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It all started and ended on 54th and Crenshaw. We was born der. It was all we knew. We didn’t know it at the time, but not all of us were gonna be der at da end. Dis is da story of ma survival. And da destruction of everybody else. Believe it or not, dey were da lucky ones. But I guess we should stawt at da beginning. I remember like it was yestahday. It was election day, and me and da gurls were all surrounded around da TV, hoping dat Senator Carlos Fernandez, da freshman senator outta New Mexico, would win da election, over da seasoned Vietnam War Veteren Governor Doug Armstrong. Some say dat Gov. Armstrong was losin’ it, goin’ senile ovah da years. Anyways, wiff da election of Sen. Fernandez, it would be a victory fo’ all of us hear in da projects. He was just like us. He grew up in da streets of Santa Fe, where he met his beautiful wife, whose name I can’t recall at da moment. We all were rootin’ fo him. We all were. We trusted him. And just like dat, Ohio turned blue on da screen and we knew dat Sen. Carlos Fernandez had secured da election. Everything was gunna change fo’ da better. Or so we thought. Once he was inaugurated and took office, new laws and legislation was passed. Da economy was in da toilet and people were starvin’. He had ta’ do sumthin to make it all bettah. So he decided to do sumthin. First it stawted wiff da sheltahs. Then da streets. Anyone caught sleepin’ on da curb, or lookin for handouts were sent away. One day I returned home ta’ find momma missin’, no note or nuthin. I turned on da TV and saw da red-headed press secretary of da President on da TV. Her name was Noel Cera, and she wore her hair in a tight bun that laid on da top of her head, like a tomato. She looked tensed, addressin da whole country, and stawted to explain: “My fellow Americans, it is with deep pain that I address you all tonight. Our country is in a recession and many of you watching are struggling. President Fernandez passed legislation earlier this morning, which led to the arrest of millions around the country. Anyone who receives government hand-outs, anyone who was homeless, or in prison were sent away. The children of those individuals will all be sent away too, but in the meantime will stay put. Although the President faced opposition from the radical left, he feels this is necessary in order to get the country back on track. Those who are a burden on the country will be banished and removed. Goodnight.” Da blood drained from ma head and I almost passed out. I was only a little gurl, for Christ’s Sake! Momma was da world ta’ me, evah since pa left us. I didn’t kno how ta’ cook, so I decided to go play wiff ma best-friend. Her name was Izzy and I knew her momma wasn’t gunna be gone since her momma is only a teen. “Hey Sabrina Raye!” Izzy called as she saw me approach. Izzy had black hair that reached her shouldahs and was wearin a multi-colored party dress dat day. “Hi” I said sofly, holdin back da tears. I didn’t like ta’ cry in fronna people. I didn’t like ta’ show weakness or let ma guard down. “What’s wrong? Did your dog bite you again?” Izzy asked. I didn’t want ta’ correct her and remind her dat we had ta’ get rid of our dog aftah da landlord yelled at us. “No.. momma was taken by da guvment” I said. “Oh no!” Izzy screamed, and ran to tell her momma. Her momma opened da door. Her name was Martha, but she told everybody ta call her Marty. She wore way too much make up dat make her look oldah then she was, and she always wore sunglasses, even durin da night and inside. She was wearing a tang top

and blue jeans. Marty was not 21 yet, but she had a bottle in her hands and I could smell da alcohol on her breath. All da young girls on 54 th and Crenshaw were pregnant, drunk, or on drugs. In Marty’s case, it was all of da above. She let me and. She took care of me like I was ma own. Until one day, Noel Cera appeared on da television again. Anutha law. And dats when The Darwin Project legislation was announced.

Chapter 2 All our eyes were peeled to da television. Noel was explainin da Darwin Project. She was talkin about how everybody from da age of 5 ta’ 18 were required ta’ participate, in designated areas around da country. All of des designated areas were specific projects located in all da major cities. From L.A., ta’ Seattle, Denver, Dallas, all da way to Miami, and den it hit me whens he mentioned New York and da projects in New York dat were selected in da lottery scrolled across da screen. ‘54 th and Crenshaw” . Ma stomach dropped. In da Darwin Project, it was da Survival of da Fittest. All da projects would be sealed from da outside world. Anyone in was trapped. Includin’ visitors. Only one could survive . Anyone undah 5 would be evacuated of course, but ta’ where was anyone’s guess. Probably to da same place dey sent momma. Of course, all da adults were already arrested and sent away. Part of me was relieved. At least I don’t have ta’ worry about momma. But den I realized. It was everybody fo’ demselves now. I couldn’t stay wiff Marty or Izzy. Or else dey would kill me, or I would have ta’ kill them, and I was not gunna kill ma best friend. I would have ta’ leave immediately. So, when the press conference stopped, we all moved away. Marty told us not ta’ worry as she took a swig from her bottle and walked into da kitchen, on her cell phone, talkin to someone about what she jus saw. And den I looked at Izzy. She had a strange glint in her eyes, like I’ve nevah seen before. I backed away slowly. “I gotta go to da bathroom, be right back” I said, calmly as I could, even though I was scared fo’ ma life. I turned and immediately felt her on ma back, and then felt something around ma neck. She was choking me and I couldn’t breath. I struggled, until finally, I threw her off of me, and turned around. She was on da ground, wiff a yo-yo in her hand. Her face was all screwed up with anger, one of her pig-tails unraveled, with the same glint in her eyes. I ran straight to da easy bake oven and grabbed it. She got up and stawted runnin’ at me again, but I was ready fo’ her dis time. She came close, and I threw the oven at her wiff all ma strength. It hit her in da face, and she went down. I picked da oven up again, and threw it hard down onto her face, which was already bleeding. She screamed in pain and I did it again and again, until finally, she let out one last week sound of pain, when I knew she was dying. My best friend…, who I killed, was dead. I needed to get out fast, before Marty realized what I had done. But when I peaked into da kitchen, I saw Marty passed out on da ground, phone lying at her side. I let her be. I didn’t want any more blood on my hands. Before I left da apartment, I grabbed a couple small knives, so I could defend ma’self, and washed da blood off my hands. It was right den dat she stirred. She got up, but before she knew what hit her, I took one of da knives, and slashed her throat. It was da most disgustin thing I evah saw- blood gushed out of her neck, and then she was dead. I bent over her lifeless body, and decided to take off da sunglasses. I nevah have seen her without dem and when I finally did, I gasped. Marty’s left eye region was all shriveled and deformed, like she was burned. I am not sure what happened, but now

I undahstood why she nevah took dem off. I decided to keep them. Dey were way to big for me den to wear, so I pocked it in ma blue sundress, which had lady bugs on da design. There was no blood on parts of ma dress, and it was hard ta’ distinguish what was a beetle and what was a bloodstain. I grabbed a knapsack, filled it food, da knives I took, a waterbottle, and a flashlight. And den I left, with da door open, fo’ da authorities to grab. In da mornins’, dey would go door to door and collect da bodies from da houses to dispose of dem. Dats when I stawted living on da streets.

Chapter 3 Goin’ out in plubic was unnerving. I could hear gunshots and screams from da inside. Goin’ out der meant almost certain death. But if I stayed here, I would be trapped, and who knows if ma’ neighbors or sumone else would come and kill me, or worse. I reached da first landing, opting fo’ da stairs instead. Night time was approachin and the sun was goin’ down. Dead bodies were all ovah. I even recognized a few, which made me shiver. Da streets were almost abandoned at dis time, except a girl I knew was called Megan, who was holdin a rabbit in her hands. She was sittin’ on a stoup outside of da boarding home she lived in, hummin’ to herself, wiff tears rollin’ down her face. I decided ta’ hide in a bush next to where I was standin’ ta’ stay out of sight. I continued to watch Megan. She was hummin’ a tune, dat was both beautiful and sad. And then I saw her pull out a knife and stab da rabbit in her arms, crying even harder. She continued to stab it, even though it was long past dead. She suddenly stopped and stawted rockin da dead rabbit back and forth in her arms, hummin da song again. “Well, well, well, look who we have here” said a voice. Megan looked up and so I shifted my attention down the block a bit, and saw a large silhouette approachin Megan at her stoup. Slowly, I realized it wasn’t a large silhouette, but a group of people, walkin’ togetha. I recognized them. They were all female, with various shades of black skin, except for the twiggy white girl on the end, who had blonde hair and glasses. Every one who lived on 54 th and Crenshaw knew who dey were. All da young ones, like ma’self, stayed away in fear. Dey were a gang. Dey were a family. Dey was Da Switchblade Sistahs. All of dem had switchblades, although none of dem had ‘em out at da time. Megan was froze in fear. She was a frequent target of da gang, who liked ta’ tease her and make fun of her. “Awww.. what’s wrong Megan?” said da same voice as before, belonging to a Sistah named Joanne, “did your rabbit die?”. Megan continued to stare, and then said, in a quiet whisper, “Trouble is dead, Trouble is dead”. She continued to mutter it under her breathe, and the gang all stawted to laugh. Joanne Warthen was one of da leaders of da pack. She was tall, wore her hair in curled pig tails, was Jewish, and her yougah sister, Shunta, was also a member. Jo and Shunta came from one of da only Jewish families in da project. Shunta, unlike her sistah, was tiny and short, but had a long weave in, that was almost as tall as she was. Joanne nevah even went by Jo though, because she was always bitchin’

about sumthin or anotha, so da otha girls always called her Nag. Cuz dats all she evah did,besides crackin’ jokes. Da white gurl, dat was Kirby Bunton, who moved her a few years ago from England. She calls herself a chav, but nobody knows what dat means, but she quickly fit in wiff da rest of da girls and was inducted in da othawise black exclusive gang. Besides da Nag, da otha leadahs was LaQuawnda Jones, who wore bright red lipstick and rocked a bleached blond weave, making her stand out as much as Kirby did, and Sashaa Pearce, who wore thick hipstah glasses and was da only Switchblade who could afford ta’ buy from Urban Outfitters. Den there was Ursula Christofferson, a quiet girl who sported her nappy hair in an Afro and Zoey Brooks, who was da sluttiest girl in da projects. Dats why all da guys calls her Zoeygams cuz..well, you know. And den there is Sharlene “The Shark” Nguyen, who is a bit crazy, and sometimes, she demanded to be called Mahogany Schraeder. Sharlene was half-black, half-Asian, but nobody nevah knew what Sharlene looked like, cuz she wore heavy clothing, today a blue coat and ski mask most of da time, even durin’ day summah. But luckily fo’ her, it was in between wintah and Spring, so it was cool out. As dey continued to laugh at her, Megan continued ta’ cry, and she was covered with rabbit’s blood by den. They continued ta’ make fun of her, but den one of dem, Ursula I think, shushed dem. She turned around and was facin’ da bush I was in. She heard me. Two of dem walked towards me, Ursula and Shunta, and I was too afraid to reach fo’ da blade in ma bag. Ursua bent low and pulled apart da branches, and dats when we were eye to eye. And then her fist grabbed my pig tail, and pulled me out of da bush. I was forced across da street, ovah by Megan. Da rest of dem looked from me ta’ Megan, and continued ta’ laugh. And den a smile went across da face of Sashaa and she looked at LaQuawnda, who nodded in agreement. “Little gurl, eat da rabbit, or else” Sashaa told me, “and Megan can help you finish, won’t you Megan?” she giggled. Da rest of da gang continued ta’ laugh, except Kirby, who spoke up. “Sashaa, please. Not the little tyke.” Sashaa sighed. “Okay, fine. Megan will eat da rabbit on her own, or we will kill her.” Megan weeped and refused. She was still muttering “Trouble is dead”, rocking the corpse back and forth. “DO IT OR ELSE!!!!” screamed Sharlene, her voice emerging from her blue outer layer. Megan shook her head. “Okay, this is what’s going ta’ happen, y’all” said LaQuawnda. “Da girl will do it. She will kill Megan, and she will be one of us.” LaQuawnda looked down on me, and ma heart was racin. “I’m so fuckin bored” said Nag, “ Can we just fuckin’ get it over wiff so we can get ma drink on?” LaQuawnda glared at Nag. “Bitch, what’s even your name?!” Nag screamed at me, who glared back at LaQuawnda. Dat was da first time anyone called me a bitch. I was five after all. “Sabrina” I said weakly. “Sabrina, hun, just kill dat freak! Nobody will even miss her!” Zoey said, kindly, with no sense of remorse in her voice. “Um, well..I, uh” I started to say. “WHAT? AND WHAT AND WHAT AND WHAT??” Sharlene screamed. “Sharlene, chill da fuck out, gurl!” Sashaa said. “Well, I don’t have a weapon.” I lied, hoping dey wouldn’t check ma bag. “Oh, well why didn’t you say so gurl!” Zoey said. “Here, have this. I have anotha one in ma bag.” Zoey handed me a switchblade. It was silver, wiff da letters SS scraped into it. I switched da blade out, and saw dat blood was dried into it. I gulped. And I looked at Megan, lookin’ pathetic on her stoop, wiff fear in her eyes. Dis was da same gurl dat always knocked on our apartment door, sellin’ Girl Scout cookies. Da same gurl I recognized from church and from across da street. Well, I just killed ma best friend and her motha not even an hour ago. Dis gurl was basically a strangah to me.

So why did I care so much? I walked towards her and took a look back at da othas. It was either her or both of us, I realized. I closed ma eyes, and stabbed her. I did it several more times, when I felt something hit my foot. I opened ma eyes and saw Trouble da rabbit lying dead at ma foot. Megan was also dead. I turned around and smiled sheepishly at da othas, who were all quite pleased with what dey saw. I wanted ta’ leave so badly and crawl into momma’s bed and cuddle wiff her. But she is gone. So is ma old life. “Time ta’ kill da gurl” LaQuawnda said. “Any takers?” “Q, no!” Kirby said. “You said she’d be one of us. She killed Megan, now let her join us. We need numbers anyways thanks to da Darwin Project! This whole thing is bollocks I tell you, this would have never happened back in England.” LaQuawnda rolled her eyes. “Yes Kirby, dats only da billionth time you mentioned you are British. Shut da fuck up. And fine. Da girl can join us, but I am not babysittin da bitch.” LaQuawnda glared at me with hatred. Dis was a gurl who mistrusted white people, who blamed them fo’ everything wrong wiff der life. She flipped her blonde weave and stormed off. Da rest of dem congratulated me, and Nag pulled out her flask and even let me have a sip, which I spit out right away. “BITCH!” Nag yelled and slapped me. Dat was da last time she offered me a drink. I nevah complained. After dat, I was a Switchblade Sistah. And I nevah looked back.

Chapter 4

54th & Crenshaw  

A dytopian novel set in the present, following a young girl, who must fight to stay alive in the projects.