qwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqw ertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwert yuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyui opasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopa It Could Happen To You Anthology of Short Stories sdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdf ghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghj klzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklz xcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcv bnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbn mqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmq wertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwe rtyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwerty uiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuio pasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopas dfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfg Bear Creek Eighth Grade English
Contents A Swirling World
Evidence of Troublemakers
Cougars vs Chickens
The Childrenâ€™s Corp
Better Than Gold
The Open Door
By Jessica Bone The sun glistens off the water all around me as I wait for the next wave to come. The water is cool against my legs and I swish them back and forth, stirring the water around me. There is a lull in the waves, and I watch the previous set of waves crest and fall onto the shore. I think of the vast depth below me. Unseen, from above, a world of fish, plants and streaming life is thriving. Suddenly the first wave of the next set comes, pushing my board up in the water and pulling me out of me reverie. I look behind me, seeing the next wave building. I start paddling so Iâ€™m in place for the wave to break and propel me toward the shore. The wave is seconds away. I lie down and continue to paddle. Perfect timing. The wave breaks around me in a surge of foam and rumbling. I glide onto the warm, rough sand. The sand clings to my legs as I stand up and wave to my family, who sit just a little up the beach. I run back into the ocean, this time noticing all the jellyfish floating around me, tickling my legs in a weird slimy way. I hurry into deeper waters where there are fewer jelly fish. In the deeper water, once again, I wait for a lull in the waves. I think of the vast expanse of ocean surrounding me. I am expecting another wave to distract me, but this time is different. I feel a strange pull on my board, slowly taking me farther away from shore. I look behind me expecting to see nothing but water, thinking it must just be an abnormal current, but instead see a small whirlpool forming just behind me. I pause for a second, never having seen anything 2
like this before. Then I start paddling, at first making progress, but soon I get pulled back again, this time faster and harder. Slowly I stop moving forward all together and get dragged backwards toward the now massive and growing spiral of water. My board is wrenched back into the swirling abyss of white foam and black water, carrying me with it. Only a few feet from the edge, I look back to the shore where my family sits, totally unaware of this void which is seconds from swallowing me, forever. I turn my attention back to the deadly eddy. Just as I am about to go over the edge, the board tips back, I take one last breath, close my eyes, and prepare for the water to engulf me. The board comes out from under me and I feel complete weightlessness. This sensation ends in seconds when I plunge into the torrent of water. The churning current pulls me in different directions; my feet go over my head as my arms are pulled every which way. I am totally confused, with no sense of up or down, just varying degrees of blackness all around, suffocating me. Now filled with complete hopelessness, my lungs hurt and my entire body feels lifeless, I reach out one last time, and suddenly my hand breaks through the mass of water into the open air. Filled with a new sense of reason, I propel myself towards my only hope. I surface, the water still swirling, my lungs filling, allowing me to breathe, soothing the ache in my chest, giving me relief. I see a wall of water less than a foot away from me, and the sky a thousand miles away. I realize that I am not out of the spiraling mass, but in the center of it. Abruptly, I am pulled straight down, farther into the center. There is nothing but blackness now as I get dragged through the water by an unseen force. Giving up all hope, I fade to utter nothingness. *** I wake up, confused and lifeless, damp sand under me, accompanied by the sound of dripping, and the lap of water. All of my senses lead me to believe that I must have fallen asleep on the beach and that it had started to rain. When at last, I sit up I realize my head feels like it’s about to split open, my lungs and throat feel like they have been scrubbed first with sandpaper and then with a metal brush, and on top of all that, my whole body feels weakened to the point of death. After reflecting on all my injuries, a deluge of memories flood into my mind of the last day, but then I realize I don’t actually know when that was, or when now is. Looking around me, I notice for the first time, that I am in a cave. There is a pool of water, big enough for almost five people, and full of clear blue water. I also notice the white sand that surrounds me, and the dripping cave walls. “Good, you’re awake”, echoes a quiet, peaceful voice in the corner. I spin around, my head throbs in protest, and the rest of my body with it. “Who are you?” I inquire my voice almost nonexistent in its raspy tone, full of curiosity and caution. “Where am I? What day is it? How did I get here? Where ….”
The soothing voice interrupts my last question, “Goodness you have a lot of questions. Why don’t you drink this and I will answer some of them.” I open my mouth to ask what it is, but she replies first, reading the question on my face. “It’s a healing tonic, it will make your head and lungs feel better.” I reach out to take the shell-shaped, metal flask. “Alright, let’s see, we are in an under-water cave off the coast of New Jersey. I believe you were swimming around here?” I nod in agreement, still grasping the flask meekly. “Ah, the day, I am unaware of the date, but am positive it is the same day you nearly drowned. Only, it is the middle of the night, not the morning.” I stare shocked that I could have been unconscious for over twelve hours. “As for how you got here, I brought you here. When I saw you drowning, I waited to see what you would do, fully planning to leave you, but then I saw your face and I remembered all the years I had seen you coming here to my beach, growing up, and I couldn’t just let you die, so I brought you here.” I stare for a moment in awe at this tale, but my curiosity gets the better of me. “What are you?” I ask, trying not to sound rude, but not succeeding. “Yes, your first question. I am a water nymph, or spirit. This beach is me and mine. My name is Maji, which means water, or sea. I have watched you grow up, coming here with your family every summer. You are the only one who came back every year from childhood and went in the water every day, the only one I ever missed when you left. I don’t know if you recall this, but one time you even marched up and down the length of this beach looking for shells. “So you couldn’t let me die because I came here every year with my family, on vacation?” I ask, trying to understand her reasoning, adding, “I mean I’m extremely grateful, I just don’t get it.” “I don’t know. You were the only one who seemed to love this beach as much as me,” she says, staring off at what seemed years away. “So what do we do now? How do I get back? My family must be going crazy! Can you send me back?” “Just because I saved you, doesn’t mean I will just send you back home,” she tells me. I stare at her with a look mixed with sadness and shock as I realize what she is saying. “First you must do me a favor.” “I just almost drowned how much of a favor do you expect from me? And what about my family, they must be dying from worry?” “I will let them know in their hearts you will return to them. In the meantime let me explain your task. There is a great monster embedded in the ocean floor. Once a year a human must go down and wake it up to reset, so to say, the waves, ensuring the continued motion of the tides. The whirlpool you were just in was the great monster starting to snore irregularly, causing the 4
waves to stop and swirl together instead. So now you must go down there and wake him up so he can restart his sleep again.” I think for a minute and then reply, not caring that the disbelief in my tone is plain to hear. “You want me to swim down to the bottom of the ocean, wake up a monster that controls the tides, and come back alive. First of all there is the whole breathing issue, but then there the small problem that I have no idea how to wake up a monster, and even less put one back to sleep!” My voice rises hysterically. She answers in a calm, reassuring tone as if I am child afraid of the dark. “I have an herb that will make you breath under water for as long as you need. To wake him up you merely have to touch him, and to put him back to sleep all you have to do is feed him these.” She pulls out four square packages the size of my palm. She looks at me as if she is asking me to go and buy a candy bar down the block, instead of swimming to the bottom of the ocean to awaken a thousand year old monster that controls the tides. I stare back at her in disbelief. “Why don’t you sleep on it and let me know your decision in the morning, just remember, doing this task is the only way that will get you back to your family. *** “O goody, I knew you would make the right choice!” exclaims Maji with glee. I look at her thinking that maybe she hit her head too hard on a rock. This thought only reminds me of my still aching head, no doubt going to hurt even more with this task I’m about to embark on. After I eat the herb, she gives me a satchel and tells me that it contains everything I will need. She adds that she will be with me the whole way. She leads me to the small pool in the cave and points out where the tunnel is. I dive in, a flush of memories from the whirlpool come flooding back to me causing me to scramble to the surface in a confused frenzy. Once I surface I collect my thoughts and try again, this time staying calm and making it out of the tunnel. Now out of the cave I panic, needing oxygen, I look for the surface. Suddenly Maji appears beside me demonstrating an exaggerated breath, reminding me I can breathe under water. Slowly I take a breath, at first weary but then grateful for the relief. After swimming away from the cave for a while she points downward signaling the time to go down. An abrupt current comes from behind me doubling my decent. I notice all of the sea-life around me. Now a visible distance from the bottom, I stop, seeing a giant mass of tentacles below me. A voice sounds in my head, “I forgot to mention that you have to get past the octopus . . . and the jelly fish.” I turn around ready to bolt, when Maji grabs my arm, her voice echoes in my head again, “If you run, it will chase you.” My expression, no doubt, shows the helplessness I feel. I look down at the dank water looming below me, masking the octopus, a mass of black with grey spotted tentacles slithering around it, and unaware of our presence. Just slightly behind it, a mine-field of blue, glowing box jellyfish, with their deadly tentacles hanging down like chains onto the ocean floor. I float for another moment thinking of strategies, when an idea occurs to me. 5
*** I dive down, and just as the octopus notices me, I shoot left, narrowly escaping a swing of tentacles, but only to be slapped on the legs by another deadly arm. I Jet downward, ignoring the protest in my legs where the suction cups left sores. Now parallel with the wall of jellyfish I glance back at the fifty foot phenomenon that is the octopus still charging after me. I look for the narrow path I saw from above, between the deadly box jelly tentacles. Locating it and seeing the octopus close behind me I dart into the canal. I propel myself far into the throng of water, still avoiding those deadly streamers. When I look back, I see the octopus slowly receding to the oceans depth and, praise the heavens, my plan worked; the octopus swam straight into the wall of deadly tentacles killing itself instantly. Now refocusing, I swim toward the ever-constant stream of bubbles coming from the monsterâ€™s mouth. I poke the monster and a grinding noise comes from somewhere deep in the earth as its mouth opens. I hastily throw the parcels into its mouth and watch again as the grinding noise accompanies the mouth closing. Delighted at my success, I maneuver my way out of the minefield and return to Maji, who looks even more relieved than me. Once again, her now familiar, voice echoes in my head, â€œYou have done a fantastic job, and as promised I will take you back.â€? So, as she summonses a current to take me back home, we swim together companionably all the way back to the shore.
Evidence of Troublemakers Dagny Thomas To Danielle: Thanks for that fun adventure
We swore we wouldn‘t tell anyone—a promise that didn‘t last long. We had it all figured out: codenames, hand signals, and drills. You might even say we would be prepared if a guy came at us with a gun. If we were caught, this is what we would say: we biked here (which was true), we wanted to explore the area (which was also true), but we hadn‘t seen the ―private property—no trespassing‖ signs (which was a complete and downright lie). Then if we had a chance, we would knock the guy out and run like crazy back to the bikes and get out of there. Nothing really exciting like that actually happened (to my disappointment). However, some very interesting things did come up. I peered through the tall grass at the old stables and cabins, listening to the rattlesnakes and grasshoppers. Irene Hunt, I thought, army-crawling forward, and Alexa White. It’s perfect. The fence wasn‘t a problem. My test to see if it was electric did not result in a tingling hand, and if they actually wanted to keep people out, sticking fence posts three feet from each other was not the answer. I searched for a more secluded route in, specifically avoiding the ―private property‖ signs. If we showed any sign of noticing them it would risk a flaw in our lies. It would be evidence. When committing a so-called crime, all evidence must be erased. Evidence is the enemy. The coast seemed clear. I rose to my knees and signaled Danielle: don’t army-crawl, stay low, stay close. She nodded and caught up to me, and together we dove for cover behind a stable, the old hay rustling as mice darted away. Breathless, Danielle asked, ―Do you think they saw us?‖ ―Who‘s ‗they‘?‖ I whispered. ―Look at the place. No one‘s been here in forever.‖ Danielle was tense. Maybe we both were, but no matter how much she didn‘t want to take a risk, my excitement kept me going. I will say though, that I had a scare when I looked past Danielle and spotted a car driving by on the path. I dropped into the grass without even telling Danielle what I saw. 7
Shaking her head and giving the signal to cut it out!! Danielle watched with horror as I ducked under the windows and tried the door to the first cabin—locked. I could break a window to get inside, but that would be evidence—inerasable evidence. I peered through the dusty, dark windows. It didn‘t look that interesting anyway. A droning, mechanical sound drew our attention to a small house, where I had better luck. A grin slowly crept onto my face as I swung the door open and I looked back at Danielle, who was freaking out again. After I made sure there was no one inside, at least no one I could find – I coaxed her to enter. There was no electricity—I tried the lights. Dead bugs littered the floor and we found the droning sound was a broken toilet with a dead spider swirling around in it. A digital clock on a kitchen appliance flashed six hours slow. The faucet was dripping and a box of room-temperature soda sat on the dirty ground. A broken fire alarm gave a loud beep every thirty-five seconds. Danielle freaked out again when I discovered a staircase. Normally I would‘ve gone right ahead, but now I had to hide the tension that shot tingles through my fingertips. My pulse quickened after I signaled Danielle, who was standing still as a statue at the bottom of the stairs: stay put, be quiet, get ready to run. I couldn‘t hear my own steps, but I bet a person upstairs could hear my pounding heart. My caution was not needed, however, as there was no one upstairs. But I did find three old letters with no names on them, written in fancy cursive writing. ―Alexa,‖ I called softly, ―the coast is clear. Check this out!‖ I won‘t bore you with what they said, but I will say that they were an ―I miss you‖ note, a love letter, and a suicide note. We didn‘t speak until we had stolen a Mountain Dew from the box and we were back outside in the hot sun. My stomach started churning, and Danielle and I shared the same sickened expression as we dumped the rest of the soda out. We should have checked the expiration date. The final frontier in our case was the old barn. Hornets nests and old carnival junk lay inside. There were also rocks sitting before shattered windows—someone had beaten us to exploring the area. There was a rickety ladder leading to a second floor where we discovered so many bees tapping on the ceiling that it sounded like rain. Empty fire extinguishers and an old chair lay on the centimeter-thick wood. My heart leapt into my throat when a floor board almost gave way beneath me. I was obviously heavier than Danielle, but if she fell and broke her neck, I would never forgive myself. The situation worsened when we heard a car rumbling along the path. Danielle and I locked horrified eyes. What if it was coming here? Like we would do outside in this situation, we dropped to the floor, out of sight. And of course, Danielle was fine—I was the one that took a tumble. Someone shrieked. I think it was me. I didn‘t have time to think about it before I hit the concrete floor twelve feet below. Maybe my eyes were closed, but everything was black. I remember wondering if I had actually died this time. I 8
lay coughing, the world spinning around me. My codename rang in the air: ―Irene! Irene! Are you ok?!‖ I shook myself back into focus. ―Can‘t complain,‖ I sputtered as I dragged myself to my feet. The rumbling of the car had faded, as well as the echoes from my scream. I can‘t believe I survived that fall. No broken bones, no blood—a miracle, thank the Lord. That would‘ve been more evidence we couldn‘t get rid of. We left, and I caught sight of the half-shattered windows from outside. Being the brave/stupid idiot I am, I decided to punch one...or maybe two, since I found shattering glass so thrilling for some reason. However, the second time didn‘t exactly work the way I expected it to. Mostly I was just surprised I didn‘t feel it slice open my hand. ―Did it hurt?‖ Danielle asked. I didn‘t reply—I just showed her the cuts on my right hand, which were white where the skin had been sliced off but red and black around the edges. ―Hey, look—it‘s bleeding!!‖ I exclaimed as scarlet blood ran down my arm and my fingertips dyeing the dead grass a murky color. For no reason I began laughing hysterically, even though, in the back of my mind, I knew this was evidence; inerasable evidence. We hurried to the house, where I practically drenched a paper towel with blood, which showed no sign of slowing down as it dripped onto the kitchen floor. We juggled around a few story ideas. There was no way I could tell my parents—or the doctors I had to get stitches from—that I was invading and vandalizing private property We eventually decided that, while biking, I fell over on some glass. Yes, it was far-fetched, but it fooled both my parents and the doctors. Despite the promise we made, I told my parents the truth after the cuts healed, shrunk, and turned into a nice scar. It‘s in the shape of a question mark and it changes color from pink, to red, to purple. We decided to go with the old saying, ―If you can‘t beat ‗em, join ‗em.‖ I‘m referring to the evidence. We never cleaned my blood off the kitchen floor and the scarlet paper towel is still on the counter.
Cougar vs Chickens Wendy Hsia
Once upon a time, there was a girl named Wendy. She was fifteen years old, with glossy brown hair and a nice smile. She didn’t care about much except her family which included fifteen chickens, and her boyfriend, Taylor Lautner. Wendy had met Taylor at a Hollywood party where she was showing her chickens; it was love at first sight. He adored chickens as much as she and they took care of their flock together. He was a sweetheart to her and built her a huge, fortified chicken coop for her birthday. Taylor and Wendy did everything together; they cried together when a chicken died, they ate Pop-Tarts together, and they fed the chickens together. One cloudy Washingtonian morning, the wind was howling eerily outside and Taylor and Wendy were eating warm cinnamon and brown sugar Pop-Tarts together at her kitchen table. Suddenly, a sound emanated from outside that wasn’t the squawking of chickens or the howling wind; it was the deep growl of a hunter stalking its prey. Taylor and Wendy leapt to their feet; Pop-Tart crumbs flew everywhere. They raced out to the backyard and halted when they saw the terrible sight that confronted them. A mega-collossal-ginormous cougar was pacing hungrily around the chicken coop. Taylor took one look at the salivating, toothy jaws, the blood-red eyes and fainted onto the cold grass. Wendy, however, grabbed her chainsaw and ran to defend her chickens. With a feral scream of defiance, Wendy ripped her chainsaw to life and charged the beast. Surprised that this tiny creature could be so fierce, the cougar reared on its hind legs and swatted at Wendy. Wendy dodged and cut off its paw with a grinding crunch. The beast roared in agony, sending flocks of birds fleeing in fright. Unfortunately, Wendy’s chainsaw caught in the bone of the animal and went flying harmlessly into the neighbor’s yard. Wendy leapt at the cougar, pulling a pistol out of her shoulder holster. The cougar backhanded Wendy into the maple tree with its good paw. With a growl of triumph, the cougar limped to Wendy, ready to tear into its live meal. At that moment, Taylor raised his bruised head with a groan. Distracted, the cougar was torn between the big, stringy man, and the small, yummy girl. It chose the big, stringy man. Right when it was about to take a big bite out of Taylor, the cougar was tackled by the small girl. Wendy pointed the pistol into one of its ears and fired. With a moan of pain, the huge cougar keeled over, dead. Wendy had single-handedly saved her chickens and her boyfriend! She limped over to take care of Taylor, while her chickens started cackling victoriously. 10
Grace Carruth skipped down the crowded sunlit hallway, bouncing with relief and happiness. She had done it. Coach Amber had confirmed that. Months of preparation, hours of late night practice and failure, broken windows and levitating humans, all leading up to this, the hardest test of the year. And she had passed. Not only that, she had passed with flying colors. She stopped in front of what appeared to be a stretch of blank white wall, but as she drew nearer, the faint outline of a door came into view, marked in neon blue writing with the number 304. Relishing her powers, she waved her hand in front of the mirage and the numbering glowed red. Calmly, without so much as blinking, she stepped right through the wall into her dorm room. ‘Hi, girls!’ she cried, dropping her backpack by the bathroom and flopping down on the sofa. ‘I’m back!’ ‘Grace!’ Emily raced out of the kitchen, her brown ponytail flying, and jumped onto the sofa beside her friend. Sitting quickly up on her knees she stared eagerly at Grace. ‘So, how did you do?’ she asked breathlessly. For an answer, Grace caused a small vase of delicate lilies sitting on a side table to rise smoothly into the air, supported by a steady current of chill wind. ‘I take it you passed then,’ laughed Emily, as the lilies floated gently down to the table again and Grace reined in the air. ‘Yep,’ Grace admitted proudly. ‘What about you?’ ‘Oh...I...not bad…’ stuttered Emily modestly, her ears going pink. ‘By which she means,’ came a voice close by, ‘that she did amazingly.’ 11
Grace and Emily both started, and looked around. Then Grace sighed exasperatedly. ‘Becky!’ she hissed through gritted teeth. ‘You’ve got to stop doing that!’ ‘What?!’ came the disembodied voice again, this time sounding half- indignant, half-amused. ‘She did.’ ‘Rebecca, come out!’ ‘Alright, alright, don’t get pushy,’ the voice growled playfully and Rebecca materialized before them, lying on her side a few feet in midair, grinning like the Cheshire Cat. ‘Cheese ball,’ she told Grace, and then turned to Emily. ‘Don’t be so modest,’ she scolded, ‘You were spectacular. I heard Coach Evans telling Coach Taylor so.’ Emily flushed deeper red. Her trainer, Coach Evans, was hard to please; she must have done really well to earn his praise. ‘Silly thing,’ Rebecca shook her head, and then addressed Grace. ‘She turned the lake into a block of solid ice in about a minute.’ she stated coolly, shooting Emily a glare of mock frustration. ‘Wow! Great job, Ems!’ Grace congratulated her friend. ‘Can you show me? Can you freeze something?’ ‘Thanks,’ Emily said, smiling broadly, still rather pink, ‘And yes, I can, if you like.’ She glanced around the room, looking for s0mthing to demonstrate on. Her eyes fell on the vase of flowers, then, ever so slowly drifted up to Rebecca, still hovering above her. Emily’s smile became more pronounced. ‘Oh, yeah…’ she murmured. Quick as a flash she leapt off the couch, and snapped her fingers, with a wicked giggle. There was a loud cracking noise, and the temperature dropped several degrees. Then with a crash, Rebecca’s frozen body fell onto the carpet. ‘Emily!’ Grace spluttered, shocked. ‘It’s okay, she’ll be fine.’ Emily reassured her. She was right; Rebecca was already rising, rubbing her head and scowling at Emily. 12
‘You are so going to pay for that,’ she vowed, tossing her copper colored mane of hair. She launched herself into the sky and dived at Emily. With a yelp, Emily moved out of the way, rolling off the sofa and scrambling behind it, she hurled a pillow at her attacker. Rebecca tried to dodge it, and probably would have evaded it, had not Grace made another burst of wind to aid it, so that it caught Rebecca right in the face. She squealed and hurtled at Grace instead. Emily jumped in from behind and the rest of the morning was lost in general pillow fight chaos. *** The hot noonday sun beat down on the bustling campus as the students streamed out of the dormitories to the quadrangle for lunch. Exams being over and the end of the school year approaching, the students at WAYS (the Washington State Academy for Young Superheroes) had much more time to relax than usual. The whole school had taken advantage of the pleasant, summery weather and had turned out in full force, to eat outside in the open grassy area between the brick school buildings. Grace and her friends (still covered somewhat in feathers and flecks of ice, though they had cleaned their dorm up) made their way through the groups of chattering, laughing people, sprawled out on the emerald ground, to their favorite spot, a tall shady pine tree in a secluded corner of the grounds. As they approached, they were heralded by excited shouts. Drew Yutrzenka, a cheery, spirited, blonde girl, was waving at them from under the tree, sitting cross-legged with a group of her friends around her. ‘Hey! Grace! Come sit over here, you three!’ ‘Hi, Drew!’ Grace and her friends raced over to join the other girls under the tree. ‘Guess what!’ Drew cried, as Grace plopped down on the ground beside her. ‘I passed!’ she sang, ‘I passed, I passed, I passed….!’ ‘You passed,’ chuckled Grace, idly splitting a banana peel. ‘Yes!’ Drew gasped, flopping onto her back with a screech of delight. 13
Rebecca poked her in the ribs, and then turned to the other girls, ‘How’d you guys do?’ It turned out that nearly everyone had gotten through with good marks, and a few moments later they were all laughing happily, listening to Whitney Hom recount the story of how she had somehow managed to melt a whole row of desks in class, when her fire powers had gotten out of control. After lunch, no one felt like going inside, so they laid back on the cool lawn and watched the boys( and a few of the more athletic girls) playing football in the open area. Grace stared up at the powder blue sky, laced with strands of cotton and the golden sunlight slanting through the green canopy above her. She listened to the birds, making light conversation in the trees, and to the thuds and grunts that came from the football players close by. She sighed, feeling rather…sleepy… *** Suddenly a horrified scream ripped through the calm, still air. Grace sprang to her feet and gazed wildly around her. Students were scattering in all directions, some sprinting for the buildings, some climbing the trees, a few stood their ground, only a few though, and turning around, Grace saw why. A monster she had only read about in books stood in the center of the clearing. How it had broken through security, Grace had no clue, but that was the least of her worries now. The thing most resembled a giant mountain lion, with huge muscles, flexing menacingly beneath caramel covered fur. Its massive maw was bloody, and saliva hung in grayish strings from its yellow fangs and snakelike tongue. It had a long, whip like tail, black and scaly, like a dragon’s, tipped at the end with foot long spikes. Bat like wings beat the air above it and smoke billowed from its nostrils. It eyes blazed scarlet, searching for an easy victim. ‘A Fluffenpuffer…’ Rebecca whimpered behind her, ‘One of the most dangerous beasts ever to roam this earth…’ ‘A what?!’ bellowed Grace, it was ridiculous enough that Rebecca (the bookworm) remembered the thing’s name at all at a moment like this, but a Fluffenpuffer? Seriously?
The beast bared its fangs and growled at her. Grace froze for a heartbeat, and then summoned all her wits, ‘C’mon, people! We can do this! We’re superheroes for heaven’s sake!’ She sent a mighty blast of wind at the monster, which pushed it back several feet. Rallied by her confidence many students dropped out of the trees, Drew among them. Agitated, the beast let out a mighty roar and propelled itself at Emily, who was nearest. Emily’s nimble fingers cracked together, and a freezing jolt of silver- blue light shot from her hand. The creature slowed, as though it was moving through syrup, but either because the thing was so big, or because Emily’s powers were not at their full strength, the thing did not freeze completely, and soon it was moving freely again. And it was terribly angry. It barreled again at Emily, only to be intercepted by Drew, who moved so fast that Grace barely had time to think. Her hands flashed in a circular movement, and an orb of what appeared to be magenta glitter glowed suddenly in front of her, nearly the size of a small car. With all her might, Drew made a rapid movement, as though she was throwing something, and the ball flew into the lion’s eyes, stinging its face and blinding it, as it swatted at the ball, to no avail. With a great cry, the students, boys and girls alike surged forward, (perhaps trying to avoid being the one who was beat by the girl with the glitter ball). A burly, black haired boy leapt onto the creature’s back and clung on, whacking it repeatedly with his extra strong fists. Grace saw Emily sending jets of ice at the creature, Rebecca darting in and out of visibility, trying to get a strike from the air. Whitney Hom sent showers of sparks at the monster, while Dag Thomas, stabbed at it with a sword that she, presumably had drawn in thin air using her magic pencil. All around, light and sound was paramount, the acrid smell of burning vegetation tainted the buzzing air. Bangs and explosions echoed around the campus. Students and teachers ran out of the buildings on all sides and still the battle raged on. The creature was not going down without a serious fight. Sweat poured down Grace’s face and neck as she hit the monster again and again with blasts of wind, sending trash cans and benches crashing into it, only to be deflected off as though the thing’s coat was made 15
of steel. It was Emily’s pitiful wail of agony that distracted her. The monster had finally got a hit. Its tail swept Emily’s body off the ground and sent her whirling into the flower beds, several feet away. ‘EMILY!’ Grace screamed. Abandoning the battle entirely, she raced to her friend’s side. She heard the sound of Rebecca swooping over her as she cradled her friend’s limp body in her arms. Emily’s right arm was mangled; a thick, deep gash, spurting copious amounts of warm, salty blood, extended from her shoulder to her wrist, which appeared to be broken. She was unconscious, and her face was deathly pale. A defiant icy shimmer still sparkled at her bruised fingertips. Grace laid her head on Emily’s chest and murmured a silent prayer of thanks to God when she felt a feeble heartbeat. Rebecca dropped to the ground beside Emily. ‘Oh, no…!’ she moaned, ‘Oh, Emily!’ With shaking hands she untied her jacket from around her waist and wrapped it as tightly as she possibly could around Emily’s arm. ‘We have to get her back to the school,’ Rebecca hissed urgently, ‘She’s lost so much blood already. She might bleed to death if someone doesn’t help her.’ ‘You take her.’ Grace ordered. ‘You can fly.’ She had to get both her friends out of the way of further harm. ‘Good idea.’ Rebecca lifted Emily gently in her arms and rose a few feet into the air, supporting her head, ‘I’ll see if I can find the nurse.’ She rose higher, and then glanced back at Grace, ‘Be careful.’ she whispered, biting her lip. And then she disappeared. With a sick feeling in her stomach, Grace whipped around and hurtled back towards the fight. The Fluffenpuffer, having secured one victim, now seemed eager for more. He lashed out cruel claws at the students around him, belching rancid smoke, and they fell back. Grace saw many of the teachers in the fray now too. Frustration and anger as her ally, Grace pelted at the monster, sending a stone statue at its head.
The creature whirled to face her, howling with rage. Grace lurched backwards, raising her hands to conjure up more wind, when… …She tripped over her own feet, and fell hard on her bottom in the flowerbeds. At the same moment, the sprinkler system kicked into life, turning the earth around her into a hole of mud.
Okay, plan B, she thought to herself. Inside her, a tiny voice inquired, ‘There was a plan A?!’ Grace reacted instinctively as the beast swaggered closer; focusing all her thoughts on the wind, she opened her palm and waved it over the ground around her. Instantly, a funnel of pure mud, shot into the air, splattering everything with filth. The animal roared, distracted, and Grace sized her chance. Directing all her might at the trees above their heads, she cried, ‘Move!’ Then, feeling her strength draining away with the effort of maintaining the wind, she sent a gale howling around the clearing. The trees shook and swayed in tornado force winds. People ran for cover, or fell to the ground. Then an ear splitting crack echoed right above the Fluffenpuffer. The great pine tree swayed ominously for a moment. With a scream of effort and pain, Grace let forth the final explosion of power. With a noise like a gunshot, the tree severed in two, and began to fall raining branches on the earth. The last thing Grace glimpsed before she fainted was the monster gazing confusedly up at the plummeting tree. Then, there was a thud, a groaning shriek, and Grace’s vision went blissfully dark. *** It was nearly three days before Grace awoke in the hospital wing, so drained was she from such an exertion of power. In a short time she discovered that the monster had indeed been killed by the falling tree and its carcass had been removed from the grounds. A check of all security measures was being put into effect, to insure that this did not happen again. There had been no fatalities, though several students were wounded, and the school hospital was rather crowded. Emily recovered quicker than anyone imagined. Still it was a relief to all to see her strolling around the campus with her friends, and freezing things (not excepting Rebecca) like normal. Grace, of course, was 17
declared a school hero and presented with an award. She tried to give it back, she did not want popularity. She took it only when the head of school insisted, but she put it away in the trophy room and rarely made mention of it. The last days of school passed in a blur and soon the final day was upon the students. Grace waited for her mom at the school entrance with Emily and Rebecca. Students milled around them, saying hurried good-byes and exchanging last minute hugs. As her mom strode up the lawn to meet her, Grace hugged her best friends once more. ‘See you guys this summer. Don’t forget to write.’ ‘We won’t.’ Rebecca promised. ‘Take care of your arm.’ Grace instructed Emily, ‘See you soon.’ Smiling broadly Grace waved good-bye and sprinted up the front drive into her mother’s arms. ‘Hey, sweetie. We missed you so much,’ said her mom, squeezing her tightly and kissing her cheeks. ‘I heard you passed your power’s assessment and … Sweetie, why is Emily’s arm in a sling?’ ‘Oh, yeah…’ muttered Grace, ‘hey, uh… Mom, about that…’
Washington State Academy for Superheroes
School Hero of 2010 Grace Carruth For excellence in superheroness Head of school
The Childrenâ€™s Corps Adam Worley
My platoon and I sat on the moist ground at the edge of a deciduous forest. The bunker staring us in the face was the only thing keeping the twenty-five of us from home. We had been promised before we set out that if we could take this bunker, our company would be disbanded, and we were out of the United States armed forces for as long as we wished. It was my job to make sure as many of us as possible stepped on American soil again. But you cannot promise much in war, especially one as catastrophic as this. It was the year 2044, and another World War was upon us. Almost all of Europe and the Western Hemisphere had allied itself against the invading powers. There was some joking among our company that it could not legally be called World War III, because the Germans were not trying to take over. This time it was China that decided to throw the world into turmoil again. They put up a stiffer fight than anyone had expected. That is where we came in. When it was proven that the ordinary forces of the allied nations could not handle the wild abandon of the Chinese troops, Washington quietly got an experiment together. They determined that they could make a small specialized division- a division that could inspire everyone else, and could be used for recon and other small operations, but never full-pitched battle. A wild, open battlefield is, and always has been, the best place to kill skilled soldiers. For this to work to its potential, the soldiers would have to be high on stamina, committed,
accurate, smart, and almost impervious to pain, even on the verge of being brutish fighting machines. Naturally, they chose the most malleable subjects they could find to do this experiment on. Children. One minor, preferably around thirteen, and no younger than ten, regardless of gender, was chosen from each state. We were given one month to pack and say goodbye, then we were off to boot camp. We were trained for two years at various spots in the U.S., each with a different terrain and climate that we may have to fight in. We were assured over and over that our training was harder than the Marines’. Personally, I hated the title “Child,” but that is what they called us: The Experimental Children’s Corps. Our training was supposed to go for longer than it did, possibly as long as ten years. If that proved a success, then perhaps it could become a more regular practice to start training at a young age and the United States would turn into Sparta. If the full training had occurred, I do not want to think of what might have become of us. But, thankfully, Washington wanted to see its Guinea Pigs in action, and if they waited ten years, the war might be over, and they would never see the outcome. Therefore, we were shipped out to Asia for real-situation practice. Because of our quick activation, we had to choose our leaders quickly. It had been predetermined that we would be coordinated as a whole for general maneuvers by adult officers in the U.S. by radio, but individuals from our own ranks would command the platoons, groups of twenty-five, and squads, groups of five. The first platoon was composed of the representatives of the states east of the Mississippi River, minus Wisconsin, and the second platoon held west of the Mississippi, plus Wisconsin. Platoon One was commanded by a girl 20
from Florida, Lieutenant Ashley Allison, or â€œDouble-A.â€? It was made very clear from Week One that none of the guys were going to succeed in making any kind of move on her, even though most of them tried. Her immunity helped her to her spot of command. I was the clear choice for the other platoon. I was always calm, serious, and stern, and I could shoot more accurately than any other in the company, and I was quad-lingual. (I am not bragging falsely. I read it off the Boot Analysis.) My squads were commanded by Michael Brown, Wyoming; Cassidy Yarrow, Texas; Danny Armstrong, Alaska; Austin Cummings, Arizona; and Natalie Bowman, Minnesota. Each person was skilled at a different role. In our first few engagements, we destroyed the opposition with absolutely no damage to ourselves. Our superior training, tactics, coordination, and equipment left the Chinese without a chance. One second they we gaining ground or setting up for guard duty, the next second they were cut down by kids from the side. We proved that age is not a factor in military effectiveness. In fact, our rigorous training had made us more effective in battle than any adult company of similar size. Our stature had an interesting effect on our enemies. If they happened to see who was gunning them down, they would think that kids like us could not possibly fight well. When we did fight beyond their expectations, they concluded that we were a race of some kind of mutants, gods, or something else entirely beyond them, and stopped fighting with any conviction. This psychology edge helped us win many skirmishes. Unfortunately, before we could really get our feet and start having fun, the press found out about us. In an interview of various other military personnel, a reporter noticed half-a21
dozen military-looking teenagers wandering around. When his request for further information was denied, he decided to make the most of it and publish a story about us anyway. His guesses were dangerously close. When the story was put out, the public outcry was so loud that Washington was forced to withdraw us. In fact, some of the same people who had been advocating us years earlier had been expressing the same concerns before the press intervention that the public later would. Issues like stealing our innocence and childhood were discussed regularly. We were, in truth, being turned into monsters for this. But then, sometimes being a monster is more fun than being a human. Before Washington took us home, they assigned us one last mission. My division would storm a small Chinese garrison, and AAâ€™s would form a perimeter to prevent us from being taken unawares. After we secured the garrison, the Hundred-and-First Airborne, or Screaming Eagles, would drop in and take over management before the main body could sweep through to more important targets. Our main objective was to disable all ground-to-air weaponry. That would clear the way for the Hundred-and-First. We knew the only weapons that would threaten them would be the twelve-inch-or-so guns mounted on the roof. It had been proven earlier in the war that the use of missiles caused nothing other than a standoff. Anti-missile technology was more advanced than missile technology itself, so guided weaponry was rendered useless. We waited outside of the clearing that the bunker was situated in. When we received word that Ashley was in place and Washington gave us the green, we crept forward through the trees on either side. There were only two things we did not know going into the mission: 1) The
precise defenses of the enemy, and 2) our mission was being broadcasted live on international television. I took everyone around to the north side of the clearing. At my signal, we all charged through the mud, and demolition specialists blew in the side door we were aiming for. We all swarmed in and started to take the positions I had previously assigned. Before we could, however, machine gun fire scattered us. I ordered to return fire, and their guns quickly fell silent. When several of our men ignited their lights, we found the dead bodies of about five men lying on the floor. We walked by and dispersed into the building. I sprinted up a flight of stairs and came to a small landing. When I felt a light breath of air on my right cheek, I did not even think. I pulled out my machete and pivoted on my left foot, turning my back to the ascending flight. As a part of the motion, I swung my right arm back. The Chinese assassin blew right past me and took my blade in his back. He flew over the banister and plummeted to the floor below. I dashed up the stairs. Five shirtless men greeted me at the top. Having already sheathed my knife, I cracked the first man’s jawbone with an uppercut, and then kicked him into another man. They both tumbled two stories off the unrailed deck. I slammed my left forearm into the next one’s face. He went down screaming. I managed to get out my pistol and shoot the next two before they reached me. I ducked into a hallway that I knew led to the gunroom. I checked my back and noticed three troops from Yarrow’s squad, two women and a man. Yarrow’s squad was specialized in sharpshooting. I motioned for them to follow me. As we crept through the dark corridor, we
were forced to kill more Chinese troops. I racked up at least ten kills in that part of the battle. We finally reached the bright control/artillery room, and I drew back. I tapped my jaw. “Does anyone copy on this channel?” I whispered. “Yeah, we hear you, lieutenant,” was the response. “We’re pinned down just outside of our objective.” “Good, I’m right above you. Charge in when you see an explosion. Don’t ask me anything about what’s going to happen. Just trust me. Worley out.” I turned to my troops. “Okay, you stay up on the balcony and snipe from there.” As members of our company, they did not question my orders. I turned and walked to the edge of the shadow of the hallway and lobbed down a grenade. When the explosion sounded, I leaped over the rail and came crashing down feet-first. I shot two men before I hit the floor, and landed on another, snapping his collarbone. I incapacitated another four before anyone reacted. Fortunately, they were too close to one another to get off an accurate shot, or I might have died quickly. Instead, between the snipers and the infantry from the left, we brought ruin to them, and they fled. An escapee grazed me on the upper arm with a lucky shot, but it was not serious, so I mentioned it to no one. Less than twenty muddy, bloody, and excited teenagers congregated in the floor area. All of Armstrong’s division was missing, as well as several others. We had no confirmed dead, and only a couple wounded. As it turned out, we lost no one, and the mission was a total
success. The Screaming Eagles dropped in minutes later, and they helped us clean up. All the MIAs were found, and every one of the fifty returned home a hero. None of us could quite get used to life as a civilian again, but there are price tags on everything. The United States abandoned all attempts to create juvenile forces, although they came close when most of us joined up again at eighteen. But I was not worrying about that on the flight home. I just wanted a real bed and a good nightâ€™s sleep, after I filled my parents in on five yearsâ€™ worth of war stories.
Better Than Gold Emily Huston
She soared through the air with effortless ease and landed her jump beautifully. Emily Huston had been practicing to compete in the Winter Olympics, which were in a few weeks, on the pond in her backyard. The cool, refreshing breeze seemed to call to her even though an equally strong voice called her back. Her mother did not want Emily to skate on the pond because, even though it was the dead of winter, the ice was not completely frozen. The frosted trees swayed as she floated gracefully across the ice, and the wind whistled the music from her skating program as it lifted her up, making her jump higher and spin faster. The glossy white surface smiled back at her each time she landed a new jump, or mastered a new spin. Here, she could let loose her fiery passion for the ice. This passion had led her far. So far, that this year, she had earned a spot on the United States Olympic Team! Emily had been practicing tirelessly for that day which had snuck up behind her and tapped her on the shoulder, reminding her that it was only a few weeks away. She turned around backwards and picked up speed in preparation for a triple axel. She had two of these in her program. She stepped forward onto her takeoff edge. Suddenly, she hit a bump, but she still had enough momentum to be hurtled into the air. She couldnâ€™t stop herself as she flew over the ice. She felt her blades touch the shimmering surface, and she prayed, begging God to protect her. ********** 26
Emilyâ€™s mom, Linda, had enjoyed the average winterâ€™s morning, of serving breakfast to her hungry husband and daughter, enjoying some herself, and doing the dishes afterwards. She was working on the last part of her schedule, which happened to be her least favorite. The only way of distraction that had proven useful was to stare out of the kitchen window and soak in the winter beauty. While she was looking out, she saw Emily skating on the pond, even though she had been told directly not to. Linda turned the running water off, wiped her soapy hands and stepped outside to tell her impulsive daughter to get off the ice before she fell through. Her brisk walk broke into an all-out run when she saw Emily attempt a triple axel! Linda blinked, and when she opened her eyes again, Emily was nowhere in sight. In the place of where she should have landed was a gaping hole in the ice. Linda leaped onto the glassy surface and slid about five feet. Her momentum carried her past the hole where Emily had fallen through and she slid to her knees in an effort to turn around. She regained her balance, only to topple down again, but this time she found herself sliding near the craggy hole in the ice. Linda got onto her stomach, and cautiously made her way to the edge of the hole. She saw a hand floating about a foot under the water that was going down quickly. Without thinking, she plunged her own hand into the icy water, and made contact with the deathly cold and yet sweetly familiar, hand of her daughter. She heard a crack and felt freezing water pool around her ankles. Linda knew that if she made a wrong move, both she and Emily would have no chance for survival. Using every ounce of strength left in her body, Linda jerked Emily upward. The momentum carried them a few feet across the ice, but in the wrong direction. She moved the
limp body towards the shore, but, suddenly, the ice underneath them broke and they plummeted downward into blackness. ********** Snowflakes floated gracefully down onto the windshield of Frank’s new Honda. Emily’s dad pulled into the parking lot of their local Hallmark store. After buying a couple last minute Christmas gifts, he climbed back into his car and began the drive home. Christmas carols echoed through the car, and the heaters shot out bursts of toasty warm air. He couldn’t wait to show Linda the gift he had just bought for Emily. Frank pulled onto their snow covered street and into their freshly plowed driveway. He pushed the garage door opener, but before he pulled into the garage, something caught his eye. One of Emily’s red scarves lay sprawled in the snow by their pond. He quickly leapt out of the car so he could bring the scarf into the house, but as he reached the scarf, a sight made him stop dead in his tracks. Linda was half in the water of the pond and Emily was behind her. The ice that should have been there was gone, and in its place, his beloved wife and daughter. Quickly forgetting the scarf, Frank dove to pull his two girls out of the water. He dragged them into the house and quickly dialed 911 before embracing their cold bodies. After a moment, Linda’s eyes fluttered open and the color returned to her cheeks with the help of many blankets. Emily still was unconscious when the ambulance came. She still had her ice skates on when she was loaded onto the stretcher, but of course, those had to be taken off. They were thrown into a corner and forgotten. **********
At the hospital, Linda was soon let go, with only a pulled right arm muscle. Emily, however, remained unconscious. While she was still under, Emily was heard muttering about going to the Olympics, but both Frank and Linda knew that now, it would be impossible. Three days after entering the hospital unconscious, Emily finally awoke to the beeping of a heart stabilizer, and muffled voices. Her mother and father were bending over her. She could see the lines of worry and of sleep deprivation in their faces. Tears of joy streamed from her mother’s eyes, and her father’s face beamed, with almost as much joy as on the day she was born. A nurse in a clean red and white printed uniform came in to check up on the patient. Seeing that Emily was awake, she immediately began listing off the things that Emily had sprained, broken and fractured. Emily had sprained her left ankle, pulled a muscle in her thigh and broken her wrist. The nurse said that she had gotten off lucky. Emily felt as if her heart had been sawn in two, and then been mercilessly and inaccurately sewn back together. The nurse left the room, not knowing that she had crushed the Olympic hopes of a 17-year-old dreamer. Even as the words left the nurse’s mouth, Emily knew that she had to try, and give it her all, no matter what. ********** Emily’s muscles burned in agony as she squatted up and down, up and down in front of the mirror in the physical therapy office. The voice of her coach shouting in the background, droned on and on, reminding her that she had a long way to go in only two weeks. The Olympics were coming up fast, and Emily knew that she should be spending more time ice skating, but her whole day was consumed with rehab therapy – the best in the world – and it
was right here in her small town of Redmond, Washington. Her limited ice skating kept her busy too. Emily was shocked to discover how much progress she had lost in just one week off the ice. It had taken her a while to find her missing skates, which were thoroughly damaged by their soak in the icy pond water, but eventually someone had told someone else, and that someone else had told some other person, and the some other person had told Frank that Emilyâ€™s skates were in the lost and found at the hospital. So, thus ended the case of the missing skates. Unfortunately, Emily had only been able to perform some of her easier triples, and while doing these, her ankle hurt pretty badly. Her wrist had been put in a cast. However, her pulled thigh muscle was practically better. She trained hard every day, and her family prayed hard every day â€“ for healing of her body, and of her dreams. ********** Emily, her parents and her coach flew to Sochi, Russia, three days before the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games so Emily could run her programs in the big arena. Practice made her nervous because of all the other girls who were with her. They skated as if they owned the ice. Emily tried to skate that way, but inside, her confidence meter went down with every practice. One thing she was proud of was her new skating dress. It was underlain with black lace, and was covered in red and white satin on the outside. It shone like the sun under the bright lights of the Olympic arena with its many sparkles. To finish off the outfit, her mother had brought the supplies to braid a red satin ribbon into her hair, as she pulled it back into a bun. 30
The day before the first figure skating event, Emily could hardly stand up on the ice, let alone do a triple axel. Her nerves threatened to take over, but she pushed through, anyway. She returned to her motel room to stretch and sleep. Before turning out the lights, Emily opened up her Bible to Philippians. The first verse that caught her eye was Philippians 4:6-7, which read: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ********** The announcer’s voice boomed over the loud speakers. The air buzzed with the electricity of anticipation for the skating to come. Emily was in the United States’ ladies dressing room with her friends that were also competing on behalf of their home country. They started warming up, and got their skates on. Emily was in the second warm up group. After the music of the last skater in the first group ended, Emily and her coach walked towards the door that led into the arena. She heard her name called, and stepped onto the ice. Emily stroked around the rink, preparing for her short program. Her warm up was a disaster. She fell on her first single axel and all her jump landings felt wobbly, not to mention that her left ankle throbbed in pain with every step. Emily was only slightly relieved when the warm up ended, but the relief left her when she remembered that she had to skate first in her group. Her coach gave her a hug of encouragement, and Emily stroked into the center of the ice. 31
The moment her music started, Emily prayed, begging God to let her skate her best. That instant, an overwhelming peace swept over her, and her ankle stopped hurting. Emily flew across the ice and entered her first combination spin. She nailed her next element – a triple Lutz triple Toe Loop jump combination. Emily prepared for her triple axel. The memories of overwhelming pain flooded her vision, and she could hardly see. But, this was it. She had to focus. Emily flew into the air. The crowds blurred in her vision, and the ice grew farther, and farther below her. Suddenly, her momentum carried her downward, and she landed her perfectly clean, perfectly beautiful triple axel. The rest of her short program went just as brilliantly! When her music ended, the crowds rose to their feet and cheered. Her happiness was so great that she could hardly breathe. “Thank you, Jesus,” she whispered. Her score put her well ahead of everyone else in the competition. The next night, during her long program, her Olympic dream came true. Emily Huston, who, only a few short weeks before, didn’t know if she would live, let alone become Olympic champion, stood atop the Olympic podium, and held the medal that she had always dreamt of holding – gold. In that moment, and forever afterwards, Emily knew that only true peace, joy, and strength came from God, and this knowledge was far more valuable to her than a gold medal.
The Open Door Rebecca Carlson
It was about seven o’clock on an ordinary Saturday evening, and my parents were planning to go out to dinner together. The sky was full of dark storm-clouds, but no rain had fallen. My siblings and I were playing outside when my parents pulled out of the garage. We ran, laughing, down the driveway and waved until they were out of sight. Only when we returned to the house did we notice that they had closed the garage door behind them. We had come out that door, and we now had no way back into the house. I sent Scott to check all of the doors in the faint hope that one would be open. By the time he returned, his mission unsuccessful, the sun had almost disappeared, and a storm that looked as if it meant to last all night was spreading lightning across the sky. By now, Melanie, my four-year-old sister, had begun to cry, afraid to think that we might be out in this all night. My brother Scott, at age eight, was trying to be brave, but it was clear that he was almost as afraid as she. As for me, I wanted to scream, run, and hide somewhere very far away, but I forced myself to stay calm. I was ten years old, and it was my job to look after my siblings. I took a deep breath and decided on the only course of action I could think of. Holding my sister’s hand and leading my brother up the driveway, I began a journey. My quest: find shelter for my siblings. We toiled on, uphill, against the wind, with rain flying in our faces, for what seemed like miles and miles. We pounded on every door we passed, but no one heard; no one came. Every family was congregated deep within its house—the children in flannel pajamas, the parents in robes and slippers—enjoying hot chocolate and telling tales by the fire. No one wanted to hear, in the silence surrounding 33
their laughter, the monstrous noises outside, so no one stopped to listen for a different sort of pounding: a pounding of desperation. We knocked until our hands throbbed with pain, but each time there was no answer, so each time we toiled on. The night air was bitterly cold, and a fierce wind was throwing biting drops of rain into our faces. Melanie was almost frozen despite the extra warmth of my sweater, which she was now wearing. I knew she would not be able to walk much farther. Scott was plodding along steadily, although I knew he was as cold and nearly as tired as Melanie. As we trudged on, we looked eagerly for any sign of a break in the storm, but none came. I had no idea what the time was, but the sun was quite definitely gone and the only glimpses I saw of my siblings came in the flashes of lightning that were scattered across the sky. After what seemed like hours of the same unchanging misery, Melanie stopped. She could walk no farther. With a long sigh, I picked her up. Her thirtypound body felt like a load of bricks to my tired arms. As we walked on—step after tired step—door after cruel, closed door—my feelings began, mercifully, to numb. I no longer felt cold, I no longer despaired, I no longer felt anything. I simply walked. I lost all hope of an open door; I only walked to keep the despair at bay. As long as I was walking, as long as I was busy, there was no room for despair. If I were to stop, it would come rushing back. At last, long after the point of utter exhaustion, I saw a light ahead. Could it be a sign that someone who could help was nearby? I put Melanie down and we all rushed toward the light. We almost fought against the hope that was filling our hearts; no one wanted to be disappointed yet again. But it was no good trying to throttle this hope: it might, it really might, be true. As we rushed on and on, however, doubts began to fill each mind. The light never seemed to get any closer, no matter how fast we ran. Could it be a dream? Could we have imagined it? At last, we all slowed to a walk again. I silently reached over and picked Melanie up. No words were spoken, for none were 34
needed. We were all thinking the same thing. The light positively refused to look any closer. We all determined that it must have been only imagination; we all sunk down into despair all the more piercing for its temporary alleviation. Finally, after more disappointments than I could count, I decided to turn back. We would go back to the house, back to its miserable, eerie silence, to await the return of my parents. Slowly, I turned around and started plodding back. It was heart-breaking work, plodding back over the ground we had already covered. I need not describe to you the hour we spent going home; it is enough to tell you that it was at least as dreary and miserable as the previous hour, and the cold deepened as the night grew old. After much more walking than I care to remember, we came to the house. Starting up the long driveway, far beyond complete exhaustion and misery, we each sank, if possible, deeper into despair than before. I could not remember ever laughing, or even smiling. As we rounded the corner into the driveway, I stared at my feet, not wanting to see my home so close and yet so cold, dark, and utterly empty. As we trudged up the driveway, Melanie started to strain in my arms. I looked at her, and her expression was utterly foreign to me. She was smiling. No, she was simply radiant. I had never seen her so happy. I wondered if she was delirious, but there was no fever. Scott had started, as exhausted as he was, to run toward the house. Melanie silently pointed ahead. I looked, I saw what she had seen, and I ran too. I was filled with joy so great that it might almost have been worth all the pain and despair I had experienced. I saw an open door.
The Reason Miwa Ito I was fuming; I could feel it leeching through the cracks in my brain. Why was I here anyway? I had no time to think about that now, it was time to concentrate. I looked around the base of the tree and gripped my sword tighter. Aimlessly, I drew patterns in the soaked soil with my toe. My brain was still malfunctioning from the panic attack I had received just moments ago, my heart was still fluttering from the shock. My mind flashed back to what had happened. The dragon had come out of nowhere. I mean nowhere. There was nothing I could have done but run as fast as could. I slid down the trunk and let myself relax. I still couldn’t understand my parent’s motive for sending me here. I didn’t have anything special to offer to the school. But nooooo, they had to send me here. Everyone else who attended the Academy was someone important and special. For example, Jerry, it was basically thought he was the god Apollo. Well, technically he was based on the rumor that he was in fact a demigod of Apollo. If so, then he was the third one in the past few centuries. I wondered vaguely if the gods cared any longer. Hmmmm…. “Hey? Are you okay?” a voice whispered behind me. Despite the quietness, I started in surprise and let out a sort of squeak. I had to spin around multiple times before realizing that the person who had spoken to me was standing silently in front of me. “Don’t do that to people! Anyways, why do you care about me?” I asked. “Oh,” she replied quietly and shrugged her shoulders, “sorry. My name’s Faith. I just wanted to make sure you were okay after the way you freaked out.” I paused for a second. Was that compassion I heard in her voice? I sized her up. She looked familiar, and I confirmed that fact be noticing the badge on her chest indicated that showed she was in my stage. Dark brown hair, tan skin, she looked like she was from some islands off the coast. Rather strange, considering that most of the coastals tended to stick to themselves. She was dressed modestly in cheap leather, unlike most of the students who flaunted their wealth and prestige. In all, she was very much like one of my old friends, except for the bracelet that dangled loosely on her wrist. “Is that...” I gasped, gawking at the charm. 36
“It’s ummm,” she stuttered. “Over here!” she shouted, and grabbed my arm. Faith grabbed me and dragged me out of the way just before an enormous branch crashed to the ground where I hand been a second ago. Breath cut out and my head spinning, I almost fainted. “Thanks,” I gasped. “No problem,” she answered. “What made it fall?” I wondered out loud. A roar answered my question. The dragon was back. Immediately my hand flew to my sword and all the muscles it my body tensed. I had a debt to settle with this dragon in particular. My finger twitched and the base of a scar the extended down the length of my whole arm. Faith looked at me with fear reflected in her eyes. My breath caught in my chest and lay trapped next to my fluttering heartbeat. We waited and waited. Fifteen seconds stretched out to twenty and on to thirty until the silence was broken. Huge claws ripped through the wood like butter. My breath came out and the adrenaline rushed in. I stepped around from behind, drawing my sword in the process. I looked straight into the glowing gold eyes of an Eastern Chinese Dragon. Swinging my sword in an arc, I sidestepped the first swipe and rolled underneath its belly. As it turned around in confusion, the tail seemed to develop a mind of its own and grazed my head. With my weapon out straight I plunged it between the two front legs, right into the chest cavity. Blood spew out, spattering the front of my armor. It slowed to a dribble and the dragon’s knees buckled as its eyes glazed over. I watched, unfeeling as it fell to the ground and the head dropped with jaws gaping. “Woah,” Faith gasped. I bent down and ripped the large headscale from the still twitching head. “Come on,” I muttered, “we have to get back to camp.” Five minutes later, we dragged into camp bloody and sweat drenched. Whispers shot through the air in thick clouds. Immediately, our headmaster turned to look at us with a gleam in his eye. “Where were you two?” he snapped irritably. Faith and I walked out of the small tent, subdued after a harsh beating from the headmaster about not being there for roll call, and all the dangers about being lost… blah de blah de blah. As we made our way back to the campfire, Snyder turned to look at us. That guy had always given me the creeps. Always dressed in black, there were even some rumors that he was involved in witchcraft.
“Trouble again?” Snyder sneered. “No surprise, you can’t even avoid getting your arm ripped up by a stage three dragon.” “Cut it out,” I snarled. “So what?” he taunted, leaning in. “You..” “No fighting!” a muscular arm reached to pull him back. “Go back to your tent.” Growling, Snyder flung himself around and stalked back. Then, I found myself looking into the megawatt smile of Lucas. “Hey girls,” he purred. “Hello,” I answered methodically. “Very pretty bracelet,” he motioned towards the charm I had spotted earlier. Faith blanched slightly and unconsciously slid her arm behind her back. “Oh, it’s nothing,” she replied nonchalantly. “Come on, let’s go,” Faith said, turning around and motioning to me. “Oh!” she exclaimed, and tripped. Almost immediately Lucas rushed over and caught her inches from the ground. “Watch out,” he joked as he hauled her back up. Collapsing in my cabin I felt exhausted and dirty. Faith and I relaxed in the hammocks that hung from the ceiling of the decadently built cabin. Back and forth, back and forth we swung methodically. “You never got around to telling me what that charm was,” I remembered. “Oh that,” she paused. “It’s sort of a family secret. See, legend has it that Aphrodite herself carved it from a single gem and gave it to my ancestor as a profession of love.” I was completely captivated. “No kidding? What about the symbols around the edge?” “Oh, those are he-ro-glephics or something. My mom told what they meant once.” “Let me take a look at them.” Faith shook down the sleeve of her jacket and paused. “Something wrong?”
She shook her arm again and took off the jacket. Her face turned paler than snow and her lips trembled holding up a broken gold chain. “It’s gone.” I sat up straight in my hammock, “What? How is that possible? You never took it off!” “I did have it fall off once when I fell down the stairs, but that was at home, so I recovered it quickly,” she mentioned. I chewed on that thought for a moment. Fall, fall… then it hit me. “When you fell, Lucas caught you, right?” “How is that relevant?” Faith asked with a confused look. “What? Wait! He grabbed my wrists and lifted me up!” “We have to go ask him,” I said defiantly. “You know we can’t just go and confront him, he’s basically the angel of the camp,” she looked a tad bit scared. “You’re not going to just let something like that go are you? It took a lot of convincing, but I convinced Faith to come. We meandered through the camp our eyes flicking back and forth. My eye I caught Lucas slinking into one of the cabins. “Hey! Wait!” I rushed towards him waving my arms, dragging Faith behind me. For a second, he turned around with a deer-in-the-headlights look across his face. It almost reassured Faith’s prediction, but then he stepped into the cabin. I sped up and slid to a stop in the dust in front of the door. Without bothering to knock, I flung it open and dragged Faith in with me. Lucas turned around to stare at us. “And you want…?” he asked. “The bracelet,” gasp, “when you caught Faith,” gasp, “did you take it?” I paused and held up the chain. He turned pale then bright red, the anger rising up. “Give that to me!” he shouted, making a lunge at me. I leapt backwards and tumbled awkwardly over one of the benches with adrenaline pumping through by veins. By now, everyone in the cabin had fallen silent and turned to look at us. Lucas clambered over and grabbed my ankle. Struggling free I made a dash for the back
door. I ran out into the cool air and waited for him to come out. The door flung open, killing any wall and door bugs in the process. I jumped and kicked his knee, but it didn’t seem to do much good, and I tumbled onto the dirt. Before I could grasp what had happened Lucas had run off. I lay there for a second, and then leapt up to chase him. I looked just in time to see him disappear around the corner and into a mass of people on the training field. With only one choice I ran towards the crowd. As soon as I reached it, people pressed in from all sides. Darting between the smallest spaces possible, I kept my eyes on the target. Time seemed to slow down as my surroundings blurred and my labored breathing echoed in my head. I was getting closer. Five feet, four feet, three feet, I could almost jump…. WHAM! I ran straight into someone with an extremely fluffy sweater. We both tumbled to the ground as quickly as we had collided, I coughing up pieces of wool I had eaten. Ewwww. I brushed myself off as everyone else flowed in an endless river around us. I knew that guy. “Davis!” I snapped, “You just had to run into me didn’t you!” He looked almost as distressed as me as he struggled to gather his books. “Well, if I remember correctly, you were the one who was in such of a hurry!” I turned around to ignore him, I had more important things to worry about than the geek I had just run into. In the melee, I had lost him. My head was spinning but I continued to run on, barely missing the weapons being flung across my path. I reached the edge of the crowd, and by pure luck, I noticed that the branch of the bush was snapped. I headed towards the woods. My breath was shredding up my lungs. “Looking for me?” I whipped around. Lucas was there. I stupidly made a lunge at his neck. He laughed and ran into a clearing. Fueled by anger I pumped my legs and followed him. I caught up and jumped, my elbow catching him in the small of his back. It basically did no harm because I just bounced off his, if possible, back muscles? He was really tall. I landed back in the dirt and realized that ring of people had gathered. “Grab her!” one of them yelled. I fumed. He had leaned down towards me and I punched him as hard as I could. Ha-ha! Right in the kisser! Shreds of energy returned to me and I launched myself at him. Not really sure of what I was doing, I sort of kick-pounded him. I think it really hurt because he knelt down in apparent pain. All the same, he had flung me off again, and my head was hurting like crazy. 40
With my head pounding, I stood up. I noticed he didn’t have any weapons on him and tried to draw my sword, but my arms failed me. Lucas took a swing at my chest, and he seemed to slow down as I leaned to the side and watched with wonder as his foot passed by. I felt his fist graze my head as I ducked with no time to spare. I swung my leg around to catch him full in the stomach. Ouch. Flush with victory I turned around for another hit. Out of nowhere his fist connected with my cheekbone to send vibrations tingling down my jaw. As soon as I had taken three steps back, I ran into a tree. Who had put that there? Dizzy and disoriented I stumbled, the sounds of the crowd bouncing vaguely in my ears. Lucas now swaggered forward confidently and took another lunge. Now it was time for his ego to make the mistake. I was ready. Sidestepping at the last second, I kicked him well… I’m going to fast forward to the part where he collapsed in complete agony. I fell, completely exhausted. Ow. That counted for me too. Supporting myself on my elbow, I looked up. Lucas had already somehow recovered. He sneered at me. “You are ever going to get your precious little charm back, because I need it,” and with that he ran off. “Someone stop him!” I screamed. Everyone looked around, confused. Then they rushed off, but it was already too late. I bowed my head in despair. “Faith?” I asked. “I’m here,” I heard a reply. “What did Lucas mean by ‘I need it’?” I sat uncomfortably in the headmaster’s tent. “So you two want to go retrieve what you claim to be an important family heirloom?” he looked at me and Faith. “Yes,” we answered in unison. “Well then, you have my permission. But first, Ms. Montenegro, I’m going to need a moment with your friend.” Faith gave me a reassuring look that didn’t really help and stepped out. The headmaster turned to look at me. “You, you are wondering why the daughter of some poor farmer would have the wealth and reason to come here. Am I right?” I nodded. “Well, there is something you should know…” So there was a reason. 41
Stair Flying Oceanna Bourdeau I was almost ten years old and quite adventuresome when I learned how to fly stairs. It all started when I went over to my best friend Karli’s house for a sleep over. She lived in the most beautiful place – a little town that overlooks the inland waters of the Pacific Ocean in Crofton, British Columbia which is on Vancouver Island in Canada. Usually it is fabulously sunny there, but during my stay there, it wasn’t. It was the stormiest spring I can remember. We had lots of white, fluffy snow and enjoyed many days away from school as a result. Karli’s house has fabulous gardens with trails and a giant pond filled with Koi fish all colors of the rainbow - red, orange, yellow…. We usually played outside, but this time we decided to stay inside because the weather was lousy. I was terrified because the lightning was flashing bright yellow in the windows and the thunder crashed like cymbals and shook the whole house. The house was creepy because it was old and there were cob webs hanging in the door ways and spiders crawling around. Of course, the electricity went out. It was so dark that neither of us could see anything and everything was pitch black and haunted looking. Unfortunately, Karli also invited her obnoxious boyfriend Steve over for dinner. I never did like Steve because he was a chatterbox. Sometimes he had fun ideas and I could tolerate him some of the time. I was wondering how our dinner date was going to work out. A hot dinner was impossible because the power was out, so we had to raid the pantry for stuff that didn’t need cooking. This was extremely hard to do by candle light. Our original plans were to play the Mega Bionic Xbox but we couldn’t because of the unexpected power outage. We decided to comfort Karli’s new dog, Snappy, who was terrified. He was in the basement all alone in the shadows where dark evil creatures of the dead existed. We went to the door that led to the dark, dusty basement. We climbed in over the rickety baby gate that was still up. Since we were laughing and giggling in the dark, I wasn’t paying any attention and slipped on the slivery wooden stairs, tripping Karli’s boyfriend! We both fell down through rotten boards of the step right at the top and flew all the way to the bottom, landing on the hard cement floor, right where Karli’s petrified dog was laying. Steve and I were skinnedup pretty badly and bleeding. “I think my arm is broken!” Steve exclaimed. My friend Karli raced down to help us. She wasn’t looking when it all happened so she didn’t really have a clue what was going on. Not seeing the 42
big hole in the stairs, she also tripped, and landed right on top of us. We were laughing and crying because now we knew that flying down the stairs could be tragic and humorous at the same time! Then we remembered out loud, “Oh no! We all have a piano recital tomorrow!” That caused a big commotion because everybody was worried about how we would feel and if we could get to this critically important event. We all needed the extra credit for school. But, first things first; I had to get Steve to the hospital. Karli and I limped back up the rickety stairs making sure we didn’t fall back into the hole a second time. We finally got to the top and searched for the phone so we could call 911, but it was nowhere to be seen! Everything was pitch black. Karli remembered that she had been using the phone when she had been watching her favorite TV show, ‘Icarly’, and left it on the couch. She raced over to the couch and said, “Hurray, I found it!” Karli called 911. They told her they would be there within minutes. The aide team arrived and asked us what had happened. All three of us said at the same time, “We accidentally fell down the stairs or you could say ‘we tried flying down the stairs’ but honestly, we would definitely leave it to the birds to do the flying in the future.” After a quick trip to the hospital Karli and I were released relatively uninjured. Poor Steve, he did break his arm, but he still got first place in the piano recital! Karli and I were kind of stiff so we didn’t do as well. We decided that stair flying isn’t that humorous after all.