would he be the one making the candles? The teen thumbed a page, running his fingers over the charcoal-scratched words. His words. He had pages upon pages of everything and anything that he ever thought, considered, dreamt, all contained in these papers. The door to his room slammed open. Alroy scrambled to hide his book, but it was too late. His father was upon him before he could react, ripping the book from his hands.
“What the ‘ell is this?” his father asked, eyes roving over the latest page. He stilled, quiet as a stone statue, face oddly devoid of emotion. Then he snapped the book shut and turned on his heel. Alroy stared for a moment, slack-jawed, then bounded after the man, not quite sure exactly what that reaction had meant. However, he stopped short upon entering the kitchen. Not only did his father stand there, grim-faced, but so did three of his father’s friends, all proud members ofKing Pedro’s guard. The boy’s head whipped around, seeking his mother, but she was seemingly absent. “Look, Alroy,” began his father, his thick, sandy, brows furrowed. He was beyond displeased. “This,” he said, waving the book, “is not acceptable.” Alroy stayed silent. “I’ve told you before. Leave the thinking to the women. Women dream, they waste time. They think about what could be instead of what should be. Men act. They do what is necessary when it is necessary regardless of whether they like it or not.” “Father, I think this might be-” “I think. Do you think? Or do you know?” “W-well, no one can really know anything-” The look on his father’s face turned to something akin to pity. “I know that I’m going to make you into a man tonight. No more of this sissy crap. No more writing, no more books. You’re going to train like you mean it and learn how to use a sword properly. No more of this roughhousing like you’re nothing more than a common village boy.” “But-” “Sit.” “What?” Alroy asked, incredulity entering his voice. His father had never been particularly kind to him, but he had never commanded him like that, like he was just a dog waiting for an order. His father didn’t repeat it again, just nodding to his friends, who easily pushed the skinny teen into a chair. The glint of metal caught his eye and as his father drew out a pair of scissors, Alroy felt a glimmer of anger and panic all at once. Sharp blades shredded the pages of his book first, chopping the paper that Alroy valued so much to nothing more than pathetic strips of smudged letters and ruined dreams. Then, snip. A red lock drifted to the ground, settling among the remnants of his journal. Alroy felt an emotion akin to horror. He didn’t quite remember what happened next, he just remembered screaming and kicking and crying as his father cut inch after inch of his beautiful hair.
“Stop crying, you sissy, or I’ll give you something to cry about,” he’d barked at him when it was all over. Alroy spat at him. That was how he found himself being dragged halfway out to the castle grounds and directed to the stables with a snarled, “Alroy, if you act like a donkey, you sleep in the stables,” followed by a string of expletives and a well-placed kick to the side. So after a quick trip to the weapons barrack, the squire dragged himself to the barn with as much dignity as he could muster when looking like a poorly shaved lion. He could feel the heat emanating from his skin, flushed with humiliation, anger, and the result of his tears. He slumped against the wall, settling upon the hay as he drew his knees up to his chest. His mind was in utter turmoil, betrayal, hatred, despair. He was expected to go back tomorrow morning. He would have to face his father the next morning. He was to be battle-ready, a man. He was not supposed to think, only do. He was supposed to make an effort with his sword. What other choice did he have? If he failed to do these things, what would happen? If he didn’t show up at all, what would happen? Now there was a thought. What if he just didn’t go? What if he … left altogether? No squire training, no restrictions, no haircuts. He could be who he wanted to be. He could be a carpenter, fashioning wood planks for houses, or a shoe-maker, carving forms from leather. An alchemist, mixing chemicals and making gold. The opportunity was endless. He just needed to get away from his parents. His anger faded to nothing more than a faint buzz in his chest that clutched his heart and tore at his throat, ready to be activated at any moment. A plan arose, slowly forming in his head. He didn’t know how long he sat there before he saw movement from the corner of his eyes. Rat attacks were the reason he had stopped at the barracks before coming. He liked animals, but those beady-eyed rodents made him feel sick. However, the source of movement was not a rat, but a figure crouched in the corner of the barn. Immediately, Alroy’s skin began to crawl. How long had they been there? And why? It was extremely late at night, surely. An intruder, perhaps? The boy got to his feet, quickly and quietly removing himself from the shadow’s vantage point. They stood, revealing themself to be his weight and stature. It was only after the figure’s head stopped at where he had once sat did he realize his absence had been spotted. Alroy took the chance, slamming into the person’s side and drawing his dagger as he sat on the intruder’s chest. “Who are you and what are you doing here?” ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------“Stephen, Stephen, Stephen,” the old man said with a sigh, pacing the room in long strides before whipping his head towards his apprentice. “What am I to do with you?”
The teen quietly rolled his eyes at his uncle’s theatrics and let out a huff, though his crossed arms expressed his discomfort clearly. “You always act like I’ve committed a crime. I merely asked-” “I merely asked,” his uncle mocked back harshly, and Stephen fell into silence. “That’s what I thought. Now go fetch me some mice.” “Yes, Uncle Mordecai.” The boy rose from the table, sliding towards the backroom in order to grab a cage from the shelves. Stephen had a problem. A problem by the name of Mordecai. He woke up every morning spiting his parents for leaving him with the crazy geezer who seemed to find a little too much amusement in “experimenting” on mice. Mordecai was his mother’s estranged brother, and there was a reason why he was estranged. And there was a reason why Stephen had been sent to live with him at a young age, but such things were trivial and unimportant. “Why do I hear you rummaging around back there, you little rat?” A hiss broke him out ofhis thoughts and a hand grasped his shoulder. “Didn’t I ask for something?” Stephen whipped around, his expression openly hateful as he glared at the man. His uncle stared back evenly through maddened hazel eyes, lips drawn back in a snarl, and Stephen decided that this wasn’t a battle worth fighting. “I’m going,” he muttered with a sigh, shaking himself out of Mordecai’s grasp and heading for the door. “Be back by morning, Stephen. Or I'll have your fingers." The moon was bright and clear in the sky, lighting the path to the stable and the barns for all to see. The stars twinkled like shining gems. There was not a soul out, however, for it was deep into the night. It was better that way for Stephen. On his night trips, he would sometimes stumble upon a guard or two, but for the most part, it was quiet. Sometimes, when he was in a better mood, he would explore the grounds. Mordecai rarely allowed him to see the castle, and he couldn't remember the last time he had seen it in the day. He wondered if his parents knew that this was what they had subjected him to. He doubted that they cared. They’d sent him away for superstition alone, without a single look past his ... unfortunate anomaly. They hadn’t wanted to get rid of him at first, in case it was one of their bloodlines. The moment that a second child was conceived and his brother entered the world a healthy, normal, baby, the unnaturalness of Stephen had only been solidified in their minds and an end was brought to any semblance of normalcy that the brunet had ever tried to maintain in his life.
Obviously, it had to have been a witch, a magic person had ruined him before he was even born. There was no other explanation for it, his parents had said. One of them must have angered a witch, and they couldn’t have that disorder and misfortune in their house. Now he was stuck with his crazy uncle, training to become the next doctor for the kingdom, but completely limited due to the curse that dirtied his blood. Stephen sneered and kicked a rock, swiping away such thoughts from his mind. The faster he found mice, the faster he could finally return to bed. He reached the barns, scrawny arms pulling the heavy doors open just enough to glare at the wide expanse of hay that lay before him. The rodents froze for all of one second as the shadow of the boy loomed over them, then the mice were scattering, scrambling back into the straw and squeaking frantically. Stephen never had a chance, but he instinctively flung himself at the closest one, missing its tail by a hair-length as his shoulder cracked into the stone floor. The brunet let out a weary sigh, staring at the hay that surrounded him through half-lidded eyes. He really didn’t want to do this. Yet he hauled himself up, wincing as he rubbed at his sore shoulder, finding himself waiting in the shadows of the corners. On this night, however, Stephen found himself unusually tired. Perhaps it had been the increased amount of rambunctious squires in the infirmary after a few bad roughhousing incidents. Perhaps it was the chill that seeped through his cloak. Regardless, the apprentice took off his glasses for only one second in order to clean his round lenses, and when he woke up, the sky was beginning to lighten as the sun began its slow creep up the horizon, and there was another person in the barn. A squire with short, choppy, red hair. He was curled, knees to chest, head to knees, against the wall. He was sniffling. Now, Stephen didn’t consider himself to be the most empathetic or sympathetic person. Honestly, he struggled to feel sympathy for anyone but himself, always seemingly caught in a trap of half self-pity, half self-hatred. Normally, when people cried, he found himself desperately searching for an excuse to exit the situation. This was no exception. The teen got up as quietly as possible. To hell with the mice. He was sure he could find something else for Mordecai. One of the servant’s cats had birthed kittens recently, hadn’t it …? Ugh. No. He couldn't do that. He refused to stoop that low. He would just return empty-handed and face his uncle’s wrath. Stephen let out a low sigh, then froze, immediately looking to where the sniffling squire sat. His companion was gone. Wha-
His mental inquiry lay unfinished as he was tackled, the air forcibly shoved from his lungs as he landed hard on his backside. For one horrible moment, he was sure it was Mordecai coming to beat him down for lollygagging, but the logical part of his mind informed him that it was the squire. As usual, the logical part of his mind was correct. The squire was pointing a dagger at his throat and sitting atop his chest. It would almost have been intimidating if not for the obvious flush on the redhead’s pale face. “Who are you and what are you doin’ 'ere?” Stephen blinked in surprise as an Irish accent assaulted his ears. He knew of only one guard from Ireland. Finian Clancy, Captain of the Guard. He had emigrated with his family and risen through the ranks as a noble warrior. This boy must be his son. Stephen had only heard bad things about him. Mostly that he was an awful swordsman with too much anger and not enough precision. Upon meeting him now, he could agree with the anger part. He didn’t like the heated ferocity in the other’s brown eyes. “Stephen.” He paused. The squire was staring at him blankly. “Er, of the McCall ... family. Mordecai’s apprentice-” “You're Scahttesh?” The question that cut him off was not at all what he was expecting. He blinked again, slowly translating it. You’re Scottish? “Uh ... only in name.” “Oh.” The squire sounded rather disappointed. “I’m allowed to be lurking around the castle at night. I’m sure you should know that. So, it would be much appreciated if you would distance that blade from my throat.” “Oh.” The squire sounded even more disappointed, but he sheathed his dagger and clambered off Stephen. “Sorry.” “It happens to the best of us,” Stephen replied, even though that was a blatant lie. He got to his feet, pushing down his internal panic, brushing himself off, and mentally sizing up the red-head as he forced himself to continue the conversation. “What are you doing here?” The pale-skinned boy scowled, momentarily dropping his gaze to the ground. When he spoke, his voice was terse and angered, his accent only thickening as he went on. “Me pa, 'e got angry at me. Told me, Alroy, you act like a dahnkey, you sleep in de stables. Told me dat real men don’t question things so much, they do them when they’re meant ta be done. Real men don't cry. Stahp cryin’, you sessy. I'll give you sahmethin’ to cry abooeht.” The squire, who Stephen assumed must be Alroy, paused and took a few deep breaths before continuing just as viciously.
“Then 'e got 'is friends over and they pinned me ta a chair and cut me 'air”— he gestured to his choppy haircut— “It used to be real long, but Pa said it made me look too girly. Then, 'e sent me out ta the stables.” Alroy sneered. “'e thinks I'm comin’ back this morning as a new man, but I'm not comin’ back. I'm leavin’." Stephen was silent, taking it all in. I’m leaving. Huh. That was always an option, wasn’t it? He could just leave this castle and his uncle. He could leave the mice and the cages. He could free himself if he truly wanted. He didn’t need Mordecai. He knew plenty about herbs and healing by himself. He could make a new name for himself, a new life for himself, a life where he wasn’t the product of a witch’s curse and some bad blood. His chance to escape his predetermined destiny lay straight ahead of him, ruddy-faced and scowling. Before he could pose any sort of question, Alroy shoved him deep into a pile of hay with a hissed “shh.” An indignant complaint made its way up his throat and immediately died upon hearing an all-too-familiar growl. “Squire,” Mordecai snapped. Stephen stayed still, hardly daring to breathe. He hadn’t broken the rules in a long while. His uncle wasn’t the type to believe in accidents. He would see this as a direct challenge of his authority and hellfire would rain from the sky before Mordecai would let a challenge go unanswered. “'ello, Sir. Quite early, isn't it?” “Indeed. You’re Clancy’s son, aren’t you?” “Yes Sir.” “What are you doing out here?” "Well, Sir, I was contemplatin’ the meanin o' manhood. Reminiscin’ upon the glory and the golden mornings of the halcyon days when there was nothin’ to be prouder of than bein’ on the battlefield surrounded by your compatriots and a common love of fightin’. The pride of a job well done as the enemy army lay in tatters before you, their command shattered and their people reduced to nothin’ but food for the crows." “… Right.” A pause. Stephen was pretty sure that the elder had no idea what Alroy was rambling on about. “Well, you haven’t happened to see my apprentice Stephen, have you? I sent the little rat out here a while ago to fetch me something and he hasn’t returned. And I just worry for him, you know? I owe his parents his safety. I wouldn’t want him to get hurt, and you never really know what reaction that people will have to his ... abnormality.” Mordecai was a liar and a fake, voice coated in honey like the sweetest of combs. Stephen had been stung before. He knew to be wary.
“I 'eard 'e 'as the Devil's 'ands,” Alroy commented instead of answering. “An unfortunate curse,” Mordecai replied. Another pause. “Did you see him?” the man asked again, a tinge of impatience coloring his voice. “No, but I'll let you know if I do.” For a moment, Stephen thought Mordecai wasn’t going to leave and he was going to stride over and kick the hay out of the way and everything would be ruined. Instead, his uncle merely muttered, “Good lad.” It was only when the sound of retreating footsteps had faded that Stephen dared to pop his head out of the spindly grass to a rather grim-faced Alroy. “Don’t think your Uncle believed me very much. We better get goin,” the redhead said, offering a hand to Stephen. He stared at it for a moment, glanced at the squire, then took it. “We?” he repeated, brushing straw off his clothing. “Yes, we.” “I never agreed to leave with you,” Stephen murmured lowly, despite the fact that he was already following his new acquaintance (friend?) out of the building and into the dawn. Alroy spared him a brief glance and a smile. “You never 'ad to. Your eyes said it all.”
World War III Hannah Denny, 8th grade Here’s what I remember from the day I died. I took a walk because as the old saying goes, “motion changes emotion.” I wasn't so sure about that because all I saw was smoke and gas that had turned the sky a dark gray, giving me a nauseous feeling. I was born in the middle of it, but my mother used to say the world went from beautiful and full of life, to a world of heartbreak and death, all because ofWorld War III. For as long as I could remember and longer, the first nuclear war had been destroying the planet entrusted to our care. Our nation’s leaders said we would be safe, but they vanished because they couldn’t handle seeing what they initiated. I don’t know where they could have gone; there was no escape from the war. My mother was found dead on the streets because of the smoke that had filled her lungs so she couldn’t breathe. My father was caught up in a bombing. My younger brother was fighting in the war. He had been fighting with hope for the world, just as many innocents of all the countries did. I had feared that he would die. I got a death letter for my mother and my father. If I received such a letter for my little brother, I would have no one left to love. No one left to live for. I passed by multiple people who were coughing, but had nowhere to go because their homes had been destroyed. That was normal though. My eyes were watering. Maybe I was reacting to the smoke, or maybe it was because there was a little girl, limp in her sobbing mother’s arms, dead from the pollution. I heard sirens go off warning us of another bombing. Before I could move, a man scooped me up and took me to the nearest bombing shelter. The shelters were made from the few remaining houses in our area. If you couldn’t hide under a bed or desk, you were dead. Once we got inside, the man asked me if I was Marlee Taylor. I nodded, wondering why he needed to know. He handed me a letter: a tiny envelope with a wax seal. I knew that seal. I didn’t want to read it, so I tore it up. I did not cry or make any noise. I did not feel anything, except for a cold numbness that spread from my heart to the rest of my body. A plane was coming, so all in the shelter hid under the beds and desks, but I didn’t. I stood there. People were screaming at me, trying to get me to hide, but I was ready. I had nothing left to live for. No hope at all. I closed my eyes and braced myself for the end, and then … darkness.
WE ONLY HAVE ONE EARTH. WE ARE ALL HUMAN, OUR DIFFERENCES SHOULD NOT TAKE AWAY FROM THE FACT THAT, AT THE CENTER OF IT ALL, WE ARE FAMILY. NO ONE SHOULD EVER HAVE TO GO THROUGH WHAT MY CHARACTER MARLEE DID, BUT MANY HAVE AND MANY MIGHT IF WE DON’T LOVE THE PEOPLE AROUND US, NO MATTER WHERE WE COME FROM. I HAVE HOPE FOR THE NEXT GENERATION. LET’S SAVE THE PLANET WE WERE GIVEN. Love, HED
The Little Things Roxanna Davis, 11th grade They ambled along the streets in the daytime and ran around laughing at night. Two women of an odd manner. No one knew their names, could barely recall their faces. They never spoke to anyone, it seemed, but had their own secret language filled with wild eyes and quick feet. At first, no one questioned their presence— just another pair passing through that quaint town, out of gas money and with nowhere else to go. The women were always seen together, doing normal things that normal people do, if not a little strange. They bought food, even if it was gummy worms and alcohol. They tried on clothes, even if they were tinted glasses and sparkling capes. They had fun too, even if it was on the abandoned beach in leather boots, searching for seashells and kicking sand at each other. Perhaps they were more than a little strange, but they were harmless. Something changed, though, when the sun set and the moon rose. The two women, still strange as ever, would gather up what little they had—a ratty sheet and the food they had bought from the store—and run. They would run down the street, down to that abandoned beach, and sit. Those two women, known throughout the small town as all sorts of odd, would sit on their sheet and look to the moon, utterly still. The next night, they did the same thing and sat on that sheet, eating what little they brought. The night after that, a small boy and his parents followed the women to the beach and asked them what they were doing there. No one ever did that in the town. The women, however, merely beckoned for the family to have a seat. They spent the entire night out at the beach until the child fell asleep, quiet and peaceful. The next morning, word spread of that family. They walked along the sidewalks, content and at peace, their child skipping in between them and picking up flowers as he went. No one had ever done such a trivial thing before. From there, something changed. Other people began to accompany the family and the two women to the beach. They would sit, at first, and talk among themselves in hushed murmurs about work, school—just normal things. Then, as even more came, they would eat, they would laugh, then sing, then dance, then rush into the waves, simply because they wanted to. It was a stark difference from before—from the monotony. Where it used to be quiet, it was loud. Where people would once barely look at each other, they now chatted amiably. Where the beach had been abandoned, it now teemed with life, laughter, and love. So, at the center of it all—of all the unadulterated life—there sat the two women, not nearly as strange anymore, drinking in the energy of the night.
Eros Ariana Johns, 10th grade Purity in an essence Feeling is an illusion arduous in unlocking emotion overrides disbelief coincides raw love true love awe-struck, astonished ethereal beauty draws time to a stand still consumption Swallowed up by emotion one look takes my breath away
Crash and Burn Madeline Jones, 9th grade Ember’s thoughts wandered as she soared through the sky towards home. The day had been slow for her scouting squad, with only a mild blizzard to report to the Alatus council. Ember was wondering about Iris’ progress with her studies when Violet, their squad leader, stopped flying and hovered in midair. The other three began to whisper amongst themselves. Ember looked up and noticed the clouds moving faster. The air around her was crackling with electricity, and the sky seemed to turn green. A sharp wind sent Ember tumbling sideways through the air, catching her off guard. She quickly regained her composure and fought the wind to return to her squad. The hair on the back of Ember’s neck stood up as the wind whipped her fiery hair around her face. Violet's dark eyebrows furrowed as she began to call out orders. “Asher and Camille, follow me. We’ve got to get ahead of this storm,” she yelled over the wind. As she finished that sentence, the clouds ahead began to funnel directly in the path back to base. “If we move fast enough, we could get through there before it touches down!” “What about Fox and me?” Ember shouted, struggling to stay airborne in the raging winds. Fox, her scouting partner, looked around frantically. He was the newest and youngest scout and had never been caught in a tornado before. “You can bring up the rear. Try to get up higher and stay out of the crosswinds!” With that, Violet soared upwards towards the clouds. Ember sighed, and motioned for Fox to follow. He looked terrified. His small frame made him a top choice for a scout, but at only eleven years old, he had minimal experience. The clouds began to swirl as the violent cyclone touched down. Ember whipped her head around, trying to keep an eye on Fox, when she heard a muffled cry. Fox was being pulled into the rotating storm. Ember gasped, watching his thin golden wings flutter uselessly against the wind. “Hurry up, Ember! Every scout for themselves!” Violet gasped from above, her voice barely making a dent in the roaring wind. Ember tried to suck in a breath, but couldn’t. She hovered as best she could, her bright orange wings flickering like fire. Fox continued to swirl, a scream frozen on his face. Ember took a last look at Violet’s fleeting form and dove down into the storm. Leaves, branches, even entire trees whipped violently around her. Her wings ached as she pushed closer to Fox. She dodged scraps of human homes and buildings that had been ripped from the earth. For a moment, her mind wandered to the poor humans that this storm was killing. Lives were being torn apart by natural disasters every day, and it was up to the scouts to stop it.
Gritting her teeth, she used what little energy she had to cover the remaining distance between them. Grabbing his limp arm, she fought back tears and accepted their fate. A tree limb whipped past, colliding with her right leg. She looked down and saw dark blood pouring out of her wound. Her head felt thick and clouded, and her vision was growing hazy. A tingling feeling was beginning to spread through her fingertips, tracing up her arms and down her spine. Strength flooded her body, pushing her through the outer wall of the tornado. Suddenly alert, Ember struggled to process what had just happened. Fox’s wings fluttered lightly as he came to, and Ember gently let him hover on his own. The tornado was moving away from them and slowly fizzling out. “What happened?” Fox murmured, his words slurred. Ember hadn’t the slightest idea. “All that matters is we’re safe now. Let’s get back to base.” ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Ember landed rather roughly in the alleyway behind the Space Needle. Fox followed, stumbling a little. Ember debated whether to attempt walking or to hover above the ground. Taking a few tentative steps, she promptly fell backwards. She sighed and leaned back on her hands. “There are no humans around. You could probably use your wings,” Fox suggested, his voice quivering. After weighing the idea in her head, Ember decided he was right. Another burst of pain solidified her decision. Pushing herself up, Ember floated towards the maintenance door, motioning for Fox to follow. “How are we supposed to explain this to the council?” Ember wondered aloud, pressing the combination into the rusty lock. “It was all my fault... You should've just left me to die,” Fox said tentatively. His pale eyes searched the floor in shame. Ember crossed her arms and replied, “This was your third mission! Not to mention you’re the youngest scout in history. All of their ‘Every scout for themself’ stuff is nonsense.” Fox giggled and looked a little less guilty. Finally forcing the door open, Ember started down the dark stairwell into the earth. The cool, damp air felt nice on her raw skin. Ember tried to make conversation with Fox, but her unanswered question was hanging heavy in the air. The crumbling dirt walls finally gave way to a bright stone chamber with soaring ceilings and shining marble floors. Hundreds of people fluttered around the cavern, each with unique wings. Hallways carved into the smooth walls led off in all different directions, and people bought goods at stands that littered the floor. Ember stepped off the edge of the stairs and sank a hundred or so feet to the floor.
Turning to Fox, she muttered, “Stay towards the edge and don’t speak to anyone. We need to go straight to headquarters without this going public.” Fox nodded and moved to Ember’s opposite side to block her bloody leg from view. Nobody took much notice of them as they traced the walls of the cavern. Large ground-level doorways served as entrances for each of the five departments. As they flew, Ember watched people greet their friends and peruse the shops. They finally came to a beautifully carved archway through which slim scouts and burly guards entered and exited. An ornate sign hung above the archway labeling the entrance to the Department of Human-Alatus Affairs. The headquarters for the scouts and Border Patrol were in this department, and both positions were nearly impossible to obtain. Ember took a deep breath and passed under the archway, taking a sharp turn into the scouting headquarters. Fox trailed behind her quietly, biting his lip in apprehension. The second she crossed the threshold, the room erupted into gasps and shouts. Every face turned to look at them. The breath was knocked out of Ember as she was pulled into a hug. “What happened to you? We thought you were dead!” Iris, Ember’s closest friend, sounded hysterical. Her electric blue eyes were bloodshot and her messy platinum hair suggested that she’d been torn away from studying. Ember smiled as a relieved-looking Birch appeared behind Iris. His muscular form was perfect for Border Patrol, but his friends knew he couldn't hurt a fly. Ember loved that his chocolate skin brought out the deep green of his eyes. “Give her a chance to breathe,” Birch said softly, placing a hand on Iris’ shoulder. Birch scanned Ember and frowned when he saw her oozing leg. “You should see a medic for that,” he started, before Violet shoved past him. “You absolute idiot!” Violet shouted, pointing a finger at Ember. “What on earth were you thinking?” “I couldn't just let him die, it was only his third mission!” Ember argued back. She felt her pale, freckled skin heat up. Violet’s face contorted. She’d become increasingly officious since her promotion earlier that year. “You risked your own safety to save a rookie,” Violet lowered her voice to a whisper. “You should be dead.” She stared Ember in the eyes and stalked out of the room. People began to crowd her, asking questions about the storm and the council. Iris and Birch slowly guided her out of the room and towards the Department of Medicine. Ember’s thoughts raced. Why wasn’t she dead? What was that surge of power? It felt almost like … magic. The Alatus had limited power, aside from flight. Guards and scouts could make themselves invisible to humans, and healers could repair almost any malady. Both skills were taught in profession training, though. Nobody was born with magical powers. Ember looked up and was met with her friends’ concerned faces. “Are you okay? You didn’t respond to me,” Iris said, pulling Ember out of the crowded walkway.
“I’m fine,” Ember replied. “I was just lost in thought.” Iris didn’t look convinced, but Birch waved her off and grabbed Ember’s hand. “Iris asked if you were worried about Violet,” Birch said. His eyes were so sincere, and his hand was warm. Ember blinked and tried to focus. “It’ll be fine. She can’t bring it up to the council because they never have time to meet with anybody,” Ember said, shaking her head. The council’s main job was to stop the natural disasters that the scouts reported to them. Nobody knew how they did it, but they battled everything from tsunamis to lightning storms. The Alatus compound moved around the world based on natural disaster hotspots. There had been more earthquakes and fires than ever before on America’s west coast, so the compound had been in Seattle for nearly sixteen years. “I think you’re right,” Birch said. “We need to get you to the Department of Medicine before you bleed out!” Ember looked down at her leg and nodded. Passersby were staring with a mixture of concern and disgust on their faces. After a few minutes and countless nasty looks, they glided into a medic station. Medics swarmed Ember, pulling her to a bed. They swiftly stitched up her leg and sent her to a healer who would speed up the process. “Go, go,” one of the medics said to Birch and Iris. “It will be about an hour before she’s back to normal.” Ember watched them leave as the medics ushered her into the healer’s tent. Birch and Iris waved goodbye. Ember entered the tent and the healer, Elm, greeted her. He was tall and tanned, and his aura radiated selflessness. “Hey, Ember! It’s been a while since you've been here,” he said. They made small talk for a few moments while Elm tended to another Alatus, waving his hand over the sleeping body. “Okay, Ember, lay down on that cot over there and try to sleep. I can work the healing magic while you’re awake, but it’s faster when you're unconscious.” As Elm prepared some herbs nearby, Ember settled down on the hard cot. She closed her eyes, thoughts swirling like a thunderstorm in her head.
Oh How Cliché Eleanor Heath, 11th grade Oh look, another poem that rhymes You would think someone would be more original after all this time It will probably be about dancing or daisies Or if they want to keep it classy, prancing in a field pining for love Maybe it’s just a pet peeve of mine, but how could a daisy chain be oh so bad I really don’t understand why everybody’s oh so mad I guess the “woe is me” act is a little overstated But the “I’ll just say nothing at all” is also overrated So write about doves and love and all the fluff Because one day you will forget how the dancing daisies made you prance in a field pining for love And everyone is already in dismay, so might as well make it cliché
Bright, Right? A’nna Wilcox, 11th grade Bright, right? The light was always bright It may take a bit Of searching, scanning But the answer was there It’s been flickering I can still make out the shapes And sometimes The full picture appears I’m used to sight Took it for granted But now that it’s gone I wonder if I’m wrong Enough of this It’s all jargon This poem is about calculus And it’s really hard In math I can usually understand But my friend, reason, has left She visits sometimes She gives me some insight
Otherwise I venture alone Quite literally Into the world of deep abstract I get it, but I don’t The gears in my head Keep moving, moving Sometimes I’m stuck And the panic sets in I’m supposed to be good Right, right? I have to do good So I keep thinking And I keep trying
The Blackest Day Noah Silver, 11th grade Fluorescent, cerulean lights twitch in the pitch-black gloom Pale moonlight shines on the midnight wanderers Trees blow in the breeze like swaying giants lost at sea Neglected, chalky buildings tower over the open road Blue hydrangeas add color to the eerie, ashen town Distant trains rumble to form a melody in our heads A bright gas station sign blares in the distance Midnight wanderers disappear into the black void that is the night sky
Evergreen Noah Silver, 11th grade Arctic winds sway the viridescent quills on the ancient evergreen tree Through ancient storms and chilling winters, the evergreen stands tall The crisp evergreen aroma fills the misty forest The forest whispers as the frosty breeze fills the air Crystalline droplets trickle down from the pearly, white sky The evergreen has watched over the woodland since the beginning One day the evergreen will cascade into the dark soil And life will persist
The Path of Existence and Legacy Johniya Barnes, 11th grade I somehow wonder how I got here What choices did I make that got me to this point I drown out the voices and I disappear I can only wonder if my path will disappoint The road ahead is so unsure What is the panacea of the torture that is overthinking Everywhere I look the signs are obscure I can’t ignore the flashes of clarity that are blinking Somehow I ground myself How can I find myself? Is a being to be found or made? The fact that the answer is not clear makes me afraid. Choices must be made, obligated to play the game Life has become a cycle of repetition with very little meaningful moments in between But the moments that slip in between the seam help us find reality and a flicker of a dream. Do I do what will support me or do I do the thing that really courts me at my core and sings to my heart? Is this the end of the road or is it just the start? Why are we here?
We live on this sphere with earth and land and billions of other people and yet this little pinpoint on the planet is where we exist wholly at the moment. But is it though? Is this where we really exist? I think we exist on a plane of bliss and we turn away from the crash of the waves of unsureness. We do not only exist here, but in the memories and in our words. We shape the clay and create the form of birds that will sing our song. We live and we will die, but we will never be truly gone Because of this our path will forever matter, as we shape the world on a silver platter With words and actions our legacy is drawn on the world forever Although the path is unclear, keep your mind near Draw closer to intellect ‘cause it will affect your path Withhold from wrath and collect the light the light that is your soul You are infinite and through that your words are intimate whispers on the universe, But you are blessed to even be allowed to have a verse in the song that is life. Speak kind words and watch the world glow bright.
Interdependence and Pain Johniya Barnes, 11th grade We lean on each other like we don’t have legs for ourselves. We go in an endless cycle of you hurt me and then I hurt you. What more harm can we do? We lay in a bed of roses and roll down the hill, but at the end of the hill there’s a pond of built up resentment and hate. Why won’t you listen to me, why won’t you love me the way I love you. What will one more argument do? We scream and turn and burn letters that have “return to sender” stamped on the front. Why do you hurt me the way that you do? Why do we look at each other and scream till the white noise of anger burns our ears? Why do we fight the way that we do? The entire time we’re arguing it’s an endless tug of war of “do we love each other or do we hate each other?” Then I look up and I’m arguing with the mirror. Do I continue to let my insecurities beat and bruise me and then go back to the same negative thinking, like a child that continues to go down the slide that they keep falling off of? Do I continue to hold onto hurtful thoughts and words like a child holding on to hot metal monkey bars that continue to burn them, or do I let go? Letting go always sounds like a good idea, but it’s so hard. Where does the process of letting go begin?
The Best ofYou Kennedie Owens, 11th grade Someone once told me, “If you’re not giving your all, You’re not giving your best.” They said, “Why give so little in the dust, When you can be better than the rest?” But being at the top Where the mountain bird glory rings, Didn’t fit my familiar home, Where I, like the ocean waves, sing. If the best ones are always above the clouds, How will they find a lingering peace like me, When they can only have a sip, And never taste the rest of the sea? Although we should forever strive for our best, To make it to the peaks of our all, Clouds don’t stay forever, And the sea will sink your fall. You can always give your best, Or reach your head above the tree, When you pass the mountain bird and clouds, Just remember how much you like the sea.
Tuesday Kosi Umerah, 11th grade Living is easy when you’re always hoping Constantly distracting the self from the present They tell you to burn a candle— so your manifestations will quickly come to fruition Its flame will birth beautiful embers of promise And with its smoke, the thoughts of the present are nullified; a tomorrow with hope is guaranteed As the smoke caresses the apprehension of your present thoughts, euphoria washes over you It rids you of the yoke of discomfort But only because you are dancing in the future And only because thoughts of the present bring angst Living may be easier when you allow your mind to reside in the present But only if you are truly content with the unadulterated essence of the now And only when you are ready to commit to this level of appreciation for yourself
My Grandfather’s Teeth Kathleen Carpenter, 12th grade There they were, my grandfather’s dentures embedded in the windshield of his completely destroyed truck. Thrilled to find them in such a convenient place, I eagerly waited with open hands as the police officer pulled them out of the windshield and gave them to me. With glass scattered in the demolished vehicle, which was upside down, his Bible lay on the ceiling along with several chocolate wrappers and papers from the exposed glovebox. Even though I was only thirteen, I could see the scene as clear as the blue August sky that morning. After my mother took pictures of the scene, she handed me her phone to help her send the pictures to Mammie, my grandmother. Even though I was a young girl, I distinctly remember that I was not afraid to face the day as it unfolded. Now that I am older, I realize my adolescence was a gift which blinded me to the horror of the scene that day. Eventually, I discovered that an eighteen-wheeler had gone into the lane of my grandfather’s truck. My grandfather, who I call Repop, spent several nights in the hospital as a result of the accident. Riding in my mom’s SUV to the hospital, one thought consumed my mind: I found his teeth. As I smiled and gave Repop his teeth, he laughed and only revealed relief to his granddaughter. Looking back, I realize that I almost lost the role model of my life. My family stood in the opposite corner of the room praying that they would not have to crush my youthful spirit as I was praying a prayer of thanksgiving with Repop. Several years have passed since this incident with Repop. I have contemplated that day several times over the past years. As children, we often see everyone as indestructible. As the years went by after the accident, I moved around to several different schools. The transition of leaving one life behind to starting a new one brought emotions that I had never had to experience before. Of course, the anxiety of walking to the wrong class and making new friends were among those emotions. However, the emotion of loss was the most difficult to face. I had lost several friends as well as my place in a school every time I left a school. Unlike my experience with the accident, I began to understand what loss truly means. But, like with Repop, I also experienced hope: I always found a community of friends in every school’s softball team. The comfort of the sport brought me back to the youthfulness of somehow knowing that Repop would still be with us today. Now, I know that the accident has helped change me to be a person who understands the darkness of the world while maintaining a gregarious spirit. Ever since the accident, there has been a sticky note that Mammie put on the medicine cabinet for Repop. The note reads, “Do not forget your teeth Dan!” If I had to guess what sticky note my mom would leave me, it would have to be between “do not wear cleats in the house” and “do not forget to wash the dishes.” But the note that has really stuck to my personality would be “do not forget to see the good.” So, instead of seeing a day Repop almost left us forever, I see the day that I gave him back his teeth.
POV Elaine DeGuzman, 9th grade POV: we’re real we all have imperfections treat people kindly
Portals Grace Taylor, 10th grade
Principality Akuorkor Allotey, 12th grade
Isabella Samantha Sipe, 9th grade
Rise A'nna Wilcox, 11th grade
Too Young For A Broken Heart Alicia Thomas, 12th grade
The Green Trees Lawson Hickman, 11th grade
La Vie en Rose Juliana Fdoul, 12th grade
Huh? Roxanna Davis, 11th grade
Hope Camdyn Doucette, 12th grade
Chicago Sophie Bolan, 10th grade
The Essence of Our Nature Kennedie Owens, 11th grade
Maasai Dirt Grace Byron, 11th grade
Black Queen Lily Livingston, 10th grade
Light and Lines Ella Hawkins, 10th grade
An Afternoon in the Mountains Caitlyn Arnold, 9th grade
Sunrise, Sunset Akweley Allotey, 12th grade
Page Break 2021 Staff Art Editors:
Roxanna Davis Juliana Fdoul
Akuorkor Allotey Akweley Allotey
Akuorkor Allotey Noah Silver
Caitlyn Arnold Sophie Bolan Lawson Hickman Lily Livingston
Caitlyn Arnold Elaine DeGuzman Kennedie Owens Noah Silver Kosi Umerah
Caitlyn Arnold Sophie Bolan Juliana Fdoul Kennedie Owens Alicia Thomas Kosi Umerah
Roxanna Davis Juliana Fdoul
Ms. Eileen Carlson 49